I am going to take a much-needed break for this holiday weekend: no posting from now until either Sunday night or Monday morning. With the election season and the early Iowa caucuses last year, there has not been a real break since last Thanksgiving. I won't even bring my computer to New York City, where I will be spending the next few days with my family.
Before I go, here are three basic principles for dealing with the new administration:
Can't stop pushing from the left: I recently heard an interesting anecdote about the 1993 budget fight. While it is probably the most progressive piece of sizable legislation to pass into law in two decades, it was a grueling fight--passing both branches of Congress by a single vote--and it still could have been better. At the signing ceremony, President Clinton found then Representative Bernie Sanders, and told Sanders that he, Sanders, should have made a much bigger public display of how he, Clinton, wasn't giving enough to liberals in the new budget. Such a public display would have provided Clinton more room to maneuver on the left.
The moral of the story is that if no one is criticizing a Democratic administration from the left, then there is no rationale or political space for that Democratic administration to operate on the left. Such criticism is thus even useful to, and desired by, a Democratic administration. If the left stays quiet, it will not be relevant.
Open lines of communication: Now, even with the first point in mind, criticism must take place with open lines of communication. There need to be regular access points for the progressive left within the administration. Possibilities include press credentials, blogger conference call gaggles, White House staff that both understand and have roots in the online progressive community, and legislation needs to be posted online. Preferably, all of this will happen to varying degrees. If we can't talk to each other, than we are going to stop understanding each other, and then each side is just going to think the other groups are a bunch of idiots.
Carrots and Sticks: Discussion of the new administration can never be one-sided. Positive developments, of which there will be many, need to be focused on in addition to the criticisms. While I don't anticipate this being a big problem for me, as I was sometimes happy with the Clinton administration eight years ago, it will still be important to remember. This is a tremendous opportunity to make real accomplishments, and I would like to work to pass some legislation that I find personally important. However, in order for the praise and the criticism to remain valuable, it can never be all praise nor all criticism. If it were one-sided, it just wouldn't work.
Now, I am off for a 100-hour vacation. Please enjoy your holiday.