Obama Facing Pressure From Liberal Side Of Democratic Party

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barack Obama promises to steer the nation straight again. He better be ready for a strong force pulling left.

The president-elect drew plenty of support from moderates, but the liberal side of the Democratic Party followed him most resoundingly: labor unions, influential Internet blogs and legions of grassroots volunteers. He won almost 90 percent of the liberal vote, more than the previous two Democratic presidential nominees, John Kerry or Al Gore.

Now the same millions of left-leaning voters who worked relentlessly to get Obama elected want results. That means ending the war in Iraq, ushering in universal health care, halting harsh interrogation tactics against suspected terrorists, making it easier to form unions and aggressively tackling global warming.

"We'll see," said Eli Pariser, executive director of the liberal powerhouse Moveon.org, about what Obama will deliver. "If they turn out to be all disappointments, we'll have a good three years to storm the gates at the White House."

Already, the liberal blogosphere is showing its influence.

John Brennan, Obama's top pick to head the CIA, suddenly withdrew his name from consideration under pressure this past week. His potential appointment had raised a firestorm among liberal blogs that associate him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition policies. Within hours, blogs that raised concerns about Brennan's career claimed victory about their successful exercise in free speech.

The debt is starting to come due on Obama's promise of "change we can believe in." Except he meant "we" in a broader sense.

He promised to lead with a bipartisan spirit, the kind that could unify a country and allow him to get deals through Congress. From the moment he won, he implored people: "Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship."

And then he set out to take his own advice.

Obama's courting of Republicans - for ideas, legislative support, and potential roles in his Cabinet - is drawing cautious attention from the liberal base of his Democratic Party. The concern, to the degree that it exists this soon, is that Obama's emphasis on governing from the center may undermine the left.

He still pledges to wind down the war in Iraq, but everything comes second to fixing the staggering economy right now. He has stood up in defense for Sen. Joe Lieberman, a virtual Democratic outcast these days, and sought help from his Republican presidential foe, Sen. John McCain.

Obama is building a government with several Clinton administration faces, a move that has underwhelmed some liberal voices who are eager for a more dramatic sense of change.

In one posting that seemed to echo in the Internet community, liberal blogger Chris Bowers wrote, "I feel incredibly frustrated. ... Isn't there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration? Why isn't there a single member of Obama's Cabinet who will be advising him from the left?"

Christopher Hayes, the Washington-based editor of The Nation, offered his own lament about a lack of progressive candidates for prominent leadership spots. He said the left has been right about Iraq, financial deregulation and global warming, and yet "no one who comes from the part of American political and intellectual life that has given birth to all of these ideas is anywhere to be found within miles of the Obama Cabinet so far."

Obama pushed back a bit this past week, saying his advisers will blend "experience with fresh thinking."

Of course, he is not done picking his Cabinet, let alone occupying the Oval Office yet. Any rumblings of discontent at this point show that expectations for Obama are enormous within his party. Labor unions and liberal groups spent big money and knocked on countless doors to help get Obama elected.

The undercurrent of concern is not that Obama, granted the title of most liberal senator in one prominent ranking, will suddenly abandon the people who helped elect him or change course on core causes. Rather, it is that liberal side of his party may have to wait longer for victories, and accept smaller ones.

That is the reality of governance right now.

"I think he's moving center-left, rather than left-center. It's fair to call him pragmatic," said Paul Light, a public policy professor and presidential historian at New York University. "I think labor is going to get a lot from him. I think his liberal supporters are going to get a lot from him. But they're going to be disappointed if they want all liberal all the time."

The economy is in such remarkably dreadful shape that Obama may get a pass on other matters while he tries to fix that one.

An early test will be how Obama's team works with congressional leaders and appropriations committee chairmen on his first priority, a massive bill to stimulate the economy. If Democrats go too far left on it, they may lose some conservative members of their own caucus and give Obama some fits.

The left could get early legislative victories on expanded health care for children from poor families, and looser restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research. Obama's stimulus plan is bound to include spending and jobs supported by labor.

As for the anxious anti-war crowd, which helped propel Obama's campaign in its early days, Obama adviser David Axelrod said the new president will not renege on winding down the conflict in Iraq.

Obama says the challenges are simply too huge for the politics of labels; Democrats and Republicans must work together. Pragmatism rules.

"I think what the American people want more than anything is just common sense, smart government," he said. "They don't want ideology."


