Corrente

If you have "no place to go," come here!

Obama stump speech strategy of conciliation considered harmful

[Just cross-posted to Kos. How about a recommendation? And welcome, Eschatonians, Paul Krugman, Digby, Andrew Tobias, and Sadly, No readers. And Avedon, you know I do.]

[And readers, if you want others to read this post, you can use the Digg or Reddit buttons below to recommend it.]

* * *

ONE CURRENT PERMATHREAD on Big Orange is that Krugman and Obama are feuding or having a vendetta. Which, when you take a step back, is bizarre. That movement conservatives and Villagers like stone Bush enabler William Kristol, like David Brooks, Broderella, and Andrew Sullivan are all good with Obama isn't even mentioned in passing by Obama's fan base. And yet those same enthusiasts spend inordinate amounts of time vilifying Paul Krugman, a true progressive who was there for us from the earliest dark days of the Bush regime.

Curious. What's really happening?

Krugman doesn't have a problem with Obama; Krugman has a problem with what Obama believes about the relationship between politics and economics. Moreover, Krugman makes a case that Obamaphiles have yet to confront and refute. [There is considerable commentary from Obama supporters on this thread. Readers may judge whether Krugman's case is refuted, engaged, or even understood. --Lambert] But for those who came in late -- that is, those for whom Obama might be the very first political figure they've supported or with whom they've identified -- I need to set the table by summarizing the political economy of the last thirty years or so. (I'm trying to write like an economist here, and I'm not one, but I'll give it my best shot.)

It's conventional wisdom (says Krugman) among many economic schools, not just the left, that economics drives politics, and not the other way round. Economics is seen as more fundamental than politics, certainly more fundamental than electoral politics. Economic trends are deep tides, and political changes are mere waves, froth on the surface.

Yet if you look at the history of the last thirty or so years, it seems (says Krugman) that conventional wisdom has been stood on its head, and that politics drove economics.

And that is our history as we know it. Starting in the 1970s, at about the time of the Lewis Powell memo, an interlocking network of right wing billionaires and theocrats began to fund the institutions whose dominance we take for granted today: The American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, The Family Research Council, the Federalist Society, the Brookings Institute (over time), and on and on. During this period, College Republican operatives like Rove, Abramoff, and Gary Bauer became important figures in this network, as did the ex-Trotskyite neocons who broke away from the Scoop Jackson wing of the Democratic Party. The period was also marked by the steady retreat of the press from reporting, under twin pressures from the right "working the refs", as Eric Alterman put it, and winger billionaire owners slashing news coverage in favor of "entertainment," and by the steady advance of Rush Limbaugh on talk radio and, later, by Matt Drudge on the web. And if you got hooked into that network, you got the cradle-to-grave protection typical of socialism: You always had a job, whether as a "fellow" or "scholar" at the AEI, a shouting head on Crossfire, as a columnist, as a contractor, as a political appointee or staffer, or as a lobbyist, and so on and on and on. You always got funding. You were made. Just for the sake of having an easy label for this dense network of institutions, operatives, ideologues, and Republican Party figures, let's call it the Conservative Movement (instead of HRC's* Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, since it's not really a conspiracy, except possibly an emergent one. The billionaires don't -- except for Scaife during the Arkansas project, or Rupert Murdoch playing editor -- generally pick up the phone and give orders; rather, they manage the Conservative Movement like an investment portfolio of entertainment properties; some start-ups (Politico), some stars (FOX), some cash cows (Limbaugh), some dogs (American Spectator)). Slowly but surely, well funded and well organized Conservatives pushed their ideas from unthinkable, to radical, to acceptable, to sensible, to popular, and finally into policy, in a process described as The Overton Window. As surely and ruthlessly, progressive ideas were marginalized, and then silenced altogether. And spending what it took, the winger billionaires used the Conservative Movement to restructure politics, and having restructured politics, economics. To their economic benefit.

For these billionaires, the ROI of the Conservative Movement is absolutely spectacular. At the micro level, for example, if you want to create an aristocracy, then you want to eliminate any taxes on inherited wealth, despite what Warren Buffet or Bill Gates might say about the values entailed by that project. So, the Conservative Movement goes to work, develops and successfully propagates the "death tax" talking point (meme, frame) -- which they may even believe in, as if sincerity were the point -- and voila! Whoever thought that "family values" would translate to "feudal values" and dynastic wealth? At the macro level, their ROI has been spectacular as well. Real wages have been flat for a generation; unions have been disempowered; the powers of corporations greatly increased; government has become an agent for the corporations, rather than a protector of the people; the safety net has been shredded; and so on and on and on.

Blog_CBO_Income_Inequality_2007 The picture tells the story. The Conservative Movement succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of the billionaires who invested in it. Despite the remarkable gains that we have made in productivity, they creamed most of it off.

Today, in 2007, the Conservative Movement is in runaway mode, like a reactor with no control rods or a car with no brakes. Ideologically, the Movement began as a drive to roll back the New Deal in reaction (see Peter Arno's wonderful New Yorker cartoon nearby) to the hated FDR**. But now, with no checks, the winger billionaires have begun to roll us farther back to the Darwinian conditions of 1890s Gilded Age, and, with the destruction of habeas corpus, roll us all the way back to the time, before the Magna Carta, when the king's word was law. Any limitation, any limitation at all, on the corporate powers that create the income streams from which the billionaires feed must be removed; hence the nonsensical idea that corporations, as fictive persons, have free speech; hence the aggrandizement of executive power, with huge and secret money flows to well-connected firms; hence the destruction of Constitutional government. (All this takes place against a background of looting and asset stripping on an imperial, Roman scale, of which the "subprime" "crisis" is but the latest of many examples.)arno

The bottom line (says Krugman): Politics drives economics, and not the other way round.

So, what kind of politics do we progressives need?

We come to Obama.

Here are the two money paragraphs from the almost always eloquent Obama's latest (and truly brilliant) stump speech. Time's Mark Halperin had it first:

[OBAMA] You know that we can’t afford four more years of the same divisive food fight in Washington that’s about scoring political points instead of solving problems; that’s about tearing your opponents down instead of lifting this country up. ...

It’s change that won’t just come from more anger at Washington or turning up the heat on Republicans. There’s no shortage of anger and bluster and bitter partisanship out there. We don’t need more heat. We need more light. I’ve learned in my life that you can stand firm in your principles while still reaching out to those who might not always agree with you. And although the Republican operatives in Washington might not be interested in hearing what we have to say, I think Republican and independent voters outside of Washington are. That’s the once-in-a-generation opportunity we have in this election.

I believe!

But. Not. I hope I've been able to persuade you, through a quick look at the political economy of the last 30 years, that what's going on in politics today is a little bit more complicated -- and much more important -- than a "divisive food fight." Indeed, the very phrase itself trivializes both the scale of the problem, and the efforts of those progressives who are fighting for solutions.

All progressives--and most Democrats--agree on the "once-in-a-generation" opportunity and the stakes. That's not the issue. The issue is: What kind of politics can turn the opportunity into permanent, progressive change? What kind of politics can drive economics? Because that's what it will take to achieve even universal health care. We're supposed to be from the reality-based community, and we're supposed to rely on the hard-won Enlightenment tools of evidence and reasoning, and here I think Obama's stump speech strategy comes up short. (I'll give my objections, and summarize, tendentiously but I hope not unfairly, the responses I've gotten from Obama's supporters to points I've made during a recent sojourn on Big Orange.)

