Three Waves And A Wall: 2008 And The American Future-Pt. 4

by: Paul Rosenberg

Sat Feb 23, 2008 at 20:27

This final installment to this series was delayed because of a domino effect set in motion when I had to cover a 6-hour Long Beach Harbor Commission meeting on Tuesday.  For a refresher on the earlier installments, just click the links below

In this diary set, I've worked with the notion of historical cycles, or waves-specifically, three differently scaled waves all of which converge on this November's election, and in doing so, confront a wall--the intensely fortified network of rightwing organizations and their "moderate" and "centrist" enablers, together with the narratives they both depend upon and propagate.

The first part dealt with the roughly 32-40 year cycle of American Party Systems, The second part dealt with the rise and fall of successive world powers--Spain, Holland, Britain, and now us--described by former GOP uber-guru Kevin Phillips in Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich.  The third part dealt with the recent wave of "post-materialist" values surveyed on a worldwide basis over the past several decades by the World Values Survey, and described most fully in the work of social scientist Ronald Inglehart.

Now, I look at the wall those waves are crashing up against...

Discussion begins on the flip...

Paul Rosenberg :: Three Waves And A Wall: 2008 And The American Future-Pt. 4

Conventional observers and political scientists have a strong tendency not to see what is happening with this upcoming election.  Realigning elections are rare creatures, and like many such creatures there are always those who doubt they even exist.  Far more common than two consecutive wave elections favoring the same party are swings one way, then the next, and so it is only natural that this is what's considered natural.  And if realigning elections, bringing about new party systems every 36 years or so, are such rare creatures, then what can we say about the rise and fall of great powers?  Or the rising post-materialist wave?  None of these deeper factors register much in the common academic or professional political literature.   And yet, the signs of their imminant impact are unmistakable.

Unmistakable-but not unopposible.  Indeed, these forces stand opposed by a powerful obstructing wall, which I have referred to repeatedly under the rubric of hegemony, which has both an institutional and an ideological aspect.  The ideology is authoritarian, anti-modern, anti-reason, and anti-democracy.  Over the past decade, it has sought to overturn one election (1996) by hounding an elected President into acts of desperation for which it then sought to remove him from office.  It sought-successfully, to steal another election in broad daylight by usurping the popular will and preventing the counting of ballots, based on legal "reasoning" by the Supreme Court which were declared null and void for any other purposes.  It virtually ignored a mass murderer responsible for killing 3,000 Americans, and fraudulently took us to war with that mass murderer's chief ideological rival. It sought to turn the entire executive branch-but especially the Department of Justice-into an arm of the Republican National Committee, in a quest to establish permanent one-party rule. It sought to undermine the separation of powers, the architectural keystone of Constitution. It sought to nullify the right to habeas corpus, dating back to 1215 and the Magna Charta.  It sought to turn the Federal Government into an instrument for taxing the public in order to amass enormous private wealth for friends of the President, Vice President and the Republican Party.

In short, it sought to turn America into a neo-feudal, pre-modern state.  This agenda is so deeply and profoundly anti-American that the nation as a whole is in revolt.  Approximately 50 percent of all Americans strongly disapprove of President Bush's job performance.  At this point, four things, above all, are keeping back the tide of sweeping change.  One, a deeply intimidate political "opposition" that is more like the GOP's hapless sidekick than a real opposition party.  Two, a press corps[e] that functions primarily as a palace propaganda machine.  Three, a broader array of institutional power, from politicized churches, to propagandistic "think tanks" to ideologically lock-step federal judges, that is militantly opposed to allowing even the slightest moves in the direction of changing course.  Four, a public that has long been starved of any truly oppositional political discourse, so that it has an extremely difficult time formulating anything it wants in positive terms that are recognizable to more than a fragment of the public at large.

This is the nature of the wall.  But even though it remains extremely formidable, it shows distinct signs of fragmentation, which bode well for the November elections, though what lies beyond the elections in terms of governance is far less clear.

Here, I want to examine several different aspects of the hegemonic power structure confronting the power of the three waves discussed in previous installments.

The 2008 Elections

The November elections are obviously highly important.  If I am correct, they will be the most important elections since 1968 at the very least, and possible since 1932.  However, that imporance will not flow from the elections alone, but more importantly from what happens as a result of them.  So the elections themselves are only the beginning.

The Presidency

There is clearly little, if any chance that McCain could win in November.  Bush's popularity continues running lower than even before the 2006 election, and McCain's chosen path to the nomination was to identify himself as much as possible with Bush.  Ouch!

Obama looks virtually certain to be the Democratic nominee, and he should win rather handily.while strongly reinforcing the youth trend toward Democratic Party identification.  Nothing is certain, of course, but this is clearly the most likely outcome at this time.

The House

Strong as the tide was for Democrats in 2006, the tide should be even stronger in 2008, with Bush's popularity lower than in 2006, and the economy worsening in additon to the endless Iraq War.  With Obama at the top of the ticket, some freshman Dems may have to run hard, but none should lose. OTOH, the wave of GOP retirements, and some remaining close calls from 2006 are enough all by themselves to indicate that another 20-30 seats may well be low-hanging fruit.  If the GOP base remains unenthusiastic, and Obama continues to inspire, Democrats could pick up twice that many seats.

On the eve of the 2006 midterms, October 24, 2006, Pew pollster Andrew Kohut wrote a brief piece for the NY Times, "Can Safe Seats Save the Republicans?"

In it, he called attention to the fact that 1994 had been a watershed, and that since then the ratio of Democratic votes to seats won had shifted markedly, aided most recently by precision district-drawing software:

Polls now show margins of support for the Democrats that historically would have been associated with winning a clear majority in the House.

But the political landscape is different than it was 15 years ago. Following the 1990 and 2000 censuses many districts were redrawn, using computer-assisted geopolitical mapping to maximize partisan homogeneity and decrease competitiveness. And it worked. In 2004 only 32 seats were won by less than 55 percent of the vote.

The 1994 midterm election marked the end of Democratic Congressional legacy. Democrats no longer won re-election in conservative districts, especially in the South, and these districts became safely Republican. This, along with high-tech redistricting, weakened the link between the number of Congressional votes a party gets nationally and the number of seats it captures, as the chart below shows. And that makes it harder than ever to use national polls to predict how many seats a party will win in the House.

The latest Pew Research Center poll finds a 13-percentage-point advantage for the Democrats when respondents are asked which of their local Congressional candidates they intend to vote for. Before the era of safe seats, an edge that size in a national poll would mean a shift of at least 70 seats. But this year, a change of that magnitude is unlikely.

Of course, it was unlikely. Democrats only a little under half that.  But even in the old days there was considerable variation.  Still, once the dust had settled, what the Democrats did do was actually closer to the pre-1994 trend than it was to the post-1994 as can be seen from the graph below-the graph from Kohut's story with the 2006 result added in red, and a circle surrounding the range of potential results to duplicate in a McCain-slump/Obama wave election:

Of course, there is no guarantee that our results will fall in that range.  But the 2006 results clearly indicate the possibility.

The Senate

Things could be better for us in the Senate.  We could have a stronger field of challengers.  But all things considered, it's still a distinct possibility we could get to 60 seats this year.  The latest Rothenberg Report has 10 GOP seats and just one Dem that are out of the "safe" category.  And Nebraska is not among them:

Likely Takeover (1 R, 0 D)
   * VA Open (Warner, R)

Lean Takeover (1 R, 0 D)
   * NM Open (Domenici, R)

Toss-Up (3 R, 1 D)
   * CO Open (Allard, R)
   * Coleman (R-MN)
   * Landrieu (D-LA)
   * Sununu (R-NH)

Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party (2 R, 0 D)
   * Smith (R-OR)
   * Stevens (R-AK)

Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party (3 R, 0 D)
   * Collins (R-ME)
   * Dole (R-NC)
   * McConnell (R-KY)

Electoral Conclusion

Summing up all the above, the November elections look pretty good for us.  Nothing is ever certain, of course.  But looking back at the last two years of highly disappointing Congressional performance, I think it's reasonable to say that winning elections is neither the hardest nor the most important challenge we face.  It would be foolish to take our eyes off the ball, and let these opportunities slip away, but it would be equally foolish to focus only on winning, and end up with a dysfunctional governing majority, for whatever reason.  The opportunity here is huge-we've only had a Democratic Congress and Democratic President for 6 years since 1968, and very little was accomplished during those 6 years.  If we can make a significant mark in 2009-2010, we can be in good shape to win control of enough legislatures to ensure a better House map in 2012, even though there will be continued Sunbelt gains.  Thus, a good two years in 2009-2010 can mean two more decent House elections.  It is extremely rare to have more than two consecutive wave elections.  But picking up another 5-10 seats in 2010 and 2012 would be nothing to sneeze at.  The key will be two-fold: legislative and narrative victories.  That's what we turn to next.

Deeper Aspects of Hegemonic Struggle

Going beyond just winning elections will require that we engage the right in hegemonic struggle across all platforms and institutions.  This post cannot possibly address all of them, but it can address a few key examples, and give some indication of what this will entail.  

Think Tanks

As a rule, Rightwing think tanks reflect a keen awareness of Gramscian culture war.  Centrist and progressive think tanks do not.  Rightwing think tanks exist to push an ideological agenda.  Other think tanks exist to try to solve problems.  The right doesn't care about problems.  It cares about running things.  It cares about power.  If there are problems, it will take strategic advantage of them to move its agenda.  If the problems get in the way of moving that agenda, then it might actually try to solve the problems, or at least move them out of the way.  But solving problems is definitely a low priority.  Moving the agenda-winning the culture war-is all that really matters.

This was vividly illustrated when Tacitus posted about the Overton Window at Swords Crossed.

The Overton Window is all about shifting policy in one ideological direction or another:

(Illustration from Corrente, with good, brief intro.)

Here is how Tacitus described it:

The mission of a think tank is to introduce ideas into public discourse and normalize them within the public discourse.  The steps an idea takes to full legitimacy are roughly as follows:

 #   Unthinkable
 #   Radical
 #   Acceptable
 #   Sensible
 #   Popular
 #   Policy

This is a rough continuum.  Not all ideas start at the same point, not all make it to the endstate -- and some travel backwards.  The think tank, with its advocacy and scholarship, does its best to make sure that its preferred ideas reach their endstate.  But how does it do this in a systemic way?  How does it stay within the bounds of possibility -- the acceptable, sensible, and popular -- even as it reaches for long-term goals in the radical and unthinkable categories?

Needless to say, this is not how think tanks have traditionally thought of their missions.  They neither considered themselves far outside the mainstream of political thought, nor did they think they had perfect solutions handed down from on high to bring to the unwashed masses.  They were much more involved in mucking around with imperfect solutions, cobbling things together as best they could, and engaging in dialogue more than propaganda.  For the most part, this is still how most think tanks consider themselves-and that's a problem going up agains the Overton Window model, as we shall now see.  Tacitus continued:

One useful tool is the Overton window.  Named after the former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy favicon who developed the model, it's a means of visualizing where to go, and how to assess progress.  Let's say, for example, that you want to make education as free and choice-based as it can possibly be.  Let's start by developing a continuum of educational states, from the desired extreme of total freedom, to the undesirable extreme of total statism.  It might look something like this:

 #   No government involvement in education.
 #   All schools private with government regulation.
 #   Voucher system with public schools.
 #   Tuition tax credit with public schools.
 #   Homeschooling legal.
 #   Private schools restricted.
 #   Homeschooling illegal.
 #   Private schools illegal.
 #   Children taken from parents and raised as janissaries.

Note the total lack of any consideration of education per se.  Note, too, the ludicrous extreme indicative of extreme paranoia.  This model clearly has nothing to do with education, certainly not with imroving the quality of education, access to education, educational motivation, or any other realworld educational concern.  It is all about the ideological agenda of privatization. Period. End of story.

Tacitus continued:

Now, back when Joe Overton drew up this notional list (which is meant to be illustrative, so don't get hung up on its particular accuracy), the range of actual, reasonable possibilities as perceived by the general public in Overton's state of Michigan were the items bolded below:

 #   No government involvement in education.
 #   All schools private with government regulation.
 #   Voucher system with public schools.
 #   Tuition tax credit with public schools.
 #   Homeschooling legal.

 #   Private schools restricted.
 #   Homeschooling illegal.

 #   Private schools illegal.
 #   Children taken from parents and raised as janissaries.

The bolded items, representing the politically possible amongst all conceivable options, are the Overton window.  The idea is to shift that window in the preferred direction.  In Michigan today, the Overton window looks substantively different:

 #   No government involvement in education.
 #   All schools private with government regulation.

 #   Voucher system with public schools.
 #   Tuition tax credit with public schools.
 #   Homeschooling legal.
 #   Private schools restricted.

 #   Homeschooling illegal.
 #   Private schools illegal.
 #   Children taken from parents and raised as janissaries.

There are obviously a whole range of problems raised by this model.  The most obvious is that it aims to do something that it is totally at odds with any concern about education per se.  Some of the ideas it might propose-such as homeschooling-might be innocent enough on their own, and even, in some cases, highly beneficial.  But they don't exist because of those benefits-they exist to further an agenda of eventually destroying public education.  What's more, homeschooling frequently fits into another agenda-brainwashing children to reject science and reason, effectively making them unfit to be citizens in a healthy, funcitoning democracy.  This is a deeply anti-social agenda, and it is a very big part of the what the hard right is all about.

Looking at this model, two contradictory responses are likely to emerge. One is simply the need to counter it with equally agressive advocacy in the opposite direction.  But a second resonse is that this is so thoroughly wrong-headed that opposing it via the same methods would only serve to make things worse.  After all, no one in their right minds, wants to take children from their parents and raise them as janissaries.  And, more realistically, most sensible policy analysts favor policy mixes in most policy areas.  Put simply, it is not generally the case that there is one right way to do anything, and thus is does not generally make sense to organize yourself around a model that depends upon such a false assumption.

There is a way around this divergence of contradictory responseses-and that is simply to develop more sophisticated versions of the Overton Window model.  Instead of moving along a linear track from one ideological extreme to another, one can think in terms of moving effective ideas from the stage of inspired idea to proven scientific concept, to engineerable application, to manufacturable product, and so forth.  In other words, substitute a reality-based framework for an ideological one, but maintain the concept of long-term directed advocacy.

A couple of operational consequences flow from this model.  One is that a lot more resources need to be devoted to communications and advocacy, and not simply to the thinking part of being a think tank.  Getting ideas out there to the broader public needs to be a high priority-not just reaching traditional media, but interfacing with bloggers, activists, and anyone else who can help spread the word about new ideas and policy proposals.  A think tank without a strong communications department is not really in the game.

A second consequence is that a lot more attention needs to be focused on how ideas are framed.  This is not, as is sometimes thought, simply a matter of communication, although that is a vitally important aspect.  It also reflects a very basic aspect of how they are thought about in the first place.  The reality-based model is quite naturally a collaborative model.  By eschewing the notion of having an omniscient top-down ideological blueprint for everything under the Sun, it naturally follows that one wants to be open to new ideas and input from a wide range of potential sources, active partners as well as the many wellsprings of ideas in the wider world.  Framing is vitally important in getting clear about the foundations of ones own ideas, which in turn makes it much easier to grasp how other ideas complement, expand upon or enhance them.  This is true both in terms of conceptual foundations, and in terms of how policy ideas are founded in progressive values.

Improving the quality of how progressive think tanks operate is one of the key ingredients for making major advances in the culture war against the right.  These observations are simply a commonsense starting point for making the necessary changes.

Old Media

Old media is a very serious obstacle, and I don't have a lot to say about it here.   What can you say when those who got everything wrong are promoted and those who got everything right are let go?  When it happens not once or twice, but over and over and over again?  The best thing we can do, IMHO, is continue to build the power of new media.  Not only does this create an effective alternative, it exerts pressure on old media as well.  We have to keep hounding them constantly, of course.  But it's unrealistic to expect this to provide a solution.  The best it does is provide damage control.  Which is important. Very important.  But my main concern is about going on the offensive.  And that means....

New Media

Here I want to borrow liberally from a comment by mitchipd in my previous diary, "A Gramscian Take on The Times And McCain".  The comment is well worth reading and responding to in its entiretly, but I'm going to draw on it selectively here.  What's particularly noteworthy is that it addresses new media in combination (implicitly) with two of the three waves I've discussed in this set of diaries-the great powers wave that is returning us to an egalitarian ethos and the post-materialist wave that is raising our awareness of, desire and commitment to democracy, self-determination, and participation.

First, Mitch points up the potential of web video-an important form of new media:

My sense is that the video medium (and, as Rush et al have shown, radio) is better suited than written words to address the less-than-rational cognitive levels you address here.  

That highlights to me the value of web-based video (including its relative ease of editing, posting, distribution, viewing and re-editing) as a tool for building the counter-hegemonic institutions you refer to in your closing.  And the fact that web-based video can also be integrated with written words, links to source material and interactive discussion, makes it much better suited for moving up the cognitive-level hierarchy than one-way broadcast TV, especially given the latter's entrenched role as a hegemony-maintainer (both intentionally and by virtue of its economic incentive system, technology, regulation, etc.).

Related to this is the reasonable expectation that the capabilities (software, bandwidth, availability, etc.) of web-based multimedia communications will continue to grow, probably at an accelerating rate.

I agree wholeheartedly.  By itself, tv makes you dumb.  Of course, anyone halfway smart talks back to their tv all the time.  But web-based video evens things out considerably, particularly-as Mitch notes--with its ease of integration with other forms..  This is inherently empowering.

In 2000, I was part of the Los Angeles Independent Media Center at the Democratic National Convention.  We credentialed around 1000 people to use our facilities.  That's a lot of people.  A small handful were also credentialed by the convention, but we were there primarily to cover the outside events, the wide variety of demonstrations and protests.  The big problem was that a very large number of those people were videographers, it took a long time afterwards to sift through, edit, and make something out of all the footage taken.  My point is, that bottleneck is now gone.  I think we're in for a real explosion of political videographers unlike anything we've ever seen.

Mitch continues, on what is, for purposes of this section, a related side-topic:

Another point that comes to mind after reading this post is that there's an emotional counterpart to lower levels of cognition, which I'd simplistically describe as "fear-driven" emotions, which obviously include fear itself, but also include externalized anger (related to defense mechanisms like "delusional projection") that can be intensely triggered as lower levels of cognition bang up repeatedly against realities they cannot accommodate.

In my view, this links to Obama's "hope-focused" political message and strategy.  While there are good reasons to be doubtful about its efficacy and to be concerned about risks associated with its failure, I see this strategy as an invitation to Americans that are "on the cusp" in terms of their predominant cognitive level to move up the cognitive scale.

Several comments.  First, this makes sense to me, and highlights my frustration over Obama's relative lack of specific, substantive visionary proposals, which I've highlighted in writing about Rober Fuller's dignitarian vision, Jacob Hacker's The Great Risk Shift, and discussing a robust revisioning of foreign policy and security ("Improving Obama's Foreign Policy--Seven Suggested Additions").  A "hope-focused" political message and strategy is good, but having some examples that function as concrete embodiments is even better.

Second, this does connect rather directly with something that Robert Kegan says about making the transition from one level of cognitive development to the next.  To do this, people need to (a) be developmentally ready, (b) be challenged and (c) be supported.  I agree with Mitch that Obama provides some crucial elements for this process--and that web-based new media has the capacity to complement and add to this process, which is nothing less than a major process of empowerment.

Skipping down a bit, Mitch goes on to say:

All of this points to:

1) A potential evolution of the progressive (broadly defined) netroots as an increasingly capable counter-hegemonic institution (in terms of content, format, technical capabilities, integration with other political, social and media institutions, etc.).  We're already seeing that today, and I have no reason to believe it will not continue, very likely at a generally accelerating pace.

2) The potential for the netroots to provide high-value input that is distilled and synthesized from the citizenry as a whole, accompanied by consistent and constructive pressure on an Obama Administration and Congress.

3) The netroots working with the expanding progressive elements within the dominant political institutions in ways that build strong and sustainable linkages between them, and strong and sustainable institutions that can provide the cognitive and emotional evolutionary bridges for an increasing number of Americans who are ready to move up the cognitive and emotional scales.

4) As this "war of position" unfolds in the political and media arenas, the growth of the Internet and related technologies would enable a "war of movement" that I might describe as a shift from today's hyper-capitalism to something that would incorporate (among other things) the principles and practices described in the book Natural Capitalism.  

This war involves an economic shift from control by concentrated aggregations of capital and the high levels of negative externalities with which this concentration is associated (e.g., pollution, poverty, poor health), to a more decentralized and democratic economic structure marked by local and global collaborations of "connected" citizens in peer-based "social production" systems (as described well in Yochai Benkler's "Wealth of Networks"), coupled with the migration to decentralized and renewable energy systems described in Natural Capitalism and other books.

This war of movement would also encompass powerful development-related innovations pioneered by folks like Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize-winner and founder of the Grameen Bank, and discussed in his most recent book: "Creating a World Without Poverty: How Social Business Can Transform Our Lives."  

As Yunus explains in that book, his "on the ground" economic and social development strategies (including the simple but transformative concepts of "micro-lending" and "social business") are closely tied to the potential to achieve high levels of productive and equitable "connectivity" in the world, even in relatively poor developing countries and regions.  

Achieving this connectivity ties back once again to the integration of declining-cost and decentralized communication and energy technologies.

All of which I agree with.  The most fundamental shift we are engaged in, IMHO, is a shift toward radical egalitarianism.  This doesn't necessarily mean a classless Marxist future, but it does mean a future in which privilege means far less, creation of value means far more, and a basic concept of human dignity creates a much higher floor, beneath which no one is allowed to fall.  (Even if they're really stupid and don't understand a thing I say!)

This is not an original idea of mine, by any means.  Lots of people have had it before. One of the best expressions of it comes from William Urey in his book, Getting To Peace , in which, among other things, he points to how this is a form of return to the dominant social forms of the pre-historic, pre-agricultural era-what I like to think of as the first information age, when the ratio of stories, songs and other forms of information to material stuff was much, much higher than anything seen since.

A key point here is that the new, decentralized, multilateral communication model embodies the value system that it communicates about.  The medium is the message, and the message is the medium.


There are many other fronts of hegemonic struggle I haven't talked about.  There are institutions such as the federal and state judiciary.  There is Bush's wholesale politicization of virtually the entire Executive Branch.   There is also his extensive privatization of executive functions to his wealthy cronies.  There is the widespread politicization of religious institutions.  But all of these other fronts of struggle can be dealt with to the extent that we make significant progress in the core areas of strategic thinking and communications.  These are the core areas from which light can be shed on all others.

