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Intro: "The list of liberal laments about President Obama keeps getting longer: He extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Health-care reform didn't include a public option. In the frantic final hours of the budget negotiations, instead of calling the GOP's bluff, he agreed to historic cuts in progressive programs. And Wednesday, in response to conservatives' focus on the deficit, Obama said that we have to 'put everything on the table.' What is the problem here?"

Liberal laments about Obama are getting longer. Are liberals suckers? (photo: The Political Carnival)
Liberal laments about Obama are getting longer. Are liberals suckers? (photo: The Political Carnival)

Are Liberals Just Suckers?

By Sally Kohn, The Washington Post

16 April 11


Liberals pride themselves on being tolerant. Are they really just suckers?

he list of liberal laments about President Obama keeps getting longer: He extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Health-care reform didn't include a public option. In the frantic final hours of the budget negotiations, instead of calling the GOP's bluff, he agreed to historic cuts in progressive programs. And Wednesday, in response to conservatives' focus on the deficit, Obama said that we have to "put everything on the table."

What is the problem here? Is it a lack of leadership from the White House, a failure to out-mobilize the tea party or not enough long-term investment from liberal donors?

The real problem isn't a liberal weakness. It's something liberals have proudly seen as a strength - our deep-seated dedication to tolerance. In any given fight, tolerance is benevolent, while intolerance gets in the good punches. Tolerance plays by the rules, while intolerance fights dirty. The result is round after round of knockouts against liberals who think they're high and mighty for being open-minded but who, politically and ideologically, are simply suckers.

Social science research has long dissected the differences between liberals and conservatives. Liberals supposedly have better sex, but conservatives are happier. Liberals are more creative; conservatives more trustworthy. And, since the 1930s, political psychologists have argued that liberals are more tolerant. Specifically, those who hold liberal political views are more likely to be open-minded, flexible and interested in new ideas and experiences, while those who hold conservative political views are more likely to be closed-minded, conformist and resistant to change. As recently as 2008, New York University political psychologist John Jost and his colleagues confirmed statistically significant personality differences connected to political leanings. Brain-imaging studies have even suggested that conservative brains are hard-wired for fear, while the part of the brain that tolerates uncertainty is bigger in liberal heads.

Dissecting Obama's negotiation strategy in the budget fight, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, "It looks from here as if the president's idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the GOP, leading to further concessions." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein has criticized Obama for similarly failing to take a strong position on energy policy. But perhaps the president is only playing out the psychological tendencies of his base.

In the weeks leading up to the budget showdown, the Pew Research Center found that 50 percent of Republicans wanted their elected representatives to "stand by their principles," even if it meant causing the federal government to shut down. Among those who identified as tea party supporters, that figure was 68 percent. Conversely, 69 percent of Democrats wanted their representatives to avoid a shutdown, even if it meant compromising on principles. With supporters like that, who needs Rand Paul?

Political tolerance is supposed to be essential to the great democratic experiment that is the United States. As Thomas Jefferson put it in his first inaugural address, those who might wish to dissolve the newly established union should be left "undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it."

But some errors, by their nature, undermine reason.

Writing in 1945, philosopher Karl Popper called this the "paradox of tolerance" - that unlimited tolerance leads to the disappearance of tolerance altogether. To put the current political climate in Popper's terms, if liberals are not willing to defend against the rigid demands of their political opponents, who are emboldened by their own unwavering opinions, their full range of open-minded positions will be destroyed. Liberals are neutered by their own tolerance.

This is not to say that the brand of liberal tolerance that grew from the struggles for civil rights, women's rights and gay rights is to blame for this lack of progressive political bite. For all the mockery of hyper-tolerant political correctness, identity politics is anything but tolerant. It demands that society be more accepting and inclusive of those who are marginalized because of their race, gender or sexual orientation. But it does not go so far as to tolerate intolerance. Those who fight racism and sexism in society do so out of deep moral convictions. They would never say, "Oh, we can co-exist with Fred Phelps and the KKK and find a way to compromise." Creating a society that fully embraces gay people and people of color means creating a society that is intolerant of homophobia and racism.

