Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Kind of Transition

Some progressives are not impressed with the names coming out of the Obama transition team.

This is the guy Republicans called a socialist, maybe a Marxist, and National Journal said was the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate? McCain aides were saying on Election Night that their own polling showed 60 percent of the country thought Obama was a liberal (and many voted for him anyway). Barely two weeks into the transition, that number might already be dropping fast.

In fact, in his appointments, and in what can be divined of his foreign policy, there are loud echoes of the last Democratic administration, and also of that lady he beat in the primaries, the one the netroots didn’t like very much. Certainly, some of Obama’s supporters are getting a little nervous about what this all presages about an Obama White House. “The list [of disappointments] is getting awfully long,” wrote the blogger bmaz at Firedoglake. “Almost as long as Barack Obama’s arm that he used to take our money and efforts to get himself elected. All we have seen is the short arm he has used to punch us in the face and collect street cred with villagers for having done so.” Open Left’s Chris Bowers wrote on Friday that he felt “incredibly frustrated … [W]hy isn’t there a single member of Obama’s cabinet who will be advising him from the left?” Even Pat Buchanan — not exactly the world’s most liberal guy — apparently thinks Obama needs to throw a bone to progressives after the start the transition is off to.

There are a couple of things to ponder here. First is the simple fact that it’s hard to find anyone in Washington — or anywhere — who is a Democrat and has the experience to be a senior administration official who didn’t work in the Clinton administration. After all, that was the last Democrat in the White House, and prior to that, you’re going to have to go back to the Carter administration, which left office in 1981. Time, tide, and the actuarial tables wait for no one.

Second, we are wrapping up eight years of an administration that governed by ideology rather than competency. It didn’t matter whether or not the people knew their jobs as long as they were loyal Bushies. We know how that turned out.

It seems that a lot of people are having trouble switching from campaign mode to actually getting to work to solve the problems they campaigned so hard to get the chance to solve. But as Mike Madden notes, “It’s one thing to build a coalition of progressives and sweep to the Oval Office on the heels of record disapproval for the current occupant. As Obama and his supporters are finding out already, it’s a whole other thing to govern.” That’s a lesson that was lost on the Republicans — or one they never bothered to consider. Perhaps those who are impatient or disappointed with the Obama selections should learn it and put it to good use.