Where ya gonna go?
Ed Kilgore has a thoughtful piece in Salon about why liberal elites are so angry and why they have so little influence on the White House. It's the numbers, basically. president Obama still has the support of the vast majority of the Democratic party and the activist liberal base is unlikely to sit out the election. (And even if we did, it probably wouldn't make much of a difference.)
He brings up something in this that I think is an overlooked piece of this puzzle and one which I tried to write about in 2008 but the environment was so hostile that I gave it up:
Next time there is an open Democratic presidential nomination contest, the organized left will almost certain to make far greater ideological demands on candidates, and make a far less speculative choice of a favorite, than it did in 2008.
It will be unlikely that we'll ever have the kind of leverage we had in 2008, with two candidates neck and neck for the nomination up to the very end and a totally pathetic opposition, unfortunately. But if liberals had resisted the urge to turn that primary into a season of American Idol, there might have been a chance to shape the administration in ways that would be difficult for him/her to escape.
Spilled milk. And for a variety of reasons 2012 is not a hospitable election for a primary challenge, regardless of how disappointed liberals are in the president. But the activist base and elite liberals are the tip of the spear. Being honest about what we see still has a purpose: to keep liberalism alive, motivate the base for other elections, build the progressive movement. And the activist base and liberal elites will have a hand in determining the president's legacy. Once he's done catering to these alleged Independents who want nothing more than to slash government to the bone, he's going to start thinking about that.