As for the vow that media progressives will now criticize Obama more and hold him more accountable, permit me to say that I simply do not believe this will happen. This is not because I think those who are taking this vow are being dishonest – they may very well have convinced themselves that they mean it – but because the rationalization they have explicitly adopted and vigorously advocated precludes any change in behavior.
Over the past four years, they have justified their supine, obsequious posture toward the nation’s most powerful political official by appealing to the imperatives of electoral politics: namely, it’s vital to support rather than undermine Obama so as to not help Republicans win elections. Why won’t that same mindset operate now to suppress criticisms of the Democratic leader?
It’s true that Obama himself will no longer run in an election. But any minute now, we’re going to be hearing that the 2014 midterm elections are right around the corner and are of Crucial Significance. Using their reasoning, won’t it be the case that those who devote their efforts to criticizing Obama and “holding accountable” the Democrats will be effectively helping the Republicans win that election? Won’t Obama critics stand accused of trying to keep the Speaker’s gavel in the hands of the Tea Party rather than returning it to Nancy Pelosi, or of trying to hand Senate control over to Mitch McConnell (or, soon enough, of trying to give the White House to Marco Rubio instead of Hillary Clinton)?
Once one decides in the name of electoral expediency to abdicate their primary duty as a citizen and especially as a journalist – namely, to hold accountable those who wield the greatest political power – then this becomes a permanent abdication. That’s because US politics is essentially one permanent, never-ending election. The 2012 votes were barely counted before the politicalmediabegan chatteringabout 2016, and MSNBC is already – as one of its prime time hosts put it – “gearing up” for the 2014 midterm.
I’ve described before how the permanent election cycle is the most potent weapon for keeping the citizenry (and media) distracted by reality-TV-show-type trivialities and horse-race excitement in lieu of focus on what the government is actually doing. But the other significant benefit of having all political disputes viewed through a partisan electoral prism is that it keeps partisans focused only on the evils of the other party and steadfastly loyal to their own. The desire to influence election outcomes in favor of one’s own party subsumes any sense that political officials from one’s own party should be checked in how they exercise their power.
We’ve already seen, since Election Day, exactly how willing the loyal base are to hold Obama’s feet to the flame. Sniff around the internets and you’ll find that, other than the usual DFH suspects like Digby and Senator Sanders, no-one on the ostensible Left is talking about the massive giveaway of the social safety net Obama is prepared to make in return for Republicans agreeing to tax rises – all the talk is about how the Republicans are refusing to take Obama’s offer. When Israel attacked Gaza, again, the “Left” largely spent their time defending Obama from Republican accusations he wasn’t supporting an apartheid-loving state practising illegal warfare and collective punishment on an urban civilian population, or pointing out what nasty and bigoted things Republicans were saying in Israel’s support even as Obama sent the weapons that were doing the killing along with an entire third of Israel’s military budget. Obama’s Kill List Tuesdays likewise get as much of a “meh” from loyal Dems after the election as they did before. In Congress, every single Dem Senator voted yes for new sanctions on Iran that are another kind of collective punishment, hurting the poor and sick in Iran rather than the elite decision makers – and the Left made not a squeak. And on and on, ad nauseam.
Feet to the flame? We’d need some smoke and friction first.