In fact, to many scholars of race and sexuality, "tolerance" is a dirty word. For instance, in his book "Signs of Struggle: The Rhetorical Politics of Cultural Difference," Thomas R. West notes that tolerance is often used in a pejorative way to make excuses for inequalities in power. West makes the same critique of negotiation: When fundamental rights and core values are on the table, just talking about negotiating means you've already lost.

It would be one thing if Republicans were negotiating in good faith, recognizing that reasonable minds can disagree on the matters at hand and that each will have to bend. But the GOP has become so extremist that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) made clear after the 2010 elections that his party's agenda for the next two years was not governing but ensuring Obama's defeat in 2012. Meanwhile, as they have for years, Republicans have openly shared their desire to shrink government so much that they can, as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist once promised, "drown it in a bathtub." Democrats' tolerance of such destructive positions is a sign not of nobility but of pathetic self-loathing.

At times, Obama has used the bully pulpit to stand up to bullies. The president overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal ban on same-sex unions, and led the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. He instituted promising reforms of the financial sector, most notably creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and appointing Elizabeth Warren, known for her criticism of Wall Street abuse, to head it.

Yet for the most part, Obama tried to avoid public fights on these and other key issues. He didn't repeal the Defense of Marriage Act but rather ordered the Justice Department to stop enforcing it. "Don't ask, don't tell" was repealed during a lame-duck session of Congress under cover of the more attention-getting extension of the Bush-era tax breaks for the rich. Obama appointed Warren to her post on an interim basis to avoid a Senate confirmation battle. And, of course, the president abandoned the public option in health-care reform when it met with significant opposition from insurers. Taken as a whole, it would appear that Obama is intolerant of one thing: conflict.

Now, Obama has proposed reducing the federal debt by $4 trillionover the next 12 years, making "the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs that I care deeply about." But the reason he's even having this conversation is because the tea party handed him the scissors. Had liberals more fiercely fought for the role of government as the spender of last resort in a recession - and for the role of government in general for the past three decades - Congress would instead be debating how to invest public money in the new American economy.

Instead, tolerant Democrats are not only capitulating to negotiations over how much to starve our economy of public capital but in some cases are bragging about how much they're giving in. During his remarks about the budget deal a week ago, Obama twice trumpeted achieving the biggest annual spending cuts in history. How can a basketball fanatic like Obama think that throwing the ball in the other team's hoop will somehow win the game?

Yet, this is the essence of what Obama, the community organizer, came to Washington to do: not to push an agenda but to change the culture of the capital to be more inclusive, open-minded, civil and democratic. Unfortunately, there are no points for playing nice.

It's as though Democrats think we're at a polite tea party, while Republicans are fighting an ideological war. The GOP's budget plan for 2012 would essentially dismantle Medicaid and Medicare, end social supports for poor families and give tax breaks to business and the wealthy. Realistically, Obama seems to understand that, at least in the short term, liberals have lost control of the conversation and have to play by the rules that the extreme right has made up. That means Democrats have to do something regarding the deficit and spending.

But Obama would win more - and actually win the future - if he would throw down the gauntlet before reaching across the aisle. He did this to an extent in his speech on the deficit on Wednesday, but while the rhetoric included fighting words, the details pointed to extreme concessions. A little more intolerance early on would serve Obama and the Democrats well in the end.

Conservative television evangelist Pat Robertson once said, "I have a zero tolerance for sanctimonious morons who try to scare people." Liberals can keep patting ourselves on the back for standing tall and tolerant while conservatives land blow after blow, but taking the high road of civil compromise will feel less and less noble as decades of vital government programs pile up in bloodied heaps on the ground. In this context, liberals look increasingly less like open-minded statesmen and more like sanctimonious morons.

There is a time for tolerance and compromise, but if the GOP is always dictating when that time is, Democrats have already lost. Suckers.

