Mandate Watch: Were Democrats Elected to Attack "The Left?" Part II

by: David Sirota

Sun Dec 07, 2008 at 18:15

A few weeks ago a Senate Democratic aide and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) kicked off a campaign to publicly berate "the left" in the wake of the 2008 election. Now, here's a rant-ish "Message to Obama's Progressive Critics" from top Obama aide Steve Hildebrand today demanding the Dirty Fucking Hippies of "the left" STFU:

This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making. Some believe the appointments generally aren't progressive enough...The problems I mentioned above and the many I didn't, suggest that our President surround himself with the most qualified people to address these challenges. After all, he was elected to be the President of all the people - not just those on the left. (emphasis added)

First thing's first: I absolutely agree with Hildebrand that you can't draw concrete conclusions about Obama based only on his personnel decisions - and I've written that repeatedly (and I've also said that most of Obama's policy declarations have been pretty progressive). However, Hildebrand implying that those personnel decisions really don't matter at all is straight up silly. It supposes that all the enormous egos that populate a White House are just mindless functionaries, and that even though those egos are heading major federal departments or are key advisers, they have no hand in making policy and/or their advice to a president makes absolutely no impact. Please - let's get real.

But far more important than that is Hildebrand firing up the whaaaaaaaambulance to whine and cry and moan about "the left." Really, what is with top Democrats explicitly attacking "the left wing of the Democratic Party" in Fox News-style talking points? Why is every substantive, non-partisan, non-ideological question of pragmatism from progressives almost automatically portrayed as some sort of super-Trotsky-ite, ideological and wholly inappropriate demand for Obama to be a president "just for those on the left?" Can anyone even ask a non-ideological question of Obama without being attacked as some sort of raving left-wing lunatic?  

David Sirota :: Mandate Watch: Were Democrats Elected to Attack "The Left?" Part II
Most progressives questioning Obama have done so rather gently, and have done so on the pragmatic substance. For instance, people wondering about the appointment of Larry Summers to a top economic position in the White House have wondered whether it's such a good idea to empower an ideological free market fundamentalist (pro-free trade, pro-deregulation) whose policies as Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary played a major role in creating the economic crisis. That is, most have wondered why Obama thinks that kind of ideologue is "the most qualified person" to deal with our economic situation, rather than, say, a pragmatist like James Galbraith or Joseph Stiglitz who has been right all along.

Same thing for progressives concerned about the Iraq War. They have wondered whether the ideologues who got us into the war - who got us into the war on wholly ideological and non-pragmatic grounds - are really "the most qualified people" to get us out of that war. They believe that perhaps the pragmatists who opposed the war on the basis of a factual analysis of intelligence might be better suited to the task.

Are such questions really the inappropriate queries of a bunch of radical revolutionaries from "the left?" Or are the real fringe radicals - the real ideologues - those who say that we should all STFU and bow down to the Dear Leader? I think the latter, not the former - and I think Democrats (and especially the Obama team) who rightly protested Republican efforts to tar and feather Obama as a "socialist" should know better than to echo such silly, fact-free talking points.

The worst part of Hildebrand's piece is this:

As a liberal member of our Party, I hope and expect our new President to address those issues that will benefit the vast majority of Americans first and foremost. That's his job. Over time, there will be many, many issues that come before him. But first let's get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end Climate Change and restore our place in the world. (emphasis added)

The obvious implication in this passage is the same one we've been hearing from the "center-right" political Establishment since the election ended: While the Very Serious and Very Important Pragmatists of Permanent Washington nobly seek to "get our economy moving, bring our troops home safely, fix health care, end Climate Change and restore our place in the world," the raving and crazy "left wing of the Democratic Party" wants to do other things first, like prioritize ideology even if it means letting those crises intensify. It's an absurd and insulting frame.

Last I checked, "the left wing of the Democratic Party" forced Democrats to take a stronger position against the war in 2006 and that was the key reason Democrats won Congress that year. Last I checked, "the left wing of the Democratic Party" has been the only voice in America that has been right all along in demanding more fair economic policies, an end to the war, better environmental laws, better diplomacy, etc. That is, as opposed to the Very Serious and Very Important D.C. elite who have been doggedly pursuing ideological ends, it has been "the left wing of the Democratic Party" whose policy demands have long been the most pragmatic, the most correct, and now not just positions held by those on "the left" but positions held by the vast majority of America.

Indeed, post-election polls suggest that because "the left wing of the Democratic Party" has been proven correct, Democrats are now in power. Additionally, history suggests that when "the left wing of the Democratic Party" has more power and a bigger voice - not less power and a smaller voice as Hildebrand and his ilk seem to want - we tend to avoid messes and/or get out of messes a lot faster.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, rather than now criticize "the left," it would be better if these insiders just said thank you and went on their way.

The reason the Republican Party and conservative movement were so successful* was because they developed a symbiotic relationship. Specifically, the party apparatus knew that sustained conservative movement pressure on the party was good for the party in keeping it disciplined and on message. By contrast, the culture of the Democratic Party since the McGovern debacle in 1972 has been to bash the progressive movement - to triangulate against it as proof of "independence" and "centrism." We saw where that got the Democratic Party for the last 30 years - but by the looks at the public post-election attacks on "the left" from Democrats, it seems like the party higher-ups still haven't learned the simple lesson that pressure from a strong movement strengthens the party as a whole.

* The Republicans are out of power now, but clearly, their party and their movement was wildly successful over the last 30 years in terms of passing policy and structurally changing the legal and political foundations of the country in a lasting way. Thus all the talk about how much work it's going to take to undue the damage they did. The damage we see is (unfortunately) their movement and party's success.

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Seems clear to me (4.00 / 16)
That the Dean Revolution is unfinished. The center-right folks who ran this party and this country back into the ground are returning via the Obama Administration and their prime task is to ensure that we on the left do not undermine their power or their policy goals.

The scary thing is that they may have figured out the best way to beat us - by building a movement that defines itself by loyalty to a leader, not by citizen activism to change the basic policies and assumptions of the country.

They basically feel they can run the party and the country as was done in the 1990s with impunity.

"loyalty to a leader" (4.00 / 5)
is the anthesis of community organizing, of progressive change.

Perhaps there will soon be calls to cleanse the Democratic Party of us now.

I am sick of contributing and working for Democrats only to be pissed on by them.  

[ Parent ]
kicked off a campaign to publicly berate (0.00 / 0)
The autos and UAW must have been busy.  The lobbyists own both parties.    With friends like Dodd and Hildebrand, we sure don't need enemies.

[ Parent ]
good cop bad cop (0.00 / 0)
There are two opposing motivations for left-bashing by Dems. One is that they truly are "center-right" and really are opposed to a liberal agenda (or they could just be whores.) The other is that they support a liberal agenda, but are trying to play a game of good cop bad cop vis a vis the ruling elites, with themselves as the good cops and the DFH's as the bad cops. This was a strategy Roosevelt used to good effect to get away with more progressive change than what might otherwise have been allowed by the ruling elites of the time.

I think David's comparison regarding the symbiotic relationship between the Republican Party and the conservative movement is somewhat of an apples to oranges comparison. They have no need to play any good cop bad cop games with the elites who own the media and control most of the world's capital. Conservatism is at it's root about having a ruling class. They are on the side of the ruling class. No conflict there.

If Dem party leaders want to use us as part of a good cop bad cop game, our job is to be the baddest cop in the precinct. Bottom line is that it shouldn't affect our strategery much. We continue to push for our agenda and don't tolerate any bullshit. And we continue to educate as best we can that our agenda is just common sense what's best for working class people.

[ Parent ]
John Edwards 2012? (4.00 / 1)
This is reprehensible bullshit.

Hildebrand's rant (4.00 / 7)
harms Obama more than it helps him.

On the other hand, clearly they are beginning to hear critics.

After a while, I begin to wonder if the Democrats do not want progressives.  

What I find sad is that Obama seems to want to govern everyone except progressives.  

Maybe Obama should speak with Mr. Hildebrand.  Pissing on loyal Democrats is not bringing us together.

Meanwhile, I keep getting emails for Obama fleece jackets or Obama coffee mugs from the campaign.  It's now farce.  People losing jobs and their peddling the "Obama brand" with coffee mugs.  

Workers are occupying factories, Mr. Hildebrand.  Wake up.

and Obama supports the occupying workers (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Low hanging fruit.... like always... (0.00 / 0)
He came into MI and OH on a white horse to save the autos.  Now, eh, not so much.  People need to quit being so gullible.  

[ Parent ]
If not now, then when? (4.00 / 11)
When is the appropriate time to provide constructive criticism?

This attack from the right flank of the Dem. party against the left reminds me a bit of how, esp. back in '01-'05 there never was any appropriate time to criticize the policies George Bush.

Holding the executive branch accountable should not be a partisan issue. It is much to the detriment of our country that has become one.

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

Six months from now. (4.00 / 1)
It's perfectly OK to criticize, just not right now.  

"I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."
-Lawrence Summers

[ Parent ]
I get it... (4.00 / 3)

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

[ Parent ]
"After all, he was elected to be the President of all the people - not just those on the left. (emphasis added)" (4.00 / 7)
and this justifies a center-right cabinet with zero left representation. What a useless hack.  

And yet this was clearly (4.00 / 3)
approved by Barack Obama.  There is no way Hildebrand writes this without approval from Obama.

Now you know what Obama thinks of you.   Buy another coffee mug for change?

[ Parent ]
I agree with you entirely. (4.00 / 3)
When the right wing organizes its attacks and has Obama against the ropes, we'll have the likes of this same Hildebrand telling us what we must do to defend the Obama administration from its right wing enemies. You know these political developments are not that obscure; the crisis that we are in will not play out tranquilly because Obama is populating his council with the center-right; he will NEED the left shortly (just as we need him) but the Hildebrands and Obama are already tossing the left under the bus. It will surely come back and haunt these arrogant twits.

[ Parent ]
I am proud to say, (0.00 / 0)
I never gave them a nickle, not even a wooden one.  

[ Parent ]
Welcome to reality (1.25 / 16)
Obama haters, you hated him during the primaries, so no surprise that he owes you absolutely nothing. I agree completely with the sentiment of that article, let the fringes of both left and right be ignored in favor of competent non ideological governance.

Excuse me?? (4.00 / 10)
Um..I consider myself a strong progressive. And I also worked my ass off for Obama in the campaign. Do I think he owes me anything? No, not really. But your sentiment that because I'm a strong progressive, I don't matter or should be ignored is really insulting. So let me ask you Barry, what the fuck did you do during the campaign? Did you spend countless nights until 3 or 4 am in the office for no pay to try to get this man elected? Did you canvass 3 or 4 times a week around your county to GOTV and convince people that he wasn't a terrorist?

And btw, there is no such thing as non-ideological governance. Obama governs with a set of principals and ideas just as every leader does. If he didn't, then it would be just as likely that he would completely axe the capital gains tax and gut the endangered species law as it would be that he would reinstate a 90% top marginal tax rate. So your intellectually dishonest crap, is just that, crap.  

[ Parent ]
Umm (1.78 / 9)
Um..I consider myself a strong progressive. And I also worked my ass off for Obama in the campaign. Do I think he owes me anything?

So you are not among the people I was describing above.Who I was talking about was people in this thread who were sniping obama during the primaries and during the GE. people like Matt, David, Paul, MD, Tom Wells who had every one of their 2 posts (at least in the case of FPers) being critical of obama even DURING the GE. As an obama organizer I suppose you will have a strong advocate through his grass roots movement, they are having house parties and you can comment  his site to different policy proposals  so I suppose their voices will be heard.

And btw, there is no such thing as non-ideological governance. Obama governs with a set of principals and ideas just as every leader does. If he didn't, then it would be just as likely that he would completely axe the capital gains tax and gut the endangered species law as it would be that he would reinstate a 90% top marginal tax rate.

Not 100% non ideological but there is definitely a non ideological way of doing things and yet retain the same purpose, picks of Clinton and gates points to what I was talking about. So it is not as dishonest or crap as you want to portray it to be.

[ Parent ]
Jeez - maybe they had his number, then and now... (4.00 / 1)
Maybe, you were had.  Gates and Clinton - yeah, they sure speak for me.  

[ Parent ]
My reply (2.00 / 2)
was mass troll rated by Dear Leader David worshipers. even though it was just a reply to your points. in short the post didn't apply to people like you but people like these abusive troll raters who were always critical of obama even during GE and are continuing in their obsessions.

[ Parent ]
It was troll rated (3.20 / 10)
Because you are a troll.

Does that clear things up for you? Would you mind pissing back off under your bridge now?

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
heh (1.60 / 5)
Just I guess pissing off puma's and People with obama deranged syndrome and thin skins with facts is trolling.waahbulancee

[ Parent ]
Normally, this would be TRed, too... (4.00 / 3)
but in this case, it's a fact. Barry's list of ratings is telling:

He is a serial offender, showing the same behaviour again and again and again, and it's accurate to call him a troll.
Sorry, Barry, but you can blame only yourself.  

[ Parent ]
You are REGULARLY Tred because of your name calling, Barry. (4.00 / 1)
Face it, there are lots of others who post critical comments here and who still receive good ratings. But even in those cases where you make a good point, most of the time it is impossible to recommend you because of your insultive language. And very often your comments have to be rated 0 because you really crossed the line of what's tolerable.

So, it's not the raters who are to be blamed, it's only yourself. And it's only you who can change that by caring more about how you phrase your arguments. Why don't you simply give it a try to comment without all those insults, pls? It could be a positive experience for you.  

[ Parent ]
non-ideological? (4.00 / 5)
I just have to reiterate adamterando's comment that "non-ideological governance" does not exist.  Just because someone holds political positions which are to the right of the Democrats and to the left of the Republicans doesn't mean they have no ideology, it means they're moderates within the very narrow American political spectrum.  People just need to stop referring to Geithner, Summers, etc as non-ideological pragmatists/technocrats.  Such statements couldn't be further from the truth. If someone advocates policies (aka financial regulation in the late 90s) despite evidence that said policies have potentially disastrous results (aka the Peso Crisis of 1994, Asian Financial Crisis of 97-98, Brazilian Meltdown of 1999, etc...etc) because of their firm belief in a particular principle (like say, "free markets"), aren't they behaving ideologically?  Let's be honest, these people are highly ideological nutjobs. Given that Obama campaigned explicitly on a platform of re-regulation, his supporters have a right to be furious.            

[ Parent ]
Obama can earn my loyalty (4.00 / 5)
My family gave 10 times more in time and money to the Obama election campaign than we have ever given in the past.

I don't feel comfortable with some of his personnel choices. I am pleased with Shinseki, Rice, Richardson, and some others. It is good for the left to keep our voices heard. We must speak out in order to be in the game.

Obama made a lot of promises during the campaign that I responded to. My top concerns are restoring the Rule of Law, getting our of Iraq, and rebuilding the economy for average Americans.

He will earn my continued support by addressing these issues keeping his promises. He needs to be the President for everyone, and that does include liberal Democrats.

I agree (2.00 / 6)
He has to keep to his most important promises as the reality on the ground changes or else. (ie, ditch windfall but increase the stimulus size from where he promised in the campaign). until then he has earned my trust and confidence through out the campaign and I like his picks in most part. The people here posting never supported him in the first place (mostly) or just supported him as lesser of two evils so it is no surprise to see them continue in their derangement syndrome.

[ Parent ]
Adding (2.00 / 4)
I would add to most important promises I mentioned above: Iraq, Health care public/private options, Education reform, Tax cuts, Tax Expiration for the rich, Energy, Education funds in exchange for service etc

If he goes through with those or most of them I do not care if they are called " not progressive enough" by some whiners from the left or "socialist" from the fringe of the right. His sentiment on those issues are still very similar post election which is what should STRONGLY count in analizing his future approach to politics IMO.

[ Parent ]
troll rating here is indicative of hostility to real leftism (0.00 / 1)
and allegiance to losing and feeling grieved about it.

[ Parent ]
Imho it's a borderline case... (0.00 / 0)
I wouldn't TR it, but I think it's justifiable to do so. While Barry here doesn't insult anyone directly, talking about "some" is a very obvious attempt at toeing the line of what's acceptable. And this isn't a single instance, almost every comment by him includes such offenses, or worse. This has to stop. Imho it are such negative examples, not only by Barry, but even by some front pagers, that drove the civility of the discussion here to new lows recently.

[ Parent ]
"Real leftism" (4.00 / 2)
That's rich. And how can there be an allegiance to losing when, as David just pointed out, it is the Left which just handed Obama, and the rest of the Democrats, victory?

It's because of us they finally won. Doesn't seem like too much to ask them not to fuck it up.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
I wouldn't troll-rate these comments (0.00 / 0)
But it's indicative of hostility to Barry's evident joy in misrepresenting the posters here.

I think we probably agree on the substantive issues to a large degree. None of us want to see Obama move right on them. The divide is between those who view centrist/centre-right cabinet picks as indicative of an imminent move right (or a failure to move left when it may become necessary), and those who see that as nothing to worry about or even something immunising him from the need to move right.

That's a debate we can have. It's just that Barry doesn't want to have that debate, he wants to wrongly pigeonhole us PUMAs or Nader voters. That's why he gets troll-rated when he is insulting and why some carry over these rating to less objectionable comments.

I'm not saying this isn't ratings abuse (although I don't think he deserves any 4 ratings to bring his karma back up), but it's a socially not a politically-motivated action.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
barry is reacting to cries of "betrayal" from people who always opposed (0.00 / 0)
It's rather silly to spend a year insisting that some candidate is fatally flawed by his centrism and then to claim to have been betrayed when he appoints centrists to his cabinet.

[ Parent ]
OpenLeft=Freeperville? (4.00 / 1)
Do you guys realize how much you're sounding like the right-wing nuts at FR and Conservapedia?  Here's a hint: a troll is someone who posts inflammatory comments that start everyone else fighting, not everyone who disagrees with you on the slightest issue.  If you're trying to maintain ideological purity here you're doing a good job.

