I just think that you are plain wrong. I never imagined Obama was a left liberal, and I didn't campaign for him under that illusion. I thought he was a centrist, a left-centrist, in the framework of American politics, with the ability to mobilize the center and the left to defend against the horrors promised by the right. I was right about that. Had the depression not hit, he would in fact be doing quite well now, by his own lights, but quite well means successfully pursuing centrist-left policies. In point of fact, he has been astonishingly successful in that regard. The health reform bill is not a disaster, as you suggest. It is the best that we could get, given the realities of American politics, and he is the first president in ninety years to get it. You are mad at the wrong person. The real villain in this piece is the enormous number of Americans -- not, I think and hope a majority, but enormous none the less -- who are either conservative or hysterically insane with religious fantasies and political paranoia.
Do you want a genuinely leftist president? Fine, so do I. How do we get one? Answer, we change eighty or a hundred million Americans. Let me remind you -- and I was there, so I know -- that Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter were all Left Centrists at best. My grandfather gave his life to the Socialist Party, and its high point was electing him and six others to the NYC Board of Aldermen. This has NEVER been a country that was hospitable to genuinely leftist politics.
What we are now facing is a threat from the right unlike any I have seen in forty years. We are in danger of losing such tattered remains as we still have of a social safety net, and of seeing maniacal religious fanatics running our country. I am hoping that Obama will tap into his considerable political skills to stop that from happening, but even if he does, we will nonetheless be stuck with a politics that is markedly to the right of where it is now. These are godawful times, made all the more perilous by the fact that the very large number of genuine progressives in this country are dispirited.
You want some left wing inspiration? Remember that in 1905, Lenin and Trotsky and the rest saw the revolution come, and fail. They went right on working for twelve more years until the unanticipated First World War gave them an opportunity to seize power. We need some of that same patience and commitment now. We need to shore up Obama, and the Democratic Party, and then work as hard as we can to push it and the rest of the country to the left.
Is that what I would like to be doing? Hardly. At seventy-six, I would like to be relaxing, playing with my grandchildren, and watching the country march steadfastly into a socialist future. Fat chance. My best hope is to see the present religious hysteria die away, as it has before many times in the last four hundred years of American history, and to see good decent progressives score some limited victories that will help the scores of millions of Americans who are in dire straits.
If that is not good enough for you, then you are not serious about politics.