Do Americans, even in anxious times, prefer an optimistic leader or an angry one?
The debt ceiling agreement is a disaster.
The Republicans won.
The tea partiers won.
The Democrats lost.
The American people lost.
And Obama lost.
Obama has largely himself to blame for this rout.
For way too long, he tilted at bipartisanship instead of rallying his own troops.
He woefully underestimated his political enemies, who have now proven that they will do anything—including threatening to wreck the economy—to get their way and to make him fail.
The only way to fight against such rightwing reaction is to name it and to mobilize against it.
But instead Obama played nice with his enemies and adopted a course of capitulation.
Time and again, he signaled his willingness to cave in to the captive takers and to pay most of their ransom, whether on taxes or Medicare or Social Security.
And he never galvanized the progressive base to rally behind him. Instead, he scorned this base and sold it out.
From day one, he needed to recognize the ideological battle he was in.
But he pretended otherwise, and assumed that the safe course was down the center right.
Well, he just got run over on the center right.
And neither he nor the economy may recover by Election Day.
While this may be a political tragedy for Obama, the far greater tragedy is for the American people, millions of whom are now going to suffer as unemployment remains high and crucial social programs get slashed.
All because of the far right’s recklessness and callousness—and Obama’s miscalculations and cowardice.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "In Praise of Tim DeChristopher."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter