Obama Ate the Left, And We Shouldn't Blame Him At All. But What Do We Do Now?

by: David Sirota

Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 20:03

My good friend, Chris Hayes, asks a simple question, echoed by the Progressive magazine and Chris Bowers - why hasn't Obama appointed a single movement progressive? Certainly, a number of progressive voices and institutions have suggested such movement progressives (and there have been many blog posts right here about that). The question has nothing to do with ideological purity - nothing at all. It's just a simple, fair and honest question considering exit polls and post-election surveys showing the country thinks it voted for a left-of-center progressive that will end the war, reform NAFTA, reject free-market fundamentalism, and then considering that Obama has appointed almost exclusively war hawks, NAFTA proponents, and free market fundamentalists.

And the answer to the question, in my opinion, is because Obama effectively ate a huge chunk of the left. And really, Obama didn't eat a huge chunk of the left, celebrity did.

What I mean to say is that we live in a culture that now organizes around celebrity - and Obama knew it, and knew that lots of left organizations aren't really ideological - they are, if anything, organized around the Democratic Party and Bush hatred. So he basically figured out that if he could become a celebrity - and a Democratic Bush-hating one - he could swallow up a huge part of the "progressive infrastructure" and organize it around him (and all the hateful "if you question Obama, you hate Obama" comments that will inevitably be at the bottom of this diary actually confirm this!). And we shouldn't blame him for being a "celebrity" - it's not an epithet. And we shouldn't blame him for seizing his moment. Not at all.

This, by the way, is very different from the Reagan model. Reagan was a telegenic, for sure - but he was a product of a movement. In the age of celebrity worship - the age where we literally organize AROUND celebrity - Obama is a movement unto himself.

David Sirota :: Obama Ate the Left, And We Shouldn't Blame Him At All. But What Do We Do Now?
So now, because of this, you have a large majority (though not the whole) of his 10 million-person email list overarchingly organized around the celebrity Barack Obama - not really around issues (though certainly people can like Obama and support specific issues). That means he feels no real obligation to appointing "movement progressives" because he has his own movement - one that's about helping, aiding and defending Barack Obama. Again, I say that not derisively or in anger at Barack Obama - I say it just to note an important fact.

Heads of government having movements organized around them as individuals - rather than having to deal with independent social movements - is something lots of autocratic developing world countries have experience with (think huge murals with pictures of leaders - seems similar to the Obama murals doesn't it?). We may have had presidents who were products of movements before (ie. Reagan), but we've never had presidents who are individual movements unto themselves. It's exciting that the movement could push the progressive whims of the Dear Leader - but also frightening, in that it could serve to defend the government from pressure (and as a side note, those who tried to use the election to organize around issues, rather than around individual candidates, were largely attacked in the blogosphere and elsewhere for trying to do that - so in that sense the blogosphere helped create this quandary we're now in).

You can't blame Obama for this - he saw an opportunity and he took it. And I still believe in his heart he's a left-of-center progressive who will ultimately demand that his appointments respect that vision (as I say in an upcoming In These Times article, personnel is usually policy, but it may not be total policy under Obama). But his appointments prove - once again - that if there is no independent movement to pressure politicians, they will go the path of least Establishment resistance.

That's not a theory of the moment - it's just a historical fact. The challenge now is not to lament the reality we face - or even to debate it. It's undebatable reality, whether people organized around Obama want to admit that reality or not. The question now is what movement progressives can do to be really constructive in this reality? I'm not sure.

But I will say this - simply blindly trusting Obama (as good a heart as I think he has) or ANY elected official seems rather stupid considering the history and basic dynamics of how power works.

UPDATE: The knee-jerk anger in the comments section really substantiates the fundamental point of this diary better than the diary itself. To discuss reality about power, the progressive movement and Obama is to automatically subject oneself to vicious personal attacks from those who simply do not want to discuss anything that considers the possibility of independent pressure on Obama. I mean, hell, this is a diary that does not fault Barack Obama in the least - that indeed says he's a progressive. And still - still! - the attacks flow. It's really truly a perfect example of how Obama has successfully organized a huge swath of America around him - not around issues. And again, he deserves no blame at all for that. None at all. The question is simply how to organize in that environment? If asking that question is committing a crime or being "self-promoting" - then dear lord, what are we ever allowed to ask?  

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Sure, but this has been evident (4.00 / 6)
for quite some time. Certainly it's no surprise to you, or anyone who reads this blog.

One thing we can do is fund primaries, even when we're certain to lose them. We don't have any power vis a vis Obama, but we can exert pressure in other ways.

Like this.

Via the Congress (4.00 / 1)
where we have a few allies.

This is a Test of the Emergency Free Speech System. This is only a Test. In an actual Free Speech Emergency, I'll be locked up.

[ Parent ]
Question for you David (0.00 / 1)
and all your progressive buddies. Is Obama's cabinet completely filled yet? If he doesn't fill a single cabinet position with what you call a movement progressive then we can complain.

It's as if you guys are looking for something to be upset with Obama about. Geesh.

No, I'm not upset at all (4.00 / 3)
I'm really not upset - this is just reality. The question is what to do to be most constructive in this reality?

[ Parent ]
I think we make our case as effectively as we can... (0.00 / 0)
...and live with the results - unless the results are so unpalatable that we want to support someone else for the job. But to ask him to take a path of greater resistance - which is what you're doing - is not as obviously the right decision for the progressive movement as you seem to think it is. At least it isn't obvious to me. If he thinks he can accomplish his goals better by staying off paths of greater resistance, I for one am willing to let him give it a try. His past goal-attainment record is impressive, after all. If a few months into the administration it seems like our goals are being ignored, then we make some hay. But if he's just ignoring us, or our frames, or even our preferred bureaucrats, while advancing our goals, I'll live with it. And I hope that will be the case.

[ Parent ]
The other side doesn't rest. (4.00 / 4)
This "wait and see" attitude assumes that the other side (the money party as Sirota calls it) is just waiting also. He is getting pressure from the right all the time. We need to pressure him from the left as well. He may be taking the path of least resistance, but that path is defined by our actions or inactions. We do nothing and the path of least resistance will be farther right. We pressure from the left and the path of least resistance moves left.


[ Parent ]
which reality? (0.00 / 0)
The overarching reality I see is that we have an incoming administration preparing to enact sweeping health care reform.

[ Parent ]
exactly. (4.00 / 3)
Obama ran on a set of promises. Nothing he has done thus far betrays a single one.  As far as I see, he intends on implementing the programs he ran on. Isn't that what this election was about? Or what it about getting the left's flavor in the month in a some cabinet position?  

[ Parent ]
guess what (4.00 / 6)
not everyone who is anti-Bush (which is basically what Obama ran on in addition to what David points to) agrees about everything, and certainly not with Obama.  So right now is a time when there's some churning and different people with different objectives are jockeying for theirs.  This is always the case, regardless of what social or political movement you're a part of.

In fact, the best counterargument to David is that progressives started too late - if anything, instead of pollwatching the last week, progressives should have been focusing slightly more on the fight within the administration that was about to come.  But as David says, it's a reality that people are trying to deal with, and the fear of another Republican Administration was a very well founded reality - making calculations in times of heightened anxiety is hard.  It's very hard to know when and where to make risks, particularly when you actually care what the consequences are.

[ Parent ]
Want to bet? (4.00 / 5)
I read here that he is going to delay renegotiating NAFTA, and I heard on the Ed Schultz Show that his transition team is suggesting bankruptcy as a good idea for GM.  I will guarantee you this was not his tune when he was in MI and Ohio.  

[ Parent ]
well (0.00 / 0)
these are all speculations. Can we wait until he actually gets in there before we start taking shots?

[ Parent ]
NO!!! (4.00 / 12)
That's not the way to influence a politician.

You get in their face NOW, and you hope that they will eventually accept your point of view.  Sitting on our hands and hoping that he'll do right by us is a guarantee that the moderate corportatist democrats will get their way.

[ Parent ]
um... yes, we do want representation in the cabinet. (4.00 / 8)
why?  if for no other reason than that whoever serves in obama's cabinet will likely be a force within the democratic party for the rest of their life, and may end up in a future democratic administration (see richardson, bill).

and this is not even to mention the fact that progressive representation will likely affect policy choices, or the fact that who obama chooses signals a lot about how he plans to govern....  

