Romney and Obama

by John Quiggin on September 2, 2011

I was thinking about the possibility of an Obama v Romney matchup in next year’s election and it struck me that, in a lot of ways, Romney looks like Obama’s role model. That’s true in terms of their signature policy achievements (very similar health care policies), their general lack of (and even disparagement of) commitment to particular policies or principles, and their acceptance of the centrist view of the world in which the correct position is always midway between extremes, however those extremes may have been determined, and whatever their substantive content. Romney’s success in winning office in Massachusetts was a model for Obama’s success in what is (at least in Obama’s view and that of his advisors) an essentially rightwing country. Romney even gets some diversity points for being a successful member of a minority group.

As a temporary alien and permanent foreigner, I don’t have to worry about voting. But, of course, like everyone else on the planet, I will be significantly affected by the outcome. Still, as long as the Congress remains divided, it’s hard to see a choice between Obama and Romney making a big difference (of course, I thought that about Bush v Gore, so there you go).

{ 145 comments }

1

straightwood 09.02.11 at 6:56 pm

The American political process has become a degenerate feedback loop in which technicians of the irrational tell candidates how to lurch from one nonsensical position to another, with each lurch compounding errors of policy. That is why Romney and Obama regularly reverse themselves to placate the whim du jour of an increasingly irrational public (e.g., Medicare recipients opposing “Government handouts”).

At some point, the cumulative damage inflicted by leaders reacting to to the prejudices, fears, and superstitions of a propaganda-addled electorate will become so great that a wave of reform and good governance will ensue. Until then, to follow American politics is to make a study of absurdity.

2

Ilya Gerner 09.02.11 at 6:56 pm

Considering Rick Perry’s lead in the primary polls, his lead in the betting markets (38% to Romney’s 31%), and the state of play in the GOP primary (Perry should have a clean run in South/West, where a disproportionate number of delegates can be had), I’m not sure why anyone should assume a Romney v. Obama match-up in November.

3

bianca steele 09.02.11 at 7:00 pm

It seems possible that they have similar ways of going about finding the right answer in areas where they’re not experts.

IIRC there was a fair amount of corruption and self-dealing among members of Romney’s gubernatorial administration, especially among his close associates, involving their governmental jobs, to a higher degree than would be “expected.”

Romney also refused to take his salary (and I think pressured his Lt. Gov. to forgo hers), since he had enough on his own.

I would expect there to be some significant differences, and I’m sure others can come up with some.

4

roac 09.02.11 at 7:21 pm

No.

First of all, I agree with #2. I think Perry looks like a safe bet for the nomination at this point.

Assuming for the sake of argument that Romney gets it, and accepting for lack of better information that he has sane views on the most issues, presidents are not free agents. Any President, and especially a Republican president, parcels large chunks of the government out to the pressure groups that put him in office.

5

joel hanes 09.02.11 at 7:29 pm

it’s hard to see a choice between Obama and Romney making a big difference

Supreme Court nominations.

One more like Roberts/Alito/Scalia and we are undone.

6

John Quiggin 09.02.11 at 7:32 pm

I think it’s premature to see Perry as having a lock on the nomination. Of course he has an excellent chance, which is why I referred to Romney as a “possibility”. But he has lots of very embarrassing stuff in his record (recent ultra-rightism and past compromises with leftism) which could trip him up. And he’s only been in the field (even as an undeclared runner) for a couple of months.

On what a Romney presidency (without control of Congress) would look like, I’d be interested in seeing people spell out the bad things that could happen (relative to Obama in the same situation).

7

e abrams 09.02.11 at 7:52 pm

boston resident comments:
as a very liberal boston (newton actually) person resident and voting in the romney elections…
his dem opponent was just bad. my memory is thatMassachusetts State Treasurer Shannon O’Brien put more energy and fire into her speech acknowleging romneys victory then she put into her entire campaign

a lot like dukakis and kerry and coakley: they grew up in what is, essentially, a polite one party state; they thought they were tough pols, but when they ran into someone who was really tough, someone from a state with real tough politics, they got chopped into little bits (although dukakis was just an idiot; he didn’t realize that being an ACLU member is not a plus in parts of the USofA….)

8

straightwood 09.02.11 at 7:53 pm

Nothing will break the hypnotic trance of American presidential politics. But for those of you who think it makes a difference, consider the differences between the Bush and Obama administrations. Torture is now done more discreetly and gays can serve in the military, but very little of substance has changed. The banks run the government; we are perpetually at war, and the right to privacy is steadily eroding. Of course, our emperor can now assassinate citizens abroad at will and use the military without the consent of Congress, but he has such a nice smile that most people don’t mind.

9

mpowell 09.02.11 at 7:59 pm


Nothing will break the hypnotic trance of American presidential politics. But for those of you who think it makes a difference, consider the differences between the Bush and Obama administrations.

Amazing. It’s like the Supreme Court doesn’t exist.

10

marcel 09.02.11 at 8:00 pm

The Nat’l Labor Relations Board is supporting unions now. Hard to imagine that happening under a GOP administration.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/nyregion/boathouse-strikers-get-national-labor-relations-board-assist.html

From the WSJ, 2 sep 11:

Representatives from the Boathouse restaurant in Central Park and the New York Hotel Trades Council remain locked in negotiations in a last-ditch attempt to resolve a longstanding conflict over unionization before a federal labor board moves forward with a legal complaint.

Boathouse attorneys were slated to meet with counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency overseeing union matters, this week. But that meeting has been pushed back to next week in the hopes that the matter will be resolved.

“Any decision by the NLRB has been put off until at least next Wednesday while we continue to negotiate,” a spokesman for the Boathouse said in a statement.

The meeting with the NLRB counsel was requested by the Boathouse after the restaurant’s management was informed of the labor board’s intention to move forward with a complaint, akin to an indictment, according to a spokeswoman for the board.

The Bloomberg administration has also recently entered into the negotiations between the union and Boathouse management. “Of course, the city wants to see this dispute resolved, and we’re trying to be helpful to the parties involved as they try to work it out,” said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman with City Hall.

The NLRB complaint will allege that the restaurant illegally threatened workers and punished more than 15 of them for supporting the union, according to an NLRB spokeswoman. The NLRB will also seek an order to require the Boathouse to enter into contract negotiations, even though the workers are currently not in a union.

The labor dispute between the workers and Boathouse management came to a head on Aug. 9 when dozens of the restaurant’s busboys, dishwashers and waiters, led by the union, walked off the job. The workers have been protesting what they allege are management attempts to stifle unionization and the illegal firing of union supporters.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904716604576544403072779510.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

11

Steve LaBonne 09.02.11 at 8:00 pm

At some point, the cumulative damage inflicted by leaders reacting to to the prejudices, fears, and superstitions of a propaganda-addled electorate will become so great that a wave of reform and good governance will ensue fascist regime will take over.

FTFY. HTH. HAND.

12

John Quiggin 09.02.11 at 8:07 pm

As a secondary question, how important is the Supreme Court? This is the kind of thing that it’s very hard for an outsider like me, even paying close attention, to figure out.

To take the obvious example, Roe v Wade hasn’t made abortion freely available in the Dakotas, and its reversal wouldn’t (I expect) have any effect in Massachusetts or California. I’d guess that politicians who currently find it safe to cast symbolic votes for anti-abortion laws would find life much more difficult once those votes had real consequences.

But on this topic, I’m sure others are better informed.

13

straightwood 09.02.11 at 8:09 pm

Amazing. It’s like the Supreme Court doesn’t exist.

The current Supreme Court gave us the “Citizens United” decision, which opened the floodgates to unchecked corporate political contributions. The current Supreme Court did nothing to halt illegal wars or punish war crimes. The current Supreme Court did nothing to stop Obama from targeting American citizens abroad for summary execution. How much worse would a court full of Scalias be?

14

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.02.11 at 8:10 pm

Still, as long as the Congress remains divided…

How does it remain divided? I get the impression that in 2013 the Republicans are very likely (almost certain) to control both chambers.

15

mpowell 09.02.11 at 8:30 pm


How much worse would a court full of Scalias be?

I dunno. Maybe you could do some research on this. Here’s a start: police are free to torture confessions out of suspects again. Scalia doesn’t believe we need Miranda anymore. And don’t think you’d ever get a civil case going against either the officers or their departments.

There are plenty of decisions Scalia is (thankfully) in the minority on. And part of the point of appointments is that these things could get better. With a liberal court, Citizens United would probably be reversed.

16

ejh 09.02.11 at 8:31 pm

Really, is the old Supreme Court thing the best that Democrats can do? It’s wearing mighty thin.

I mean you’d think a President’s sole power was to appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

And besides, it’s not like this president wouldn’t appoint somebody the Republicans wanted, is it?

17

neonnautilus 09.02.11 at 8:41 pm

The American presidency has surprisingly little power to act without the consent of Congress, appointments to the bench and Supreme Court being among its most important and influential duties , as already mentioned. The Republicans probably will have control of Congress even if the Senate stays as it is with a bare majority in the Democratic caucus because there are enough “centrist” Democrats to support much of the Republican agenda except for the most radical items – maybe. So the question becomes: where would Romney draw the line against a radical right agenda.

Bad things that could happen depending on the makeup of Congress and Romney’s mood of the moment:
Invasion of Iran or support for Israel’s invasion of Iran
Privatization of Social Security
Vouchers instead of Medicare
Repeal of Obamacare
Privatization of many government functions
Deregulation of everything
Right leaning Supreme Court appointments (as noted above by Joel Hanes)

18

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.02.11 at 8:44 pm

How does Miranda prevent police from torturing suspects? It’s not a magic spell that turn cops into pacifists.

19

mpowell 09.02.11 at 8:45 pm

@16: You’re right. Might as well let the country degrade into full blown fascism.

20

Tangurena 09.02.11 at 8:45 pm

The pink elephant in the room is Romney’s Mormonism. The Dominionists (sometimes less charitably called “the Taliban wing of the Republican Party”) don’t consider any LDS to be “Real True Christians” (nor did they consider Clinton – who went to church every week to be one, while Reagan and Bush who almost never went to church got full marks). Perry and Bachmann appeal to this faction: the same folks who supported Huckabee in 2008. With Perry being a Texan Governor, he will also get a ride on Bush’s coattails. I can’t see Romney as the GOP candidate. I think he’s better than the other candidates (from a sad standard of “who is the less crazy”).

The American political process has become a degenerate feedback loop in which technicians of the irrational tell candidates how to lurch from one nonsensical position to another, with each lurch compounding errors of policy.

Sadly, this is correct.

But he has lots of very embarrassing stuff in his record (recent ultra-rightism and past compromises with leftism) which could trip him up.

This is a feature, not a bug.

On what a [Republican] presidency (without control of Congress) would look like, I’d be interested in seeing people spell out the bad things that could happen (relative to Obama in the same situation).

Control of Congress is pretty close to tied. Most of the people I know (of both parties) have joined the “throw all the bums out” chorus. I think the 2012 campaign season will become far more virulent, and I bet that we’ll see far more shell companies pop up to “donate” money to candidates then dissolve before they have to file disclosure statements. .

21

straightwood 09.02.11 at 8:46 pm

The Supreme Court bogeyman will not distract informed voters from the moral bankruptcy of the Democratic Party. Eventually, a party like the Greens of Europe will come to power in the US and pick up the pieces of our ruined nation. No sane liberal or progressive should ever cast a vote for a Democratic politician again. They are absolutely dedicated to war, plutocracy, and the arbitrary exercise of power. They are distinguished from their Republican counterparts only by the rate at which they advance pernicious policies. It was Obama who introduced cutting of New Deal programs to the budget debate. It was Obama who asserted the right to kill American citizens abroad at will. It was Obama who continued proxy torture through renditions. It was Obama who just overruled new EPA anti-pollution regulations.

Choosing the slower ride to Hell is a false choice. Enough of this two-party charade.

22

ejh 09.02.11 at 8:48 pm

@16: You’re right. Might as well let the country degrade into full blown fascism

Heh, it’s the “vote Democrat, at least we’re not fascists” card.

23

mpowell 09.02.11 at 8:49 pm

No, but it stops them from torturing suspects into giving confessions that can be used to convict those suspects. This is quite a strong motivation when you want to get a conviction! I wasn’t around at the time, but my understanding is that this was quite a common tactic, particularly effective against minorities, back in pre-Miranda days.

Scalia would never actually endorse such tactics. He would simply work to create a legal environment where is was impossible to effectively limit them.

24

mpowell 09.02.11 at 8:51 pm

@20: Straightwood, you are dreaming. In the history of politics it is extremists who are usually the ones picking up the pieces. Just look at inter-war Europe. Fascism was pretty common. Green party equivalents were not.

25

ScentOfViolets 09.02.11 at 8:51 pm

Really, is the old Supreme Court thing the best that Democrats can do? It’s wearing mighty thin.

I mean you’d think a President’s sole power was to appoint justices to the Supreme Court.

Yep, you know things have come to a pretty pass when this administration’s apologist are telling Democratic voters not to vote based on quid pro quo.

Which, funnily enough, is never advice given to voters on the right. They vote quid pro quo with a vengeance and that strategy seems to work just fine for them.

26

Geoffrey 09.02.11 at 8:53 pm

I want to repeat what ejh@16 said – The whole Supreme Court scare tactic is wearing thin. More to the point – it is silly. This is it? We’re in the middle of a recession, there’s no serious policy discussion about jobs, infrastructure investment,government R&D beyond bigger better bombs and things to kill other human beings – and what we get is, “Oh no! Antonin Scalia is going to come for your library, and let the police beat you up if you don’t let them in!”

What utter nonsense.

27

ScentOfViolets 09.02.11 at 8:57 pm

Eventually, a party like the Greens of Europe will come to power in the US and pick up the pieces of our ruined nation. No sane liberal or progressive should ever cast a vote for a Democratic politician again.

At least not until these politicians actually start delivering on what they promise. I think this is the bit that’s soured so many voters on Obama: that never in recent history has someone so contemptuously and completely abandoned all those pretty campaign promises. Well, you know what they say: Bust the deal, face the Wheel ;-)

28

straightwood 09.02.11 at 8:57 pm

In the history of politics it is extremists who are usually the ones picking up the pieces.

The current progressive (female) President of Brazil was tortured by electric shocks while imprisoned by the right-wing regime. Much of Latin America has turned against repressive governments. Rebellions across the Arab world are repudiating strong-man rule. I see no reason why Americans will not come to their senses once we have suffered enough.

29

Hidari 09.02.11 at 9:00 pm

For those commentators who are asking themselves whether or not ‘we’ have reached rock bottom (hence the ‘how could things be worse if’ etc.), I have to remind you of the profound words of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the Hitchhikers Guide.

‘Isn’t it funny that just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse they suddenly do?’

30

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.02.11 at 9:11 pm

Mpowell, my understanding of the Miranda controversy is that it’s all about requiring cops to recite the well-known phrase to the people they’re arresting. I don’t see how it affects their ability to torture confessions out of them.

31

Hidari 09.02.11 at 9:22 pm

All this of course depends on whether or not the poor will be allowed to vote in the next election.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-gop-war-on-voting-20110830

32

CharleyCarp 09.02.11 at 9:31 pm

Of course it’s not just the Supreme Court,* or even just the judiciary (although these are huge, huge deals, as the invocation of Citizens United proves). We’re not just electing a guy. It’s maybe 3,500 people, drawn from distinct pools. They make decisions of consequence to real people every day of the week. The pools are hugely different, and the ultimate policies quite different, especially at the granular level.

This should not be taken as a statement of support for the current president: he doesn’t deserve re-election. But we don’t deserve Republican rule. And the idea that the dem coalition would be improved by the departure of a segment of its progressive element, or even by loud proclamations by that element that they are not reliable allies, is, well, not exactly intuitive.

* IMO the current state of the DC Circuit is itself sufficient to completely discredit the Naderian idea that there wasn’t a difference. The SC sees a tiny fraction of cases. The DC Circuit is where the bulk of the business is done. It’s in a very sad lineup, but a couple of presidential terms may well be enough to fix it.

33

Sebastian(1) 09.02.11 at 9:32 pm

I can’t believe we’re having this discussion again. Pretty much regardless of how bad you think the Obama administration has done, the idea that Romney Obama would be twiddledy twiddledum is just crazy.
People are dismissing the SCOTUS argument – sure, if this were only SCOTUS, but it’s the entire federal courts system as well as the heads of all major government agencies – if you don’t think that matters just don’t know anything about policitics. Do you really think there is no very real and very tangible difference between, e.g., and EPA headed by Lisa Jackson and one headed by the industry crony that Romney would appoint? After complaining how Reagan and the NLRB have ruined unions in the 1980s, the Obama appointed board suddenly doesn’t matter?

In terms of policy – are you really so hung up on the fact that Obama didn’t get a public option passed that you’re willing to discount the entire HC reform, insuring 25-30mil uninsured people? Do you really think the flaws in the finance reform bill outweigh the benefits, including the Warren designed consumer protection bureau? Do you just not care about DADT repeal and the administration stopping to defend DOMA?

Look, I think there is a good argument to make that it’s not worth donating any money to the Obama campaign or not to volunteer because you’re disappointed and because your time and money on truly progressive goals – but if you’re not going to vote bc Romney v. Obama doesn’t make a difference you’re just completely deluded.

34

CharleyCarp 09.02.11 at 9:36 pm

The current Supreme Court did nothing to halt illegal wars or punish war crimes. The current Supreme Court did nothing to stop Obama from targeting American citizens abroad for summary execution.

I’m not sure you and I have the same understanding of how the judiciary works.

35

ejh 09.02.11 at 9:43 pm

I can’t believe we’re having this discussion again

Yes you can, and you know damned well that the reason it’s happening again is because of the uselessness of the President who got elected after you had the dicsussion last time.

36

straightwood 09.02.11 at 9:46 pm

I’m not sure you and I have the same understanding of how the judiciary works.

Many victims of the “war” on terror tried to use the courts to secure justice, but only a tiny number had any success. The Supreme Court’s most assertive decision to protect detainees, “Boumediene et al v. Bush,” did little to free the prisoners at Guantanamo, many of whom still languish there for lack of due process.

The US Federal judiciary is effectively politicized and serves the same plutocratic elite that owns the Congress and the White House.

37

ejh 09.02.11 at 9:48 pm

I mean everybody can see what the Republicans are, and what their leaders are. It shouldn’t require any effort at all to get people to back their opponents. What speaks volumes, what speaks volumes upon volumes, is the fact that it does. And the Democrats have nobody to blame for that but themselves.

(Though they do, of course. My word, they do.)

38

Marc 09.02.11 at 9:50 pm

John, there is no set of circumstances where Obama loses and the Republicans don’t win control of the legislature.

None.

It will require a strong Democratic tide to keep the Senate; an Obama loss signifies a strong Republican one.

There is no evidence that Romney will stand up to the far right wing, at all, and they will control the Congress.

This discussion is ridiculous on it’s face. We have plenty of examples of states where the republicans run everything. Those of us who see what republicans are doing in places like Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Florida can see how disastrous that is. Real people get hurt in these games, and Naderite bullshit gets us nowhere.

39

mpowell 09.02.11 at 9:50 pm


Mpowell, my understanding of the Miranda controversy is that it’s all about requiring cops to recite the well-known phrase to the people they’re arresting. I don’t see how it affects their ability to torture confessions out of them.

Ah, well, the whole point of requiring police to Mirandize suspects is that any testimony that they extract from them is inadmissable in court if the police cannot establish that they have properly mirandized the suspect and respect those rights while the suspect is in their custody. Under the current arrangement you can torture a confession out of a suspect, but the court will throw out the confession. This has been quite effective at improving police conduct. In the old system, it was up to the defense attorney to convince a jury that the admission under torture was unreliable. They were not generally successful.

I love how anyone advising that, no, things will get a lot worse under a Republican president is an Obama apologists. I’m just letting you all know that sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best is not a strategy for political progress. I despise plenty of stuff this administration has done but I recognize that they are definitely better in the short run than their alternative. And the violent revolution path to progressive governance after we have fallen into a strong man dictatorship is, to put it lightly, not a promising one, imop.

I’m not going to be dragged into this debate again though. You can go read elsewhere about how you can actually try to improve this situation in the United States if that’s what you actually want to do through local political organizing. But yeah, it sucks and you will accomplish very little for your efforts. Much easier to complain about it online, which is most of what I do as well so I’m not going to criticize. I just wanted to point out that any post contrasting R and D in the White House that left off SCOTUS discussion was sorely lacking.

40

Barry Freed 09.02.11 at 9:52 pm

Many victims of the “war” on terror tried to use the courts to secure justice, but only a tiny number had any success. The Supreme Court’s most assertive decision to protect detainees, “Boumediene et al v. Bush,” did little to free the prisoners at Guantanamo, many of whom still languish there for lack of due process.

Dude, I think you should be warned that IIRC CharleyCarp has been one of those lawyers defending Gitmo detainees. (And for which much props and respect are due.)
And his line above: he doesn’t deserve re-election. But we don’t deserve Republican rule. sums up our dilemma nicely.

41

ciaran 09.02.11 at 9:53 pm

still sebastian made some good points. obviously obama is nothing to get excited about but equally obviously(to me anyway) romney would be worse. think iraq, katrina etc etc.

42

ejh 09.02.11 at 9:56 pm

I’m just letting you all know that sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best is not a strategy for political progress

That is the Democratic strategy.

43

Andrew F. 09.02.11 at 10:13 pm

I would like a Romney vs Obama fight. They will differ in substantive ways in their approach to the economy and the budget, and a public debate on those differences would be a good thing.

In some respects they won’t differ – e.g. Targeted killing program – but personally I likely agree on policies they have in common.

44

Sebastian(1) 09.02.11 at 10:19 pm

I can’t believe we’re having this discussion again

Yes you can, and you know damned well that the reason it’s happening again is because of the uselessness of the President who got elected after you had the dicsussion last time.

No I really can’t. Last time around got GWB elected. And I actually have some sympathy for the people who thought Bush v Gore didn’t make much of a difference. Clinton was a colossal failure from a progressive point of view in many, many ways, (_much_ worse than Obama, I’d argue) GHW Bush had been bad but not disastrous, so “lets screw Gore from the left to move the political spectrum” was at least a defensible position back then. But for fuck’s sake – learn from your past mistakes…

45

Sebastian(1) 09.02.11 at 10:20 pm

last post is supposed to start with a nested quote:
ejh: ” ‘I can’t believe we’re having this discussion again’
Yes you can, and you know damned well that the reason it’s happening again is because of the uselessness of the President who got elected after you had the dicsussion last time.”

46

ejh 09.02.11 at 10:24 pm

No I really can’t. Last time around got GWB elected.

No, it didn’t. It got Obama elected.

47

joel hanes 09.02.11 at 10:25 pm

How much worse would a court full of Scalias be?

We’d lose Griswold v Connecticutt, which found a right to privacy in general, and in specific instructed the States that laws restricting sales of contraceptives to disfavored classes of adults (e.g. unmarried women) were unConstitutional.

Without Griswold, the states will once again be free to criminalize disfavored sexual activities (e.g. fellatio, same-sex relationships, anal sex) between consenting adults.

48

Blto 09.02.11 at 10:25 pm

Actually, women do get abortions in the Dakotas:

http://www.statehealthfacts.org/comparemaptable.jsp?ind=463&cat=10

(That’s 1,235 for ND and 707 for SD, in 2007.) I tried to find a state list per capita to see if that’s below you would expect for their populations, but no luck.

49

ejh 09.02.11 at 10:32 pm

Any chance of voting Democrat to actually get some legislation, rather than it being taken away?

50

ejh 09.02.11 at 10:35 pm

Come on, tell me. What society-changing legislation is a Democratic President actually going to sponsor? What are they actually going to do?

51

straightwood 09.02.11 at 10:41 pm

The absurdity of reducing the decision between two plutocracy-approved Presidential candidates to a handful of issues should be apparent. How narrow does the difference have to be before common sense prevails?

Both “parties” are pursuing an agenda of concentrating wealth and power in the hands of their financial patrons. The Republicans are doing it faster than the Democrats, but the goal is the same: rule by the rich. This means dismantling of the New Deal and Great Society programs; a national security state; and continuous warfare.

The only honest way to oppose this agenda is to reject the two-party system. This means repudiating the political propaganda of the commercial media, a task beyond the capacity of most citizens. It will take further deterioration of living conditions in America to break two-party plutocratic rule, but that day will come, peacefully or not.

52

SamChevre 09.02.11 at 10:41 pm

We’d lose Griswold v Connecticutt, which found a right to privacy in general, and in specific instructed the States that laws restricting sales of contraceptives to disfavored classes of adults (e.g. unmarried women) were unConstitutional.

No, that is Eisenstadt; Griswold applied only to marriec couples.

53

mark f 09.02.11 at 10:47 pm

How much worse would a court full of Scalias be?

The last Republican president appointed two justices who are probably to the right of Scalia, particularly in the kinds of cases that seem to get the most attention (e.g. criminal due process). The Republican president preceding the most recent one appointed the right-most justice, the one whose previously unique point of view’s gaining influence was the subject of a recent New Yorker piece. “A court full of Scalias” isn’t what we’d be dealing with.

Furthermore, the oldest sitting justice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The next two eldest are Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy. All three will be at least 80 years old if they survive through the next presidential term; it’s at least somewhat possible that the president elected in 2012 will replace all of them. This is not an insignificant basis for one’s vote.

54

mw 09.02.11 at 10:50 pm

The current Supreme Court gave us the “Citizens United” decision, which opened the floodgates to unchecked corporate political contributions.

No, it didn’t. Corporations can spend independently on political ads, but they can’t contribute to candidates. Take it away, ex-director of the ACLU:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ira-glasser/understanding-the-emcitiz_b_447342.html

The government asserting control over political speech (passing regulations about who may mention candidates during periods before an election!) scares me at least 10X more than corporations running political ads (which most, being profit-focused and controversy averse, won’t do anyway). And, of course, both the NY Times and the ACLU are corporations. It’s true that the ACLU is a (non-profit) corporation, but so is Citizens United.

Do you really want the government deciding which organizations are worthy of unconstrained, unfiltered free speech and which aren’t? But what am I saying? Of course you do — that’s why you’re progressives and I’m not.

55

joel hanes 09.02.11 at 10:51 pm

No, that is Eisenstadt

I am grateful for the correction.

I see that Eisenstadt relies on the equal protection clause; may one assume that overturning Griswold will also vitiate Eisenstadt?

56

burritoboy 09.02.11 at 10:53 pm

“Choosing the slower ride to Hell is a false choice. Enough of this two-party charade.”

Dude, then stop wasting your time commenting on blogs. You’re effectively hoping for a systemic crash. But:

a. you have no idea how to make the system crash, meaning that you expect someone else to somehow make the system crash in a way that will benefit you. To put it mildly, this is an unreasonable assumption (somebody’s going to do this to hand over power to you just because of your pretty smile?)
b. you hope that the eventual result will be something you like. But you’re not going to do much about it. If we ever ARE in a systemic crash, you will be unprepared and effectively rudderless. Any faction that has any chance of succeeding in grabbing power after a crash is likely going to need to make quick decisions, have partisans carry them out reliably and have to make hard pragmatic choices and so on. Do those qualities sound like you? Would you want to lead a faction full of backseat quarterbacks, whiners and would-be intellectual dreamers through the midst of a system-wide crash? Of course a faction like that is going to be crushed out of hand.

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straightwood 09.02.11 at 10:56 pm

This is not an insignificant basis for one’s vote

Would you would vote for any Democratic candidate promising to appoint liberal justices, irrespective of that candidate’s record in foreign policy, economic affairs, or civil liberties? How much sense does that make? Obama is to the right of all Democratic Presidents in this century, and you think his Supreme Court picks are going to make a difference? Obama has declared that he can kill an American citizen abroad that he designates a “terrorist” summarily, without any legal process. Obama has cracked down on government whistle-blowers far more harshly than Bush. Are you going to vote for this man to protect your liberties???

58

John Quiggin 09.02.11 at 10:58 pm

@Blto I already checked the same site and found that there is only 1 provider in ND, and two in SD – only a small minority of women have a provider in the same county. Rates are well below the national average (even though the demographics would almost certainly imply higher rates of undesired pregnancy).

59

ejh 09.02.11 at 11:02 pm

Obama is to the right of all Democratic Presidents in this century

Have a think about that

60

straightwood 09.02.11 at 11:02 pm

You’re effectively hoping for a systemic crash

I am not hoping for hard times; I am extrapolating from current trends with history as a guide. I would much prefer an outbreak of reason to sweep through America, but it seems most unlikely. I don’t foresee a complete “crash,” but something like the long, grinding ordeal of the Great Depression that finally broke down the barriers to progressive reforms.

As for my personal suitability as a leader of political reform, I make no such claims. I am just a sad, but clear-eyed, spectator to our national decline and the accompanying political circus.

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mark f 09.02.11 at 11:03 pm

Would you would vote for any Democratic candidate promising to appoint liberal justices, irrespective of that candidate’s record in foreign policy, economic affairs, or civil liberties?

Where “any Democratic candidate” is to the left of the Republican, not Zell Miller or Joe Lieberman, and polls show no left alternative competing for victory? Yes.

How much sense does that make?

A lot of sense.

Obama is to the right of all Democratic Presidents in this century,

This isn’t even close to being true.

and you think his Supreme Court picks are going to make a difference?

Do I think Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are better than the people McCain would’ve nominated? Yes. Do I think whoever Obama nominates in the future will be better than who Romney or Perry or Bachmann nominates? Yes.

62

mark f 09.02.11 at 11:05 pm

Obama is to the right of all Democratic Presidents in this century,

This isn’t even close to being true.

Nor is it if we’re counting the last century.

63

Wax Banks 09.02.11 at 11:17 pm

This post gives a glib and (btw) incorrect characterization of Obama, though from Romney’s political-turnabout-frequency I get the sense it applies somewhat more to him. You may not like Obama’s principles, you may not in fact even recognize them for what they are, but come off it, will you? You could be spending your time on good economics; why waste it on bad psychology?

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Wax Banks 09.02.11 at 11:18 pm

As for my personal suitability as a leader of political reform, I make no such claims. I am just a sad, but clear-eyed, spectator to our national decline and the accompanying political circus.

Don’t mistake a nasty little gleam for clarity.

65

straightwood 09.02.11 at 11:19 pm

Where “any Democratic candidate” is to the left of the Republican, not Zell Miller or Joe Lieberman, and polls show no left alternative competing for victory? Yes.

You mean you would sacrifice the Supreme Court to defeat Joe Lieberman? Oh, the horror!

66

burritoboy 09.02.11 at 11:26 pm

“I am not hoping for hard times; I am extrapolating from current trends with history as a guide. I would much prefer an outbreak of reason to sweep through America, but it seems most unlikely. “

I.E. you don’t want to do very much. You aren’t going to do anything politically concrete. And you aren’t even going to do anything intellectually concrete. Let’s rephrase you:

1. You expect that the US political system is going to crash in the near future.
2. You seem to have some desired political goals.
3. You believe that a faction pursuing those goals WILL (inevitably?) come to power to achieve those goals.

Yet, your chosen course of action is doing nothing more than voting and commenting on a blog while at the same time believing that everything will soon be ripe for the picking. Why aren’t you out there assisting in building up your political faction which you believe will come into power shortly?

“I am just a sad, but clear-eyed, spectator to our national decline and the accompanying political circus.”

Clear-eyed people must have some sort of opinion on what concretely to do. Or, at minimum, being very hard at work trying to figure out what concretely to do. Do you feel your comments here help you in your work of figuring out concretely what to do?

Ok, you yourself might lack something such that you yourself could not become a politician. But surely, since you think your ideas are correct and you think that you express them well, a politician would like to have your assistance as a speechwriter? If not, why not? Surely you have some skills that could assist some political faction in some form, no?

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Bruce Baugh 09.02.11 at 11:27 pm

I think that CharleyCarp got at much of the dilemma well.

On the one hand: Obama is better than any possible Republican rival would be.

On the other hand: Obama is disastrous for the country on all of the fundamentals – rule of law, war, the power of the banksters on down the line – and on many of the lesser issues. Reelecting him means recession in perpetuity at best, widening gap between the wealthiest and the rest, infrastructure deterioration, inaction on so many fronts where things must be done and action on so many others where the state ought to leave damn well enough alone…

I suppose that in the general election I’m likely to turn out to vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is, and to discourage anyone who’ll listen to me from voting Republican. But I hope to have some decent primary challenges to actually care about in some of the elections down the ticket.

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straightwood 09.02.11 at 11:30 pm

This post gives a glib and (btw) incorrect characterization of Obama

How many Obama reversals do you need?

Close Guantanamo (not)

Protect Social Security (wants to cut it as part of a “grand bargain”)

End torture (except for rendition and at Bagram)

Protect the environment (except when overruling his own EPA)

Promote transparency in government (except when prosecuting whistle-blowers)

End the wars (not)

Punish torturers and war criminals (not)

Get tough on Wall Street fat cats (not)

Limit abuse of Presidential power (except when summarily executing US citizen “terrorists”)

Are those enough flip-flops for you?

69

burritoboy 09.02.11 at 11:32 pm

“I see no reason why Americans will not come to their senses once we have suffered enough.”

This is often referred to as the “handwavium” or the “Underpants Gnomes” method of arguing.

Really?

You’re going to base all of your ideas…………on this? I mean, if you’re right, shouldn’t you, at minimum, be trying to flee the future carnage?

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mark f 09.02.11 at 11:36 pm

“I see no reason why Americans will not come to their senses once we have suffered enough.”

This is often referred to as the “handwavium” or the “Underpants Gnomes” method of arguing.

But if we just let a lot of them die in the famine, they’ll see how monstrous the Tsar is.

