Let’s add things up: our economy is in the toilet; economic inequality is at a historic high; the political right is using our economic woes as an excuse to try to finish off unions once and for all; our military is bogged down in two intractable wars; climate change appears close to (if not past) the point of no return; our health care system is a national disgrace; and, last but not least, Bush & Co. are doing everything in their power to try to make all of the above even worse on their way out the door (by way of last minute regulations and the “burrowing” of political appointees into civil service positions).
So what are liberal bloggers and discussion groups spending most of their time talking about? Why, the invocation speaker at Barack Obama’s inauguration, of course.
Is it just me, or is there something just a bit, well, out of balance about this picture?
Clearly, Rick Warren has said some hateful things about gays and lesbians (even as he expresses his love for them now): even more disturbingly, perhaps, he played a prominent role in the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California. Given the freshness of that wound among the gay and lesbian communities, it’s easy to understand why they’re as upset as they are about this honor being handed to Warren. So while I understand (and generally agree with) Obama’s desire to reach out to the more moderate elements of evangelical Christianity, this was a shameful slight to a constituency that strongly supported his candidacy.
Still, is it overly presumptuous to suggest a little perspective is in order here? Not only has Obama not endorsed Warren’s homophobic views, he’s expressly rejected them. We’re talking about someone offering a prayer here, not getting a cabinet post. Yet, click over to the Democratic Underground, or any of a number of liberal discussion sites, and you’ll soon find thread after thread filled with outraged pledges to burn old Obama yard signs, tear up his t-shirts and to be generally done with him forever.
Jesus, folks, get a life.
I realize that this post is likely to offend some of my (far too few to gratuitously offend) loyal readers and I’m sorry for that. But the apocalyptic nature of these comments on liberal web sites has been bothering me, maybe more than it should. I have no problem with people giving Obama hell about this — or anything else for that matter. But to begin making such grand statements — entirely rejecting Obama’s potential as an agent of positive progressive change — this early isn’t just stupid: it’s destructive to the progressive cause. As I said a little over a month ago:
Let’s face it, Democrats in general — and liberals in particular — can be a rebellious lot. Already, many progressives are grumbling about the president elect — and with some justification (Obama’s seeming support of Joe Lieberman and his alleged unwillingness to repudiate entirely Bush’s national security power grabs are prime examples of why). It won’t be long now before some liberals start announcing that they’ve written off Obama entirely as a lost cause.
That’s what liberals often do. That’s who a lot of us are.
But it’s a path that in this case can lead only to disappointment. If Obama fails, liberal politics fails. It’s that simple.
So we have no choice other than to make sure that he succeeds.
So does that mean progressives have to swallow whatever Obama does? That we must overlook his failings? Walk in lockstep with the man even when we believe he’s betraying progressive ideals? Hell no.
Obama will soon be awash in Beltway thinking — a lonely boat afloat on a huge ocean of entrenched interests. We in the progressive community are his lifeline (whether he likes it or not). We’re the fabled little bird whispering into his ear, reminding him of exactly what it was that inspired him to go into public service in the first place.
So by all means, liberals should give Obama the full level of grief he has coming for selecting Warren to give the invocation. But perhaps those ready to give up on him entirely should try taking a deep breath, maybe take a sip or two of wine and give the guy — and the progressive cause — a fighting chance.