Trust Me

In today's column, Paul Krugman addresses Obama's Trust Problem:
According to news reports, the Obama administration — which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the "public option" for health insurance — is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.

Well, I'm shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.

…[T]here's a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death panel smear, warning that reform will "pull the plug on grandma," and two days later the White House declares that it's still committed to working with him.

It's hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can't be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.

Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.

So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it.
In fact, I would argue that there were lots of progressives, such as myself, who had grave doubts about Obama's alleged closet progressivism, but were nonetheless willing to be the progressive base that any Democratic president needs to pursue a progressive agenda.

And instead of nurturing that reservoir of potential support, his administration has, at every turn, distanced themselves from progressive supporters and shushed progressive voices, telling us that there's some 12-dimensional chess going on we just can't understand but trust us. Further, on healthcare we are being asked to argue against what we actually want as a strategy, again with the implicit promise there's a covert agenda that will be ushered in on the back of that submission. Shaker Siobhan emails:
I saw the Obama Healthcare townhall with Organizing for America yesterday. I found it different from other Obama speeches in that he was talking directly to his body of community organizers, and giving them tips on how to sell the health care reform. He spoke about being committed to a public option. And when he talked about downplaying the public option, it was specifically a SELLING POINT (paraphrase): "Don't lean too hard on the public option, because all the happily insured people will ask, what's in it for me? To them you need to talk about how our current system is not sustainable—explain how if they are happily insured now they will NOT be in 5 years. The public option is only ONE PART of the reform, talk to those happily insured people about lower deductibles, lower premiums, talk about the public option as a way to keep the insurance companies' costs down through competition, etc."
That's not something I want to do, nor is it something I'm going to do. And his constant wishy-washiness on the public option—which is the biggest (only) selling point for me, and something I'm not going to downplay if it is on the table but something I don't feel comfortable selling when I don't know if it will be delivered—means that Obama's lost more than my trust: He's lost an active and effective progressive advocate.

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