71

Kenny Easwaran 09.03.11 at 12:03 am

I think everyone’s missing the real point here. Much as we’d rather have a reasonable choice (who would presumably be to the left of Obama), it’s probably much more important that the Republican candidate is not totally insane. After all, unless American politics goes in a drastically different direction than it ever has in the past century and a half, the vast majority of elected officials (and especially presidents) will be Democrats and Republicans, and each party will have at least 40 seats in the senate on most occasions. If we get someone like Romney as the Republican nominee, then that will be a continuation of plutocrats-as-usual. But if it’s Perry or Bachmann or Paul, then future Republicans will all be racing to see who can be the most “Social Security is unconstitutional” and “you have to be a Christian to be an American” and “as long as we can drown the government in a bathtub it’s ok if no one has a job”. I mean, they already have that sort of pressure, but if you think about it for even a moment you can see that many of these candidates are far worse than any mainstream Republican, including most members of the house and senate. It’s much more important that those people stay away from the levers of power over the long run than that we happen to (by fluke) get an actually good president for a single term, who might then be succeeded by these people.

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Tangurena 09.03.11 at 12:07 am

Obama is to the right of all Democratic Presidents in this century

I would have phrased that differently: American politics has moved so far to the right, that if Ronald Reagan were running for President today, he would be denounced for being to the left of Obama.

This is the result of several decades of Overton Window operating after the loss of the Fairness Doctrine.

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Bruce Wilder 09.03.11 at 12:09 am

Inveighing against the two-party system strikes me as idle wankery. If you care, get busy with the hardwork of contesting control of one or both of the two Parties. Or invest your efforts in building a mass-membership organization devoted to an important set of issues — the kind of organization, which has always moved American politics thru and despite the two-party system. (Think labor unions, Temperance or Women’s Suffrage, or abolition or Townsend Plans.)

That said, I think progressives face a very hard choice, in 2012. Obama will not be primaried, but he should not be re-elected either. Rejecting him the hard way — meaning, rejecting him, when it means electing a Republican — is the only form of rejection, which will be available.

And, yes, it means “hoping for” a system crash. Obama’s sales pitch is basically one of preservationist competence; and he’s making that sales pitch to people, who want “the system” preserved at all costs. “The system” we are talking about is the petroleum economy of cheap gas and suburbs and driving to a better job, a better house, better schools, and cheaper mass-produced stuff at a bigbox store, imported from developing Asia. It’s also “the system” of de-regulation and globalization, disinvestment and declining wages, and corporate business predation and perpetual, hugely expensive war.

So, sure, if you want “the system” “preserved” — if you think that is so obviously the course of “practical” wisdom and constrained rationality that it appears “inevitable”, as it does to all right-thinking Villagers (read Ezra Klein or Matt Yglesias, sometime) — then, by all means support Obama as the lesser evil, and hope for gay marriage, or something. Each downleg of the Lesser Depression will only increase the unemployment rate a little, and Obama will talk up jobs programs that consist of benefits for giant corporations and insanely rich people, in between Grand Bargains to destroy Social Security. That second trillion in student loan debt, sinking a generation into debt peonage, is still a decade away.

Much of “the system” has already failed. The financial system has been failing periodically and progressively since 1980, and continuously since around 1998. When the financial system “crashed” in 2008, the political left was unprepared. Critiques of the increasingly predatory nature of the financial system were few; our so-called professional economists expressed surprised dismay at “the shock” (their word). Despite previous lessons in the Shock Doctrine, we still responded to the signs of panic, like sheep, herded toward the sheering or the slaughter, as the case may be.

No, I do not know how to make the system “crash”. I’m pretty sure it will continue to fail with progressively immiserating results, if Obama (or Romney) manages to “preserve” it. It’s like a building, which has become structurally unsound, and is very expensive to maintain, in its decrepit condition, and the people in charge are saying, we can’t tear it down, where would you live? And, it is true, when the old structure comes down, for a while, there won’t be a place to live, so to speak. The best we can hope for is the opportunity to tear it down, on a schedule and according to a plan; the second best, it “crashes” to earth in the near future, and we manage to get most people out with minimal injury, and then get on with building wisely to a new design; the worst case scenario is to impoverish ourselves trying repair it, suffering under its increasingly delapidated inadequacy, and maybe, it finally crashes to earth, when we no longer can afford to build something better.

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christian_h 09.03.11 at 12:33 am

I absolutely agree with Kenny in 71. Those of you who believe elections in the current political set-up with the currently available candidates make a difference should register Republican and work as hard as you can to get Romney the nomination. It’s not like that would keep you from voting for your preferred Democratic right-winger come general election time.

As for a choice between Obama and Romney: since there won’t be any third party challenge from the left that comes even to the level of “movement building” the Nader campaign aspired to (with some, if limited, success) I’d vote Obama if I had a vote. I wouldn’t, however, vote for any democratic congressional candidate under any circumstances.

75

LFC 09.03.11 at 12:46 am

straightwood @68
End the wars (not)

Obama promised in the ’08 campaign to end US combat ops in Iraq. He has ended them.

He didn’t promise much of anything specific re Afghanistan in the ’08 campaign, as I recall. Of course, my recollection on this point may be faulty.

Re Boumedienne v. Bush — true it didn’t have as much practical effect as it might have had, but it was still important that SCOTUS affirmed that detainees could challenge their detentions in the federal courts via habeas corpus petitions. Kennedy was the key vote, iirc. In a court of Scalias, it would have gone the other way. Also what C. Carp said above.

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ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 12:48 am

I can’t believe we’re having this discussion again. Pretty much regardless of how bad you think the Obama administration has done, the idea that Romney Obama would be twiddledy twiddledum is just crazy.

I can’t believe it either. People like me have been provably right (and on record); people like you have been provably wrong.

Look, no matter how you twist, duck, and dodge, no matter how much you excoriate people for not behaving the way you think they should . . . the fact is, most people, when they vote, vote on the basis of quid pro quo (and incidentally, I doubt that anything you are I say here will have any detectable influence on the national elections).

Well, guess what? A lot of people voted for Obama on the basis of his campaign promises. They thought that’s what they would be getting in exchange for their vote. And when it became obvious – as I believe it came to be sometime early in 2010 – that the President was a welsher those same people couldn’t find the time or the energy to go out and vote in the mid-terms. Did I mention that I predicted this? In January of 2010 :-)

I consider this one to be a no-brainer, btw. And if I and thousands of other civilians could easily figure this one out, you’ve got to think Obama and his crew could too.

So yeah, to repeat, I can’t believe we’re having this conversation again. One would think you would have had the grace to admit that you were wrong by this point, but I’m a realist . . .

77

LFC 09.03.11 at 12:54 am

@71
yes, but Ron Paul, at least, has no chance of getting the Republican nomination. Zero. He has a very committed but not expandable base of support. His extreme (and that’s a polite word) positions on the gold standard, the Fed, and other things are anathema to the plutocrats in the Republican party. He’s running to advance his ideas and as an ego trip. He must realize he’s not going to be the nominee.

Perry, on the other hand, is quite scary b/c he could get the nomination. There was a thread at Wash Monthly (Steve Bienen’s blog) a while back, which I happened upon by accident, that discussed Perry’s intelligence (or lack thereof). Hasn’t hindered his career so far but might in a general election. One hopes.

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ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 12:57 am

That said, I think progressives face a very hard choice, in 2012. Obama will not be primaried, but he should not be re-elected either. Rejecting him the hard way—meaning, rejecting him, when it means electing a Republican—is the only form of rejection, which will be available.

I’d agree with most of this and the rest of your post save for one thing: replace the word “progressive” with “populist”. See, it wasn’t the “progressive’s” failure to turn out in 2010 that caused those massive losses. It was mostly working class voters, mostly what I would have called in an earlier age “Reagan Democrats” that failed to vote in that election.

Iow, duck and twist as they may, those trying to accuse “progressives” of sabotaging Obama (Hah!) are dead wrong. It’s those middle-of-the-road voters that are doing that. You know, those “undecideds”, the ones he’s supposedly trying to win over with his self-styled “adult” approach. ;-)

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John Quiggin 09.03.11 at 1:10 am

To slightly restate the premise of the post. Assume it’s Romney v Obama, and let’s agree that those of who us who are enfranchised to select the Leader of the Free World will hold their nose and vote for Obama. Regarding actual effort, is it better to:
(a) campaign for Obama
(b) campaign for a (reasonably reliable) Democratic Senator
(c) stay home and blog about how terrible the whole process it

80

Marc 09.03.11 at 1:15 am

We know what Republican rule will look like, and it’s utter catastrophe. The rules get changed so that “the wrong people” don’t get to vote. Public services go away – including things that no one ever thought would be private until recently. Look at what’s happening to abortion rights. The courts are already deeply reactionary – we’re inches away from going back a century in legal rights.

No unions for public workers. No health care for the poor. A frontal assault on entitlements that, this time, has a sufficiently crazy cadre to actually happen.

And all of these things are extremely obvious – they’re being proposed by republican leaders. They’re being enacted by Republican governors. There is nothing safe; we’re dealing with frightening fanatics.

And we have a bunch of out-of-touch people, not in the US, not understanding what is happening here, making believe that Obama=Republicans is *&$*)%)$# useful. Thanks for the god-damned anchor; those of us struggling to tread water appreciate the Leninist bullshit.

81

ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 1:23 am

John, I’m not sure what your new premises are. I will tell you that I’m from a smallish town and that due to my age and profession I rub elbows with a fair number of local Democratic operatives. And while it may not be representative of the larger picture, I can reliably report that these low-level apparatchiks are furious about the position they’ve been put into by the national party.

Their fury is redoubled because apparently the party big wheels aren’t allowing them any input into the process at all ; it’s all top down, I-say-you-do sort of directives. At least, that’s what I’ve been hearing at school functions, city council meetings, etc.

82

christian_h 09.03.11 at 1:23 am

Couple points there Marc:

First, please point us to where anyone in the US or not said “Obama = Republicans”. Oh wait you can’t, it’sw a complete straw man.
Next, those dang foreigners are deeply affected by what the US government does. I think we should allow them to have an opinion, don’t you?
Finally, no frontal assault on entitlements can succeed unless the democrats accede to it. So you might understand why some of us may find it unhelpful when your favourite president is the one to bring entitlement destruction (masquerading as usual as “reform’) into the conversation – something even the Tea Party congress people didn’t do.

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ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 1:25 am

And we have a bunch of out-of-touch people, not in the US, not understanding what is happening here, making believe that Obama=Republicans is *&$*)%)$# useful. Thanks for the god-damned anchor; those of us struggling to tread water appreciate the Leninist bullshit.

Tell that one to the voters. You know, the ones who didn’t turn out back in 2010. I’m sure they’ll find you real persuasive.

84

Matt McIrvin 09.03.11 at 1:28 am

Mitt Romney used to be governor of my state. After that, we elected Deval Patrick, a longtime friend and political associate of Barack Obama’s with very similar attitudes and policy preferences. Patrick’s been less than forceful as governor, and made a lot of early missteps, and talks like Garry Shandling.

Deval Patrick is vastly preferable to Mitt Romney.

85

Marc 09.03.11 at 1:30 am

Like it or not, the fate of congressional democrats is not separable from the fate of Obama.

It just isn’t. The old ideas of ticket-splitting and reasonable republicans are dead and buried. The reasonable republicans vote the same as the crazy ones, because if they don’t they lose primaries to loons. We just saw identical union-busting and voter-suppression bills xeroxed in dozens of state legislatures. So the old regional distinctions (where a liberal could vote for a reform republican) are also erased.

People will not vote for Romney and balance their vote with a democratic senator.

