Respectfully Disagree

Posted on January 28, 2011 by

No matter how much I disagree with Barack Obama, I’m still going to like him.

This is not just frivolous sentiment.

We know he will do things that disappoint, frustrate, anger and appall us.  He’ll deserve to be criticized and maybe even denounced.

But I urge my friends and colleagues to be very careful and, above all, respectful.  Please don’t be sneering and condescending. 

Because we can’t afford to contribute to a public perception that this president is weak, unprincipled or out-of-touch.

We want voters to see that you can disapprove of Mr. Obama’s policies without disparaging his character.  This could make a difference in 2012.

Yes, I’ve been outraged by some of his compromises and his indifference to the labor movement.  I’ve at times agreed with his harshest critics from the left.  I’ve flirted with the idea that we try to push him aside in the primaries.

But the lame duck session successes kept me from jumping off the cliff and the Tucson speech got me back on board.

I saw a president who could connect to, comfort and unite Americans.

And in my own squishy world, a moderate democrat – even one captive to financial and corporate elites – is better than another era of far-right dominance.

I know the argument that enabling Obama just perpetuates our gradual drift toward oligarchic rule.  But I’m stuck in the “lesser evil” cycle.

And, in fact, I do like Barack Obama and believe that there’s something very healing about his presidency.

Can I recommend this piece by Neal Gabler in American Prospect about what President Obama could and maybe should learn from Ronald Reagan?

I know that makes a lot of people on my side cringe, but we’ll be doing a lot of cringing anyway over the next two years, so this is good preparation.

Comments (7)


  1. Well said, Lou! Otherwise, we could be looking at a tea party in the White House, and then where will the labor movement and the people be?

  2. Salvador Sanchez says:

    You mean we progressives have nowhere to go; hmmm-this is dangerous. We’re screwed, Democrats take us for granted and republicans write us off. How are going to leverage influence Lou?????

  3. Hi Lou, I’m afraid Obama will become known as the president who presided over the end of New Deal middle class and the establishment of the new Gilded Age. Charles Blow in this morning’s NYT points out another major flaw, ignoring the poor.

  4. I couldn’t agree more! There’s lots to disagree with, lord knows, but it’s important not to confuse disagreeing with issues with disliking the man.

    My awareness of Barack Obama dates back to 2005 when he made that now famous Senate speech. In February, 2006, I invited him to be the keynote speaker at a forum I was then organizing, “Writers of the Storm: Fake News and Public Decency in the Age of Terro” for that April at The New School which was moderated by Terrence McNally, and featured Danny Goldberg, April Smith, Paul Robeson, Jr., and others.

    Not only did the president respond, through his assistant, but in a personal way. That made a lasting impression on me. Pardon the expression, he’s a class act.

    btw, David Cay Johnston gave the keynote address at the forum, but I knew then that if Mr. Obama were to ever run for president, no one would defeat him. We must work to see to it that he represents those who elected him, but do so respectfully.

  5. (Oh, and by the way, I’ve been saying what you just did for two years now, and have been exorciated by the “nouveau left” for it.)

  6. Greg says:

    anarchy…will be the wave of the future. The poor will rise up, their anger boils out of the frustration of being ignored. Labor and social groups will take to the streets and defend these down troddened masses. We need to bring it on or keep taking the crap they are feeding us.

  7. Alan K. says:

    Great calming perspective. We must keep in mind that Tea Party and Republican alternatives are fast-tracks to corporate hegemony.

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