[ Parent ]
And I'm sure there will be progressives. nt (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
How is that any less speculative than the criticism above (4.00 / 7)
In fact, it is more speculative, since there have been no progressive appointments, a few moderate appointments, and a Bush appointee to stay on at the #4 position in the entire executive branch.

[ Parent ]
So.. (2.40 / 5)
after a government run by right wing ideologues, you're unhappy that it won't be run by left wing ideologues? Sorry, but I'm much more interested in a Progressive Pragmatism than the mirror image of Bush.

I'm more interested in chocolate eclairs (4.00 / 2)
than haggis.

[ Parent ]
I much prefer haggis (4.00 / 2)
I've never even seena comment by chocolate eclairs.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
Define 'Progressive Pragmatisim' (4.00 / 6)
because that sounds, to me, a lot like Bill Clintonism, where the democrats play defense, skimp on actual reform, and let movement conservatives build up their strength until they cripple the Presidency.

But hey!  At least the President will kind of come out looking good from the whole thing.

[ Parent ]
Don't know how to google it? (0.00 / 0)
pro·gres·sive  (pr-grsv)
1. Moving forward; advancing.
2. Proceeding in steps; continuing steadily by increments: progressive change.
3. Promoting or favoring progress toward better conditions or new policies, ideas, or methods: a progressive politician; progressive business leadership.
4. Progressive Of or relating to a Progressive Party: the Progressive platform of 1924.
5. Of or relating to progressive education: a progressive school.
6. Increasing in rate as the taxable amount increases: a progressive income tax.
7. Pathology Tending to become more severe or wider in scope: progressive paralysis.
8. Grammar Designating a verb form that expresses an action or condition in progress.
1. A person who actively favors or strives for progress toward better conditions, as in society or government.
2. Progressive A member or supporter of a Progressive Party.
3. Grammar A progressive verb form.


prag·ma·tism  (prgm-tzm)
1. Philosophy A movement consisting of varying but associated theories, originally developed by Charles S. Peirce and William James and distinguished by the doctrine that the meaning of an idea or a proposition lies in its observable practical consequences.
2. A practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems.


Imho Bigassbrando is obviously referring to "Promoting or favoring progress toward better conditions or new policies, ideas, or methods" in a "practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems."

Makes sense to me.

[ Parent ]
I do, in fact, know what the words mean (4.00 / 2)
But I also know what happens when politicians say that they, in contrast to others who have similar perspectives, are being 'pragmatic'.

And what it almost always means is policy incrementalism.

[ Parent ]
Uh huh. You know what it means, but you suspect a hidden meaning? (0.00 / 0)
But do you think it's helpful for the debate here to project your own prejudices into bigassbrando's comment?

If you fear pragmatism will necessarily lead into incrementalism, why don't you say so? However, for me, it isn't really compelling that there should be such a causation effect. not to speak of that incrementalism doesn't have to bein disregard of a bigger strategy, or that it is just another form of mission creep.

[ Parent ]
There's a difference between suspecting a hidden meaning (4.00 / 1)
and having heard the exact same rhetoric before.  What is really the difference between claiming pragmatism and 'keeping our powder dry' or 'taking Iraq off of the table' or any of the other 'prgamatic' short term solutions proffered by the Democratic caucus over the post-1994 period?  

I really see no evidence as to why Obama is going to be significantly different than Bill Clinton.  And things have gotten bad to the point where a competent caretaker isn't going to cut it anymore.  We need actual change.  We need to do more than to just respond to and try to outmaneuver the republicans.  

[ Parent ]
The difference between Bill Clinton (0.00 / 0)
and Obama is us. The netroots didn't exist in the nineties. We can defend him from Republican attacks, and pressure him to do the right thing when he wavers.

Clinton never had that and the rest is history.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Ah, "pragmatism." (4.00 / 2)
Or as they call it in Washington, date rape. Not interested, thanks.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Robert Westbrook (4.00 / 1)
shows how a true pragmatist politics demands legitimate democratic participation in his wonderful book from which I've learned a lot.  

[ Parent ]
Progressive pragmatism looks like center-right (0.00 / 0)
To me, from what I have seen.

So, it's actually moderate Republicanism, not progressive at all.

Why can't people grasp that the left can be pragmatic without going to the right? What is it about our society that people think that to be pragmatic you have to go to the right? Have we been that propagandized?

Well, actually we probably have, considering that most of the media has been owned and run by the right wingers for pretty much forever.

[ Parent ]
this is a compelling argument. (4.00 / 6)
one possible way forward for the progressive blogosphere and the left more generally is to pressure obama the way that we might pressure a highly-branded corporation.  

we need to find ways to preempt or counteract conservative actions he might take by mobilizing the force of his brand against those actions, but without coming off as corny or stilted (i.e. 'thats not change' -- remember, this is a mccain line.... we should let it die along with the green screen).

i really think that there would be creative ways to do this w/rt to his CIA appointment.  despite some disagreements in these parts, we are all agreed on this one.  

let's start crafting imagery and text that links obama's brand with torture (not by straight up saying that obama is a torturer or something, of course... more nuanced than that...).  

let's see how much leverage we have here.... it may be more than we think.


just to clarify, i know that obama hasn't actually selected anyone for CIA director yet.... (4.00 / 2)
that is the point.  we have an opening, albeit a small one.  

[ Parent ]
The storm seems to have kept Summers out of Treasury (4.00 / 2)
He's still a top advisor, but at least he won't have the 350 billion slush fund. So pressure on these trial balloons can make a difference.

[ Parent ]
i've noticed this too (4.00 / 2)
i think it's reflective of an important insight that Obama captured - which is that the brand needed to precede the movement in order to cut the Republicans off at the pass.  So my hope is that instead of the other way around, we can utilize the brand Obama (change, hope, etc.) in advocating our specific policies and aims, even against Obama himself.

For a hypothetical example, "Obama is supporting Joe Lieberman's bid to stay in the Caucus.  This isn't why I voted for Obama - I thought we were going to get change for the better and if there's one thing Joe Lieberman isn't, it's change."

And of course, the things you actually advocate for, you have substnative reasons for doing so - so it's a two-pronged battle - use and contest the meaning of the brand subtly while still pushing for substnative policies and positions in its warm embrace.

That's change I can believe in ;)

i agree with the substance here, but (as i said above), i think we need to be (4.00 / 2)
a bit more savvy than simply echoing the 'change' mantra.  at this point, no one takes the whole 'change we can believe in' seriously, certainly not the media (which, like it or not, we need to amplify our views).  

this is why i think that graphic images may be more potent... obama's logo, for instance, has not yet become entirely corny.  

[ Parent ]
yeah i read your comment (4.00 / 4)
and kind of thought that you were at least a step and a half ahead of me :)  The McCain prejoinder was quite good :)

Of course, I just made up the word prejoinder, which is also quite good :)

But I think that it's not graphics or particular phrases that are the place to begin for my interests - it's to really come to terms with and understand the ethos of the Obama brand - who does it appeal to and why.  Then, use it, claim it, and adapt it for the right ends (including fighting brand culture) to the right audiences.

Or in other words, the specifics of how to go about this are beyond my comprehension :)

[ Parent ]
I am not sure what left means to you beyond (4.00 / 8)
personality to be quite honest.

I've read your post. Many of them are too abstracted from policy to be meaningful in an actual debate.

Could you spend more posts actually focusing on real issues.

For example- how do you view the shaping battle over healthcare when looking at Obama and Congress? How do you view Baucus's plan and how does that fit substantively into Obama's clear intention to work on these issues?

For that matter, when we go beyond Paulson and all the other cult of personality dislike - can you tell me- whether you disagree with the plans that the real potential candidate for Sec of Tres has? if so, in what ways do you disgree with the new Sec of Tres plan?

Let me give a practical example of a disagreement I already have that's not based on personality. i disagree with their characterization of what Congress wnats to do with the automotive industry. I believe Congress is correct to want to have a business plan. that requires the auto industry to define how it will start making money in the future.

BUt, that's not a left versus right thing. That's an effective versus blank check thing.

I notice you never respond to posts, and mines specifically. But I would love it if you responded to a substantive post rather than to those that seem to only want to inflame you.

agreed about the choices sirota makes in who to respond to... (4.00 / 1)
he is rewarding the wrong people/posts with attention.  

