Obama and the Left, Part 2098

by: Mike Lux

Fri Oct 29, 2010 at 09:00


It is the week before Christmas- oh, wait, sorry, I'm getting punchy, wrong season. It is the week before election night, and the creatures are definitely stirring. And I'm not just talking about Republicans, either.

The President is doing what a President should do right before an election, and reaching to those of us in his base. The base is stirring in return, simultaneously challenging him and also getting more pumped up about this election. And the DC establishment version of Democratic moderates are stirring around too, not wanting to be left out of the conversation.

Let me address the last point first. Third Way has a new memo out arguing that us lefties need moderate Democrats to succeed, and I actually agree in part. The point they make about there not being enough progressives in the House, let alone in the Senate with their dysfunctional and thoroughly outdated filibuster rules, to get bills passed is true enough and probably will be for a while. And as I have been arguing for many years with my fellow progressives for many years, even though the demographics get steadily better for us progressives year after year, and even though voters actually agree with us progressives on most important issues, we still do need independent and swing voters to win elections.

There are multiple places where their argument breaks down, though. For one thing, their argument re data is always based on self-identified liberals vs self-identified moderates, but the liberal brand has become so poisoned that very few people use it to describe themselves. Most people associate the term "liberal" with east and west coast social issue liberals, and some of the most loyal Democratic and progressive issue voters- including a majority of African-Americans, Hispanics, unmarried working class women, union members, or young people- don't use the term about themselves. Secondly, the proposition that more ideological cohesion would make it easier to get things done in Congress is pretty hard to argue with, even though folks like the Third Way keep trying, and I think party leaders would be far better served to keep that in mind when recruiting and prioritizing which kinds of candidates to help: if it's a close call in terms of winning the election, the DCCC should help Mary Jo Kilroy before they help Bobby Bright, helping the loyalist who will vote with the Democratic caucus on almost all of the tough votes makes a lot of sense.

The biggest problem with the Third Way argument, though, connects to the fascinating back and forth between Obama and progressive interviewers in recent weeks: the palpable frustration expressed by, say, Jon Stewart in his interview is far less about having to make compromises to get things done, and far more with the insider-y ways deals were cut and decisions were made re what to compromise on. This is what Third Way and other pundits who argue for moderation never seem to understand: their version of centrism and the rest of the country's are very different. As I wrote a while back:

In Washington, being a moderate means being for raising the retirement age and cutting benefits for Social Security. In the rest of America, fighting to preserve Social Security is a huge plus for voters. In Washington, being a moderate means being for "free trade" deals. In the rest of America, working class swing voters hate the trade deals that they know are shipping their jobs overseas. In Washington, being a moderate means being for extending all of the Bush tax cuts even those for millionaires. In the rest of America, it is those working class swing voters who don't like those kinds of tax cuts.


Most of all, being a moderate in Washington means getting along nicely with all those corporate lobbyists who keep coming to see you (and dropping off checks). In the rest of America, swing voters and base voters are completely united that Washington is too controlled by wealthy and powerful special interests, and that their power needs to be rolled back. The polling numbers on strict new lobby reforms, on rolling back the Citizens United decision, on public financing so that candidates aren't dependent on special interests for campaign cash are incredibly strong. Voters are disgusted by the kind of business as usual described in this article from Roll Call. If Democratic candidates spent their time attacking that kind of special interest funding and the attack ads being generated by corporate cash, they would have swing as well as Democratic base vote standing up and cheering.

Now I'm not going to pretend that part of progressive frustration hasn't been about Obama compromising on really important issues to us: clearly most of us have argued passionately in favor of things like a public option and  breaking up the big banks, and against the choice language on the health care bill and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. But a great deal of the frustration has been about the sense, fair or not, that the administration is accepting the standard way of doing business in Washington: cutting deals with corporate lobbyists early rather than boldly challenging them. My sense is that the essential argument between Obama and Stewart was that Obama was arguing that he is doing the best he can given the system he is dealing with, and Stewart is arguing that he should push harder to change the system itself.

