You hear liberal Democrats saying this sort of thing all the time. But I’ve never had the slightest clue as to what, if anything, they're talking about. Nearly all presidents come into office despite the preferences of at least 45% of the voters. So they’re bound to encounter political opposition as soon as they try to govern, especially when their agenda is as ambitious as Obama’s.“‘There are two primary reasons [for Obama's unpopularity]. One is the economy. . . . There’s a second factor that’s more cynical. A conscious decision was made by certain groups to destroy this presidency the minute it started. People say it was the health care bill – no, it wasn’t. I go to every county every year and hold a town meeting. Within days of the president being sworn in, I had people showing up at my town meeting with hats on, with tea bags coming out, saying this is going to be socialism.’"
Winning an election confers the authority on a presidential candidate to make executive decisions and entitles him to a fair shot at getting Congress to act on his legislative agenda. When a president’s successful, that means that every citizen incurs a weighty civic obligation to abide by public decisions implementing that agenda, even when he thinks they're ill-advised. It doesn’t, and can’t, mean that anyone has an obligation to support a president’s agenda or to refrain from using all the political resources at his disposal to oppose it. That’s not how representative democracy works.
It’s the job of the party in opposition to oppose in the expectation that its elected members will be held accountable for their conduct in the next election. So it’s for voters to decide whether tea bags and dire warnings about creeping socialism are acceptable instruments of political opposition. It looks, however regrettably, like a lot of voters have decided that they are. Would someone tell me what Republicans have done “to destroy” the Obama presidency beyond effectively mobilizing public opinion against it? And while you're at it, could you please explain how they could have incurred some kind of civic obligation to pull their punches?
I suspect liberal politicians would do better in elections if they stopped leaving the impression that they think they're entitled to govern without serious opposition.