Oh, and Romney won’t be the nominee. It’ll be Perry, or maybe Bachman. The true believers see the chance to give the keys to the Kingdom to one of their own, and there is no recent evidence that they can be stopped in the Republican party of today.

It’s Obama, like it or not, or the deluge.

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Marc 09.03.11 at 1:34 am

#82: I’m reacting so angrily to this for a reason. I heard the same bullshit here in Ohio. We have a history of reasonable republican governors – and you actually didn’t see much difference at the state level between the parties. 2010 rolled around, and it’s been a punch in the gut. Public unions banned. Voter rights repealed (example: under the new law, poll workers are prohibited by law from directing someone to the proper polling location if they go to the wrong place to vote.) Privatizing prisons, roads, even the lottery. Out of control expansion of private charter schools. We’re fighting like hell here, and people are acting as if nothing is actually at stake.

And we’re getting the “not a dimes worth of difference” song anyhow? Good lord, have you seen what the current Congress is doing?

87

christian_h 09.03.11 at 1:39 am

Marc: Yes I have. But you apparently have missed what the previous congress did, and clearly have no idea what’s happening in Democratic-run states. Hint: it’s not a pro-union paradise around here. Somehow you seem to believe that the laid-off teacher, the union worker whose pension and health benefits are taken etc. should feel better about it if a Democrat does it.

Of course voters in 2010 didn’t miss these things which is why you ended up with insane people in control like in Ohio. Scare tactics didn’t work then, what makes you believe they’ll work next November?

88

ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 1:42 am

As far as my recommendations for the people stumping for Obama and how they can be most effective? That’s simple.

Admit. You. Were. Wrong.

I suspect that Obama could regain a certain measure of goodwill and political capital if he simply stepped up, took a deep breath, and gave a heartfelt apology for all of his manifold missteps. And by “heartfelt” I mean “heartfelt”; none of those weasel non-apologies about being sorry that the people are disappointed with him. No, he’s got to accept the consequences of his actions, and take full responsibility for them. I think he’d be surprised at how far currently disenchanted people would go if he would just do this one simple thing[1].

But, being who he is, I suspect that this sort of action simply isn’t possible for him; he’s too proud – and yes, too weak – to admit to any such thing.

As are any of a multitude of subalterns, down to some of the people we have posting here. If it comes down to no admission that mistakes were made vs. winning an election, well, these guys just aren’t going to admit to making any mistakes. Such is the material our Republic is made of.

[1]Anybody remember what Reagan did when 200-odd soldiers were killed in Lebanon by a bomb, and what happened to his poll numbers afterward?

89

ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 1:51 am

And we’re getting the “not a dimes worth of difference” song anyhow? Good lord, have you seen what the current Congress is doing?

We politically sophisticated types have got a term for what you’re describing, Marc. It’s called “political pressure”. And no, you’re not supposed to like it. You’re supposed to comply, or get voted out of office. Thems your two options.

Funny thing that, but the right votes quid pro quo all the time. And it seems to have worked out quite well for them. What all this distasteful and unbecoming whining on the part of various Solons comes down to is that they don’t like being pressured and they want those populist types to be nice and reasonable and stop using such tactics and let their leaders decide what’s best for them.

Uh-uh. Not going to happen. You do what I tell you to do, you do what you’ve promised you’re going to do . . . or you don’t get my vote. That’s how most people have voted from time immemorial.

It really is just that simple.

90

ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 1:54 am

Of course voters in 2010 didn’t miss these things which is why you ended up with insane people in control like in Ohio. Scare tactics didn’t work then, what makes you believe they’ll work next November?

And as I said upthread, this was all easily predicted. And confirmed.

91

salazar 09.03.11 at 1:55 am

@17: “Invasion of Iran or support for Israel’s invasion of Iran”

Israel couldn’t defeat Hezb0llah and they would invade Iran?

92

John Quiggin 09.03.11 at 2:06 am

@47 Without Griswold, the states will once again be free to criminalize disfavored sexual activities (e.g. fellatio, same-sex relationships, anal sex) between consenting adults.

Do you really think that’s likely? It’s worth exploring the possibilities but even in the Bible Belt, a ban on blowjobs sounds like a pretty hard sell.

I’d suggest, on the contrary, that existing state prohibitions are still on the books precisely because Griswold ensures that they can’t be enforced.

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Matt McIrvin 09.03.11 at 2:21 am

Admit. You. Were. Wrong.

Wrong to do what? What were were supposed to have done in 2008? Was the current Secretary of State going to be the great left alternative? Were we supposed to elect McCain to heighten the contradictions?

94

Matt McIrvin 09.03.11 at 2:42 am

I have no confidence that a sufficiently conservative Supreme Court would stop at overturning Roe; they could very likely declare human embryos and fetuses persons under the 14th Amendment, which would have the effect of banning abortion nationally and also all sorts of other strange consequences.

Long-term, I’m confident that generational and demographic trends will lead to further social liberalization in the US. I’m mostly worried about legal havoc being wrought in the near and medium term. And anything related to abortion is particularly troublesome right now; on many cultural issues there’s been heartening progress, but abortion rights are if anything moving backward.

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Marc 09.03.11 at 2:53 am

@92: The current courts have been overturning old precedents with alarming frequency recently.

John, the basic issue that doesn’t seem to have sunk in is that the current crop of Republicans are incredibly reactionary. I’m still seeing nonsense here about “scare tactics” – as if the things that are going on aren’t actually, well, scary.

If you want to talk about disappointments with Obama, fine. But please don’t pretend that the alternatives aren’t extremely dire. Because we have every evidence that this crowd has no limits.

96

tib 09.03.11 at 2:58 am

I’ll preface by saying that I will work as hard as I can to get Obama re-elected, just as I worked to get him elected.

Some argue that Obama is trapped by our system’s veto points. Romney, as president, would have the same economic goals as Obama, but a different political configuration. Since Republican presidents are Keynesian in office (Ronald Reagan proved deficits don’t matter) Romney or Perry could triangulate against the tea party to implement adequate economic stimulus. They would weaken social programs in the course of spurring recovery, but they would have the latitude to implement large recovery policies.

97

Jack Strocchi 09.03.11 at 3:07 am

Pr Q said:

Still, as long as the Congress remains divided, it’s hard to see a choice between Obama and Romney making a big difference (of course, I thought that about Bush v Gore, so there you go).

There would be a huge policy difference between Obama and Romney, although there political styles are similar. Both are moderates, but Obama is the leader of a moderate Centrist party. Romney is the leader of an Far-Right party. There is no longer a moderate Republican faction. If Romney were elected he would be hostage to emboldened Tea Party candidates, who would take heart from the fact that they were in the vanguard to unseat the “socialist” Obama.

In 2008 I correctly predicted that Obama’s politics would default to a “canny Centrism, Clinton without the sleaze”, given the large degree of “right-wing ballast” within the US political system. But he was a much more effective Centre-Left legislator than what I initially gave him credit for, versus the counter-factual of a McCain victory. (McCain, likewise to Romney, had a reputation for being a centrist Republican. And who did he choose for his running mate?)

Obama passed major health reform in a Centre-Right nation, in the teeth of a Tea Party revolt. Romney passed his health care reform in a Centre-Left state. Big difference.

Obama also passed a small fiscal stimulus, some mild financial regulations, and at least got a commitment from Wall Street to pay back TARP funds. I doubt if a McCain treasury would have done the same, given the Republican tendency to write blank cheques to Wall Street.

The “divided Congress” assumption is not axiomatic. With a REP presidency and legislature the supposedly DEM Senate would face irresistible pressure to cave in on major issues. Politics tends to “go with the mo” and a Romney presidency would give the Far-Right REPs added momentum against the vanishing breed of RINOs.

I still maintain that Obama will win in 2012, although less confidently given the continuing slump in the employment market. He has to reach out beyond his base and get some jobs action for average white guys. Once he protects his flank on the unemployment front the essential frivolity of the Tea Party approach to public policy will become evident, to even the most disengaged voter.

98

Alan White 09.03.11 at 3:13 am

Professor Margaret Battin’s idea about managing death in bioethics applies here even for the most cynical observer of the present political scene who straightline thinks now that Obama is somehow as bad as any Teapublican: even if one thinks the republic is ultimately doomed, then can’t we strategize for the least worst death? Whose candidacy for 2012 is the most painful, short- and long-term for the existence of the republic, for most citizens if successful? Whose is the least by the same? Don’t tell me those evaluations can’t be intelligently made.

99

buermann 09.03.11 at 3:21 am

A lot of the same money, too:

Donors associated with Goldman Sachs have given Romney at least $290,750, according to the Center’s research. Those affiliated with Credit Suisse Group, meanwhile, have donated at least $167,000 to Romney, and people and PACs associated with Morgan Stanley have given him at least $126,350.

Donors associated with Bain Capital, Bain & Co., Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Blackstone Group, UBS AG, and Wells Fargo have likewise already donated tens of thousands of dollars to Romney’s presidential campaign.

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2011/07/first-presidential-campaign-finance-reports-show.html

100

Marc 09.03.11 at 3:35 am

@96: I’d really like to see a single example in our current situation of a Republican politician who has successfully triangulated against the Tea Party.

Because I can rattle off a long list of Republicans (very conservative ones in some cases) who were driven out of office or lost primaries to extremists. By comparison, there are only a couple of cases I’m aware of (one congresswoman in MD, and Lieberman in CT) where conservatives Dems lost a primary – and in the second case he them won the general election.

The reactionaries run the republican party; they’re not a coalition faction.

101

JP Stormcrow 09.03.11 at 3:35 am

SoV@88: [1]Anybody remember what Reagan did when 200-odd soldiers were killed in Lebanon by a bomb, and what happened to his poll numbers afterward?

I’m genuinely puzzled by this. Other than poll numbers climbing.
1) Invade Grenada?
2) Give a weasel-y speech mixing a bunch of lies and propaganda about Grenada with excuses for Lebanon with shameless appeals to military honor and patriotism?
3) Or withdraw troops from Lebanon in February 1984 after resisting it for months and giving a speech which justified that action in part by saying we did not appreciate what we were getting into. But not after laying out some crap like this: We hadn’t committed the marines to Beirut in a snap decision, and we weren’t alone. France, Italy, and Britain were also part of the multinational force, and we all thought it was a good plan. And for a while, as I’ve said, it had been working.

102

Salient 09.03.11 at 4:19 am

Do you really think that’s likely?

I didn’t when I didn’t live in the Bible belt, but now I do… It’s renders-you-speechless amazing how little support there is for female contraception, and how much casual support there is for getting it taken off insurance, for making it harder to obtain and impossible for women/girls under a certain age to obtain, etc. People even talk with straight faces about getting condoms taken off over the counter status and put behind the pharmacy prescription window (though I’ve never heard anyone say they should be prescription only, the idea is to restrict access). The phrase “encouraging free sexuality” is assumed bad, and any attempt to restrict sexuality is justified on the ill-defined grounds of “protecting one’s daughter.”

I was a much sweeter person before I switched over to listening to local talk radio in the mornings headed into work, but was also a person much less aware of how gunned-for sexuality is. It doesn’t get mentioned for months, suddenly some topic brings it into the limelight, I suddenly learn that it’s commonplace to want to restrict females’ healthy sexuality and family planning options out of some vague desire to protect right-behaving girls and/or punish wrong-behaving girls.

I’d suggest, on the contrary, that existing state prohibitions are still on the books precisely because Griswold ensures that they can’t be enforced.