The Obama-Stewart interview, the Rolling Stone interview, the session with bloggers yesterday are actually thrilling to me in that they represent a healthy, honest give and take between a Democratic President in the modern era and progressive media. While I wish Obama would answer some things differently, and wish certain questions or follow-ups would have been asked that weren't, both sides are doing their jobs in the thrust and parry. Obama is doing the interviews in the first place, encouraging people to ask him tough questions and not shying away when they do, defending himself and making his case that he cares about the same things the base cares about. The questioners are asking pointed questions about why is he isn't doing better, or why his policy decisions haven't been different. That honest give and take is exactly what needs to be happening, except there needs to be more of it. The President needs to directly engage his base, be willing to take more and tougher questions and criticism from those of us in progressive politics. And the base should push the President, and the entire administration, aggressively and specifically on the crucial issues of the day. I appreciated the President mentioning Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", where King made his brilliant and timeless "why we can't wait" argument. Progressives should always push for more, we should always organize and agitate and complain. That is our job. Center-left Presidents need a left flank, and they should do what  President Obama has been doing lately: engage that left flank directly and openly. That is the only way progress is made. So, Mr. President, I hope you will keep doing these interviews, and I hope the questions keep being tough and get even tougher. I hope you and your inner circle build and strengthen your relationships with those of us who keep pushing from your left, because you need us politically and you need us to actually make progress. The abolitionists in the 1860s kept challenging Lincoln, the populists and progressives around the turn of the 20th century kept challenging Teddy Roosevelt, the labor movement kept making FDR "do it", and the civil rights movement kept challenging Jack and Bobby Kennedy and LBJ. And in each era, both the Presidents and the progressive movements of the time worked constructively together to make big changes. If Obama wants to be a successful President, he needs to keep engaging with us, and progressives need to keep engaging with him.  

Mike Lux :: Obama and the Left, Part 2098

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Versailles Vs. America (4.00 / 16)
This is really the heart of the matter:

In Washington, being a moderate means being for raising the retirement age and cutting benefits for Social Security. In the rest of America, fighting to preserve Social Security is a huge plus for voters. In Washington, being a moderate means being for "free trade" deals. In the rest of America, working class swing voters hate the trade deals that they know are shipping their jobs overseas. In Washington, being a moderate means being for extending all of the Bush tax cuts even those for millionaires. In the rest of America, it is those working class swing voters who don't like those kinds of tax cuts.

Most of all, being a moderate in Washington means getting along nicely with all those corporate lobbyists who keep coming to see you (and dropping off checks). In the rest of America, swing voters and base voters are completely united that Washington is too controlled by wealthy and powerful special interests, and that their power needs to be rolled back.

In fact, one well might argue that being "moderate" is merely the narrative of choice for elites to rule virtually without accountability.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


Except if that were really the (0.00 / 0)
case, the 'rest of America' wouldn't reward people who were even worse than the so-called moderates, would it?

In the rest of America, fighting to preserve Social Security is a huge plus for voters socialism and deficit-busting when performed by a Democrat.

In the rest of America, working class swing voters hate the trade deals that they know are shipping their jobs overseas Obamacare and illegals.

In the rest of America, it is those working class swing voters who don't like those kinds of tax cuts care as much about tax cuts for themselves as they do about death panels and imaginary voter fraud.

In the rest of America, swing voters don't care about wealthy and powerful special interests any more than 'deficit-hawks' care about deficits. They just don't. In the race between bad and worse, more 'rest of Americans' are choosing 'worse' on every one of those issues.


[ Parent ]
Not Exactly (4.00 / 3)
Narratives aren't structured by abstract logic, applied in a sort of Cartesian space of logical propositions.

Rather, master narratives serve to structure the space in which subsequent narratives are unfolded.

In the rest of America, swing voters don't care about wealthy and powerful special interests any more than 'deficit-hawks' care about deficits.

So say the Versailles pundits, telling the Dems that the American people don't care about the wholesale buying of the elections. But the polls say otherwise, and at least some of the Democratic recovery over the past couple of weeks is due to shining some light on this.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
I don't know. My choices (0.00 / 0)
are between believing that 'the rest of America' are dumbfucks who don't understand this stuff--or care about it, or are so exhausted by watching America's Favorite Dancing Monkey that they don't have time to inform themselves--and that they understand and just disagree with me.

Usually I believe the former. But this election is edging me in the opposite direction. I think that many, many people would affirmatively prefer an oligarchy.  


[ Parent ]
The dumbing down of voters is real. (4.00 / 1)
If there were no internet we wouldn't even have a small chance. There is a series of tubes, so we do. But the "information" that is broadcast (as opposed to the internet's  "passive go get information")  is restricted twisted, degraded and belittled.

The amazed observations of John Stewart only go half way, but his outburst on CNN that killed Crossfire "you are hurting America!" is real, concrete and descriptive.