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excellent (0.00 / 0)
Excellent Paul.  and I note that privatization has seeped into the left in personal savings accounts as well as education so these ideological institutions are quite good at what they do.  

The Economic Populist

Their job is easier (4.00 / 1)
As Paul does a great job of pointing out, the conservatives attempt to push opinion along ideological lines but progressives are reality based and don't really want to push back along the same line.  Personal savings accounts aren't bad on their own (I love my 401K) but they fundamentally don't solve the problem Social Security solves.

Since we are open to alternate ideas it is very easy to expand our view of what is possible or reasonable.  But their efforts also work at lower levels of cognitive development.

Which takes us back to Kegan's schema.  In our ideal world we push and teach until the population is at level 4 and 5.  But the reality is there will always be those at lower levels and we need their support as well.  How do we do that without damaging our own efforts.  How do we make stage 2 and 3 level arguments without undermining our goal to raise people to levels 4 and 5?

[ Parent ]
This Is Part of the Reason For Arguing From Values (0.00 / 0)
Kids learn liberal values at Level 1.  There was even a bestseller about this: Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten

"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 ]
reality based (0.00 / 0)
front page just reminded me of something that is not reality based and that is the open border organizations (backed some some serious corporate money as well) claiming that open borders is "good" for the US economy and that global migration is "good".  Truly they defy the entire subtopic area in economics called labor economics with this spin.

Unfortunately the term Progressive has been co-opted by these groups but there I'd say is some ideology before labor economic reality.  But in my view they are also not progressive either because their agenda will hurt US workers and is a net loss for workers, working people.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
I'd feel a lot better about Obama... (4.00 / 3)
... if he wasn't keeping the Overton Window firmly where it is, or pulling it right, with the constant use of Republican talking points, and, above all, the egregious distortions on universal health care.

I am in earnest -- I will not equivocate -- I will not excuse -- I will not retreat a single inch -- AND I WILL BE HEARD.  

Agreed 100% (0.00 / 0)
I'm hoping that campaigning in Ohio, in particular, will shake some of that out of him.

But the real promise is simply that the movement he arouses will run right past him, and he'll have to start sprinting to catch up.  I don't have quite the level of faith this will happen that others do, at least in the short run.

But the long-run prospects are probably a good deal better.  Obama may be a great believer in "transformational leadership," but I'm a great believer in historical forces.  And historical forces say, "bedtime for super-hierarchy."

"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 ]
Good post and good points.... (0.00 / 0) my humble opinion I have no doubt that we will have to fight Obama and his backers. They are going to stick with what they know: Wall Street, Machine Politics and the Rhetoric of Demogogary.

I feel more hopeful, strangely, about his followers. Folks such as Kid Oakland, whom I disagree with re: Obama, are not going to sit quietly by if he attempts a 'sellout'. I believe many of the Oborg are due for a nasty surprise and then we shall see how that much abused cookie crumbles.

My problem lies with the total lack of anyone on any level addressing root causes. Root causes of corruption, destruction of the ecosphere and the continuing dumbing down of the citizenry when exactly the opposite will be needed for our society's survival.

Peace, Health and Prosperity for Everyone.

[ Parent ]
That's because his "movement" (4.00 / 1)
isn't a movement based on ideas. If it were, these people would care that his ideas don't reflect their own. I mean that of both the left and right leaning components. The fact they do not says al ot to me. This isn't a matter of personal believes, this is about the public.

[ Parent ]
Huh? (4.00 / 1)
It's Hillary who is using right wing frames for her plan...  Mandates for private insurance is the brainchild of romney, Schwartzenager, and dozens of other Republican governors or gubernatorial hopefuls...

Barack is right.  If it isn't tax funded, it shouldn't be mandated.  Mandates are authoritarian and unDemocratic by principle.

He's also correct in saying that most people don't have health insurance not because it's not mandated, but, because it is unaffordable.  Bring the cost down, and you won't need mandates.  It's common sense, and a much more Democratic approach.

The fact is both plans stink 'cos neither offers true universal health care that is affordable and available to everybody.  In the end, everyone may be "insured" whether by force or not, but that "insurance" will probably leave a lot to be desired!

So, there is no point quibbling over the small differences between the plans, when neither offers the best solution, and the final plan (if ever passed by congress) will look nothing like what is being proposed today.



REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

[ Parent ]
Low level arguements (4.00 / 2)
This is all true, but both Clinton and Obama have been mostly having the argument at lower level, with Clinton's base message being "Universal good" and Obama's being "forced to do something bad".  Clinton is on the left and Obama on the right.  I say this even though I think Obama is more correct on the issue once you dig a level or two deeper.

This actually gets to my point above of how to argue at a level 2 or 3 while simultaneously encouraging thought at level 4 and 5.  There's a conflict that is hard to navigate.

[ Parent ]
It Often Helps To Be Arguing For Something Good (0.00 / 0)
Rather than something half good, half bad.

Extremism in the pursuit of consistency is no hobgoblin of colorless green foolish Jewish Episcopalians.

"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 ]
Good point (0.00 / 0)
My imperfect solution that doesn't really address the real problem is better than your imperfect solution that doesn't really address the real problem doesn't make for the best debates.

[ Parent ]
Healthcare: an arena for testing our strength? (4.00 / 1)
This healthcare-focused part of the thread (which makes good sense to me) suggests to me that this is an issue the netroots should push very hard on regardless of which Dem is in the White House (and I'm assuming one will be).  

As you seem to be saying, its tough for either side to make a truly compelling case--at any cognitive level--because what really makes good sense--at all cognitive levels--is the kind of single-payer system Obama claims to support if we could start from scratch.

Though the odds would be against us prevailing fully, this strikes me as an issue for us to test Obama's sincerity and execution skills in terms of "opening up" the process and working toward the common good.  And one in which we could use our "new media" infrastructure (which will have evolved further by 2009) to craft and deliver (multimedia) arguments (backed by multi-pronged grassroots pressure) that are crafted and packaged to have strong impacts at all cognitive levels.  And I think this is an issue that fits very well as a key component of the "dignity and security for all" theme Paul has discussed here and in prior posts.  As such, whatever effort we put into it is likely to have spillover benefits in other policy area tied to this underlying theme.

Though I'm ambivalent about the Clinton v. Obama debate over mandates, I'm inclined to think we'd have a better shot at influence in an Obama Admin.  That's admittedly an educated guess at best, but I think its a reasonable one based on where the two candidates seem to be coming fromm with regard to the policymaking process and their backgrounds.

[ Parent ]
Roadmap (0.00 / 0)
The first thing we should all agree on is the ultimate goal is single payer health care -- or at least single payer health insurance.  (There is no need for doctors to be public employees, we only need the government to play the part of insurer.  I think the phrase "single payer health care" does not imply anything beyond insurance, but I'm not sure.)

Then we need to figure out how to get from here to there, both politically and physically.  What laws can we pass now that help us reach our ultimate destination and which laws back us into a corner, making future change harder?

[ Parent ]
Good stuff (0.00 / 0)
Television and Radio may hit us at a more emotional level than text, but I think that is a vital reason that we need to reclaim them. I love the internet because it is participatory and creates a space for counter-corporate and counter-hegemonic discussion and organizing, but I believe the radio has that potential as well. In fact, I know it, because I'm involved in a local college/community radio station. We have no advertisements, we have no content restrictions (save those from the FCC) and there is no cost to having a show.