Sally Kohn is a community organizer and political commentator. She is the founder and chief education officer of the Movement Vision Lab, a think tank. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+41 # Sean 2011-04-16 20:38
You speak the truth Ms Kohn. From someone on the outside looking in, that is exactly the perspective I have on the state of American politics.
Liberals say all the right things, sometimes even at the right times (usually too late however) and yet there seems to be an intense apathy (!) when it comes to backing those ideas up.

Sure, that Obama needs the conservative financial generosity is virtually without doubt. Decisions such as Citizen's United have ensured that this will be the case until either legislation corrects this atrocious error, or some corrupt, free-spending Democrat billionaires start throwing their cash into politics.

And I agree that personality and the very ideology that underpins liberalism contributes to a more tolerant approach. But come on...what happened to the massive protest movements of the 1960's and 70's? Well-led, well-organised movements that had a huge impact on policy - and well before the digital age of instant communication. Are liberals just too tired from looking after the kids and working two jobs to be politically active? Do they need some mind-expanding narcotics and bell-bottomed jeans to get things done, as opposed to said? Or, as you intimate, do they simply need a leader with a lot more backbone?
+24 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-04-17 03:55
BUSHWHACKED and fe today in the U.S.of (greed and power) A.(ddiction).

And, yes indeed, Sean, it's a leader we need, with a lot more backbone. It's a war we're in, not one more of the of so profitable for the villainaires Bush Oil Wars, but a battle for survival for all we the sheeple, so enslaved now, with far more to come.

The cousins in Ireland aRE sooo right... it's a coup d'etat indeed, and we Yanks are too naive to recognize it. Instead, we're Bushwhacked, Kochsucked, and Karlroved into believing so much caca, i.e. the Tea Party is something other than a Koch created manipulation, just one more ploy to keep total control over the lowly, a.k.a. the 98% of Americans who are just beginning to get it.

Time to say Bye Bye Oh Bomb Ah, and any and all with a brain cell working to get behind a real true independent and braver than brave candidate for pres.. Then, hand count every vote, after making sure all those who may vote can vote. How to overcome the villainaires huge spending/spinni ng media campaigns? Word of mouth, folks, word of mouth. And Wisconsin style revolution, with G.O.P.ers and Dems. all yelling,,,

+2 # ahmo 2011-04-17 16:26
+37 # Gary in Midwest 2011-04-16 22:34
I'm no psychologist and I hate to be cruel towards a guy I voted for, but I seriously have come to the conclusion that Obama has a personality, better yet, a behavior disorder. I mean, let's look at his background. Fatherless, raised by grandparents. It strikes me that his sucking up to those male testosterone Republicans just might be a young boy's search for the father figure he never had. Well all I can say it "grow up, Mr. President!" Those Republican bumbs you're sucking up to are not and never will be fatherly towards you. They hate everything you stand for so quit trying to find the fairness in them. It ain't there! It never will be!
+13 # lkach 2011-04-17 01:42
It is not a personality disorder. He has a money disorder. He gets paid well for the talent to make you think the wide difference between what he says and what he does is something other than fraud.
+31 # BettyFaas 2011-04-17 00:11
There are all kinds of massive protests occurring all over the country. News about them are being suppressed. Unless one is at an event, you would not know about it because there is often not even a blip on the news. March 26 is a good example. There were massive numbers of people rallying and marching in 40 or so cities around the country, mainly standing up for workers to support WI public employees. I was among the thousands of union marchers in L.A. which was basically ignored by the media..
+9 # gerlarad 2011-04-17 09:16
Info is available in blogs such as this one and many others. The so-called legitinate press has bee captured and subverted. Use chanels like this (before they are also trifialized) then keep loo and finding outlets lie mthis.Quoting BettyFaas:
There are all kinds of massive protests occurring all over the country. News about them are being suppressed. Unless one is at an event, you would not know about it because there is often not even a blip on the news. March 26 is a good example. There were massive numbers of people rallying and marching in 40 or so cities around the country, mainly standing up for workers to support WI public employees. I was among the thousands of union marchers in L.A. which was basically ignored by the media..
+15 # Lesabre 2011-04-17 00:27
I does seem like we lose big time when the R's are in and we lose just a little less when we have more Dem's. Either way, we lose. I'm very disappointed in Obama and the rest of the Democrats that sit around and whine without ever throwing a punch. They just wait for the opportunity to compromise. I just want to have a good puke and take a nap.
+17 # hms 2011-04-17 00:36
A great piece! It makes me wonder if we have to let the Republicans trash everything that has improved the social conditions of this country, then finally look around and realize what a mess our nation has become, and then at last understand we truly have something to be pissed off at--and then finally take to the streets to set things right. How much total pain do we have to experience until we fight back? We need to take our country back from these greedy selfish whackos!
+19 # John Gill 2011-04-17 00:41
"Yet, this is the essence of what Obama, the community organizer, came to Washington to do: not to push an agenda but to change the culture of the capital to be more inclusive, open-minded, civil and democratic. Unfortunately, there are no points for playing nice."

Playing nice? Seriously? Please Ms. Kohn! This is just more of the same apologist nonsense: "oh gee, it's not Obama's fault. He's just such a liberal, such a peacemaker." I am sorry, truly sorry, if I am being rude, but what a load of crap. He is a very sharp, capable, Chicago politician who knows EXACTLY what he's doing. By his actions he is an agent of the corporatocracy, that cancer on the face of our world which does not distinguish between liberal and conservative, but manipulates all to its own ends, and we, the patsies who voted Obama into office need to wake up and smell the coffee. Stop projecting your fuzzy, warm "tolerance" onto the clever calculating fellow who set us up and took us for a ride.
+11 # Peter Attwood 2011-04-17 01:04
My objection to Gary's comment above is that Obama doesn't stand for anything, so can they hate everything he stands for? He's Bush with a nicer tan and a smoother patter, and the difference in our politics is that what had people jumping up and down when Bush did it has the same hypocrites making excuses when Obama does exactly the same things. What do Obama's apologists stand for? If they stood for anything, would they be finding excuses for every one of Obama's betrayals?
+18 # lkach 2011-04-17 01:35
The idea that Obama was sent to Washington "not to push an agenda but to change the culture of the capital to be more inclusive, open-minded, civil and democratic" is a rewrite of history. Voters sent him to change Bush policies that had failed the country and to change the way Washington does business, a business of selling public policy in exchange for campaign contributions. His Wall Street paymasters sent him to make them richer. Guess who has called his tune?

The thesis that Obama is just another sucker representing a constituency of liberal suckers who are congenitally weak and conciliatory to the right is ahistorical (Roosevelt a wimp?) and perniciously ignorant of the most important difference between Obama and his liberal constituency. Obama gets paid handsomely by the rich to give them what they pay for with their contributions; his constituents don't get paid - they get ripped off as Wall Street and the rich buy policies that make average Americans poorer and less protected from corporate plunder and piratical plutocrats. Yes, liberals are suckers if they think Obama is anything but a highly skilled mascot of the latter, as Cornell West put it. Obama gets paid well to say anything to get their vote. But they are suckers indeed if they give it to him again. Fooled twice, shame on them.
+17 # gary matteson 2011-04-17 02:29
After three decades of the same lies it should now be obvious that so-called Democratic presidents like Obama (and Clinton) function simply as a change of scenery from in-your-face "Reaganomics" to sneaky Reaganomics. Wall Street is finalizing a master plan to completely un-do the New Deal - they have been at it from the start, it took a while but here we are. Goldman Sachs tells our current politicians what to say and the lies about budget deficits spill from their shit eating mouths. But do they envision what life will be like once they have achieved the transformation of the U.S. into Third World country?

We need a serious, progressive alternative to the money-mad bullshit that is now running things into the ground.
+13 # 3rdM-3rdE 2011-04-17 02:56
Sally Kohn wrote: 'Obama said that we have to "put everything on the table." What is the problem here?"

The public budgetary problem, as usual, is that They precisely did NOT put the biggest item on the table- the 800 pound holy cow/gorilla of absolutely useless INTEREST payments to the establishment's 'special class' of (so-called) 'Federal' Reserve owners. It is a de facto private, international CARTEL, controlling the currency and economy of our supposed constitutional republic. Until Washingtoon pols. face up to this basic reality of their environment, they deserve not our respect. And anyone- Libby, Connie, or Indy- who grants them this regardless is indeed a sucker or willful neoserf.