--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
People Are Conflicted (4.00 / 3)
And you're trying to pretend that they're not. That's your fundamental mistake here, I'd argue.

To flesh this out a little bit: There's a very strong tendency to explain things simply (as I discussed in my diary "Pathologizing conservatism: The demonization of Park51 as template for a case study" where I talk about Lay Epistemic Theory.  There's also a tendency to try to understand groups as a unified whole, as it they were a single person writ large.  These two tendency almost invariably mislead us when we try to generalize about the American public as a whole. Finally, we also tend to ignore--or at best downplay--the role of situational factors in favor of dispositional explanations, when the best evidence is that situation trumps disposition by a wide margin.  So those are three good reasons not engage in the sort of thinking that's getting you down here.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Bah! Logic! I'm trying to throw (4.00 / 1)
a fit here, Paul.

[ Parent ]
Sorry, My Bad! (0.00 / 0)
Didn't mean to harsh your buzz, dude.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
of course they would (4.00 / 2)
when you have one party that doesn't even pretend to speak to your interests for 15-20 years, one party that's out and out nuts but will pretend to speak to your interests, and everyone tells you have only have two options, who do you think voters will vote for?

I'm guessing it's people who are left outside the system entirely because they're disillusioned, disenfrachised, or just plain disgusted that are going to be a better bet for a social base for a progressive movement that can pressure the mainstream into changing which will then lead to the 'left' and the 'right' being closer to that than 'center/center-right' and 'far right'.


[ Parent ]
When you have one party (0.00 / 0)
that is clearly bad and one that is obviously worse, and you have two options?

That seems a pretty easy choice, to me.

And I'm not talking about the vast number of people who aren't voting. I'm talking about the ones who care enough to drag their asses into the booth to vote for Johnson and Angle and Paul and even O'Donnell. They know what they're getting; they're getting what they want.  


[ Parent ]
what's your answer to the so-called easy choice? :) (4.00 / 1)
It was quite hard for me to get to the point where I thought the whole system was f"£ked and realizing there was a disconnect between what I thought would be a good choice and anything remotely likely to happen in the near future.

What exactly is one supposed to do with that?  You can go hyperloyal, you can slip into cynicism, anger and eventually hatred, or you can lose your mind.  

Or you can stop caring and worry about your life.


[ Parent ]
Yeah, all I'm saying (0.00 / 0)
is that there's a choice other than hyperloyalty, cynicism, hatred, or apathy when you think there's no good choice, and that's 'enthusiastically embracing the worst possible choice.' That's what we're doing.

If 'the rest of America' was saying, 'fuck it, I'm not gonna vote,' well, I understand that. But they're not. They're saying, 'fuck it, I'm gonna vote for insane people who are worse by every measure than the merely mediocre people.' Well, or 'worse than the decent people'. Wisconsin.

I don't know if I think the system is fucked. I guess I'm starting to think that the system is a perfect reflection of the country, and the country is fucked. If in every election for the past 10 years, we'd voted not for the 'good choice' but simply for the 'better choice', we'd be in pretty good shape right now. If we'd voted each time for people who were slightly better--though not actually good--on  preserving Social Security, hating the trade deals that ship jobs overseas, rolling back the power of wealthy special interests, we'd be okay.

But that's just not our priority.

Citizens United sucks, but the people swayed by the corporate puketon of cash that CU allows are worse. I see all that crap. You see it. My 84-year-old father sees it. Doesn't sway our votes.

Goddamn I'm grumpy today.


[ Parent ]
"'enthusiastically embracing the worst possible choice" (0.00 / 0)
There's a time and a place for everything and everyone has their own way in difficult times, I think.

Your suggestion seems emotionally difficult to sustain for a human being over 14 or so years (at least!) :D

Particularly when this is considered an optional activity outside of 'normal life' for most people and most people, including me, observe the present through personal lenses.  

It seems easier to simply stop engaging in politics at all, which is what most people did, I think.  Or to go nuts, like the tea party people did.  With horrific politics, a terroristic attack that's inflamed into a national trauma, and one bad choice and one horrific choice, and no government-sponsored safety net to inform your daily experiences, I think it's pretty easy to go into atomized mode or just keep yourself sane with your friends, family, etc.


[ Parent ]
Public responses (0.00 / 0)
It looks to me like the tea partiers have been encouraged to act out their crazy by people who are using it to gum of the works of government.

The individual act of choosing to believe crazy stuff is one thing, but this is group activity designed to aggressively attack other groups. When does seeing conspiracy behind the group actions cease to be further crazy-thought and become a reflection of reality?? When the Supreme Court announces the Citizen's United decision, maybe?  