Obama presents himself as post-partisan, but partisan politics are needed. The "food fight," obviously a partisan food fight, is purest Equivalation. The Democrats didn't break the world record for filibusters when they were in the minority; but the Republicans just did. And when the press covered the (very few) Democratic filibusters, they called them "filibusters." And when the press covers the (never-ending) Republican filibusters, the word "filibuster" gets magically transmuted into the "60 votes needed to pass." And last I checked, Democrats were allowing anybody to come to their election rallies, but Bush was screening his to make sure only Republicans attended. This is the Conservative Movement in action. Sure, there's a "food fight," but most of the food that's in the air is coming from one side of the cafeteria!

So why on earth would Obama think that "tearing down" the Conservative Movement and "lifting this country up" are opposites? They're the same! And we need the kind of politics that treats them that way. When the Swift Boat guys smeared Kerry, Kerry should have "torn them down." Beating Bush in 2004 sure would have "lifted up" the country! Back in the McCarthy era, Margaret Chase Smith "tore down" Joe McCarthy with her Declaration of Conscience, and that sure "lifted up" the country! Sam Ervin "tore down" Richard Nixon and got started impeaching him. That lifted up the country too--'til Gerald Ford let us down, anyway.

More importantly, we've given some idea, in the short history above, of how powerful, and how entrenched, the Conservative Movement has become in official Washington (the Village).*** If an election is held in 2008, and if an Democrat is elected, and is allowed to take office, and that Democrat is Obama, the Conservative Movement, and its billionaire funders, are not going to change their playbook. Why would they change what has worked out well for them? They will go right back and run the same plays that they ran when the last Democrat was elected (see Appendix I). The day that Obama touches a hair on the head of some Regent University grad who's rewriting the work of a NASA scientist on climate change from a Christianist perspective, the howls of outrage about "hatred," and "liberal fascism," and "authoritarianism of the left," and -- bless their hearts -- the separation of powers are going to begin, the howling is not going to let up, and the Conservative Movement and the press are going to amplify it until Obama either caves or figures out the state legislature in Springfield was Triple-A ball, not the show, grabs a bat, and gets their attention by administering an old-fashioned beat down. (Meanwhile, the Christianist will be all over the teebee, and if they pass, they'll get a book deal. You know the drill.)

Progressive policies -- this election, health insurance, above all -- will be vehemently opposed by the Conservative Movement and the winger billionaires because progressive policies are not in their economic interests. In fact, they've been working for 30 years against progressive policies, and have been well paid to do so. They won't change. Why would they? So, there's going to be a food fight. Don't we need the kind of politics that's going to win the fight, rather than deplore it?

So, what would the countervailing force to the Conservative Movement be? What kind of politics? Well, one answer would be party building. Use the 2008 mandate--assuming Obama doesn't destroy any mandate for policy by tacking, Sister Souljah style, to the (vanishing) center--to build stronger, more progressive party institutions. Use control over the legislature for -- this time -- real oversight, and destroy the Republican brand and cripple the Conservative Movement. All we need to do is show the truth! Enforce subpoenas, and destroy the Republican brand and cripple the Conservative Movement. Re-professionalize the Justice Department, and it follows as the night the day that plenty of Republican criminals are prosecuted, which destroys the Republican brand and cripples the Conservative Movement.

Tearing down the Conservative Movement is exactly the kind of politics that's needed to lift the country up!

Obama wants to "reach out," but that strategy has already been tried. Obama says he wants to "reach out" to Republicans. But Reid and Pelosi "reached out" to Republicans, and that strategy was a miserable failure.

Reid and Pelosi "reached out" to Republicans by taking impeachment off the table.

Reid and Pelosi "reached out" to Republicans by not using the power of the purse either to end the war or to curb executive power.

Read and Pelosi "reached out" to Republicans through FISA "reform" by trying to give Bush more power than even the Republicans tried to give him, when they were in the majority.

In fact, Reid and Pelosi "reached out" to Republicans by caving and capitulating to them on just about any issue you can name.

And what did we get? We got nothing. We didn't get the legislation, because the Republicans filibustered everything in sight. And we didn't get any oversight, because Reid and Pelosi were so busy "reaching out" that they didn't have time to enforce the subpeonas and ended up writing Sternly Worded Letters instead.

So, when Obama reaches out, how would that be any different from the reaching out that Reid and Pelosi already did? What the Obama fan base says is that, since we won't get to a filibuster-proof supermajority, a strategy of conciliation makes sense; they plan to pick off Republicans in onesies and twosies to pass needed legislation. Unfortunately, as we've seen, that's what Reid and Pelosi already tried, so why would we try it again? But, say the fans, Obama has a track record: Look at the Transparency in Government Act, where Obama teamed up with Republican Tom Coburn to pass legislation that put government spending programs on a searchable website for public access. No question that this is a good bill, but as proof of concept for a "reach out" strategy, it's weak (but, apparently, the best example available). For one thing, the bill is an obvious descendant of the work Gingrich (even a stopped clock) did with Thomas, which gave the public web access to legislation, so politically the bill was low-hanging fruit that could be sold in the classic Republican small government, anti-spending mode. No truly progressive policies will meet those conditions. More importantly, Obama's Transparency achievement, though real, is trivial--both in terms of policy outcomes and potential for conflict--seen relative to what's going to be needed to achieve universal health care (let alone clawing back income distribution to some sane, non-Gilded Age level). But wait, say the fans, you don't really understand; what Obama wants to do [at least now] is bring "Republican and independent voters outside of Washington" into the fold, and that will give us the leverage we need for real change. And if this were true, I would have expected to see enough calls from these Republican and independent voters to prevent children from dying because Bush vetoed S-CHIP, to take but one example of many. Ditto FISA (See Appendix II). Didn't happen. Na ga happen.

Here's another idea:

When you've got them by the balls, the heart and head soon follow. How about we try real oversight and a return to the rule of law in the form of criminal investigations, indictments, and jail time, instead of singing kumbaya? Combine that with a strong institutional presence in the form of a party you can actually mobilize, and you might get the Conservative Movement back in line. With a Democratic president, there'll be no pardons for them. Some operatives should do time, pour encourager les autres. That's the kind of politics we need.

Obama presents himself as unifying, but accountability is what's needed. Let's repeat that "reach out" paragraph:

I’ve learned in my life that you can stand firm in your principles while still reaching out to those who might not always agree with you.

Fine words butter no parsnips. What principles are we talking about, here? Off the top of my head:

1. The principle that everyone is equal before the law.

2. The principle that this nation does not torture.

3. The principle that there are three co-equal branches of government.

4. The principle that high government officials should not break the law with impunity.

5. The principle that elections are not stolen

6. The principle that war is not made on fake evidence

[To give but a few examples of how the Conservative Movement violated each principle: 1 Republican Justice Department uses criminal justice system to prosecute Democrats before elections. 2 Abu Ghraib; European gulags; Gitmo; destroyed CIA tapes. 3 Signing statements; Fourth Branch of government. 4 Scooter Libby. 5 Florida 2000; Ohio 2004. 6 Downing Street Memo (full text).]

Check that list, and start crossing off the Republicans whose actions show that they don't share those principles, and whose principles differ from all progressives, most Democrats, and most Americans, and by the time you're done, you'll have about as many Republicans as would fit in an elevator. A very small, dumbwaiter-sized elevator. In fact, when the elevator door opens, you might just end up "reaching out" to empty space.

This isn't just a matter of a "food fight," or "disagreements." These are not abstract agree-to-disagree issues. Violating these principles ought to entail criminal prosecution (destroyed CIA tapes, election theft), impeachment (signing statements), or whatever the remedy is for just plain evil (torture).

So at best, Obama is feeding us highflown, but vacuous rhetoric. At worst, he'll let the Conservative Movement operatives who drive the Bush administration get away clean, after committing criminal and impeachable offenses with impunity and no accountability of any kind. That's not the kind of politics we need to achieve a permanent progressive majority.