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  • by Coach M Location: Rocky Mount on Dec 2, 2008 at 12:51 AM
    President Obama spoke of change and looks to me as if he's trying. He wants to incorporate Rep and Dem leadership alike. The problem is that the Dem in offices don't want unity, they want power. If they truely believe that Obama was the answer they needed, they would back him 100% and allow him to place the plan he deems necessary in place. Instead, they want him to do things THEIR way. If only being the President meant being in charge instead of being the spokes person for the House and Senate. Good luck to President Obama getting the "change" he wanted to see happen.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Dec 1, 2008 at 01:14 PM
    Broke Taxpayer, you have experience with this obviously. I agree, yet the young people and uneducated vote too. Thats the problem. They have no idea about this candidate or what he stands for. So why would anybody pass judgement on him? He is not change, he again owes everything to "the Party". He now must payback everybody for his election. Tim, congress is democratic, maybe you should know this. Anything he wants, he gets, anything the party wants, they get. You taxes are going up, gas will go up, stock will remain in irons as long as he wants taxes increased on capitol gains. But you knew that, didn't you? If you voted for this guy, get ready brother, its coming and its not going to be sunshine and roses.
  • by Broke Taxpayer Location: Kinston on Dec 1, 2008 at 11:59 AM
    I agree with mom. Candidates say whatever they have to say to get elected. They'll promise the moon! Here's the catch; they claim they know how to "fix" all of our problems and heal the world. Well, if they knew how to fix everything, why didn't they do it when they had the chance? Like when they were in congress! Think about it. These candidates have been part of the problem all along. Now all of sudden "they know how to fix " everything! I'm sorry, but to label this election as "change we can believe in" is hypocrisy. All I ever see is broken promises. The only change I ever see is an increase in taxes to pay for people who keep having babies they cannot feed. I imagine it will be more of the same...if not worse this time around. The working citizens take home less and the welfare recipients get a raise. Now that my friends may not be "change" we believe in, but it will be "change" we can count on!
  • by Tim Location: Vanceboro on Dec 1, 2008 at 11:01 AM
    I will, myself, wait to judge as well. I am sure that congress will buck and fight every step of the way. If he does HIS part of what he promised, I can live with that. We will soon see.
  • by mom Location: nc on Dec 1, 2008 at 10:16 AM
    I'll say it again: ANYONE can make promises. But when it all comes down to it, the President elect can't do anything w/out Congress. He made all these so called promises to get elected, now let's see how many he actually goes through with.I tried to talk sense to some people but nooooo you wouldn't listen. Get ready!
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Dec 1, 2008 at 08:36 AM
    Of course he would swing to the middle if he wants to get anything done. But, he owes big time to Soros and Moveon. He will be expected to pay back for getting elected and doing false advertisements on McCain and Palin. If he swings left, then he is out in one term. He has put himself in a precarious situation. Those that might even for a moment, that Obama influenced gas prices really need to learn about world affairs. Bush didn't raise them or lower them, Obama will most likely raise them if he goes after big oil, focuses only on wind and solar and not on nuclear and natural gas. You know, if wind is such a big bet than why isn't Pickens, who owns the windmill company, installing them? Why are utility companies not buying them?
  • by Devil Dog Location: New Bern on Dec 1, 2008 at 06:55 AM
    I'll wait to pass judgement until I see the effects he has on the military budget, appointment of judges,taxes,approach towards CAPITALISM and what his plans are for MEDICARE,MEDICADE, SOCIAL SECURITY and HEALTHCARE. I want to see a reduction of BIG government in DC which means half those who work there can go.
  • by DD on Dec 1, 2008 at 06:29 AM
    Mike you are absolutely right. They Blame all the bad on Bush give all credit of something good to Obama and he isn't even in office--wonder how he managed that lol. I would say VERY hypocritical of them!
  • by Bo Location: Deep Run on Dec 1, 2008 at 05:41 AM
    Mike: OK, so you are NOT a chicken hawk like so many repubs on here; thank you. My main point still stands, you apparently misunderstood the point of the article that you are commenting about.
  • by Mike Location: Edenton on Dec 1, 2008 at 03:46 AM
    To BO, Deep Run: You still have your head in the sand. Gas prices? Ya'll blamed the high prices on Bush but now give credit for lower prices to Obama, and he hasn't even taken office yet! Hypocritical wouldn't you say? And as for shirking from military service.... I ENLISTED and served 2 tours in VietNam. McCain was a veteran. Obama didn't even serve in the Boy Scouts, not to knock the scouts.
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