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The Unbearable Disappointment of Obama

by Helen Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 04:35:52 PM EST

Last night, in the OT, I linked to some pithy criticisms of the perceived lack of achievement by the Obama administration. This led to an interesting discussion and Izzy kept coming back to a single question, "What good does it do to keep criticising Obama personally ?". It's a fair question and deserves a considered answer.

Of course, I have form here dating back to 2007 where I warned;-

But it's different for Obama, they believe in him: And he can't deliver on those expectations; nobody really could, but he won't even try. Items already announced, such as a bigger military really will make things worse. And where do progressives go then ? It isn't despair that hurts; you can live without expectations. It's hope that will break you, every time.

Fran noted at the Paris meeting that ET-ers are mostly all of "an age", not necessarily how many growth rings are in our heads, but a seen-it-all-before, won't-get-fooled-again attitude that looks at politicians with a hard-eyed reality. It was her observation that, conversely, Obama supporters, those who truly bought "the audacity of hope", are the ones who are most fired with enthusiasm and are consequently the ones must susceptible to disillusion.

Maybe I'll be wrong and Obama will confound our Old-Europe cynicism, but if he doesn't then it may be the progressives, the one real hope for America, who disintegrate under the burden of disappointment. And that, not another failed Presidency, will be the real disaster for America



Of course the cheap response to the question is to suggest the questioner must be happy and content with what has been achieved. I know, I've seen the diaries listing Obama's accomplishments and it can seem like a lot, even if to other eyes, it ain't exactly a hill o' beans. And really, it can seem like it's a lot but actually, no. But, to echo somebody wiser than me, that's a riposte, not an answer.

Jay Smooth got to the heart of what the question is really about here when he said ;-

"there is a difference between the "what they did" conversation and the "what they are" conversation
[...]
when I'm chasing down a thief who stole my wallet, I'm not doing it so I can sit him down and worry about what made him like that, I'm chasing his sorry ass so's I can get my wallet back
[....]
focus on the part that matters,holding each person accountable for the impact of their words and actions. I don't care what you are, I care about what you did

I guess that's the problem. Obama asked us to hold him to account on his promises and, believe me, those promises, despite our reservations here, were mighty fine things and wonders to behold. However, having led everyone up the mountain of dreams, when he doesn't even really try to make things happen in the way he led everyone to expect, the hurt such discouragements create mean that, in trying to understand what happened, conversations will sometimes stray from the "what he did" towards the "what he is" one.

But, as you ask, what does this constant sniping achieve ? For want of a better way to put it I suppose it's a way to turn the disappointment into something productive, even if it's just a diagnosis of what motivations Obama might have for following a path so divergent from that expected. Where, if they can go from finding what makes Obama tick, they can find the magic word, phrase or trigger that will put a spark up his arse. Cos they've gone past "what he did" really quickly and are now deep into the land of "what he didn't do". They can't believe the passivity, the absence of leadership. Of going from "No-Drama Obama" to "Low bar Obama".  People thought there was more to Hope than just being better than Bush.

They've tried saying "you can do this by circumvent the Senate like ...., you can do that by Presidential dictat" and got nowhere. They've even recognised the truth of such diagnoses that suggested Obama had no plan for or even appetite for the Change America needed or wanted, that he was more of a "steady as she goes" pilot who just carried on from where the previous incumbent left him, trimming here, or balancing there, than an agent of Change. It was just a shame that Change had been his message and now people are getting disheartened and embittered that they ever allowed themselves to believe.

I fully concede that this attitude is a problem. November is coming and there is no upside to Democratic losses in the Senate; yet, as you say, this lack of enthusiasm, this carping from the sidelines, could be counter-productive in making those losses inevitable.

Yet I would contend that those losses were going to happen anyway. Obama's victory was always going to be the high water mark of Democratic advance given the amount of energy and sheer willpower driving him home, and the numbers in both Senate and Congress were always going to be heading down from that point. So, if Obama was going to achieve anything it was going to be in the first two years and that would set the agenda for the next two or more years of Democratic domination of the governmental process.

Which is why it's disheartening that, given all the advantages and the urgency, they have got so little for their pains. America needed to reverse the ratchet of conservatism, that incremental slide, year by year, to the right needed to be reversed where they could cancel out and nullify some of the worst excesses of everything back to Reagan. Sure you couldn't get rid of it all, but you needed to set out the stall of what you were about so you can make things happen. But Obama hasn't even stopped it, he's just slowed it down a bit. And come November, the Republican tide, however weak and less than expectation, will surely wipe away all those "gains" because if the Democrats can't do anything with what they have, they'll have no will to resist when they have less.

It's the poverty of ambition that has broken progressive hearts. And that's the real reason people are bitching. Senate majority or filibuster be damned, they all know so much more could have, should have been achieved. Obama had a generational opportunity to set the agenda, to make things different and set a new path. If he had delivered on "Hope" by starting to make "Change" happen, right now things would be so different out among the volunteers. But he's squandered the opportunity because he didn't really try; and that's why we're busting his chops.

Display:
Helen, I can't say I agree entirely with all of your analysis, but I do understand what you're saying and very much respect and appreciate this very thoughtful considered reply.  There's a lot to mull over here.  I'm currently at work, but hopefully this will inspire some discussion I'll be able to join later.  Thank you.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 05:09:23 PM EST
Amen to that! And what is worse is that the next two years will be "Two Years of the Walking Dead" and the next Republican President will easily be able to consolidate all of the authoritarian policies put in place by Bush and accepted by Obama.

It is not so much that he broke the hearts of progressives as that he discredited progressives by subtly encouraging them to believe he was one. So now the Tea Party folks can make the identity of Obama = Socialism = Corporate bail outs = Progressivism. The great mass of people are furious at what has happened with the TBTFs and the economy but Obama has done nothing to clarify the situation because he considers Wall Street one of his most important constituencies and believes the CEOs are "sharp guys." It is an environment where simply and clearly telling the truth would be revolutionary. Don't expect that from Obama.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 05:10:52 PM EST
telling the truth would be revolutionary. Don't expect that from Obama.

Right!  Cuz he's such a fucking liar.  Keep fighting the good fight, AR.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 05:26:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right!  Cuz he's such a fucking liar.  Keep fighting the good fight, AR.

So who is putting words in whose mouth now? But I don't mind. The accusation may have been more an excuse to avoid engaging with the more substantive parts of my posts than anything you truly found offensive. A mere rhetorical device, perhaps. What you call "putting words in my mouth" I call deconstructing the rhetorical approach  you are using.

Obama is far from "such a fucking liar". That would be crude and self defeating and he is anything but. It seems to me that far from being a liar, after all he usually tells the truth, it is more the case that HE IS A LIE, but in the most subtle way I have seen. He cultivated a huge following among the younger voters by allowing everyone to project on to him what ever they wanted. Given the environment many could believe that he really couldn't say what he really believed because those nasty Republicans would tear him apart. He was just being coy. His campaign played this aspect like a violin.

I doubt he ever intended to come through on what a large number of his supporters wanted and he had no qualms in letting them believe anything they wanted while he took the money from Wall Street and privately assured them that he was their man. That does not comport with my idea of personal integrity, but to each his own. Very suave, even if it gave rise to an expectations problem. He would just blame his younger and more progressive supporters for having been unrealistic. In effect: "You can want what ever you want but you are going to get what Wall Street wants." That has certainly been the case.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 08:06:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I see -- you just said don't expect the truth from him. And he's too devious to BE a liar, he just IS a lie. And that's all vastly different from calling him a liar.  And I'm the one using a 'rhetorical approach" that you're deconstructing?  My bad.  Thanks for clearing all that up.  

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 08:50:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No. I said that he generally told the truth. But that he let people believe that he would do things that he had no intention of doing. And that he knowingly let his campaign encourage these beliefs in "useful fool" followers. That, to me, makes his public persona a lie.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 09:00:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All that aside, he does tell fucking lies:

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It: Obama's Pretending the War in Iraq is Over speech: An age without surrender ceremonies

"A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency." Here, Obama buys into the narrative that Bush began the invasion of Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein. Wouldn't want the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud, you know.
by generic on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 09:10:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right - it'll be good to get those straight-talking republicans back in power...

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 09:36:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Obama's veracity.

Admitting that Obama is an enemy of progressive change but his administration is a preferable enemy to have to the Republicans is one argument. Arguing that Obama Administration is acting, on balance, as a progressive force is a different argument.

Claiming that the Republicans are worse than Obama does not distinguish between those two arguments.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 10:09:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No shit.  And now that you've cleared things up about issues that have nothing to do with the topic, perhaps you have some thoughts on the actual topic.  I'm not confused.  I'm asking what the fucking point is.  

Because if the GOAL is progressive change (rather than the scorched-earth, bring on the revolution sentiment), then someone needs to explain to me how 'sniping from the sidelines' as Helen put it, helps anything.  

See the difference?  The question has nothing to do with whether Obama is or is not a liar/progressive/stalking-horse/corporate shill/savior/hedge-fund-manager-in sheeps clothing/etc.  Excuse my tone, but having you patiently explain a distinction to me that I've been making, to no avail apparently, since fucking yesterday is causing my temper to flare.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 10:50:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your comment had zero in it about any of the stuff you just went on about.

It just said,

ight - it'll be good to get those straight-talking republicans back in power...

Refusing to understand that Obama is an obstacle to progressive change will not get more progressives elected in the midterms. So what is the relevance of "ooh, the Republicans are even worse than Obama".

Ignorance of the strategic terrain is not a benefit going into or in the middle of a fight. What progressives win this fall will be in spite of and not because of the White House, and if progressives go into the final months banking on some kind of friendly covering fire from the White House ... which is, after all, on the sidelines, not in the trenches ... that won't be a benefit to anybody.

In the end, I don't get your framing. What good does sniping at people in the fight on behalf of the White House on the sidelines do?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 11:06:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Context, Bruce.  You'd have a point if I'd only made one comment.  As it is, you jumped into an argument and 'explained' something I've been saying over and over.

You don't get my framing and I don't get yours.  That's why I asked the question.  So far, Helen is the only one who's actually addressed it.  

And for the record -- I'm not sniping at people 'on behalf of the White House."  I asked what the point is in repeating what I see as negative, destructive 'points' that don't enlighten or inspire anyone and then got swamped with bullshit.  

SO FAR, no one has explained to me how this helps anyone in any way.  We haven't even GOTTEN to 'ignorance of the strategic terrain' yet.

So go ahead and call Obama an obstacle to progressive change.  It's very inspiring.  I can totally see how left-wing name-calling is superior to right-wing name-calling.  I'm sure that liberals everywhere will hear that and be galvanized to volunteer for worthy causes.  

This tactic of repeatedly pointing out how lousy Dem leaders are is tried and true -- look at Carter and Gore! -- I'm sure if you just keep pointing out what an obstacle the Democrats are to progressive change, that progressives will rush to the polls to elect more Democrats. Let me know how that strategic terrain works out for ya.  I'm done.  Carry on.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:06:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is it? Inspire? Enlighten? Or take cheap shots?

In the context of your argument, that comment undermined the argument that you are seeking either inspiration or enlightenment, and makes it seem that what you are looking for is a quarrel built on cheap shots.

It is of course not possible to both enlighten and inspire when working through why it is that the standard bearer of a campaign that aggressively stoked people's hopes was never going to work to satisfy those hopes, and why those who's hopes were dashed should stay involved.

The inspiration lays in conning those who were previously taken in into believing beyond grounds for belief, hoping beyond basis for hope.

The enlightenment, for those who were previously taken in, is to understand that it takes a movement to provide basis for hope, not a campaign. Not to vote in the hopes that someone else will then take care of everything, but to vote as one weapon in the armory in fighting the ongoing fight.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:38:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I've understood you correctly, you consider expressing disillusionment with Obama as not legitimate.

Is that a fair summary?

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 10:41:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 06:59:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The real problem in much of the country is even having a presentable candidate that espouses progressive views effectively. I will be voting for Blanche Lincon for the Senate because she is much better than John Boozman. She even sponsored effective restrictions on commodities futures and futures trading and tenaciously hung in as long as she could for the strongest bill possible. The candidate for the US House from my distirct, Chad Causey, is a relative unknown, except for being the long time chief of staff for Dem. Marrion Berry. But he is clearly better than his republican opponent.

Lincoln faced a challenge from the Lt. Gov., Bill Halter who was heavily supported by unions and other out of state interests for her opposition to the public option. I was suspicious of Halter for his championing of a state lottery, the beneficial proceeds of which go to college scholarships. A Lincoln's campaign operative called to ask about how I intended to vote in the primaries back just after the Medicare vote. I told them I was very disturbed by her position on the public option but that if she took on the financial industry and was effective I would probably vote for her. She did and I did. Not a cause and effect relationship, but she probably got similar results from other more left leaning constituents.

Be glad if you have genuine progressives that you have the privilege of supporting. The best I can hope for is that some of my moderates might do the right thing on important votes on important issues.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:21:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... candidates available to us in the general election, we vote in the general election to build ourselves into the political calculation. Its the primaries where we vote to try to get progressives elected and, as with Blanche, to punish those who need to be taken to the woodshed.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:41:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So you think continuing to support someone with no obvious interest in systemic progressive change - no plans, no road map, no agenda, no initiatives - is going to get you progressive change?

How is that supposed to work, exactly?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 11:56:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Obama is not on the ballot to support or oppose.

Its Boehner or Pelosi, that's the contest, a far less photogenic one, and so the press covers a contest that is not there.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:45:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that mid-terms are a referendum on leadership.

When people were sick of Bush in 2006 they voted in the Dems for change - not because the Dems were saying or doing anything interesting, but because Bush wasn't.

Elections are mostly lost, not won.

Obama's lack of interest in setting any kind of agenda beyond a rhetorical meeja one is doing huge damage to the Dem brand.

Gut punching people who point this out - like Izzy is trying to do - is just shooting the messenger.

'But Palin would be worse' isn't an argument for anything much, except failure.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:49:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See, if you'd said this while we were having a fight in OT, I wouldn't have had to have spent yesterday writing this diary.

Obama's lack of interest in setting any kind of agenda beyond a rhetorical meeja one is doing huge damage to the Dem brand.

Gut punching people who point this out - like Izzy is trying to do - is just shooting the messenger.

'But Palin would be worse' isn't an argument for anything much, except failure.



keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 08:44:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... interest for the midterms to be a referendum on the leadership of Obama, since Obama's team has not been working to consolidate on the victories of 2006 and 2008 in the House and Senate, but rather only on gaining re-election for themselves.

And likewise in the Democrat's interest to make it a referendum on the leadership of the Do-Nothing Republicans in the Senate versus the Do-Something Democrats in the House.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 10:53:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Republicans are likely to win that one, because leadership votes are always personal.

If people get what they wanted from a leader they're happy, and a warm halo of approval envelops his (her) lucky party.

If not - they're angry and they want revenge.

This isn't a very sophisticated world view, but it's how voting seems to work empirically.

Selling Senate/House issues is always harder than picking on the leader.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:09:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see the impersonal in Boehner and McConnell as corporate whores wrecking the country's government to make their paymasters happy.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:31:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Consider the possibility that you may be more sophisticated than most voters. :)

The percentage of voters who have never heard of Boehner isn't going to be small. The percentage who have any idea what his record isn't going to be much smaller.

Most people know who the president is, and have an opinion on the president.

But minority leaders? Not so much, I think.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:35:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not referring to prognosticating, I was referring to the fight itself. Making it personal about more than Obama is the name of the game. When fighting to save the deck chairs as the ship goes down, you throw whatever you can find at the challenge.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 05:02:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Izzy:
then someone needs to explain to me how 'sniping from the sidelines' as Helen put it, helps anything.

In the words of FDR:

Leadership Quotes

I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

If you view politicians as trapped within a political power structures, the only way to get change is to apply enough pressure - or sniping - so that the cost of doing wrong, and the benefit of doing right increases.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:57:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FDR was smart enough to know he had to at least pretend to care what the Left wanted.  The Obama administration is too stupid, or ignorant, to even make the pretense.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:18:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All that aside...

I couldn't watch, but the headline in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette tripped my gag reflex. The GOP base is NEVER going to support him, no matter how good and consistent his imitation of W. Perhaps the WH thinks he can appeal to independents, but I suspect most of those who voted for Obama, or might in the future, have concluded by now that we should just GTFO of Iraq and Afghanistan and concentrate on fixing our economy. Obama is certainly not going to point out the incompatibility of those two goals or move against his Wall Street buddies. He is going for maximum straddle, which I think is doomed to fail.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 09:20:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As Mark Twain said: "The truth is a precious commodity. That is why it is used so sparingly." There is truth and there is truth. What I was referring to above was Obama telling the truth about the nature of the relationship between Washington and Wall Street. Can you really believe he is ever going to do that? And could you really reasonable infer that I was saying he was "such a fucking liar"? Despite all that he has failed to do out of all that was possible and vital to the survival of our country, I still find it hard to dislike Obama personally. But every time he gives a policy address touching on the economy I get heart burn.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 08:56:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... for someone working to build a progressive movement on the back of corporate co-opted rage at the corporate destruction of the Great American Middle Class and disenchantment of the new voters brought to the polls by Obama with the consequences of their foray into electoral politics.

And I don't see how your response is of any use for that purpose.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 11:55:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, Bruce. I can only see her question about what good criticism will do as a rhetorical STFU framing device, whether she sees it that way or not. I don't see what other effect it can have and I reject it.

I wouldn't STFU under LBJ either. Back then I was proposing a National Day of Prayer for LBJ to have a heart attack! That he got what a mess he had made of things was one of the redeeming features of the end of his presidency. Though I voted for him in Nov. I always regretted that Humphrey was the Democratic candidate that year, though he would be far left today. Wars and foreign adventures have been the bane of our polity since WW II.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:32:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On banking he was either clueless or lying... here.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Sep 6th, 2010 at 12:25:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And if he is clueless he is also resolutely un-curious as to where a clue might be.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Sep 6th, 2010 at 05:26:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
So now the Tea Party folks can make the identity of Obama = Socialism = Corporate bail outs = Progressivism.

tonight glenn beck was saying liberal school and college teachers were worse than middle east terrorists.

wtf?

i think the ascent of obama was a great chance for america to coalesce behind a leader, who until in power, showed every sign, (and then some) of being a new, globally aware, type of superpower leader/guru, possibly ushering a new age of global cohesion and best practice government, an era when calm, rational, affable humanity would become the new way forward, a new model for laid back, progressive pragmatism.

so blaming obama is fruitless (if human), but no-one likes to be asked to STFU just because their cynicism is -maybe temporarily- gagging at the widening gap between rhetoric and reality, while the wheels continue to edge towards the end of the axles.

if his presence and powers on the political scene are too premature, or otherwise inadequate to stir the electorate to re-support his gentle rate of incremental change, or if he senses he does not have a strongly unconditional enough following to vote him in just because...america's ready to accept him as a symbol of its own evolution, a symbol strong enough to drown out doubt about his abilities to do more than sing siren songs, captivating, but ultimately more seductive than useful.

if america had been closer to the brink it seems compelled to keep approaching, perhaps the electorate would be surer that radical change was necessary, but the hologram is still holding together for enough swing voters that they still are loath to risk giving up some of their swindling goodies to any kind of wealth distribution, especially to those darn overbreeding immigrants (snark!!) and their illegal families... these fears are shamelessly dogwhistled by the beckian right.

there's one way to deflect the urge to vilify obama, and that's to blame it on his being ahead of his time, and his over-estimating what he could actually accomplish as president, thinking he would be a good man-in-a-group, rather than a leader ready to step out in front of a group. he hired rahm to be the bad cop, so he could stay sweet, and it hasn't proved smart. who's that fooling?

such a good, balanced diary, Helen, full of empathy for all concerned, and humble about being so right, so long ahead of the game.

i remember reading that, and thinking, it reads true, but i squished the feeling down, because i was high on hopium like so many, betrayed not by obama, but by our own need to project our desperation with politics-as-usual, and desire for change.

just staying sane under the load of unbelievably thorny awful bequeathed by Dim Sun would have broken many a man. obama is human, and a politician, too young and inexperienced to do more yet than sound like a statesman, and he saw the royal road to power would be to give progressives the carrot to get them activated and politicised, then when he had achieved the mountaintop, (thereby realising the symbolic virtual endpoint for the civil rights struggle MLK died for), maybe there'd be the right confluence of events for his dispassionate style of soft power to be respected and trusted. right now, thanks to the dumbed down media, america has sadly lost much of the discrimination to discern the difference between symbol and reality, having merged the two long ago by choice and conduction, and in an age which is asking for us all to mature rapidly and remove our pacifiers, this blurring of the two has pushed many through the glass into some kind of chronic mental imbalance, bolstered by others driven by similar-to-identical philosophies/worldviews, and buffeted by polar contradictory pov's, held equally passionately and devotedly. families avoid discussions to stay in harmony, the ability to bridge that widening cultural gap obama symbolises is beyond his capacity to bring into reality (yet?), given the crazed adherence to the destructive politics so many americans are going along with, or even cheering on.

i haven't given up hope on obama, he's chameleonic enough to surprise us all, and seems still relatively unruffled, even as the collective global handbasket approaches hades, that blithe, ridiculously personable demeanour encourages many to stare in wonder and wait to judge, even as the howls from the left escalate, sometimes into hysteria.

not helpful, as Izzy says...

but neither is painting over the reality of what we are facing, and giving him total carte blanche to act without conscious and constructive criticism will not further any progress either, nor will shhhh-ing critics because those big scary republicans might take strength from that and bring back the reign of error'n'terror, and blow us all into smithereens.

as for grooming anyone to take his place, it's a fine idea, but who has a hundreth of his charisma and social savvy?

he'd run rings around anyone remotely near the corridors of power, without breaking a sweat. and that's why it's so damn hard to let go of the projections, pols that bright come down the pike once in a lifetime if you're lucky.

there's a terrible level of poetic irony to all this.

thanks again for this nicely nuanced diary... good discussion too.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 07:42:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... American politics,
i think the ascent of obama was a great chance for america to coalesce behind a leader, who until in power, showed every sign, (and then some) of being a new, globally aware, type of superpower leader/guru, ...

... the challenge now is to build something that is not one personal scandal away from falling apart in our hands.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 11:57:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is hard for anyone raised in a social democracy to understand what we have had to deal with in completing the goals of FDR socialism. The Vietnam War stifled Johnson in the 60s, and then we had Nixon and then an incompetent Carter, who was unable to carry forth the liberal-socialist dream. In fact it was Carter who began to unravel regulations that kept greed in tow, And then Reagan came along. What more is there to say. SO enjoy your great medical care, while we'll do what we can to catch up. Obama is trying, but as you can see, the right wing is not dead. Far from it.

by shergald on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 05:29:26 PM EST
... in terms of the challenge that the minimum that is pragmatically possible is greater than the maximum that is politically feasible ...

... I think he genuinely does not see greater than what is politically possible as being the minimum necessary.

I do think that Jerome a Paris called it right on that score.

But on the other hand, the nature of the challenge is that it is at the outset not possible to do enough. One Presidential Election victory was never going to be enough. The challenge was always going to be to continue building the coalition in the aftermath of a victory, no matter the Presidential candidate. Given the candidate, the challenge was always going to be that the Audacity of the Hope would be far greater than the Audacity of the Government.

Just as in 2007/2008, we still have to build a new political terrain in which the minimum that we have to do becomes possible to do.

Just as in 2007/2008, we have to build a progressive change coalition to accomplish that, because its the only way any such thing has ever been done in the United States.

Unlike in 2007/2008, some of the necessary members of that coalition have gone through the experience of hope for progress, thrill of electoral victory, and dashed hopes, and denying the reality of those dashed hopes on the part of some prospective members of a hoped for coalition isn't a path to forging a successful coalition.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:09:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... I aint worrying about Obama. I knew he was a Hedge Fund Democrat when I voted for him, I knew he was the opposition to progress when I voted for him, I vastly preferred his opposition to progress to what McCain was offering, and on that basis I have not had any hopes dashed.

From the second week of November, 2008, the action for progressives was in electing progressives, Democratic or Independent, to State Legislatures and the House over the next six years (now 4 years and some months), and worry about Presidential Politics the week after election day in 2014.

It still is.

At the moment, that means pushing hard to hold onto any progressive or vaguely progressive populist we can, and letting the regressive Democrats fend for themselves. Because, unfortunately, far too many went into the midterms acting as if it was Obama's re-election year, and took their eyes of the prize.

But its the same thing in 2012 and 2014. That's the fight. Aint no never mind for the political contest at the Presidential level except maybe as a side activity in the three months leading up to November 2012 ... its all building and organizing work to be able to mobilize in State Legislatures and Congress.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 05:51:31 PM EST
Hedge Fund Democrat.

ok.

great comment, B. keep your eye on the prize, not the blips.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 07:58:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama has thrown progressives under the bus. He wanted - and got - the votes, he said all the right things, but it's clear now that he was always Blair-ish and dishonest about it.

The smartest thing the Left can do now is get over Obama, throw him under a bus in turn, and go find someone else who can do the damn job.

Obama is looking more and more like a Trojan horse whose job was to emasculate and channel the post-Bush rage and make sure that substantial change couldn't happen, just when it was most likely to.

It doesn't matter what his motives are, or whether he's sad, mad, or bad. What matters is that he's not doing what needs to be done - which is why someone else needs to be found who can do it instead.

The biggest danger to the Left now isn't 'betraying' Obama - it's continuing to live in denial about what his values really are, how little he's likely to achieve over the next couple of years, and how that lack of achievement guarantees that some vile creeping right-wing whack job takes over after him.

My guess is he won't be standing again, or if he does, the campaign will be oddly half-hearted.

And if that's true, the Left is going to be wrong-footed without a credible alternative - unless one is nominated and groomed now.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 05:55:29 PM EST
... strategic mistake to think in terms of a Presidential primary challenge. Let Obama go on and fight his fight, the real electoral work is to be done in the states and in the House.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 06:51:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same old crap. Chomsky:

President Obama "is delivering, but for the financial institutions," he told Raw Story, "Which isn't a big surprise - that was the core of his funding. They preferred him to McCain, in fact by a considerable margin. They expected a payoff, and they got a payoff."

The Obama administration last month walked into a public relations debacle after the president told Bloomberg News in an interview that he doesn't "begrudge" banking executives making large bonuses for their "savvy" skills.

"That was very revealing," Chomsky said, alleging that Obama was merely heeding the threats from the banking community.

"Obama months ago shifted his rhetoric and started talking about greedy bankers and even made some policy proposals the financial institutions didn't like," he continued. "And they didn't waste a minute. They told him right off, you continue talking like that and we're going to shift our funding to Republicans. Well they did so."

One day before the interview, the New York Times reported that J.P. Morgan, which has traditionally preferred contributing to Democrats, directed most of its cash to the GOP this year. Campaign finance trends on OpenSecrets.org reveal that financial institutions have gradually shifted their funding away from the Democratic Party and toward Republicans in recent months.

"And Obama got the message," Chomsky said. "Within days, he said to Bloomberg that the bankers are great guys, I'm in favor of their profits and bonuses and so on; that that's the way the free market works, and I join the American people in applauding their successes."

Even with the mandate he had after the election, stopping the banks would have required him to be a real leader willing to fall on his sword for the public good. No politician capable of such an act would get the funding required for a presidential run in the first place.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 07:12:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... but Obama ran to the right of Clinton and Edwards whenever he had an opportunity to do so, even if it was not for any obvious political gain ... but of course the Hedge Fund money during the general was the political gain.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 07:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
FDR certainly did not campaign on reforming Wall Street in 1932. I did not think Obama was an FDR, but I did allow myself to hope he could rise to the occasion and do what was necessary to save the country and to save the financial system from itself. I allowed myself that hope until about this time last year. I never believed he was a progressive during the primaries and I only started supporting him after he was the last Democrat left standing.

Considering all of the grief so many of the Kossacks and others in the blogosphere gave Hillary Clinton for the sins of Bill Clinton, chief amongst which was "triangulation" I do find it ironic how Obama has turned out. To do what needs to be done anyone would have to betray some of their supporters. To justify that act, it has to succeed and it has to lead to a better future. Taking down the TBTFs in January '09 would have qualified on both counts and could have been done had Obama been willing to take the risk.

Just because we have not gotten a real leader is not reason to believe that we cannot get a real leader. All sorts of improbable things have happened. Some of the most improbable have been good things. That the American Revolution would succeed was highly improbable. It required that the British hand be played incredibly badly. Yet it happened.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 09:14:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ARGeezer:
That the American Revolution would succeed was highly improbable. It required that the British hand be played incredibly badly. Yet it happened.

interesting point, ARG, well nailed...

the more i think about it, the repugs are in a way an historical extension of the same values that drove the brits back then, an unholy potage of empah, pecuniary militarism, racist blather, exceptionalist pomp and circumstance.

oh yes, and teh stupid.

we just have to hope the repugs can be that stupid, so gains can be made closer to the ground, with the election of more progs at grassroots level.

i agree with izzy that pointless sniping will do more to help the R's than anything else, but this isn't poutrage here at ET, it's grief, and re-strategising, plus a normal amount of venting.

my guess is obama is the best we'll get for a while, the dems do not have so many potential great statesmen in the visible wings, which is again why so many people aren't mincing their words of criticism, and neither should we, imo. if obama, a highly intelligent -and on the campaign trail a very perspicacious- man, can be shamed into honouring the promises he consciously made then, only then would we be able to hook up the symbolic victory of obama with the energies of social justice and fairness to the underprivileged promoted by MLK, and cherished by so many who voted for him, without checking too carefully whence came the bulk of his campaign contributions.

there were some, like myself, who thought even wall st had come around to seeing great change was needed, if they wanted a fat enough society to be worth leeching off of. haha.

expect the unpetty pilfering to stop... good one.

if the country were riding on a rising tide of joy at what obama had done since auguration, these midterms would be a piece of cake, progressive dems would be self selecting, more graysons and franklens would be coming out the woodwork, and blue dogs would be with their forked tails between their political legs.

instead we have dems avoiding obama coming to help their campaigns!

unreal, how history's gyre is tightening so swiftly...

obama will find out about serving two masters, and why it's not smart as it seems. you end up irrelevant to both.

if obams is as big a charlatan as i fear (on bad days), then he was just the last chance for soft, subtle fascism offered the american electorate. (bearing in mind how soft the folks getting droned abroad, or tazered at home find it), and if he fails, the velvet gloves will have to come off, as american joeblows wake up and find out not only that america is no longer king rooster of the global dungheap, but their relatives are sleeping under bridges, while banksters dine off plates of gold, as of yore.

soft fascism will not be enough at that point to hold them to their task of making banksters even richer, and that's when the deathwish so graphically expressed by the Twank here at ET, will have its way.

so to summarise, tis this the reason the sniping gets so angry it crosses lines of taste and decorum.

the basement's on fire, the roof's caving in, folks' retirement money and dreams are melting away to smoke, the poor are looking down the mineshaft of the future without the diehard myth of the 'american dream' to sustain them, the age of basking in some rosy glow of exceptionalism fades to the grim acknowledgment that they're competing with the chinese et al working for a dime an hour. and. no. unions... and al quaida is swelling its ranks in all kinds of fun places to fight in like yemen and somalia, and plotting the next 9-11, while the US GDP consists more and more of spoonfeeding israel (and other hotspots) more weapons, and 'security equipment'. (mustn't forget the 'legal services either')

those on the middle floors of the house are still eating their lunch, wondering what that ruckus above and below them can possibly be...

can't imagine why those adept at sniffing the wind are turning purple at how obama is placematting while the orcs are climbing in the windows, meanwhile we should stfu to fight the good fight.

uh-huh. rooting for obama, for who else is there? but not that way... the problems we have can only be solved by freer media, and here we have a chance still to know how that feels. hushing criticism out of fear is not how it works.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 01:22:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if obama, a highly intelligent -and on the campaign trail a very perspicacious- man, can be shamed into honouring the promises he consciously made...

I don't recall the context, probably Afghanistan, but I do recall Gibbs telling a reporter that Obama sleeps well at night and had no problems with his decisions. I think that is probably true in general and that he feels he has been correct in his judgments and justified in everything he has done. Progressive, to him, does not involve confronting the corporatist bankers. Sadly.

He can't or won't consider that the analysis of the economic situation on which his administration has been proceeding is seriously lacking and that the current situation is unsustainable. Denial is a powerful defense for the psyche. It works perfectly right up until it fails catastrophically.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 11:01:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... I do recall Gibbs telling a reporter that Obama sleeps well at night and had no problems with his decisions.

Finally an honest statement! My view? Obama is as much a self-centered SOB as Bush. He sleeps well at night because the only people he TRULY cares about are hinself, his wife, his kids, maybe his extended family. Beyond that ... forget it, wishful thinking. Is he ever going to be out of work? Hungry? Homeless? What about his children? How's poor Chelsea Clinton doing?

You people who want to think the best about Obama are deluding yourself in order to justify your 2008 vote. Wake the fuck up!

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 11:25:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just encourage those you tutor to vote this fall, even if it is for the least disgusting candidate. The ultimate victory for those who support the existing system is for their opponents to stay at home out of apathy.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 12:29:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I do; I vote against what I hate rather than for what I like. Under first past the post that is all you can do.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Sep 5th, 2010 at 06:04:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
i agree with izzy that pointless sniping will do more to help the R's than anything else
... and therefore its application invites pointless effort devoted to identifying what is "pointless sniping", and of course also to pointless defenses of Obama which do more to help depress Democratic turnout and help the R's than anything else.

Time and effort wasted  in identifying and targetting something as "pointless sniping" is time and effort that could be turned to less futile and unconstructive ends.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 03:33:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama is looking more and more like a Trojan horse whose job was to emasculate and channel the post-Bush rage and make sure that substantial change couldn't happen, just when it was most likely to.

I recall Jesse, Le Propriétaire at Jesse's Café Américain writing a few months ago that Obama was the stalking horse for dark forces in the US financial community. He may not fully comprehend how he is being used. His upbringing, his grandmother being a banker, and his legal training at Harvard all may have led him to seeing acceptance by the highest level of financial power in a society built on money as the highest honor he could receive. Certainly he has served as a very good attorney for Wall Street.

My guess is he won't be standing again, or if he does, the campaign will be oddly half-hearted.

From Joan Walsh in Slate on Monday, (H/T Corrente):

It's been written before: The Obama team seems to think 2012 will take care of itself, as long as they burnish that shining Obama "brand," which requires reaching out to Republicans and independents and ignoring the pesky left, with its old culture-war grudges and its subversive demand for greater economic fairness. I've heard some smart folks speculate that the White House may even welcome a Republican takeover, the better to "let Obama be Obama," and continue to play out his fantasy of being a Democratic Ronald Reagan, creating a generation of what he used to call "Obamacans" and realigning politics for his lifetime.

My own sense is that a new party might be a more likely vehicle in 2012 than a new Democratic nominee, unless Obama declares early that he is not running for re-election. But I fear the most likely scenario for a true progressive to be elected might be the "Obama abducted by space aliens" development. Sadly.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 08:43:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good point, rational strategy. But given the veritable blizzard of failed opportunities and half-assed policy analysis that Obama's presidency has come to represent, it's hard to see a way to pry the conversation away from an endless recapitulation of his failures- on the progressive side, his failure to use the immense pile of political capital he entered office with for any recognizable purpose at all, and on the conservative side, the perpetual hypnotic anger mantra- the repetition of the evil socialist theme with all it's derivations and permutations.
He's made himself into an increasingly attractive icon for incompetence, as well as a lightning rod for bile.
That's his most incredible accomplishment so far.

It's not hard to see how he managed to create a perfectly neutral screen on which the frustrated masses could project their hopes.
It's hard to see how he missed the fact that the same screen, in the absence of results, would hold an image turning to anger and bitterness.

 "Hell hath no fury like a woman (named "Hope"?) scorned."

Anyone remember Keith Laumer's wonderful character Reteif of the CDT? And Ambassador Magnan?

Perhaps he'll do a "No. 1968 with pathos"- LBJ with youthful pathos and a dash of "It just couldn't be done" thrown in, and fold his cards. And boogie before the house falls in.

Gore Vidal was right.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 10:50:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... banking on the conventional wisdom that the recovery will get more or less going and by 2012 unemployment will be low enough that he can get re-elected.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 05:05:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama succeeded his first day ... he was the first black man to take up residence in the White House. That was it. Done. Now he tries to survive, literally with the Tea Baggers around, till 2012 when he turns over the keys to a Republican and things get really interesting.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 06:36:47 PM EST
The problem with the turn the keys over to a Republican scenario, is that the coming election results will encourage the Teabaggers to demand a Teabagger nominee, and a Teabagger nominee will find that the Presidential year electorate in 2012 is far different from the Mid-Term electorate of 2010.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 06:53:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Meaning that a TeaBagger Pres. candidate won't stand a chance in a general election?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 06:57:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... but won't be on the inside track.

Obviously, the President also stands a greater chance of re-election if he has a Republican House of Representatives to run against. He'll get to be all Presidentially veto-ing all sorts of nonsense.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 07:04:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seeing some of the teabaggers getting nominated for state races this year (here in Colorado we have two of the craziest) has essentially handed mediocre Dems the inside track. Harry Reid in Nevada is a good example of someone benefitting from a whack-job opponent.

If the GOP controls the House they'll make the Clinton impeachment BS seem like a pillow fight. Obama will get to run against "the crazy." Plus the possibility of Palin running for Prez in 2012 will turn TPTB back towards sane, and controllable Dems.

by US Blues on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:43:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
he was the first black man to take up residence in the White House. That was it. Done.

Nice.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 10:51:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It comes down to authenticity. The reason more and more progressives aren't willing to "clap louder" for Obama is they don't feel that's an authentic reflection of their perceptions and interpretations of what is happening. So they prefer to vent their frustrations, since venting is one of the few avenues left available to most people in the Western European/North American political context.

Helen had it absolutely right in 2007: Obama raised expectations very high, and is crashing hard since those expectations have not yet been fulfilled. Sniping from the sidelines is really only the above-water part of the iceberg; the deeper and very real problem is that below the water line is a huge mass of voters who have returned to their position of alienation from the political process as a result of Obama's failures.

While we can and must debate the specific nature and reasons for those failures, as far as I can tell, it comes down to the economy. Most Americans do not feel any more secure or hopeful today than they did when they went to the polls in November 2008. In fact, the uneasy stability many Americans feel - at least those who were lucky enough to keep their jobs - is now in question as a double-dip recession and massive state and federal budget austerity looms.

I've seen this play out on the ground here on California's Central Coast. When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Republican State Senator Abel Maldonado to become Lieutenant Governor (and he was confirmed by the state legislature in April), it opened up a seat here on the Central Coast. The two leading candidates were progressive Democrat John Laird, who used to represent Monterey and Santa Cruz in the State Assembly, and Sam Blakeslee, a Republican Assemblymember from San Luis Obispo. I did some work for the Laird campaign running its online operations during the two rounds of the special election held this summer.

The 15th State Senate district has a majority Democratic registration and Obama won it with a 20-point margin in November 2008. Nevertheless, on August 17, the Republican, Blakeslee, won the seat by a 4-point margin.

What happened? Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman (the Republican candidate for governor, who is much further to the right than Arnold) both played major roles in depressing Democratic turnout. Arnold picked a summer special election date to fill the seat, which usually means lower Democratic turnout. Whitman, who is quietly building a significant field operation across California, used the race to test-drive that operation as well as to beat back Democratic efforts to win a 2/3 majority in the State Senate.

They were aided by widespread alienation, frustration, and anger among Democratic voters. Volunteers that were calling regular Democratic voters encountered hostility among these voters, who didn't want to hear about the special election but wanted to complain or vent about other issues, mostly having to do with Congress or Obama. It was very difficult to get them to focus on this race, even when we reminded them that Laird had served them well as a popular Assemblymember from 2002 to 2008.

These are the types of voters that Democrats need to win in November - and these are the types of voters who have already reached their verdict on the first two years of the Obama administration. They're unhappy, and with good reason. The disappointment is palpable and legitimate. And folks have a hard time hiding from those authentic feelings, and so some choose to share them, while others just check out.

I see that Drew Westen put this better than I just did, but hopefully my comments have been edifying.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 03:39:37 AM EST
What Created the Populist Explosion and How Democrats Can Avoid the Shrapnel in November  Drew Weston

To say that the American people are angry is an understatement. The political brain of Americans today reflects a volatile mixture of fear and fury, and when you mix those together, you get an explosion. The only question at this point is how to mitigate the damage when the bomb detonates in November.The bad news is that it's too late for Democrats to do what would have been both good policy and good politics (and what the House actually did do), namely to pass a major jobs bill when it was clear that the private sector couldn't keep Americans employed. The "Obama Doctrine" should have been that Americans who want to work and have the ability to contribute to our productivity as a nation should have the right to work, and that if the private sector can't meet the demand for jobs, we have plenty of roads and bridges to fix, new energy sources to develop and manufacture, and schools to build and renovate so our kids and workers returning for training can compete in the 21st century global economy. From having spent much of the last four years testing messages on a range of issues, from immigration to taxes and deficits, I can say with some certainty that nothing John Boehner or Eric Cantor could say could come within 30 points of generating the enthusiasm -- particularly among swing voters -- of a message that began, "We don't have a shortage of work ethic in this country, we have a shortage of work." That message resonates across the political spectrum. And it isn't even the strongest message we've tested in the last weeks or months that beats back the toughest deficit-cutting language the other side can muster. (Emphasis added)

Great article, Montereyan! Your excellent comment more amplifies, extends and illustrates that article than recapitulates or summarizes. The part I put in bold illustrates just the sort of approach that could bring victory and even waves of small contributions were it systematically hammered home. It is the sort of message that Obama should have been pushing -- except for his unfortunate dependence on and identification with his Wall Street buddies.

Pete Peterson, Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein would take severe umbrage were Obama to take such a tone. Unfortunately for Obama, they have already taken umbrage at MUCH less aggressive comments from the WH, so he is well on his way to alienating everyone. The best hope is that he will become Secretary-General of the UN, President of the World Bank or Managing Director the IMF in or shortly after 2012. Given the footprint of the USA, that might be a mercy to all and a salve to Obama's ego.

The great mass of people are desperate for a hopeful alternative and are rejecting the standard diet of bad choices that establishment politics has on offer. A third party campaign that started in Dec. 2010 with such a platform and a stated intent to caucus with the Democrats, but on their own terms, could become an irresistible force by the summer of 2012. Meanwhile, it could make the whole edifice and brand of Mainstream Economics toxic in the public sphere.

 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 10:15:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that could work, Geez. It's appeal is obvious, but I suspect the groundwork would have to be done--yesterday.

What would be the biggest, most obvious obstacles?
-Money
-A mind-boggling media assault labeling the whole thing political terrorism, with a generous helping of "They'll kill what remains of our economy" thrown in.
- the very real risk of another Robert Kennedy event.

That said, I'd work for that campaign, as long as the candidate wasn't a bible-waving fundamentalist dingbat or a Beckwit.
Note that the slogan is not incompatible with some pretty unsavory candidates.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:09:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have considered  a temporary, broad based party of Reform that only promises a few things:

  1. Enact campaign reform that provides public support to candidates without restricting private donations and requires donations be publicly disclosed by the recipients before the money can be accepted.

  2. Vigorously prosecute fraud in the financial sector. Appoint Bill Black to lead a Financial Sector Fraud Unit and fund it at $200 million/year for four years. Simultaneously use regulatory powers to force the TBTFs to take back all the crap that has been dumped on the Fed's Maiden Lane SIVs and on Fanny and Freddy and mark to market all assets. Attempt to coordinate with other governments to minimize the fall out, but if this is not quickly forthcoming, let the chips fall where they may.

  3. Do a public audit of the Fed and a public assay of what ever precious metal reserves the US Government may still have, preparatory to revising the legislation governing the Fed and with referrals for prosecution as indicated. Not only do we need to know what they have been doing, but this will pull in the libertarians and paleocons.

  4. Support energy independence and economic growth through renewable energy and upgraded domestic electric infrastructure. Fund this with Bruce's 10c/gal (or greater) tax on imported oil. Provide federal financing for publicly owned high capacity lines from existing grid tie-ins to the Texas panhandle and the entire front range of the Rockies. (T. Boone Pickins, check. Stake through Dick Cheney - check.)

  5. Enact significant corporate taxes on foreign labor content of manufactures. Revise all tax codes to eliminate any tax benefits to "outsourcing" and to mergers and acquistions. (Paul Craig Roberts -- check)

  6. Repeal the Keep America Safe Act and all other such legislative infringements on civil liberties. Brand this act as being, in fact, The Turn America Into a Police State Act.

  7. Withdraw from Iraq, Afghanistan and, at a minimum, reduce our troop levels in Korea, Japan and Germany. Cut the size of the US military by half and reduce the Pentagon budget by half. Even the  Secretary of Defense says reductions are needed.

  8. Agree on a four year standstill on social issues, broadly defined. In the kind of economic environment into which we are headed, absent this kind of reform, the changes here are likely to be reactionary anyway.    

 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:42:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is definitely a place and a hunger for a politics that would get at exactly what you describe. I don't know if a third party effort will happen - too many progressives still feel burned by the Nader campaign of 2000 - but whatever form it takes, it's a lot better than railing at the failure of Obama to abandon his banker friends or the Washington establishment to actually provide the leadership and the message that Americans want and expect to hear.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:16:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
. . . the deeper and very real problem is that below the water line is a huge mass of voters who have returned to their position of alienation from the political process as a result of Obama's failures.

Why is greatre popular enlightenment on the political process a problem? Voters are pushed again up against the hard truth: it's a pay to play system and those who can't pay are chumps. Only moving forward after first understanding that reality, voters and former voters now need to work out how they're gonna change the political process so it actually becomes reasonably democratic. I don't think anyone actually has any idea how citizens are gonna do that 'within the political process', but I'm just sayin'. . . .

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:46:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People alienated from the political process become apathetic.  Apathy is not a basis for action.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:15:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Alienation --> Depression. A classic way out of depression is via anger.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:49:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And we're seeing that played-out by the Teabaggers, et. al.

The GOP has managed to capture and stoke the anger of their base.  The Dems are woefully out of touch with their base and haven't.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:57:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead, Gibbs et al are telling the progressives that they are the problem and to just STFU or get a Republican House. The Obama WH can't focus the anger of their base because they are fronting for the only fitting target for that anger. Thus they become the pinnata donkey. Of course that is the fault of their base.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup.