[ Parent ]
I agree with much you say-- (4.00 / 2)
and hope David engages you in comments, not always a strength of his.

But the specific complaint here is that Obama hasn't--yet--appointed a 'movement progressive'. Although I'd love to hear David's definition, that seems pretty specific, and completely accurate. So within this particular post, I mean, I can't see why anyone (not you--above) is so emphatically clutching the pearls.

[ Parent ]
Maybe it has something to do with (0.00 / 0)
the thespian sense of surprise coupled with the utter absence of any engagement with the people with whom he ostensibly shares ideological commitments.

[ Parent ]
I forgot to include... (0.00 / 0)
"in the course of condemning Obama for being a 'celebrity,'" of all things.  It seems Sirota's attempt at irony has bit him in the ass here.

[ Parent ]
well thats the killer for me here (4.00 / 1)
he's not discussing policies. just which celebrities from the "progressive movement' what the hell that means haven't been selected. What does that even mean by the way? Is it his contentiont hat Obama isn't progressive at all or just not enough for David? Like I said, i find david confusing.

[ Parent ]
I guess. I kinda get a kick out of that, (0.00 / 0)
myself. Mostly because it always works so well!

[ Parent ]
Depends on what you mean by (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
That would give us meat and potatos to discuss (4.00 / 2)
rather than his let me respond to obama's celebrity by discussing the need for him to include progressive celebrities. I want to kn ow policies are being enacted that will build this country after 30 years in the wilderness. I could careless if progressives celebrities are in on it.

I saw this same sort of discussion of healthcare. Someone- believe read it at talk left was angry because Baucus didn't mention Clinton. Who gives a crap unless thats what you really have at stake here? I mean me  - I just want cheaper health insurance thats a good plan. The rest is irrelvant.

[ Parent ]
I have trouble believing (4.00 / 1)
that "presidential politics as cult of celebrity" occurred to you only today.

Do you remember Clinton's campaign in '92 and his Hollywood promoters and packagers? Did you expect something different here, or are you merely feigning naivete in an attempt to shock what you feel are the unwitting consumers of "celebrity politics" - a theme since at least 1960 - into awareness?  Or did you really make the silly mistake of  confusing campaign for office with a political movement?    

Concerned (0.00 / 0)
I too am disheartened at many of Obama's picks.  There have been no true really progressive choices so far.  I hope there are some and will be pissed if there are none.  All that being said I do have 2 questions.

How do you define "movement progressive" and how many of them are ready for the scrutiny and responsibility of a cabinet?  I think there are "progressive" people to choose from, but what "movement progressive" people are there?  It just seems that progressive movement is so young there aren't a lot of "movement progressives" ready for something that high.

If David or anyone can give examples I'd love to be wrong.

Our Dime Understanding the U.S. Budget

I don't think the progressive movement is young, it's just been shut out (4.00 / 2)
of government for the last 20+ years, the Bush administration certainly wasn't appointing progressives anywhere. So there are experienced progressives out there, but they're in academia, the ACLU, &c., they won't have had so much experience in government.

As for names, people have been suggesting Susan Rice for something (SoS? I forget what...)

[ Parent ]
Could Open Left pay me to post diaries like this? (3.00 / 4)
I mean it's copied and pasted every day with no new information.

These diaries are written by automated bots.

Movement progressive? (4.00 / 5)
Hell, at this point I'd settle for the appointment of someone left of center.

In any case, your analysis is a bit reductive. It wasn't just Obama's star power that wowed and cowed the left. He of all the nominees opposed the war and there were reasons (some legit, some not) that the left didn't quite feel at home with Hillary (of course Hillary) and Edwards. Plus Obama was black and had a unique ability to appeal to blacks.

That said, it should've been clear to anyone with eyes and ears that Edwards would've been a more progressive president, yet very few outlets and individuals on the left backed Edwards. Not the Nation, not the big blogs, not environmental groups, not even a lot of the big unions. A few did--Friends of the Earth, the Steelworkers, notably--but most didn't.

There are reasons to be happy Obama was the nominee--he won, for one thing, and a black man is president--but if you wanted something other than a New liberal hawkish president, there was chance to do something about it, called the Democratic Primary.

wtf? (4.00 / 4)
Clinton, Richardson and Napolitano are definitely left of center. This is the problem with the ideological left -- the same, honestly, holds true for the right as well. You demand such purity that you will never be happy. People in government actually have responsibilities. They can't hold on to their ideology because people's lives depend on their decisions. This is what happened with the right. Let's learn from their mistakes. Pragmatism is best.

[ Parent ]
Clinton is L of C on domestic issues, not so much foreign policy. (4.00 / 1)
So she's maybe more of a centrist pick for that position. Although, from what I've heard, at least her advisers during the primary did put together very substantive and reasonable policy positions on some issues like policy for Afghanistan. So that's promising.

[ Parent ]
Wrong (4.00 / 1)
Clinton isn't left of center on foreign policy, likewise Richardson on domestic policy, least of on all trade, an issue that falls under Commerce's rubric.

I'll give you Nap. Hooray!

[ Parent ]
You're undercutting your own argument (4.00 / 2)
When you throw up straw men, e.g. "all the hateful 'if you question Obama, you hate Obama' comments that will inevitably be at the bottom of this diary," you don't look very serious.

It might be more convincing if you spent more time talking about issues, suggestions for progressive appointments, specific criticisms of names that are being floated in the media etc., and less time complaining about the commenters in your threads, celebrity, obamabots and brownshirts.

For example, from The Progressive article you link:

And if Obama really wanted change, if he really wanted to honor progressives who backed him early on and then did the grunt work against McCain, he'd nominate Dennis Kucinich as Secretary of State.

Well, maybe that's not such a great example.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

Apparently, you don't read (4.00 / 3)
The first two lines of this diary include a link to 22 Cabinet suggestions from merely one progressive magazine, and a note that many other institutions - and in fact, this very blog - has been pushing various names for quite some time.

As I say so often - it is very important for commenters to read the diaries they are commenting on.  

[ Parent ]
Great (4.00 / 2)
Maybe we could have a discussion of that instead of whining about others whining? I believe in one of your other threads that a commenter had pointed out several suggestions from that list of 22 who had already gotten appointments (or rumored appointments) within either the administration or the transition team.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Well, the first thing I did was read those 22 suggestions. (0.00 / 0)
You edited that compilation for In These Times.  Was it your idea to solicit Winona LaDuke for her opinion on who should lead the Interior Department?  For anyone who doesn't know, LaDuke was Ralph Nader's runningmate in 2000.

If that's your idea of a "movement progressive", then yeah, you won't see any of them appointed to the cabinet.  

To be more specific, "movement progressives" are not likely to be appointed to the cabinet because "movement progressives" tend not to be able to win statewide office anywhere.  I use scare quotes because in this case the definition of movement progressive is actually the problem.  If movement progressive is defined to mean the people who make up the left wing of urban politics, and people of similar orientation who work in NGOs focused on national politics, then yeah, those people are not going to get cabinet appointments because they aren't yet politically powerful enough to even win governorships or senate seats in 45 states.

If I were trying to apply what I fairly guess to be Sirota's definition, then movement progressive would apply to Bonior, Blumenauer, Boxer, Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Feingold, Bob Reich, maybe Deval Patrick.  All good people.  But clearly the exception to the rule, even in deep blue politics.  Look at statewide office in blue states, and you get people like Schumer, Clinton, Kerry, Cantwell, Murray, Durbin, Levin, Klobuchar, Mikulski.  People who are on the center-left of the national party (on a good day), but who are not "movement progressives."  These are the people who win 85% of the statewide races in blue states, and they're the ones who are going to get cabinet appointments as a result.  I don't like them as much as I like the "movement progressives", but I'm also a lot more reasonable (I think) about my expectations of who's going to wind up in the cabinet.  

Were we supposed to be expecting Kucinich and LaDuke in the cabinet, instead of Clinton and Richardson?  Did Obama signal an allegiance to the Reich branch of the party over the Rubin branch in the primaries?  Because I'm not sure the idea that significant blocs of Obama supporters should either be feeling snookered, or are too starstruck to be feeling snookered, is fair.  Obama never allied himself with the David Bonior wing of the party, so to claim that that wing is being jilted by Obama isn't really accurate.

