Michael Tomasky

Tomasky, while certainly not the typical elite (born and educated in West Virginia, for one thing), is in the inner circles of liberalism (he writes for the Prospect, The Guardian, the NY Review of Books, etc.) and I think that insulates him from the urgent economic terror so many of us feel. But have at it, tell me what you think:

If we insist on thinking of Obama–and in our personality-driven political culture, it’s so hard not to do this–as liberalism’s redeemer, he will always disappoint, as redeemers usually do. But if we think of him as one piece on a vexing historical chess board in a match that will take years to play out, we can exhale, and see the true shape of the tasks ahead of us. I don’t mean to say here that people should just be quiet. Quite the opposite: Progressive pressure is a better guarantor of progressive governance than hoping that governors will follow their most compassionate instincts. And liberals shouldn’t declare themselves entirely satisfied with an outcome unless they actually are (something that probably won’t happen too often). But I do very much mean to say that liberals should avoid the seductive temptation of wallowing in disappointment, and letting that turn into fury and then resignation–branding decisions one disagrees with as “betrayals” and “sell-outs,” retiring inward, pushing away from civic life. Those responses only help conservatism, which has quite enough power as it is.

The use or misuse of history as a blunt weapon is a trope that guarantees despair. If this Administration’s moments are always to be compared with liberalism’s greatest hits, it will never measure up, and the effect will be to signal to rank-and-file progressives that their values are constantly being sold short (I notice no one compares Obama outright with the segregationist-coddling FDR or the Vietnam-bombing LBJ, comparisons from which he would emerge favorably). But this is about something more important and lasting than any single president. We are in a pitched ideological battle that seems virtually certain to continue for many years. In that battle, despair will produce only defeat.

15 thoughts on “Michael Tomasky

  1. Susie, I didn’t read the article, just the excerpt that you have above. I agree with the bolded parts, because really, what other choice do we have? Sinking into despair just enables the cons.

  2. I doubt that this guy learned to write this kind of mushy tripe in West Virginia. This is not a game of chess where we make strategic moves, lose a few pieces and play for victory in the long run. Lives are at stake; people are being spied on, arrested and tortured; bombs are being dropped; families are losing their income and their homes; the earth, air and oceans are being poisoned.

    I am not “disappointed” lapsing into “resignation”. I am mad as hell, and I want the corrupt crooks arrested and put in prison. I don’t care if they are hauled out of the House, Senate and White House in handcuffs. I want justice to be done and this country to be saved from mush brained political commentators telling me to take it easy and give President Obama a break. He is a total failure as a leader and could not hold a candle to FDR or LBJ. I will compare him directly to them and say that they were not afraid to risk their political futures to do hard impossible things.

    We have given this president a landslide victory and a huge majority in congress and he has done nothing with it except to throw it away.

  3. I call horse puckey! This administration has had more than a few opportunities to initiate the change that it promised and has dropped the ball so many times now that it is no wonder we are disappointed and despairing. Not to mention continuing the previous administration’s policies! I had to mentally drop out to save my sanity!

  4. I’m with polyblog. I feel like a rat in a cage, getting random electrical shocks, hearing a lecture from the scientist on how I shouldn’t give up.

    And you just know it’s going to get worse as the election nears, oh yes, we’re going to be inundated with fear-mongering and threats, and if democrats don’t retain Congress, it’ll be MY FAULT. Screw it.

  5. what pragmatic realist said – somewhere out there, not in my lifetime, there may lurk another fdr, lbj, rfk – or there will someday be hell to pay when the chickens come home not to roost, but to die.

  6. Insulated? I assume he didn’t know he was being condescending when writing this. Yeah, I’d say he’s insulated.

  7. What chess moves get me health care, and a funded pension when I retire? If there isn’t an answer to that question, then he’s an idiot.

  8. I agree. How many people out of work have time for the long run? Those are the people that made FDR and LBJ famous; the people that were saved from starvation.

  9. yeah tell that to people who are dying, or wish they would already, due to policies the dems refuse to change. fuck him and all his ilk with a broomhandle.

  10. “But I do very much mean to say that liberals should avoid the seductive temptation of wallowing in disappointment…………..”

    Oh, I see. We should all be so very pleased that we have a president who doesn’t fight, seeks reconciliation at ALL costs? Tomasky’s an idiot if he believes we should be pleased as punch that we elected a guy with an over-whelming MANDATE to CHANGE things in this country, but who’s given us more of the same bullshit we got from Bush; of course I’m goddamned dissapointed, and I have a right to wallow in it till the cows come home!

  11. First, I want to thank Michael Tomasky for imputing feelings of despair to me. It’s certainly a step forward from “bitter”/”cling to”.

    That said, the “progressive” bait and switch for public option — combined with the news blackout they imposed on single payer advocates — was, exactly and precisely, a betrayal.

    So, I’m not in despair at all. I know never to trust “progressives” ever again on policies that might affect me. That’s just realism. Tomasky shouldn’t project his own feelings of pathetic inadequacy — justified though they are, since Obama had no intention of going with public option, ever, thus making a whole lot of “savvy” “progressives” look like idiots — onto the rest of us.

  12. merciless, you know this joke, right?

    A scientist wants to measure intelligence in rats, so he builds a maze, and starts running the rats through it, and timing them, and all that. So one day one of the rats builds a ladder and climbs up it to get an overview of the whole maze, and run it faster.

    Says the scientist “Hmm… A defective rat!” and euthanizes the animal.

  13. There was a time when Tomasky knew conservative/neoliberal idiots and their excuses when he saw them — he wrote for the Voice during the Giuliani administration. Guess those moral senses fall off, like psychic leprosy….

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