My good friend, Chris Hayes, asks a simple question, echoed by the Progressive magazine and Chris Bowers - why hasn't Obama appointed a single movement progressive? Certainly, a number of progressive voices and institutions have suggested such movement progressives (and there have been many blog posts right here about that). The question has nothing to do with ideological purity - nothing at all. It's just a simple, fair and honest question considering exit polls and post-election surveys showing the country thinks it voted for a left-of-center progressive that will end the war, reform NAFTA, reject free-market fundamentalism, and then considering that Obama has appointed almost exclusively war hawks, NAFTA proponents, and free market fundamentalists.
And the answer to the question, in my opinion, is because Obama effectively ate a huge chunk of the left. And really, Obama didn't eat a huge chunk of the left, celebrity did.
What I mean to say is that we live in a culture that now organizes around celebrity - and Obama knew it, and knew that lots of left organizations aren't really ideological - they are, if anything, organized around the Democratic Party and Bush hatred. So he basically figured out that if he could become a celebrity - and a Democratic Bush-hating one - he could swallow up a huge part of the "progressive infrastructure" and organize it around him (and all the hateful "if you question Obama, you hate Obama" comments that will inevitably be at the bottom of this diary actually confirm this!). And we shouldn't blame him for being a "celebrity" - it's not an epithet. And we shouldn't blame him for seizing his moment. Not at all.
This, by the way, is very different from the Reagan model. Reagan was a telegenic, for sure - but he was a product of a movement. In the age of celebrity worship - the age where we literally organize AROUND celebrity - Obama is a movement unto himself.
So now, because of this, you have a large majority (though not the whole) of his 10 million-person email list overarchingly organized around the celebrity Barack Obama - not really around issues (though certainly people can like Obama and support specific issues). That means he feels no real obligation to appointing "movement progressives" because he has his own movement - one that's about helping, aiding and defending Barack Obama. Again, I say that not derisively or in anger at Barack Obama - I say it just to note an important fact.
Heads of government having movements organized around them as individuals - rather than having to deal with independent social movements - is something lots of autocratic developing world countries have experience with (think huge murals with pictures of leaders - seems similar to the Obama murals doesn't it?). We may have had presidents who were products of movements before (ie. Reagan), but we've never had presidents who are individual movements unto themselves. It's exciting that the movement could push the progressive whims of the Dear Leader - but also frightening, in that it could serve to defend the government from pressure (and as a side note, those who tried to use the election to organize around issues, rather than around individual candidates, were largely attacked in the blogosphere and elsewhere for trying to do that - so in that sense the blogosphere helped create this quandary we're now in).
You can't blame Obama for this - he saw an opportunity and he took it. And I still believe in his heart he's a left-of-center progressive who will ultimately demand that his appointments respect that vision (as I say in an upcoming In These Times article, personnel is usually policy, but it may not be total policy under Obama). But his appointments prove - once again - that if there is no independent movement to pressure politicians, they will go the path of least Establishment resistance.
That's not a theory of the moment - it's just a historical fact. The challenge now is not to lament the reality we face - or even to debate it. It's undebatable reality, whether people organized around Obama want to admit that reality or not. The question now is what movement progressives can do to be really constructive in this reality? I'm not sure.
But I will say this - simply blindly trusting Obama (as good a heart as I think he has) or ANY elected official seems rather stupid considering the history and basic dynamics of how power works.
UPDATE: The knee-jerk anger in the comments section really substantiates the fundamental point of this diary better than the diary itself. To discuss reality about power, the progressive movement and Obama is to automatically subject oneself to vicious personal attacks from those who simply do not want to discuss anything that considers the possibility of independent pressure on Obama. I mean, hell, this is a diary that does not fault Barack Obama in the least - that indeed says he's a progressive. And still - still! - the attacks flow. It's really truly a perfect example of how Obama has successfully organized a huge swath of America around him - not around issues. And again, he deserves no blame at all for that. None at all. The question is simply how to organize in that environment? If asking that question is committing a crime or being "self-promoting" - then dear lord, what are we ever allowed to ask?