Progressives On the Hook For Democratic Trifecta Policies

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jul 14, 2009 at 11:42

The public is becoming increasingly antsy as they wait for the stimulus to have an impact. The number of people who think it has had no effect on the economy is actually rising as time goes on:

CBS News Poll. July 9-12, 2009. N=944 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"So far, do you think the federal government's stimulus package has made the economy better, made the economy worse, or has it had no impact on the economy so far?"

Date Worse Better No effect
July 12 15% 21% 60%
June 16 15% 32% 48%

As more people think the stimulus has had no impact, the more people think using government spending as a means of stimulating the economy is not worthwhile (from the same CBS poll):

"Which comes closer to your own view? The federal government should spend money to stimulate the national economy, even if it means increasing the budget deficit. OR, The federal government should NOT spend money to stimulate the national economy and should instead focus on reducing the budget deficit."

July 12: Reduce Deficit 61%--33% Stimulate economy
June 16: Reduce Deficit 52%--41% Stimulate economy

No matter what you think of the wording of that question, the trendline is still important. An increasing number of Americans do not believe that the stimulus has had any impact on the economy. As such, an increasing number of Americans are turning away from the idea of using increased government spending as a means toward economic improvement. It is a perfectly rationale response, even if it demonstrates a lack of patience.

All of this underlies a larger point about how, even though the legislation that has been signed into law in 2009 has been, due to a variety of factors, much more moderate that progressive, the success or failure of that policy will still determine the public perception of the efficacy of progressive policies and ideology for a long time to come. Whether or not the Democratic trifecta actually passes progressive legislation, the legislation that is passed and the policies that are followed will still be perceived as progressive. We simply can't avoid that.

For example, right now the stimulus package pretty much equals left-wing economic philosophy in the eyes of the American people. If it doesn't produce results, we are all going to see our ideas become discredited in the eyes of the American public, even if we thought policies of the Democratic trifecta did not go nearly far enough. The country is never going to say "well, that idea didn't work, so let's try a more extreme version of it." People just don't think that way in America.

Many conservatives felt the same way under the Republican trifecta, and are now roundly mocked for arguing that conservatism can't fail, but people can fail conservatism. I imagine that if the economy doesn't turn around, many progressives will sound quite similar in their critiques of the Obama administration. Problem is, we will sound just as silly as they will. Whether we like it or not, progressivism is on the hook for the success or failure of the policies passed under the Obama administration and the Democratic trifecta.

Chris Bowers :: Progressives On the Hook For Democratic Trifecta Policies

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What concerns me (4.00 / 1)
What concerns me most is that failure to pass a solid, comprehensive healthcare bill could set the progressive movement back a decade or more.

Mission Accomplished! (4.00 / 3)
Oh, you thought Obama was progressive? Why?

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.  

[ Parent ]
Yup (4.00 / 6)
That was the guaranteed (as well as perverse and paradoxical) outcome of Obama's Wall Street neoliberalism.

Because of his grand rhetoric, his unearned reputation for liberalism, and the general conservatism of the establishment, the short-term fate of liberalism is tied up with Obama, and by refusing to embrace genuine liberalism--the sorts of policies that could actually rescue the economy and help people--he threatens liberalism.

Or: the less liberal he is, the more he hurts liberalism.

All the more reason for progressives to distance themselves from him.

our version of 'liberalism can't fail'? (0.00 / 0)
It can only BE failed?  I believe you are right, Chris, but it seems you are lamenting that Obama and a gutless Democratic party failed to do the impossible, as in passing a big enough stimulus.  Perhaps Congressional gutlessness MADE it impossible, but that's the fact.  On Planet Krugman -- where there are no Republicans, an informed electorate and a responsible media -- maybe Obama could have gotten $2 trillion through.  But this is America, Earth, 2009. And if this doesn't work, say hi to President Mitt. Bitching about what we should have done is kind of pointless.

