Time to Grow a Pair

| Fri Jan. 22, 2010 1:50 PM EST

Andrew Sullivan's frenzied approach to politics doesn't always wear well. But you have to admit, when he's on a roll, he's on a roll. Here he is today on the end of the "phony war" of Obama's first term, in which there was still some hope of co-opting and compromising with the forces of reaction:

But the truth is that these forces have also been so passionate, so extreme, and so energized that in a country reeling from a recession, the narrative — a false, paranoid, nutty narrative — has taken root in the minds of some independents. Obama, under-estimating the extremism of his opponents, has focused on actually addressing the problems we face. And the rest of us, crucially, have sat back and watched and complained and carped when we didn't get everything we want. We can keep on carping if we want to. But it seems to me that continuing that — as HuffPo et al. appear to be doing — is objectively siding with the forces of profound reaction right now.

....Look at what we are facing right now: a take-no-prisoners right, empowered by a massive new wave of corporate money unleashed by the Supreme Court, able to wield a 41 seat minority to oppose anything Obama wants, setting up a cycle of failure for a president whom they can then pillory at the polls, and unrepentant about near-dictatorial powers for the presidency, and the routinization of torture in the American government. These forces cannot be appeased. They simply have to be confronted.

....This is about more than health reform and we have to see it in that context. This is about a cynical nihilist attempt to break this presidency before it has had a chance to do what we elected it to do by a landslide vote. It is an attempt to destroy a majority's morale, to break a president's foreign policy autonomy, to prevent engagement in the Middle East peace process, to stop action on climate change, to restore torture, to increase tensions with the Muslim world, to launch a war on Iran. We cannot delude ourselves that if Obama fails, this is not the alternative. It is.

....So fight, Mr President. And to the House Democrats who won't go along with the only way to salvage health reform: this is the only sure-fire way you will lose in November. If you pass this bill, you may also go down in this climate. But you will have done something you can be proud of. Politics cannot always be about narrow self-interest. If it always is, nothing important can get done.

This really is a defining moment for both Obama and the Democratic Party more broadly. So far both have failed miserably: the party is in a state of meltdown, surrendering completely to a resurgent Republican narrative, refusing to fight for anything it believes in, and caving in to a truly toxic combination of electoral fear and narrow interest group parochialism. For his part, Obama seems either unable or unwilling to rally his troops. I'm not sure which. But the American public really needs to hear some conviction from him, and so far they haven't. He's remained aloof from the healthcare upheaval, pivoted on financial regulation in a way that looks driven more by politics than by core beliefs, and has just generally sounded more chastened than reinvigorated.

This really needs to turn around fast. Another week like this — hell, another day or two like this — and we might as well start measuring the Oval Office drapes for the upcoming Cheney/Palin administration. It's time for everyone to take a deep breath and grow a pair. Today would be a good time to start.