I think the more interesting question is, how many of Obama's appointments are being drawn from the center-left of the party, as opposed to the center-right?  Once you ask that, you do notice a disturbing trend: Obama is appointing fairly center-left people, but frequently assigning them to the area on which they are center-right.  So Clinton, who is center-left on domestic policy but center-right on foreign policy, gets assigned to State.  Richardson, who is center-left on foreign-policy but center-right on economics and trade, gets assigned to Commerce.  Napolitano, who is center on most stuff but center-right on immigration, gets assigned to DHS.  That's cause for concern.  

But the "movement progressives" question is a little less realistic, I think.  We'll get one, I'm sure, just like we got Reich.  And it would be nice to get more.  But fighting for center-left rather than center-right appointments strikes me as more powerful than fighting for movement progressive vs center-left appts.  Biden v Bayh is the template, sadly, not Biden v Feingold.  Until people like Feingold are winning statewide office routinely, they're not going to get the big ten cabinet appointments.  And in the meantime, there are some much more realistic fights that are going to be necessary: NSA was not completely reassuring, and CIA sounds like it might be awful.  The Biden wing, imperfect though it is, could actually use our help against the Bayh wing.  I think that has a more real impact than trying to push a name suggested by Winona LaDuke.

[ Parent ]
Could you define "Movement Progressive"? (4.00 / 4)
Do you mean someone who came up through one of the many progressive movements (It doesn't seem to me that there is 1 progressive movement, but multiple: environmental, womens, civil rights, labor, etc), someone who is currently involved in one of those movements, or what exactly?

Is Patrick Gaspard(Named Director of the Office of Political Affairs), who previously served as Executive Vice President of Politics and Legislation for Local 1199 SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, political director for SEIU International, and National Field Director for America Coming Together, a movement progressive?

Is Phil Schiliro (Named Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs), who served as Chief of Staff to one of the most progressive voices in Congress, Representative Henry Waxman, a movement progressive?

Is Valerie Jarett (Named Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison), who was listed as one of In These Times "22 to Watch," a movement progressive?

Can someone who has worked within the party system be a movement progressive?

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak" -Paul Wellstone

Ask Chris Hayes, the Progressive Magazine, Bowers (4.00 / 2)
Ask them for starters - because that's what this diary starts out with.

I'd say, for instance, not appointing (or even considering!) a single anti-war voice when exit polls show most independent voters stuck with Obama because of his opposition to the war is the definition of - at least in the national security realm - not appointing a "movement progressive." I'd also say stocking my economic team exclusively with Rubinites is not appointing "movement progressives."

But what do I know. I'm just a self-promoting jerk.

[ Parent ]
How do you know who he's considering? (0.00 / 0)
Also, I'm sure Susan Rice will play a role. And, wasn't Jim Jones pretty against the Iraq war? And Holder is pretty progressive.

[ Parent ]
Well, I never called you that (4.00 / 2)
and have engaged you in a substantial manner so it seems as though "Ask Chris Hayes, Progressive Magazine, and Bowers" is a pretty weak response for someone who often refers to the concept of "Movement Progressive"

You also started with a link to In These Times, who recommended someone that Obama has appointed to his administration.

I agree with you on foreign policy and am actually quite disappointed on that front since Obama's foreign policy views are what led me to support him originally (along with his environmental views).

I guess my point is, he is appointing progressives, though they haven't been in the highest profile positions.  I also think we'll see a lot of other progressives appointed in domestic cabinet positions and agencies (Education, Labor, HUD, EPA, Interior, BIA, BLM) as well as in foreign policy under-secretary positions.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak" -Paul Wellstone

[ Parent ]
My take (4.00 / 2)
My take is he's appointed very few progressives, and to either low-level positions, or strictly political (as opposed to policy) positions. That's disappointing. It may not be reflective of the policies he will ultimately push (which I say explicitly in the diary) but it is disappointing.

What's amazing is that merely saying it's disappointing - and then asking what to do about it - is seen as a blasphemous attack on Obama, worthy of flaming.

Seriously - if we can't ask these questions, then what's the point of any of this?  

[ Parent ]
sdfd (0.00 / 0)
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27...  lots of spaces to fill. I'd say it might be better to wait until the entire cabinet is complete and then see who he appoints and then have your response. Seems more sensible. Just my thought though.

[ Parent ]
Disagree there (4.00 / 3)
You want to have influence before the die is cast. Maybe it's still hasty to draw conclusions yet, but certainly we want to try to exert what little influence we have over what picks are being made. Complaints from the left seem to have torpedoed Summers, for instance. Hopefully the same will happen with Brennan.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
ok (0.00 / 0)
Well, I agree with you on Brennan. He's the only wtf moment for me. Also, I'd like to see an RFK jr. type at EPA.

[ Parent ]
Not RFK Jr. (4.00 / 1)
I'd like to see a scientist at the EPA who actually understands science, not a jibbering crackpot who happens to make some nice sounding noises about the environtment.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Summers (4.00 / 2)
Summers was appointed a "senior White House adviser." Hardly "torpedoed."

[ Parent ]
Ya got me there (4.00 / 1)
I'd apparently repressed that one already.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Could you please (4.00 / 2)
get off your high horse and stop claiming that all who disagree with you, are saying that your attacks are 'blasphemous' and 'worthy of flaming'.  I haven't seen any comments here that fit that description.  People have disagreed with your opinions, but I haven't seen all that many calling for you to be burned at the stake.    

[ Parent ]
Personally, David (0.00 / 0)
As a black I take attacks on Obama far more personally than I would probably any other politician. I think this has to do with my own background growing up as a black American and how my parents often spoke of never trusting white people as they will always try to undermine you.

The brother hasn't even sat in the Oval office yet and he is already being harshly criticized. I just don't see this level of criticism with white politicians. This all goes back to the "you have to jump through five rings of fire because you are black" meme that I've always heard throughout life and people still won't be happy with you.

[ Parent ]
Where (0.00 / 0)
Where have I "harshly criticized" Obama?

[ Parent ]
If you don't see this level of criticism with white politicians... (3.00 / 4)
Then you must just be closing your eyes as the posts ripping on Reid or Pelosi here and elsewhere scroll by.  And Lieberman, yowza. Or maybe you just don't read many political blogs, I don't know.

Obama is getting criticized now because decisions are being made now.  Criticize now and there's a chance, however small, to influence the outcome.  Criticize after the deals are done and it's just so much ineffectual whining.

Besides, that's why the leaks are happening anyway, probably.  The Obama team is floating trial balloons.  The criticisms you decry are part of the feedback they're looking for, along with the buzz -- negative or positive -- that gets generated from the more establishment sources.

[ Parent ]
I agree that the majority of names (4.00 / 3)
appointed or leaked out so far have not been very progressive or have been appointed to lower profile positions and that is disappointing.

But why do we always need to be so hyperbolic ("why hasn't Obama appointed a single movement progressive?") all the time?

Progressive Magazine does the same thing:

Obama's OMB pick, Peter Orzag, is a Clintonite disciple of Robert Rubin.

Obama's AG pick, Eric Holder, is a Clintonite who represented Chiquita Bananas.


Joseph Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize-winner in economics and a critic of corporate globalization. He should be Treasury Secretary.

Senator Russ Feingold is a champion of civil liberties. He should be Attorney General.

Robert Greenstein is head of Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. He would make a much better OMB director.

These caricatures of Democratic leaders are ridiculous.  Each of the above names have their merits and flaws but it seems like the progressive movement, which I am a part of because we are much better at recognizing the complexity of the world, has decided that there is no room for nuance. All of a sudden Russ Feingold, (who Obama defended on Kos for voting for John Roberts) is the shining champion of civil rights while Eric Holder (who has repeatedly criticized torture and illegal wiretapping) is a Clintonian destroyer of Latin America.

"Never separate the life you live from the words you speak" -Paul Wellstone

[ Parent ]
Blasphemy (4.00 / 5)
Look, David, all along I was very, very optimistic about the election and very pessimistic about the aftermath.  I agree that Obama is a basically a centrist.  You point out the crucial difference between Obama and Reagan:  Reagan was the acknowledged leader of an independently-existing ideological movement that had been building since the 1950s at the think-tank level, and since 1964 in national politics.  There simply isn't a Goldwater-equivalent in Obama's politics, and without Goldwater Reagan is inconceivable.