[ Parent ]
Schtick (3.11 / 9)
Can anyone even ask a non-ideological question of Obama without being attacked as some sort of raving left-wing lunatic?

Can you go a single post without claiming martyrdom?

I wasn't talking about myself (3.50 / 8)
Can you go a single post getting by your apparent obsession with me, and see the larger point (especially considering that, again, I wasn't talking about myself)?

Likely not, troll.

[ Parent ]
Mithras has a point, TRing him for this is arbitrary. (0.00 / 0)
Let's look at this again:
"Can anyone even ask a non-ideological question of Obama without being attacked as some sort of raving left-wing lunatic?"

Well, imho calling this "claiming martyrdom" is not unwarranted. You presented those who "ask a non-ideological question of Obama" as martyrs, people who have to suffer constantly for voicing their opinion, and you are a member of that group. That Mithras maybe (I dunno) made that statement in other threads, too, isn't trollish as long as he can cite statements in those stories that support this view. And, let's face it, in every second story by you there's such a statement. Really, people become tired of that.  

[ Parent ]
So this weekend Obama: (4.00 / 7)
 1.) Appointed one of the heroes of the Iraq war debate to his cabinet

2.) Laid out an economic plan whose major components included investing in green technology, improving schools, and inceasing internet access.

3.) Voicing support for striking workers.

And we are complaining???


When did Obama (0.00 / 0)
Voice support for striking workers?  I may have missed that.  Did he issue a statement of support for the Republic worker occupation of their factory?

Actually, this diary is about Hildebrand's comments.

[ Parent ]
He was asked about it in his press conference (4.00 / 4)
 And said he thought the workers were right  

[ Parent ]
Thanks. I found it. (4.00 / 3)
By Julianna Goldman

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- President-elect Barack Obama said that union workers in Chicago who are protesting their factory's sudden closure with a sit-in are justified in demanding their benefits and pay.

"I think they're absolutely right," Obama said today in response to a question at a Chicago news conference. "And understand that what's happening to them is reflective of what's happening across this economy."

The more I think about it, the more I think that Hildebrand wrote a very poor piece.  Hildebrand is not Obama.

I am very happy with that statement by Obama about the workers.

Left Democrats still support Obama.  Hildebrand's piece missed so much and he simply does not understand.

We will complain when we don't like choices, but the fact that we think for ourselves means that we will be advocates and fighters for Obama when we do agree.  Rather than telling us to STFU, Hildebrand shouddl encourage us to speak.  We know Obama will not agree with us on everything or maybe, even half of what we wantt.  But if he can listen to Republicans, he ought to listen to people who really will fight our asses off for him on thinsg like health care, EFCA, and who will stick with him when the right attacks.

Is it so hard to allow the Left a voice?

[ Parent ]
as a progressive member of the Democratic party (4.00 / 2)
f-u Mr. Hildebrand.

This "Obama is picking the best" and hence not lefty idealogues is what is known as a lie. He is pick center-right idealogues. He is picking folks who have been wrong on every issue over the past 16 years.

I am not asking Obama to pick all lefties. how about 1/3 lefties, to go with 1/3 centrists and 1/3 righties.  Smart, competent, best and brightest can be found on the from the center-left over too.

Wrong on EVERY major issue? (4.00 / 5)
 Hillary was wrong on EVERY issue?

Jim Jones was wrong on EVERY issue?

Richardson was wrong on EVERY issue?

Holder was wrong on EVERY issue?

Susan Rice was wrong on EVERY issue?

Bob Gates was wrong on EVERY issue?  

Shinseki was wrong on EVERY issue?

I mean, thats just not fair.  

[ Parent ]
Oh please (4.00 / 4)
Hysterics aside, there are legitimate critiques against Hillary, Geithner, Summers, Gates, and Holder. I don't know enough about Rice or Shinseki. In the case of Summers and Geithner, there are clearly much more qualified candidates (Stiglitz) who were right about the issues. Hillary never even owned up to her vote for the war in Iraq, although despite that I am hopeful and supportive about her being SecState. Gates is a chameleon, and has clearly been a republican actor if not a registered republican (Iran-Contra). The only reason I am okay with him being SecDef is the fact that it brings in the realists in the Republican party to our camp.

But lets not lose sight of the policies for the politics here. Yes there are reasons to be uncomfortable with the picks so far from the left, but I am content to wait on actual policy formulations from Obama. The gratuitous stiff arming of the left is unnecessary though.  

[ Parent ]
Are you saying like Hildebrand that Gates is the BEST choice available for Defense? (4.00 / 2)
I doubt it with the likes of Wesley Clark or Richard Clarke around.  Gates is a political appointment. So Obama knows politics. And he is telling the left clearly and loudly to piss off. Work your butt off, give money, then get back to the servant's quarters.

[ Parent ]
He's telling the left to piss off? (4.00 / 1)
I would agree with that if he instructed Gates to come up with a long term plan to keep a 100,000 troops in Iraq for the next 10 years.  He has not.  By the way Wesley Clark is not eligible.

[ Parent ]
Why is Wesley Clark ineligible? (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Military to civilian wait time (4.00 / 1)
You have to be out of the military for 10 years to be eligible to be SecDef, Clark has only been out for 8. The Gates pick is suspected as some to be a placeholder for Clark. We shall see.

[ Parent ]
Can we at least wait (4.00 / 5)
until Obama finishes picking his cabinet before we decide he is "attacking the left"

What if he picks progressives for Interior, Labor, and Energy?  

By then its too late (2.67 / 3)
Now is the time to call for more progressives in the cabinet, not after he has already picked them. Hildebrand is just trying to hold us off while they make the plays that they want. When will people like you stop being so politically naive or at least come out and admit that you support the positions of the so called "non ideological" picks rather then hide behind this bullshit facade of postpartisanship? Own up or shut up.

And if you don't think Hildebrands piece was attacking the left then you need to reexamine.

[ Parent ]
What the hell? (4.00 / 4)
 How was it justified to call me "politically naive?"

