Competing Movements

by: Matt Stoller

Wed Jan 02, 2008 at 11:03


( - promoted by Chris Bowers)

eRiposte articulates in great detail more reservations about Obama by discussing his history of running against progressives.  He basically says the progressive movement that grew up around Moveon and Dean will be hindered by Obama.  I agree with this.  Obama wants a new movement, and he's building one, instead of the off-the-shelf one that's available.  Obviously, as a tried and true card-carrying member of this progressive movement, I'm not a fan of his strategy.

I also think there's something deeper than insider-y movement nitpicks.  Take this for example.

All three candidates promised to change fast-track law, under which trade agreements are negotiated by the executive branch and can be approved or rejected by Congress, but not amended. The last fast-track law expired over the summer, but the next president, whether a Republican or a Democrat, would be expected to seek new authority.

Obama said he would "replace Fast Track" with a new process that includes an analysis of labor and environmental standards in a prospective trade agreement partner, while Edwards said a new trade negotiating system was needed. Clinton said she would not seek new fast track authority until completing a review of all existing trade agreements and until she crafts a new trade policy.

These are potentially very significant differences between the candidates.  The key problem with our trade regime is that capital flows are controlled by corporate interests with substantially more legal rights than labor, or even nation-states.  Sirota among many others has pointed this out.

A Canadian company wants to open a new plant in Claremont, N.H., to bottle fresh water from a source in Stockbridge, Vt.

But if Vermont wants to limit how much water the company takes, it may run afoul of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

States around the country are growing increasingly worried about the threats posed to their laws and regulations by the secret tribunals that resolve disputes in international trade. Experts say everything from environmental rules to the licensing of nurses and other professionals could be affected.

Edwards is saying we need a different trading regime.  Obama is saying our trading regime needs to incorporate labor and environmental standards.  And Clinton thinks existing agreements need to be tweaked.  Both Obama and Clinton voted for the NAFTA-style Peru trade deal because they believe this, while Edwards opposed the deal.

This is a very significant different.  And it's one reason why the progressive movement is likely to be strengthened by Edwards, because he will bring together the anti-globalizers and the new progressives that grew up in the wake of Iraq.  Clinton has her movement, centered in DC at the Center for American Progress, and Obama has his liberal technocrats and Oprah-esque change independents.  Obviously these groups will all blur and will combine and split apart around any candidate.  It's just a question of who is explicitly empowered by the candidate right off the bat.

Matt Stoller :: Competing Movements

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Competing Movements | 11 comments
Obama wants a new movement? (0.00 / 0)
Interesting!. As a card carrying person in the same progressive movement as you, I think Obama will make "our" movement stronger. I get the feeling that all those really smart card carriers like yourself have been so worried about Obama building a "new movement", that it has really prohibited you from seeing past this and considering that Obama wants the card carriers as part of his "new movement".
Obviously while "our" movement has had some success, we have had more failures. Maybe, and I repeat MAYBE, Obama is on to something. Someone had a diary on Kos yesterday who knows Obama very well, claims that this is the case. That Obama by nature in not hyper-partisan, that doesn't mean he is anti-progressive. All of the major bloggers (that many of us rely on for a point of reference ) running around screaming "wingnut talking points, wingnut talking points" alerts concerning Obama have really turned off many of those who are "card carrying progressives" I am still torn between Obama and Edwards, but you will never convince me, that Obama (the man) would ever use "wingnut talking points" as a point of reference to his arguements, no matter how many of you  debate the facts to make his statements reflect that meme. I have read all of the posts and comments where people have made a very valid case concerning his serious missteps, but there is NO SALE for me on the new progressive blogosphere wingnut talking points meme that has been really over the top concerning Obama.

Obama really does seem to want a new movement (4.00 / 2)
Obama wants the card carriers as part of his "new movement"

Of course he does.  Everyone wants everyone else to join their movement.  Heck, I want you all to join my movement (current membership=1), but we have to be realistic and cast our lot where it can have the most impact.  Movement building is a matter of picking which one we should all join.  Even taking someone we don't respect at all, say Mitt Romney, I'd have to say we still *want* him to join our progressive movement. 

Obama is no different.  But that doesn't make his movement our movement.  In fact, I would say his movement is largely a cult of personality, as shown by what gaiilonfong appears to be admitting is simple blind faith in him.  As a personality, he is very charismatic, and he lends himself to people projecting what they want him to be onto him.  But when you look at the record, he clearly wants us to come to his movement, not vice versa.

Yes we Kang


[ Parent ]
Blind faith?...ummm NO! (0.00 / 0)
I respect your point of view, but I lomg ago have lost FAITH.
I don't believe in it. Maybe I am blind, but I have based my opinion of Obama on what I have seen, read, and on what others who actually KNOW him, have said about him. I do like his personality, but I lost my cultist proclivities in the 70's. My thinking at this time is, that whoever wins, is in for one helluva ride, and right now, I'll take the ride with Obama. See I still believe that IF Dean would have won he would have beat the Chimp. so that is where I am coming from on all this.

[ Parent ]
This is what I based the faith comment on (4.00 / 1)
you will never convince me, that Obama (the man) would ever use "wingnut talking points" as a point of reference to his arguements, no matter how many of you debate the facts to make his statements reflect that meme.