[ Parent ]
i think it stopped being crazy around the time of nixon (0.00 / 0)
i.e. before i and many other people were born.

[ Parent ]
False premise (4.00 / 2)
Who says we only have 2 options?  We can vote 3rd party.  We can build an independent force within the Democratic Party.  We can go issue-oriented and hammer Obama on the Catfood Commission.

Limiting the choices is THEIR game, but we don't have to play by their rules.

For the wheel's still in spin And there's no tellin' who That it's namin'. -- Dylan


[ Parent ]
I would better if you organized a right wing third party first. (4.00 / 1)
If you could split the vote on the right first, create such anger inside the republicorp movement that it splits, we would have room on the left to do the same.

I wish you good speed on that, we need it.

Splitting the GOP would save America.

--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
Oy vey! (4.00 / 1)
And I get accused of advocating simple solutions.

For the wheel's still in spin And there's no tellin' who That it's namin'. -- Dylan

[ Parent ]
Instructive. (0.00 / 0)


--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
I mean in this election. (0.00 / 0)
Perhaps in the future, there will be more options.

[ Parent ]
the system does (4.00 / 1)
i'm not saying it's good and in select places you have more than two and more broadly in the future, it would be great if we had more and i encourage people to work towards that (plug: Vote third party in the new york governor's election on tuesday!!!).

But over the past 15 years (and longer) we've had two major parties and virtually all electoral political work, legislative work, and political administrative work AND media narratives have been in that context and reinforced it.  Fighting that is vital (to me), but it requires structural change, and can't be wished away.

So as voters, we have an infinite number of options, if you include write-ins, but collectively, we have to build good options if we want some.  The way I think we do that is by building a social movement - New York State shows that having two or ten parties is not enough, it's the politics of the place that need to be shifted.

So electoral politics is just part of that; voting reform can't be the whole thing (look at what happened in Britain in May!)


[ Parent ]
There you go! (0.00 / 0)
The way I think we do that is by building a social movement


For the wheel's still in spin And there's no tellin' who That it's namin'. -- Dylan

[ Parent ]
Trust (4.00 / 2)
Americans no longer trust Democrats because Democrats have so many sides on so many issues that they stand no where and with no one. I can't get my Democratic Senator to even make a commitment to me that she won't cut Social Security benefits.  You think that makes me stupid if I no longer trust the Democratic Party?  The Democrats' problem is that they don't understand the rules of the game anymore or worse that they are no longer even playing it.  There's an old saying that the Democrats will steal it from you but they will give you some of it back - point being that the Republicans just steal it.  Trouble is, folks no longer believe they're getting anything back.  Politics isn't only about promises.  It's about delivering the goods.  Americans don't really hate big government but they do hate ineffective government and that is all they see.

[ Parent ]
I can't resist (4.00 / 5)
quoting David Brooks, who today wrote a column explaining how Obama can win back the middle.

Culturally, he will have to demonstrate that even though he comes from an unusual background, he is a fervent believer in the old-fashioned bourgeois virtues: order, self-discipline, punctuality and personal responsibility.

Punctuality! He's going to win back independents and moderates by starting speeches on time!

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10...


[ Parent ]
Ah, the coveted (0.00 / 0)
'old-fashioned bourgeois' vote.

[ Parent ]
Can I have ... (0.00 / 0)
some of what Brooks is smoking? .. that is one awful column .. personal responsibility? .. have the banksters taken any?

[ Parent ]
Penmanship is also a plus (4.00 / 3)


[ Parent ]
I hope you are nominating this for Chatty Cathies/Idiot Wind! (0.00 / 0)
n/t

[ Parent ]
ROTFL! n/t (0.00 / 0)


Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Sicut erat in principio.... (4.00 / 2)
As I read this post a while ago, my only response was an involuntary shudder. I suppose it could be argued that my nervous system needs recalibration, but frankly, this post reminds me of things I used to hear in Southern Baptist churches in places like Alabama and Kentucky.

(I was an army brat, and my parents weren't particularly religious. Any church would do, as long as it was Protestant, and as long as I wound up knowing the difference between the Holy Trinity and the offering plate when I grew up.) Their casual approach to religious instruction exposed me to all sorts of slithery piety when I was still relatively innocent, and with nothing else to do as the minister puffed and pranced, I found myself taking as much note of the delivery as the content.

