November 29, 2010, may be remembered as the moment when progressives stopped giving Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. Some had long before, of course, whether because of compromises during the health-care reform debate, his continuation of Bush-era policies on civil liberties, or what some see as his obeisance toward Wall Street.
Both of our two great political parties are coalitions of groups with different priorities. Some of those priorities can be addressed in specific ways, while others are more amenable to gestures and symbols. Jonathan Bernstein argues that conservative demands tend not only to be more symbolic but also more all-or-nothing:
...most Democratic constituency groups have real policy demands, and that they’re very eager to have those demands fulfilled. My sense is that a lot of Republican constituency groups have more symbolic demands.
Not too long ago, John McCain was one of the most admired people in Washington. He was held in esteem by both Republicans and Democrats. His legion of admirers in the press painted a picture of a heroic figure working to clean up the political system, fighting against overwhelming odds, pushed on by courage and principle. But there was always another side to McCain. On a personal level, he was actually an enormous jerk, who could be petty, rude, and even cruel to those who got in his way (not for nothing was he once known as "Senator Hothead"). He didn't really care much about policy. He was always more concerned with personal ambition and preening for the cameras than accomplishing anything.
In the 1997 sci-fi film "The Fifth Element," Earth is being approached by some menacing blob of evil, and the planet's military (brief digression: Have you ever noticed how sci-fi writers all seem to believe our future involves one world government?) decides, naturally, to fire some missiles at it. The blob not only absorbs the missiles but gets bigger, as though the puny earthlings' attempts to kill it have only made it stronger.