Mutiny on the Goodship Obama?

Are the rats preparing to abandon the good ship Obama?

Michael Moore complains that the President has “moved too slow and compromised too much.” George Soros warns Barack Obama that “after two years of complete noncooperation and vicious distortion [from Republicans], the time for compromise has ended.” And there’s talk, probably just that, of a possible primary challenge from Russ Feingold, Howard Dean, or Dennis Kucinich.

Conventional wisdom holds that the November 2 “shellacking” came about in large part because the President disaffected the vital center by governing uncompromisingly from the irrelevant left. He shunned the Senate Minority leader for nineteen months and didn’t convince a single Republican to vote for his final health-care bill.

The never-satisfied Left begs to differ with that assessment. For them, Obama hasn’t closed down Gitmo, ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or sunsetted the Bush tax cuts.

Obama advisor David Axelrod’s counsel to the President’s left flank that “we have to deal with the world as we find it” is good advice. But he would have been better served to heed it rather than to dish it out. Spoken to a Left that has defined itself by dreaming of a world alien from our own, Axelrod’s comment doesn’t deal with the Left as he finds it.

The Left that powered candidate Obama’s sail now acts as President Obama’s albatross. And it has done so in a way predictable to anyone familiar with the history of the American Left. Huge expectations of transforming the world the day before yesterday result in letdown and demoralization.

We have seen this movie before.  

Robert Owen made his Declaration of Mental Independence at his New Harmony, Indiana commune fifty years after rebelling colonists made their 1776 Declaration of Independence. Whereas the American revolutionaries identified George III’s imposition of taxes without consent, negation of jury trials, and obstruction of elected representatives as sparks to revolution, Owen cited marriage, private property, and religion as the societal evils to be overthrown. The coiner of “socialism” envisioned “a new Jerusalem,” an “earthly paradise,” and “the second creation of humanity.”

Confident that their social system would transform the world, the inhabitants of New Harmony scrapped the Christian calendar and proclaimed year one of Mental Independence at their community. New Harmony did not survive 2 M.I. The experience left Robert Owen to confess, “The enjoyment of a reformer, I should say, is much more in contemplation than in reality.”

“Socialism is coming,” proclaimed Appeal to Reason editor J. A. Wayland in 1902. “It’s coming like a prairie fire and nothing can stop it.” Ten years later, Wayland’s weekly, the most widely circulated radical publication in American history, boldly predicted, “Indications Are That Truly ‘This Is Our Year.’” Though the high-water mark of the Socialist Party, 1912 saw its Presidential candidate garner only six percent of the vote and its members capture 50 or so mayoral offices. For the true believers, the seemingly spectacular results underwhelmed. “The struggle under the competitive system is not worth the effort,” a dejected Wayland counseled just days after the 1912 elections. “Let it pass.” He then wrapped a muffling sheet around a gun, placed its muzzle upon his person, and pulled the trigger.

The Weathermen of the 1960s were similarly utopian in their aims. “The goal is the destruction of U.S. imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism,” the Weatherman manifesto announced in 1969. Within a year, two mad-bomber signatories had blown themselves up in a Greenwich Village townhouse; within twenty years, the ideal of worldwide communism had blown up in the remainders’ faces as the Soviet Union and its satellites collapsed. The surviving members of a group in search of world domination have settled for a takeover of the faculty lounge.

“I have seen paradise,” radical lawyer Charles Garry said of the community named for his client Jim Jones. Garry’s illusions didn’t shatter until he spent a long, wet night in the Guyanese jungle fleeing that “paradise” in 1978.   

From the Frankfurt School’s Herbert Marcuse praising the “two-dimensional man” for seeing reality and potentiality to Students for a Democratic Society founder Al Haber defining leftism as “the other society that is possible,” radicals eschew reality for ideals, the seen for the unseen, this dimension for their twilight zone.

In life, people who mistake dreams for reality are called crazy. In politics, they’re called leftists.

Obama, who hubristically envisioned his ascension to the presidency as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,” is the victim of his own hype. One can blame his followers for naively patronizing his Kool-Aid stand, but that doesn’t exonerate the proprietor from selling a false bill of goods.