National Commentary

Hitting Obama’s Left Flank

bentonmugIt is surprising that so few progressives mortified by the aggressive assault tactics of the embittered right wing in America seem to appreciate the consequence of their own actions to deprecate the achievements of the Obama administration.

In the current situation, the purpose of Obama’s enemies, who are primarily those sitting atop the tiny elites running the U.S. economy, is to curtail him by weakening popular support for his leadership any way they can, and from any quarter.

These elites have in mind not only causing his erstwhile supporters in Congress to abandon him this year, but also to lay groundwork for the Congressional elections next year. And nothing will do more to revive the forces of opposition to Obama and his policies than to engender fear and demoralization among the ranks that elected him.

This is already being seen in the gubernatorial race in Virginia, where a string of four straight statewide Democratic victories is in serious jeopardy of being broken. Following the wins of Democrats in 2001, 2005, 2006 and for Obama in 2008, one could assume that Virginia had turned “blue,” making this year’s Dem candidate for governor, Creigh Deeds, the favorite in next month’s election.

But Deeds has been behind in the polls all year, even with extraordinary revelations about his opponent’s arch-conservative ideological roots as a law student at right wing evangelist Pat Robertson’s school.

The race is not over yet, but it would mark a sharp reversal of the state’s progressive trend line in the last decade if Republican Bob McDonnell wins on Nov. 3.

Observers, including this one, on the ground in the area that has been the most fertile for propelling Democratic upsets in recent years note that two factors in Northern Virginia are now combining to make it tough for Deeds to win.

The first is the fatigue factor, which is understandable given the extraordinary effort a year ago at just this time to hand Virginia to Obama, marking the first win of a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since 1964.

The second is linked to Obama now, who operates, after all, just across the Potomac River. It comes as little surprise that Obama is under siege from his political adversaries, including the so-called “tea baggers,” TV and radio talk show hate mongers, and others mobilized by Republican networks and lobbyists to derail his reform efforts.

But there is far too much, and wholly unjustified, criticism of him coming from many who were his most devoted followers just last year.

Much of this fomented through Trojan horse operations, not directly identified with the rug-chewing right wing, but insinuated into the ranks of the progressive faithful. They more subtly sew discord and demoralization often by sounding more impatient for change, and therefore more seemingly “right on,” than their more timid counterparts.

Usually, the impatience is centered on single issues rather than the president’s overall agenda. It’s easier to foment dissent among legions of single-issue fixated folks by appealing to instant gratification. “If we can’t have what we were promised now, then the president is a bum,” is the mantra.

No one is arguing that people fighting to advance their causes, especially if they are well justified, should remain quiet or passive. On the contrary. But there can be a very fine line between passionately advocating for change, and undermining the support base of the one political leader most likely to bring it about.

The National Equality March and Rally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community last Sunday is a case in point, and openly-gay Congressman Barney Frank didn’t make himself popular with those tens of thousands by saying so.

While the idea of marching, being visible (despite the major media blackout), positively affirming LGBT values and identity, articulating issues, frustrations and hopes is incredibly valid, to the extent the event practically functioned as an assault on the president’s left flank of support, it ran the risk of being counterproductive.

This is especially troubling given the amazingly favorable comments Obama made to a gathering of 3,000 LGBT leaders just the night before. He could not have made clearer his commitment to the goal of full equality for everyone in that speech, and he spelled out specific steps to end discrimination in the immediate period ahead.