I don't disagree that right now the easiest area for growth, at least in the "war for position" is in the new media. That said, I think when we have the opportunity (next year!?) to shift towards a war of movement, old media needs to be our first target.  And not as something to push back against, but as something to coopt.

Specifically, in addition to protecting and growing the new media via net neutrality and all, there are a laundry list of reforms that can begin to shift the old media away from forcing hegemonic narrative down our throats, and towards becoming nodes in the progressive movement.

Fighting media consolidation, licensing way more community radio, funding more public media (maybe?), re-instituting the fairness doctrine, and mandating a la carte cable all seem like concrete steps towards changing the nature of old media.

On thing I don't have many ideas for is newspapers.  What sort of policy changes might allow us to reclaim and save local newspapers? That seems to me a type of old media with great potential for us, and also the one most likely to literally die out in the face of competition from new media.

What about non-profit foundations (maybe funded publicly, initially?) to set them up? Here's an article about a town that tried to do it themselves: http://www.editorandpublisher....

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

I Agree That There Are A Lot Of Things We Can Do (0.00 / 0)
I just don't expect to see radio become a major progressive force anytime soon.  And I say that as someone with friends who work at Pacifica's KPFK.  It's a great resource, but balance that against rightwing talk radio, and it's clear that the net balance is heavily against us.  Not so on the internets, not so among documentary films.

I really do think that a major turning point may come when we have sufficient organizing power via new media that we can organize swift, powerful advertizer boycotts around specific eggregious abuses.  This is an example of how I think the growth of new media will be crucial to making major headway with old media.  I could be wrong, of course.  But that's very much how it seems to me now.

Finally, regarding newspapers, there was a proposal to try to save the LA Times via a non-profit ownership structure.  The problem is, none of the bloodsuckers who now owns a major paper is interested in that.  They all just want to bleed them dry.  Me, I work at a small alternative paper, and we still scoop the competition from time to time, even though we only come out biweekly.  It's really pathetic how much they've slashed their news rooms.

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

[ Parent ]
I agree as well (4.00 / 1)
The Internet and documentary films strike me as very compatible, in that the former can provide promotional and distribution (and possibly even grassroots-generated startup funding) support for the latter, while the latter's content can provide raw material for shorter web-friendly videos, as well as web-based mobilization efforts.

I also see increasing potential for rapid-response advertiser boycott and other mass netroots-facilitated mobilization in response to media abuses.  I think the track record to date suggests that progress has already been made on this front, though more is needed.

And we should remember that we're likely to have a Democratic FCC starting in 2009, very possibly a pretty progressive one.  We haven't had a truly Democratic FCC in a very long time (No offense meant to Reed Hundt, but I'm not counting the Clinton years due to the presence of ex-broadcaster James Quello, who repeatedly resisted Hundt's more progressive efforts).  We may still have to push them, but we'll probably have to fight them a lot less often.

[ Parent ]
FCC (4.00 / 1)
That's exactly why I disagree.  Advertiser boycotts are fine, but no number of Don Imus events are going to result in real Radio reform.  But the FCC could.  The fairness doctrine alone would drive a stake into the Clear Channel Business model.  Couple that with busting the media oligopolies and licencing local radio, and I think you'd be looking at an entirely different situation.

It seems to me that you guys are talking about a pretty over simplified dichotomy in which some media are good, and others are bad. Really, we should be pushing to change the basic regulatory framework so they can all recognize their potential. I also think that you are maybe not taking into account the extent to which Radio and the net can also operate synergistically. I don't really know the ins and outs, but I think Black Agenda Report is a good example of that.

I really don't have a clue how you improve television content, so I'll grant you that it may be unsalvageable, at least in the near term.

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

[ Parent ]
Where we can get the most results, especially long-term (4.00 / 1)
I'm in favor of stronger media ownership rules, opening up spectrum to more democratic uses, and even bringing back the Fairness Doctrine.  And my sense is that both current Dem FCC Commissioners are pretty sympathetic to taking stronger action on these issues.

But, aside from freeing up more spectrum for new voices and applications, I doubt its politically feasible to push back consolidation to levels that will have much impact on the "quality" and "diversity" of what we see on TV.  That doesn't mean it's not worth fighting for, just that its impact may not be all that great.

For one thing, the FCC has pretty limited jurisdiction related to cable networks, which are increasingly a force in political TV media.  I'm pretty sure the Fairness Doctrine only applied to broadcasting and I think it would be tough to get even a Democratic Congress to apply it to cable nets.  And, aside from the abuses by some large station groups (which are worth stopping), I doubt the Fairness Doctrine would have much real impact on what broadcast networks run.

I do agree that radio and the Internet can work synergistically, and are already.

But the real opportunity I see is that, over time (and maybe pretty quickly), it'll become easier and easier to watch web-delivered video not only on the PC, but also on your TV and even mobile devices.

That's where issues like network neutrality and "open networks" kick in, and why these issues are so important--in my view, more important even than media consolidation.  They're not mutually exclusive, of course, but I think insuring networks are open to any content and application (and device) is where the big opportunities for change lies, especially for the netroots and progressives in general.

The faster this "new media" system evolves, and the better progressives become at using it, the more we'll see real transformation in political media, not just defensive battles over a system that's arguably beyond repair and also will be experiencing a pretty steady decline in terms of its impact.

[ Parent ]
That's interetsing (0.00 / 0)
About the newspapers.  How much does a good sized local paper cost to operate each year?

Do you think the Feds could step in when a paper like the Cincinnati Post is about to close, and help set up a foundation to continue running the paper as a non-profit? I know it might cost a lot to set up a foundation that could indefinintely support a paper, but it's also only a one time expense.  And of course, we could get all kinds of concessions in terms of guarantees to focus on local issues, maintain a serious newsroom and even limit the amount of advertising.

I've never really heard anyone propose that the government take a role in something like that, but do you think it is plausible?

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

[ Parent ]
Sort Of (0.00 / 0)
I don't think direct government involvement would be a good idea.  But I do think that government could help in getting a public trust established, which might be quasi-governmental.

We sure could have used something like that to keep the LA Times from continuing on its long, slow death march.

"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 ]
Yeah (0.00 / 0)
I don't much like the idea of the government medling in the actual operation of the media, I just like the idea of them fronting the seed money.

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

[ Parent ]
College Radio and TV Stations (0.00 / 0)
are usually associated with public institutions.  So they are quasi-governmental.  But with well-structured protection for operational independence. Not a bad model there.

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

[ Parent ]
I've seen (0.00 / 0)
Other calls for this, along the model of how the BBC is funded and run.

Also, the CBC provides a model too.  Government funded arms length media organs have proven successful in a number of countries, there's no obvious reason what worked to run tv stations couldn't also run newspapers.

The PBS/NPR model is too reliant on donations and thus prone to too much influence from a few key donors.  Government funding done on multi-year basis with little operational input and much oversight reduces the risk of meddling.

[ Parent ]
Speaking of "eggregious abuses" (0.00 / 0)
[ Parent ]
Welll, you finally made me do it (0.00 / 0)
I finally found a post here I just had to comment on.

First of all, on the question from comments of whether Obama himself is too centrist: I don't think we need to worry.  For starters, what actually happens will be a matter to be negotiated with Congress, even if we pick up seats the chances we're not going to have chip off a couple of centrist republicans in the Senate are pretty low.  So there's going to be boundaries on how far left he can pull the system for at least the first couple of years.  I'm sure he's somewhere to the left of that.

Beyond that, look at the way he organizes, and what he has said about how he plans to govern.  He's "crowdsourcing", and if the crowd wants to stampede left and the political capability is there, it's left we will go.  Only so far left as the crowd is willing, so don't get your hopes up of an immediate socialist swing, that's too hip for the room (to paraphrase the point of the entire post that was made here).