Obama presents himself as a change agent, but weakens the forces that bring about change. You can't win a mandate with a content-free platform, and conflict-free is content-free. And if there's no mandate for change, then there's no change.

So much of the advocacy for Obama highlights his attractive personality, his personal history, his rhetorical skills, and his negotiation skills. Atrios says it best:

Shorter Candidates

Obama: The system sucks, but I'm so awesome that it'll melt away before me.

Edwards: The system sucks, and we're gonna have to fight like hell to destroy it.

Clinton: The system sucks, and I know how to work within it more than anyone.

We don't need the kind of politics that's about a single, charismatic figure. We need a mandate for progressive change. But when Obama focuses on "the big table," and "negotiation," and "reaching out," and the whole kumbaya thing, he weakens what Keynes calls the "animal spirits" of the very activists and social entrepreneurs that we need to build progressive institutions, and get progressive policies into the Overton Window and then enacted.

Universal health care is not going to come because Obama sits the players down around the big table and they suddenly, magically,**** "see the light" because of his mad negotiation skillz as an honest broker; it's not in their interest to see what we see, and so they won't. Universal health care may happen because of heat; if enough people can put heat on the corporations, and on their elected representatives, to make it happen. Confrontation increases voter turnout, and that can only be good for our side. And confrontation is heat, not light. Obama has it exactly backward.

And here I have to say that this passage--

... there’s no shortage of anger and bluster ...

--grotesquely trivializes the experience of any aware citizen under Bush's rule. Is it wrong to be "angry" that the Bush administration has turned us into a nation of torturers? Is it wrong to be "angry" that the Republicans took us to war under false pretenses? Is it "bluster" to say that Cheney's claim to be the Fourth Branch of government is absurd? Is it "bluster" to demand our Fourth Amendment rights back?

And who might these angry blusterers be?

Surely not those "principled" Republicans, since Obama wants to "reach out" to them. Surely not Reid and Pelosi; they've been nice as nice, going off to the slaughter like lambs. Surely not Rahm Emmanuel or Chuck Schumer! And surely not Kristol, Broder, Brooks, or Sullivan!

Could the angry blusterers be .... Progressives? Harshing the mellow with their demands for accountability and the restoration of Constitutional government?

Do we really need the kind of politics that tells us to lay back and enjoy it?

The country can't afford to wait for Obama to discover that his strategy of conciliation has failed. Do the math. Reid and Pelosi tried "reaching out" in 2007. Nothing will happen in 2008. Assuming Obama takes office in 2009, it will take his conciliatory strategy a year to fail, which it will, since he's doing the same thing Reid and Pelosi did while expecting a different result.

That brings us to 2010.

Can the country really hold out against a runaway Conservative Movement that long?

* * *

In short, I think Krugman is right, and Obama is wrong. Krugman doesn't have a problem with Obama, but with Obama's strategy. Krugman writes:

It’s actually Mr. Obama who’s being unrealistic here, believing that the insurance and drug industries — which are, in large part, the cause of our health care problems — will be willing to play a constructive role in health reform. The fact is that there’s no way to reduce the gross wastefulness of our health system without also reducing the profits of the industries that generate the waste.

As a result, drug and insurance companies — backed by the conservative movement as a whole — will be implacably opposed to any significant reforms. And what would Mr. Obama do then? “I’ll get on television and say Harry and Louise are lying,” he says. I’m sure the lobbyists are terrified.

As health care goes, so goes the rest of the progressive agenda. Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.

Bingo.

Krugman doesn't have an Obama problem; Obama has a Krugman problem. Because Krugman is right.

TROLL PROPHYLACTIC As indicated by my sig, of course I'll vote for Obama in the general, and happily so. [UPDATE: This post is from December 2007, before Obama's primary campaign threw me, and those like me, under the bus, and convinced me that I had no place in the Democrat Party. The straw that broke my back was that Obama voted in favor of FISA [cough] reform, and hence against the rule of law and the Fourth Amendment.] That doesn't mean I won't stop pushing for the kind progressive politics I think the country needs. [UPDATE: "Progressive" is used here without irony; again, when the post was written, the casual smears and misogny of the so-called "progressive" movement had not yet become evident.

NOTE * All credit due to HRC for mainstreaming VRWC, and more importantly the very concept. It's a mystery to me why she hasn't tried to leverage her understanding for strategic purposes, rather than for narrow tactical goals during the Lewinsky matter (see Appendix I).

NOTE ** Jonah Goldberg's latest emission, Liberal Fascism, is but the latest, yet by no means the best, example of work in this genre.

NOTE *** Back in the day, the parties were a lot less "polarized" than they are today. Historically, the Democratic Party was a coalition, and racist Southern and very senior representatives played a strong part within it. Similarly, the Republican Party was also a coalition, with moderate Republicans, often from the Northeast (Margaret Chase Smith, who stood up to McCarthy) or the Midwest (Charles Percy). Because both parties were coalitions, shifting alliances between party factions ("bipartisanship") was the order of the day. However, when LBJ got civil rights legislation passed, the Republicans under Nixon countered with the Southern Strategy, and peeled off the racists. Similarly, the political environment squeezed out many moderate Republicans, as they were attacked from the right by the Conservative Movement, and from the left by Democrats. The result was that both parties became much more like disciplined parties than fractious coalitions, and so the era where factions within the parties could be played off against each other -- which, operationally, is what bipartisanship means and has always meant -- came to an end. Villagers like Broder or Russert would like to play "honest brokers" between the parties, but such honesty is not possible, because the Village is, institutionally, an almost wholly owned subsidiary of the Conservative Movement (with the exception of a few honorable individuals and some fresh progressive institutions). We must also notice and remember that when Broder and the Villagers wax nostalgic for the twin lost causes of Bipartisanship and Civility, they're privileging their own self-images as honest brokers and go-betweens over the cold reality that, pre-Southern Strategy, racism was at the institutional foundation of the Democratic Party of that day, so that's what they're nostalgic for. White columns, the ol' verandah, Rastus bearing a silver tray with the mint juleps or whatever the Fuck the village drank back then.

NOTE **** Conservative Andrew Sullivan's portrayal of Obama as a post-Boomer, unifying figure is a crude attempt to erase this history. Bareback Andy is sound on torture, credit where credit is due, but there's no other word for his Atlantic piece (well, other than "prolix") than "obfuscatory."

* * *

Appendix I: The Conservative Movement in the Clinton Years

When Clinton, a Democrat, took office, the Conservative Movement, in the person of Richard Mellon Scaife, funded the Arkansas Project disinformation campaign against Clinton through The American Prospect [!!] Spectator; the Conservative Movement provided legal services through the Federalist Society elves who manipulated Paula Jones; the Conservative Movement replaced the Special Prosecutor who wasn't getting results with one of their own, Kenneth Winston Starr; the Conservative Movement leveraged its new-found control over the press to print story after story of scandal after scandal, none of which panned out (Timesman Jeff Gerth's Whitewater reporting was especially egregious, but WaPo's "Steno Sue" Schmidt, who printed leak after leak from Starr's office, gave him a run for his money); and the Conservative Movement, after immense labor, finally managed to metastatize the scandal from baseless accusations of financial impropriety ("Whitewater") and crazed theories about murder ("Vince Foster") into the once-famous (and so-called^^) perjury trap with Monica Lewinsky, followed by the failed impeachment effort organized by Hastert, Gingrich, et al (most of whom -- strong "family values" men, one and all -- were guilty of adultery themselves).

The best way to view the Clinton era, then, is to see it as a slow-moving, media-fuelled coup, beginning with the winger-billionaire funded Arkansas Project, and culminating with the Conservative Movement's seizure of power through the theft of Florida 2000 and the famous "good for one time only" decision, Bush v. Gore.

