Progressives & Obama
"But it's time to let that new reality sink in. The transition is over. We have moved from aspiration to destination. Obama has arrived. Tempting though it may be to savor the lingering aftertaste of a sweet, sweet victory, progressives need to take the posters down and the buttons off. These are no longer the emblems of resistance but of power.
A movement that does not champion the cause of the powerless has no right to call itself progressive. And a movement that attaches itself unequivocally to power does not have the credibility or wherewithal to call itself progressive. That distinction is of course much easier in times when those in power attack us and our values with impunity. But it is no less necessary when they don't.
[. . .]
Our support for Obama has always been (or should always have been) contingent, as opposed to unconditional. That does not necessarily mean an antagonistic relationship but at the very least an independent one. So to remove his likeness from our walls, hats, chests and homes signals not a souring of the relationship between progressives and Obama but a maturing of it. For many this will be difficult.
[. . .]
The Obama signs, in all their various forms, came to represent a badge of belonging--particularly outside Democratic strongholds. In the small town of Roanoke in conservative southwest Virginia, where I spent much of the campaign, an Obama poster on a popcorn machine in an ice cream and soda store was the sign for some patrons that they could talk freely about their support for him without being harangued. It signaled that, regardless of Fox News talking points your family members, fellow parishioners or colleagues might have been spouting, there was a world out there in which you were not entirely crazy and your values had some value.
To some, bearing the sign marks a form of premature nostalgia for the days when all they dared do was hope. There is a place for that. But as Shepard Fairey's iconic poster of Obama goes up in the National Portrait Gallery, that place is rightfully in a museum. Along with the buttons calling to Free Angela Davis or Nelson Mandela, posters for the Poor People's March or placards to defend the Rosenbergs, they are important pieces of the nation's liberal history because they illustrate an important moment. But that moment has passed.
The T-shirts and buttons served as a shorthand for a makeshift progressive community that gathered around a candidate. That community--or at least that desire for community--still exists. But the moment it gathers around a president, it ceases to be progressive."