1.)  I dont think Hildenbrand was attacking the left, why post an article attacking the left on a progressive site.

2.) By and large I think Obama has made good picks. Some of them wouldnt have been my fist pick, but such is life.

3.) Anyone who didnt think Obama was going to embrace postpartisanship hasnt been paying attention since 2004.


[ Parent ]
Didn't mean you specifically (4.00 / 4)
Sorry I didn't make myself more clear. I meant that a lot of people (witness the comment thread on the huffingtonpost thread) who are pushing the line that we should wait until after its too late, or who are trying to convince themselves that the picks so far really are progressive, I perceive to be either politically naive or just self deception. I see by your second point that you do support the picks so far, so I didn't meant to apply those labels to you.

Postpartisanship goes a few different ways though. There is bringing Gates into your camp to bring the realist foreign policy school of the Republican party (Scowcroft and the like) so as to leave the Republicans as the party of neocon's, and then there is criticizing the "left wing of the democratic party" for essentially being too loud and aggressive. I suppose in that light, postpartisanship is really just another formulation of saying third way/triangulation a la Bill Clinton, just a tool to use politically to get what you want. Still, that just makes partisan lobbying all the more important, if somewhat effectively marginalized politically, whenever it suits Obama.

[ Parent ]
Good point, "that just makes partisan lobbying all the more important" (0.00 / 0)
Yup,indeed. Now, my damn memory prevents me from recapitulating the details correctly, but I read here some time ago a stroy about progressives complaining at JFK (?) for not considering a left winger for a government position, and he answered something like "I would have gladly done so, but you didn't raise any public pressure that would have enabled me to do that". Ok, I guess I screwed all the details up, maybe it wasn't JFK but LBJ, and maybe it wasn't about a government position but about policy, but the important point is, even the president needs to make his case to the public, and if there aren't progressive forces at work lobbying for their hobbyhorse, the president doesn't have an alibi for doing the right (left!) thing.

And the consequences of this are clear: Less whining, more actions, designed to make a public case for left wing officials and policies. Most of the brouhaha in the blogosphere doesn't reach the ears of the silent majority, sitting with the remote in front of their TVs and wondering if the president has good reasons for his decisions. They have to be convinced to support progressive goals in order to create a base for Obama's decisions. There's work to do.  

[ Parent ]
Waiting for the last appointment (4.00 / 3)
I think you miss the point. The right wing started its concerted line that this  country is a "center-right nation" two seconds after the polls closed. Now why do you think they didn't wait and see how Obama governs before starting up their chorus? Let me take a stab at this one. Maybe they think that if they pressure early they can influence everything Obama does. Now progressives have not been tearing down Obama's appointments; there has been remarkable forebearance as he picks from the center-right of the Democratic Party and from the Republicans. But Obama and his shills have been selling his "team of rivals" bullshit at the same time he excludes the left. Maybe that should tell us something. Hildebrand only tells it in plainer words. Basically we are told: thanks for your work, your time, your money, the adults will take it from here.

[ Parent ]
Beat them with a threat for 2010... (0.00 / 0)
Not one more vote for Democrats. We vote Progressive Independent or Green or nothing.  With Dean gone David's right - they're prepared to screw anyone in their path to save their own skins.

So quit beatin our heads, and fight them with their own poison.  Let's finally acknowledge they're simply too corrupt to repair and sure as hell will never change.. because they haven't been MADE to.

If one ass-hole like Joe Lieberman could have those wimps crawling on their knees begging for mercy, or the gang of 14 can clog the wheels of the Senate or the blue dogs do the same in the House, why not a group of newly elected progressive minded G's and I's to displace every one of them.

I'm sick of their shit and won't vote for a Dem again as song as Hoyer or Reid are in charge.


Nationalism is not the same thing as terrorism, and an adversary is not the same thing as an enemy.

Isn't that (0.00 / 0)
 How we got Bush?  

[ Parent ]
Blow jobs. (0.00 / 0)
We got Bush because of blow jobs.

[ Parent ]
No (4.00 / 3)
 We got Bush because some people decided Gore and Bush were too similar and voted for Nader.

How did that work out???  

[ Parent ]
If by some people (4.00 / 3)
you mean the people in the media, who ran a relentless two year smear campaign by the media on gore, along with every free pass in the world for bush, then i suppose that construct is correct.

If Gore wanted Nader voters he would have gone after their votes more aggresively. Blaming 3rd parties is silly.

[ Parent ]
Well, imho... (4.00 / 1)
we got Bush because even more people believed Gore is a liar ("invented the internet!","started the Love Canal investigation!", etc etc) and thought Bush to be "authentic", "bipartisan", "compassionate" and so on. Thx to the US media.  

[ Parent ]
Correct me if I'm wrong (4.00 / 4)
1. Wasn't Larry Summers one of the main players in the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act that allowed Citicorp to become Citigroup? Didn't he give the gift of over-leveraged assets in the form of the derivatives/Collateralized Debt Obligations/Credit Default Swaps ponzi scheme that lays beneath the current multi-trillion dollar meltdown. Isn't he one of the principals behind the whole shadow banking fiasco? How likely is he to push hard to dismantle those same economic WMDs that got us into this mess? (Answer: Not Very)

2. And as for Gates. Yes, he did disagree once or twice with Bush/Cheney's exclamations that we could never have too much war. Now it looks like no war is not acceptable. Afghanistan, here we come . . . again. And we're also going to keep a presence in Iraq until when? 2011? Yeah, right. Let me see. That was the sovereign nation who had no weapons to threaten us and who had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 that we invaded anyway, but not for oil? Isn't doing that kind of thing a Nuremberg type war crime? (Answer: Yes.)

The problem is, I see a massive bait and switch in play here. I want Obama to get all the support he needs to succeed. I also want my country back. You know, rule of law, democracy, no torture, no spying on citizens, . . . things like that.

Obama has pledged to get us out of Iraq (4.00 / 1)
 ASAP. Same as during the campaign.  

