Here's an interesting look at the "center-right" debate that's been happening in the blogosphere and elsewhere, by Tom Edsall at Huffington Post. He goes over the terrain that readers of this blog and others are all too aware of and concludes that the country is center-right in some ways and moving left in others. He sees that Obama is learning the lessons of Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton by not being too far left, although he knows he owes the left something for his election, so they will get a hearing.
I would actually argue that Obama doesn't owe anything to the left for his election other than our helping to prepare the ground for the Iraq argument which gave him unique credibility at a definitive moment. I don't think he won with ideology, but rather with inspiration and competence, which he didn't limit in terms of political philosophy. He always positioned himself as a pragmatist who would work with both sides of the aisle and that's what many people liked about him after all the years of ruthless Republican partisanship. But the left does largely believe in him as well, and they will, on the whole, give him quite a bit of room. (The only people who want him to fail are those who are openly hoping the economy tanks so badly that the country will be disenchanted by 2012 and elect a Republican to fix "The Obama Depression.")
The problem for the left isn't Obama, per se, it's that the political establishment, including some members who are now populating the Obama administration, see the left as the Omega wolves of the American political pack. They serve a useful purpose for the group: even though all the wolves fight amongst themselves for supremacy and have a strict pecking order, the pack is united in its mutual loathing for the Omega, which they all abuse with equal vigor. It's pack ranking at its most primitive.
For years liberals have allowed themselves to be cowed by the right (hell, they even turned the word itself into an epithet)and continue even to this day to apologize over and over again for their supposedly humiliating error of seeking equality for minorities and lifting people out of poverty, which is what apparently ruined everything.(Read Edsall's article for the full litany.) Those Beta members of the establishment who are on the leftish side are embarrassed by their associations with such losers and must go out of their way to separate themselves from them if they expect to be taken seriously --- in the wild Betas often brutalize the Omega worse than the Alphas do.
Politicians don't usually care about rehabilitating an ideology or philosophy. Why should they? They are about getting and maintaining power, hopefully at least some of them, for good (even liberal) purposes. If it is useful for them to kick the left to make the establishment happy, they will do it, unless kicking the left presents some downside for them. And at this point, there's no reason to believe there is and no serious, working mechanism for changing that.
The good Omega knows its place in the hierarchy and even respects its own debasement: it's all for the good of the pack. After all, the politicians all have to live together and work together and they need at least one thing they can all agree on. Beating up on the left has been very useful for that purpose for a long time. But I don't think that when a lot of us signed on to the newly minted progressive movement to work for the "common good" that's exactly what we had in mind. I guess we'll see what happens.
Keep in mind, please, that I'm not talking about policy here so much as the common reflex to use the left as a foil for the political establishment of both parties. If people want to play that role for the good of the country, so that Democrats can secretly enact liberal legislation without having to identify it with us Omegas, I guess that's their privilege. I'm not temperamentally suited to it personally.
For more on the "hard left's" alleged disenchantment with Obama, here's the view from the rightwing at PJs media.