Much of the “progressive disappointment” with President Obama is fiction, and much of the rest because he and Democrats have governed better than they messaged. (More)

Sustaining Hope, Part I: Looking Back

This week Morning Feature considers the hope that characterized President Obama’s 2008 campaign. Today we look back to see how much of that hope was fulfilled. Tomorrow we’ll see the more daunting challenges ahead, and ask if it makes sense to hope again. Saturday we’ll conclude with talking about hope with voters like archetypal Fred.

The Myth of the Disappointed Democratic Base

President Obama began losing progressive supporters when he invited evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation, the story goes. He lost more support when he didn’t get a big enough stimulus bill, and yet more when he didn’t put single-payer on the table for health care reform. And when he backed away from the public option, progressives abandoned him en masse. There went the 2010 midterms, and maybe even his 2012 chances. Turns out his book should have been titled “The Audacity of Nope.”

It’s a depressing story, but fortunately it’s just that: a story.

In fact President Obama’s approval ratings among progressives have stayed above 90% except for a brief period in the summer of 2011. Only during the ugly debt ceiling showdown did more than 10% of Americans say the president was “not liberal enough.” Different polls ask the question differently and get different numbers, yet Gallup found President Obama with 79% approval among self-described liberal Democrats even at his low ebb last September. And both Gallup and CNN found Democrats had closed the voter enthusiasm gap by the start of this month.

Yet the media message of disgruntled Democrats has held on, and at least some truly are disappointed with the progress President Obama and Democrats have made since 2009. The president has not been perfect, nor were the bills that survived Republican filibusters in the Senate. But we made more progress than many of us realize.

“What has President Obama accomplished in the last three years?”

That’s the title question of this handy wallet card that I got in the mail last week. Here’s what it says:

CHANGE IS … President Obama’s Commitment to American Women and Their Families

President Obama, the father of two girls, believes that women’s issues are America’s issues.

  • Equal Pay for Equal Work: Signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that ensured women get paid the same as men for the same work.
  • Improving Women’s Health: Starting in 2012, new health insurance plans will be required to cover women’s preventative services such as mammograms, domestic violence screenings and contraception, without charge.
  • Protecting Women’s Right to Choose: Reversed the Global Gag Rule which banned government from providing aid to international family planning groups. Stood up to Republicans trying to roll back a woman’s right to choose and defund Planned Parenthood.

CHANGE IS … President Obama’s Record on Health Care

On March 23, 2010, President Obama passed the landmark Affordable Care Act to restore health care as a basic cornerstone of middle class security in America.

  • Ending Insurance Company Abuses: Prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions or cancelling coverage when someone gets sick.
  • Keeping Premiums Low: Insurance companies must justify rate hikes; provide rebates if they don’t spend at least 80% of consumers’ premiums on care instead of overhead, marketing and profits.
  • Expanding Access to Care: 32 million more Americans are able to afford insurance for the first time and nearly all Americans – 95% of those under the age of 65 – will have insurance.
  • Closing the Medicare Prescription Drug “Donut Hole”: Over 2.6 million seniors have saved an average of $550 each on their prescription drugs and, by 2020, the Medicare “donut hole” will be completely closed.

CHANGE IS … Putting Americans Back to Work and Rebuilding a Fair Economy for the Middle Class

From day one, President Obama took immediate action to address the crisis of middle class security slipping away for millions of families.

  • Job Creation: An economic recovery program supported as many as 3.6 million jobs by cutting taxes, investing in clean energy, roads and bridges, keeping teachers in classrooms, and protecting unemployment benefits.
  • Saved the auto industry from collapse, preventing the loss of more than 1.4 million jobs.
  • The private sector has created nearly 3 million jobs during 21 straight months of private sector job growth – but our work is not done. That’s why the President is fighting for The American Jobs Act which would put even more people back to work now and put even more money in people’s pockets.

CHANGE IS … Creating an Economy Built to Last

President Obama believes Americans should be able to earn enough to raise a family, send their kids to school, own a home, and put enough away to retire.

  • Out-Educating the Rest of the World: Made college education affordable to hundreds of thousands more students by ending billions of dollars in subsidies to banks and using savings to double funding for Pell grants.
  • Out-Innovating the Rest of the World: Made substantial investments in clean energy manufacturing to create the jobs of the future here in America and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
  • Everyone Plays by the Same Rules: Passed Wall Street reform to protect American families from unfair lending practices, rein in excesses on Wall Street and prevent future crises.
  • Everyone Does Their Fair Share: Called for closing tax loopholes to ensure millionaires and billionaires don’t pay less in taxes than the middle class.

CHANGE IS … Ending the War in Iraq and Honoring Our Veterans

President Obama kept his word: He brought the war in Iraq to a responsible end and brought home our troops.

  • Committed to Iraq’s Security: The U.S. transitioned full security responsibility to the Iraqi people; remains committed to Iraq’s long-term security; will continue to develop a strong and enduring partnership.
  • Refocusing on Al Qaeda: Refocused our security priorities toward dismantling and defeating Al Qaeda and its affiliates. In bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice, the President showed America’s resolve and our ability to unite to face the greatest threats to our nation.
  • Honoring the Service of Veterans and Their Families: Our troops and their families get the help earned, enacting new tax credits to encourage businesses to hire unemployed and disabled veterans.

The message of his work hasn’t always pushed through the media noise, but President Obama has built an impressive list of accomplishments. It’s not complete and, as we’ll see tomorrow, many of our most difficult challenges lie ahead. But when I look at what President Obama and Democrats have done … I see reason to hope.


Happy Thursday!