It has not been my experience that there is any lack of support for existing state prohibitions. Strangely contorted views on sexuality abound, here. But then I live in a state where a non-fringe group of folks attempted to have access to the HPV vaccine banned for females (and only females) under the age of 18, and where a hugely controversial topic is minor females’ ability to get a prescription for birth control without parental notification.

I swear it’s like folks hear anything remotely related to sexuality and their brain goes to the horrifying idea of a black eighteen year old male attempting to get with their white fourteen year old daughter or maybe some other less cautious parents’ fourteen year old daughter (who apparently can’t be trusted to make sensible mature decisions for herself, or rather, the males can’t be trusted or expected to not trick them into doing regrettable things). … That is an exaggeration, of course, but not as wild or silly an exaggeration as I would have thought when still living in Wisconsin.

103

CharleyCarp 09.03.11 at 4:29 am

79 — I’m not going to campaign for Obama. He has no chance whatsoever of winning my state, and I don’t plan to do what I did in 2004 and 2008 — travel to a state in play and work there. I will, however, work for my incumbent senator. It’s a damn close race, and it’s going to come down to turn out. I’ll thank folks to lay off demoralizing people whose votes we need.

104

tib 09.03.11 at 4:30 am

@100: A President Romney with solid economic growth in 2016 would have nothing to fear from the tea party (as Obama would have nothing to fear had he implemented an adequate stimulus). As for congress, party discipline would get him most of the votes he needs, and he wouldn’t have trouble getting the rest from the Democratic caucus.

There are no serious tea party challengers in the 2012 Republican congressional primaries, and even their influence in the presidential primary is overstated (neither Romney nor Perry are real tea partiers). The house tea party caucus will be smaller after 2012, since so many Republican tea party freshman are from marginal districts. They’ve moved the Republican party to the right, but they are the Republican base, they support their presidents (see George Bush). Without a Democratic president their fire will be gone.

105

Bruce Wilder 09.03.11 at 4:40 am

@78

Your point about “populist” voters is dead-on. If liberals/progressives want political power, they’re not going to get it voting for corrupt centrists or conservatives. A political majority for progressive reform has to be an alliance between people, to whom progressive ideas sound appealing, and people, to whom “populist” appeals make sense.

I think many people of a liberal or progressive persuasion find effective populist appeals distasteful, for various reasons. People with the psychological attitudes of authoritarian followers pick up “racist” ideas easily, for example, and that frightens many on the left, which, frankly, it should. But, if you let the Right monopolize the demagoguery, you hand them numbers and power.

106

tib 09.03.11 at 4:57 am

Ilya @2: Modern competitive Republican presidential primaries usually feature an early front runner who looks weak by the time the primaries start, but who wins decisively at the end. And they take turns. 2008, McCain was written off by the time people were voting, won 47% in a three way race against Romney and Huckabee. 2000, Bush lost a bunch of early primaries to McCain, won w/62%. 1996 Dole lost early primaries to Buchanan and Forbes, won w/58%. 1980 Reagan lost Iowa to Bush, won w/60%.

The most likely 2012 Republican nominee is Romney.

107

CharleyCarp 09.03.11 at 5:20 am

104last — This is the conundrum no one has figured out. Youth populism drove out a significant part of the Dem coalition that hadn’t already been alienated by civil rights. Pre-civil rights Dem victories were based on tacit (or not so tacit) acceptance of the Solid South. No replacement has yet been found.

Well, one replacement: having lost white southernors and midwestern ethnics, Dems discovered that finance could be a useful member of the coalition.

108

heckblazer 09.03.11 at 7:58 am

The idea that there is a Green Party just waiting to spring up is a ludicrous reading of American politics. A party that isn’t even on the current San Francisco board of supervisors has zero chance of affecting national politics. If you really think a third party is necessary, get cracking on building one because it will take a years and years of hard work for a pay-off. The NAACP spent decades laying the groundwork before the big civil rights cases of the 50’s, and the current Goldwater-ite GOP likewise spent decades building up its current power and infrastructure (and good luck to you; I’d rather have to negotiate with Greens than the Tea Party).

As for the difference between an Obama presidency and a Romney presidency, I’d start by agreeing that the assumption of a divided congress in a Romney win can be discounted. Assuming one for the sake of argument there still would be differences between the administrations just from the simple fact that Romney would be appointing Republicans. Supreme Court justices are the most obvious example, but there are lots of important positions that don’t make headlines. Federal appellate judges (as mentioned already) decide far more appeals than the Supreme Court, and also happen to be the current source of Supreme Court justices. FEMA would go back to being incompetent, the SEC would would soft-ball enforcement actions, the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency would be eliminated (de facto if not de jure), the Mine Safety and Health Administration would let coal mines explode, the National Labor Relations Board would screw unions, etc. etc. Republicans currently are just plain bad job of governing, and that’s a big problem if that’s the pool you’re recruiting from to fill government positions.

Presidents have much more latitude in foreign policy, so Romney would have much more power to screw things up there. There you he could decide to unilaterally withdraw from arms control treaties, not bothering to negotiate new arms treaties, start wars…ah, police actions, fund the MEK, and more stuff than I can think of atm. The main silver lining I see is that Republican belligerent isolationalism now seems to be trending more to the isolationist side than the belligerent side. Which ain’t much.

109

straightwood 09.03.11 at 8:11 am

The rise of the Greens in Germany is a hopeful indication of what could happen in America after plutocratic rule drives us further into ruin. It will take a long time, but the sooner the process begins, the sooner we will recover. I have changed my voting registration to Green, and I advise all voters with progressive views to do the same. The Democratic party is a fraud, and the Republican party is a monstrosity. We do not have to choose between these evils.

110

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.03.11 at 9:18 am

I dunno, I think, absent a revolution (or even with one), plutocratic rule is a given. It’s something else that makes the US different from Denmark, and the US circa 2011 from the US circa 1960. National plutocrats aren’t so national anymore.

111

Andrew F. 09.03.11 at 11:39 am

Would Romney or Obama be more susceptible to a Republican push to repeal health care reform?

Would Romney or Obama be more likely to cut higher tax rates?

Would Romney or Obama be more likely to cut social spending, or government support of research?

Would Romney or Obama be more likely to scale back new financial regulations?

Would Romney or Obama be more likely to appoint very industry-friendly individuals to lead key regulatory agencies?

The idea that they’re essentially indistinguishable candidates is nonsense.

And, quite frankly, I don’t agree with some of what Obama attempted to do, but there’s no doubt that he tried very hard to make good on his promises. He is a President faced with a divided Congress, a stumbling economy, and serious concerns about the nation’s fiscal health, all at the same time. I honestly do not understand the bitterness on the part of some on the left.

112

logern 09.03.11 at 1:07 pm

What I’ve noticed about Obama, is he would rather take a poor compromise than come away with nothing at all. That doesn’t make him a Romney clone. More like a Romney mutant. Like Dr. Frankenstein he’ll settle for an damaged brain just to produce a creation – even if it’s a monster.

113

salazar 09.03.11 at 1:08 pm

Well, I do understand much of that bitterness, although you are right: He’s a genuinely — I believe — center-left president who’s leading a center-right party and has to do with a far-right opposition. The combined power of the parties, well-funded interest groups and lobbies ensured that almost anyone he tried to challenge (Netanyahu, for instance) was going to do whatever they wanted with him in the end.

@108: The German Greens are doing well in the polls now, I agree, but they’ve also moved a lot to the center and, on some issues, to the center-right. I’ve seen some Greens criticize their government for being too timid in the Libya intervention, take pro-Israeli positions after the Gaza flotilla raid and link approvingly to Tom Friedman op-eds on their Facebook pages. And, frankly, they’ve benefited from Fukushima and from being in the opposition during a major financial crisis. While they’re still preferable to anything we have in the States, I’d be careful about portraying them as the model for the future.

114

logern 09.03.11 at 1:09 pm

(! lamenting the lack of edit post capability)

115

christian_h 09.03.11 at 3:25 pm

Andrew F., 111.: but there’s no doubt that he tried very hard to make good on his promises

This is simply, absolutely, wrong, most obviously on civil rights – war on terror issues. There Obama has, if anything, been worse than the Bush administration and this has nothing whatsoever to do with congress, or the economy.
And his breaking promises (invariably deviating from them to the right) says something because he was very careful not to make many promises since it would have damaged his “I’m a foil for people’s hopes” strategy.

The excuse-making and apologetics we see on this thread (and see on liberal blogs every couple years) points to a fundamental problem of lesser evil politics. If it was just about biting your tongue and voting Democrat, that’s one thing. But, invariably, it isn’t. It involves demobilizing for 18 months out of every four years any criticism of Democrats from the left – or even criticism of Republicans from left-of-Democrat positions. So, for example, forces allied with the Democratic party worked hard to tamp down on anti-war organizing during the 2004 campaign – and are thus in part responsible for the complete demobilization of the anti-war movement plain to see for everyone not in ANSWER. Similarly, the huge movement for immigrant rights that erupted in 2006 was infiltrated, taken over, and ultimately basically destroyed by forces loyal to the Democratic party who wanted to ensure “acceptable” protests (American flags, not those of countries of origin; support for crappy reform plans supported by Democrats, not legalization; and so forth) for fear of voter backlash.

Nothing has as pernicious an influence of left politics in the US as this pull of being considerate towards Democratic party electoral prospects. It needs to stop.

116

christian_h 09.03.11 at 3:28 pm

As for the German Greens, they would fit very well into the Democratic party. They have been utterly corrupted (easy as they’ve always been based in the liberal middle class).

117

CharleyCarp 09.03.11 at 3:35 pm

OK, I’m bored with this discussion, again, and will check out now. Couple of parting thoughts:

The role a small party can play in a parliamentary system is so different than in the American system that there’s really comparison at all.

Deciding not to vote against someone who has a chance to beat the Republican in your district/state *is* a choice. It is a choice to let the Republican win. Look, you’re free to make that choice. But you have to own it.

You can’t talk about the failure of Boumediene without looking at how the DC Circuit changed in GWB’s second term. The point of separated powers, the point of a post-Marbury/Madison judiciary, is that you don’t have to count on an Executive, subject to various political pressures, to safeguard individual rights. There’s no excuse for the BHO’s conduct — continuing to hold dozens of men that the military has deemed eligible for release, for example — but there’s also no excuse for allowing the branch that is supposed to be a check on abuses like that to be emasculated.

118

Sebastian(1) 09.03.11 at 4:08 pm

@SoV above”

I can’t believe it either. People like me have been provably right (and on record); people like you have been provably wrong.

I have no idea who “people like me” are – I was never an enthusiastic Obama person.
I think anyone who expected any part of US foreign policy to suddenly stop being militarist/imperialist because a Democrat was president better spend some time with a history book. I think people who expected some left-wing economic agenda from Obama didn’t pay attention during his campaign (and for “paying attention” reading Krugman’s columns would have done).
My criteria for a highly successful Obama presidency were 1) appoint good people for executive and judiciary 2) get health care reform passed 3) pursue a foreign policy that sucks slightly less than GWB’s.
I think Obama has been OK on 1) – he’s actually not been good at filling federal court vacancies, which is quite unfortunate.
As I care more about insuring 30mil uninsured than jerking off to my leftist purity vow I think 2) is a blazing success and I think
3) is pretty much what I expected, i.e. slightly more conciliatory tone on very similar policies.

