Thursday, December 16, 2010

Power to the People! (as long as they agree with us)

Yesterday, RealClearPolitics linked to an excellent piece by Peter Berkowitz called Obama and the Rhetoric of Progressivism. It's a bit lengthy and at times scholarly, but the connections that Berkowitz explores between President Obama's current travails and the history of the progressives uneasy relationship with truly giving power to the people makes it almost mandatory reading. This 'graph is a good summary:

In the annals of American progressivism, Obama's predicament is hardly unique. Indeed, the mismatch between leaders who put forward partisan ambitions in the name of the people and majority sentiment reflects an enduring paradox with deep roots in the progressive tradition. Like Obama's new progressivism, the old or original progressivism championed a vision of democracy that sometimes conflicted with ordinary people's opinions and preferences. The old progressives often realized it and said as much, clearly and with a clear conscience. One of the distinguishing marks of the new progressivism at whose head Obama stands is the determination to conceal the gap between what majorities want and what progressive leaders want to enact in their name while insisting proudly on the purity of their democratic credentials.