Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I agree with Robert Gibbs, Part 3

Greg Sargent put it another way (while completely disagreeing with me):

With the controversy still simmering over Robert Gibbs' slam on the "professional left," the Dem firm Public Policy Polling offers a reality check on what liberals think of Obama. They overwhelmingly approve:

On the national poll we'll release this week 85% of liberals approve of the job Obama is doing to 12% disapproving. 88% support his health care plan looking back with only 7% opposed.

Not only are those numbers good, but they're steady. Obama's favor with liberals hasn't been on the decline. In May his approval with liberals was 87/10. In February it was 81/15. In November it was 87/4. Even as his ratings have declined overall he's stayed in that sort of mid-80s range with liberal voters.

The volume of the voices of liberals who don't like Obama is much greater than the volume of their numbers, which probably means Robert Gibbs shouldn't let the select few get him so irritated.

This bears out what other polls have found. It suggests that Gibbs was right when he said that rank and file liberals still like Obama, and some will point to this as proof that Obama's liberal critics don't speak for the left and just get attention because they have big megaphones.

But there may be another conclusion to be drawn here. If criticism of the White House from the left isn't meaningfully depressing Obama's support among liberals, than what's the harm? Seems to me that the liberal rank and file are capable of listening to left-leaning opinionmakers taking issue with various aspects of the Obama presidency without concluding that they should stop supporting the president entirely.

In other words, liberal voters appear capable of keeping two ideas in their heads at the same time. First, Obama does not always live up to their expectations, whether or not he should bear the blame for this unfortunate reality. And second, this isn't grounds to abandon him completely.

If anything, this demonstrates that lefty critics should keep it up. They can keep pressuring the White House and Dems to try to expand the realm of what's politically possible, and keep trying to hold the president accountable to his promises and to the expectations he has created for his own leadership. After all, the President himself has told us he wants us to keep doing that. And if liberals aren't turning on him in advance of the midterms, what's the downside?

UPDATE, 1:38 p.m.: One other thing: Given that Obama is still polling extremely well among liberals in multiple polls, it's unclear why the White House overreacts to liberal criticism.