On Loyalty

There’s a huge argument on DailyKos and elsewhere in the lefty blogosphere about a certain boycott of OFA. The same boycott is targeting the DNC, DSCC, and DCCC, but that is not being discussed with nearly the same fervor, because OFA is associated intimately with President Obama, and Obama is, by many people, beloved.

There’s a lot of heated discussion going on over questions of loyalty to the president, and the relative fairness/unfairness of opposing him.  I want to define my position in regard to this debate, because it gets to the heart of what loyalty actually is—and that’s at the heart of why I’m in Carrots and Sticks.

For me at least, how I feel about OFA is not the same as how I feel about Obama. And I bet a lot of people feel the same. But more importantly, I can admire, respect, and even love Obama for the character he shows in these photographs without agreeing with everything he does. Matter of fact, I can passionately disagree with some of the things he does. And the way he has made use of OFA–or, rather, not made use of them–really burns me. He has a nationwide network of passionate, loyal, hardworking people at his fingertips, and he wastes them on make-work.

I know folks are going to be angry that I characterize OFA’s work that way, so let me clarify so at least people will be mad at me for the right reason: I’m not saying that the people at OFA haven’t worked their butts off. I’m sure they have. But it doesn’t matter how many tens of thousands of calls you make if what you’re saying is a generic “Support health care reform” message, which any Congressman could say he supports no matter what bill he ends up supporting, as long as “Health Care Reform” is somewhere in its title. Hell, Max Baucus could claim, with some justice, that his original Finance committee bill constitutes a positive response to OFA calls, even though its policy would screw the American people to the ground and present the insurance industries with a ton of customers without pressing them to lower costs at all.

Obama is plenty smart enough to know all this, and to know that he’s not using a tenth of the power that the OFA network could offer him. And I don’t believe he’s keeping that powder dry for something else, because health care reform is clearly the central domestic issue of his administration, and an issue which is occupying the attention of the whole country. He’s decided not to use that populist power. There may be a number of good reasons why, but I find it disappointing and, as an activist who has to struggle daily to achieve a better society with less than 1/1000 of the network Obama has at his fingertips, frustrating in the extreme.

Hell, Obama wouldn’t even have to deploy OFA on my particular pet issues–climate change, energy efficiency, etc.–He could deploy them on anything of importance to the country, and health care reform is a great arena for them to work in. But his use of them has been lame in the extreme, and I can only conclude that he’s decided that the negative reactions he’d get on the Hill and probably on Wall St. if he flexed that muscle would make his use of populist power prohibitively expensive.
I guess that’s understandable, but the whole thing pisses me off, and I think that’s understandable too.

What should be easiest to understand, for any progressive, is that being pissed off does not constitute disloyalty.



2 comments so far

  1. jeremydc on

    Al Franken captured your point perfectly in his 2003 book “Lies and the Lying Liars…”, in the context of discussing differences between liberals and conservatives on patriotism and loving America.

    In the Bush era, conservatives loved America and its leaders the way a five-year-old loves his mommy. The country is infallible and can do no wrong. Anyone who questions anything about America must therefore be the enemy. On the other hand, liberals have a more adult view of love for their country. They know that there will be disagreements with our leaders, simply because nobody is perfect, but on the whole we maintain respect for them, can resolve differences through dialogue and strengthen the relationship that way.

    In that sense, true loyalty requires having trust that we can express differences openly, because without the resulting dialogue our leaders will never be able to acknowledge mistakes nation will fail to adapt to changing circumstances as a result.

    • bronwyn41 on

      Great memory, dude–Franken put it better than I did. (No surprises there–)

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