I use it here because I was struck by something David Maraniss said about a young Barack Obama in the excerpt from his book that was published in Vanity Fair.
He had turned away from the rhetoric of the left, dubious of its practicality and turned off by radical remnants of the 1960s, but was also leery of succumbing to the allure of the business world.Of course this would come as no surprise to folks who'd read Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. It seemed to me that the premise of that book was to lay out the failures of both the conservatives and the 1960's radical liberals.
It would take more of a historian than I've ever been to outline in detail why a young Obama would find the 1960's liberal approach lacking. But from a big picture standpoint, I'd say its because the left went too hard too fast. Not only did they alienate a lot of the country with their approach - leading to the election and re-election of Richard Nixon - they created a backlash that we are still living with today. The easiest way to grasp how damaging that legacy was is to look at how the left felt the need to abandon the label "liberal" (because it had become so toxic) and re-brand themselves as "progressives."
The heart of the problem was the backlash to change created by liberals. Some of the younger poutragers might not be aware of how frightened much of America became in the late 60's and early 70's. The chaos scared a lot of people. Republicans like Nixon came along and promised to be the "Daddy Party" and take control of the situation. And Americans bought it.
I'm not saying any of this to support the racist, misogynist, classist responses of the Republican Party to all of that. But when a society is scared (ie, post 9/11), they tend to reject the openness of liberalism and cling to the comfort of conservatism.
So while President Obama agreed with most of the goals of the left, he recognized early on that when it comes to electoral politics, change would have to come in a way and at a pace that most Americans could embrace in order to avoid that kind of backlash.
Think about what Andrew Sullivan said about President Obama's approach to marriage equality.
But when you step back a little and assess the record of Obama on gay rights, you see, in fact, that this [his announcement on Wednesday] was not an aberration. It was an inevitable culmination of three years of work. He did this the way he always does: leading from behind and playing the long game. He learned from Clinton that tackling this issue up front would only backfire, especially in a recession. So he bided his time."Leading from behind and playing the long game" means that you don't get too far out ahead of the American people and create the backlash that destroys your progress. Other than the 60's, Clinton's experience with getting out too soon on this issue is what led to DADT - and eventually DOMA - in the first place.
Whether you agree with President Obama's approach or not - that's what it is. And its why many of his most progressive accomplishments are actually hiding in plain sight. While DFH's are pinning for the "old days" of how liberals were defeated, he's showing us a new way to actually get change done...and make it last.