If Barack Obama wants to be a transformational progressive president like Lyndon Johnson or FDR, he’s going to need a strong liberal movement in the streets. “Every Democratic president since Johnson has raised the hope that he would bring with him a new era of progressive reform,” writes Harold Meyerson, but they’ve all suffered from “the absence of a vibrant left movement,” like the communist, democratic socialist, or civil rights movements.
Obama doesn’t have such an autonomous movement, but he does have something none of those presidents had: A list of 13 million supporters. But he’s been afraid to mobilize them, because he’d be “answerable for every loopy tactic” they employed. Which means that unless people like Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann can whip up the masses the way Glenn Beck has, and soon, Obama’s presidency will be more Clinton than Roosevelt.