Once again, the ROI that the winger billionaires got from the Conservative Movement's stellar work in staging the coup against Clinton were absolutely spectacular: Bush, once in office, immediately enacted massive tax cuts over a token and demoralized ("bipartisan") Democratic opposition, and the great bulk of the money went to the people who staged the coup. Surprise.

APPENDIX NOTE ^^ Perjury has to be material. There was never a showing that Clinton's affair with Monica was relevant to the Paula Jones case. Pure harassment, start to finish, and, in retrospect, a harbinger of the complete politicization of the criminal justice system and the courts under Bush. Interestingly, Clinton and Monica met when she, as a White House intern, brought him a pizza when he was working late in the White House on the night the Republicans under Gingrich shut down the government. Cute meet.

Appendix II: The Constitution

I think it's excellent that Obama, by all accounts, was a fine Constitutional law professor at a great school. And it encourages me that Obama gave excellent answers to the Boston Globe questionnaire on executive power.

All of which explains why I was disappointed that Obama failed to show up on the Senate floor to defend the Fourth Amendment, and the Constitution, when Dodd successfully filibustered FISA and prevented, at least for a time, retroactive immunity for the telcos and bulk-order warrants. (Let's not say "basket warrants" anymore, mkay?) As Kos is fond of pointing out, one way to be a leader is to, er, lead, not offer token statements of support from a safe distance. Lead, as opposed to going meta, and making speeches, however excellent, about leadership.

UPDATE Big Tent Democrat channels the shorter lambert:

I am on record that Obama's talk on change is pure nonsense. I am confident now that Mark Schmitt is right, that this is just a schtick. The problem is in politics, schticks matter and limit what you can do.

Bingo. Of course Obama's schtick limits him. That's why Brooks, Broder, Sullivan, and Kristol like it. They want progressives limited.

UPDATE What a holiday gift. My life is complete:

krugman

In fact:

UPDATE The post's title is a riff on a famous paper in computer science.

UPDATE Apparently, "once in a generation means "just once". Odd.

UPDATE For anybody who imagines that this is a hit piece, or that I'm unpersuadable, see here.

0
No votes yet

Comments

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

This sets out the argument for a Progressive led government better than any post or treatise, etc... that I've read in a long time. It also exposes Obama's naivete and foolishness. It is sad to think that the pursuit of power has so obviously tainted Obama's ability to understand what is at stake for our country. You have made the stakes very clear without vituperation or just hurling brickbats at Obama and the people who've been taken in by who he is vs what he's actually proposing to do.

Great job! I hope this post is read far and wide and that people finally understand that the pablum that both Obama AND Clinton are selling is the same capitulationist bullshit we've been enduring now for the past 30 years. Enough is e-fucking-nough! It is time to fight them with all we've got.

Why is it that we admire the people who fight for democracy and the rule of law all over the world except here at home where it is most important to us and for the world given our power?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I've raised this question elsewhere but need to ask again to see if someone can give me an answer. You name a lot of what I refer to as the Right Wing Noise Machine:

"...an investment portfolio of entertainment properties; some start-ups (Politico), some stars (FOX), some cash cows (Limbaugh), some dogs (American Spectator)). Slowly but surely, well funded and well organized Conservatives pushed their ideas from unthinkable, to radical, to acceptable, to sensible, to popular, and finally into policy..."

To this list I'd add, of course, the Washington Times and the Weekly Standard, two publications that I understand benefitted from deep-pocket (conservative) backers.

My question is, did any of these print publications ever operate at a profit (i.e. people actually PAID to read their content)? Or were they just continuously funded by their sugar daddies, who managed to get their spokesmen on to the electronic media because "they'd been published" opinionators? You know, with little tag lines below their talking head, "name, publication".

I look at main stream newspapers and see businesses that struggle with the demands of the marketplace--all the news that fits depends on how much ad space was sold, and ad revenues depend on readership-- and I wonder if the Washington Times or the Weekly Standard ever dealt with those kind of market requirements.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm sure the Weekly Standard does not make a profit (no time for a link...), just like its frateral twin, the New Republic, needs a subsidy.

I don't know about the Washington Times, but I'm guessing that Moonie finances are, er, a little opaque.

In any case, I think that the real question is the ROI of the portfolio as a whole. Even if Kristol's little rag is losing money, it makes the rest of the portfolio so much, much better.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by lambert on

A link would be greatly appreciated, and to this post, since it's current.

Alternatively, if somebody can explain to me how to get a more detailed error message at Kos, I could try again to fix it. And you might consider forwarding the feedback to your developers that (a) an error on Preview, rather than Submit, would be a lot less frustrating, and (b) some context for the error would be very, very helpful. No line numbers needed, a chunk of context would be fine, so I can search the post. But this post is long and rich, I can't just rip the markup out, and besides, it parsed!

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Sometimes, it's just an annoying typo in a href or a missing backslash. If your links work here, they should work there. When I have that problem though, I use the editor link tool and put them back in from scratch. As much of a pain-in-the-ass it is, you're better off copying and pasting the whole thing over.
It will only take a few minutes.
I'd definitely rec it.
BTW, I just read the Mark Scmidtt(sp) piece and I think he is irrationally optimistic. Obama's missing Lieberman-Kyl vote and his pass on the MoveOn vote suggest that he is trying really hard not to offend someone(s). Obama is charismatic and intelligent but he wouldn't be where he is today without some substantial backing and assistance and not just from small donors. He's gotten a lot farther than Edwards did this election cycle. Now, why is that? Who is the hidden support system behind Obama?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I firmly believe that all of the leading democratic candidates at heart support a progressive agenda and would work to promote one if elected. I also have no doubt that all of these candidates engage in political calculations designed to gain popular support in the hopes of advancing that agenda to the greatest extent possible. I see the major difference between the leading candidates to be primarily based on their differing approaches to the best political strategy for making that agenda a reality. I agree completely with Lambert about the inherent problems with Mr. Obama's strategy. I also, however, find it plausible that, as his supporter's claim, Obama's ultimate actions may be far different from the rhetoric he is using in this election. I do not, however, see that as being an argument in favor of Mr. Obama. I actually see that as a major liability. The politics of hope is far more about politics than it is about hope, and once people come to realize that, Mr. Obama's appeal will be greatly diminished. It will become obvious that he is guilty of the very things he has so harshly criticized others for. I have no problem with leaders who engage in political calculations in hopes of achieving a greater good, but when one makes it a central premise of their campaign to rail aganist such actions while at the same time engaging in them, they are setting themselves up for future charges of hypocrisy and making it easy for their opponents to undercut them. I doubt Obama will blindly adhere to the approach he is laying out right now once elected. I am sure his attitude will change quickly. What I have no idea about is what his strategy will then become. Mr. Obama is so busy trying to grab power for himself in the here and now that I doubt he has given any real consideration on how he hopes to truly exercise that power once he obtains it. That is why I don't believe he is ready to be President and why I will not support him in the primary.

The system is not going to melt away and it is not going to be destroyed anytime soon. With strong competent leadership and savvy political calculations we can enact policy shifts that will lay the ground work for transformative change. The greatest danger lies in our trying to reach for too much too soon. We have been on an eight year detour. We can't just snap our fingers and expect to be where we need to be. Our immediate goal simply needs to be to get back on the right track. Once we have done that we can worry about drastic overhauls of the entire system. Those won't be brought about overnight or with the election of one person, and those who are promising that it will are being both reckless and irresponsible. For eight years we have had a President who has tried to reshape the world in his own image. I am sure I would prefer a President whose was trying to do the same whose image of the world I find more agreeable, but I think what we real need right now is a President who isn't trying to reshape the entire world to begin with. Let's elect a leader who wants to govern, not to rule.