[ Parent ]
Would the current status of forces agreement (0.00 / 0)
be in place as it is had Obama not been elected?  I would prefer to get our troops out long before 2011, but did anyone think that we would have a timetable for withdrawl back in September?

[ Parent ]
are you joking? (4.00 / 3)
Obama ran on sending more troops to Afghanistan, never said there would be no residual troops in Iraq, and had a plan that had combat troops in Iraq in 2010.  To say "bait and switch" doesn't seem sincere.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
Not exactly. (0.00 / 0)
There were times, especially early in the campaign, when he said that a "quick strike force" would be stationed in Kuwait. In this, he followed Edwards. In any case, what difference does it make? It is the policy that is distasteful, not whether he said this or he said that. He said a lot of contradictory things.

[ Parent ]
I would agree that those who find problems (4.00 / 7)
with Obama's cabinet selections should feel free to express their concerns.  And yes, it will be too late to complain after policy has been set.  What you see as Hildebrand's worst piece, I have read several times and don't have the same feelings about it as you do.  I don't see the same 'obvious implication' that you do.

On a side note, I have observed that the zero rating has been pretty freely used of late.  This seems pretty ironic that those who want a balance of voices in Obama's cabinet selections, don't appear to want a balance of voices in discussion on this site.  Maybe some of this stems from discussions elsewhere that I have not seen, but on this particular post, the zero rating has been abused.

same people were bitterly anti-obama in primaries (0.00 / 0)
and troll rating anyone who objected to their brilliant analysis.

[ Parent ]
This is absolutely untrue. I volunteered for the Obama campaign. (4.00 / 2)
Please understand: this is a website called, "OpenLeft." Do you understand why posters here would object to people using phrases such as "loony left" or "fringe left"? The only person who got troll rated is Barry. He started with insults and ended with insults. I despise Hillary Clinton, and I am not about to be called a PUMA by a semi-literate fool.

[ Parent ]
look at who the troll raters are (0.00 / 0)
many of them also tried to suppress Obama advocates during the primaries and general.

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, but that's just not true (0.00 / 0)
OL had very few Clinton supporters in the primaries.

The only ones I remember clearly were debcoop (currently critical of Obama's transition), kanzeon (mildly supportive, I think) and Robert Oak. There were probably others, but they weren't terribly prominent.

Others were critical of Obama, but they were no more polite to Clinton (in many cases, much less so.)

There wasn't much of a fan club for Obama. There were misgivings. But there was a lot of tepid support and I think polls showed that most of the commenters voted for Obama in the primaries.

I can't remember exactly who said what when. If you really want to dig up comments and ratings from February, go ahead. But by my remembrance, your testimony is entirely inaccurate.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
name calling is not balance (0.00 / 0)
and if you don't see that you should leave too.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Ah, the troll rating machine. (0.00 / 0)
I'm not defending name calling (hope you get the irony), but several comments were troll rated above for reasons that I don't understand.  I would understand if you troll rate this one, but I don't see how it is helpfull if you then troll rate all of my future comments that won't be personal attacks.

[ Parent ]
Who's next Sirota? (2.00 / 2)
First you baselessly attack Jonathan Martin and now Hildebrand?

You don't call this a rant on your part?  I agree with everything that Hildebrand has to say.

labels ...yet again (4.00 / 6)
Why worry about the labels.

What substantive questions are on the table?

Get to the issues.

Because labels (4.00 / 4)
tell you what's inside the box.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
I'm Surprised (0.00 / 0)
I never hear anything from Sirota on Rangel's predicament. It would seem that he is in a tough spot right now, and given his petty obfustication of anything approximating Fair Trade, that would be a good thing for US.

They getting a narrative ready. (4.00 / 2)
Dave, how long do you think it's going to be before the Dem Establishment start blaming the DFH's for the Establishment failure to actually stem the tide of the disaster that's fast approaching. I can hear it now. "If it wasn't for all those goddamn, fucking LIBERALS we could have made it work."

"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

Some of us remember the nineties. (4.00 / 2)
The corporate media are going to just brush the dust off the same storylines they used with Clinton and recycle them: "We had to crush him, he overreached! He was a dirty fucking hippy and we had to stop him!"

And this will happen no matter what he does, not matter how mild-mannered and non-threatening he tries to be. He needs to learn to roll with it and do what's right in spite of them, not let the beltway elite do  his thinking for him.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
Look on the bright side: the administration is worried that they're losing the left. (4.00 / 5)
Why was Chris Bowers on Hardball?

I say it is because this administration is actually concerned about losing the left.  They know that their own volunteer/activist base could well be the first group of people they lose, and I think they're afraid of that.  This was a campaign that actually believed in the power of field, meaning the power of their own activists.  They don't want to lose them.  

If they didn't care, Hildebrand wouldn't have bothered going on HuffPo, and Matthews wouldn't have bothered having on Chris.  Because it would be a non-story.  "Losing the base" is something the Obama crew does not want, and that's a good thing at least.  It means that opinion leaders on the left have power.

Think about that.

And then use it more carefully.  Chris was thinking along those lines after his interview.  If you people actually are opinion leaders of a group of people the administration wants to have...  then you can leave behind the "scream into the wind" M.O. and act a little more precisely.  Don't go off the wall at the first slight breeze, and then, when you do decide to go off the wall, plant your feet carefully and go big.

Rereading this, I see that I should not write comments while watching TV.  Some repetitiveness in my writing.

There is such a thing as revision, (0.00 / 0)
but I get your point.

[ Parent ]
Enough (4.00 / 3)
with calling Obama a sell out, calling each other names, complaining, and getting self-righteous, etc.

Roll up your sleeves and get to work lobbying for a better cabinet.

Here's an email I sent out yesterday to my list to lobby for a better Secretary of Agriculture.  Tomorrow I'm going to do one for Secretary of Labor.

Dear friends,

There seems to be time and some momentum for lobbying the Obama transition team on their choice for Secretary of Agriculture.  A group of 88 prominent food thinkers, chefs, and environmentalists has sent Obama an open letter naming the most serious short list of progressives candidates for the job that I've seen.  We know that Obama wants to do the right thing on this and he need pushing/support.

