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Somewhere A Liberal Is Angry...or Maybe Not

Apparently liberals are angry at Barack Obama. Well, some liberals. And, come to think of it, they may not actually be angry. They're just a little concerned about some of his cabinet appointments.

Or, at least, they were merely concerned until former Obama deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand decided on Sunday to post an item on the Huffington Post. It was a message to Obama's progressive critics--something I know, with certainty, because the item's headline was "A Message to Obama's Progressive Critics."

In the item--or message, if you prefer--Hildebrand told liberals to calm down. He didn't actually mention any progressive critics by name, leading a lot of people (myself included) to wonder exactly which critics needed calming down and exactly how many of them were out there. But the message itself was clear enough: "This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making."

This message, naturally, really did make a few liberals angry, which may or may not have been the Machiavellian motivation behind the original item (depending on how you like your political conspiracy theories). And among these newly angry liberals was activist and writer David Sirota.

now he was angryno intention of STFUing

On Monday, Politico decided to write a story about the controversy, such that it was. 

Politico quoted OpenLeft blogger Chris Bowers--who, yes, really had been angry about Obama's cabinet appointments, even before Hildebrand decided to send the left holiday greetings via the Huffington Post. "Isn't there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration?" Bowers had written a few days before.

Mostly, though, Politico quoted liberals noting that Obama had appointed some relatively moderate cabinet officials--which was entirely predictable, since the same sorts of people had staffed Obama's campaign. Ezra Klein subsequently made this very point in a post on his blog, over at the American Prospect. Ezra, by the way, was not angry.

Politico also quoted liberals saying that they'd be keeping a close eye on Obama to make sure he didn't veer too far right--which was also rather predictable since, after all, that's what liberals do. True, sometimes liberals get angry when they do this. But most of the liberals quoted didn't seem too angry. Just like Ezra.

And, as it happens, just like me.

I'm a pretty staunch liberal. And, lord knows, plenty of things make me angry. But it's things like the fact that, for the last eight years, government botched everything from the Iraq occupation to the Wall Street bailout; that we let middle class wages fall behind even during the recent economic boom; that, after all this time, we still have 47 million people with no health insurance; and that, by the way, we're not stopping global warming.

About Obama, though, I can't say I'm angry. Or even disappointed. In fact, like my fellow liberal Michael Tomasky--who put this all far more eloquently than I have--I'm pretty excited about the news out of Chicago.

Obama's cabinet may feature some veteran Clinton centrists on economic policy, but--as my colleague Jon Chait has noted--there's precious little daylight between the centrists and liberals on economics these days. As proof, just look at the stimulus package Obama unveiled, which in size and nature blows away anything Democrats have tried in a generation.

Obama has also been crystal clear--and consistent--about his ambitous plans to fight climate change and to reform health care. Via Rahm Emanuel, his incoming chief of staff, Obama has also suggested he sees the present economic crisis as an opportunity to make sweeping legislative reforms.

This is all very good stuff. I'm sure Obama will do plenty of things that make me angry in the coming months and years. If he backs away from universal health care, I'll scream bloody murder. But, so far, I really can't complain.

That doesn't mean I think Bowers, Sirota, or any of the others should STFU--or whatever Hildebrand was trying to tell them to do. They can speak their minds. They can even be angry when they do it. But I do think it's important to remember they don't necessarily speak for all or even most of their fellow travelers on the left.

Of course, this whole storyline may be dying. In case you hadn't heard, the governor of Illinois is in some legal trouble. It seems that he tried to sell off Obama's former Senate seat to the highest bidder, in a corruption spree brazen even by the standards of Chicago--which is to say, pretty darn brazen.

Now that's a good reason to be angry.

Update: Bonus themed Billy Joel video!

 --Jonathan Cohn