Why are liberals turning on Obama?

The president is achieving plenty, says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic. His critics on the left just expect more because they don't get how Washington works

Barack Obama.
(Image credit: Getty)

There's a "curious sense of disappointment afflicting liberals," says Jonathan Chait in The New Republic, "the belief that they've been let down by a president who is, in fact, racking up historical achievements." With BP's ruptured well fouling the Gulf of Mexico with oil, the left is fuming because President Obama isn't enacting a far-reaching green energy bill, over a Republican filibuster if necessary. But that's not how Washington works — the Senate has "nowhere near enough votes to pass even a stripped-down cap and trade bill." Progress doesn't come quick; it's a "grubby" slog. As Michael Tomasky notes in the journal Democracy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn't wave a wand and pass the New Deal. It got done in "stops and starts," with critics whining at every step that Roosevelt wasn't getting enough done. Now it's Obama's turn to deal with the unreal expectations created by the "cult of the presidency." Here, an excerpt:

"It may be nice to imagine that all political difficulties could be swept away by a president who just spoke with enough force and determination. It's a recurrent liberal fantasy — Michael Moore imagined such a speech a few months ago, Michael Douglas delivers such a speech in "The American President." I would love to eliminate the filibuster and create more accountable parties. But even if that happens, there will be a legislative branch that has a strong say in what passes or doesn't pass. And that's good! We wouldn't want to live in a world where a president can remake vast swaths of policy merely by decreeing it."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us