Please go to and urge Obama to choose a progressive Secretary of Agriculture.

Feel free to cut and paste my letter if you want.

Dear President Elect Obama:

I am writing to urge you to choose the next Secretary of Agriculture with great care.  While you are busy directing your administration in dealing with the huge challenges on the economic and foreign policy fronts, you will need a Secretary of Agriculture who is already a change agent.

Our CAFOs where beef, pork and chicken meat are produced are generating greenhouse gases, fouling water supplies and our air, loosing e coli and salmonella into the food supply, and overuse of anti-biotics is giving rise to new super resistant strains of bacteria.  These effects of industrial meat production challenge the health of our environment beyond any gains that can be made from new innovations in green technology.  

Subsidized commodity crops and the over-processed food that they give rise to are driving the obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease that are ruining our health and taxing our health care system beyond what any set of reforms could hope to cope with.

Poor nutrition and hunger among our children will undercut education reforms you wish to make.  More and better teachers and curriculums will not improve outcomes for under nourished and hungry children.

That is why I wish to add my name to the list of people who have suggested that you choose a Secretary of Agriculture that doesn't have strong ties to the ADM's and the Monsanto's, but rather has background with ties to organic farming and questions of nutrition and sustainability.

Candidates for your consideration:

1. Gus Schumacher, former Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and former Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture.

2. Chuck Hassebrook, executive director, Center for Rural Affairs, Lyons, Neb.

3. Sarah Vogel, former Commissioner of Agriculture for North Dakota, lawyer, Bismarck, N.D.

4. Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer, distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Ames, Iowa, and president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills, NY.

5. Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State, former policy analyst in Minnesota's Department of Agriculture under Governor Rudy Perpich, co-founder of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

6. Neil Hamilton, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and director of the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa.

Thank you,

David, I'm wondering why (4.00 / 1)
policies as Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary played a major role in creating the economic crisis.

You'd reinforce this wingnut talking point. There was no "major role" played by any member of the Clinton administration in the decisions made in 2004-2007 to refuse to use statutory authority to regulate new financial istruments, to permit insanely high levels of mortgage leverage (including 100 percent leverage) and to then permit huge non-bank institutions to run at 30-1 (officially, the actual leverage was much higher as value of capital was overstated).

You can disagree with some of the financial deregulatory actions taken by Clinton. But they did not play a significant role in this meltdown

Chris Cox's decision (0.00 / 0)
not to regulate the derivatives market was the proximate cause of this disaster.

Glass Stegal had little to do with this crisis - though its repeal was wrong.

[ Parent ]
Sigh (4.00 / 1)
There is nothing in the comments made by Steny Hoyer that any rational person would interpret as "publicly berating the left".  Similarly, there is nothing in Steve Hildebrand's post that even suggests that he is "demanding the Dirty Fucking Hippies of the left STFU". To portray their comments in such a way is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.    

Certainly there are valid questions and concerns from thoughtful people on the left, but it's unfortunate that a small minority can't express those concerns without resorting to wild exaggerations, name-calling, swearing, and sounding completely insane in the process.  It is this minority which makes it possible for the media to portray everyone on the left as irrational and uber partisan, and allows them to continue their fictional "angry left" meme.

No, in fact it is the media itself (4.00 / 1)
which makes it possible for the media to portray everyone on the left as irrational and uberpartisan. Maybe you haven't noticed but they are the ones who own all the tv and radio stations, newspapers and magazines?

Nice try, though.

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
I've personally always felt that Open left hated the left (2.00 / 4)
If we dare to agree with anything Obama does on this site we are called idiots and cultists.


Then tell me please, (4.00 / 2)
what "The Left" means to you outside of Obama?

Because there seems to be this weird conflation going on lately, almost like when Nixon said "if the president does it, it's not illegal." The new saying seems to be "if Obama does it, it's progressive."

Montani semper liberi

[ Parent ]
I have never seen Obama supporters (0.00 / 0)
called idiots for being Obama supporters.  That is just not true.  This blog basically split off from mydd over support for Obama over Clinton in the primaries.

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Exaggerate much? (0.00 / 0)
I've seen Marxists who couldn't pull off hyperbolic martyrdom-complexes like that.

Care to rephrase so that it's not absurd on the face of it? Is there a specific problem here?

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Bingo (4.00 / 1)
Once again, David, you voice my own attitudes and opinions perfectly.

And here I thought it was only the Republican Party (4.00 / 2)
that was gonna split apart in 2009.

But, chaos it my friend and dissolution of both main stream parties would not be the end of the world, or the USA.

It is like a forest fire. The heat is an essential part of clearing the ground and germinating the seeds.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

Why isn't this up at HuffPo? (0.00 / 0)
Seems to me they should be publishing the other side to this story.  If nothing else, there hasn't been a good back-and-forth there since Matt Taibbi and Erica Jong.

Hildebrand: STFU (0.00 / 0)
A commenter pointed out that Obama did some librul stuff this weekend.  One has to wonder if Hildebrand coordinated his fingerwagging with Obama's transition team.  It was an awfully convenient "I toldja so" moment.  Whether or not the scolding was part of a coordinated effort, Hildebrand's attempt to shut up the left is just as egregious and anti-democratic as Rumfeld & company's efforts to squelch General Shinseki & anti-war voices.  If Hildebrand thinks people who stood up to Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld, et al, will now voluntarily surrender their First Amendment rights to a centrist Administration, he's got another think coming.

The Constant Weader at  

You wrote: (4.00 / 2)
However, Hildebrand implying that those personnel decisions really don't matter at all is straight up silly. It supposes that all the enormous egos that populate a White House are just mindless functionaries, and that even though those egos are heading major federal departments or are key advisers, they have no hand in making policy and/or their advice to a president makes absolutely no impact. Please - let's get real.

I read the article, and nowhere in there does Hildebrand say that personnel decisions don't matter

Later, you wrote:

Really, what is with top Democrats explicitly attacking "the left wing of the Democratic Party" in Fox News-style talking points? Why is every substantive, non-partisan, non-ideological question of pragmatism from progressives almost automatically portrayed as some sort of super-Trotsky-ite, ideological and wholly inappropriate demand for Obama to be a president "just for those on the left?" Can anyone even ask a non-ideological question of Obama without being attacked as some sort of raving left-wing lunatic?  