Worrying about whether he's "left enough" because he won't claim the very baggage-laden term "Liberal" (as Chris Bowers was earlier in another post) is ridiculous, the left's version of a lapel-pin purity test and just as vapid.  Let him expend political capital on something of substance, and let other people worry about reclaiming labels.  We've got "Progressive", it will do.

Here's something else we have to consider: The right-wing think tanks have established that there is a portion of the populace that is not, in your terms, "cognitively ready", to really understand what's going on.  They're manipulating and using these people, and certainly not trying to raise them up.  But here's a tricky question: What if they can't be?  Bear with me, what I'm saying here is that some people may "cognitively retarded", operating on the lower steps of Grasci's continuum not just because that's how they were educated, but because that's where they were destined to be.

Postulating that this is true, what the hell are we going to do with these people?  If you follow the path of least resistance without accounting for them, you can isolate them into a permanent childhood, you can manipulate their lack of dimension, or you can pretend they don't exist and leave them to the mercies of those who lack your scruples (which is where we're at).

I realize that's an example of the kind of "elitism" the right always targets at the left, but have you ever noticed how much projection they do?  Are they making the accusation because that's what they would do in our position, in fact what they are doing?

There is always a contribution to be made, but some people simply can't contribute in all ways.  The McDonald's manager might be very enlightened and let people with Down's Syndrome clean the tables and floor, but he's not going to ask them to do his books, and they're not going to know where to start if he does.  We may need to start thinking how to productively "mainstream" these folks, or we're just going to let them stew and get used for someone else's reactionary revolution down the line.

Believe It Or Not, We Have Options (4.00 / 3)
First off, the majority of people in the country are liberal on a majority of issues.  This is one of the most well-established facts in field of public opinion research.  It is true on the core issues of welfare state spending and domestic spending in general.  It is true about education, environment and health care.  It is true about the conduct of foreign affairs.  So the right wing really has to work hard overtime to get people stampeding to the right.

Fear is a key part of their strategy is doing so, and Obama's appeals to hope are certainly welcome on this front--though I must say that Jesse Jackson did it much, much better.  (Little known fact #3,547,962,431: Jesse Jackson played a pivotal role in winning back the Senate in 1986, by registering millions of blacks in the South.  The Democrats took over all the GOP seats that we up that year in the South--Alabama, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.  They also held Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina. That alone was enough to win back the Senate, though we also picked up another 4 seats net.)

Second, as I've mentioned above, liberal values do not depend on a high level of cognitive development. Kids learn liberal values at Level 1, as was clearly demonstrated by the contents of the bestseller Everything I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.  This is why the work of George Lakoff and the Rockridge Institute is so important.

Third, universal single payer is a huge economic benefit.  Our health care "system" is incredibly wasteful, and shifting to a single-payer system would be a huge boon to our economy, as well as a political boon to the Democratic Party that would last a generation, at least.  Furthermore, selling it is really not that hard if only we had political leadership on it.  Three simple words: "Medicare for all."

Obama is really pretty darned good on global warming, and would not give away billions, even trillions to polluters in heavily-subsidized cap-and-trade system, as the Senate is currently contemplating.  If he only shoewd the same sort of "common sense" in other areas, we'd be in very good shape with him as President.  The ideal may be out of reach in the short run, but the pretty decent is not.

"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 ]
But that's the point (0.00 / 0)
The actual public values have been well to the left of the apparent political center for a long time, and the disparity has been getting worse.  That's what has set up the tension that creates the possibility of a massive shift.

But the right wing has done a far better job of packaging their agenda to make it appear less extreme.  They've tied very intellectual concepts that are actively hostile to people's real interests into packages that make people for them.  Most Americans accept as gospel that "de-regulation", "free trade", and "tax relief" are in and of themselves good things, because they've been told only about the scenarios or hypotheticals where they are good for them, in dumbed-down hypotheticals that are either over-simplified or outright dishonest.

Meanwhile the actual reality is very different.  I've got a theory, developed independantly from your framework (and definitely not rigorously defined).  If you start from the postulates of "meme theory" (ala Dawkins), and combine that with the work coming out of neuro-psych research, you come to the conclusion that consciousness isn't really want we think it is, that for the most part it is the process of rationalizing the decisions we've already made, not rationally making decisions.

As I've been exploring that concept, I've used a metaphor of an operating system.  Our conscious linear narrative is the foremost application.  Behind that, other applications are running "in the background", semi-conscious thoughts we're aware of if we think about them.  Under that are various levels of OS, subconscious processes that actually do most of the work of thinking.

We're trying to change the data of the applications layer (sway people with reason).  The right-wing is coming in below that with changes to the driver layer (framing and agenda-setting), and the extreme right (especially the religious right) is using "rootkit" attacks, trying to change the fundamental way that the people in their sway think (mindset and indoctrination).

Most people don't pay attention to politics unless something happens to make them pay attention (triggers a lower-level interrupt and forces a new application to the foreground).  The right is tying their message to very low-level interrupts, survival imperatives where possible.  It doesn't matter how much more accurate our message is when theirs is coming in attached to a higher-priority carrier.  So when they pander to fear, people turn off their critical thinking and give them their complete attention.

And now I have to break my metaphor, because what happens in actual brains is desensitization.  Because the actual life-threatening events they've used to trojan in their agenda haven't occurred, people are starting to think critically again.  That's been good for us, because when they actually pay attention and step through the problem, they like our answers better.

But that can be potentially only a temporary respite.  If they find a new vector, a new way to trigger the interrupt or a different interrupt to trip, they start pre-empting the conscious layer again and people go back to rationalizing the decisions the right wants them to make.

And if they start thinking again, but the "payload" they've implanted by tying the left's agenda to fear and anxiety gets triggered by another terrorist attack, we can get set back in a hurry.  Then they could make a permanent association between "liberal politics" and "vulnerable".

And we're not doing nearly enough to guard against that possibility.  Nor are we doing anything to attach our own agenda to the interrupts.  For example, the beef recall that just happened could be an absolute poster-child for why deregulation and the revolving-door corruption of regulatory agencies is bad.  We've got a company that supplies meat to schoolchildren ignoring regulations designed to keep prion-diseases out of the food supply, and we're just letting it go by.  We're not explaining why those regulations exist.  We're not explaining how a prion disease has a 20-40 year cycle, and children who were infected last year may suffer successive degeration of their brains until they become insane, paralyzed, and die, and that there is absolutely no treatment for any of that.  And we're not explaining that the reason the USDA inspectors weren't doing their job is that the system has been corrupted, they don't want to mess up their turns to go to work for the very companies they're supposed to be watching.

"CHILDREN ARE GOING TO DIE HORRIBLY BECAUSE CORPORATIONS ARE GREEDY AND POLITICIANS ARE IN THEIR POCKET!"  That would wake people right the hell up, trip the lowest level interrupts and make them pay attention.  But the left has disarmed itself because the right has convinced them that if they use the very same tools the right does, they're "elitist" and manipulative.

If you let the other side define you, let them set the boundaries on your capabilities, let them write the rules of the game, and they're not interested in a fair contest or an honest dialog, you shouldn't be surprised that you're beat before you start.

[ Parent ]
I think (0.00 / 0)
we are a long way from having candidates confident enough to shift the debate leftwards in a significant way.

Right now I have to be content with Obama saying that Iraq was a misguided war (something Hillary won't say).

Let me give two examples:
1. Budget realities make paying for any new social programs extremely problematic.  We are running a 400 Billion Dollar deficit - which is actually about 550 if you account for the diversion of social secutity taxes to general revenue.  

