There’s No Joy in Mudville for us “Progressives,” But…

I guess you could call me a “progressive.” I consider myself open to new ideas, willing to try and improve the way things are done, always hoping that things will get better.

But in some ways, I am really quite conservative.

Something deep inside keeps saying, “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” And I’m often reminded of the Murphy’s law that warns anything “improved” again and again is destined for destruction.

At the grocery store, I always look for words like “original” on the labels and I shy away from the “new and improved.” Experience has made me leery of “improvements.”

Yet, looking around, I see so much that cries out for change.

And, sadly, it seems that when anyone tries to change things the result is often disastrous.

The problem is that everything we do is based on an incomplete analysis. It is never possible to get all the facts. Everything we try is a shot in the dark.

These muddled thoughts were inspired by the disheartening failures of the Obama administration. Oh, there have been successes to be sure, historic successes achieved against fearsome odds. But they have not satisfied us “progressives.”

Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman observes in yesterday’s New York Times:

Mr. Obama rode into office on a vast wave of progressive enthusiasm. This enthusiasm was bound to be followed by disappointment, and not just because the president was always more centrist and conventional than his fervent supporters imagined. Given the facts of politics, and above all the difficulty of getting anything done in the face of lock step Republican opposition, he wasn’t going to be the transformational figure some envisioned.

And Mr. Obama has delivered in important ways. Above all, he managed (with a lot of help from Nancy Pelosi) to enact a health reform that, imperfect as it is, will greatly improve Americans’ lives — unless a Republican Congress manages to sabotage its implementation.

But progressive disillusionment isn’t just a matter of sky-high expectations meeting prosaic reality. Threatened filibusters didn’t force Mr. Obama to waffle on torture; to escalate in Afghanistan; to choose, with exquisitely bad timing, to loosen the rules on offshore drilling early this year.

Krugman also yells at the president for appointing a bunch of stick-in-the-mud advisers. He grumbles:

Yes, the administration needed experienced hands. But did all the senior members of the economics team have to be protégés of Robert Rubin, the apostle of financial deregulation? Was it necessary to install Ken Salazar at the Interior Department over the objections of environmentalists who feared, rightly, that his ties to extractive industries would make him slow to clean up a corrupt agency?

The president is taking flak from both sides – progressives and conservatives (photos above). And I have to admit some of it seems deserved.

Those of us who think the president has thrown us under the bus to placate the bad guys might be tempted to stay home in November and let the crazies take Congress by default.

As Krugman complains:

Why does the Obama administration keep looking for love in all the wrong places? Why does it go out of its way to alienate its friends, while wooing people who will never waver in their hatred?

But the savvy economist recognizes how self-defeating it would be for “progressives” to take a pass in the midterm elections.

His column concludes with this sobering reminder:

Just to be clear, progressives would be foolish to sit out this election: Mr. Obama may not be the politician of their dreams, but his enemies are definitely the stuff of their nightmares.

You can read Krugman’s column here: