Matt Stoller, in response to some criticism he received for writing negatively about Senator Barack Obama, offers an explanatory post, which starts by taking issue with a key part of Obama’s stump speech:

Let me say this - I don't think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country. I don't think this administration is full of stupid people - I think there are a lot of smart folks in there. The problem isn't that their philosophy isn't working the way it's supposed to - it's that it is. It's that it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do.
Stoller makes a very good case for exactly why—whether it’s Obama or any other Dem—tacitly rewarding the president is such a dreadful idea. The entire post is worth your time to read, but I was particularly struck by this:

What in the world is the difference between Tweety saying that "Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs" and Senator Obama saying that Bush isn't a bad man and loves his country? They are both echoes of the same conventional wisdom line that those who dislike the President are bitter angry vicious crazy partisans consumed by hatred, instead of Nobel prize winning scientists and professionals fed up with the systematic looting of the country by a gang of right-wing white collar criminals.
Exactly right. And it touches on something I think a lot of Democrats don’t understand about their grass- and netroots.

The excitement about Dems who show “balls,” the support of Dems who openly criticize the president and his policies without such caveats as Obama’s mentioned above, the disappointment in Dems who cave and triangulate, the disdain for centrism, and all of rest of the ebb and flow of expectations and let-downs we experience with the Democratic party is, as we often assert, about rescuing the country and its direction from the hands of a corrupt administration. Underlying that, however, is something more personal, something simpler, but rarely openly discussed.

Of the two major parties, the party that should be ours, the party for whom we vote and to whom we give money and time and energy, doesn’t like us.

While Republicans increasingly envelop and reward rightwing extremists, the Democrats distance themselves from the left. It’s not just that they have moved to the center and expected us to follow; they show disdain for us. Stoller is quite right when he points to Obama’s comment as being little more than an attempt to dissociate himself from “the lunatic left,” which anyone who vehemently opposes and dislikes the president is automatically presumed to be, never mind that our numbers include not only Nobel prize winning scientists and fed up professionals, but also working poor, unionists, disenfranchised voters, appalled students, and former Republicans, just for a start. People who don’t think the president is a good man who loves his country do not just exist on the fringe. Yet smart progressives with genuine disagreements and fact-based dislike and distrust of Bush have as little welcome within the Democratic Party as reactionary wingnuts do have in the GOP.

Perhaps most frustrating is the compulsion on the part of many Dems to acquiesce that the leftwing has just as many nuts as the rightwing. Always, always, we hear how both extremes are equally as loony—and I find myself constantly expected to utter the same whenever I speak to a conservative. “The far left is just as bad as the far right.” If I refuse to acknowledge it, I’m automatically pegged as a leftwing wacko, so I do—but I’m endorsing a lie.

Yes, there are leftwing extremists, and yes, there are leftwing reactionaries, but they are wholly discredited by the institutional left, and what, pray tell, is the leftist equivalent of the Council of Conservative Citizens? Or who, exactly, is the leftist equivalent of Pat Buchanan? Or even Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly? Or GOP Senator Tom Coburn who favors the death penalty for abortionists? Or GOP Senator Rick Santorum who compared homosexuality to bestiality? Or the endless stream of elected Republicans who have disparaged dissenters as traitors? None of these people are dismissed by the Right; they’re celebrated—all part of a vast movement that peddles sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, hate, and fear as though they were cheeseburgers. What’s the best they’ve got on the Left? An imaginary war on Christmas and an invented radical gay agenda. Congrats.

The left and right in this country are not two sides of the same coin. I’m done with being expected to pretend that they are. And I’m not giving any passes to Dems who try to distance themselves from a strawleft of radical strawnuts by mumbling platitudes about a president who is destroying this country and making life infinitely harder for so many people in it. Obama isn’t up for reelection next year, but I expect he’ll be stumping for other Dems who are, and I hope his tune has changed. I’ve not a smidgeon of tolerance left for anyone, of any party, who would leave our political passion without a home.

(Hat tip to Fix.)

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