Get real. Private cartel Fractional-Rese rve-Banking is the oldest trick in the book.
+5 # TGMisanthrope 2011-04-17 05:47
Barack Obama is a bigger disappointment to me after two (2) years in office than Bill Clinton was at the end of his eight (8) years. And Clinton was a major disappointment to me. Fool me once . . . guess I'm a sucker.
+1 # golferdawn 2011-04-17 15:29
Why was Clinton a disappointment? We were much better off then and he left a surplus. Does that mean that you would never be satisfied?
+2 # TGMisanthrope 2011-04-18 01:04
Clinton was a disappointment to me because instead of using his second term--four (4) years free of any re-election concerns--to the benefit of the U.S. and the world, he spent it being pleasured in the Oval office then dealing with the ensuing fallout. And I'll be satisfied the day an elected politician actually keeps his or her campaign promises instead of simply saying what people want to hear in order to get elected.
0 # Ryguy913 2011-09-14 11:27
How about his welfare policies?

Or, how about his failure to intervene in Rwanda?

"Acts of genocide" = most disgusting use of linguistic side-stepping ever.

How about his signing of NAFTA?

How about his deadly Iraq policies? (sanctions)
+12 # 3rdM-3rdE 2011-04-17 06:01
"Sanctimonious moron" implies that one is posturing to appear politically correct (holier-than-th ou), at the expense of failing to notice larger and less conventional issues at hand.

...Say, for example, that US public society is being eaten alive live a cancer by usurious interest payments to some opaque cartel of international currency wise guys officially known (in these parts at least) as the "Federal Reserve".

...or, that one of these Fractional Reserve Banking shysters' creations- the 1880s psuedo-legal concept of "Corporate Personhood"- is making an open mockery of the concept of American citizenship and the honor of holding public office.

Solve these two problems and all other malaises mentioned on this board will also vanish, into the books of past history.

"...corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."
- Justice Stevens, in dissent from the 5-4 "Citizens United" ruling, 2010

Does anyone in their right mind doubt this?
+7 # minmouse 2011-04-17 06:05
Obama should get rid of all the people that was in Bush's administration, starting with Geighner who worked on wall street. THINK FOR YOUR SELF, OBAMA.
+9 # jamjackliz 2011-04-17 06:07
HARSH criticism of someone who's "on our side" is suspect to me. Is this critique of Obama supposed to energize the base, or suppress them? The other side doesn't EVER criticize their own, at least not in public. They understand the importance of unity to defend their policies. Liberals like you think you're showing how "smart and free thinking" you are. The list you gave that was supposed to be Obama's GIVEAWAYS AND WEAKNESSES just aren't so. You don't seem to calculate in the fact that the man doesn't have enough "BACKUP" from his "not so liberal" congress. He knows what he has to work with, and he's not going to waste his time and energy, "BEATING A DEAD HORSE". There's NO WAY a progressive agenda could be passed in this political climate. Let's face reality. The man has been handed "THE WORST ECONOMY IN US HISTORY", constant bitching from a small vocal part of his base, demonization, racism, and death threats from the "LUNATIC RIGHT", and the man STILL can't get a break! Why don't you bitch about "THE TRUE ENEMIES" of this nation, and energize liberals against them? A TRUE LIBERAL wouldn't call their own base SUCKERS". Is this an example of your "COMMUNITY ORGANIZING"?
+9 # Paul 2011-04-17 07:51
It is you and your ilk that are the whole problem with Oboma. You refuse to open your eyes and look at the facts. Many people have said it and it's true, you have all taken deep drinks from the Kool Aid. Maybe Obama has been given a Congress that won't give him everything the left would like to have but he hasn't even so much as tried. For example, he refused to even put the public option on the table when debating the Health Care Reform bill. That is really the only example necessary to criticize him as much as we please. How can you claim he gets no backup from the "not so liberal" Congress, when he won't even so much as make an attempt to see what he CAN get. He starts every discussion from a point right of center and then compromises even farther to the right. We are supposed to be pleased with this? Finally, you are a perfect example of exactly what she, the author, is saying. You refuse to criticize Obama, no matter how bad he is or what he does. What does that accomplish, other than giving us more and more of the same from him.
+6 # chick 2011-04-17 18:05
I guess I am one of Jamjackliz ilk because I totally agree with him.
I do not remember all of this comments about Bush when he was in office.