But back to the matter at hand.  I personally think the comparisons to "autocratic third-world countries" and big posters of leaders is (a) frankly pretty superficial, and (b) exactly what right-wing zombies were saying about Obama all summer (remember the attempts to show that one of the Obama rally posters in Berlin was nazi-inspired because he was shown in profile?).

One of the main reasons I think it's superficial is that personality-based autocratic movements can also be highly ideological:  Castro and Chavez being the best two examples.  Even right-wing nuts like D'Aubuisson and Franco were movement-based.  So comparing Obama's visuals to these guys' says not very much about whether Obama is ideologically-grounded.

My preference is to analyze this systematically.  I think we need to approach politics in a de-personalized way.  I understand that you're not suggesting an "I hate Obama rarrrrhhh!" movement.  But I think we need to look at the intrinsic limitations fixed into place by established power, and think about how to shake up those limitations.

That's a structural analysis, not a personal one.  My sliver of hope, my reason for preferring Obama to Hillary all along, was that Obama's campaign organization could turn on DC as a whole if people in that organization reach that realization.  I don't think they will, since folks really did commit themselves emotionally to Obama as a person.  He's a leader, and people follow him.  But they might.  And if they do, they could raise holy Hell in DC and throughout our country, could scare the crap out of established power (including President Obama) and could compel those with power to start handing large chunks of it over to us in order to save their own hides.

[ Parent ]
You guys crack me up! (1.33 / 3)
You really thought Obama was a "community organizer."  He registered people to vote for him.  They say he was a "civil rights lawyer." Please name the individual cases he filed.  The shameful thing is that most of the so-called left who fell for him did so because he was black.  They either suffered from white guilt, or they thought that because he was black, he was naturally progressive.  Worst, they liked him because he was the "right kind" of black man (not Sharpton, not Keyes).  Well, it's time to tighten up and live with your choice.  He's not all that bad.  He's just another Democrat.  What else did you expect?

PS: You just found out that criticizing Obama causes people to demonize the critic? During most of the Democratic primaries, people who critiqued him were called racists or just divisive.  The same thing happened with McCain/Palin.  The media have pretty much decided that Obama critics will receive a smack-down. That's ok. I will continue running my mouth! And please, don't call me a racist -- or you will have some explaining to do....


You can't be serious (4.00 / 1)
Never have I heard someone suggest that Obama organized around Bush hatred.  Obama certainly was critical of Bush and his administration at times, but his overall message was hopeful in promising change.  Never did I hear hate.  And the people that Obama appealed to were not filled with hate.  Anyone who attended an Obama rally or spent time at an Obama campaign office can attest to that.

Far too often I see in the media where progressives are portrayed as hateful.  Bloggers are labled as angry, liberals are out for revenge, and democrats are bitter.  It's not my experience at all.  Some of the most positive, open-minded and forward thinking people that I know proudly call themselves progressives or liberals.  

The notion that Obama could swallow up a huge part of the progressive infrastructure and organize it around himself by becoming a celebrity and tapping into our hatred is absurd.  Such a suggestion short-changes Obama's accomplishments and insults everyone involved in the progressive movement.  

Wow (4.00 / 2)
I guess you didn't watch his television ads or listen to his speeches. Because if you did, you would have noticed that they were chock full of how he wasn't George Bush.

Again - let's be clear. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's brilliant and appropriate. But to say that Barack Obama didn't try to harness antipathy to George Bush - and that his success in harnessing it had nothing to do with his win - is so utterly silly I really can't believe someone would write it.

[ Parent ]
Show me the hate (4.00 / 1)
There's a world of difference in contrasting and comparing one's record, and suggesting that he organized around hatred.  The very reason so many were drawn to Obama was his position nature, his hopeful message, and his willingness to work in a bipartisan way.  It was this positive and hopeful message that was cited by Colin Powell when he endorsed Obama.  It was this same message that appealed to so many who were sick of the infighting in Washington, and it was this message of hope that drew 200,000 in Berlin.

Yes, Obama used the policies of Bush to show that McCain was offering more of the same.  Obama used Bush policies to show that his policies were different.  But hatred?  I don't think so.    

[ Parent ]
Semantics (0.00 / 0)
Sorry, but organizing around antipathy to Bush, and organizing around hatred for Bush are essentially the same thing.

Again, no value judgment there at all. But you are really splitting hairs.

[ Parent ]
antipathy & hatred (4.00 / 2)
Antipathy and hatred are words from your argument, not mine.  You're splitting your own hairs.

It seems like only yesterday that on this very site there were some who were claiming that Obama wasn't attacking Bush enough.  There were suggestions that Obama was weak because he wouldn't get in the mud and sling slime at McCain and Palin.  And now you have him organizing his entire campaign around hatred.  Gimme a break.

[ Parent ]
Tone deafness (0.00 / 0)
completely agree, there is a definite tone deafness to FPers here. it was just a month ago that Matt was comparing obama to dukakis (and made a video comparison of it, shame on you Matt for that, you all lost all credibly after that) for allegedly taking the high road and not going totally in the mud. his ads on bush were called easy cake and weak by FPers here including david. However David is going to make up whatever justifies his dislike for obama (which was apparent during the primaries and GE) so this is not surprising.

[ Parent ]
UPDATE: (4.00 / 3)
In all seriousness, you would better serve the community here if you responded to the variously motivated criticisms leveled at you by replying to specific posts rather than lumping what you see as personal attacks together and dismissing them categorically.  

Also, kindly ditch the "negative response = personal insecurity" schtick as it borders on sanctimony, an effect - in all seriousness - I'm sure you don't intend.  

I agree with you, but I made the observation that Obama wouldn't listen to the left during the primary (4.00 / 3)
And of course I was roundly attacked by most of the Obama partisans here and elsewhere.

It is potentially dangerous to organize a social movement around a person and not around a set of principles.  Potentially very dangerous.  You place your faith in Obama's personal values...And to some extent I agree with you.  I think he is a good person with an adherence to Democratic values.  

But you keep saying don't blame Obama for doing this....Why not? It was completely calculated on his part and his campaign's part.  As an example....The early ads in the primary was designed to promote him....him alone, surrounded by empty space, him in the middle of massive adoring crowds.  They were meant to make him above everyone, someone who had to be adored, someone more than a politician but more than that....and more than a celebrity. I once did a shot by shot analysis on how the shots mimic some famous film propaganda vocabulary.  The still art vocabulary is in the same place....it seems to me someone must have known, if not the artist himself who did those famous portraits of his face, of the genesis of that vocabulary in the European political art of the 30's...not the nice kind.

David you are seeing the danger here....the loyalty to a person that could trump loyalty to principles or could change how people view what had previously been dearly felt principles.

It was always clear to me he was pretty centrist in his political instincts.And that it was clear he was never going to do what the left wanted unless it was what he wanted.  His 2005 Daily Kos diary made that very clear to me.

Because I was never illusioned, I can't be disillusioned. My hopes haven't been dashed because I had no hopes...At this point I actually prefer to think about what positive signs there are.  The most positive I think is that the difficulties of the times DEMAND big solutions.  I think circumstances and yes his political sensibilities are pushing him to do big things....and on the principles I think are more progressive than less because pragmatically they are the only things that will work.

So oddly for me and for this moment it's okay.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

You don't get it still (3.00 / 4)
It's not what you said, but the snide, insulting egotistical way you said it... and still say things.   Your writing comes off incredibly condescending a good lot of the time... and that pisses people off.

[ Parent ]
Personally (0.00 / 0)
nothing warms and delights my mind and soul in a manner in any way remotely comparable to digressive, long-winded, supercilious, pompous bloviating and pendantic lecturing towards one's obvious inferiors, most especially when employed to illustrate some minor and unexceptional precept that might be just as easily addressed by a lesser writer in more Hemingway-esque verbiage.  

Notwithstanding, I do my level best to be indulgent of other's styles, even where their simple-minded directness and unimaginative clarity annoys me to distraction, and I would find myself quite embarrassed to confess publically that I was, to use a vulgar phrase - "pissed off" - merely by a person's style.

[ Parent ]
however backhanded it was, thank you for the defense (0.00 / 0)
I never did like Hemingway though one bit ....neither his style, his sexism or his antisemitism.  But I get your point.

But having made critical comments about Obama during the primary process in other blogs...in different styles...I do think it's the content most of the time that riles people up.

But I do thank you anyway...no matter the form it's in.