They didn't fail to do the impossible. (4.00 / 4)
They refused to even try doing that which is difficult yet eminently possible.  Democrats control two of three branches of federal government.  There is no excuse whatsoever for refusing to make even token efforts to fix the mess created by thirty years of Republican misrule.

[ Parent ]
He still screwed up the negotiations (4.00 / 6)
by coming in too low and not asking for enough, and letting the Republicans water down the House version of the bill, which required zero Republicans to pass.  

It's negotiations 101 to not ask for slightly less than you want and then be whittled down.

[ Parent ]
The "gutless" narrative is wrong, IMNSHO (4.00 / 1)
The Dems do what they do, partly out of rational self interest, of course, but also because they believe it.

The Washington Consensus remains the same; it's just that the Dems are a lot slicker at presenting it than Bush.

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.  

[ Parent ]
It's different (4.00 / 2)
there is a somewhat different set of special interests that are favored.  

But I do agree with the argument that they do it because they believe it.  We do have to start taking a lot of the moderate Dems at their word.  I can't believe we haven't a long time ago.

[ Parent ]
Not failing (0.00 / 0)
The thing is, though, is liberalism isn't failing.  The stimulus package isn't big enough, sure, but it is real and working.  Not much money has been spent yet, but more will continue to help.

This is different than conservatism that actually hurts.  Partial liberalism partially works compared to the status quo.  Partial conservatism hurts compared to the status quo.  That is a very big advantage in our favor.

[ Parent ]
Actually most people are correct (4.00 / 1)
The stimulus has not had an effect on the economy.

Only like 5% has been spent.  So people are right about that.

That being said Obama's presidency rides 90% on the public option.  If he fails on that he will be a failure and if he succeeds he will be a success.


Exactly but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't worry. (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
That's what we get for electing a right-wing Democrat president. (4.00 / 2)
It's also what we get when we elect right-wing Democrats to run Congress instead of left-wing ones.  This combination has not changed the political dynamic inside the beltway, rather, it has replaced incompetent fascists with slightly competent ones.  As a result, a stimulus package that was never sufficient enough to work will now be blamed for failure not because it didn't do enough, but because it was passed at all.

Republican sabotage (0.00 / 0)
I think that people should also be aware of the fact that there have been cases in which Republican governors and state legislature dominated by Republicans have been slowwalking stimulus funds or sitting on the money. You need to focus on that rather than on what happened during the negotiations.  

What does this mean for what we should be doing? (4.00 / 1)
I don't understand what you think the implications of what you are saying are for a second stimulus, as called for by Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong, Laura Tyson, and others. Or Mike Lux's call for a jobs program. Do you support that, or not? It sounds like you think it's hopeless, and blaming Obama and the Democrats is sufficient.

Are you saying the fix is in for progressives because the first stimulus wasn't big enough, and therefore we can't do anything now because the public won't support a jobs program, as called for by Mike Lux? I think the public would support a jobs program.

I think we should be formulating a "stimulus," really a plan for economic recovery that is targeted on jobs, on no more foreclosures and restructuring all mortgages to make them affordable, on supporting state and local government budgets--as has been called for by many economists as essential to economic recovery.

You are pointing out the consequences of the limits of the economic recovery legislation of Obama and the Democratic Congress and its political effects. True enough. But I for one am tired of progressives always talking about the limitations of those in power and not facing their own responsibility squarely to fashion a workable alternative that addresses people's real needs and to fashion a strategy to accomplish it. Mike Lux did that in his call for a jobs program. I think Open Left should focus on that like a laser. The fate of the progressive agenda depends on that, more than it does on the limitations of what's already happened.

What are your ideas for how to create a jobs program similar to the WPA and the CCC that would employ millions of Americans? The actual unemployment and underemployment rate is double the official rate. That's almost thirty million Americans.      

Dispense with the Rahm (4.00 / 1)
bashing.  It is Obama's fault!  Also get a new political party.  The dems are worthless.

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