And heaven knows I have complained to Obama but I also realize the problems he has had to cope with. If all of you would go after the Republican gangsters and I anme them all, maybe we would get somewhere. They are the ones ruining our country not Obama.
+8 # Capn Canard 2011-04-17 07:38
This is a battle of WEALTHY vs. middle class and everyone else. It is the trickle down of the WEALTH MYTH, a propaganda that someday we all WILL be wealthy. Now, IMO, the NATIONAL situation now is a fustercluck of misinformation and disinformation. These people have proven themselves to possess a strong fantasy world where the MAGIC of CUTTING TAXES will balance a budget! No revenue coming in and somehow the deficits will all disappear? I blame this mess on the GOP pushed policies of deregulation of banks, failure of SEC oversight, etc etc. The majority of people believe they can have their entitlements programs without increasing TAXES on THE WEALTHY?!? The only antidote is to eliminate the use of money in electoral process of politics. And it is NOT EASY, but it far easier than you think. The Washington Journalists and Insiders don't even consider RAISING TAXES AT ALL and therefore it isn't on the table. Of course you could cut DoD spending and this would make life far easier, but it isn't on the table. sigh...
+5 # mtnview 2011-04-17 07:47
Politics is the art of compromise. However, for the past 30+ years, we have seen an intransient style of politics, practiced by neo-cons. This is the intimidation of bullies. There is only one cure --- smack them hard, then hit them again for good measure, until they decide to play fair. Until then, this Progressive has lost her tolerance for the unreasonable and cruelty of the right. Its time for us to draw a true line in the sand. As for Obama and the Dems, no more votes. They no longer deserve my respect, my effort, my money or my goodwill. Organize and vote Green, Socialist, or whatever works for you.
+1 # chick 2011-04-17 18:11
Sure go ahead vote for your green party and your vote with help the Republicans get in again.
Let's face it how many timees have we tried a third party. It never works but it always helps the Republicans.
You think the Republicans are Bullies? You have not seen anything yet.
Vote for your Green party and see the Republicans win again and then you will see what you have done to yourself. You have cut off your nose to spite your face and baby you will then see what misery is.
+5 # John Roach 2011-04-17 08:42
I wonder: how many of the above complainers have actually voted since the 2008 elections? Or: how many of them have contacted their office holders in Washington and their state capitols to express their views? How many have contributed money to elect progressive candidates at all levels of government?
I amsure that the president is aware of the support he actually has and feels that even a minor victory is usually better than a major defeat.
If the people of Wisconsin had laid back and silently griped about their governor's legislation, where would that have gotten them? If you really feel strongly about that of which you write, then actually do just a little more than secretly bitch on an internet web board.
+6 # DaveW 2011-04-17 11:58
"John Roach"]I wonder: how many of the above complainers have actually voted since the 2008 elections? Or: how many of them have contacted their office holders in Washington and their state capitols to express their views? How many have contributed money to elect progressive candidates at all levels of government?" Since you begin your paragraph with the expression "I wonder", I'll have to assume you DON'T know. I am a Liberal. I've voted in EVERY election since 1974. I've written hundreds of letters to my local paper and to my elected reps. My wife and I have contributed, what constitutes for us, a LOT of money over the last 31 years.I write periodic column for local progressive paper. I VOLUNTEER as softball coach at inner city high school. I complain about Obama from a position of personal involvement as I see it. He has capitualated and negotiated the country in a downward spiral his predecessor can only be proud of. Democrats in general have abdicated the role they played in American politics, protecting and advancing the rights of the under privledged, victims of discrimination, environmental issues, gender and sexual equality,etc for the thirty years the author of this article alludes to. A lot of us "do just a little more than secretly bitch on an internet web board." Just in case you were "wondering."
+4 # golferdawn 2011-04-17 15:35
I agree, completely. And all of you people who propose voting for some off-the-wall candidate, you obviously didn't learn anything when people voted for Ralph Nader and gave the election to the Republicans. Bitch less, and work more.
+8 # liberalman 2011-04-17 08:50
Progressives & their ilk that stay home in 2012 & do not vote will allow the craziest of the crazies back into the White House. Think things are bad now? Wait until President Bachman or President The Donald begin stripping constitutional provisions by the bushel to suit their God is in charge of all things political. Much lesser of two evils baby!
+11 # wormeel 2011-04-17 10:14
I am starting to think that my paranoid belief that Obama was a Republican plant, set up to take the fall during the economic collapse and make sure that a progressive agenda can never be implemented, was true. He has done more damage to the left in 2 years than any Republican noise machine has done in 30. He did it by making us complacent. “We have to go slowly, we have to compromise (meaning start by giving up everything and move right from there) we have to attack pathetic third world countries, we can’t deal with global warming now, we need more oil drilling” etc. etc. We say support the Democrats because the Republicans are so much worse. I didn't see the New Deal or the Great Society on the chopping block during Bush. I only saw TWO wars during Bush. I think Obama and the Republicans have found a way to enact their agenda and blame all consequences on the left/liberals. They knew if a real progressive got into office that the changes would be embraced by the public and the chance to turn the US into a third world country and economy would be over. So they get a fake progressive (just look at his advisors) to do the dirty work. "Mission Accomplished" to quote a president who was also totally effective for his backers (Wall Street, Big Corporations, Big Oil and Big Defense).
+7 # Realist 2011-04-17 11:24
The biggest problem I see is that we do not have an opportunity to replace him in the next election. No Democrat will run against him in the primary, and so many Democrats will sit the next election out. We who fought and voted for Obama in the last election are disillusioned and wounded.
+10 # Lulie 2011-04-17 12:51
By definition, liberals are more tolerant. Tolerance means you can do what you want as long as you don't hurt somebody else. Giving in to bullies who do everything in their power to hurt other people is not tolerant; it's WEAK. The "liberals" in this country today -- or at least the liberal leadership -- are just plain weaklings. They don't have the stomach for a fight, and they keep giving away the rights and privileges that courageous people who came before us gave up their lives to attain. There are a few notable exceptions, and they deserve our support. Obama and his ilk do not.
+3 # fredboy 2011-04-17 18:34
Great question.