The current crop of Dem pols have forgotten, if they ever knew, how to do retail (precinct) politics.  Until they get over themselves they won't learn.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:15:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Remember that in the 1990s, Democrats were told that retail politics is for suckers, and that the way you win is by pleasing the big corporations. Bill Clinton's success, especially in getting re-elected in 1996 after the disaster that was the 1994 election (which is itself similar to what's shaping up for 2010), convinced even reluctant Democrats that you won elections by raising a lot of money from corporations that you then spent on bland TV ads, and once elected, implementing pro-corporate policies to keep the money coming.

Obama showed that another way was possible, but as we now know without any doubt, he was never committed to the grassroots-supported model of political campaigns. And in return, the grassroots is starting to desert him. Even OFA (Organizing For America, the remnant of the 2008 Obama For America campaign organization that was absorbed into the DNC after the election) has seen a huge dropoff on the number of volunteers it gets for its activities and a big unsubscribe rate in its emails (they used to have a list of 13 million, but I'd be surprised if they get 1 million people regularly reading what they send out).

And that's because Obama revealed himself to be an acolyte of Reagan and Clinton, someone who believes deeply in the righteousness of the elite and who disdains populist concerns. Hopefully the wreckage of the November 2010 elections can become creative destruction instead of plain old destruction, and fuel some better and smarter progressive activism.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:52:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But, coopted into being a wing of the Democratic Party, it refuses to go there.

Wikileaking will not stop the war in Afghanistan; truth telling and punditeering can play only an antiwar support role. They are supposed to support a robust antiwar movement, by a citizenry angry about its young men and women getting killed for no reason, angry about killing Afghanistan civilians for no good reason, angry about wasting half a trillion dollars a year on military imperialism when that money needs to be spent at home, and then expressing that anger massively and in ways that cannot be ignored.

http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2010/8/24/14490/3940

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:52:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They were aided by widespread alienation, frustration, and anger among Democratic voters. Volunteers that were calling regular Democratic voters encountered hostility among these voters, who didn't want to hear about the special election but wanted to complain or vent about other issues, mostly having to do with Congress or Obama. It was very difficult to get them to focus on this race, even when we reminded them that Laird had served them well as a popular Assemblymember from 2002 to 2008.

Right there is everything that's wrong with the Democratic Party.  

When people are alienated, frustrated, and angry they don't give a flying fart about some goddamn election.  They want to be valued; they want to be valued as a person, as someone who matters.  THEN they want to see action based on their concerns.

Are any of these people being called back by someone who will listen and then can and will actually do something?  Of course not.  And that means every single one of those people who were called have just been given Real World evidence they don't matter.  Their concerns don't matter.  They might as well jump off a cliff as expect anybody in the Party to care about them, what they think, or what they are going through.  John Laird, no matter what he has done, has now, by association, been appraised by a goodly number of the people who were called as someone who thinks they don't matter, their concerns don't matter, and they might as well jump off a cliff as expect him to care about them.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:41:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
John Laird should get a copy of that list and start calling each one and doing just what you suggest -- listen to them - and apologize for not having had his organization do this at the time. Then incorporate the responses into a program and mail them a copy. It would be a start.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:54:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bet those call sheets, the ones that haven't been sent to a landfill, are sitting in a box.  

Laird's staff needs to prep him for those meetings/calls by constructing a Farley File.  Cold calling won't do much good and could easily do him a great deal of harm; after all, those people have already "told" him stuff and he needs to address their issues to stop the rot not what he thinks their issues should be.

If that makes any sense.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:09:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have a better command of the practical tactics.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:23:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I had the good fortune to meet some of the shakers-and-movers of the old time machines before they (both) died off.  Very informative.  One such bit of info was why Pendergast asked Truman to be their candidate for Senator.  Basically Pendergast was on the phone with the St. Louis people and he bet them $20,000 he could take the next dweeb to walk through his door and elect him as Senator.

Truman turned out to be the dweeb.

LOL

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:45:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an excellent point, one that I'll pass along.

And the world will live as one
by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:44:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Farley's are used by pricey restaurants to personally welcome revisitors - especially those with expense accounts. I've even read of FR technology being used at the entrance or MD's desk.

An expense accounter, who brings in important clients or partners to a restaurant, loves to be greeted with a detail that shows he is a 'regular' and thus has 'clout'.

I fall for it myself - even when alone.


You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 02:03:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's easy to be cynical about "Personalized Marketing," like a Farley File.  

The fact is: you can't remember everything you'd like to remember.  A Farley File is everything you'd like to remember about a person, but can't.

It's not the tool, it's the intent of the person using it.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 03:38:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed. Most of my clients get a lecture about that.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 04:30:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is all sensible. Laird himself definitely connects with people and is quite good at valuing people as if they matter, which he genuinely believes they do.

The problem is that in a State Senate district with 900,000 people, it's not easy to make that clear to a mass audience. He was out there at numerous public events and when he was able to talk directly to voters, it made a big difference - turnout was up between the June 22 primary and the August 17 general elections and the places it was up was where Laird was able to get to people one-on-one.

However, the campaign never quite had the funding it needed, and when it did, before June 22, the campaign managers chose to listen to the paid consultant who argued that voters should be scared into voting against Blakeslee because he supports offshore oil drilling. It didn't quite work, and after June 22 we developed some of our own messaging that was more targeted to voter concerns about education and jobs - but we lacked the funding to do a big TV ad buy (which I know isn't the same as directly connecting with voters, but it'd have helped).

I've never thought much of phonebanking, and though it worked well in the fall of 2008, you've identified a big drawback - it doesn't work when voters are feeling alienated, as the act of having volunteers call on your behalf reinforces the alienation (whereas in 2008 it reinforced the notion of a popular movement to elect Obama). I'm not sure what the tactical method of implementing a better method of voter contact would be - that's not to dismiss your point at all, only to say that operationalizing it is easier said than done.

This is one reason why Democrats, especially progressives, struggle. California's State Senate seats have more population than a Congressional seat (900K for State Senate, 800K for Congress). This seat in particular is about 250 miles long and spread out over five large counties, making direct voter contact extremely difficult.

In this race that was exacerbated by the fact that the Republican candidate had about a 3-1 funding advantage, with large corporations spending a lot of money on negative TV ads casting Laird as a tax-raising zealot, and with Meg Whitman behind the scenes spending a lot of money to organize a field campaign that dwarfed what the Democrats had to offer.

Again, none of those points are intended as excuses, but instead as laying out the known obstacles. If a progressive movement is going to succeed, it'll have to figure out how to overcome those obstacles. So far that hasn't been done.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:42:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
During an election the candidate's time is too valuable to do the kind of retail politics I am urging.  A candidate who is also holding down a political position cannot do the retail AND do his office; they are both more than full time jobs.  This is exactly the reason the leaders of the old time machine never held an important legislative office.  

Meta-Carrot:  building a grassroots/retail political organization has two benefits for Your Guy:

  1.  It keeps him in office - with term limits this IS a Big Deal - building the power and influence on legislation

  2.  It builds his power and reputation within the state and national party

If Laird can bring 250,000 votes, or so, to the table he's going to get listened to.  :-)  

The problem is that in a State Senate district with 900,000 people, it's not easy to make that clear to a mass audience. He was out there at numerous public events and when he was able to talk directly to voters, it made a big difference - turnout was up between the June 22 primary and the August 17 general elections and the places it was up was where Laird was able to get to people one-on-one.

You can't make it clear to a mass audience during a campaign.  You can't make it clear to a mass audience, in a mass, period.  Remember, a "mass" is made-up of individuals and the whole point of precinct politics is to build The Mass Bottom/Up.  The payoff for the work is the campaign when you can use Top/Down effectively.

The Top/Down payoff when 10,000 people show up at a Laird speech that the local media has to cover.  That media is not only good publicity it's publicity you don't have to pay for.  And it's media - if the speech writers know their job - that has the sound bites that persuade people to get out and vote for him if the staff has done their homework using the information they've collected from the Bottom/Up operation.  

However, the campaign never quite had the funding it needed, and when it did, before June 22, the campaign managers chose to listen to the paid consultant who argued that voters should be scared into voting against Blakeslee because he supports offshore oil drilling.

Paid consultants have two inter-related major drawbacks:

1.  They don't know the district in their guts the way a local op does (should)

Thus:

2.  They want a lot of money to tell you how to run a generic campaign they know how to run instead of the local campaign you should be running

In your After Action Assessment -- you did do one of those, right? -- you need to carefully look at what the consultant(s) cost in total versus what you bought with that money and then ask yourself if it was worth it.  In short, did the advice and actions based on that advice matter a hill of beans.  It may have.  I don't know.  Also ask if there were other, cheaper, ways to Get the Same Result.  May be, may be not, I don't know.  But if you haven't gone through this you don't know, either.  (that's the generic "you" :-)  

I've never thought much of phonebanking, and though it worked well in the fall of 2008, you've identified a big drawback - it doesn't work when voters are feeling alienated, as the act of having volunteers call on your behalf reinforces the alienation (whereas in 2008 it reinforced the notion of a popular movement to elect Obama). I'm not sure what the tactical method of implementing a better method of voter contact would be - that's not to dismiss your point at all, only to say that operationalizing it is easier said than done.

You did have a Thank You Party for the volunteers with Laird doing a one-on-one, however brief, I hope.  If not. Do It.  Spend the couple of hundred bucks for hot dogs and beer.  Have someone talking down notes to be put in each of their Farley File entry -- you have one, right?

The volunteers who cared enough to come in and make those bloody calls comprise the initial 'hack' at your precinct and other low level operators.  This group needs to be qualified, sieving out the wheat, and then 'brought in,' in some manner into the organization and the Meet-and-Greet at the Thank You is the first step of that process.

