Barack Obama And The Great Disillusionment

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 17, 2009

While we are supposed to be in the midst of A Great Liberal Re-Awakening, the greatest since the days of FDR, it would appear that plenty of President Obama’s supporters are growing less-than-enthusiastic about his Administration and its potential:

Barely four months into his presidency, Obama is confronting growing dissatisfaction among members of his liberal base, who feel spurned by a series of his early decisions on issues ranging from guns to torture to immigration to gay rights.

The list got longer last week as Obama reversed his earlier decision to release photos of detainees abused in U.S. military custody and announced plans to try some terror suspects before military commissions – though on the campaign trail he railed against earlier versions of the tribunals.

A few, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have even hurled the left’s ultimate epithet – suggesting that Obama’s turning into George W. Bush.

There is an important takeaway lesson from all of this; one that goes far beyond the mere ability to enjoy some nice, sweet schadenfreude. Despite the promises of a grand liberal realignment, the likes of which we saw last with FDR, neither the Obama Administration nor its supporters can take the advent of a new New Deal coalition for granted, and there remains the very powerful possibility that attempts to build a new liberal coalition will unceremoniously run aground. Back in 2004, Karl Rove boasted that the re-election of George W. Bush would signal the rise of a permanent Republican majority. That didn’t happen, of course. But just because the Bush Administration failed to bring about the kind of realignment it wanted, does not mean that the Obama Administration will necessarily succeed in bringing about the kind of realignment it wants.

And at this rate, it’s not going to. The Administration has done far too much in recent weeks to outrage its base–mostly in the realm of detainee and interrogation policy, of course, but also by way of increasing America’s military involvement in Afghanistan. More disappointments will doubtless follow. As Josh Gerstein points out in his Politico article, all of this may be enough to ensure that the next time the Obama Administration asks liberal interest groups to go to the barricades for some policy objective or other, those groups will be slow and unenthusiastic in their response.

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