Yes, liberals and conservatives are suckers. Putzes. Lemmings. And idiots.

The games of both spectrums are gutting what could be a magnificent nation.
+3 # fbelcast 2011-04-17 20:56
In his 1858 campaign in Illinois for the Senate, Lincoln in Charleston told his audience: “I will say, then, that I am not, or ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people. . . ."


Zinn writes, “Behind the secession of the South from the Union, after Lincoln was elected President in the fall of 1860 as candidate of the new Republican party, was a long series of policy clashes between South and North. The clash was not over slavery as a moral institution--mo st northerners did not care enough about slavery to make sacrifices for it, certainly not the sacrifice of war. It was not a clash of peoples (most northern whites were not economically favored, not politically powerful; most southern whites were poor farmers, not decisionmakers) but of elites. The northern elite wanted economic expansion--free land, free labor, a free market, a high protective tariff for manufacturers, a bank of the United States. The slave interests opposed all that; they saw Lincoln and the Republicans as making continuation of their pleasant and prosperous way of life impossible in the future.”
+2 # fbelcast 2011-04-17 20:57
“Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address, in March 1861, was conciliatory toward the South and the seceded states: ‘I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.’”


“The spirit of Congress, even after the war began, was shown in a resolution it passed in the summer of 1861, with only a few dissenting votes: ‘ . . . this war is not waged . . . for any purpose of . . . overthrowing or interfering with the rights of established institutions of those states, but . . . to preserve the Union.’”


