This essay explores the varied reactions of several activists to the first two years of Barack Obama's administration. While their responses vary from resignation to despair to anger, none engages in a spirited defense of the administration. What unites them is a shared assumption that leftists have failed. Rather than complain about or defend an administration they feel they cannot defend, they tend to blame themselves for failing to become the “subject of history”—a subject that haunts and paralyzes left thought and action.

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