As I said I am hopeful he will do things much more progressively than many think.  I think what some people underestimate, at least that's my hope, is that lots of the old Clintonites he's appointing; they were once more progressive in their hearts and their core values.  The 90's was the height of right wing reaction and it was felt by many that the only way to get elected and to govern was to give in to the conservative zeitgeist.  The times are different and the zeitgeist is changing...so I am willing to be patient. Because I have faith both in Barack Obama and that these folks he's appointing are Democrats for a good reason.  And while pragmatism in 90's meant to many a rightward tilt....the pragmatic policy choices now are on the left.  And Barack Obama is a pragmatist.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

[ Parent ]
Not meant to be backhanded (0.00 / 0)
I didn't find your post irritating.

We all come off in ways we don't intend sometimes.  I can be an arrogant prick on paper, though I'm saintly in realtime.

There's plenty to read on the internet.  I have no idea why anyone would make themselves mad by reading something they know will irritate them.  I don't read Ann Coulter.  I don't read posts in which people use made up words like "Rethuglican" - I just stop reading and go onto the next one.  Sometimes, once a debate has begun with a particular poster, I'll get a little ticked off, but that's pretty childish.  It's the internet: it's full of stupid and people who don't agree with me, and I can't change it by getting mad.

I think it's pretty nasty and small for someone to call you condescending and for three posters to recommend the post. If they don't like you, they don't have to read you.  End of story.

[ Parent ]
you insult me frequently (0.00 / 0)
you must think I have a wear armor.  I don't.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

[ Parent ]
I want to fix the grammar on my first comment (0.00 / 0)
Do you really think I have the hide of an armadillo or I wear armor? ....I don't.  If your intention was to hurt ...well you should know you succeeded.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

[ Parent ]
The truth hurts sometimes.... (0.00 / 0)
We all face it... believe me, I know there is some nasty honest criticism of myself as well....

 Do I get a twisted pleasure out of hurting someones feelings... no.   But maybe you will take it into consideration.... its something I think needed to be said.  

Learn from it... and never forget... no reason to let some asshole on the internet actually cause you to have your feelings hurt.  Perhaps, in an idea of self criticism, I need to learn to state criticism of others a bit more constructively, rather than brutally honest when I'm peeved.  

[ Parent ]
EXCELLENT (4.00 / 4)
I'd say I agree 110% if I didn't deplore that phrase so thoroughly.

You're spot-on. I love Obama, I believe in him, I donated time and money to his campaign -- but you're absolutely right. He's progressive, and the center of a movement, but he isn't a movement progressive. And that's okay!

"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." -- Mark Twain

You know what (4.00 / 1)
I just reread this post and my google reader popped up a new post from TalkLeft from one of the WORST BLOGGERS EVER and I realized that the two of you are like two peas in a pod.  It's no wonder that BTD considers you a "friend."

Stop the complaining until he is President and has actually done something policy wise that is far from progressive.

So, your thesis (4.00 / 4)
is that the right was correct when it called the Obama movement an autocratic cult of personality.  Or am I missing something?

I find it a little insulting (4.00 / 3)
that someone who supported Obama did so solely because of him.  It had nothing to do with his policies and positions, but only because he was a dynamic speaker.  I am not saying that there aren't some out there that are completely idolizing him, but do they really make up all of his corp supporters?  I am also quite tired of the cry that one cannot criticize Obama without being called  some bad name.  

Not everyone who supported Obama is a lamb following the shepherd.  Some of us actually took the time to read his positions and found that we agreed with a lot of them.  If you feel the need to criticize, have at it.  Is it possible for one to do that while not making it sound like he just destroyed human civilization?  Honestly, David you have been one of the worst offenders of both.  You make Obama sound like Hitler and then you get so defensive towards those that question your criticism, you insult their intelligence by calling them blind sheep.        

I wouldn't say a majority (0.00 / 0)
But I think there are a lot more than you think...   Not the people here... but the blogs on Mybarackobama.com.. wow... the kool-aid there was too much for me and I've been a big support since his 2004 Primary.

[ Parent ]
Please read what you are commenting on (4.00 / 1)
If you read what you are commenting on, you would have read this:

So now, because of this, you have a large majority (though not the whole) of his 10 million-person email list overarchingly organized around the celebrity Barack Obama - not really around issues (though certainly people can like Obama and support specific issues).

As I have said countless times before, commenters should try to read the diary they are commenting on before, ya know, commenting.

[ Parent ]
Now that really pisses me off (3.00 / 4)
I fucking read the post. I fucking read the post.  I FUCKING READ THE POST.  Maybe you didn't articulate your points well enough or maybe I am missing something, but I fucking read the post.  What does that mean 'not really around issues'?  What I am understanding is that I, in supporting Obama, am more interested in his charisma than I am his policies.  I obviously disagree.  His charisma does appeal to me, but his policies are what I really like about him.  

You keep crying about how people won't let you criticize Obama.  Maybe it's not the criticism in itself, maybe it's the way you present your criticism.  Instead of calling your critics stupid fucking sheep, you should address their criticisms of you in a substantive way.  Instead of saying 'read the post, before you comment on it', maybe you should think about how to word your post differently.  I read your post and I wrote my opinion of it.  If you think I missed your point, maybe it has more to do with your writing than it does my reading.    

[ Parent ]
What should we do? How about not whining (4.00 / 2)
What should we do Sirota? You don't seem to offer any solutions other than complaining. I know the election is over, but the constant whining is annoying.  


So hilarious (4.00 / 1)
So before the election, pressuring a candidate was "risking throwing the election to the Republicans." After the election, it's "whining."

Umm...at what point are we allowed to actually pressure?

If it's not allowed before an election, and not allowed after the election, when is it allowed?

I guess never.

[ Parent ]
You're not putting any pressure on Obama (4.00 / 1)
You're still stuck complaining about him.  Stop complaining and start doing.

[ Parent ]
The only thing one ever does on a blog (0.00 / 0)
Call Obama a coward.  

[ Parent ]
Hmm (0.00 / 0)
Some fair constructive criticism in there and some good points.   I much prefer these articles to the "Obama's not appointing progressives... he's evil, he's bush like, he sucks" comments.  

My opinion is that we need to push to get progressives in the cabinet and in important positions.  It may not happen right now, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep pushing... The other side right now is simply better organized... We worried about the election... they worried about themselves (and the election) and are better positioned.  But I think the better we organize (and as a whole, the progressive movement is NOT well organized.  A lot of good meaning people, but more like little fiefdoms than an organization.  We are getting there, but I think we are 2-4 years away from true Organization... just my opinion though) the more influence we will be able to take.

What I take issue with (and by no means do I think you in your post election diaries nor Chris Bowers are doing this) is the blind anger and hatred by some progressives because we haven't yet achieved getting a progressive in the Cabinet (although we did help sink Summers) and are talking about Obama nearly as bad as we have cursed out Bush... Its as bad as the ones getting blindly angry with you for posts like this.  

And just FTR... I applaud you... I was critical of you during the Election... not what you said, but the TONE in which you said it...   Since a few weeks before election day, that tone changed and your posts have been fantastic.   The tone you are taking in discussing these important issues is AWESOME.  Keep up the good work.

Thanks (0.00 / 0)
I appreciate this. This is actually constructive.

One note - Summers was named a "senior White House adviser."

[ Parent ]
You're Welcome (0.00 / 0)
Obama was going to seek his advice anyway... as he seeks the advice of MANY different viewpoints....  In this case, Summers just gets paid for it.  Frankly, I'd rather him not be involved at all, but better advisor than Secretary, IMHO.    

I agree we need to keep pushing to get progressives into the administration.  But ultimately, I am reserving my judgement of things until I actually see what he does with it.    Despite other's opinions on this, I think we will see him govern Center left... I just think it won't be in the first year.    As I said, I see a lot of Sun Tsu and Machiavellian tendancies in Obama.... I wonder if this is a part of the plan to help ease his transition and a trend to the left as time goes by.  

I could be wrong of course... but I will withhold judgement, while working to push for Progressive Voices.

[ Parent ]
celebrity, schmelebrity (4.00 / 1)
Reagan and especially Bush owed the right, especially the evangelicals. Big time. So much so that the right owned Bush. He had to keep them happy at all times or forsake all hopes of reelection. Obama does not owe the left in this way. We may have played a role in integrating and organizing his campaign, but we are not the ones who put him over the top at the polls.  

