Liberals had high hopes for Barack Obama—portrayed by his Republican opponents as an ultra liberal socialist during the 2008 campaign and after his victory, those on the political left were hoping that at least the liberal slander would come true. Latinos were hoping for comprehensive immigration reform, but while the president has made some noise on the issue recently he’s also overseen a dramatic surge in deportations. Anti-war activists were hoping that President Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq would carry over to Afghanistan, but they were disappointed in the troop surge last year and further upset that the president isn’t bringing home more soldiers in quicker fashion from the 10-year old Afghan conflict. Gays and lesbians were hopeful that President Obama would come around on gay marriage—which he hasn’t—but were mildly pleased that he pushed through the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” although it still wasn’t quick enough for their liking. Perhaps most disappointed of all, environmentalists were hoping that President Obama would push through a cap-and-trade bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions and that his administration would get behind a strong EPA; he has failed on both accounts.
So for this allegedly bleeding heart socialist of a president, he certainly is having a difficult time pleasing his fellow liberals. There’s a lot of grumbling ahead of 2012 and predictions that the overwhelming wave of enthusiasm that lead President Obama to such a decisive victory in 2008 might not be there for him this time, chiefly because he’s paid so little attention to his base. Are liberals right to feel let down by their president or has Barack Obama always been a centrist at heart? Can President Obama count on his left flank during next year’s election or has he sold them out one too many times?
John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine, author of “The Beat” political blog at TheNation.com
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California’s 9th District, member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club
Andrea Shorter, Marriage and Coalitions Director, Equality California