According to news reports, the Obama administration — which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the “public option” for health insurance — is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.
Well, I’m shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.
A backlash in the progressive base — which pushed President Obama over the top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general election victory — has been building for months. The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it’s also a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach.
And let’s be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham. [...]
Meanwhile, on such fraught questions as torture and indefinite detention, the president has dismayed progressives with his reluctance to challenge or change Bush administration policy.
And then there’s the matter of the banks.
So there’s a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that’s why the mixed signals on the public option created such an uproar.
But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line. [...]
It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to appease people who can’t be appeased, and who take every concession as a sign that he can be rolled.
Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.
So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.
Can he do it? I think so, but he'd better get hot on it. We will see.