High Liberal Hopes Threaten to Crash Down on Obama

If president's staunchest supporters lose faith, the cause may be lost.

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By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

"Frustrated Liberal Lawmaker Balances Beliefs and Politics," reads the headline of a New York Times story from over the weekend.

The profile of Oregon Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer, penned by Times ' s Congressional ace Carl Hulse, highlights the increasing uneasiness many on the left are experiencing with the Obama administration. It's not quite disillusionment, but it could be getting there.

Blumenauer, who, as Hulse notes, is "known for his bowties, his Trek bicycle, and a pragmatic brand of progressivism," was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama. He endorsed the then-senator in January 2008 and actively campaigned on Obama's behalf.

In the piece, Blumenauer describes the first months of the Obama administration as a "hard landing." For liberals like Blumenauer, much of the change they believed in has yet to happen. Democrats control the White House and large majorities in the House and Senate and yet wars rage in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" policy is still in place, Gitmo remains open for business, and, particularly hard for the left, the president continues to dance around committing to a healthcare "public option."

During the presidential transition and following Obama's inauguration, many Republicans warned of the administration overreaching and trying to do too much (with good reason, did anyone reasonably expect the government to have an ownership stake in General Motors?). There also existed the distinct possibility that many in the left—the truest of the true believers—would be disappointed and feel Obama was actually under-reaching. With hopes higher than the Frank Sinatra hit song, a letdown was probably inevitable.

Blumenauer remains optimistic. But much of Obama's liberal base wants to see results instead of lofty rhetoric, which could be a problem for the administration in the weeks and months ahead.

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