If I may say so, I'm not an innocent any more, but I'm still not very fond of piety, especially when the hellfire outside my window isn't imaginary. I don't know who this post is for, but it's not for me. The President dons the robes, and says the words, but I know very well that the Cadillac dealer on Main Street who coughed up for the new stained glass window will arrive in heaven before me.


[ Parent ]
oh boy, where to begin (4.00 / 6)
reaching to those of us in his base

By lying about needing 60 votes to get HCR passed, refusing to fully denounce bigoted laws against homosexuals, and shit talking FDR of all people.  Great start he's off to.

Third Way has a new memo out arguing that us lefties need moderate Democrats to succeed, and I actually agree in part.

Stop. The. Presses.

we still do need independent and swing voters to win elections

And yet instead of trying to move those wishy-washy fuckers to logical progressive positions, the party crawls on its hands and knees toward the center, taking time to punch a hippie in the knees any time their "moderate" cred is threatened.

against the choice language on the health care bill

A minor quibble, just one that will saddle working people with an expenditure equal to that of a fucking car payment every month for a product that they still won't be able to afford (because of another missing piece of "choice language", there's nothing to stop insurance companies from requiring $2000 deductibles).

But a great deal of the frustration has been about the sense, fair or not, that the administration is accepting the standard way of doing business in Washington: cutting deals with corporate lobbyists early rather than boldly challenging them.

Wrong.  If there were backroom deals that resulted in the repeal of DADT or DOMA, or single payer, or ending the wars, or ending offshore drilling, nobody would be upset.  We'd accept your favored "that's just the way things get done" arguments.  But instead the outcomes have been, almost across the board, anti-progressive and harmful to working people and their families.  It's not the route- it's the destination  Nobody gives a fuck about how the sausage is made, they just care how it tastes.  Obama's tastes a whole lot like the plate we've been stuck with for the 8 years prior to his taking office.

honest give and take between a Democratic President in the modern era and progressive media

1) Obama was anything but honest in that call with bloggers
2) Stewart isn't a progressive
3) Seriously, not honest: http://fdlaction.firedoglake.c...

both sides are doing their jobs in the thrust and parry

Ah yes, politics is a ribald little game to be politely chortled at.  No real world consequences. Oh, that charming fox Obama got the best of those bloggers eh wot?

Obama is doing the interviews in the first place, encouraging people to ask him tough questions and not shying away when they do, defending himself and making his case that he cares about the same things the base cares about.

Are you fucking kidding me?  You need a TomTom just to navigate the bullshit answer he gave about DADT being constitutional.  And that's AFTER the person asking explicitly stated "this is a yes-or-no question".

You must be reading/watching different interviews than the ones I am, because all I'm seeing from Obama is a distinct disinterest in actually defending all of his many (many) moves to the center.  

Not that you'll respond to this.



You just cost me $10. (0.00 / 0)
No response to 'Center-left Presidents?'

[ Parent ]
Great post. I agree with a lot, disagree with some of it, but great post. (4.00 / 3)
Thank you for the analysis of the Third Way argument - it was helpful.

On the second part of the post, the one part in my craw right now:

The Obama-Stewart interview, the Rolling Stone interview, the session with bloggers yesterday are actually thrilling to me in that they represent a healthy, honest give and take between a Democratic President in the modern era and progressive media.

I watched the Jon Stewart-Obama interview yesterday.  It did not represent a healthy, honest give and take to me.  To me, I saw a very tentative interviewer who, because he bothered to even bring up an important issue, is worlds ahead of most of the media.  And I saw a President who (successfully) bullied him, and used the platform as a GOTV tool, with little resistance.

And that's just in the very minimal, unspecific way, he was challenged.  When I heard the President slip in that the health care bill reduces the deficit by a trillion dollars, I wondered 'How can you sit there and talk about trillion dollar deficit reductions and at the same time say that you spent your political capital to reduce unemployment as much as you could?'  And that's from me, who DOES care about the issue of long term debt, but in a way that makes sense.

And so forth...

To me, that is not the model of a healthy give and take,   and while I understand there's more than one side to this, I don't think the Democratic establishment can on the one hand ignore progressives and then on the other hand say that progressives need to be fairer to them on the other hand.  It's so much of a disconnect from my experience of and perception of the actual reality that I lose my ability to be charitable, as you have been here, and instead have a healthy skepticism about high-brow progressive rhetoric and low-brow tactics that are way too reminiscent of the Bush, Clinton, and Reagan years.  And a great deal of understanding for why I, and or others, can slip from that healthy skepticism into cynicism at times.