Submitted by lambert on

Upthread, the argument that Obama's supporters make -- and, in the current version of the stump speech, Obama himself -- is that Obama's not "reaching out" to lost cause Republican operatives, but instead reaching out to the putatively great mass of Republican voters who are really just looking for the right Democrat to vote for.

Now, maybe that's what Obama is saying as of December 27, when the stump speech was released to Time. But that's not what he said as of December 20, where he "reached out" to Republican operatives quite explicitly. Sinfonian, via the always acute Avedon:

But Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) settled the matter for me today, with his asinine statement that not only would he consider placing Republicans on his cabinet if elected, one of those Republicans might be California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Obama regularly says he would look to Republicans to fill out his cabinet if he was elected, but at a town hall event in Manchester, N.H., he was pushed to name names.

“It’s premature for me to start announcing my cabinet. I mean, I’m pretty confident. but I’m not all that confident. We still got a long way to go,” Obama said.

But then the GOP names started to flow.

Among those names: Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Kan.), and Schwarzenegger.

Serious question here: how many Republicans would countenance a Democrat on their cabinet if they became president? I'll tell you how many: zero.

Maybe somebody could ask Obama which of the Republicans he plans to put in his cabinet would be most helpful in advancing his progressive agenda? Because I'm telling you, Chuck Hagel would not be my first choice. Hey, I've got an idea! How about Ron Paul?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Thank you, Lambert. I've forwarded this post on to all my political mailing list. It deserves the widest of consideration.

MSimon's picture
Submitted by MSimon on

It should be a reactor with no control rods.

In American designs reactors with no coolant shut down. It is a safety feature.

Submitted by lambert on

Thanks, MSimon. I should have doublechecked our nuclear submarine permathread. It's just that, you know, "coolant" is such great-sounding word....

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

MSimon's picture
Submitted by MSimon on

I agree coolant parses better. It is just that I'm a former nuke and a stickler for details.

In any case the meaning is obvious.

===

As a former member of your side (and a Trot as a youth - probably explains my neo-con leanings) when I came upon this I thought for sure it was a parody.

And now after reading it I see you are serious.

My take on the best thing we can do for the poor (which I currently am) is to let the economy rip.

My son got a 4 year free ride at U Chicago courtesy of the Rockefellers. So it all trickles down eventually.

In any case we can probably agree that the short cut to ruining the power structure is ending the drug war and destroying the prison industrial complex. So I'd help with that despite my current neo-con status.

Something else to keep an eye on - Bussard Fusion. It could change everything. Destroy the oil powers and a lot of other good stuff.

It is being funded by the US Navy.

Check it out:

http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/2007...

*

BTW Obama is IMO Chicago Mob all the way.
Hillary is Arkansas Mob
Edwards is the legal mafia

I'd say the only honest Pol on your side is Kucinich and of course he has no chance.

I think Fred T is the only honest one on our side and of course he has no chance.

I hate theocon Huckster
Guiliani is NY mob
McCain is old and bat shit crazy
Romney is way too slick

How did we get such a rotten bunch. Who ever wins I predict we all will be disappointed.

Well good luck.

And as I said - where ever we agree I'm willing to co-operate.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

The problem with your post, which I must agree channels Krugman admirably, is that it focuses almost entirely on denouncing Obama's rhetorical approach to promoting a progressive agenda and taking on entrenched conservative positions and does not bother to contrast it with the approaches of the other candidates.

What is it about Hillary Clinton's or John Edwards's approach that makes you believe that they will fight harder or be more effective in promoting progressive policies? I think the problem that a lot of Democrats are having with Obama is that his approach is to cerebral and that if he doesn't play on people's visceral anger (Edwards) or fear (Clinton) then he won't build up the movement behind him that is necessary to make real change. The thing that I think is so funny about that is that Obama is the one who draws the big crowds to hear him speak and Obama's the one who gets by far the most donations from small donors. Hillary's trying to get by on being an evasive front runner with the machine's backing and Edwards is getting by on getting the backing of liberal interest groups by making sure he checks the right box on every liberal issue.

Obama's organizing principle is that we don't have to beat the conservative establishment by being better than them at their divisive underhanded games. We can beat them by being better people.

To quote from "The Audacity of Hope":

"... [A] polarized electorate -- or one that easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate -- works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government. After all, a cynical electorate is a self-centered electorate.

"But for those of us who believe that government has a role to play in promoting opportunity and prosperity for all Americans a polarized electorate isn't good enough."

Now from his latest stump speech:

"In the end, the argument we are having between the candidates in the last seven days is not just about the meaning of change. It's about the meaning of hope. Some of my opponents appear scornful of the word; they think it speaks of naivete, passivity, and wishful thinking."

"But that's not what hope is. Hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task before us or the roadblocks that stand in our path. Yes, the lobbyists will fight us. Yes, the Republican attack dogs will go after us in the general election. Yes, the problems of poverty and climate change and failing schools will resist easy repair. I know - I've been on the streets, I've been in the courts. I've watched legislation die because the powerful held sway and good intentions weren't fortified by political will, and I've watched a nation get mislead into war because no one had the judgment or the courage to ask the hard questions before we sent our troops to fight.

"But I also know this. I know that hope has been the guiding force behind the most improbable changes this country has ever made. In the face of tyranny, it's what led a band of colonists to rise up against an Empire. In the face of slavery, it's what fueled the resistance of the slave and the abolitionist, and what allowed a President to chart a treacherous course to ensure that the nation would not continue half slave and half free. In the face of war and Depression, it's what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. In the face of oppression, it's what led young men and women to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through the streets of Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause. That's the power of hope - to imagine, and then work for, what had seemed impossible before."

I like Obama's message. I like his approach. If you and Paul Krugman are correct that anger and fear are stronger motivaters than Hope, then HRC or Edwards will win the nomination. If one of them wins, I'll get behind them, but I'm going to stick with hope for now.

MD's picture
Submitted by MD on

We're fighting Mitch McConnell and Grover Norquist and Dick Cheney and Pat Robertson. You don't beat these people by being a nice person.

What does Obama give people hope *for*? He's undeniably charismatic. When I hear John Edwards, I feel hope. I feel hope that someone as President will pick up the progressive stick that was used to beat back the robber barons 100 years ago. (When I see his voting record when he was in the Senate, or when I see him accept matching funds, some of that hope goes away. But, those are gripes for another day.)

As to the fight against slavery and Jim Crow, I don't think the motivating emotion there was hope. It certainly wasn't feel-good hope, of the sort Obama projects to some. It was righteous anger--the sort that Edwards projects to many when he speaks.

Submitted by lambert on

Sean:

The idea that this post is about appealing to "anger and fear" is, to put it politely, wildly off-base. It's a complete distortion of Krugman, and of this post, and distressingly similar to Malkin's ugly tactic of laying off every critique progressives make to Bush Derangement Syndrome. Believe me, I know how to appeal to anger and fear, and I generally do it at much shorter length, and with far fewer appeals to reason, than this post IMNSHO exhibits.

The kind of politics most appropriate to dealing with the Conservative Movement is the issue.

Obviously, I'm concerned that Obama's "schtick" is not adequate to that task and will, for the reasons stated, actually get in the way of achieving the changes needed.

As for not writing a "candidate diary" that compares them all... Well, I didn't write that post. My focus was on Obama. I'm not sure why that's a problem. Presumably the voters can do that for themselves. Voting is a very personal act.

