Here are two competing theories explaining why the Democrats accomplished virtually nothing which the Democratic base would consider significant or important to them:
(1) Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill are wimps. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow (it seems), and NY Times columnist Frank Rich seem to think the president means well but doesn't know how to deliver:
"THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin," Frank Rich writes in today's New York Times.
(2) Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill are really centrists who play to their base and then pick someone to supposedly thwart the progressive agenda which they themselves back. Laurence Lewis expressed this more cynicalview on the Daily Kos web site today:
"It's conventional wisdom to believe that the president gave away the public option for which he had campaigned, while accepting the mandate he campaigned against, and again the arguments are largely about what he might have gotten had he tried. Or the optics of trying. But again the presumption is that he wanted to try. The same goes for the inadequate and ultimately politically disastrous stimulus package. But he himself later admitted that the public option hadn't ever been that important to him. And his political team, like his more passionate supporters, continually hyped every isolated cherry-picked uptick in economic data as proof that his stimulus plan wasn't so inadequate after all. Take it at face value. He thought the stimulus was enough. He didn't care that much about a public option. The agenda so desired by liberals and progressives just wasn't his agenda."
Whatever the case may be, the president better get his act together and win a couple of these battles lest he, like former President Jimmy Carter, face a competitive primary opponent running to his left two years from now. The progressives won't care if the president's failures can be attributed to his ineffectiveness or to his desire to court the liberal base with false platitudes while undermining their agenda behind closed doors. They voted for him. They encouraged their parents to vote for him. They bought into his campaign for "change" and they financially contributed to his campaign. If the president fails to deliver on any of his promises they may force him into a primary. Who knows? They might "draft" ousted Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin to challenge the president from the left.