Meanwhile, the US accounts for over half of all the defense spending in the World.

To my knowledge none of the three leading candidates EVER made reducing the size of the military budget an issue.  They were too scared of the "weak on defense" frame.

2.  Because the defense budget goes unquestioned, the only way to increase spending on social spending is through increased taxes.  The problem is that while both candidates would repeal most of the Bush tax cutes, you still have around a 300 Billion dollar gap BEFORE you even begin to start talking about education, health care and the like.

The Democrats remain trapped.  

This post (0.00 / 0)
is a warning for those who would comment before your first cup of coffee.  There are a couple of hilarious typos in my comment....

[ Parent ]
Not that bad (4.00 / 1)
It's not quite as bad as all of that.  Much of the cost is because of the extraordinarily high level of commitment we're maintaining.  Hell, the contractor cost+10% contracts they're nesting 10 deep could be cut in half just by applying some actual oversight.

We need the military, and to a great extent we do need to fund it, at about the same level it was when Clinton left.  But for god's sake, give those poor bastards a pay raise (they've been trailing real COL for 3 decades now), and revamp the GI Bill so it can actually buy a degree plus room and board at something more than a Community College.  It's chump change, good for the country, and a great way to make sure the Republicans don't recapture the rank and file.  Actual personnel costs are a comparatively small part of the military budget, so why short them?

Reprofessionalize the officer corp, there's still a solid cadre to work with once you kick out nearly everyone who made Flag Grade under Bush (not so bad in the Navy/Marines).  Purge the Air Force bad, I'm afraid it's nearly unrecoverable above the rank of Colonel.  Put the boots to the chaplain corp for the Air Force and Army, roust out the neopentecostals and close the loophole that let so many of them in.  These guys are getting preached at when what they need is treatment for PTSD, they'll cheer when you kick those commissars out.

Don't worry about the screams from the wingnuts, the real military is desperately hoping for something exactly like this.  It's why they've been sending all their money to Barack and Ron Paul.

Beyond that, the solution to lies is truth.  There's 20% of the country that can't follow the logic to prove they're being lied to.  Ignore that chunk, speak to the center, the independants and non-loony Republicans.

Don't worry about maintaining ideological purity, have confidence in the wisdom of crowds.  A Republican switches over because those people have gotten too crazy, he's no longer a Republican (and the crazy quotient in the GOP goes a little higher).  Somewhere along the line either the GOP reforms itself into something we can work with, or it dies and eventually the Democrats split around a new center way to the left of where we are.


[ Parent ]
A Simple Solution: Capture Bin Laden! (0.00 / 0)
Just capture bin Laden, put him on trial, and Poof!--World War Four all gone!  Military spending no longer has to be higher than all the rest of the world combined.

As for social spending, the most immediate need on that front is simply to prevent massive cuts at the state level in the current downturn.  Bush allowed no aid to states to preserve such spending as part of the "stimulus package" he signed, and even Obama only included $10 billion--which is estimated to be what California alone will need this year.

Given that Bush signed a total package that was twice as large as what Obama proposed, I think it's obvious that there's a lot we could do with the political will and the right priorities, even if there's still a lot we can't.

"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 ]
Thank you Paul (4.00 / 2)
I loved this whole series. It definitely got me thinking and talking with my brother. I had never run into Kegan's ideas, nor given enough thought into real re-alignment.

My focus has been on winning elections, but after the 2006 election and the lack of progress, I am more interested in:

1. What to do with our power after winning an election?
2. Will this aspirational orgy that is blowing up around Obama be able to move a relatively moderate, conventional thinking, cautious politician to act boldly?
3. Why isn't there 1000 times more focus in the netroots on the netroots? Obama doesn't need our money the way a Donna Edwards does. The netroots would get so much more bang out of their dollars if we spent it on our own institutional organization (recruiting and keeping talented bloggers) and targeting primaries and initiatives. I know Chris has talked about this a lot, but it's another election and here we are again with dollar after dollar flooding the Democratic primary, and all of the energy and organizing going right out the door.

You Are SOOOO Rights About Building Our Own Institutions (0.00 / 0)
Progressive labor understood this very well in the 1930s, and that is one reason they were able to move FDR and the Dems so sharply in their direction.  A very good lesson for us all.

"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 ]
Hm (0.00 / 0)
Have you written anything about that that you could link to?  I don't really know the history.

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

[ Parent ]
No, I Haven't Written About It (0.00 / 0)
And I don't even know a good single source online to point you to.  There was intense organizing on the local level, as union membership soared, and this was reflected at the highest levels as well, as labor played a crucial role in the re-election of Roosevelt in 1936, as business shifted almost entirely to the GOP.  

"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 ]
alabi, great comments on Paul's great series (4.00 / 1)
I am quite the skeptic of the power "aspirational orgy" because I view it as little more than a very good campaign strategy given the strong, yet unfocused, desire out there for change and the popular culture's penchant for fetishizing anything new. But let's be clear, this is about one thing: getting Obama elected, which is, after all, what presidential campaigns are supposed to be about. There is really nothing going on that challenges Obama to act boldly.  There is no movement.  

Paul's writing here give us much to consider, especially in the context of your questions.   What do we do now?

For most Americans, and this includes a big chunk of the netroots, politics and civic life is about one thing and one thing only, the presidency.  When this campaign is done, will we see any reclamation or rethinking of what being a citizen actually means at this point in our history?  Not unless we a willing to challenge the extraordinary power we have ceded to the president.  And this is why your third point is so crucial.  I doubt I'll ever see what I really think we need:  a candidate running as the "anti-president" (as a good friend of mine recently put it).  But a "1000 times more focus in the netroots on the netroots" makes a whole lot of sense if we really want our electeds to behave as an instrument of the will of the people(again, hat tip to my buddy).

[ Parent ]
You need to get out more (0.00 / 0)
If you look at what is actually happening in the Obama campaign, it's very much about rebuilding the party architecture in places the party has ignored for a long time.  It's not "all about Obama", they're going to great lengths to empower, educate, and connect the activists at the local level.  This revitalized architecture will serve not only him, but the down-ticket candidates this fall, and will at least start the process of reclaiming lost ground.

A lot of things are being run at the neighborhood level, by people not associated directly with the campaign.  Precinct captains have staff contacts, but mostly work with other, more experienced volunteers.  GOTV is being coordinated through the campaign but driven from the bottom, etc.

In many ways, this is Dean's dream campaign, the one he wished he could run in 2004.

[ Parent ]
Oh pox, I get out quite a bit... (4.00 / 1) the neighborhood and local level.  In fact, three different local political meetings this past week, discussing hugely critical down-ticket endorsements and candidate recruitment right here in California's capital city.   No Obama-built presence or Obama-educated activists at any of 'em.   Does that mean, they won't ever materialize?  Of course not.  But as we've seen with the Camp Obama training, the activists are largely being organized behind Obama's thrilling personal narrative, conversion stories, a still rather vague message of change and post-partisanship.  This is about getting Obama elected.  It is a campaign strategy and that's fine.  It seems quite effective and should indeed help down-ticket candidates.  (Although, as Paul and others have noted, the Dems are teed-up to do quite well in the House and Senate quite apart from Obama's fortunes.)  

Still it is not a movement.  I too am now more interested in exactly the type of questions alarabi has raised.

By the way, the precinct level work is exactly how we did it here with Clinton-Gore in 92.  We were all volunteers, including oodles of young people  who had never done politics before.   I became a captain and brought in more.   (My favorite memory is precinct walking with a young dred-locked musician who told everyone we encountered "what a beautiful day to be out pushing democracy.")  We walked every weekend, registered voters, kept records (largely by hand) and then got our voters to the polls.  That wasn't a movement either.    