Second, the call sheets are a Gold Mine of information and data about his district.  It's a laborious PITA to go through and wring it all out but it's well worth it.  

This is one reason why Democrats, especially progressives, struggle. California's State Senate seats have more population than a Congressional seat (900K for State Senate, 800K for Congress). This seat in particular is about 250 miles long and spread out over five large counties, making direct voter contact extremely difficult.

That's fucked-up but that's the hand you're dealt.  That's also why Your Guy has to start campaigning for the next election now when the time pressure is weaker than during the campaign season.

In this race that was exacerbated by the fact that the Republican candidate had about a 3-1 funding advantage, with large corporations spending a lot of money on negative TV ads casting Laird as a tax-raising zealot, and with Meg Whitman behind the scenes spending a lot of money to organize a field campaign that dwarfed what the Democrats had to offer.

Despite the CW: people aren't stupid.  They know government costs money; they - quite rightfully - object to paying for it while the Big People don't.  Now you know the attack.  They will use next time.  It worked this time, after all.  In those call sheets you've got some district specifics to use. Maybe.  Won't know until you look at 'em.

From here it looks like the GOP max'ed their vote and Dems didn't bother to turn up.  Mostly impossible to get people all twitterpatted about voting for a generic Democrat; it's very possible to get them excited about John Laird.  Local issues trump national issues IF there is an organization capable of effectively using 'em.  

Again, none of those points are intended as excuses, but instead as laying out the known obstacles. If a progressive movement is going to succeed, it'll have to figure out how to overcome those obstacles. So far that hasn't been done.

Progressive movement hasn't been willing to do the slow slogging grunt work and raise the cash required.  They want to show-up 3 months before the election and have everything go their way.  Doesn't work like that. Bernie Sanders was elected to the House and then as a Senator in a formerly solid GOP state because he spent 30 years on the "rubber chicken circuit" going around talking and listening to people.  People knew Bernie so when it came down to it the GOP attacks couldn't get traction.  "He may be an independent Socialist ... but he's our independent Socialist!"

Speaking of that, Your Guy could learn a lot from Sanders by studying How He Do'ed It, the guy himself, or both.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 03:33:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
AT, you should bookmark this and any other similar comments and comb through earlier comments, plus any thing you have in writing and can think of to the end of putting together a manual - unless a better on already exists. It could be valuable during the next two years in many areas.

There are lots of ways to go about getting a better candidate. In many places it is possible for a progressive to be a successful candidate as a Democrat, and that should be pursued, probably as the first option at this time. In many places there are third parties who qualify for state or federal funding under current rules, if these have not been totally thrown out. A solid third party candidate can put significant pressure on a major party candidate and this can be used in lots of ways. But just having built a progressive infrastructure would be a big step forward. Next time that infrastructure could be instrumental in getting a progressive as the major party candidate.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 04:41:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for your kind words.

Realistically, there's thousands of people out there who know, more better than I, what needs to be done and how to do it.  Before Obama wrecked it Dean's 50 State Strategy was the framework for a national implementation.

The knowledge is out there and has been for a long time.  In 1946, for example, Heinlein - yup THAT Heinlein - wrote a book Take Back Your Government based on his experience in EPIC laying it all out -- as I recall, haven't read it in donkey's years.  

All I'm doing is throwing pop bottles out of the left center field bleachers at the on-field players, like Montereyan, whom I'm sure already knows it.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 05:43:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Realistically, there's thousands of people out there who know, more better than I, what needs to be done and how to do it.

Like these folks.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 05:47:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that all this institutional knowledge and these organizing skills have been lost to most people. That process started earlier, but by the 1990s it was gone. Folks who learned how to do retail politics and to do effective organizing were either shoved aside or for whatever other reason chose to leave the scene by the mid-90s, so that when a new movement came along in 2002-03 to rebuild a progressive movement from the bottom up, they had to start from scratch and generally didn't have the skilled old hands around to mentor them. Instead they had the '90s-era consultantocracy which STILL dominates Democratic campaigns and the staffs of elected Democratic officials, people who don't really have a clue what they're doing but managed to build their niche between 1995 and 2005 or so and by default were the folks who held the keys when the big influx of activists came in during the '00s.

It pains me to think of where we might be now had the knowledge of the '30s-era activists, or even the '60s and '70s-era folks, been the dominant skillset among the political class. But it isn't, the '90s saw a huge shift toward corporate neoliberalism, and so we have to reclaim that knowledge from the past and relearn those skills ourselves.

I count myself among the latter group - the influx of activists. Until 2008 I was just a blogger. At that time I saw an opportunity to do more than just write, but to actually try and implement change on the ground. I've been lucky enough to find full-time employment at doing so, but everything we do is still too deeply rooted in the '90s model I just described, and not rooted enough in the successful models you've been articulating here.

As progressives start looking around for solutions after the coming disaster on November 2, what you've laid out here ought to be a central part of the discussion.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 07:19:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh the people are there.  They just aren't involved in Democratic Party politics.  Ask around and you'll find them.

What about hooking up with the Santa Cruz people: Gary Patton, Michael Rotkin, and Katherine Beiers?  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 09:10:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gary Patton and I are on opposite sides of the issues - he's spending his time helping Palo Alto and other cities fight the high speed rail project. There are other folks I'm in touch with in Santa Cruz who have the necessary experience and aren't fighting to preserve the status quo, however, who would be much more interested in this stuff.

Maybe we should take this discussion offline? My email's right next to my username.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 09:25:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Again, these are all excellent points and as far as I can tell you've nailed it on what happened in this particular race - and this story WILL be repeated across the country on November 2, sadly.

I wasn't at the center of the campaign, but have been on very good terms with the candidate since well before this race, and I'm going to send this along to him. I know he will find it very interesting.

Overall I think one reason this sort of thing is not usually done in California - though it should be - is that over the last 10 years in particular, seats have become extremely safe for one party or the other. Laird won the 2002 Democratic primary in the Assembly district and cruised to victory that November, and was easily re-elected in 2004 and 2006. This is the usual way of things for races in California, and combined with the large size of districts as well as the '90s philosophy of "you don't do retail politics" leads most candidates for state legislature or Congress to turn to consultants and TV ads. But in a race where neither party had the obvious advantage, the Republicans exposed the hollowness of this "strategy" that CA Dems have embraced for way too long now.

I'm not a fan of most consultants, and after the first round on June 22, they weren't part of the campaign any more and the vote totals increased for the August 17 general election. Laird might be in a mood to embrace this more sensible long-term kind of thinking, as you have laid out here, especially in its ability to build a longer-lived progressive movement. He was part of similar efforts that were launched and had lasting success in Santa Cruz in the 1980s, but it wasn't tended to after about the mid-90s, as I understand it.

In any case, this whole discussion has been extremely valuable and enlightening. I think you've hit on a central failure of progressive organizing, at a time when we need to sketch out what newer and better tactics would look like.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 07:10:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They were aided by widespread alienation, frustration, and anger among Democratic voters.

Perhaps they felt like this:



"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:54:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the poverty of ambition that has broken progressive hearts.

Yeah, 'progressives for Obama' should feel like stalkers at the 'cool kids' party. Since late 2007, actually, but hey, who's counting and who has institutional memory?

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 11:40:40 AM EST
Another data point in support of the argument that it's not just those of us commenting on political websites who are disappointed with Obama, but that disappointment is shared by a much wider segment of the electorate, is a recent University of Washington poll of American Latinos:

Latinos Blame Both Parties On Immigration Reform - Hotline On Call

More than a third of Latino voters blame both parties in Congress for not trying hard enough to pass immigration reform, and Latino enthusiasm for voting in this year's mid-term elections is down, a new poll shows.

Those findings of an election-year tracking poll by Latino Decisions -- released this week and to be updated weekly -- underscore Latino voter dismay over the lack of progress on immigration, an issue that ranks second in importance to them, behind the economy, says one analyst...

While 76% of Latinos surveyed say they are following news and politics about the November elections closely, just 44% said they are very enthusiastic about voting. And a majority of those surveyed said they were less excited about both Democrats and Republicans today, than they were in '08.

While 32% say they are more excited about the Democrats since the '08 election, 51% are less excited today. For the Republicans, just 20% are more excited versus 60% who are less excited....

The poll found that 64.6% of the Latino registered voters approved of the job being done by the president, which is down from 73% in March, and from his high mark of 81% at his 100-day mark as president.

Latino voters were at the center of Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008. But Obama has decided he doesn't really need their votes, as he follows the Rahm Emanuel line of thinking that doing anything on immigration that's not reactionary is too much of a political risk, even though it would seem that the effects of Latinos not voting is greater than the effects of alienating the center-right.

On the economy, Latino voters are if anything more progressive than their white counterparts, as they are much more familiar with the damage routinely done to them by greedy corporations and therefore are much more receptive to a populist message along the lines that Drew Westen proposed.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:26:54 PM EST
When will one of these polls add the category "Disgusted" to the options? Might give them a clearer response.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 12:58:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What about "Who Cares?" and "Go Fuck Yourself" as options?

:-)


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 01:10:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So far, this looks like one:

Obama Rebuffs Defense Establishment's Hunger for Conflict with Iran

http://www.alternet.org/world/148043/obama_rebuffs_defense_establishment's_hunger_for_conflict_with_ iran/?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=alternet_world

The slowness to move toward a military attack on Iran is a surprise, too, to many including me. Or does the defense establishment/industry simply have more than enough to gorge on now, so Iran will have to wait?