UPDATE Oh, your copy and paste job from Obama's campaign book on the "polarized electorate" shows him at his awesomely eloquent best -- and channels Ron Brownstein (or possibly Brownstein is channelling Obama) -- but unfortunately for him and you, the content is empirically false. Confrontation increases voter turnout, and that's good for Democrats, and Democratic voters believe government can do good things, so the heat of confrontation is good for progressive goals. Sorry about that.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

First, as I pointed out before, and you do not address, if Obama's approach is insufficient to the task of confronting the conservatives, then why is he the one building a real movement? Why is he the one drawing the big crowds and why is he the one collecting small donations from hundreds of thousands of donors for a primary election?

Second, I didn't bother to click on the link you posted because I've already read about the study your referring to. However, Obama didn't say polarization leads to low voter turn out. He says it makes voters more self-centered. We had the highest turn out ever in 2004. How did that work out for the Democrats? The Republicans have been winning because they appeal to a slight majority of the public's narrow, selfish interests by keeping taxes low while they give the farm away to corporate interests. If people don't trust Democrats to spend their money wisely, the majority of them will end up voting Republican because they trust Republicans to let them keep more of their own money whether its in the country's best interest or not. Obama wants to use non-inflammatory rhetoric and principles of good government in order to persuade a solid majority of the country that he is not corrupt or a crazy leftwing ideologue or in the pocket of liberal interest groups in order to gain their trust so that he can implement policies that are in the best interest of this country and the vast majority of the people in it in the long run.

that lays it all out as clear as day. Hell yes, we have to be partisan. Trying to be conciliatory and 'above the fray' has just led to more of the same from the Bush Administration, which sees bipartisanship as 'both parties doing it my way.'

Partisanship means standing up for what we know to be right. If we don't have the strength of our convictions, we will be helpless against those who do - as we have been for the past 30 years.

It's time to call ourselves liberals and progressives, and be proud of it. You never see a conservative shy away from bragging about being conservative.

I was glad to see you at the AU conference, even though I didn't get to talk to you much. I have recommended you over at DKos. I also have a post up there (which I almost never do) and if you care to check it out, it's here.

Submitted by lambert on

I did fix coolant! And the thread on the Hampton was great; I assume you came from there to "the stupidest blog in the world" here.

However, let's try to keep on thread, and hold the fusion conversation 'til later, OK?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Turkeys won't vote for Christmas. And for a progressive agenda, there's going to have to be some turkey on the menu. Obama's suggesting that the turkeys can come to the table and argue for ham or goose instead. That's not going to cut it.

MSimon's picture
Submitted by MSimon on

Rush Reid Letter were the terms.

Do you have the Hampton link?

If you want a guest post on the Fusion stuff I'd be glad to do a non-political post on it. No snide digs. Just the facts and the implications.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You and Krugman say politics is driving economics and yet you don't acknowledge that not just progressives but many of those Indy and Republican voters are fed up with conservative politics that have made almost everybody poorer and much less secure. Those are the people Obama is going to reach out to, not Mitch McConnell. He's going to take their voters and then he's going to make Republican politicians choose between those voters and their big money con backers. The economic trend isn't going to change anytime soon. If anything 2008 is probably going to be the year the whole harebrained debt based, regulation free, house of cards economy Republicans have given us since 1980 comes crashing down on everybody, even a lot of the top 1%.

It's gonna take as many Americans as we can get pulling together to work our way out of this mess. We'll be much better off with a president like Obama who is looking to build the largest coalition as he can than we will with Edwards or Hillary who think pissing off 50%-1 is the way to beat the fatcats. I want a whole lot of Indy and Republican voters admitting we were right all along not standing on the sidelines grumbling about politics as usual.

That's how FDR did it in 1932 and it's how Obama is doing it now. This isn't 2000 or 2004. It's time to quit fighting the last war.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Obama's approach resembles that of trying to court Republicans by trying to adopt some of their positions, like Social Security is in crisis. We used to accuse politicians who did this of being Republican Lite or "moving to the right". It's not a good strategy for a couple of reasons. For one thing, that's not where Americans are and true Republicans are not going to vote for you anyway. They're conservative Republicans for a reason.
Better to craft your message from *your* personal principles and ask for others to buy into them. It eliminates the need to pander and you're less likely to alienate your allies. Some of those policies might be liberal, some more moderate/conservative but at least they are the product of thought and personal conviction, not expediency.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

What principles are we talking about, here? Off the top of my head:
1. The principle that everyone is equal before the law.
2. The principle that this nation does not torture.
3. The principle that there are three co-equal branches of government.
4. The principle that high government officials should not break the law with impunity.
5. The principle that elections are not stolen
6. The principle that war is not made on fake evidence

(I would also add the principle that everyone ought to be nice to each other....)

These principles do not define progressives, they enjoy bipartisan support: all of my conservative friends would agree with each one. There is a myth that GOP voters actually support the policies GOP reps. have enacted. They don't. But they will still vote R on election day because the hate Ds even more than the scum currently representing them.

Submitted by lambert on

First, anonymous coward, let's dispose of the factual material in your comment. You argue that Obama is not reaching out to Mitch McConnell. Maybe yes, maybe no, but he is reaching out to Chuck Hagel. So much for this nonsense that Obama's appealing to Republican voters over the heads of Republican operatives.

Next, I want an enduring progressive majority, not 50% plus 1 -- a straw man if ever I set one on fire. Where did you get that from? Not this post.

And I think the way to get a majority is to stand up for our values, take on the Conservatives, and win with a real strong mandate.

Singing kumbaya is not going to cut it.

Not now, and especially not if things get a lot worse. If you've ever read any FDR you'd know Obama is no FDR:

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace--business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

That's FDR. That's a message that wins in hard times. Not crawfishing around with tricky uplifting rhetoric. Can you imagine Obama saying what FDR said? Or is he going to do like Harry and Nancy do, and bring his "Hello Kitty" pencil case to a gunfight?

NOTE You also write:
I want a whole lot of Indy and Republican voters admitting we were right all along

Well, sure, we all want that, but you know, if your mother had wheels, she'd be a teacart. Do the math. The Kool-Aid drinkers will never vote for us, regardless. So we're looking at 60/40 at most--still a mandate. And I think the best way to get closer to 60 than 50 not by trying to be liked, but by being strong for our values. And if this truly is a watershed year, that is the winning strategy.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

UPDATE The post’s title is a riff on a famous paper in computer science.

I knew it! And agree with you strongly. Obama's supporters need to ANSWER this critique or they can GOTO hell.

Why is verbal conciliation of the right at this point a good thing? Why don't Obama's actual words MATTER? Why are we supposed to ignore what he SAYS in favor of what his supporters think he MEANS?

I stood at Daley Plaza when Barack Obama made his great speech against the war. I supported his Senate candidacy financially. I wanted a good Senator, not a rock star presidential candidate backpedaling the progressivism he still tries to lay claim to. I wanted a Senator who would build upon that speech and argue vigorously for politics in the same vein, not one who backpedaled from it. Lieberman as mentor? Not what I thought I was voting for.

And then to hear him attack Clinton on triangulationism? As if that isn't exactly what he's doing. Sorry, I won't go there. One great speech and a few years spent in community organizing will only go so far, and frankly, in taking my support for granted I feel patronized by Mr. Obama. I want someone who will claw back as much of Reagan-Bushism as possible. That will require a fight. For all her flaws, I'm pretty sure Hillary Clinton knows that. I'm not sure what Obama knows anymore.

Confrontation increases voter turnout, and that’s good for Democrats, and Democratic voters believe government can do good things, so the heat of confrontation is good for progressive goals. Sorry about that.

Sorry? Why? You're absolutely right. As anyone who spent any time in Chicago in the last 25 years should know. During the Harold Washington confrontations of 25 years ago, where Obama cut his teeth, turnout was through the roof. Was that a bad thing? I don't think so.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Obama is plainly unacceptable, as he is functionally no better than a right-wing mole.