Damn George Bush! Damn everyone that won't damn George Bush! Damn every one that won't put lights in his window and sit up all night damning George Bush!

You've written this post before. (4.00 / 1)
   I'm tired of agreeing with it.  Obama is not a celebrity.  Thanks, though, for giving us retread McCain campaign talking points.

John McCain lets lobbyists shape his economic policy

Re: Celebrity (4.00 / 2)
I think the use of the word "celebrity" is unnecessarily provocative.  But the underlying argument that Obama is building a "party of one" is basically true...and something that we need to address.

Obama has been spared a lot of comparisons to Bill Clinton because he went head to head with the Clintons in the primaries, but it is remarkable how similar the two are.

If you loved Bill Clinton then get ready to be very pleased with Obama.  But if you were disappointed in Bill Clinton, with the unfulfilled promise, with the triangulation, with the lack of party-building, etc., then get ready for a repeat performance.

I can't say that I am disappointed with Obama, because I never bought into the hype.  Don't get me wrong, I am extremely thankful that Senator Nutcase and Governor Wingnut didn't win.  But Obama has always struck me as a DLCesque politician...albeit one who was smart enough to distance himself from the actual DLC and losers like Al From.

I thought Bill was great (4.00 / 1)
And i've been happy with just about everything obama has done since hillary conceded

[ Parent ]
I know many didn't take him seriously ,,, (4.00 / 2)
But didn't Chomsky say it many times that Obama is a Centrist Democrat, and to vote for him as the "lesser of two evils" is fine, but to expect him to morph into a progressive and make serious changes to the way the establishment functions (i.e. govern like a progressive) is "delusional".  The guy said it from 2007, all the way up to the election.  

And here we are.

David, (0.00 / 0)
I am very curious to know what you think about Chomsky's interviews, or otherwise expressed views, regarding Obama. Thanks.

[ Parent ]
we have a right to work the refs n/t (4.00 / 1)

I am not surprised that he acts like a right centrist.  I am surprised that he has appointed NO progressives.

Also, maintaining Joe Lieberman is something I don't understand even from a centrist perspective.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
This is a very thoughtful Post (4.00 / 1)
But a truly thoughtful observer of history, and an exceptional listener, would have predicted this months.... maybe even a year ago.

I'm pretty sure David himself predicted this a year ago (0.00 / 0)
He's just still talking about it for some reason.

[ Parent ]
My guess it was (0.00 / 0)
while david was still supporting Edwards.

[ Parent ]
David Sirota has a point (4.00 / 8)
This post seems to have got everyone all het up.  But, where were all of you earlier today, when Sirota made a fine issue-related post in regard to Health Care?  The silence was deafening.

All this back-and-forth meta-shit is worthless.  And frankly, it matters not one stinking bit whether another hundred and whatever votes are found for Al Franken in Minnesota or Jim Martin wins his runoff because even if you get to 60 Dems in the Senate nothing, whatever, stops one of them from selling us back out again.

Nothing but the determined pressure from the people, which isn't there yet.  And we're not going to get there by navel-gazing diaries, endless obsessions about whether Obama will wind up with 355, 361 or 372 electoral votes, whose poll was the best, what Sarah Palin's plans are, or, even who's in the cabinet.

There now needs to be organization around something other than the election.  That's something Barack Obama once knew and still knows.  It was always going to be this way.  I had little faith in Barack Obama the god, in Barack Obama the healer, the man who would lead us to the promised land.  At best he can be the agent of a determined people.  And I always had more hope that events would push us and him in this direction than that Obama himself would.

And now it's happening.  Folks, yesterday's New York Times indicated that the big health insurers are already conceding there can be universal health care (along the Clinton model).  Their proposal isn't perfect or even necessarily any good.  It's one benefit is that it does let us start the drive from midfield instead of backed up against our own goal.  And nobody here seems to have noticed (except David and a few old coots like me).  We were all too busy reading the tea leaves of cabinet appointments or the meaning of individual ballots in the Franken recount.  

Lets TALK about the fight for health care, the fight to keep Wall Street from continuing to run roughshod over the economy they wrecked, or how to undo Prop 8, how to keep pressure on to get out of Iraq, how to fix the auto industry.  Let's talk, argue and disagree about these things, let's strategize about issues instead of fighting over what is or isn't in Barack Obama's heart, which frankly, none of us knows for sure.

Leave that stuff for now to those who have a role to play.  The election's over.  Now we need to take advantage of it, as best as we can.  The point is neither to attack Obama, nor to defend Obama but to organize pressure for the things we want from Obama to counter the pressure we can be sure he's getting from the other side.

It's not about how we feel.  Hell yeah, go read my posts, you'll see me a couple of days ago as pissed about Joe Lieberman and what Obama meant by it as anyone was.  But most of us got over that.  I know I did.  At the end of the day the battle is what it was.  

But our participation in it has to change.  It's harder now.  The election was the easy part.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

Take Your Own Advice (4.00 / 5)
This has to be the 200th post in a row from you debating "the reality we face."  It's old, its counterproductive, and it's extremely boring.

If you have a name you think will help Obama accomplish a more progressive agenda, float that name, don't just link to some article with a big long list of people.  Organize around somebody, an actual person with a resume and policy agenda, not around some vague notion of "Obama must listen to the movement."  

You're right, Obama isn't a "movement progressive" (not that he really campaigned as one).  But he's been open to the tools of the grassroots, so if there's a progressive you like for a job that needs to be filled (and Obama has yet to actually make any appointments) then start using those tools to make some noise.  

And please please PLEASE stop arguing that people absolutely hating your commentary proves you're right.  It doesn't.  Sometimes the stuff you write is just bad.  

2nd Term? (0.00 / 1)
Change is now officially out as the campaign theme.  What will he run on?  

change is out no matter what happens or who he appoints (0.00 / 0)
You don't run for reelection on "change," that's self-defeating.

[ Parent ]
possible theme (3.20 / 5)
then how about "soft-corporatism" or "compassionate corporatism"?

[ Parent ]
I would not fret too much (4.00 / 1)
Based on how I saw him run the campaign, I think we will see policy driven by the Oval Office. He staffed his campaign organization with a diverse group of people who had only one mission: To make it work. He was clearly the candidate. It was his image that was everywhere. He hand-wrote his major speeches (his announcement, Super Tuesday, the Convention, etc), and it was his agenda that he put forward. How much of David Axlerod did we see compared to James Carville in 1992 or Lee Atwater in 1988?

A lot of the staff and cabinet have been around the block, but I suspect we will see an Oval Office stronger than even the Bush White House. The difference is that Obama's mind is far more engaged and based on what I saw on the 60 Minutes interview, knows exactly what he wants to do.  

platitudes (2.00 / 2)
sorry, but your comment is full of the same kinds of Replicrat platitudes and changiness rhetoric that while evidently effective in a campaign, retains little substance in governance.  "Driven," "Diverse," "Work," "Agenda," "Stronger," "Engaged."  Try instead defining the "it" in "making it work."  I would venture, that had many people realized that "it" meant a right-centrist cabinet and the predictable policies that will follow, their level of enthusiasm might have subsided a bit.

[ Parent ]
That is assuming (0.00 / 0)
That the cabinet will be driving policy. It won't.

[ Parent ]
it's not, but if that were true (0.00 / 0)
then why wouldn't he appoint at least a few progressive cabinet members?  they're not driving policy anyway, right?  so why not throw a bone to the 1/3 of his supporters (or whatever) who care about issues?

[ Parent ]
I care about the end results (0.00 / 0)
Not the names on the doors.

[ Parent ]
lucky for you then (1.00 / 4)
you might get your benevolent corporate utopia just yet.

[ Parent ]
There's no need to insult (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
The two are not separable. (4.00 / 4)
If you put apples in a pie instead of cherries, you get apple pie. If you build a cabinet out of center right people, you are going to get a center right administration.

Unless somehow the laws of nature and history have been suspended since November 4. If so, I missed it.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Sirota is Right (4.00 / 4)
I think this thread exposes a fault line between liberals  (by which I mean well-meaning wonks and big-hearted types with no coherent analysis of power)and movement-minded populists that agree with Obama when he says that change will come from the bottom up.

There never would've been a New Deal without the unrest and working class militancy of that period. New Deal legislation was a response to the social circumstances of the 1930s (and a populist challenge from Huey Long), not something that sprung out of the beautiful minds that staffed the Roosevelt administration.