So sure, I can be asked politely (if implicitly) to go along with the Democratic establishment and I too feel that without party loyalty from people to the right of progressives, progressives have no chance.  However, the balance of power right now is the other way - it is non-progressives in the Democratic party that are setting the agenda, and it is progressives who are being disciplined into going along with it.

At a certain point, that's not going to last any longer, because bogeymen and lies are not going to be plausible, and THEN I will rejoice, and I hope that Obama will be willing to be the person you're describing aspirationally, rather than the person I saw on TV yesterday.


Impressive Jon Stewart (4.00 / 2)
I was impressed by Stewart's ease and confidence during that interview.  It seems nearly impossible not to be cowed by all the attendant power and glamour that surrounds a sitting president - after all, look at the Versailles press.  

So kudos to all the journalists and comedians who keep their heads and wits in the presence of presidential majesty.


Glad some folks like politics. (4.00 / 4)
Point 1:
When I read this:

The point they make about there not being enough progressives in the House, let alone in the Senate

and shortly later this:

if it's a close call in terms of winning the election, the DCCC should help Mary Jo Kilroy before they help Bobby Bright

I, uh, try really hard not to bang my head on the keyboard, and shake the shit out of my monitor instead.  It's really hard not to see the latter as part of the reason for the former, and really, really hard not to wonder if it isn't purposeful.

Point 2:
The point about polling and self-identification is an important one, but - again - if Third Way-types hadn't assisted with defaming the liberal brand, maybe we'd have an easier time getting our preferences identified as such.  Here I give points to the folks conducting the polls and the surveys that they get to the issues independent of the labels.  I'd also mention the efforts Gibbs, and Obama themselves have made to further defame and marginalize the left.  You do recall the drug testing outburst, yes?

Point 3:

This is what Third Way and other pundits who argue for moderation never seem to understand: their version of centrism and the rest of the country's are very different.

And, they don't have to, do they.  There is no penalty for the insider types.  I'm beginning to understand that the core of Versailles doesn't have to care about this at all.  Congress people and their aides-de-camp may come and go, but the core of the GOP, RNC, DNC, DCCC, and the rest of that alphabet soup, along with the K-Street minions, the media, and the deeply entrenched denizens of the city, really aren't affected much by changes in the guard.  There are no penalties for remaining bubble-ized, as far as I can see... unless we get to tumbrils.

Point 4:

Obama is doing the interviews in the first place, encouraging people to ask him tough questions and not shying away when they do, defending himself and making his case that he cares about the same things the base cares about.

Glad you think so.  I'll simply point to Atrios and say no more.  Given all that has been written about HAMP and the effects of a continued foreclosure crisis, I shouldn't have to connect the dots for anyone.

Point 5:

Center-left Presidents

There is less, and less support for this idea as time goes on.  Via David Dayen at FDL.  I ground my teeth until I got to the last couple of paragraphs of that short piece, and then I sighed.



you have to put the centre back into center left (0.00 / 0)
no one, least of all I would call Obama a left president, but if the stimulus wasnt center/left, there was a drive for a public option, this is center left.


--

The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky


[ Parent ]
You have to Market Classic Left (4.00 / 3)
Consider the message:  Expand Medicare.

Simple, authentic, reinforces a classic brand.

Democrats might have lost with that message the first time, but they'd have lost selling a product people understood and they'd have lost selling a brand that people already have in their heads.  You don't market a product once.  You market it always.  You don't quit if you don't make the sale the first time.  If you believe in the product, you sell it. People love a salesman who loves his product.  People despise a shifty salesman who baits them with one product and then switches them to another.


[ Parent ]
Yeah. What bystander said! +100 (4.00 / 1)
If the Dems manage to avoid a drubbing next Tuesday, it won't be because the Democratic Party ever managed to take the offensive in a proper fashion.

It's more than a little ironic that Obama can simply show his face, spew what amounts to roughly 80% gobshite and still get a bump in the polls. At this point, I'll gladly take it, but  it bodes ill going forward.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


[ Parent ]
Oh, man! About that Kloppenberg piece linked by DDay at FDL!.. (4.00 / 2)
https://www.nytimes.com/2010/1...

To Mr. Kloppenberg the philosophy that has guided President Obama most consistently is pragmatism, a uniquely American system of thought developed at the end of the 19th century by William James, John Dewey and Charles Sanders Peirce.