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 03:01:49 PM EST
I think an attack on Iran has been 'red-lined' by China since a 'Suez Moment' in early 2007. I wrote this Asia Times piece saying so in October 2008 published when I was in Tehran.

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

The US has brought forward, through its catastrophic waste of resources in Iraq, its "Suez moment". This is the realization forced on Britain by the US in 1956 that economic realities require an end to empire.

It suits both Israel and Iran to keep the charade going for political reasons: Ahmadinejad gets to play the nationalist card, while Netanyahu keeps right on creating realities on the ground.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 04:22:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll read your article later, but I hope you're right. I tend to think the need of the military-industrial complexes in Israel and the U.S. for enemies won't disappear, but (Obama's?) realistic caution will hold things down for awhile. And the Suez moment is not here, now, but still five or 10 or so years in the future.

fairleft
by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 05:11:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For me, the 'Suez Moment' is the moment when the chief creditor uses an economic veto as the US did with the UK.

I date that moment for the US to the first half of 2007, but we will probably not know for decades, if ever, exactly what was said, and to whom.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 05:23:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Leave it to a Yurpeen web site to have the most intelligent discussion of amurkan politics, if that isn't an oxymoron.

Respect, all.

I wonder how Germanic tribes discussed the Romans while sitting around the fire at night.  I'll bet they wanted to eat their hearts out, and (capture) their women... but i'll bet they were also jealous of the trappings of global power.

i can only hope we burn as much fossils as quickly as possible, because the force of climate change doesn't need polls or cold calls.

( now i retire to my global village idiocy and return the debate to honored experts... and kudos to Helen for setting the stage.)

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Sep 2nd, 2010 at 06:18:14 PM EST
I'm not very qualified to comment on political issues and theory, predominately because my views include that the system is too broken to fix.  That the solution has to come from some break-away tactic, undergirded by a completely different vision of how humans relate to existence.

However, there's a chorus of astute political voices here, and i wonder if a commentary from the front page of HuffPo today isn't ripe for deconstruction.

Lawrence Lessig's Commentary


We have now entered the third of these cycles. The anger that has broken out across America is rightly targeted at the captured and incompetent institution that our government has become. That capture, most Americans believe, is a kind of corruption. But not the corruption of bribery, or brown paper bags of cash hidden and traded among congressmen.

Instead the corruption of today is in plain sight. The mechanism of its reach is displayed to everyone. It is the simple and pervasive economy of influence that buys access and more through campaign cash. And then without explicit recognition, the actions of our government are guided by the understanding of how those acts will affect the opportunity to raise money.

or


As with each of these cycles of reform, when the fever gets hot there arises a political movement to fight the infection. Sometimes that movement has a leader. Some of us thought Obama was our Jackson, a thought that feels embarrassingly naive today.

After a whole section of cheerleading for Arianna's campaign for the Anti-Palin, he finally gives us this wisdom?:


The Neo-Progressive Movement needs to encourage these Republicans. It needs to be willing to put aside part of the agenda of each within the movement, recognizing that no change, on the Right or the Left, will happen until the fever is broken, because the disease has been stopped. Mainstream parties have lost the credibility for reform. As in 1912, only a breakaway, trans-party movement, possibly with no single leader, could have an effect in 2012.

To me this reads as an advert for the HuffPo Party, a fairly simplistic overview of amurkan political history, and a middle of the road version of progressive stance... though might be the order of the day.

Is this a harbinger of 2012 US?  Is this a positive view of what will come from Obama's shortcomings?  I must say i'm uneasy trying to digest it.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Sep 3rd, 2010 at 01:20:35 PM EST
crikey as the Brit contingent would say.

He managed to airbrush out of existence the entire Single Tax'ers, key players in the Progressive Movement in general, as well as the Progressive Party.

He managed to overlook the failure of the Populist Movement when they allied with the Tea Baggers of the day, including their obnoxious racism, nativism, and anti-intellectuality.  

Last - just because I have to end this quickly - he is espousing a Top/Down view of history, thus advocating a restrictive Top/Down strategy.  My view, expressed elsewhere, is a Bottom/Up strategy and Top/Down tactics.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Sep 3rd, 2010 at 02:09:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We could quibble about his summary of history, but his recommendations are pretty much on track from my point of view, as expressed herehere and here and in many other places. Taking on the most powerful forces in the society will require the combined efforts of all who recognize the problem and are willing to fight for a solution, including disillusioned Reaganites such as Paul Craig Roberts and David Stockman, frustrated libertarians such as Ron Paul and Tea Bag supporters who still have their heads above the foam from those on the right to independents who are disgusted with both parties to Democrats who, in their heart of hearts, would really rather serve the people than Mammon, greens who realize that to fix the environment we must fix governance and other assorted self-described progressives on the left.

This coalition must agree on a series of minimum necessary steps to wrest control from the financial elites and to repudiate the noxious doctrines that have gained currency such as the idea that "fictitious legal entities have the same civil rights as individual citizens and that the conduct of all public affairs must comport with the needs of the most powerful business interests.

One thing we all should be able to agree is that much of the behavior in the financial sphere needs to be investigated and prosecuted as the facts indicate. Fortunately, just doing this would first paralyze and then largely destroy many of the largest current players. That is why Obama refuses to "look back"! But we also must agree that Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Exist and that Impossible to Regulate cannot be allowed to exist -- regardless of the economic consequences that economic incumbents threaten if they are moved against. We probably need a hard and fast rule on the allowable size in relationship to market size for any firm and my sense is that that limit should be 10% of market share. Finally, we need to agree on a workable, sustainable national monetary system based on reality, Modern Monetary Theory is a good place to start, and a workable means of international monetary exchanges such as Keynes proposed at Bretton Woods in 1944. This is the best hope that the USA and Europe have to prevent China and other emerging powers from doing to us what we have done to them via control of the monetary system.

Until we can put in place a sustainable means of national political and economic governance that serves the needs of the entire nation not much else matters - because not much else will survive in our society in their absence.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 3rd, 2010 at 04:12:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Amen...

It is rather interesting that the worst Obama has appeared in the second year, but the decision that would lead to Democratic losses is the half-stimulus package. A huge victory to stabilize the economy, an awful defeat if the goal was to change America a little.

Still a great first year and a no-change paralysis second year. After health care, he should ahve wanted a fight for a new bigger stimulus plus energy, he did not do, and now we are all asking .. what's the point, who is he?

Fortunately, from my point of view, I like his sane foreign policy... or maybe I am just still too scare of the past. And, frankly, regarding Europe, all it matter is US foregin policy. In Europe we can do whhtever we want on economic issues, and no we arr batshit insane. Obama might be medicore this last year.. but compare it with Merkel, Sarkozy and Cameron...who wins?

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 06:05:27 AM EST
was that he decided not to hold the previous administration accountable for their criminality and to govern as a moderate.

He chose to work with Republicans when he had a Democratic majority in the House and filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Instead of holding the Democratic coalition together, Obama wanted to bring the Republicans, who had nothing to gain by his success, on board.

Obama and his handlers were too worried that if his administration had investigated and prosecuted the Bush administration, then the Republicans would gum up the workings of government and cry partisanship foul.

Turns out, the Republicans did that anyways as liberals predicted and thanks to Obama's political naïvety and fetish of bipartisanship, he'll spend the next two years having to work with even more Republicans who hate him and the idea of a liberal American democracy.

by Magnifico on Sat Sep 4th, 2010 at 11:23:58 AM EST
Obama is suffering even from famous quotes:

Oval Office rug gets history wrong

A mistake has been made in the Oval Office makeover that goes beyond the beige.

President Obama's new presidential rug seemed beyond reproach, with quotations from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. woven along its curved edge.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." According media reports, this quote keeping Obama company on his wheat-colored carpet is from King.

Except it's not a King quote [....]  Theodore Parker is your man, President Obama [....] an abolitionist, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist thinker who foresaw the end of slavery [....]

King made no secret of the author of this idea. As a Baptist preacher on the front lines of racial justice, he regarded Parker, a religious leader, as a kindred spirit.

The calculated tone of the Washington Post article just shows that Obama is receiving no mercy in the media and political cycles, like Bill Clinton in his time. Yeah, that's bending towards justice in our Orwellian world...

In the old liberal media bias tradition, we have a history mistake here, and the President is fully responsible. Never mind that googling "moral universe arc long bends toward justice Martin Luther King" gives 49 million hits, while "moral universe arc long bends toward justice Theodore Parker" gives just 168'000 hits. And the fuller Parker's quote is:

I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

Yes, this is a profoundly lyrical thinking, and King's inspiration is clear. But would attributing the condensed version on the carpet to Parker be really proper and without confusion?

It is interesting to know that the phrase "government of the people, by the people and for the people" basically ought to be originally attributed to the same Parker, as WP notes later. I guess Theodore Parker would be dismayed today not by the presidential carpet.

by das monde on Sun Sep 5th, 2010 at 06:33:51 AM EST
so we will survive 6 more years of Obama. If we are indeed lucky, we can survive the following 8 years under a republican president, so that Michelle will save us.

When I heard his 2004 keynote bullshit, I was appalled by Americans' excitement. He is doing exactly what a +40 years old American who takes the Chicago school (Posner, Bork, Bloom, etc.) too seriously would do. Those people need republican blessing because it will satisfy their perceived sense of intelligence.

So it is not disappointment of Obama, but disappointment of America who falls flat under this mundane spell.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Thu Sep 9th, 2010 at 04:27:31 AM EST


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