But his corruption is a reflection of the corruption of the Democratic Party as a whole. If John Edwards is the best the American "left" can offer, that speaks volumes to the totality of the fascist captivity of the United States. There is no possible justification for allowing a southern white man ever to attain power again.

Submitted by lambert on

Stivo:

Why is verbal conciliation of the right at this point a good thing? Why don’t Obama’s actual words MATTER? Why are we supposed to ignore what he SAYS in favor of what his supporters think he MEANS?

I agree (and I'm glad somebody got the joke in the title. Please feel free to propagate this in the CS community ;-)

Dealing with Obama's supporters, there's always this extra layer of interpretation about that he "really means" when he says stuff. That's exactly what they did when Obama put Social Security in play, after progressives worked so hard to defeat the conservatives on it. What we get is Oh, he "really" was appealing to the Beltway for coverage. Or, he "only" said it once (one series of ads, forsooth). If you say call Obama on appealing to Republicans operatives, you get, Oh, he's "really" appealing to Republican voters. And I just called that one out, so now it's going to be "really" something else. It's like they think that we're all so "meta" now, so accustomed to playing Kremlinology, that a clear consistent message isn't even appropriate.

At least in their messages on the campaign trail, now, I don't think Dodd is like that, or Edwards, or even, bless her heart, Hillary. HRC's got her bullet points, and they're not my bullet points, but by God she's got them and you know where you are with her. The Hillary trolls come after me because not to support her is to hate her, but they aren't all the time explaining what she "really" means.

Sheesh, I didn't realize how much that irritated me. Thanks.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by lambert on

Which "liberal interest groups" are you talking about, Sean? Unions?

Does Obama think that "in the pocket of liberal interest groups" is an example of rhetoric that is not inflammatory? Explain, please.

Does Obama think that "leftwing ideologues" is an example of rhetoric that is not inflammatory?

Which ideologue, exactly, did you have in mind? Presumably not Kristol, Sullivan, Broder, or Brooks, eh? Expound!

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

What, do you think unions are conservative interest groups? Obama has been a staunch supporter of labor and unions, but in The Audacity of Hope he talks about how liberal interest groups, such as unions, give all of the Democratic contenders little "yes/no" checklists in order to determine which candidate to support and he talks about how most politicians learn that you have to go down and check all the right boxes for these groups in order to get anywhere, regardless if your view is to nuanced to be adequately expressed as yes/no. You can be supportive of unions and the rights to unionize without having to support every single political position that every single union takes.

I know this is an easy issue to demagogue and I respect your choice to demagogue it as a way to score an easy rhetorical victory. I like Obama because he avoids this sort of demagoguery in favor of a more nuanced approach. I realize that's not everyone's cup of tea.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

The trouble, Sean, with your argument is that right off the bat it surrenders the fight that we need:

Obama wants to use non-inflammatory rhetoric and principles of good government in order to persuade a solid majority of the country that he is not corrupt or a crazy leftwing ideologue or in the pocket of liberal interest groups

Let's see. Does one have to be a crazy ideologue to oppose the mockery that Bush has made of the Constitution? Does one have to be in the pocket of liberal interest groups to think that Social Security has no immediate crisis? And more importantly, does Obama think these things? Are you saying that once he gets in he will bring us those things that only crazy leftwing ideologues or liberal interest groups want? Pretty dishonest strategy if so. Or are you saying that only leftwing ideologues or liberal interest groups believe that Bush has shredded the constitution or that Social Security isn't in crisis?

This is rightwing rhetoric you're recycling here and I wonder if you even know it.

Submitted by lambert on

Sean:

You say Obama doesn't think unions are special interests. OK, I take you at your word, though Obama's campaign seems to disagree.

But OK, not unions. Whatever. So, now you can answer the question:

When you write about Obama not being in "In the pocket of liberal interest groups," which liberal interest groups do you mean?

Does Obama agree?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I have news for you, there is no monolithic entity out there called "unions".

You say: "But OK, not unions. Whatever." What the hell is that even in response to? Where did I say that individual unions are not examples of liberal interest groups.

In The Audacity of Hope, Obama says that he doesn't like the term "special interest groups" with its negative connotations because it casts to wide a net grabbing up oil companies and unions. He points out, however, that while he is a strong supporter of unions, and has fought hard on behalf of unions, he sometimes reaches different judgments about correct policy in a particular area than a particular union has reached.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You can't look at Obama in isolation, without considering the rhetoric and actions of the other candidates. If Obama's flirtation with Arny makes you mad, what about Hillary's Colin Powell and Senator Lindsay remarks? If Obama's rhetoric is not militant enough for you, is Hillary's? All three of Edwards, Obama, and Hillary are revoltingly evasive on Iraq. Does that bother you?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

the idea that to support unions one must walk in lockstep with them on every issue.

Dennis Kucinich had fun with this strawman in one of the debates. Though as pro-union as anyone he had no trouble when asked this to name an incident where he took a stand different from the unions.

In reality, labor unions have no more power over their supporters to make them toe the line than any other group does. It's another rightwing point you're recycling.

Obama sometimes disagrees with them? Well, whoop-de-doo.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

How many unions are backing Dennis Kucinich? How many union backed 527's are running ads in Iowa in favor of Dennis Kucinich?

Why did you choose Dennis Kucinich as an example rather than Edward or Clinton?

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

we need a fighter -- and Obama refuses to do so.

He absolutely refuses and that's wrong--we get nothing without fighting for it--it's the history of this country, and the history of every advance we've ever made.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I consider myself very liberal politically with a moderate temperament. That's why I am backing the mainstream candidate with the best progressive credentials, Barack Obama. Talk is cheap. Edwards is running as the most box-checky liberal because of his horrendous, conservative, legislative record. I've heard him called the Mitt Romney of the Democratic party and I think its apt. He's not nearly egregious as Romney but that's because the Democratic party isn't nearly as insane as the Republican party.

The idea that politics and economics are at least co-equals was familiar to those who did their graduate work before Reagan, back in the Galbraithian days when it was called Political Economy.

Subordinating politics to economics was the dubious achievement of Marxism and Milton Friedman's Chicago disciples.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

The second the votes were counted for the 110th Congress, the Chris Matthewses and Cokie Robertses pronounced shrill partisanship as public enemy #1 for the obvious reason that they love the status quo.

By ratifying this framing, even of you do somehow believe Obama is being crazy like a fox (hmm), he's doing us wrong.

Submitted by lambert on

Your own words, Sean:

Obama wants to use non-inflammatory rhetoric and principles of good government in order to persuade a solid majority of the country that he is not corrupt or a crazy leftwing ideologue or in the pocket of liberal interest groups...

Can we simplify this down a little, Sean? Before proceeding further? What are these "liberal interest groups"? You say they aren't unions. OK. I take you at your word.

When you say "liberal special interest groups," which interest groups do you mean?

Simple question. What's the answer, Sean? Just for the record.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Recognize this: "You say: “But OK, not unions. Whatever.” What the hell is that even in response to? Where did I say that individual unions are not examples of liberal interest groups."

Did you even read my last response? I am not denying that unions (not a monolithic group btw) are liberal interest groups.

Liberal interest groups include:

Labor organizations such as unions as well as organizations interested in specific issues like the environment, racial justice, criminal justice, prison reform, various foreign policy issues, etc., etc. By calling them interest groups, I am not trying to belittle them and I'm not sure what your point is other than to play some kind of hot-button game of gotcha.

If this is supposed to be an object lesson about how effective harping on irrelevant keywords is as a way of framing the issue, then color me unimpressed.