What I find utterly perplexing about the political rhetoric of the “left” in the US, is that people like SoV seem to believe in a perfectly pluralist universe, where the difference between the right and the left is that people on the right have better voting strategies. I just don’t get how someone one the left believes politics works like that. Somehow “people like you” will refer to the military-industrial complex and corporate power, but then suddenly act as if they don’t matter if we could _just_ get the right person elected.

The reason someone on the left should vote for a centrist president like Obama (or Gore, or Clinton for that matter) is that achieving any real societal change is a pretty hopeless uphill battle already. If spending 30mins every 2 years means that you have a couple of flanks less to cover (e.g. gay rights, reproductive rights) and have some allies in high places on others (e.g. EPA) that seems like a _very_ good use of your time.

Which brings me to JQ’s questions @79. I don’t think campaigning for Obama is a great strategy. The major reason I think it _could_ be worth it for some people is that it’s certainly useful to have progressives with good knowledge of professional campaigning and that organizing in an electoral campaign can be the breeding ground for other political activism. But I’m certainly not going to blame anyone on the left for preferring c). I do blame them for not voting, though.

119

ejh 09.03.11 at 5:24 pm

This puts the case:

Obama has learned that no matter how much he rat-fucks you, his base, you will have nowhere else to go. What’re ya gonna do, vote for Michelle Bachmann? Live under President Rick Perry? Or wait, you can always vote for the Third Party Libertarian candidate and hand the entire country over to the billionaires, rather than handing over 99% if you vote Republican, or giving away 98.5% to finance and Big Pharma as the Dems do. Yeah, good luck, suckers! The choice is all yours! Bwah-hah-hah!

A good point, well made.

120

Geoffrey 09.03.11 at 5:52 pm

The discussion is boiling down to this – the Republicans are crazy, so we can’t let them win. Except, Obama gives them pretty much what they want, continues the worst Bush Administration policies here and abroad, and his “best” policy initiative – health care reform – was a too-drawn-out affair that kept the worst of the existing structure intact.

I supported and voted for Obama in ’08, so the complaint that it’s just a bunch of dirty foreigners complaining about him is wrong.

I won’t make that mistake again. On a day-to-day basis, where the rubber meets the road, all the mundane little policy details that most people miss there is no difference between the Presidential Democratic Party (as opposed to some more liberal members of the Congressional Democratic Party) and the Republicans of any stripe. None. Slapping a smiley face on a pile of dung doesn’t change it into a bouquet of lilies.

I’d rather the devil who wasn’t wearing a mask than one with.

121

Andrew F. 09.03.11 at 6:30 pm

christian_h, eh, he tried to close certain detention centers, he supported the end of “enhanced interrogation,” and he’s winding down the US role in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s substantial progress. My view of his foreign policy continues to darken as his administration fails to adequately fund military programs helpful to the strategic challenges of the coming decades; but I think the shift in strategy on global terrorism is wise, and I think de-escalating Iraq and Afghanistan as priorities is wise. Whether you view those moves from an ideologically left perspective or a more centrist pragmatic (sorry, I know this is loaded vocabulary) perspective, I think you have to give Obama due credit for them.

As to the stimulus package, health care, financial reform, etc., he got a lot of what he wanted, and didn’t get a lot of what he wanted. And Republican administrations may make progress on their causes, but they certainly don’t get a lot of what they want either. The American political system is conservative by design.

The right metaphor for an election is pool. The question in any election season for the voter is: what kind of spin are you going to put on the government? Is it going to veer left, or veer right? Towards regulation or away? Towards a progressive tax system, or away? But if you view each election as a chance to run the table and win the entire policy game, you’ll be disappointed, because the American political table isn’t set up for those shots.

122

Sebastian H 09.03.11 at 6:40 pm

John, you’re weirdly wrong on the Supreme Court thing from both angles. It is massively important (it is the ONLY reason why not a single state in the US has abortion laws even nearly as restrictive as hellholes like France [almost no abortions permitted after *12 weeks* without outside medical board review showing that the fetus would have profound disabilities or the woman would be highly endangered] or Sweden [no abortions allowed after 18th week without permission from the National Board of Health and Welfare and strictly prohibited after the 22nd week].

Both of those countries have laws that are dramatically more restrictive than the Supreme Court permits anywhere in the nation.

And while North Dakota is indeed the most restrictive *in the US*, it doesn’t even start the lightest restrictions until after France and Sweden have outright bans.

Also, how many abortion providers do you think North Dakota needs? The Guttmacher definition of abortion providers is 400 or more per year “Guttmacher’s analysis focused on those providers that perform at least 400 abortions annually, thereby omitting small providers such as physicians’ offices that might administer only a handful of medication abortions each year.” North Dakota has a total population of 646,000. That suggests about 160,000 women of child bearing age. Even if SD had abortions at the national rate of 19 per 1000 of child bearing age, that would put us at about 3,000 abortions–easily serviceable by a single full time abortion clinic *even if not a single other doctor performed one abortion*. And of course it seems rather likely that there would be dozens of doctors that perform abortions without hitting the 400 per year Guttmacher threshold.

123

ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 7:02 pm

SoV@88: [1]Anybody remember what Reagan did when 200-odd soldiers were killed in Lebanon by a bomb, and what happened to his poll numbers afterward?

I’m genuinely puzzled by this. Other than poll numbers climbing.

You mean this, which at the time was widely attributed to be the reason his poll numbers climbed, that famous line about accepting blame:

If there is to be blame, it properly rests here in this office and with this president, and I accept responsibility for the bad as well as the good.

That line?

From what I’ve seen here, it will be a cold day in Hell before Obama or any of his defenders ever admit he/they made any mistakes. Even if doing so would win him the election :-(

124

Steve Williams 09.03.11 at 7:02 pm

Marc@38

‘John, there is no set of circumstances where Obama loses and the Republicans don’t win control of the legislature.’

I just wanted to point out that this really isn’t true. In fact, plenty of opinion polls indicate an anti-incumbent sentiment that could hurt both Obama and House Republicans badly enough for them both to be losers.

125

christian_h 09.03.11 at 7:11 pm

Andrew F., 121.: he tried to close certain detention centers, he supported the end of “enhanced interrogation,” and he’s winding down the US role in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He didn’t try to close Guantanamo, he tried to move it. At the same time on his watch a new interrogation and detention facility was started in Mogadishu. He did not, and is not, winding down the US role in Afghanistan (after his planned “withdrawal” there will still be more US troops there than when he took office). Internally, repressive actions against political dissent have, if anything, increased under Obama; not to mention his assertion of presidential rights to assassinate US citizens. His record on civil liberties, an area in which much could have been done without congressional involvement, is atrocious.

Arguably you could say health insurance reform was worth all this (if it holds up). But you can’t argue it away. And yes, I view these things from an ideologically left perspective. If there’s one feature of certain kinds of liberalism I detest it’s the way its practitioners fool themselves into believing they are not ideological but purely guided by “reason” – apparently an entity existing independent of human minds…

126

Steve Williams 09.03.11 at 7:12 pm

Andrew F@121

‘he tried to close certain detention centers, he supported the end of “enhanced interrogation,” and he’s winding down the US role in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘

His proposal to close Guantanamo Bay involved recreating it in Illinois, he emphatically has not ended torture, and his much-vaunted “winding down” of the role in Afghanistan will see more US troops in the country than when he was inaugurated. Sell that rubbish somewhere else please.

127

Steve Williams 09.03.11 at 7:15 pm

I see christian_h is faster on the trigger than me; in case it wasn’t obvious enough, I endorse all of what he said there.

128

ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 7:16 pm

I seem to be one of the very few people who read what John actually wrote.

Look, Obama defenders, you can talk about how you’re really right until the cows come home. I’ll even concede that you might, indeed, be really right.

How does that change the voting patterns of the people who didn’t turn out for the 2010 election? The very same people you will need to win the 2012 election?

Let me make this point again, since there are many people who are – deliberately – refusing to here it: these voters are quid pro quo voters. If Obama doesn’t deliver the goods, they’re not going to vote for him. Period. And basing a campaign around the meme that the Republicans are worse isn’t going to change that – even if these quid pro quo voters agree with you (which I imagine many already do.)

So don’t go berating the rest of us here for not “getting it”, or being “purists” or “traitors” or the “enemy of the good” or whatever else you’ve got to say to make you feel good about yourself. Because we’re not you’re target audience.

Look again at what John wrote: What is the best way get to people to vote for Obama is the premise of the thread? While I don’t know the exact answer to that question, I do know that getting nasty with people who disagree with you on an obscure blog ain’t it.

129

Sebastian 09.03.11 at 7:27 pm

To put the North Dakota size thing (#122) further in perspective, if the entire state were just a county in another state it would only be the 96th most populous county in the US.

There are 15 counties in California alone that more populous than North Dakota. New York has 9 counties more populous. Even a medium sized state like Massachusetts has five counties more populous than North Dakota. It just is not a very big place. Having only one abortion provider that does more than 400 abortions a year just isn’t that shocking.

130

mrearl 09.03.11 at 7:32 pm

The characterization of the DC Circuit as a “sad lineup” is sadly true. The importance is that that bench, lacking parochial interests of Senators, is regarded as the President’s purview for appointment. The other importance is, the DC Circuit gets a lot of cases with national import, especially in review of agency actions. Those appointments really do make a difference. Little noticed as they usually are, they are not little felt.

131

jmundstuk 09.03.11 at 7:34 pm

It can ALWAYS get worse. It is wrong that there is no difference between, say, Obama and Romney. There is always a major difference between a Republican and Democratic administration. Thinking otherwise is just self-delusion and/or rationalization for doing nothing.

132

soru 09.03.11 at 7:48 pm

The rise of the Greens in Germany is a hopeful indication of what could happen in America after plutocratic rule drives us further into ruin.

Isn’t that rather more of an indication of what could happen if plutocratic rule was managed unusually well? A skilful job of balancing technocratic constraints and popular demands leading to people starting to concern themselves with longer term and more idealistic issues?

Or were you talking about the 1930’s, and just counting the whole ‘try to conquer the world, fail, get occupied for 30 years’ as an inherent part of the process?

133

joel hanes 09.03.11 at 8:03 pm

>> Without Griswold, the states will once again be free to criminalize disfavored sexual activities

> Do you really think that’s likely?

Likely? I dunno. But I’m sad to report that I now think it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Before around 2006, I’d have called it impossible outside the Old Confederacy.

But I’m originally from Iowa, and have watched the theocrats take over the machinery of that state’s Republican Party — people whose ideas about sexuality conform to the stereoptype of Victorian attitudes, people who quote (certain parts of) Leviticus without self-awareness, people who really seem to hope to repeal the Enlightenment.

134

Tangurena 09.03.11 at 8:22 pm

let’s agree that those of who us who are enfranchised to select the Leader of the Free World will hold their nose and vote for Obama. Regarding actual effort, is it better to:
(a) campaign for Obama

I am beyond disappointed in Obama. If the choice is Romney vs. Obama, then I’ll just “stay home”. Or vote for the Ralph Nader/Ron Paul ticket just to drive folks crazy.
Disclaimer: I plan on running in 2012 for a small elected office. And I further plan to not come in dead last this time.

(b) campaign for a (reasonably reliable) Democratic Senator

If the Democrats want to win in 2012, I believe this to be a viable option. Only if it isn’t Hillary, because that would guarantee a GOP victory. The GOP has such a hate for her, that the GOP candidate could be Satan and every Republican would vote for Satan, as Satan is hated far less than Hillary Clinton.

