Color me highly skeptical, and sometimes angry, about the many measures by which political observers draw equivalence or even identity between the Left and Right. But there’s one area in which there really is a
growing left/right convergence, at least at the elite level: disdain for the 44th President of the United States.
For a certain species of progressive, the Democratic Party will never come to grips with the urgency of deep structural change unless it gets over its infatuation with Obama, whose centrist instincts and pro-corporate associations made his presidency nearly as bad as George W. Bush’s. The highly influential Open Markets Institute thinker and agitator Matt Stoller is often beside himself on the subject of Obama’s perfidy and the party’s refusal to acknowledge it:
And some Obama defenders have more or less risen to the bait, lauding him for the centrist restraint he imposed on a party that, left to its own devices, might have kicked and brayed itself into irrelevancy, and scoring his successors for caving to the Left.
As Bill Scher observed at Politico, the intra-Democratic debate over Obama has been “happening sotto voce, with critics trying to criticize Obama without maligning him personally — or even mentioning him.” Stoller is an exception in that respect. But it is generally accepted that Obama was anything but a fiery progressive, for good or for ill.
It’s fascinating, then, to recognize that on the political Right, Barack Obama is still something of a devil figure, and most definitely a lefty extremist. So when Obama recently warned Democratic candidates not to move too far to the left, Ben Shapiro experienced cognitive dissonance:
It was a reminder that when he was in office, Republicans routinely called Obama — whom many progressives then and now considered a complete corporate shill — a market-hating, Big-Government socialist. In 2009, a resolution at the Republican National Committee to begin referring to the opposition party as the “Democrat Socialist Party” came close to passing, noted Politico at the time:
In an e-mail sent Wednesday to the 168 voting members of the committee, RNC member James Bopp, Jr. accused President Obama of wanting “to restructure American society along socialist ideals.”
Somebody is clearly wrong about the former president. He has enough of a sense of humor to be amused at how such very different people tend to demonize him. But it may take the perspective of history to get the basic facts straight.