Similarly, there never would've been a Voting Rights Act if it weren't for a civil rights movement that was willing to call out LBJ and make a scene at the 1964 convention in A.C.

The point isn't that Obama is a sell-out. The point is that Obama can't be a substitute for the disgruntled multitude that ought to be clamoring for health care, jobs, good schools, vacation time, safe roads and bridges, etc.  

Who Do You Want to See In The Cabinet (4.00 / 1)
That would be something we would be interested in learning.

Also, I checked out Reagan's first cabinet and there were virtually no movement conservatives in it other than James Watt.  Most were people like Caspar Weinberger, Al Haig, Jim Baker, etc who had served in other positions in previous administrations.  Successful cabinets tend to have a lot of govt professionals and technocrats from the party in power because they can actually move your agenda.  In the end, that is what President's want.

It's linked in the first paragraph of the post (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
I Looked At The List (0.00 / 0)
and there are only 3 people on it I would seriously consider for cabinet positions - Dave Bonier, who would be great at Labor, Valerie Jarrett and Earl Blumenauer.

The list "jumps the shark" with Jim McDermott as Secy of State.  I actually know Dr. McDermott from my days on the Hill, like him and think he is a great "conscience of the party."  

However, I also watched him up close and personal during health reform in 1994 as he insisted on single payer or nothing which forced the Ways and Means Democrats to negotiate with more conservative Dems in order to get the votes for a bill.  He could have gotten so many consessions in that bill as the Dems desparately wanted his vote but he held firm on principal which is admirable.  Negotiating is not McDermott's strength but that what you need as Secy of State.  Dr. McDermott is completely unsuited to being a negotiator - it is not in his nature.

[ Parent ]
Don't cry for me, Argentina (0.00 / 0)
Maybe Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber will do Obama's musical 8 years from now.

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." - Mark Twain

There certainly is a cult of personality around Obama. (0.00 / 0)
I'm personally very excited about his election.  But, I expected much better in the downticket races/propositions (in CA).  I think that many people (young people, for instance--I teach college and talked about the election with my students quite a bit in the weeks leading up to it) went to the polls to vote for Obama and didn't focus as much as they should have on other candidates/issues on the ballot.  This isn't Obama's fault, of course; he can't help it that he's so inspirational.  But we need to get people to realize that there's more to Change We Can Believe In than simply getting rid of King George.

That said, I'm still savoring victory.  Still fired up and ready to go. And I feel pretty good that the NSA-types who may read this post will find me proud of my country.

I disagree, though I also want to see a movement progressive, or 3 (0.00 / 0)
I don't see a path of least resistance, I see pragmatism.  He plans to hear from all quarters, and how better to get the best version of the opposing view than to employ it?  Doesn't mean he cedes his authority to set the rules and agenda.  

I do trust him, hope he lets me retain that trust.  Obama gave a comprehensive response to our anger over the Court back in September 05.  I still wanted a filibuster after reading it, but it was a respectful, intelligent response.    

I've never expected Obama to give me all that I see as necessary, but I trust he'll get closer than anyone else would have.  What he lacks in intensity he compensates for in efficacy.  I hope I'm right about that, but all I've read and heard so far says so.  We'll see if he has equal confidence in appointing people like Waxman.  But the Waxman connection is a good sign.

He's outstandingly talented, so naturally the celebrity thing is going on.  But I don't see a mere tabloid entity seducing us with our favorite issues.  Community organizers are movement progressives.  

Name the last president to walk a picket line. (0.00 / 0)

This post... (0.00 / 0)
...kinda corners the market on hyperbole, no? Why even bother? Yes, Barack Obama seized his moment, but his celebrity was based on how eloquently he sold the issues. Remember when the Clinton's tried to criticize him for giving good speeches?!? Those speeches were considered good because they contained substance, no? Frankly, I'm suspicious about nearly every one of Obama's appointments thus far, but what makes this year's political process unlike any other is that now that so many folks have gotten involved, they're actually following this transition process every step of the way. That's huge! What "we" do now is keep making noise while organizing, because it seems to me that more people are listening (and I mean, to progressives even) than ever before.

"This ain't for the underground. This here is for the sun." -Saul Williams

Change is coming to America! (0.00 / 0)
Yeah, right. David is correct when he says Obama swallowed the left. I often vote Democratic, but this was the first time I volunteered for a Dem (Obama). If we can't even get Obama to support Lieberman losing the chair of a committee, what "change" could we possibly hope for? If this continues, I will vote Green next time. I voted for Obama the community organizer, not the Obama who compares himself to Lincoln. Too much influence by that rotten book by Goodwin.  

I'm a bit torn on this (4.00 / 2)
I've been very happy with Obama from a policy standpoint since his election.  He seems as committed to health care, cap and trade/alternative energy, ending torture, and closing Guantanamo as he was before the election.  However, with the exception of Daschle, Holder (somewhat, I don't like his enthusiasm for the drug war though) and Emanuel (yes, I liked this pick), I've been underwhelmed on the cabinet choices, especially on foreign policy.  My biggest reason for supporting Obama was "changing the mindset that got us into the Iraq War" (Obama's words), and he seems to be filling his cabinet with people that shared that misguided mindset.  Now, maybe the Iraq debacle has chastened such hawkish views.  However, why is there no room in the cabinet for Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Tony Lake, or Zbigniew Brzezinski, anti-war foreign policy thinkers who surrounded Obama in the primaries?  Why Jim Jones as NSA and not Power?  Why torture apologist John Brennan as director of national intelligence?

So while I'm excited that Obama seems to be going for it on policy, foreign policy seems to be being staffed by a bunch of people who got it all wrong over the past few years.

JFK (0.00 / 0)
Obama's foreign policy picks are also reminiscent of JFK, who filled his cabinet with "serious people" like Dean Rusk and Robert McNamara, who brought us the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam.

I didn't like Obama, didn't vote for him... (0.00 / 0)
But, as a progressive, I'm happy with his pragmatic selections so far. Some progressives aren't cult followers, who are addicted to the kewl-aide or the "politics of personality," and can actually use critical thinking. Attacking Sirota is a pointless waste of time, and yes, he's an opportunist; but so is Barack Obama. How do you think he made it to the White House?

The forces of moderation are taking effect, and I'm glad of it. You voted for him as a 'uniter' didn't you? We didn't get that with Bush; his ideologues ran the entire show for 8 years from the extreme right. If Obama does the same thing Bush did, at the opposite end of the spectrum, then you can expect to see the end of the Democratic Party in about 8 years time, much like you're seeing with the Republican Party right now.

So, kewl it, lefties. You'll have a President who will increase Democratic Party voters if he operates as a pragmatic president from the center.  

That makes no sense whatsoever. (0.00 / 0)
First off, voting is pretty much an entry-level requirement for being taken seriously as a human being. If you're too arrogant to vote, who cares what you have to say about anything?

Secondly, you are a "progressive" who is glad to see "the forces of moderation taking effect." A "progressive" who believes that implementing liberal policy will destroy the Democrtatic Party.

Sorry, but I smell a glibertarian. I noticed you all quit self-identifying as Republicans a while back, but this doesn't mean you get to call yourselves progressive.  

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Most of us are missing Sirota's point.... (4.00 / 1)
why hasn't Obama appointed a single movement progressive

This is Sirota's point. None of Obama's appointees would fight for what we call progressive values, or progressive empowerment. None of them would dare say they are part of the progressive movement. None of them would openly align themselves with MoveOn or ACLU.

They would all run from the title, and the espouse clean energy as a centrist position while it has taken then energy of the left wing of the country to get that discussion ramped up to the point that Gore could blast into the mainstream.

We have a team of electoral rivals, but not a team of ideological rivals. And as Sirota points out the media feeds the rival meme. They're all about how Clinton is a bold nomination while we all knew and even Clinton and Obama admit, they're inches apart on ideology.  

We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join MoveOn.org and fight for progressive change.  

Inaugural Parade: STOP GOVERNMENT SPYING (4.00 / 1)
I'm bringing a huge banner, will be setting up in front of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, NW corner of 9th and Pennsylvania.

Presuming the same rules as applied cat the Bush inaugurals are in effect, won't be allowed poles, so it'll take lots of hands to keep it visible. Arrive very early so we can stake out the front row.

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