(c) stay home and blog about how terrible the whole process it

I plan to patent this idea and collect royalties from both the disenchanted and angry masses. This will enable me to retire to a life of whisky, whiskey and video games.

135

ScentOfViolets 09.03.11 at 8:39 pm

Thank you, Tangurena, for actually posting on topic. As opposed to, say, whining about how Republicans are still worse than Obama whatever he has/hasn’t done and why doesn’t everyone get this.

136

Cranky Observer 09.03.11 at 9:05 pm

> and he’s winding down the US role in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While sworn US soldiers have been phased out of combat operations in Iraq (although a large number are still based in-country), they have been replaced by equal or greater numbers of Blackwater mercenaries and other PMCs presumably paid on various CIA and State Department black budgets. So I would call that “winding” down, and I doubt any Iraqi citizens do either.

Cranky

137

JP Stormcrow 09.03.11 at 10:38 pm

123: You mean this, which at the time was widely attributed to be the reason his poll numbers climbed, that famous line about accepting blame:

If there is to be blame, it properly rests here in this office and with this president, and I accept responsibility for the bad as well as the good.

Ah, I did miss that–from the press conference after the report on the incident was released in December. Although my distinct memory was that it was the disgraceful Grenada episode that really did it. Gallup:

His ratings moved back above 50% by November 1983 — not only because the economy was picking up, but also in part as a result of rally effects associated with the U.S. invasion of Grenada and the terrorist explosion that killed 241 American Marines in Beirut, Lebanon.

And for some reason this bit of Presidential responsibility did not give Tim Russert orgasms 30 years later.

It was my decision to attempt the rescue operation. It was my decision to cancel it when problems developed in the placement of our rescue team for a future rescue operation. The responsibility is fully my own.

All of it a minor side point, though.

138

mclaren 09.04.11 at 2:57 am

Romney? Again some naif thinks that Mitt Romney has any chance of ever getting the Republican presidential nomination?

Please.

For the very last time, folks:

Romney is a Mormon. To the fanatical fundamentalist evangelical Christians who make up the base of the Confederate Republican party, that’s equivalent to belonging to a satanic cult.

Romney has no chance of ever getting the Republican nomination. Never. Zero. Nada. Zip. Bupkiss. Diddly. Zilch.

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mclaren 09.04.11 at 3:27 am

Steve Williams @126:

His proposal to close Guantanamo Bay involved recreating it in Illinois, he emphatically has not ended torture, and his much-vaunted “winding down” of the role in Afghanistan will see more US troops in the country than when he was inaugurated.

Surprised to see someone stating these documented facts in public. Thought I was the only one who’d been pointing this out. Obama has continued the use of “enhanced interrogation methods” as specified in the CIA’s Appendix M, otherwise known as torture.
We have eyewitness testimony that torture has continued at the second secret prison in Bagram airbsae.
For evidence, see “ICRC Confirms Existence of Second Secret Prison at Bagram, BBC Reports Torture,” 11 may 2010, firedoglake, Jeff Kaye.
Also see Red Cross Confirms Second Secret Prison At Bagram Where Detainees Have Been Tortured, same author, 13 May 2010.
Naturally the obots will rush forward with hysterical denials, which requires us to believe that the BBC and the Red Cross are both engaged in a giant right-wing conspiracy to discredit America’s first black president.

Cranky Observer @136 notes:

While sworn US soldiers have been phased out of combat operations in Iraq (although a large number are still based in-country), they have been replaced by equal or greater numbers of Blackwater mercenaries and other PMCs presumably paid on various CIA and State Department black budgets.

Once again, exactly correct. And once again few people seem to have noticed this. The mainstream media certainly haven’t.
And the evidence once again is clear: military contractor deaths now exceed U.S. troop deaths, indicating that there are now more mercs in Iraq than official military personnel.
See “This Year, Contractor Deaths Exceed Military Ones in Iraq and Afghanistan,” T. Christian Miller, Pro Publica, Sep. 23, 2010.
In fact, figures now show that America has upwards of 250,000 mercs in Iraq and Afghanistan. That number dwarfs the amount of regular U.S. military in both countries.
Naturally, obots will hysterically deny these documented facts, since the pentagon reports documenting these figures can easily be downloaded. See this article for links to the official Pentagon pdfs. It’s crucial that obots vehemently deny observable reality, since that reality proves inconvenient to their clay-footed idol Obama.
Meanwhile the Iraq withdrawal date for U.S. troops “may be pushed back beyond 2011.”
Gee.
Ya think?
Back to about 2111, based on recent experience. America is now engaged in Forever War, never-ending, ever-expanding. We can never leave the countries where our troops are losing their pointless unwinnable wars, since this might ‘create instability in the region.’ America must maintain the capacity to lose three major wars simultaneously at distant parts of the world. Nothing else will do.
At this point, questions like “How can Obama get liberals to vote for him?” have become meaningless.
It doesn’t matter whether liberals vote for him, since if elected, Obama will enact exactly the same policies as Sarah Palin or Rick Perry.
This is why the frantic effort by obots to scare Democrats by screaming “But what if Rick Perry becomes president???” fail completely.
If Rick Perry becomes president, he’ll enact insane regressive sociopathic self-destructive policies like torture and the endless expansion of the U.S. military and insane endless unwinnable wars everywhere in the world and tax cuts for the rich and crazy counterproductive austerity policies that contradict the advice of every respected economist in America, along with the relentless destruction of the constitution in the name of infinitely expanding a pointless counterproductive national security state that gobbles trillions of dollars and produces nothing but turning the bill of rights into toilet paper.
But if Obama becomes president, he will also enact insane regressive sociopathic self-destructive policies like torture and the endless expansion of the U.S. military and insane endless unwinnable wars everywhere in the world and tax cuts for the rich and crazy counterproductive austerity policies that contradict the advice of every respected economist in America, along with the relentless destruction of the constitution in the name of infinitely expanding a pointless counterproductive national security state that gobbles trillions of dollars and produces nothing but turning the bill of rights into toilet paper.
So what’s the difference?
Who cares?
What does it matter if Sarah Palin or Rick Perry or Barack Obama becomes president?
The policies will be exactly the same, America will circle the porcelain bowl ever faster, and the suction will continue to draw us down.
So why does it matter how you vote in the 2012 presidential election?

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roger 09.04.11 at 11:38 am

Interestingly, in this discussion there is no mention of unemployment. I don’t think it is a given that the President has no effect on the economy, or on unemployment. I think Obama has been incredibly indifferent to the employment picture, and in general seems clueless about the economy. I am in fundamental disagreement with both Obama and Romney about what do about the economy, but – within the discursive space of acceptible economic policy defined by Obama and Romney – I genuinely do not know who would be better on this issue. At the moment, Obama seems much worse: as we go into another financial oopsy moment, I have no confidence that he will not be complicit, with Geithner and his Bush reappoint, Bernanke, in providing another couple trillion in low low low interest loans to the major banks, while talking up ‘reforming’ social security and those awful middle class entitlement programs, while the unemployment rate simply goes higher. The one hopeful sign that Obama gets it – the idea that the Government would use its power through the FHA and Fannie and Freddie to lower mortgage rates for homeowners – seems to have been floated out there in order to be shot down.

Would Romney be worse?

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Andrew F. 09.04.11 at 5:48 pm

christian_h @125: He didn’t try to close Guantanamo, he tried to move it.

Others have echoed the same idea.

The problem is that Obama did not promise to end military detention. He did promise to try to close Guantanamo, and he certainly attempted to do so. He studied, and reformed, the military tribunal process, and instituted ongoing, periodic reviews of those detained.

So I think you’re upset with him for not doing something which he never said he would do.

He did not, and is not, winding down the US role in Afghanistan (after his planned “withdrawal” there will still be more US troops there than when he took office).

The surge is widely viewed as a necessary prerequisite to a more complete withdrawal of resources, as we have witnessed in Iraq. You may not like his timeline, but responsible withdrawals from occupations can’t always proceed in a straightforwardly linear fashion.

Internally, repressive actions against political dissent have, if anything, increased under Obama;

If by “political dissent” you mean “prosecuting those who unlawfully disclose classified information,” yes. And good for Obama.

not to mention his assertion of presidential rights to assassinate US citizens.

The assertion is that citizenship doesn’t shield one from being a military target in an area outside US jurisdiction where one has voluntarily and knowingly become part of a terrorist organization engaged in ongoing hostilities with the United States. That’s not a new assertion.

Steve @126: he emphatically has not ended torture

There are allegations of abuse at Bagram, for the most part before Obama took office. However there has not been corroboration of claims that the policy at Bagram is one supportive of abuse (as opposed to instances of individual abuses, which have involved criminal prosecution), and overtly at least the policy of the US has been placed squarely against the use of “enhanced interrogation,” which is a shift from a previous administration.

mclaren @139: Regarding private contractors in Iraq, the article you rely upon doesn’t look at changes in contractors over time, and the numbers it uses for a single snapshot are wrong. Looking at the actual Pentagon report which your source cites, there are 62,689 total DoD contractors in Iraq, only 10k of whom are private security contractors. There are roughly 57k military personnel in Iraq.

To make the point even clearer, in August 2008 there were over 162,000 private contractors in Iraq, and around 150k military personnel. The reduction in private contractors has proceeded apace with the reduction in US military personnel – remaining at a roughly 1:1 ratio.

So the numbers hardly substantiate Cranky Observer’s claim at 136 and yours that the US is replacing US ground forces with an army of mercenaries.

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ScentOfViolets 09.04.11 at 7:03 pm

All of it a minor side point, though.

In the context of this thread, I disagree. It is not a minor side point. The question presented here is one of election strategy. As one of the very few people who are actually going along with John’s premises, I’m pointing out that genuine, heartfelt apologies (or at least well-crafted ones that give the appearance of being heartfelt) can often go far in defusing anger.

But apparently that option is off the table. Obama and his apologists don’t do apologies. They do smarm, fear and berating. Suggestive, eh?

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Lee A. Arnold 09.04.11 at 7:08 pm

John Quiggin, I can’t get beyond objecting to your premise, because it looks like Perry will be the candidate. Or, to put it another way, for Romney to get the nomination, he would have to burst into a ball of light and explain to his own party that the rhetoric of ending the welfare state is childish, that gov’t debt is entirely manageable, and that Perry is a corrupt gladhander like any other. Since this is unlikely, I think that the most interesting political question at this moment in time is how many moderates will leave the Republican Party. The coming Republican debates will be an unusual window onto the divisions and jealousies among the Republicans, Reagan’s 11th Commandment be damned. (“Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”) Of course, I thought that there would have been defections by now, so maybe they have all decided instead to drink heavily.

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jones 09.05.11 at 5:32 pm

Two ways in which an R would be better than Obama.

1) when a Republican president proposes cutting social security, Democrats in congress can be counted on to oppose that. With Obama in office, one sensible democrats like Dick Durbin start mouthing Republican talking points.

2) if John McCain had been elected president then “Cap and Trade” might have been passed. It was only when Obama became president that all Republicans joined the brigade of global warming denialism.

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JJ 09.08.11 at 8:21 pm

“…people who really seem to hope to repeal the Enlightenment.”

The Enlightenment occurred only after nationalism and industrialism provided the necessary affluence and independence for the evolution of a trans-European middle class, free from the ruling influence of the Holy Roman Empire. The Global American Empire has destroyed the American middle class. Did you expect us to slouch quietly to Bethlehem? Do you expect us to defend your sacred principles of “enlightenment”, even as our families and friends gradually sink beneath the advent of our eventual demise?

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