By Matthew Rothschild on August 19, 2010

The folks around Barack Obama are scratching their heads, wondering why his poll numbers are autumnal, hanging there in the low to mid-40s.

John Podesta, Clinton’s old chief of staff who headed up Obama’s transition team, recently offered his own view that the President got bogged down in the legislative details, for one, and as a result, he couldn’t deliver on his pledge to transcend partisanship. And for two, the economy didn’t recover quickly enough.

Well, let’s look at these.

Obama’s pledge bipartisanship always seemed either gimmicky or naïve, since the Republicans have been set on sabotaging him every step of the way. And this could have been predicted. In fact, it was. By none other than Hillary Clinton.

So Obama should have given up on this sooner, rather than clinging to it for so long. Or he should never have made it a campaign pledge in the first place, since it boxed him in.

As for the economy, it hasn’t recovered quickly enough because Obama didn’t frontload enough stimulus. And the theory was wrong.

“The idea was that you didn’t have to get the unemployment rate to a certain number, but you had to get unemployment going in the right direction,” Podesta told the New York Times.

But even if unemployment were dropping slowly, that wouldn’t put food on the table for 14 million people still officially out of a job—and the millions more who stopped looking long ago.

It was this miscalculation, more than anything, that has kept Obama’s numbers in the dumpster.

Plus, having Robert Gibbs and Rahm Emanuel rip into Obama’s progressive base hasn’t helped matters much, either.

Single payer, forget it.

Public option, no need.

Afghanistan, more troops.

Obama’s opposition will always hate him.

But he’s not given his own base enough support to remain energized.

He’s not delivered enough for Independents economically to win them over.

And he hasn’t stressed a consistent theme of progressive governance, which would give much-needed coherence to the hodge-podge that is his Administration.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his article “Xenophobia Runs Rampant.”

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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