“When in September 1862, Lincoln issued his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, it was a military move, giving the South four months to stop rebelling, threatening to emancipate their slaves if they continued to fight, promising to leave slavery untouched in states that came over to the North.”

And more.

All of the above taken from: Zinn, Howard. (1999). A people’s history of the United States, 1492-present. New York: HarperCollins. pp.188+.
+6 # sharag 2011-04-17 21:43
I believe I'm liberal minded and tolerant of most things, but I'm just not tolerant of what the right advocates. Never have been. No one should be. There are good conservative ideas that are reasonable for our society. But today, the right is far from conservative, it is a radical movement that is willing to sacrifice the people of this nation for a narrow minded ideology that benefits corporations and the wealthy. They will say and do anything to promote that.

There are parallels in recent history which led to our greatest war. Being liberal doesn't mean you role over for idiots. Maintaining a decent society, a tolerant society, means pushing back the bullies who would take it away. It's long past due the push back begins.
+4 # wfalco 2011-04-18 06:36
Sally Kohn has put down in words what was vaguely in my mind for years. I am someone who prides himself in "taking the high road". Isn't being a good liberal mean being respectful and open minded to opposing views and opinions?
So ,by our own predisposition, we would like to get along with everyone and,hopefully, convince those of an opposing viewpoint that our rational argument can be convincing.
But politeness and open mindedness(even when we know the opposing view will never bend and is intended to defeat us)will fail in the course politics of America today.
We are in a recipe for disaster. By nature we liberals are not battle ready. The most radical will go out on the streets and protest,but it will never be enough.
+3 # phrixus 2011-04-18 06:39
Obama has, and continues to demonstrate, his lack of willingness to stand resolute for any of the principles he so eloquently enunciated during his campaign. He has abandoned his base and with few exceptions failed to keep any of his campaign promises. Instead, he consistently rolls over to the radical right-wing extremists and is firmly ensconced in bed with the blood-sucking corporations that are destroying America. The only remaining question: Is Obama a pathological liar or simply a coward?
+2 # alanna25 2011-04-18 08:26
The real suckers are anyone and everyone who still believe in our political system. It only works for the corporatocracy. Politics is a waste of our time and money. We need something new, such as proposed by The Zeitgeist Movement. Change is needed, and not just whether to vote for a repub or dem. It's all the same.
0 # billy bob 2011-04-18 13:46
What do you propose?
+1 # Roy P. Staples 2011-04-19 01:57
Ms. Kohn,

The sad truth is that the psychology that pins a persistent mindset on Liberals and Conservatives does not actually confirm that all who claim to be one actually are such psychologically . No one is naively behaving according to innate clockwork.

There is a layer that you are simply missing.

One of the biggest problems with Obama is that he is too sensitive to how he is perceived. He has stated to my recollection that he believes he wins minds to his perspective simply by doing the right thing, and in not alienating the swing voters.

But if the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck have shown us anything, it is that by appearing strong, appearing homespun, appearing simplistic and down-home honest and straight-talkin g, a politician can appear more virile and strong. Obama has lost many supporters with his willingness to negotiate everything. It makes him appear like nothing really matters. He's more interested in everyone getting along.

There's a lot more going on than Ms Cohn's simplistic, reductive assessment allows for. Dr. Jost's own edited anthology "Political Psychology" gives just a few examples of how complicated the psychology of politics is. As a result, it is crucial to look at the situation and assess how some phenomena have more effect psychologically than others.
0 # fredboy 2011-04-19 09:14
Unfortunately, the term "liberal" like the term "Christian" has been twisted, knotted, and ripped to shreds by like self-ineterests .

I recall the night my Dad came home from a local Democratic Party meeting. He had led the party for a dozen years, was a friend of JFK, and put his career and life on the line to help minorities in the 60s. That night the "liberal" McGovern types had stormed the place, voted him out, and told everyone it was time for "new and better leadership." Two weeks later they called pleading for fundraising help--they did not know how to do it. My Dad's reaction was perfect--he told them to kiss his ass.

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