Philosophical Modern Pragmatism does not by definition comprise compromise, increments, and difference-splitting, or even a free flow of ideas.   To be sure, a Pragmatist could employ methods thus characterized to achieve one's goals, but it's also entirely possible for the Pragmatist to assume unilateral, radical - even stubborn! - postures, if it is pragmatic to do so! [Duh!]

Kloppenberger seems guilty of what is a too common misconception of the meaning of Pragmatism.  The essence of Modern Pragmatism is that actors identify a common good as an end, and then employ the necessary achievable means to get there, rejecting that which is not useful for attaining that end.  Examples of things that are not useful would be: acts that produce harm, that distract, that are unjust, that undermine the general welfare, etc.  

Obama is not a philosophical Pragmatist; he is a Cynic!


[ Parent ]
Amid a lot of obfuscation and self-justifying (4.00 / 2)
Obama said something pretty good in the softball interview with bloggers.

I say that as somebody who appreciates that the LGBT community very legitimately feels these issues in very personal terms. So it's not my place to counsel patience. One of my favorite pieces of literature is "Letter from Birmingham Jail," and Dr. King had to battle people counseling patience and time. And he rightly said that time is neutral. And things don't automatically get better unless people push to try to get things better.

It'd be great if that actually reflected his point of view toward gay rights advocates and social justice advocates in general. Yet he campaigned this fall partly by running against the "whiners" and the "professional left." And his anger when his speeches are interrupted by gay rights advocates is palpable. And he expressed annoyance that liberals aren't thrilled with his corporate-corrupted pieces of legislation...


Obama Referencing "Letter From Birminghm Jail" Is An Obscene Joke (4.00 / 7)
I've made this argument before: That Obama has much more in common with the white clergymen whom King was responding to than he has in common with King.  See, for example, "Martin Luther King and The Moral Imperative For Polarization ", from the end of December, 2007.  You don't often see anything about the white clergymen's letter.  I quote from it extensively, in order to better illuminate the nature of King's response.  And I conclude that diary thus:

Obama's not a bad person, he's just woefully out of his depth.  In fact, so's the entire Democratic Party establishment.  They utterly fail to grasp the fundamental truths that King lays out in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail."  They accept the level of superficiality embraced by the tut-tuting white moderate clergymen, and treat it like it was a form of higher knowledge.  They think that relying on deep moral principles means condemning Bill Clinton, MoveOn, or whichever other ally the Republicans target next.

When Obama said, "We don't need more heat. We need more light," he was lifting a page right out of the white clergymen's letter to King.  King's response was simple: I wish it were different, but it's always been this way--it takes more heat to bring more light.



"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Yes, but read the quote again (0.00 / 0)
Read the quote again.  Obama does not place himself in the role of King, he places the LGBT activists there.  In fact, Obama pretty clearly puts himself in the role of the clergyman, reading King's letter.

That is a strange place for a person to place themselves, but that is what Obama did.


[ Parent ]
We generate no Fear (4.00 / 4)
And so Obama can feel free to swoop in at the last minute thinking he can rally the base with engagement, the Versailles clan with a straight face can lump political theatre with violence.

I don't mind true moderates. A Amy Klobuchar is good to have around. Is a Ben Nelson? It is apparent that the Party is going to allow the "moderates" to drive its narrative and so half the battle will always be lost. That means we have to really rethink just how we need to precede from here.

Accepting of the "its the best we could do" argument or not. A redefinition of our relationship with the Party seems in order.


One stunning feature of this election (4.00 / 3)
And so Obama can feel free to swoop in at the last minute thinking he can rally the base with engagement

Normally, the party makes a little twitch to the left to rile up the base, before Dumping them the day after the election.  This time around, he's giving a big Fuck You to the base -- and us.

(1)  By saying he doesn't think a STEEP increase in the retirement age is the answer to Social Security, he is implying that a MODEST increase is part of the answer.

(2)  Refuses to promise to VETO extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

(3)  Appeals the judge's DADT ruling.

(4)  Yaps about his never-ending search for cooperation with Republicans.

(5)  Worries that doing anything about the foreclosure crisis might help those who don't deserve it.

I hate to think what his Dumping us the day after the election will look like.

For the wheel's still in spin And there's no tellin' who That it's namin'. -- Dylan


[ Parent ]
Just remember...he got this right! (4.00 / 4)
At the beginning of this year, President Obama infamously said the"The Big Difference" Between 2010 and 1994 "Is Me."

Me = what a disaster.


