The Status Quo's Favorite Canard: "It's About Being a Candidate As Opposed to Being President"

by: David Sirota

Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 11:01


Every now and then, a political insider will say something that exposes the real truth about the nauseating state of American politics. Here's one today, in a Washington Post story about how the Obama administration is trying to crush legislation allowing Americans to purchase lower-priced FDA-approved medicines from other industrialized nations - legislation that President Obama promised to support as a presidential candidate (and that Rahm Emanuel championed as a House member); legislation that would save the government and consumers $100 billion:

"It's about being a candidate as opposed to being president," said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

As I suggested yesterday in my post about the attacks on Matt Taibbi, you hear this kind of bullshit all the time. Most recently, we heard it straight from the Obama White House itself, when New York Times writer John Harwood quoted a top White House aide lashing out at progressives who were demanding Obama at least try to fulfill his basic campaign promises. "Those bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult," the aide said.

This is standard fare from from the Beltway insiders in The Chuch of the Savvy. Their catechism says that the public is naive and stupid to believe that a president will even try to deliver on the promises he/she made to voters as a candidate. And really, more than naive and stupid - but unrealistic and unserious, because there supposedly must be some sort of difference between what you tell voters you will try to do as president and what you can even attempt to do as president. We are expected to believe that those who don't accept this aren't patriotic believers in basic democracy, but actually like sad, petulant children who refuse "take off their pajamas and get dressed."

It's a canard, of course - one designed to justify selling out and betraying voters (in this case, coming straight from a drug lobbyist). And the real problem with it beyond one or another issue is that it takes a big steaming shit on the entire concept of republican democracy. In that kind of system, we only get to choose our representatives once every two or four years. That forces us to rely on the campaign promises of those representatives as metrics for making our choices. Thus, if the entire idea of the campaign promise becomes an assumed joke, then we have zero metrics on which to elect our government.

There is no substantive reason why what a president cannot push what he promises on the campaign trail - especially when it comes to something like pharmaceutical reimportation, which every other industrialized country has legalized. I repeat - there is simply no substantive reason why a president cannot push what he has promised on the campaign trail. The platitudes from corporate lobbyists insisting that the alleged difference between "campaigning and governing" somehow absolves politicians from breaking their promise is deliberately designed to perpetuate the status quo.

David Sirota :: The Status Quo's Favorite Canard: "It's About Being a Candidate As Opposed to Being President"

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What's the point of electing these politicians... (0.00 / 0)
If they never bother to even try fulfilling their campaign promises? If I can't trust them, why should I support them?

Touche, PhRMA lobbyist.

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.


As is (4.00 / 2)
the emotional blackmail that if you don't suck it up and support the status quo--things will be so much "worse"  If we don't support Obama and the Democratic Party's conservative legislation, we'll enable Satan himself to rise from hell. As if a failed politician or a failed candidate is actually a failure of voters or activists.

Interesting... (0.00 / 0)
"...there supposedly must be some sort of difference between what you tell voters you will try to do as president and what you even can even attempt to do as president..."

I've internalized that point of view almost entirely; last nomination, I looked mostly at the candidate's records, and pretty much ignored their campaign promises.


that was a the point of my to be comment (0.00 / 0)
We have one real metric, and that is their voting record.  Unless, of course, you count electibility.

O's record from my little knowledge to seem to be center with an occasional drift left.  And good speaking/speeching.


[ Parent ]
opportunity knocks (0.00 / 0)
It's not so much that Wall Street won as Main Street lost.

And Wall Street won because Main Street has no effectual capacity to challenge Wall Street.

And the left has no effectual capacity to organize that.

This simply has to change. Like the 1930s and "the 60s", history has thrust upon progressives a golden opportunity to change history instead of just reacting to it---instead of just bitching and moaning about it.

Let's see how that unfolds.


Power formula (4.00 / 1)
The only way to have power as US president is to rally the powerful to your side. The only way to do this to to be right wing.

Harry Truman said the president was the people's lobbyist (4.00 / 2)
John Edwards repeated that theme in the primaries.  If a Democratic president does not take on "entrenched greed" for the sake of those without money and power than the Democratic Party, once and for all, should be declared dead to the left, working Americans, minorities, and women.  

First we should pick a day...today or tomorrow and have everybody who can afford it subscribe to "Rolling Stone" to support Taibbi.  Cancel everything else.  OK, you can keep "Real Simple".

Second, on a certain day, leftys and conservatives should join the Green and Libertarian Parties and take them over.

Join the anti WTO movements and other movements with actions and stop focusing on electoral politics.  Naomi Klein is right.  The momentum was building in 1999 to take down the Milton Friedman/ Rubin flim flam, but 9/11 hysteria took our eyes off the prize.

This started back in 1979 when Democrats passed a bill that lifted the cap on interest rates.  From  then on in they have taken over as the party of big business.  Clinton was more conservative than Nixon.  So first off we have to join with the sane conservatives and throw all the bums out.  Make a point of listening to a conservative once a day if you can.  We need new allies.  The Dems in the White House and Congress are not our friends.


thanks for this, Dave (4.00 / 1)
the undemocratic notion that campaign promises and expectations are for the rubes, and that the savvy know better is one that's been squirming in my head for years now.  I've groped for a succinct answer to that "what did you expect, fool?" question for a long time and you just gave a succinct answer for it.
I have to speak in front of an audience in Atlanta tonight, so I will be practicing that bit, integrating into our local "what do we do now" thing.  Thanks again.

"If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other people, then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding..."
Zora Neale Hurston


Misguided govt policies (0.00 / 0)
The free lunch can only last for so long, eventually we'll have to pay the piper for the reckless decisions of our government.  And I think that until the govt addresses the basic structural problems in our financial system of too much debt, we will not have a sustainable recovery.  So while the stock market can stay irrational in the shorter term, in the long run I believe it will go back to reflecting the fundamentals of our boom and bust economy.  And that's why I continue to feel that for long term investors a better portfolio allocation is in cash and gold.  I think the gold price will continue to rise due to a lack of faith in central banks' policies and in fiat currencies.  I recently read a good article on this topic called Gold Price Wobbles Under $1,130 But U.S. Dollar Future Bleak, which discusses the relationship between the dollar, the gold price, and gold mining companies as a result of the Federal Reserve's monetary policies.  I thought it was especially helpful for investors to read to get a better sense of the relationship between these asset classes given all the uncertainty in the economy.

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