You asked whether I was finding it easier to be a liberal who was not enthusiastic about President Obama's candidacy and is not enthusiastic about his administration. The short answer: no. The problem is both due to external circumstances and internal ones. I've never been a left-leaner who takes pride in being left of the mainstream Democratic establishment. But this year, as the race narrowed down to Clinton and Obama, it was clear to me to that the more liberal candidate was Clinton: the candidate more interested in a politics favoring the middle-class, especially the lower middle class, and the poor; the candidate more interested in separation between church and state; the candidate more interested in gay rights and women's rights and economic justice. The candidate who understood that Kumbaya is not popular song in Washington, D.C. and for good reason: politics is not nonpartisan: it is fight, rooted in competing visions of social good and the means to achieve it.
I work at a place of higher education where it was unfashionable to support Clinton's candidacy, on the widely broadcast assumption that no liberal could prefer any other candidate to a viable black Democratic candidate. There were some underlying messages broadcast along with this: that it was "cool" to support a relatively young black man who liked sports while it was "shrill" to support a slightly older white woman who liked her daughter and her friends. Indeed as time went on, the misogyny of the academy, which is a topic for another time, became more and more apparent.
I started this blog with the intention of giving those friends and family interested in the volunteering I did for then-Senator Clinton's campaign a way of opting in to updates. I told almost nobody at work about the blog or the extent of the blogging because it was so obviously assumed by every colleague around me (except for those encountered at Clinton events, where we greeted each other with happy surprise) that we must all be on the same side and that meant the Obama side. Work is enough of a stressful environment (that's why it is called work, after all) that I did not have the interest or the energy to forcefully object to this blind assumption.
I did occasionally express my frustrations with the DNC and the way it rigged its convention, its refusal to follow its own rules. This usually provoked hostility. I think some of that hostility had to do with the fact that, since I am a member of law school faculty, the criticism hit home: law professors - full fledged ones - tend to take pride in due and fair process. To be reminded that the Democratic Party had engaged in the same sort of hijinks that so offended my colleagues when performed by the Republican Party did not make people happy.
Part of my coping strategy was to put my head and heart into my teaching and scholarship and try to tune out the political noise, which was very loud. The line between work and politics at a "liberal" law school in Washington D.C. is very thin. The strategy has been effective for my teaching and scholarship. But just as so many people feel irreparable rifts with friends who could not accept that they would not support Senator Obama, I feel a rift - I don't know if it will be irreparable - with an institution that felt so comfortable silencing anybody who supported Senator Clinton.
Coming up is our faculty retreat. Part of its theme is "reflections on the presidential election." I will have a better idea of how things are after this event, because I will see if I can talk about the misogyny during the election and the centrism (even economic and social right tilt) of the current Democratic administration without getting the same blowback that went on prior to the general election. Maybe it will be easier for people to hear about these concerns now that a Democrat is safely ensconced in the White House. They, like me, were so ready for an end to the Bush years, and maybe any questioning of whether the ends justified the means or even whether the the means were regrettable was too scary or painful or threatening before President Obama actually won. I confess I am nervous about voicing my views at the retreat. Yet if I do not, then I am not being fair to my colleagues who may not realize just how antagonistic they seemed to any Democrat who did not share their faith in party and candidate Obama.