If you want to rile up the people who are already on your side that is fairly effective. If you want to persuade people who might agree with you but are suspicious of Democrats in general, not so much.

shystee's picture
Submitted by shystee on

It really doesn't matter which Dem candidate gets nominated if they all buy into the Right-Wing-dictated ideological framework.

"Partisanship is the problem" is a central meme in the corporate media's self-interestedly distorted presentation of current political reality.

As Lambert points out, a dead giveaway that the Kumbaya meme is dishonest is the fact that the media feels it's a problem only when the Dems act partisan.

It's severely dissappointing to see ANY candidate buy into that.

This is about Electoral Politics vs. Ideological Politics. For too long all the energy of liberal activists has been focused exclusively on getting someone elected, no matter what the cost to ideology or policy.

At the same time, the Conservative movement has dominated the arena of Ideological Politics, forcing any GOP candidate, even Democratic ones, to kowtow to their policy priorities.

On the other hand, Liberal/Progressive activists have volunteered to sacrifice their policy priorities to the altar of "electability". A standard that is defined by the Village for the benefit of the Conservative movement and their Corporate funders.

According to the Village, "electability" means:

- having a good (but not overpriced) haircut

- working with, not ever ever against, Megacorporations (healthcare, defense, and any others)

- working with the Republicans

While Accordning to those of us who believe in Reality, the overwhelming majority of voters want:

- out of Iraq, now and completely

- universal healthcare, not mandatory "affordable" corporate insurance

- their right to privacy and a return to the rule of law as prescribed by the US constitution

- impeachment of the scoundrels in the current administration

The ultimate goal for all of us to the Left of Sean Hannity is the enactment of progressive policies. The Village will tell you that the way to get there is to make nice with Republicans and Corporations.

Reality will tell you that the Conservative policy accomplishments of the last 20-30 years were achieved EXACTLY because of their ruthless partisanship and their relentless assaults against any interest group that stood in their way.

Which one are you going to trust? Which one are the candidates going to trust?

P.S.: Mad props to Lambert. Respeck Teh Krugman!

Submitted by lambert on

You write that Obama is not "in the pocket of liberal special interest groups."

I ask, quite naturally, which groups you're talking about.

We agree that you're not talking about unions (although, as I said, the campaign might disagree).

So, fine. The unions aren't liberal special interest groups, and Obama's not in their pocket.

So which "liberal special interest groups" do you mean?

AARP?

Electronic Frontier Foundation?

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State?

Who?

If your object is to show a reasonable level of professionalism on Obama's behalf, being unable to answer simple questions isn't helping you, or your putative candidate.

On the other hand, "liberal special interest group" is clearly a right wing talking point, not a progressive one. I wonder why that would be?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

MD's picture
Submitted by MD on

and ill thought-out posts at DKos. But the tone here is getting a bit strident. "Please Represent Obama Effectively or Find Someone Who Can" is unnecessarily harsh and unproductive in getting answers to the important questions that are being discussed. And I say this as someone who shares your concerns about Obama, Lambert. I don't think Sean is being purposely obtuse; indeed, I think he's trying to answer your questions. If you think he's not, ignore him. If you think he is and is worth talking to, I think it's worth toning down the rhetoric.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Catching up on my backlog of reading after Christmas. This post is a real work of art. Well done!

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

You ask: "Which “liberal interest groups” are you talking about, Sean? Unions?"

I respond: "Obama has been a staunch supporter of labor and unions, but in The Audacity of Hope he talks about how liberal interest groups, such as unions, give all of the Democratic contenders little “yes/no” checklists in order to determine which candidate to support and he talks about how most politicians learn that you have to go down and check all the right boxes for these groups in order to get anywhere, regardless if your view is to nuanced to be adequately expressed as yes/no."

You say: "You say Obama doesn’t think unions are special interests. OK, I take you at your word, though Obama’s campaign seems to disagree.

"But OK, not unions. Whatever."

So then I respond: "You say: 'But OK, not unions. Whatever.” What the hell is that even in response to? Where did I say that individual unions are not examples of liberal interest groups.'

Then you come back with: "Can we simplify this down a little, Sean? Before proceeding further? What are these “liberal interest groups”? You say they aren’t unions. OK. I take you at your word.

"When you say “liberal special interest groups,” which interest groups do you mean?

"Simple question. What’s the answer, Sean? Just for the record."

So of course I respond: "Recognize this: 'You say: 'But OK, not unions. Whatever.' What the hell is that even in response to? Where did I say that individual unions are not examples of liberal interest groups.'

"Did you even read my last response? I am not denying that unions (not a monolithic group btw) are liberal interest groups.

"Liberal interest groups include:

"Labor organizations such as unions as well as organizations interested in specific issues like the environment, racial justice, criminal justice, prison reform, various foreign policy issues, etc., etc. By calling them interest groups, I am not trying to belittle them and I’m not sure what your point is other than to play some kind of hot-button game of gotcha."

And now you come back with this: "So, fine. The unions aren’t liberal special interest groups, and Obama’s not in their pocket.

"So which “liberal special interest groups” do you mean?"

Either your not reading my posts, your reading comprehension is horrible, or your being intentionally obtuse to annoy me. I've answered your questions very specifically.

I don't think AARP is a liberal interest group because they are way to willing to make common cause with Republicans like they did on the God awful prescription drug benefit law, though they are an interest group and they do make common cause with liberals frequently.

I'm honestly not familiar enough with the "Electronic Frontier Foundation" to say whether they're a liberal interest group.

Yes, I would consider "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State" a liberal interest group.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Goldberry, you are so right. “Better to craft your message from *your* personal principles and ask for others to buy into them. It eliminates the need to pander and you’re less likely to alienate your allies.” It’s the only way to look, sound, BE strong in your convictions, in your principles. That’s the biggest problem I’m having with figuring out whom to support… I can’t tell what any one of these pols truly believes. It’s all so much pandering.

And so much for holding hands across the aisle and singing kumbaya. Expecting Republican voters to “call out” their elected representatives is foolish, at best. Out here in the Heartland, you can’t even Mention a notion vaguely political (or, heaven forbid, progressive, let alone liberal) in “mixed company” (i.e. liberal and "conservative") without some “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom” channeling Rush: “Nanny State” “Tax and Spend” “Cut and Run” “They just want to pass laws and more laws!” OMG, where’s the barf bag when you need it? You wanna know my vote for the person who does the most damage to thoughtful discourse and the democratic process? Rush Limbaugh, hands down. When his craven, obesity- and drug-weakened heart finally gives out, those won’t be tears of sadness and grief in my eyes. And no, Bill O’Reilly, I’m not suggesting that anyone take the old goat out, heaven forbid that anyone create a martyr out of the ... um... windbag.

And off on another tangent, WE get labeled “Tax and Spend Democrats”, why, oh why, isn’t anyone calling them on being SPEND AND SPEND Republicans? They throw money down the industrial military complex rat hole like it’s materializing out of thin air and dis us for actually thinking we should attempt to pay for things up-front. Oh, oops, that would cut into the gigantic economic edge they have over us "po' folk".

And another tangent, how do the repuglicans seem to keep coming up with better sound bites (generally four words or less; alliteration preferred), making it so much easier for people to parrot “policy” lines?

But back to my original point, without a clear, concise message, how can any of them expect ANY of us to stand behind them?

Obama, hope is all well and good, in fact, hope is great, it’s a hell of a lot better than “terror terror terror, 9/11 9/11 9/11”. But it still doesn’t tell me: What do you stand for? What are you going to do? And if I have to have one of you flunkies telling me what you "really meant", well to heck with that. You aren’t so damned much smarter than the rest of us that your minions should need to interpret for us.

Pages