[ Parent ]
Quite True! (4.00 / 2)
Bill Clinton didn't see it coming.  Obama saw it coming and arrogantly, ignorantly presumed himself immune.

If they'd switched places in history, Clinton would never have let this happen.  

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
An Amy is worse than a Ben (0.00 / 0)
At least with Ben, you know what you've got.  At least, Ben stands where he stands.  Amy stands no where.  Amy does what she's told.  Try, just try, to get Amy on the record on Social Security.  At least a Ben is likely to tell you he just might side with the R's.  Amy will not tell you where she stands.  I have tried and tried to get Amy to tell me where she stands.  Amy will not.  Amy is for Social Security in theory and she loves seniors, oh yes she does.  But will Amy tell you she will not cut benefits?  Amy will not.

Amy never takes a risk.  Amy never makes a hard vote in a state where you can get away with making that hard vote.  Paul Wellstone would tell you he was against the war in Iraq and vote his conscience.  Dayton will campaign on taxing the rich when mentioning taxes is supposed to be forbidden.  

Amy supports safe country club swimming pools.


[ Parent ]
Some comments on weasel words. (4.00 / 1)
This is a very good article and I agree with most of it.

The word progressive, however, is a weasel word and the democrats started losing the argument when they  accepted the Republican denigration of the word liberal.      

Glen Beck is very busy now turning the word progressive into a pejorative.  If he succeeds then what will Democrats call themselves?

Language matters.  Radicals have proudly adopted the word conservative although their agenda is anything but conservative.  

What exactly is a progressive?    Washington moderates adopt  radical economic positions and call themselves progessive?

A whacked out far right radical survivalist blows up a federal building killing hundreds of innocents in Oklahoma and somehow that doesn't get linked to the conservative movement in America?

Liberals pushed civil rights legislation, worked hard to end the war in Vietnam, got the voting rights act passed, etc.  and now we shun a word with a proud history of advancing civil rights and substitute a weasel word like "progressive."

How does this inspire anything but contempt?  When you deny what you are because the "other side," demeans the very core of what you stand for what does that make you?  

In my world it makes you a coward.  


Sure (0.00 / 0)
That's a common debate in these parts.  On my part, I agree with you.  However, at this point in the game I've decided my side lost the debate and to go along with "progressive" even though I consider the term meaningless (Bush called himself that).

Words have the definitions we give them, nothing more, nothing less.  If "progressive" is the word of choice, fine, but this time lets work to define it on our own terms.  No more weaseling out.


[ Parent ]
Some comments on weasel words. (0.00 / 0)
This is a very good article and I agree with most of it.

The word progressive, however, is a weasel word and the democrats started losing the argument when they  accepted the Republican denigration of the word liberal.      

Glen Beck is very busy now turning the word progressive into a pejorative.  If he succeeds then what will Democrats call themselves?

Language matters.  Radicals have proudly adopted the word conservative although their agenda is anything but conservative.  

What exactly is a progressive?    Washington moderates adopt  radical economic positions and call themselves progessive?

A whacked out far right radical survivalist blows up a federal building killing hundreds of innocents in Oklahoma and somehow that doesn't get linked to the conservative movement in America?

Liberals pushed civil rights legislation, worked hard to end the war in Vietnam, got the voting rights act passed, etc.  and now we shun a word with a proud history of advancing civil rights and substitute a weasel word like "progressive."

How does this inspire anything but contempt?  When you deny what you are because the "other side," demeans the very core of what you stand for what does that make you?  

In my world it makes you a coward.  


Three words that signal incoming BS (4.00 / 7)
Third Way Memo

In Third Way's lexicon, "Moderate" = Corrupt Right-Winger (4.00 / 3)
You said it yourself, Mike:

Most of all, being a moderate in Washington means getting along nicely with all those corporate lobbyists who keep coming to see you (and dropping off checks).

So why on earth would anyone take anything Third Way has to say seriously?

They've been spouting this shite for 20+ years now and it's always the same. If we want to win elections, we have to become more corporate, more corrupt and move ever farther to the Right--that's how they define "moderation". They simply have no credibility in any real sense at all.

Even a pathological liar can manage to say something that's partly true on occasion. But that doesn't change the fact it's still a pathological liar we're talking about.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates


An attaboy (4.00 / 1)
Mike, posts like this one and like those often published by Paul keep me coming back to this site to better understand what is going on. You, as well as several of the commenters here, frequently coalesce my mostly incoherent feelings into something resembling rational thought. Here you have done it again.

Thanks.  


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