[ Parent ]
The WideAwakes (0.00 / 0)
Every movement coalesces around a series of champions until finally they see one win.  Only afterwards do they start asking each other "What are we about?"

You seem to be talking about the next step up, the "staff" volunteers.  Yes, they're focused on Obama, and do a lot of state to state carpet-bagging.

But there are several thousand new Precinct Captains here in TX.  Assuming we don't quit in disgust because our man gets screwed, I don't think we're going to just disengage from political activism.  When the next one comes along, a serious candidate for Governor, a challenger for a House seat, a chance to flip a state-level district, those people, and their networks, will still be here.

[ Parent ]
This Is SOooooo Not True! (0.00 / 0)
Every movement coalesces around a series of champions until finally they see one win.  Only afterwards do they start asking each other "What are we about?"

Not true of the abolitionist movement.  Not true of first wave, second wave or third wave feminism.  Not true of the Vietnam anti-war movement.  Not true of the environmental movement.  Not true of the gay rights movement.  The list goes on and on and on and on and on....

"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 ]
Netroots-based "virtual think tanks" (0.00 / 0)
I found the "think tank" part of this post very interesting and important.  It got me thinking (still vaguely at this point) about the potential for an evolving netroots to provide a platform to support "virtual think tanks".  These, as Paul puts it, would "mov[e] effective ideas from the stage of an inspired idea to proven scientific concept...and so forth" and "substitute a reality-based framework for an ideological one, but maintain the concept of long-term directed advocacy."

The advocacy component of this think tank role is already pretty central to the netroots evolution.  And there's clearly a lot of expertise within and surrounding various netroots communities and web sites.

After the Open Legislation "experiment" here at OL, there was an intention by some participants to follow-up, working with Congresspedia and Durbin's staff.  I don't know if anything happened along those lines, but I'm an example of someone who had some interest in this possibility, but had very little time to spend on it and pretty much lost track of it.  Regardless of what happened in terms of follow through, that exercise may have value as an initial step that points in the direction of netroots-based (or at least netroots-friendly) "virtual think tanks."

My sense is that this will require development of additional web-based tools designed or adapted for this purpose.  While it could potentially emerge as an offshoot of an existing progressive think tank or other progressive organization, it  also seems possible that it might also evolve from  something like the Open Legislation project.  Of course, having some startup funding is always helpful.

As someone who doesn't know very much about healthcare and trade, but appreciates their importance, I think it would be great to participate as a commenter-questioner in an ongoing  and open discussion about how to craft strong policies in these areas.  And, as someone who has some expertise related to telecom/Internet policy, I could also see myself serving as a resource for developing progressive policies in this area.

Basically what I'm saying is that I see potentially direct linkages between the discussions of think tanks and new media in Paul's post and wonder if anyone else does as well.

I Definitely Think This Is A Possibility (0.00 / 0)
Not sure which part of it more than any other.  But I think the mix of knowledge, inquisitiveness, activist energy, and technological evolution is definitely heading us in that direction.

Let's see, now, what are we missing?  Oh, yeah!  A President who won't veto anything remotely close to sane!

Hmmmm....  The words, "Wait till next year!" spring to mind with an utterly new meaning.

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

[ Parent ]
I have to say (4.00 / 1)
I thought Open Left took a bit too much credit for the open legislation concept.  Energize America on Daily Kos is a much earlier example of the same thing happening, though they didn't find a specific politician before hand. They came up with a really great and comprehensive energy plan.  They've sort of moved into an advocacy position in which they will probably be way less effective, now, but I hope in '08 they'll try to revamp it with an eye to what will be newly politically feasible.

Anyway, I think the wikification of legislation, policy and advocacy has really wonderful potential. Especially as broadband access expands beyond the racial/ethnic/class groups that are currently so over represented.

I'd love to see a "think tank" set up that doesn't do the thinking. A progressive group of lobbyists and experts and lawyers and legislation drafters who facilitated a democratic process for developing policy proposals could be a really great institution.

I wonder if an already existing think tank with either a progressive bent (like Think Progress) or an open government/good government bent (like the Brennan Center) will step up with something similar. I'm imagining something along the lines of the Brennan Center hosting a public discussion in which we'd determine a set of policies that would allow us to shift away from the failed "War on Drugs" and to some comprehensive alternative policy program.

Even if that example isn't plausible, I imagine we'll be seeing some growth on that front in the near future.

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

[ Parent ]
Good points (0.00 / 0)

You make a good point about the Energize America project.  Do you know how that was done in terms of process, what the results have been so far, and if its still active?

You also make a good point about the importance of affordable broadband access which, in this case, could mean a whole new level of access to the policymaking process.

You may be right about OL and the open legislation concept.  But I have to say it was pretty invigorating to have Durbin, his staff and some insider and outsider experts joining us for several evenings of freewheeling real-time discussion.  

The key, I think, is how to follow up on something like that in an ongoing and constructive way that leads to something.  As could be said about the Obama campaign in general, its nice to get fired up and excited, but the key is what you build on top of that, in terms of policies and making a difference in people's lives.

As Paul's comment suggests, the opportunities to move in this direction could open up more with a Dem trifecta.  Maybe we can reallocate 15 minutes worth of the Iraq-War budget to an "open government" project.  That strikes me as a mighty good reordering of federal spending.

[ Parent ]
Yeah (4.00 / 1)
They made the comprehensive plan mostly by soliciting comments on Daily Kos.  They had a mailing list in which they'd organize to get the diaries recommended, and then people basically worked out in the comments what they wanted to include in the plan. There were lots of drafts. I think there were some major points of contention on nuclear and some other stuff, but mostly people were on the same page, so it was all about hammering out details. There were maybe five or ten people who I think mostly headed it and ran things, but at the time I'm pretty sure they were self selected, not part of any formal organization.

They've since set up some sort of Energize America organization with a website, and gotten Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (I'm still quite proud of having a minor role in brining this to her attention) involved in promoting one part of the bill, the Energy Secure Communities Act. If you check out you can find out a lot more.

Anyway, I think their lobbying capacity and budget are non existent, but the plan itself is great and I think it is surely a duplicable model.

Adam Siegel (ASiegel on Daily Kos) is the guy who is really running it at this point.

I support John McCain because children are too healthy anyway.

[ Parent ]
A Think Tank Without Thinking? (4.00 / 1)
I think the right already has a patent on that!

I think I know what you mean, but I don't think it takes the place of a think tank. There is and always will be a real need for nerdish sort of thinking about how things can and do actually work that needs to be fed into the larger process of determining how things should work.  

The question is, how do all the parts get integrated? Creating a hollow vessel is just asking it to be filled, and it seems foolish to do that sort of work so that someone else can fill it up.  What I think we want to do is create a variety of institutions, tools and venues to form a multi-textured distributed network.

One such institution could be the sort of thing you describe, which is basically a workshopping/lobbying structure.  This is a good thing to have, but I don't think it replaces the think tank.  Rather, I see it as combining some functions we're all familiar with in various different forms, all of which benefit from receiving the input from think tanks as they are presently constituted.

What I like about your suggestion is what I take to be the underlying motive of democratizing the policy process, and this takes me back to John Dewey's notion of what the role of experts should be.  He said it was to be advisors who respond to questions generated by citizens, rather than being the ones who construct the architecture of the possible/thinkable and then give everyone else the chance to choose "A" or "B".

If this is your intention, then I agress 100%.  It's just that I don't think you want to replace think tanks, you just want to structure the process so that they aren't in the driver's seat.  They're advisors.

"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 ]

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