It also is pretty clear to me that Hildebrand was not making the kind of attacks you accuse him of.  In fact, he describes himself as, "a liberal member of our Party," which suggests that he identifies with the left.  So he certainly didn't say that he thinks everyone on the left are lunatics.  Maybe you could argue that that's what he secretly meant, but see below.

Finally, you wrote:

Are such questions really the inappropriate queries of a bunch of radical revolutionaries from "the left?" Or are the real fringe radicals - the real ideologues - those who say that we should all STFU and bow down to the Dear Leader? I think the latter, not the former - and I think Democrats (and especially the Obama team) who rightly protested Republican efforts to tar and feather Obama as a "socialist" should know better than to echo such silly, fact-free talking points.

Again, I don't see any evidence that this is what Hildebrand was saying.  It seemed to me that he was saying that Obama doesn't think in terms of "are my appointees progressive enough?"  but rather has a specific vision that he is trying to implement.  Now, as you say, this response ignores a lot of the substantive criticisms of particular picks that you and other people have made, but it still is a far cry from a "STFU."  

So, in all of these cases, I agree that you could believe that, despite what Hildebrand actually said, what he secretly meant is that the Left is a bunch of DFHs who should STFU.  But I think there are very good reasons here, and in any political discussion where you have a motivation to convince the other side, to not attribute such negative interpretations to the people you are arguing with.  For one thing, the way you describe the conversation makes it almost impossible for agreement to be reached.  You have framed the discussion as an ideological battle where one side will achieve victory over the other rather than as a discussion between two people who have similar values.  Thus, you provide motivation for Hildebrand only to beat you (or to not be beaten), rather than to reach an agreement with you.

Now I don't particularly worry that much about Hildebrand's feelings, since he is in a position of power and is probably pretty well-off.  However, you seem to adopt this same attitude towards the people you are arguing against in comments.  I think the value of Open Left comes from its being a community of people who share some core values and are able to craft and develop their positions through discussions with other people who (roughly) agree with each other.   But when you call people trolls or tell them to fuck off because they disagree with you, you are fraying the bonds of community that make it possible for people to feel that, though they disagree with one another on a lot of issues, they are ultimately engaging on conversation on this blog as a way of achieving a shared goal of a more progressive country.

Not this time (4.00 / 1)
Hildebrand's missive is intended to stifle dissent.  He is seeking to marginalize those who are questioning Obama's decisions to date.  Obama's victory was largely due to the efforts of those on the Left, and if for the next four years we are to be treated to an Obama Presidency that is characterized by a safe "center-left" policy agenda, it's going to be a very bumpy ride.

Unity requires a "Common foe" (or: what happened to "Liberal") (4.00 / 2)
This smells like the rotten old triangulation from the ghosts of DLC past.

Obama is looking to solidify his mantel of "pragmatic centrist" by bashing "The Left."  
Moderates should understand that this is why "Liberal" became a dirty word.  It wasn't just the ranting right, it was the trembling of the moderates, so eager to hide in the middle of the pack, where they wouldn't have to fear the insults of the right.

Wolves in sheep's clothing (0.00 / 0)
the party higher-ups still haven't learned the simple lesson that pressure from a strong movement strengthens the party as a whole

To me, the Democratic "elite" are right wing; simple as that. It would be antithetical to them to strengthen their party by embracing the left. That is why you are seeing them attack the elements of their party that would give their party the most strength.

Obviously, progressives are for the people; conservatives and Republicans for the Establishment. What is the tried and true method for weakening an organization? Infiltrate it and disrupt it. Is that too devious for Republicans and/or the Establishment to do to the Democratic Party? Countless political scandals, COINTELPRO, Project for a New American Century, and DC's perpetual revolving door with industry would seem to suggest that this, indeed, would not be beneath them.

Remember, it is the Establishment who has the money and power. With that, it would not inconceivable to have Establishment insiders slowly infest the Democratic party over the years and even eventually place its people as the "party higher-ups". The Establishment has definitely had the time and resources to do it. By looking at the all the disturbing and duplicitous signs that you have been writing about over the years, doesn't it appear that such infiltration could very well be the case today?


back it down a bit, David... (0.00 / 0)
Sirota, I once advised you, in the mode of an acting coach, to be a bit more unhinged in your appearances on Faux Nooz. Act like a crazy, to get "respect" from a crazy. So now I'm advising you, in the same guise, that it's "big enough" and time to throttle back.

The programmed Reich minions couldn't see cars on a freeway, if they weren't bunted up with the American flag, and sporting gun racks and spittle-spraying fear-mongers. But Progressives are not that stupid, so using the same tactics on them is, um, insulting.

What tactics? Well, let's start with lying to them; because that's what you are doing, when you portray Hildebrand's comments as trying to marginalize the legitimate left. He's only trying to calm the roiled waters and give the P-E some time to get going, without catching hell from those of us (yes, us) who would LOVE it if things went even faster.

Hildebrand, even by virtue of the parts you bold, is only saying that the next (any) President needs to represent ALL of the people of the country, if we want change that lasts. If "not just those on the left" seems like such a threat to you, I sympathize, but what else could he have said? If he had said the new administration is only going to represent the left, then 1) he'd be shown the door unceremoniously, and 2) I'd be at the door cheering his ouster -- because he's right: the President CANNOT play only to one pole. We know what that does to policy, and to the country.

Credibility is the name of the game, Sirota; and don't look now, but you are burning yours fast. Get real, get calmed down, count our blessings, and start bolstering the forces for change, rather than tearing down the progress we've worked so hard for.

Your characterizations of Hildebrand's words do you no service at all. You stretch so far for your interpretations that it's like reading an O'Rielly transcript, with the same cognitive mismatch between what my eyes read, and what you say is being said. None of us needs that; it can only do us and our causes damage.

I think you need a vacation. I prescribe lots of hot soaks and massages.


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