Steve Hildebrand, the Obama campaign’s steller field general, has a message for me and other like-minded progressives. The message is: "Hush".
In a post at the Huffington Post entitled "A Message To Obama’s Progressive Critics", Hildebrand writes:
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. Some believe the appointments generally aren’t progressive enough. Having worked with former Senator Obama for the last two years, I can tell you, that isn’t the way he thinks and it’s not likely the way he will lead. The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn’t, suggest that our President surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the President of all the people – not just those on the left.
My question is why not? Why is this not the time? It seems to me that now is exactly the time to criticize Obama on his appointments when we disagree and support him when we agree. And tomorrow is also the time, as is next month, and next year and throughout his time in office.
Then Hildebrand tells us that Obama has important work to do first:
As a liberal member of our Party, I hope and expect our new President to address those issues that will benefit the vast majority of Americans first and foremost. That’s his job. Over time, there will be many, many issues that come before him. But first let’s get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end Climate Change and restore our place in the world.
I am confused. Is getting the economy moving, bringing our troops home safely, fixing health care, and ending climate change somehow inconsistent with progressive values or policies? Does Obama have to make cabinet picks that appear to tilt right to handle the tough problems? Are progressives not equipped to handle the tough problems that face America? Or is Hildebrand saying that (as most progressives are telling themselves) a right-tilting cabinet does not necessarily mean Barack Obama’s policies will be tilting right as well.
I am of the mind that if you put, for example, Bob Gates at Defense, you are likely to get what you crave – continuity. Today a Daily Kos front page post examined what that "continuity" might look like by examining an article Bob Gates just penned for Foreign Affairs magazine. It is not encouraging.
I am guessing that if progressives do not raise concerns when they disagree with President-elect Obama now and President Obama later, progressive concerns will be ignored. I am not hoping for change. I am expecting change that will bring hope. When I do not see the change I can "believe in", I will speak out. My hope is that by speaking out, we will effect the change we want. At least that is what my fifth grade civics book taught me about how democracy works.
So, while (and because) President-elect Obama has my support, he should also expect my criticism. It is my hope that his transition and his Administration will benefit from both.