When there’s a Republican president and a Republican Congress, the voices on the right duckwalk in lockstep with their conservative leaders. There may be an inconsequential chirp of dissatisfaction nibbling around the edges, but there’s nary a negative word uttered from the right about their leadership when they’re leading.
But on the left, there’s critical thinking.
Paul Krugman’s column today highlights that difference. He takes the Obama administration to task for being weak, ineffective and setting the stage for the November 2nd “shellacking.”
In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance — we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.
This promise of transcendence may have been good general election politics, although even that is questionable: people forget how close the presidential race was at the beginning of September 2008, how worried Democrats were until Sarah Palin and Lehman Brothers pushed them over the hump. But the real question was whether Mr. Obama could change his tune when he ran into the partisan firestorm everyone who remembered the 1990s knew was coming. He could do uplift — but could he fight?
So far the answer has been no.
The fact is that Obama has never fully understood that the phrase “partisan politics” is redundant. Politics has and always will be partisan, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Obama was never going to change the political culture in DC, or anywhere, to something akin to a kindergarten class where we all learn to share.
But the greater message that I took away from Krugman’s article is that folks on the left have no issue with challenging the Democratic leaders and their policy choices. That’s because people who are educated and were taught to think critically are incapable of rigid ideology.
How many times have you heard an argument from the right that is so riddled with contradictions as to be laughable? How many times have you heard an argument from the right that isn’t? The right argues for massive tax cuts, but they campaign as deficit hawks. They’re pro-life but they support war, the death penalty and denying people access to health care. They support state’s rights and individual freedom, but they want the federal government to ban gay marriage.
You can say what you want about the left, and you can agree with Jon Stewart that both sides are a bunch of kooks, but the fact is that most people on the left proudly wear their critical thinking hats.
Now if only Obama would stop pretending he’s going to take the partisan out of politics, he might get re-elected, hell, he may even be able to help turn this flailing economy around. If he doesn’t, that lady who swears she can see Russia from her house could be sitting in the Oval Office.
The World as He Finds It. Paul Krugman. November 15, 2010.