"I applaud it," a senior Democratic lawmaker said. "By standing up to MoveOn.org and the ACLU, he's showing, I think, maybe the first example of demonstrating his ability to move to the center. He's got to make the center comfortable with him. He can't win if the center isn't comfortable."
If by center he means the telecom PACs that sit at the center of the Beltway network, he's correct. If he means the American people, he is of course wrong. But his opinion is widely shared; here's Steny Hoyer, who is probably the senior Democratic lawmaker in the article (or might as well be).
"You can take a position and be a purist and sort of sit around yelling at each [other] across the [political] divide and nothing gets done," Hoyer said. "The American people, they want us to get this done. That's the whole thing to me."
As Glenn demonstrates repeatedly, deals like this are not popular with the public at large, whether you go by polling data or by viewing it through the lens of electoral politics, where the charge of terrorism and wiretapping was explicitly used by Republicans who then lost their races. But the inertia towards this kind of policy-making, corruption really, is immensely strong. Despite electing more than 40 new Democrats in 2006, not one single Democrat criticized the Democratic leadership for ushering this FISA bill through. Not one. And the standard-bearer for the party, Barack Obama, waffled on a core constitutional principle that combines big business corruption, national security, and standing up to Bush.
So this was a serious wake-up call for Obama partisans who did not live and breath the Lamont race in 2006 and his betrayal, or who did not witness his behavior during the Military Commissions Act debate in 2006. Though he voted against the act, he waited so long to speak out against it that the game was already decided. Atrios, who usually does not criticize Democrats in harsh terms, said at the time: "Hey, Senator Obama, now'd be a nice time to stop fucking talking about "America coming together" and start getting America to come together to oppose torturing people."
If you weren't there to see Obama endorse Lieberman and limply oppose the Military Commissions Act while chiding Democrats, it was hard to imagine that he could be a craven opportunist in the face of his successful campaign to change politics. He did after all slay the icon of Democratic establishment politics, Hillary Clinton, using his opposition to the war to generate activist support and beat her in caucuses and through savvy organizing methods. How could you see him caving on core constitutional issues? Many of the skeptical but supportive crowd expected his behavior, but those who did not engage in the somewhat weedy fights over party apparatus and within the Connecticut primary did not. They were shocked. No longer, and that his betrayal came so starkly and on an issue that involves national security, the constitution, big business, and the surveillance state is a good thing. There is simply no excuse for falling down on this, and that skeptical supporters are around to offer perspective is quite useful.
Here's what I told the journalist.
Popular liberal blogs criticized the senator after he announced his support of the bill Friday. "There's an element of distrust now," Matt Stoller, a liberal activist and co-founder of the blog OpenLeft.com, said Monday at an Internet politics conference in New York.
Mr. Stoller said that Sen. Obama's position on the spy bill may not alienate the majority of his supporters, but the issue gives activists "a strong reason not to trust him or give him the benefit of the doubt."
The article also mentions Obama's endorsement of Bush Dog John Barrow in Georgia 12th's primary against a progressive, which was arranged through another Blue Dog's office. This is the key element; not only did Obama choose to go sour on the core substantive issue at hand, but he also chose to throw his weight behind a Congressional candidate facing the voters who acted badly against a true progressive, doing so in a deal brokered by one of the key right-wing Democrats in Congress.
By marginalizing the policy liberals within his campaign the way he has mowed down the outside groups, Obama is limiting his range of motion going forward and showing key progressive allies that he may not be a good faith operator after all unless he can be forced in that direction. And so they will dedicate more energy going forward into ensuring that they aren't embarrassed again by the person that we are all trusting as our party leader.