Obama also angered some liberals for supporting Condoleezza Rice's nomination for secretary of state and refusing to join a group of Democrats who protested the certification of the Electoral College votes from Ohio, alleging numerous irregularities.
"There's a lot of freight placed on symbolic gestures," Obama says. "I don't think that plays well with the American people. ... Despite the fact that I come from what would be considered the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, I don't always agree with the strategy and tactics of some of my friends on the left."
Even so, the phone keeps ringing. He has helped raised money for U.S. senators in Florida, Michigan and New Jersey this year, collecting chits along the way.
Obama says his party needs to do a better job of getting its message out to voters.
"I do agree that the Democrats have been intellectually lazy in failing to take the core ideals of the Democratic Party and adapting them to circumstances," he says.
He says the Democrats should "take it big instead of making it small" as they speak about globalization, the need for a tough foreign policy and the importance of faith and family.
"It's not just a matter of sticking in a quote from the Bible into a stock speech," he says.
But, more to the point, we need to improve our platform, and the way to do that is to make big plans. I don't particularly care about faith or family in politics, as I think that tends to be more a way to make some voters comfortable with a candidate and culturally self-identify with the candidate rather than a source of significant policy, but figuring out how to raise everyone's living standards is not easy. It's pretty easy to figure out how to make the rich richer and everyone else poorer -- cut taxes on wealth and high incomes and implement corporate-backed trade agreements that tend to protect the most powerful industries while putting downward pressure on wages. That's basically the GOP platform.
I actually think we need more bloggers -- yes, you! -- that write and think about what the Democratic policy ought to be, and especially how to help join and engage with the Democratic Party where the Party is the governing coalition, like in Illinois and in lots of counties and cities all over the nation.
So if you're a reader and you are at all inspired by Barack Obama's words above, post a comment, set up a blogger account, and start writing. I'll link to you. And let's intellectually work!