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The Myth of the Self-Loathing Liberal | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

The Myth of the Self-Loathing Liberal

Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

Writing in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait joins the chorus of Obama advocates decrying “self-loathing liberals” who criticize the president. Chait writes better than most, but he hews to the common theme that criticism of Obama isn’t justified by reality but instead reflects either political naivete or psychological imbalance. The argument gets it wrong, distorting the politics of the left and the realities of the country.

Chait admits that some “complaints [about Obama] are right,” but that isn’t why liberals are so depressed. Instead, liberals “are incapable of feeling satisfied with a Democratic president,” unlike conservatives, whose disappointment “is neither as incessant nor as pervasively depressed as the liberal variety.”

Chait then trips through liberal disappointment with every Democratic president from Roosevelt to Obama, admitting that although the aggravations were often justified, they demonstrate that liberals are congenitally depressed.

Proof positive comes from Obama’s first term, which Chait believes qualifies—riffing off a Chris Rock line—as “gangsta [expletive].” He ticks off the accomplishments: the Recovery Act, health care reform, financial reform, Race to the Top (which he bizarrely depicts as arguably the most significant reform of public education in U.S. history), college loans, renewable energy initiatives, all the way to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to which the president’s contribution was to refrain from vetoing it. “Of all the postwar presidents, only Johnson exceeds Obama’s domestic record,” he concludes.

That depends on what you measure. 

Editor’s Note: Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.

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