The Washington Post reports today on the "growing rebellion on the left" that has greeted Obama's embrace of rhetoric and pursuit of policies designed to curry favor with swing voters. The Hill writes that Obama "risks leaving liberals at home in the fall of 2012." As I write this, Obama has yet to begin his deficit reduction speech, but it's very possible that the liberal commentators who have been excoriating him for the past week won't change their minds as a result of it. In other words, expect more of these stories in the coming days.
This ought to feel familiar. Time and again during Obama's 27 months in office, we've witnessed eruptions like this, with one-time Obama supporters claiming that because of [insert Obama action here], the president has lost their support for good. Remember when Keith Olbermann forecast a serious primary challenge to Obama if he allowed the public option to be killed during healthcare negotiations? Or when the liberal commentariat reacted with rage—and in many cases swore vengeance—after Obama agreed to a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts last December? (The president, Frank Rich wrote at the time, is "so indistinct no one across the entire political spectrum knows who he is.") Or when Rachel Maddow excoriated Obama for "kicking his base in the teeth" by backing off plans for civilian trials for Guantanamo detainees?
All of these episodes—and others like them—have one thing in common: For all of the threats and dire forecasts, Obama's base stuck with him. At the same time that he was agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts, his approval rating among Democrats held steady, in the 80 percent range, where they'd been throughout 2010 — and his highest scores were among self-identified liberals. And nothing much has changed since then, even after Guantanamo, and even after several months of "triangulating" (if that's what you want to call Obama's post-midterm posture); Gallup's latest poll has Obama's approval among Democrats at 80 percent.