When did President Obama start to get in trouble with his base? February, 2009. And yes, it began in Maine:
Many of Obama's progressive allies barely had time to get their Inauguration gowns and tuxedos dry-cleaned before they felt the pang of disappointment from a president whose message of hope and change had transformed them into a movement.I would quibble with this version of events: Most progressives weren't upset that Obama accepted a deal, exactly. They were dismayed, instead, that he accepted a deal without first putting up a fight.
It came with the first major piece of legislation signed by the president: the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
In January, the president unveiled an $819 billion stimulus package, of which $275 billion was for tax cuts. Republicans objected to the package's price tag, but the minority leadership had no clear plan to block it or oppose the popular new president. Meanwhile, Democrats were eager to demonstrate they were prepared to tackle the economic meltdown inherited from the Bush administration.
But Obama, who had campaigned on a promise to bridge the partisan divide that had stymied action in Washington for years, was determined to win over some Republicans. To that end, he engaged in negotiations in February with Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who was then still in the GOP camp. The result was a compromise, a slimmed-down version of his original proposal.
Progressives were befuddled. With his approval rating of more than 70 percent, they believed Obama could have forced his version of the legislation through Congress and still gotten GOP support if he'd taken the case to the people of Maine and Pennsylvania--two states Obama easily won.
"His willingness to not fight and accept a deal set a precedent going into health care and a signal to any senators that there are no political consequences if you cross this president," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
And they were baffled by his willingness to embrace--and take ownership of--a final product that was far from ideal.
It goes without saying that the fault for all this is with the President and his advisors. But Sen. Collins was, of course, happy to help.