The battle over extending the Bush-era tax cuts has emerged as a defining moment for liberals disenchanted with President Obama, who they increasingly see as unwilling or unable to back up his campaign promises.
Mr. Obama vowed as a candidate to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for incomes below $250,000 for a couple or $200,000 for an individual - but let the cuts, which lapse at the end of the year, expire for incomes above those thresholds.
Republicans want the cuts extended for all income levels, including the wealthiest Americans. Though the American people favor Mr. Obama's position according to the latest CBS News poll
, the White House and congressional Democrats appear poised to accept a temporary extension of all of the cuts this week.
The White House's apparent willingness to give in to the GOP on the tax cut issue - despite Democrats' large majorities in both houses of Congress (at least for a few more weeks) - is striking many on the left as emblematic of a president who they say has repeatedly failed to fight for what he believes in.
Liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich this weekend explained "the baffling Obama presidency" in part by arguing
that Mr. Obama "has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think." The president's attempts to seek out compromise instead of holding fast to a position, he wrote, has rendered him "indistinct" and "weightless."
Over at the liberal Huffington Post, meanwhile, the talk has turned to rallying around a serious primary challenge to Mr. Obama. While such a challenge is unlikely to materialize, the discussion reflects the level of disenchantment with Mr. Obama among the activist left.
"You don't have to be a rocket scientist nor have a PhD in political science and sociology to see clearly that Obama has abandoned much of the base that elected him," wrote
Clarence B. Jones Sunday in a column calling on liberals to consider rallying around someone else in 2012. "He has done this because he no longer respects, fears or believes those persons who elected him have any alternative, but to accept what he does, whether they like it or not."