Let's suppose that, contrary to what some of my detractors say, I am actually someone who is inclined to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. You don't have to believe that I do. Let's just work from that assumption as a thought experiment.
I'd like to lay out some of my broad stances on contemporary American politics, and for the sake of fairness, I'll try to restrict myself to what I think is at least plausible within our system and leave out my crazy socialist preferences. Now, you read this list, and tell me where I'm supposed to draw comfort from the Obama administration. (And I'll insist that you do it based on the Obama administration that actually exists, rather than the wishful thinking Obama that I read about all the time or the eleventh dimensional chess playing Obama that is supposedly working all of these crazy angles.)
1. I believe that both the practical and moral interests of the United States are served by providing for the least well off and through building a robust social safety net which ameliorates the negative effects of chance, providing all Americans with a minimal level of material security and opportunity. I further think that Social Security and Medicare are two of the most vital parts of that safety net, and that any liberal or Democrat should take defending these institutions as an absolute non-negotiable duty.
2. I believe that civil liberties are at the core of democracy, and that we must protect them forcefully against incursion by government. This includes keeping rights of the accused sacrosanct, trying suspected criminals in an open and fair court system, not permitting a national domestic surveillance state, and maintaining a principled objection to cruel and unusual punishments or interrogation techniques such as torture. I also believe that, human nature being what it is, democratic structures require internal watchdogs and whistle blowers who can shed light on abuses or illegalities in powerful bureaucracies, and that any society interested in the rule of law will protect such people when they come forward.
3. I believe that it is not in the best interest of our country or the world to engage in armed conflict except when absolutely necessary for the immediate protection of our country or allies that we are obliged to protect through treaty. I believe that expansive military operations damage our democratic credibility, drain our resources, undermine our legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and threaten our ability to engage in truly necessary conflict, such as in times of self-defense. I believe that armed conflict, whether called a war or not, should require the approval of both the legislative and executive branches of the government, and that the ability to continue to wage these conflicts must continually pass review from autonomous parts of government. I believe that playing policeman to the world is neither within self-interest nor the moral authority of the United States.
4. I believe that a counter-cyclical, Keynesian macroeconomic philosophy is in the best interests of the United States. I believe that governments can and should spend more than their current revenues when faced with economic downturns in order to stimulate the economy, especially when those governments enjoy a powerful fiat currency and access to the printing press. I believe that the best economic evidence demonstrates that austerity measures slow the growth that is the only reliable engine of fiscal security and is thus counterproductive. I believe that surpluses can be generated in economic boom times which can pay down national debt and provide for the fiscal solvency of the nation when times are lean again. I believe the federal government is nothing at all like a typical household and that making major economic decisions based on faulty analogies comparing the two is demonstrably bad policy.
5. I believe that widespread employment in healthy and safe conditions for decent wages is an absolutely elementary part of the basic American social compact, and that in times of high unemployment the federal government should make every available effort to create jobs, up to and including directly hiring more government employees. I believe that providing opportunity for all Americans is a far more important priority for the country than protecting the ability of the already rich to grow richer.
6. I believe that efforts to maintain fiscal responsibility must be pursued first through fair and progressive taxation. I believe that there is no injustice in those who already enjoy great material wealth having some higher portion of that wealth taxed away. I believe that it has been amply demonstrated that this country enjoys top-end incomes that are so robust that high marginal tax rates can be levied against those incomes without demonstrably hurting those at the top. I believe that it is absolutely just, practical, and sensible to expect those who have enjoyed the great fruits of our democracy to contribute a disproportionate share of the money that ensures our democracy remain solvent.
7. I finally believe, on a purely tactical level, that rewarding bad behavior inevitably reinforces that behavior and ensures that it will continue. I don't open the door when my dog whines to come in; I wouldn't give a child throwing a tantrum the toy he is asking for. Capitulation to terrible behavior sends the unmistakable message that terrible behavior is rewarded and should be repeated.
Look, I get it: I'm a crazy socialist asshole who no one likes. Cool. I've just described what I have to think is a perfectly anodyne, totally conventional and essentially moderate liberal vision for the presidency. Can anyone claim that the Obama administration has done anything whatsoever to advance my interests? Not a day goes by where I argue politics online without some Obama supporter hurling invective at me and insisting that I have no choice, that if I refuse to vote for Obama I am in essence voting for Michelle Bachmann, that it's a two party system and I should just take it and like it, or, most absurdly, that he secretly is pursuing my agenda and I'm just too stupid to read the tea leaves and SEE. (Andrew Sullivan's "meep meep" thing has become the rallying cry of daydream believin' Kool-Aid drinkers everywhere.)
I am a citizen in a democracy. It's my duty to support politicians that advance my interests and that I believe work for the betterment of our country. I am asking sincerely and openly: given that I have the commitments I've laid out above, how can I possibly support Barack Obama? He bragged-- bragged-- yesterday that this deal would be lowering non-defense discretionary spending to its lowest levels since the Eisenhower administration. That is, he bragged about his role in ending essential government programs that defend our environment, educate our children, provide crucial scientific and medical research, and in a myriad of ways contribute to the flourishing of our country and our people. At some point, the charade can't continue. This is not merely a person who doesn't deserve my support. This is a person who is unequivocally and demonstrably not an American liberal, and someone who has no interest in defending the historical constituencies or commitments of the Democratic party.
Oh, and during the election next year, will they still call him a crazy Kenyan Marxist socialist, and will it still work? You betcha.