To me, this says that you have a deeper understanding of Obama than mere facts can provide.  When Obama says things that clearly align with wingnut talking points, even if Obama himself is not personally on the Frank Luntz listserv, then he is clearly using them.  As a matter of philosophy, I am a firm believer that Man is the sum of his actions.  Obama's actions have indicated that he uses those talking points.  To believe otherwise must therefore be based on faith.  Since Obama is not (so far as any of us know) divine, the faith must be based on personality.  If I'm still getting this wrong, please do clarify what you mean.

I should also emphasize that having faith doesn't automatically make someone a bad reasoner (c.f. scientists that believe in God).  And, in fact, I think your point that taking the ride with Obama seems the most appealing is an eminently reasonable position.

Yes we Kang


[ Parent ]
Thank you for your thoughful reply. (0.00 / 0)
I understand where you are coming from now regarding my faith comment. My writing skills are not always congruent with my thinking. I don't necessarily agree that if Obama says something that has been used in the past by wingnuts,  that it is necessarily an indication that the focal point of his statement is based in wingnuttia verbiage. But...while I can understand how others can take what he says as a wingnut point of view, albeit, I don't agree with that viewpoint. I am def. taken by his skill and personality, and while I think that is important in the scheme of an electoral process, it doesn't make the sale for me. I agree the man is the sum of his actions, I have taken into account people who know Obama personally, and when I voiced my concerns, they explained Obama's thinking as they know it from experience. I have taken that into account coming to the conclusions. I will admit the recent meltdowns by bloggers that I have come to rely on for information, has also pushed me in a direction that gives Obama even more of "the benefit of a doubt".

[ Parent ]
As I've Remarked Before, Obama Is Much Like JFK (0.00 / 0)
A very charismatic ink blot.

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

[ Parent ]
Interesting sentence (0.00 / 0)
"Both Obama and Clinton voted for the NAFTA-style Peru trade deal because they believe this, while Edwards opposed the deal."

Hmmmm...not quite.  Neither Obama or Clinton were present for the Peru trade vote (neither were Biden, Dodd, or McCain for that matter). 

Yes, Edwards said he opposed the Peru agreement, but he voted for very similar agreements during his time in the Senate (YES on Andean trade accord, YES for China and Vietnam trade accords, YES on fast-track authority).


Clinton and Obama (0.00 / 0)
very clearly stated their support of the Peru FTA.

Join us at the Missouri community blog Show Me Progress!

[ Parent ]
hence (0.00 / 0)
my statement of "not quite" in regards to them "voting" for it

[ Parent ]
big time nitpicking (0.00 / 0)
Matt, you are stretching your arguments so far and basing them on such slender "facts" that I think they are going to spring back and snap you in the ass.  Re your citation: eriposte just happened to bring out a broadside against Obama - including the "he's not vetted" mantra - at the same time the Clinton campaign was sending Bill "Obama's Not Ready for Prime Time" Clinton on Charlie Rose and having the other Bill talk about Obama's drug use and not being vetted and having Kerrey mention how proud he was of Barack Hussein Obama and on an on.  Being a charitable person, I don't believe that eriposte is an embedded Clinton operative, but the timing was suspicious.  In your laundry list of the past few days, you talk about opposition research.  Is looking up what someone wrote and commenting on it now tagged as "opposition research?"  Orwell would be proud.  You seem to conduct a lot of "opposition research" against progressive candidates yourself. You are nitpicking, clear and simple, and what the hell does "potentially very significant differences" mean?  Potentially anything could be a very significance difference. Either there is a significant difference or there isn't.  In the case of the top three Dems, you'd need a magnifying glass to find such differences. Build your movement.  None of them will do it for you.  Sometimes I think you want all of the candidates to run a Norman Thomas/Henry Wallace campaign or you are going to pout.  It ain't gonna happen because each of the top three Democratic candidates wants to be president, but good luck in your quest.

Interesting as always (0.00 / 0)
This is pretty good assessment.  I count myself "anti-Iraq" wing of the progressive movement, if not the anti-globalization wing.  I tend to agree with Obama on trade.  If trade agreements meet environmental and labor standards, I see no reason to stop them.  Throwing up protectionist barriers isn't going to stop globalization.  It'll just hurt American exports at a time when they're actually doing well due to the lower dollar.  I know this is progressive heresy, but good people differ on different issues, and I think trade is made out to be a scapegoat for more complex economic problems.

On broad economic issues (excluding trade), I tend to like Edwards' recent rhetoric.  He seems to have co-opted Krugman's new book as his economic manifesto, and I think that's a good thing.  I'm also impressed with his new Iraq stance.  However, I'm not going to support Edwards just because he toes the netroots line the best.  For me, the question is who is the candidate most able to bring about and pass needed policy.

I'm for Obama for the simple reason that I think he is most likely to win in a landslide and help elect Democrats to Congress to pass needed legislation.  For me, it's a practical issue.  I like a lot Edwards' recent rhetoric, but to actually get things done, we're going to need much bigger majorities.  That independents are excited about Obama is a good thing and bodes well for the general election.  If he's not running as an icon of the new progressive movement, but still wins big, I think it's a moot point.  People forget, but that's how FDR did it in 1932.  Won big, won big majorities, then governed as a progressive.


Competing Movements | 11 comments
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