By Matthew Rothschild on July 23, 2011

CNN has just come out with a poll that shows Obama losing support from his left flank.

“Roughly one in four Americans who disapprove of the president say they feel that way because he's not been liberal enough,” the poll said. “Obama's approval rating among liberals has dropped to 71 percent, the lowest point in his presidency.”

Overall, the poll had Obama with an approval-disapproval rating at 45%-54%.

For anyone within shouting distance of most progressive communities, this is not a surprise.

The dissatisfaction with Obama has been building steadily over the past three years, and it has grown more audible by the month.

While he spoke progressive on the campaign trail, Obama has, for the most part, governed from the corporate center right.

On health care, he abandoned single payer, and even the public option.

On the banking and housing crisis, he bailed out the banks without extracting any meaningful concessions, such as a moratorium on foreclosures or a 25 percent write-down of the principal on all existing mortgages.

On the stimulus package, he came in well short of what the economy needed, as he was repeatedly warned by Nobel Prize winners in economics Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz and his own Christina Romer, who was chair of his Council of Economic Advisers.

On taxes, he caved on the Bush breaks for millionaires.

On labor, he sat on the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill to make it easier for workers to organize themselves into unions.

On civil liberties, he continued the Bush policies, extending the Patriot Act, not modifying the Military Commissions Act or the NSA spying act, holding suspects indefinitely at Bagram Air Force Base (and actually increasing the numbers held there by a factor of three), siccing the FBI on leftwing solidarity activists, and announcing that he has the right to assassinate anyone—including American citizens—that he deems a threat.

On foreign policy, his rhetoric has been less macho than Bush’s but the substance has been the same. His State Department backed the coup makers in Honduras. While he has been critical of Netanyahu in Israel, he hasn’t backed that up with any reduction in aid. He was slow to rally to the support of the Arab Spring, and he coddled Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. He escalated the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has pressed for keeping some troops in Iraq. And he launched an illegal air war against Libya.

This week, when he shamefully agreed to raise the retirement age for Social Security and cut benefits for recipients by monkeying with the cost of living (concessions that we were spared only by the obtuseness of the Republican Party), Obama again showed his readiness to give away almost the entire progressive store.

He does have some progressive supporters, though, especially among gays and lesbians, who recognize that on their issues, he’s made a significant difference, especially by ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

But even among African Americans, his support is shrinking, and justifiably so, as Kevin Alexander Gray points out in the cover story of the August issue of The Progressive.

I hear progressives saying they feel betrayed by Obama, and they can’t understand why he’s abandoning his base.

But progressives never were, in fact, his base.

His real base has always been Wall Street, and he’s raising even more from Wall Street than he did last time around.

Wall Street may give him the money. But it won’t give him the people on the ground going door to door and making endless phone calls. And it won’t get progressives excited enough to call all their friends and relatives and beg them to go to the polls, as happened last time.

Money can’t buy enthusiasm.

And without progressive enthusiasm, Obama’s in big trouble.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "Gov. Walker Uses “Vanna White Veto” to Rob New Public Sector Workers.

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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