Pre-emptive capitulation, part 1

by John Quiggin on November 30, 2010

In comments on my post 10 days ago canvassing the possibility of a pre-emptive capitulation by Obama and the Congressional Democrats, Marc asked

When this doesn’t happen, can I ask for a mea culpa on your part?

Somehow, I don’t think I’m going to have to deliver on this.

Readers are invited (a) to predict the next instalment (b) to guess how long it will be before the Reps decide it’s not enough and they are going to shut the government down anyway (c) to give the best historical analogy – my own candidate, Serbia’s acceptance of the Austrian July ultimatum, is not really ideal, since Serbia was taking its best chance for peace. The only alternative I have in mind violates Godwin’s Law.

{ 84 comments }

1

R 11.30.10 at 7:59 pm

Or preemptively confirms it (Godwin’s Law, that is).
So where is our Churchill?

2

Marc 11.30.10 at 8:05 pm

Huh?

I’m really baffled here – you were talking about a government shutdown followed by Obama giving the republicans everything that they wanted. Does a federal pay freeze with no shutdown even on the menu equal the same thing (even though I agree that it’s stupid for him to do it)?

3

Min 11.30.10 at 8:18 pm

@Marc:

You don’t have to be a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing.

4

Keith 11.30.10 at 8:36 pm

Marc:

Think of the pay freeze as the thin end of the wedge. Without even forcing the issue, the GOP have gotten Obama to meet them part of the way. At this rate, all Boehner has to do is clear his throat and Obama will close down the Gov and strangle HCR on his way out the door.

5

Marc 11.30.10 at 8:59 pm

I don’t think that even John believes that Obama will agree to repealing health care reform.

But, seriously, I do agree with John that we’re likely to see a government shutdown. I don’t share his conviction that Obama will just write them a blank check (remember, Clinton didn’t exactly cover himself in glory right after the 1994 elections.) We will find out, likely in the spring.

There may be a purpose in How Obama Has Failed Us Today, but the biggest thing that I learned is that John apparently makes the mistake of reading FireDogLake. Jumping on tactical moves proves..what? For instance, it looks as if the deficit commission will crash and burn without the predicted Obama “cave’ on Social Security; somehow I don’t think that this will matter in the slightest to the FDL crowd.

6

jayinbmore 11.30.10 at 9:43 pm

I believe you mean “activates Goodwins Law”. You’re violating it by not mentioning it.

7

L2P 11.30.10 at 9:56 pm

And luckily, John agrees that Obama will fight for health care reform (reread his earlier post.)

We’ve already the White House giving up on protecting middle class workers on one issue without a fight. It is looking a little difficult to see what they’ll protect when they actually have to fight for it.

8

Phil 11.30.10 at 10:05 pm

I’m really baffled here – you were talking about a government shutdown followed by Obama giving the republicans everything that they wanted.

No, he wasn’t. John wrote:

There’s still a chance that the Dems can manage a pre-emptive capitulation/collaboration so massive that some on the other side will be willing to cash in their gains without taking the risk of a shutdown.

Note ‘pre-emptive’, i.e. pre-empting the threat of a shutdown. In reply to that, you wrote:

There are a lot of folks writing about how Obama is about to cave on us TOMORROW. Yet when he doesn’t, those folks just seem to write the same thing about something else where Obama Has Disappointed Us Again And Will Betray Us. So, when this doesn’t happen, can you be a bit different and note in some objective way how well the doom-saying played out?

So there you go. Obama has ‘caved on us’.

9

James Kroeger 11.30.10 at 10:37 pm

Will Obama pre-emptively capitulate again? Probably. The more important question is why will he capitulate again?

If Barack Obama has a fundamental political instinct, it is his desire to “bring people together.” He has known many Republicans on a personal level and has discovered that many of them are [often] good people. Nothing would make him happier than being able to persuade some of those ‘good’ Republicans to join with him in a combined effort to do good things for the American people.

Incredibly, in spite of everything the Republicans have done over the past two years, Obama still doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that The Republicans really, really, really do not want to help him to accomplish anything. There aren’t any Republicans out there who are crazy enough to do such a thing. What they do want, more than anything else, is for the general public to view him as A Failure.

What incentive do the Republicans have to join with Obama to do good things for the American people? They understand quite well that if they were to embrace Barack’s noble aspirations, it would make him look good in the eyes of the public, and therefore more likely to vote for Democrats the next time elections are scheduled. That’s not the kind of outcome they desire.

And so now Team Obama has decided that Barack needs to go out of his way to reassure the business community that Barack is no threat to them, so that they might feel more ‘confident’ in his leadership. How does he expect to do this? Well, by giving them the kind of favored treatment that the Republicans always give them.

The only problem with this instinct is that the business community already has its own political party, one that never hesitates to champion their interests, no matter what other considerations might be involved [like the welfare of the general public]. Why should they settle for a watered-down version of what they desire when they can have the real thing?

Besides, Barack Obama has proven to be an invaluable foil for The Republicans’ ultimate political purposes. They understand that they always benefit in the polls when they are successful in demonizing their Democratic rivals. You could hardly ask for a better opponent [if you are a Republican] than Barack Obama. Demonize. Gain concessions. Demonize again.

Obama may want more than anything to be loved by both parties, but he may very well end up being reviled by both.

10

bob mcmanus 11.30.10 at 10:42 pm

FDL is so last year. Digby explains Obama’s new tough negotiating style.

“So the Republican leaders held a press conference and basically said the president admitted that he was a loser and a punk and that he understood that he’d been very wrong not to do their bidding in the past and is now their supplicant. They said that the people want jobs and that everyone agrees that the only way to create jobs is to extend the tax cuts and cut spending.The president then came out and said that they all agreed that the old Washington game will not work and they will work together.”

11

Ken Houghton 12.01.10 at 2:10 am

It was Obama who decided to destroy Social Security. It is Obama who has consistently yielded to support Republican talking points. It is Obama who appointed and listens primarily to people–Tim Kaine, Max Baucus, Larry Summers, Timmeh, etc.–whose idea is that a “good Democrat” is someone who really would prefer to be a Republican.

Marc strangely prefers to call it “reading FDL” instead of “look at what OFA just sent to, among others, FDL members.”

The only historical analogy that doesn’t involve Czechoslovakia is when President J. Bartlett refused to be sandbagged by Republicans. Since BarryO just finished fellating them with one orifice while spewing out of the other one that his Blue Ribbon Arson Squad Commission will take several more days before announcing that Social Security costs too much, even the fictional musings of Aaron Sorkin are too optimistic.

12

Marc 12.01.10 at 5:41 am

Good God Ken. Seek help.

13

Salient 12.01.10 at 6:11 am

I think “Obamacare didn’t/won’t get repealed” is a weak and facile claim of victory, even for a strawperson Team Dem partisan. Still, I will be waiting to see if health care repeal fades away into the background to be trotted out again just in time for the 2012 elections, and anticipate that a breathtakingly wide-reaching array of stupid miscellany will occupy the news cycles until then. 10,000 weird and inflammatory budget proposals, and maybe a government shutdown over “a budget that the people want, and that the government can afford” or some such. It’s not like the tea partiers will stop to think, hey, wtf happened to the health care repeal we all pretended to vote for.

I don’t share his conviction that Obama will just write them a blank check (remember, Clinton didn’t exactly cover himself in glory right after the 1994 elections.)

Your odd interpretation of Quiggin’s stated predictions as equivalent to predicting that “Obama will just write them a blank check” aside, post-1994 Clinton gave us PRWORA, stone cold ending welfare. Comparisons to Clinton do. not. help. your. case. at. all.

14

Salient 12.01.10 at 6:22 am

Actually, the emergent welfare/Clinton, SS/Obama parallel is going to prove worth revisiting in the year ahead:

Gingrich and Cinton negotiated the legislation in private meetings. Previously, Clinton had quietly spoken with Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott for months about the bill, but a compromise on a more acceptable bill for the President could not be reached. Gingrich, on the other hand, gave accurate information about his party’s vote counts and persuaded more conservative members of the Republican Party to vote in favor of PRWORA. President Clinton found the legislation more conservative than he would have preferred; however, having vetoed two earlier welfare proposals from the Republican-majority Congress, it was considered a political risk to veto a third bill during a campaign season with welfare reform as a central theme.

A similar track for Social Security “reform” in 2011-2012 seems worryingly possible.

15

Marc 12.01.10 at 1:33 pm

I just think that the online progressive community is simply out of touch. When I volunteered for the 2010 elections I ran into a lot of Democrats who thought that the government was too big, that the deficit was a problem, that Washington wasn’t working. I didn’t get any feedback about how Obama was too conservative; I’m sure those folks were out there, and were probably in the “yup, voting democratic” contingent. But they didn’t find it important enough to vent to me about. And since my neighborhood is pretty liberal (and our representative, who was also liberal, lost in a landslide) it’s pretty safe to read the tea leaves. That’s a long way of saying that there is a large constituency for cutting government spending, and that Obama knows that he’s lost more support from people who think he’s too liberal than from people who think he’s too conservative.

The stuff about Social Security is pure projection. The commission will end up exactly as you’d expect: a gimmick that didn’t produce anything substantive. Obama, unlike Clinton on welfare, has no public record of wanting reform; there is no Democratic constituency that desires it; the Republicans won’t agree to any measures that raise taxes in any way. The entire “Obama secretly wants to gut Social Security” concept is one simply cooked up in the online progressive hate-Obama bubble without a shred of evidence or logic.

16

Steve LaBonne 12.01.10 at 1:48 pm

Marc, with all due respect, you’re simply out to lunch. In particular you simply don’t seem capable of understanding the damage done by Obama’s constant promotion of right-wing memes. To take the particular example of the Catfood Commission, despite the “failure” that was baked in from the start, the “chairmen’s mark” has already done its damage, and it’s pretty grave damage. In addition to strongly reinforcing the whole intellectually dishonest machinery of deficit hawkery in the minds of “serious” people, and blaring it all over the mainstream press; it has specifically reinforced, in those same circles, the shamelessly mendacious linking of Social Security- a subject the commission shouldn’t even have been allowed to consider- with the deficit. (This is no surprise since many of the commission staffers were literally paid by Pete Peterson.) What you are watching, apparently without a shred of comprehension, is the process by which the Overton Window is constantly ratcheted to the right. And this time it’s happening with the active collaboration of a nominally Democratic President, which is simply shameful and obscene.

17

Marc 12.01.10 at 2:25 pm

By contrast, I’m well aware of the damage done to progressive causes by people relentlessly demotivating Democrats by an endless series of attacks on a Democratic president.

Or does the whole bit about Overton windows and the psychological impact of how you frame things only apply to other people? The endless online negativity has a cost, and blaming Obama *without applying any responsibility to Republicans* ends up with people deciding to support Republicans (if Obama = bad and you haven’t said anything about the opposition party, well you might as well support them.)

That’s the part that I find the most exasperating – people actively assisting the far-right wing with their actions and not even realizing that they’re doing it. And then pretending that what they do doesn’t matter anyhow when called on it; if you really believe that, why bother writing anything at all?

18

dsquared 12.01.10 at 2:28 pm

The entire “Obama secretly wants to gut Social Security” concept is one simply cooked up in the online progressive hate-Obama bubble without a shred of evidence or logic.

I would call the establishment of a commission for that purpose rather more than a shed of evidence and/or logic. Obama has put together a process which has the stated aim of gutting Social Security. It is your theory of “Obama secretly doesn’t want to gut Social Security” which is based on assumptions about non-public facts.

19

Steve LaBonne 12.01.10 at 2:32 pm

By contrast, I’m well aware of the damage done to progressive causes by people relentlessly demotivating Democrats by an endless series of attacks on a Democratic president.

I’m well aware of the damage to the Continental Army done by attacking that fine American General, Benedict Arnold.

Most people would feel like doing something about the bad news. But not super-astute Marc, he knows that everything would be find if only that bloody messenger hadn’t come and told us about the bad news. Bang!

Rally, even by troll standards this is pathetic stuff, Marc. You’re embarrassing yourself.

20

burritoboy 12.01.10 at 3:45 pm

Marc,

The people are not intelligent enough to have their own opinions. They worry about the size of government, deficits and “Washington not working” partially because the oligarchs’ media likes those issues, but also partially because Obama has foolishly let the oligarchs’ media set the agenda and does actions which confirm the viewpoints spewed by that media. Let’s examine the following: Rupert Murdoch should be terrified for his very life right now. If I were Obama, while I might be willing for Rupert to live, a very primary goal would be to strip him of all powers and significantly humiliate him. Rupert has openly declared himself to be an enemy of my administration, and thus must be eliminated as a threat.

There are many ways to do this, some perfectly legal: no media empire that size is completely innocent of tax fraud, securities fraud, regulatory violations and other problems. And there are shady ways to put pressure on: Rupert is very dependent on many regulatory agencies around the world, for example. Suggestions from the United States government can make a significant positive or negative impact with those regulatory agencies. If you don’t force an oligarch to choose between his money and his politics, he will view you as weak and push for advantage. If put under correct pressure, almost all of them will choose their money and thus be eliminated as a political threat.

If you don’t do this (or at least attempt to do this), you really ARE too weak to survive in the current political environment. Any future real US democracy will have, whether explicitly or implicitly, a program to bring the oligarchs under control. Any US President willing to dance on the strings of the oligarchs (and that very much includes future Republicans as well as Democrats) will fail by definition at the job.

What you precisely don’t do is to act on oligarchic proposals as your preferred policy. That means, no deficit commission – or if there is one, the proposals coming out of it run along the lines of: “Pete Peterson will deliver all assets owned by him to the US Treasury tomorrow. Steve Schwarzman will deliver all assets owned by him to the US Treasury tomorrow. In this way, we will reduce the deficit by several billion dollars and move our country forward. Pete Peterson and Steve Schwarzman, being great patriots and lovers of this country, have already signed the necessary forms to do this.”

21

Salient 12.01.10 at 3:54 pm

Or does the whole bit about Overton windows and the psychological impact of how you frame things only apply to other people?

You must be confused. Nobody in the modern U.S. right wing has ever accused a politician of being too conservative. When conservatives turned on Bush or Orrin Hatch or whomever you like, they claimed he was too liberal or liberal-supportive, shifting the Overton window to the right. According to you, when liberals turn on Obama and claim he is too conservative, they are also shifting the Overton window to the right.

people actively assisting the far-right wing with their actions

Yes, I too feel exasperated with Obama. …You were saying?

22

Gene O'Grady 12.01.10 at 3:55 pm

Uh, Mr. LaBonne, try the remarkable battlefield museum at Saratoga before it’s privatized. There was in fact an awful lot of damage done to the Continental army by attacking Benedict Arnold, and if he hadn’t basically broken out of jail to lead his troops there would have been a lot more done.

23

Steve LaBonne 12.01.10 at 4:01 pm

There was in fact an awful lot of damage done to the Continental army by attacking Benedict Arnold

Damage done by attacks AFTER he went over to the other side? Which was the point of my hastily chosen example.

(I’ve been to the museum, I used to live nearby in Schenectady.)

24

James Kroeger 12.01.10 at 4:30 pm

Marc, 15:

…I’m well aware of the damage done to progressive causes by people relentlessly demotivating Democrats by an endless series of attacks on a Democratic president…The endless online negativity has a cost, and blaming Obama without applying any responsibility to Republicans ends up with people deciding to support Republicans

This is a very good example of the type of flawed political reasoning that Barack is receiving every day from “Professional Centrists.” Their claim that Progressives-venting-on-progressive-blogs has a deleterious impact on voting results is beyond silly. Very few of those who (1) voted for Barack two years ago, AND (2) voted Republican this time, have ever had the occasion to visit a progressive blog.

If they nevertheless heard through the MSM that liberal Democrats were criticizing the President, wouldn’t they be likely to inquire, “Really? What are they criticizing the President about?” In all likelihood, it would be explained to them that left-leaning members of the Democratic Party are criticizing Obama for not being liberal enough. Exactly how might such information persuade a voter who took a chance on Obama two years ago to vote for Republicans this time?

If they voted for Obama two years ago because they wanted him to be more liberal than he turned out to be, then it is highly unlikely that they would turn around and vote for the liberal-haters. If they they voted for Obama two years ago because he seemed more ‘moderate’ than the liberals, then the news that liberals were criticizing Obama for being too moderate would simply endear them more to Obama, not motivate them to vote for his political enemies.

The Democratic Party’s Professional Centrists fail to win elections because they don’t understand Swing Voters, the small segment of the electorate that determines the results of all elections. The Republicans do. Republican strategists understand that the typical Swing Voter is among the least-informed [re: the issues] of all all voters (typically lacking in education). They are headline readers and sound-bite nibblers.

Swing Voters typically find themselves agreeing with their Democratic acquaintances when they hear their arguments, but then they’ll find themselves agreeing with their Republican acquaintances when they listen to their arguments. After listening to both sides challenge each other’s assumptions, the typical Swing Voter realizes that he doesn’t understand the issues well enough to make an informed decision, so he relies instead on his “impressions” of the character of the candidates.

That is why the Republicans invest so much of their efforts on character assassination. They seek to associate the Democrats with unfavorable character traits and harsh criticism. That is what they worked on for two years in order to make the Democrats vulnerable in 2010, and it worked.

Any Swing Voter who voted for Republican candidates in 2010 after having voted for Obama in 2008 was not motivated to do so by the barely audible criticism of Obama by liberals to vote for Republicans. But they most certainly were moved to vote for Republicans by the constant hailstorm of harsh criticism the Republicans aimed at Obama for two years, continuously.

One would think that this much would be obvious, but instead of blaming the election losses on the criticism of Republicans, the Professional Centrists advising Obama would rather to blame the benevolent criticism offered by family members for what ultimately was their own failure to read the political tea leaves accurately.

25

ino shinola 12.01.10 at 4:41 pm

Sheesh Marc,

Patriotic throat-lumps are pretty rare for me anymore, but my long-cold political heart was moved by the scene in Chicago on election night 2008.

Somehow, I didn’t interpret the mood as: “Gosh, what the country really needs is for him to just reach out and work with those fine folks who have made this country the laughingstock of the world and left the world on the brink of financial collapse. Maybe he can appoint a bunch of Wall Street insiders to his economic team. Oh, and Robert Gates for Defense Secretary, that’d be awesome.”

This member of the progressive community is in shock. Good God, of course he’s better than the Republicans. The Republicans wouldn’t even exist if they hadn’t succeeded in creating their own economic, environmental, spiritual, and diplomatic fantasy world. Obama can’t even present a viable alternative to a Thomas Kincaid painting. ( a Kincaid painting with Mexicans trying to break into the little cottage).

Cutting government spending? Of course people are for that. But even the most conservative economists agree that it’s a monumentally bad idea right now. So he makes a symbolic gesture with minute financial consequences to reinforce a stupid, counterproductive economic policy as a totally preemptive political capitulation (is that even possible!!??).

For awhile I thought “change” was more than just a word. Later I just hoped he’d surprise me, just once, with a truly principled stand against the worst qualities of our for-profit political system. Now I just hope his next decision won’t be dumber than the last.

26

ISOK 12.01.10 at 5:27 pm

At the risk of being labeled a troll, I have some sympathy for Marc’s view, though I’d put it differently. The Republican strategy is simply to create doubt among the general public about whether or not Obama is doing a good job as President. As part of this strategy, the GOP’s function is to create so much dissatisfaction / rage / resentment among those firmly on and / or leaning towards their side of the political spectrum that it causes the sitting President to feel compelled to change his policies to reclaim that lost support.

The Left (understandably) objects to this approach. In fact, our polarized discourse compels those who would presumably comprise the strongest base of support for Obama to (somewhat ironically) be the most vehemently critical of his rightward shift.

This latter effect helps the GOP. It just simply does. To the casual follower of politics, all nuance beneath the hysterical charges of socialism vs. triangulation is lost. In its place is an overwhelming avalanche of headlines / TV clips / anecdotes from politically active acquaintances, etc. that collectively present one broad, superficial but powerful conclusion: a whole lot of people seem to think this President is no good — even his own voters!

Discounting the above effect by saying it’s all constructive criticism or that “nobody reads lefty blogs” is just not being honest. Does Fox News propaganda have any effect on the political discourse beyond its modest viewership?

That all said, I don’t think there is really a problem worth solving here. These are the inherent difficulties of being a Liberal. We value policy over party and as a result a politically successful Democratic President will ALWAYS piss us off. And we will almost always have no choice but to pinch our noses and support him / her anyways. But hey, I’d take these flaws over those on the Right any day of the week.

Thanks,
ISOK

27

BillCinSD 12.01.10 at 6:36 pm

Didn’t Obama essentially ask his supporters to help him enact better legislation by holding his feet to the fire and essential make him, just as FDR had done?

28

Jerry Vinokurov 12.01.10 at 6:48 pm

By contrast, I’m well aware of the damage done to progressive causes by people relentlessly demotivating Democrats by an endless series of attacks on a Democratic president.

You are aware of no such thing because no such damage actually exists.

29

soullite 12.01.10 at 7:55 pm

You don’t have to repeal this to kill it, at least not at first. You just dredge up a few cases in which the mandate seriously hurt someone financially (the subsidies are pathetic, and only apply to people effectively living in mud-huts and eating bugs), then instead of strengthening those subsidies you severely limit the amount of coverage a health insurance plan has to offer, which will lower the cost of mandate insurance, and bingo! Healthcare is dead as anything but a way to funnel money to health insurance companies.

The rescission parts had no teeth, and the executive will just grant waivers for everything else (they have already been doing this, there is no real reason to assume they will stop) and then you have a couple of minor things that help around the edges and absolutely no real healthcare system.

30

burritoboy 12.01.10 at 9:03 pm

ISOK,

You’re still pretending that the United States is some sort of nice little democratic republic. It’s simply no longer that – it’s an oligarchy, and the sooner we recognize that, the better off we are. Your picture actually makes sense within an actually existing democratic republic, but is actually harmful within our oligarchy.

There is no possible rightward shift, because the right openly wants to become the rulers of a tyranny in a very literal sense. Well, there is a possible rightward shift – simply handing everything over to them. Other than that move, no move rightward will produce anything positive because they’re not out to pursue some form of rational self-interest. They’re pursuing the power for it’s own sake – they want to rule absolutely. It doesn’t actually much matter what that rule does – if it did, they would have a budget plan. They don’t actually care that much about the budget (not even enriching themselves in many senses), they just want to have power over the budget.

31

geo 12.01.10 at 10:52 pm

Your picture actually makes sense within an actually existing democratic republic

I’m not sure it does, actually. In a democratic republic, politicians are supposed to say what they think is true and do what they think is right. A polity in which the electorate is consistenty manipulated and bamboozled by political leaders may be formally a democracy, but not in substance. The actual rulers of a society are those who cannot be lied to.

32

ISOK 12.01.10 at 11:39 pm

geo, you wrote (emphasis mine) “In a democratic republic, politicians are supposed to say what they think is true and do what they think is right.” Fine. Where is this democratic republic where politicians adhere to this ideal? And what color is the sky there?

burritoboy, I don’t see where or how you’ve refuted — or even addressed, really — my point, which is that criticism from the left does indeed facilitate GOP political strategy but that this fact shouldn’t mean that we have to pull any punches. Rather, this is a “problem” inherent to liberal advocacy, which I support. So… criticize away!

Thanks,
ISOK

33

geo 12.02.10 at 2:50 am

Where is this democratic republic … ?

Not here in the USA, at any rate. Just wanted to make sure we were all clear on that.

34

burritoboy 12.02.10 at 3:00 am

“Rather, this is a “problem” inherent to liberal advocacy, which I support.”

Your liberal advocacy might have mattered when we were a republic (though I’d probably disagree there too). We’re no longer a republic, we’re an oligarchy which has already had it’s Harzburg Front moment. The SDP cannot do anything to assuage the NSDAP except surrender. It literally wouldn’t matter if the SDP simply adopted the NSDAP platform in it’s entirety. The NSDAP wants to rule. What they do when they rule is far less important than ruling.

The liberal mind cannot understand the tyrannous soul, essentially. You’re still thinking that the NSDAP has some rational interests that you can bargain with them for. We can make a deal for the Jews to be beaten once a week rather than five times a week.

35

Kaveh 12.02.10 at 3:54 am

@24 ISOK:

…so much dissatisfaction / rage / resentment among those firmly on and / or leaning towards their side of the political spectrum that it causes the sitting President to feel compelled to change his policies to reclaim that lost support.

I disagree with your premise that the president could gain any support by doing this. There might be a tiny number of people who are more supportive of the president because he didn’t appear to strongly advocate for a public option as part of “Obamacare”, or for extending Medicare to younger people, or for the main benefits to take effect in 2010 or 11 instead of 2014, or because he kept Gates and old faces in his economic team. But I bet the number of people who feel that way really is tiny. What I take away from a lot of Obama’s lefty critics is that he needed to brand himself by taking strong, somewhat controversial stands that would have got people talking and paying attention to him, instead of just what people say about him. He’s been very mealy-mouthed and because of this, because what he did say doesn’t leave people much to talk about, that creates a vacuum that gets filled with all sorts of speculation about whether he’s really a citizen or a Muslim or a socialist or whatever. And the result is 2/3 of the country erroneously thinks he raised their taxes (as if he even could!). I think that fact on top of everything is pretty strong evidence that the exact degree of liberalness or conservativeness of Obama’s policies simply didn’t matter that much. Staffing his cabinet with new faces would have been a great way for him to ride the wave of optimism that he was going to bring “change”, he could have kept that as the narrative for longer by appointing new people, by being seen to be taking a strong stand on a lot of different things. The recession was already a fact before he took office, if he had appointed a more left-leaning economic team, at least he would have been seen to be trying to do something. Same goes for his choice of Sec. Def. and other issues. How many Americans do you think are really relieved that Guantanamo still exists?

36

Salient 12.02.10 at 5:34 am

bboy, your comment is quite weird. I get that you want to dish some nihilist shtick, maybe vent a little, but you doing so in dismissive response to someone who commented to the effect of, “we may as well do whatever protest we wish to, unperturbed at the prospect of misinterpretation from workaday folks, because that’s just part of life” — strange target to choose for your derision. Heck, your response makes more sense (and is equally cruel) taken as a reply to L2P or maybe ino shinola.

Surely you’d agree that most protesters (merely vocal or otherwise) don’t consider their oppressors to be their direct target audience. In which case, who cares if they’re listening to us? Better for us that they permissively ignore us!

What they do when they rule is far less important than ruling. — Bah, obviously false; the precise means through which they consolidate and appropriate wealth for themselves and their core constituency is far less important than the quantity appropriated. They wouldn’t trade abandoning tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for ten lifetime-guaranteed House seats. And confusing political power with secured wealth is confusing means with ends; you ought to be more cynical than that.

But mostly, I’m confused by your allegation that, say, Mitch McConnell has a “tyrannous soul.” I’ve never seen a more flagrant vampire in my many centuries of hunting them, and vampires are definitively soulless, no?

I disagree with your premise that the president could gain any support by doing this

It feels like I’m reading a different ISOK than everyone else, so apologies if this is stupid, but — There’s a gulf of difference between “the president could gain any support by doing this” and “the president thinks or feigns that he could gain some support by doing this” and I thought ISOK’s ambiguity on the matter was irrelevant because the latter is what obviously obtains. Regardless of whether it won him any support, after all, Obama really did just freeze federal worker pay for the remainder of his term.

37

burritoboy 12.02.10 at 6:24 am

“But mostly, I’m confused by your allegation that, say, Mitch McConnell has a “tyrannous soul.” I’ve never seen a more flagrant vampire in my many centuries of hunting them, and vampires are definitively soulless, no?”

There are many cynical hangers-on, of course.

The problem with the “vampire” explanation (the Republicans just want to get paid) is multifold:

1. If they had really just wanted to just get paid, there would have been no difficulty in getting any amount of concessions over the past two years. They didn’t want the money, they wanted the power. You think they aren’t true believers, but the bulk of them are extremely fanatical. The ones who aren’t fanatical need to constantly keep the crazies agitated. When you have that dynamic, the only way it ends is in a bunker below the Reichskanzlei.

2. You’re comforting yourself by saying that they’re merely self-interested. And, within a liberal polity, we can negotiate with rational self-interest. Again, this is what the SDP was telling itself in 1932. With rationally self-interested actors, they put together things like budgets and plans. When you see refusals to even begin to lay out policy proposals, it’s not about the details anymore, they’re going for the throne itself in a permanent way.

3. The oligarchs are not going to be able to keep the lid on the pot for very long. In the previous iteration, they could do it for less than three years.

38

noen 12.02.10 at 6:50 am

Everything has become poisonous. Every discussion on every blog, left or right is just like this.

It’s a bad sign.

39

Marc 12.02.10 at 1:03 pm

Noen: I have to agree. In some sort of sane world you could criticize Obama for things that he’s actually done. The discussion here had an excellent example of overwrought and venomous attacks on Obama for things that he hasn’t even proposed, advocated, or considered (re: Social Security.)

The guy does drive me up the wall at times. But I can tell the difference from things that he’s done and paranoid fantasies about him from people who despise him. I can distinguish between him and other members of his party when they’re actually responsible; for instance, he has a clear policy on repealing the Bush taxes and it’s pretty clear to me that there isn’t an actual majority in the congress to repeal the tax cuts on the rich. And most of all I can see the stink of spending too much time in sealed online bubbles where people get more and more detached from reality and more and more extreme.

That’s why I brought up the depressing results of talking to actual Ohio voters (who switched from D to R.) Because none of the things that people obsess over online really seemed to matter to them, and there are a lot more conservatives in this country than you’d think from living in the sealed blog environment. We just had an election where hard-right candidates won a large majority in the lower chamber, and I could copy the responses here verbatim from a year ago and nothing would change.
It’s bloody tribalism: no one is even bothering to discuss what the failed commission changes to Social Security even are to say why they’re bad; no one can talk about what should be done about public pay in the face of such severe unemployment. It’s all magical thinking and the politics of resentment.

And, on the other side, we have a group of knuckle-dragging fanatics elected on the basis of spending tons of money, lowering taxes on the rich, and cutting the deficit. And the left can’t even be bothered to invest energy on them, instead focusing hatred on Obama and insufficiently progressive Democrats. Even the worked example of people deciding Obama = bad means Republican=good can’t shake the iron logic. It’s a depressing pattern.

40

Jim Demintia 12.02.10 at 1:39 pm

I really don’t see that it’s unreasonable to criticize Obama or any politician for what they fail to do, but in the case of the Bush tax cuts, Obama didn’t actually have to do anything–he and the still Democratic Congress could have let the tax cuts expire, raised taxes, and then loudly, continually blamed Republicans for the tax increases on the middle and working class. This really is a no-brainer, as far as political strategy goes. Instead, Obama retreats to win, as usual, floating compromises in this abstracted realm of his own imagination that only weaken his hand when he gets to the negotiating table.

It’s impossible not to see this as the basic Obama playbook at this point. And it costs him not only liberals’ support, but the support of the moderates these kinds of compromises ostensibly appeal to. James Kroeger makes this point very well above.

As for the “tribalism” of liberal critiques of Obama, you’re just wrong that no one pays any attention to the policy specifics but only goes along with whatever they read on FDL. The problem with the Deficit Commission’s suggestions for Social Security have been gone over ad nauseum here and elsewhere. When people got pissed off at him during the drafting of HCR, the beef was always the absence of the public option that he had promised legislation would include. But more importantly, I think people at this point are just increasingly frustrated that he refuses to advocate the kinds of policies that he was elected to promote. His failure to do so makes him appear weak and feckless, and sets us more adrift during a time when drifting entails especially terrible consequences for many, many people–more unemployment, more pointless fighting in Central Asia, more diminished opportunities and wrecked lives. It’s completely reasonable to hold him accountable for failing here.

41

Rob in CT 12.02.10 at 2:39 pm

The GOP has calculated that it can simply stonewall/demonize for the next 2 years and then win big in the 2012 elections.

I’m not sure they’re wrong.

The challenge is figuring out how to defeat that.

42

Lemuel Pitkin 12.02.10 at 3:12 pm

Marc’s position seems to be: (1) You shouldn’t criticize Obama for what he hasn’t done, only for things he has done. But (2) when he has done something bad, you should recognize that it’s tactical, i.e. the alternative would have been even worse.

In other words, we’re allowed to consider counterfactuals when they are favorable to Obama, but not when they are unfavorable.

most of all I can see the stink of spending too much time in sealed online bubbles

Speak for yourself, bub.

43

Lemuel Pitkin 12.02.10 at 3:18 pm

there isn’t an actual majority in the congress to repeal the tax cuts on the rich.

You do realize that there is no need for “repeal” — that the tax cuts will phase out unless they are affirmatively extended, right?

44

Kaveh 12.02.10 at 4:36 pm

@34 Yes, okay, that is a good point. So ISOK’s point was that, obviously we can’t change what Obama is doing, and pointing out his errors to him hasn’t worked yet, and that being the case, has it hurt the Dems in general that Obama has been criticized from the left? If the left had been supporting Obama to the hilt back when the HCR legislation was being made, instead of complaining that Obama wasn’t fighting hard enough and in some cases saying the legislation was a total failure, would that have been better for the Dems in the 2010 election? The obvious counter-argument is that by criticizing Obama from the left, the “professional left” differentiated Obama from themselves and kept the “Obama is a radical socialist” nonsense from spreading even further.

It seems to me the toxicity within the (broader) left is a much bigger problem, cf Marc’s comments in this thread and some of Cenk Uygur’s anti-Obama diatribes. But that’s much more because it’s distracting than it is because the far left’s message about Obama is dampening the spirits of people who don’t regularly read Greenwald in Salon but pick up a vague sense of unease about Obama from their leftie friends.

45

burritoboy 12.02.10 at 4:52 pm

“But that’s much more because it’s distracting than it is because the far left’s message about Obama is dampening the spirits of people who don’t regularly read Greenwald in Salon but pick up a vague sense of unease about Obama from their leftie friends.”

Again, you’re pretending we’re back in a republic with people attempting to calculate their rational self-interest. It now really doesn’t matter what people “think”. We have to face reality and understand that the vast majority of the population will eat whatever shiny propaganda they’re given, and ask for second, third and fourth helpings. They actually actively need that propaganda, and they will take that propaganda from whatever source it comes from. If you don’t supply the entertainment, there will be someone who will.

Obama’s problem isn’t with the people “thinking” anything. He needs to get a propaganda channel, and the people will “think” whatever shiny happy thoughts is distributed through that. C0ncretely, Murdoch is the threat, and Murdoch must be eliminated (again, his power needs to be eliminated but Murdoch as one human being is just an elderly Australian asshole). The people’s “thinking” is irrelevant compared to the battle with the oligarchs.

46

Salient 12.02.10 at 4:53 pm

Okay, rather than talk about the thousand ways I disagree with Marc and bboy, might as well find a bit of common ground.

bboy: we can negotiate with rational self-interest.

I confess don’t really understand this. Suppose “rational self-interest” dictates that I destroy and humiliate you and everything I want you to stand for? My rational approach is to claim you stand for anything that would (incidentally or intentionally) place checks on wealth accumulation, force you to fail through technical procedures, assert that this is evidence that those wealth-checking policies are failures, and get the public to believe me. Since my goal is to make you a puppet and to make a mockery of everything you might want to do, and I want to see you suffer as much humiliation as possible (and associate that sense of disgustingness with all wealth-checking policy) …what precisely can you offer me?

But perhaps that’s precisely what you’re saying. You see the categorical opposition as raw lust for power, manifest. I see it as a calculated and intentional move to forestall progressive reforms that would endanger or inhibit wealth accumulation by the ownership/executive/financier class and put those policies lastingly off-limits. Potato, potato; we agree there’s no compromising. (And the vampire thing was a joke, intended to signal what I’m saying here: I think we mostly agree on substance, and disagree mostly on rhetoric.)

Marc: And the left can’t even be bothered to invest energy on them, instead focusing hatred on Obama and insufficiently progressive Democrats.

I disagree with the idea that we can’t be bothered to invest energy on them; heck, even limited to CT, folks like Henry and John regularly invest substantial energy taking apart statements from right-wing and center-right media figures, like Goldberg and McArdle.

But. I like your general point about energy expenditure, and I think it connects usefully to noen’s comment about poisonous atmosphere. I’ve been trying to come up with a framework of political energy expenditure (i.e. how can a person more usefully expend the finite energy they have, and how can we recharacterize protest and resistance to meaningfully account for relatively autonomous actors expending variable amounts of energy in reaction to circumstances, etc).

One obvious point is that coordination and cooperative cognitive alignment [like what happens in these blog disagreements] are important, but can also be energy-negative. I had thought the stronger the disagreement sustained, the more energy-positive and reinforcing the argument would be, because each person walks away satisfied they’ve presented themselves compellingly. But this is ignoring the depletion experienced by everyone else. It improves one’s energy to successfully align others to oneself, and it saps energy to align oneself to others, as a reader does {albeit temporarily} as they read blog comments. Usually, more energy is lost in cognitive realignment and homogenization than is gained through morale and sense of common purpose. Ironically, the more people try to [with grudging and self-enforced civil-mindedness] come to terms with one another’s point of view, the more energy-negative the exchange.

Basically, the Tea Party has emerged as an extraordinary energy-improving cooperative structure — this is my personal takeaway explanation for their success, at least in my state. Their sustained energy is impressive, and their cooperative alignment peculiarly remarkable, because they manage to cooperatively align themselves to a common purpose through energy-improving channels. It’s a hell of an infrastructure. How can we learn from that?

The smartest thing Sarah Palin ever did for herself was resign her governorship, so that she’s not accountable for governance. There’s a reason she’s a lasting hero. She talks a lot and says very little that’s concrete or substantive, sure; factually she’s nonsense. But. She’s relentlessly both optimistically encouraging and fatalistically dire, a balance hard to strike. She leaves her supporters feeling more energized. And that’s her function. She’s a battery charger.

Obama was a battery charger too, in 2008. I don’t know if he still is, or can be. Maybe if he resigns the Presidency and goes to work for MSNBC. :P

47

Salient 12.02.10 at 5:01 pm

He needs to get a propaganda channel, and the people will “think” whatever shiny happy thoughts is distributed through that. C0ncretely, Murdoch is the threat, and Murdoch must be eliminated

Uh. Given that you’re openly calling for the [character?] assassination of Rupert Murdoch, your confidence in Obama’s good heart is what surprises me. Suppose Obama had that channel; would you support what he did with it? Do you honestly see him as on “our” side against the oligarchs?

How about, we need a channel, and someone to use it. As in: we could really, really, really use having that bastard Alan Grayson back. Closest thing we’ve had to a leftie Palin. Yet he hasn’t even posted a Facebook update since the election! Anyone interested in starting an AlanPAC with me* and recruiting the dude?

*disclaimer – I have no idea how to actually do this

48

Lemuel Pitkin 12.02.10 at 5:38 pm

has it hurt the Dems in general that Obama has been criticized from the left?

That’s one question. Another question — and one, frankly, that I am much more interested in, is has it hurt progressive policy and the interests of working people. And here, I don’t think there’s any question: To the extent that we have seen some genuinely positive outcomes under the Obama administration, its left critics deserve a share of the credit. Those of us who were yelling about the inadequacies of the health bill (they were real; they were many) all through the summer of 2009, for example, were the same ones who were yelling loudest to just pass the damn thing when Obama himself was ready to give up after the Scott Brown election.

49

Marc 12.02.10 at 5:58 pm

Lemuel: that was an extreme misreading of what I was saying. I’ve said, repeatedly, that my main issue is the apparent unwillingness of online progressives to assign any responsibility for the current state of affairs to republicans; that I object to assigning positions to Obama on the basis of conspiracy theories; that a lot of the problems, such as the tax issue, are problems with other Democrats and not him; and that the atmosphere of incessant criticism of the president *without these balancing factors* is both dishonest and a major tactical mistake. It’s physically painful to watch what’s happening right now; I share the general despair and revulsion about the current state of US politics and what the Democratic party is doing. I feel as if this country is in thrall to the rich; my kids joke that I’m some sort of radical Maoist. But you can engage in some critical thinking about whether particular tactics are useful, or intellectually honest. And I think that the fury here is misdirected, and that people – well, like you Lemuel – are more interesting in shouting others down than in listening to what they have to say.

The Social Security thing here is a perfect example – there is literally no outcome that can’t be explained by the Obama-haters. If it comes to nothing, it’s because they killed it by preventing Obama’s treachery; if it comes to something their dark suspicions are confirmed. It looks to me like another in a long series of blue-ribbon panels designed to score political points for being very serious, but never designed to actually do much; it was the deficit commision, not the social security commission; and the net effect looks to be that social security is too dangerous to mess with and nothing will happen. But nothing will penetrate here.

Similarly, is there any evidence at all that withering criticism from the left is helpful? Health care reform – hell, you could argue that any way that you want. I know that the online darlings didn’t win a lot of primaries and that many of the netroots darlings got thumped badly at the polls (grayson lost by what – 20+ points?)

It’s incredibly frustrating – I wish I knew what to do about the plutocrats. But I can see what isn’t helpful and I can see what isn’t intellectually honest. And that’s mostly what I see on the left right now.

50

Min 12.02.10 at 6:03 pm

Marc: “The discussion here had an excellent example of overwrought and venomous attacks on Obama for things that he hasn’t even proposed, advocated, or considered (re: Social Security.)”

Well, I do not engage in venomous attacks. However, when he appointed a Deficit Commission, I, like many others, knew that it was going to attack Social Security, despite the fact that Social Security poses no threat to the deficit. And I am not particularly politically savvy. Obama, and his advisors, are. Do you think that Obama was surprised by the Simpson-Bowles proposals? Do you think that he did not expect them to attack Social Security?

51

Kaveh 12.02.10 at 6:13 pm

@46 I agree, but there is a point (I don’t think we’re there) where hurting the Dems also hurts progressive causes. Also the current impasse and outbreak of toxic atmosphere is not, in itself, helpful to working people or progressive policies.

52

Kaveh 12.02.10 at 6:23 pm

@47 I feel like we’re not working with the same facts, which might be partly my fault.

First, I don’t know where you get this idea from that the “far left” doesn’t assign blame for current problems to Republicans. All the leftie blogs and bloggers I read spill plenty of ink on Republicans and what they’re up to now.

As for netroots darlings getting thumped badly at the polls, Grayson is actually in a pretty conservative district. The conservative Dems in conservative districts also fared very badly. Feingold, from what I’ve heard, was hurt a lot by the governor’s race in his state. What other examples of netroots darlings getting thumped badly at the polls?

53

Steve LaBonne 12.02.10 at 6:30 pm

What other examples of netroots darlings getting thumped badly at the polls?

Especially as compared to the majority of the House Blue Dogs who got the heave-ho. Evidently behaving like Republicans wasn’t enough to get their constituents to prefer them to actual Republicans. Somewhere Harry Truman is smiling grimly.

54

Marc 12.02.10 at 6:30 pm

I think that the most interesting thing about the Simpson-Bowles plan is it’s complete failure – they didn’t even get a commission vote by the mandated time to trigger a congressional vote. It wasn’t a priori obvious that the deficit commission wasn’t going to talk about taxes, or military costs, or medical expenses, etc.; that’s why it ended up being about social security. I’d feel differently if Obama actually had an objectionable SS plan, but it doesn’t look as if there is any set of changes with any support at all. So the net effect is a reaffirmed status quo for SS; probably a waste of time and effort, but hardly a betrayal of the Cause.

55

noen 12.02.10 at 6:47 pm

Saliet said:
“As in: we could really, really, really use having that bastard Alan Grayson back. “

Grayson lost because he took the advice of those on the left in America who wanted him to adopt aggressive tactics like those on the right. I don’t understand why people think doubling down on failed tactics will somehow win. I am also unconvinced that burritoboy’s conspiracy theory is true. If it is there is probably nothing anyone can do short of armed bloody revolution.

I times like these when everyone seems extremely stressed out I have grave doubts about people’s abilities to correctly perceive the situation and reliably predict the outcome. I am nobody, just a lower class person with a PC and I think a decent education but I’ve seen you academic lefty types freak out before. How many times has it been now? Several I think. Did the world implode the last dozen times? Nope. Probably won’t this time either.

Why not? If I had to guess I’d say it’s because you think that aggression is a winning strategy when you’re an underdog. You see, I think that the Left isn’t all that different than the Right. You both believe in failed political and economic ideologies and you both are governed by your will to power which pushes you to pursue all or nothing strategies seeking domination and control over others.

This does not work. One would think by now you’d have figured that out but, you know… whatever. Good luck.

56

Steve LaBonne 12.02.10 at 6:57 pm

Grayson lost because he took the advice of those on the left in America who wanted him to adopt aggressive tactics like those on the right. I don’t understand why people think doubling down on failed tactics will somehow win.

Grayson lost because he was in a Republican district and was only carried in by the Obama wave in 2008. I don’t know why people like you feel free to pontificate without bothering to learn such basic facts. It makes it impossible to take anything else you say seriously.

57

geo 12.02.10 at 7:14 pm

Marc and noen: please don’t give up and go away altogether. You both seem like reasonable and well-meaning people. We need you and your like here on CT, and so does the left generally.

But I must say, on this thread you’re both talking rank nonsense.

58

Salient 12.02.10 at 7:30 pm

my main issue is the apparent unwillingness of online progressives to assign any responsibility for the current state of affairs to republicans

C’mon, that’s just not true. I feel like you’re trolling. Online progressives start out by assuming that at the national level Republicans are basically all agents of Satan, who need to be treated like an enemy we’re at cold war with.

I mean, I’m saying that with a bit of flourish, but show me an online progressive who clearly states they mostly feel the Republican Senators / U.S. House Reps / etc are mostly operating in good faith. Seriously, are there any? I check in on a hundred and seventeen online progressive blogs at least occasionally, according to my bookmarks folder, and can’t say that about any of them.

Maybe occasionally some of us get burned thinking one particular Republican in one particular circumstance will cooperate more or less against their will due to some peculiar circumstance. It’s like betting on a long shot horse over the clear favorite; some people do it and it rarely pays off. But by and large, online progressives assume the other side is an entrenched enemy and will be a given, assumed, full-throttle force of opposition to anything we try to do to improve the world. Granted, we don’t always state our given assumptions. Neither does anyone else.

When we criticize Obama, it’s because we feel he made us specific promises that he is breaking, or seems to intend to break. We have no such promises from the right wing Republican Senators and such. They have promised instead, more or less explicitly, to attempt to destroy any policies we wish to see enacted. And everyone knows this. So we don’t talk about it much. We just assume it’s true, and operate within that constraint.

So there you go. U.S. Republican Senators and House Reps seem determined to fark up the country and world and destroy policy enacted to help U.S. citizens lead better lives, in order to secure wealth accumulation and etc for their patrons. If this somehow changed for the better, it would fix the single largest problem that progressives face in the U.S., a problem which really does dwarf all else. Shame on them. Shaaaaaaame.

I feel like this is saying, without evil in the world, good would have an easier time of it. If you need to hear more of that, sure. I just said it. We agree. I will make this conjecture: any online progressive blogger will voice their agreement that Republicans are the principal cause for the abysmal “current state of affairs” in U.S. federal politics …so long as you’re nice about asking, and willing to buy them a beer for the trouble. It’s like demanding that we pledge allegiance to the obvious.

59

Salient 12.02.10 at 7:40 pm

Actually, uhh, I take some of that back. Surely we can reserve the right to criticize anyone for any reason, promises or no. But we’ve grown so accustomed to the Republicans being agents of evil, we criticize them less, because they feel like part of the landscape. Criticizing Republicans instead of Obama feels more and more like criticizing the damn icebergs cluttering up our navigation path, instead of the captain who keeps crashing into them.

They’re icebergs. They’re an assumed impediment. They’re just there. Actually they’re worse: they’re like icebergs with motors and robot intelligence that coordinates plans of obstruction. But they’re an assumed impediment regardless.

And maybe this line of thinking is a little dangerous for us, and insofar as it is, Marc, you’ve got a point. I am coming ’round to your point of view somewhat. Because the icebergs are actually battleships, and if the casual passengers on this ship don’t understand what the battleships are doing, they might think it’s just that the captain is extraordinarily crappy, and they should ride a battleship instead, since they seem to be doing so well.

60

Marc 12.02.10 at 7:58 pm

Thanks Salient; I don’t think for a minute that leftists agree with Republicans. But there is a clear dynamic which I remember as far back as the Reagan era. Folks on the left assume that the Republicans are beyond the pale, implicitly ignoring them and focusing on those closer to them. It’s actually pretty common to hate heretics more than infidels, I suppose. But the actual contest is between the two major parties.

If I’m going to get Overton window lectures then I’d like to see folks practicing some degree of thought – for example, by always making sure to plant the idea of republican fecklessness first. Because otherwise the only think that disengaged people here is “well, everyone agrees that Obama is terrible. Guess I’ll vote for Palin.”

Also, if you spend your passion on why Obama is terrible, when the underlying issue is Republican obstruction, then you’re not even getting the basic facts right. It’s quite different to hammer Obama on things where he actually is wrong, of course, and that’s important. Hammering him all the time, no matter what he does, and never admitting debate, doubt, or error – well, how has that been working out?

61

Substance McGravitas 12.02.10 at 8:09 pm

Hammering him all the time, no matter what he does, and never admitting debate, doubt, or error – well, how has that been working out?

Is that a question you want an honest answer to?

62

Jack Strocchi 12.02.10 at 8:13 pm

Pr Q said:

Readers are invited (a) to predict the next instalment (b) to guess how long it will be before the Reps decide it’s not enough and they are going to shut the government down anyway© to give the best historical analogy

I have already predicted:

(a) The next move will be DEMs give in on REPs demand to renew Bush tax cuts for oligarchs;

(b) There will be no shut-down of government. The DEMs will give the REPs most of what they want by way of government expenditure cuts, leading to economic contraction and a one-term president.

Obama will not repeal Obamacare. It does not kick-in till 2014 so the REPs plan to do that if and when they win in 2012.

(c) Clinton post-1994

Post-script: Mickey Kaus speculates that the DEMs may agree to REPs demand on tax-cuts in return for the lame-duck Congress passing the DREAM Act:

When I worried that the Obama White House might have a plan to enact the so-called DREAM Act in “some sort of insidiuous tax-cuts-for-amnesty grand bargain,” I figured it was just paranoid speculation. That’s what bloggers are for, right? Unfortunately, the possibility of a lame-duck grand bargain that would include a big immigration amnesty has become more realistic since then.

So the oligarchs get a millionaire tax-cut in return for having their labour costs slashed. What an agonizing choice.

63

Salient 12.02.10 at 8:19 pm

Ironically, Marc, I posted a semi-retraction in which I found agreement with what you’re saying… and it ended up in moderation. My more moderate comment is getting moderated! :)

Hammering him all the time, no matter what he does,

Well, it would help if he’d do something good without us hammering at maximum volume and sustained pace.

well, how has that been working out?

Got us that Obamacare thing, for whatever that’s worth. I believe even the weak healthcare bill wouldn’t have seen passage if it weren’t for all the folks loudly clamoring “Pass the damn bill” — almost exclusively, people pushing from the left.

Seriously, if Obama would order a cessation of drone attacks in Pakistan territory (and everywhere else that’s not Afghanistan). If he’d close Guantanamo in spirit as well as in letter, quietly and without fanfare dumping all illegal domestic surveillance and rendition programs.* If he’d just move us back a bit partway out of the deep deep hole Bush dragged us into. I dunno. He’s nearly completely unconstrained by Republican filiblusters in the realm of foreign policy. If he did more there, I’d shift the blame over to the Rs domestically. But… given that Obama hasn’t acted more progressively where he really could act unobstructed, it feels like blaming inaction on obstruction is just making excuses for laziness or lack of progressive will.

*He could totally get away with this with overwhelming workaday Republican support by quietly letting some insider leak that some random right-wing white Christian guy was spied on and suggested for possible extrajudicial rendition as a terrorist, and then denouncing and terminating the entire program suite in response to the right-wing outrage storm. “Don’t Tap My Junk” would be the next hit meme

64

bianca steele 12.02.10 at 8:21 pm

We’re no longer a republic . . . . The SDP cannot do anything to assuage the NSDAP except surrender. It literally wouldn’t matter if the SDP simply adopted the NSDAP platform in it’s entirety. The NSDAP wants to rule. What they do when they rule is far less important than ruling.

burritoboy @ 32 wins the thread, though s/he can be given a run for his money by anyone who can find a more entertaining comparison.

65

Kaveh 12.02.10 at 8:37 pm

noen,

“but I’ve seen you academic lefty types freak out before. How many times has it been now?”

Bush started a war that has killed probably around a million people. One million people. This *could* be repeated, or even worse, if the US attacks Iran, too. If this isn’t worthy of a freakout, what is?

66

Steve LaBonne 12.02.10 at 9:22 pm

The House just showed how this game is played. If Obama doesn’t want to be taken for a shill for billionaires or a pathetic weakling, or both, he will now shut the fuck up and stay out of the way while Speaker Pelosi explains to Leader Reid that it’s this bill or nothing; then they dare the Republicans to filibuster tax cuts. That’s not what I predict will happen, though.

67

Marc 12.02.10 at 9:40 pm

Do you really think that Pelosi didn’t co-ordinate her move with Obama?

68

burritoboy 12.02.10 at 10:05 pm

“Uh. Given that you’re openly calling for the [character?] assassination of Rupert Murdoch, your confidence in Obama’s good heart is what surprises me. Suppose Obama had that channel; would you support what he did with it? Do you honestly see him as on “our” side against the oligarchs?”

Murdoch is a tyrant who has destroyed at least three countries by now. No, character assassination of him is not enough. His power must be destroyed.

“But perhaps that’s precisely what you’re saying. You see the categorical opposition as raw lust for power, manifest. ”

Less reductionist class war thinking. There’s a lot of people on that boat who are thinking about things far beyond getting paid. Again, the oligarchs cannot remain in control for long.

“Suppose Obama had that channel; would you support what he did with it? Do you honestly see him as on “our” side against the oligarchs?”

I would not expect him to understand what that channel means. Again, he’s a liberal like you, who believe the people will be interested in rational discussion, when the people need their hourly entertainment fixes and don’t have much capacity for reason.

Who’s “our”? You support the old failed republic which ended long ago and which was precisely the thing that lead us here. No, a return to that is both impossible and ill-advised.

“burritoboy @ 32 wins the thread, though s/he can be given a run for his money by anyone who can find a more entertaining comparison.”

We all know this is precisely what is happening. That’s why you’re trying to laugh – because you can’t face the reality. And the reality is that this is the second time it’s happened to the liberal democracies – the last time, everybody promised it wouldn’t ever happen again. But the whole cycle was starting up again by the mid-60s, less than twenty years after the previous cycle finally ended when Berlin fell.

69

John Quiggin 12.02.10 at 10:18 pm

Marc, assuming that the move was co-ordinated, how do you explain Gibbs’ statement, cited in the same report, advocating surrender to the Rs? Is the whole thing just some sort of positioning to make the capitulation look better?

Assuming the House actually voted for a bill they want to see passed into law, and that the Senate is willing to risk a filibuster, my apologies to the Congressional Dems. And if, at the last possible moment, we are finally seeing some eleven-dimensional chess, I’ll gladly apologise to Obama.

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ISOK 12.02.10 at 10:29 pm

@34 Salient, thanks for understanding my point! I certainly don’t think the pay freeze wins Obama any net votes and but it seems reasonable to assume that he thinks it does, or at least could.

ISOK

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Steve LaBonne 12.02.10 at 11:00 pm

Marc, John answered for me. Your question is foolish given the massive evidence that this is not what Obama wanted. Pelosi is not just going to take orders from the “leader” who helped get her caucus slaughtered last month.

And I’ll tell you how we’ll know he’s gotten the message: if he calls for an up-or-down vote on this bill and then shuts the fuck up. No more “negotiations”. The Democrats hold the high cards- unless Obama and Reid choose to give them away.,

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Salient 12.02.10 at 11:11 pm

Again, the oligarchs cannot remain in control for long.

A few hundred years at a time, right? Seems long enough to me. You seem unjustifiably confident in their demise or disempowerment within our lifetimes.

Again, he’s a liberal like you,

Okay, shucks, now I know you’re trolling for hot blood and can be ignored. We’ve read enough of one another’s words for you to know better than this. It’d be like me accusing you of being a Palinite. Your equivocation of me with Obama is personal attack nonsense.

You support the old failed republic which ended long ago and which was precisely the thing that lead us here.

I attempted to write several responses to this and then deleted them, because, heck, what am I supposed to say? The only reason you’d accuse me of this is to hurt my dignity and thereby piss me off; it’s about the most patently and immediately false thing you could have said, and the only reason to say something that obtuse is to hurt and provoke anger for your own amusement.

There are two kinds of anarchists in the world, those who talk with their closest sympathizers and those who talk down to them. I have all the time in the world for the former, and no time for the latter. Bye bye now.

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noen 12.02.10 at 11:15 pm

Steve LaBonne @ 56
“Grayson lost because he was in a Republican district and was only carried in by the Obama wave in 2008.”

It is generally accepted that Grayson lost because of the ad where he painted his opponent as a member of the Christian Taliban. My point is that this kind of rhetoric loses elections more than not and that the angry left blogosphere urged him to use that kind of language and should bear at least some responsibility for it.

Kaveh @ 65
“If this isn’t worthy of a freakout, what is?”

Sorry for not being more clear. What I am refering to spcefically is the tendency of the far left in the US to freak out over Obama’s immanent demise. This has been going on for like three years now. The Lefties who rend their clothes and dump ashes on their heads over Obama have always been wrong. Every time. Odds are that will continue to be true.

burritoboy @ 68
“We all know this is precisely what is happening.”

Well actually no, we don’t know any such thing. I know that it feels to you like your conspiracy theory simply must describe reality but I rather doubt it does.

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Steve LaBonne 12.02.10 at 11:18 pm

It is generally accepted that Grayson lost because of the ad where he painted his opponent as a member of the Christian Taliban.

By ignorant “centrist” wankers, maybe. Not by anybody who knows what they’re talking about. Reread my comment until it penetrates your skull. He was objectively unlikely to win this time no matter what.

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bob mcmanus 12.02.10 at 11:34 pm

66: “then they dare the Republicans to filibuster tax cuts.”

Look, Republicans can actually communicate with their base. They can kill this and come back in January with a tax cut bill that will pass the Senate and go to Obama’s desk. Everybody knows what will happen.

Republicans can survive this filibuster, unless Obama starts to use his veto.

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Salient 12.02.10 at 11:39 pm

It is generally accepted that Grayson lost because of the ad where he painted his opponent as a member of the Christian Taliban.

I’m pretty sure that’s not widely accepted. Grayson would have lost regardless. Grayson’s district is solid Republican by districting. It is through a set of completely inconceivable and miraculous flukes that Grayson won in 2008. The Chamber of Commerce was gunning for him, and paid for millions in ads, many far more vicious than Taliban Dan. (Which, I’ll agree, was stupid.)

However, I agree with you [I think] that the ideal position for Grayson is not “House Representative” any more than the ideal position for Sarah Palin was “Alaska’s Governor” — folks who act as energy-heightening, momentum-gathering spokespersons are able to act most effectively when free from the precise constraints of actual governance. Though I like [in theory] some of what Grayson was willing to do, like harass Fed banksters [though it irritated me at the time].

His “die early” video on health-care was widely appreciated. Grayson is frankly quite amazing at doing the Sarah Palin shtick, yet seems to be by and large on the side of the angels. We need to recruit the dude and move him to some kind of prominent commentator PAC position where he can do nothing but make headlines with every new Facebook communique. I am actually kind of serious about this and would happily redirect my volunteer time to such a project.

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burritoboy 12.03.10 at 2:03 am

“A few hundred years at a time, right? Seems long enough to me. You seem unjustifiably confident in their demise or disempowerment within our lifetimes.”

The last time this was tried, it lasted for roughly two years.

You still don’t understand me – the oligarchs are very bad indeed, but the tiger they’re riding could create a regime of unimaginable horror. Compared to what that could be, the reign of the oligarchs is a paradise. The beast the oligarchs have brought into being will not be so easily controlled by them, particularly if the economy does not improve (which it won’t, because the oligarchs don’t know what to do anymore than anyone else).

“Your equivocation of me with Obama is personal attack nonsense.”

No, Salient, I think you may actually be salvageable. The words are shocking, but true: we can’t bring the old republic back. And we don’t want to because that republic frankly sucked. And many of the reasons why it sucked were liberal ones. Many of the weaknesses that the old republic had were precisely generated from it’s liberal features. Those errors cannot be made again.

You align yourself with Obama in that both you and he wish to bring back the old republic. You both still believe the people are rational. You both don’t want to see that not only are they not rational, they hate reason entirely.

“If it is there is probably nothing anyone can do short of armed bloody revolution.”

And condensed in that statement, we see precisely why the liberals fail at politics.

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Salient 12.03.10 at 3:43 am

No, Salient, I think you may actually be salvageable.

Well you’re doing a bloody poor job of salvaging, but then, that’s not what you’re about. You’re being quite deliberately insufferable; in fact, you’re projecting onto the ‘oligarchs’ your own mentality, your own hunger for interpersonal control. It’s telling that you condescend to engage me, to alluringly suggest I show promise, only to repeat the same assertion that you’re aware put me off. Instill a little self-doubt, right? Make me feel like I have to prove myself to you? Classic conditioning technique.

Control. By salvageable, what you mean to say is that you think I may actually be ensnareable. Probably you won’t reply to this, but I’m indulging you a bit regardless, because you’re providing me the opportunity to learn quite a bit about a particular sort of troll. It’s interesting to interact with the kind of person who, it seems, could vivisect with analytical calm, while babbling nonsense. I’ve jotted down some predictions about how you’ll respond to this note. Some of them require me to share an email address with you, so: salientalien át gmail dºt com. (One prediction’s that you won’t take your reply off CT to email. Salvage isn’t the point; you need not only control, but also spectacle.)

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Lemuel Pitkin 12.03.10 at 4:44 am

That’s it! I’ve figured out who burritoboy is. He’s Hugo, from The Iceman Cometh.

“The champagne vas not properly iced. … Does that prove I want to be aristocrat? I love only the proletariat! I vill be like a Gott to them! I vill lead them! They vill be my slaves!”

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noen 12.03.10 at 6:13 am

Salient said:
“We need to recruit the dude and move him to some kind of prominent commentator PAC position where he can do nothing but make headlines with every new Facebook communique. “

I could go for that. :)

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burritoboy 12.03.10 at 6:43 pm

“The champagne vas not properly iced. … Does that prove I want to be aristocrat? I love only the proletariat! I vill be like a Gott to them! I vill lead them! They vill be my slaves!”

That’s funny, actually. I like it. The problem is not me, however, but quite a few people who actually are currently doing just what the quote says. And, they’re succeeding spectacularly.

“but also spectacle.”

Spectacle is critically important. That you don’t like it means your politics is impossible.

“in fact, you’re projecting onto the ‘oligarchs’ your own mentality, your own hunger for interpersonal control.”

The hunger for honors and praise is again critically important. Failing to recognize that need within humans also means your politics is impossible.

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Jack Strocchi 12.03.10 at 8:25 pm

Pr Q said:

In comments on my post 10 days ago canvassing the possibility of a pre-emptive capitulation by Obama and the Congressional Democrats, Marc asked

When this doesn’t happen, can I ask for a mea culpa on your part?

Somehow, I don’t think I’m going to have to deliver on this.

Pr Q’s commentary on Obama seems to suffer from some kind of low-range bi-polar disorder. On the eve of Obama’s election he was going through the more manic phase. Now that the Tea Party is surging he is sunk in a depressive trough.

Get. A. Grip.

Back in NOV 2008 he was being cautiously optimistic about the DEMs progressive policy program and scathing about the political weakness of the REPs:

some widely respected analysts are predicting marvellous things from Obama including:


Medicare for all

Serious financial reregulation
Union rights
Ending tax cuts for the rich
A green ‘revolution’
Voting rights for all, including DC

The catch is, of course, that it’s an editorial in the Wall Street Journal aimed at scaring Republican readers into going to the polls. But, for all that, the analysis seems plausible enough in the light of the complete ideological collapse we’ve observed in the past few weeks…All in all, it’s given me more cause for optimism than anything I’ve read for a while.

Lets compare and grade Obama’s record to Pr Q’s full Left-wing wish list.*

Medicare for all – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act 0.6
Serious financial reregulation – Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act 0.6
Union rights- Card check 0.5
Ending tax cuts for the rich – Pelosi’s Parting Shot 0.6
A green ‘revolution’ – Retreat from Cap-and-Trade 0.2
Voting rights for all, including DC –0.0

Scratching voting rights, who cares about felons and DC?, thats a reasonable 50% pass on core progressive Leftist issues. But he surely gets bonus points for managing the bail-out reasonably well, plus mounting an effective rescue of GMH. All-in-all, not too shabby.

Pr Q has a history of feverish political commentary, far more susceptible to emotional variation than his cold-blooded economic analysis. Back in NOV 2008 I chided:

Pr Q, not unlike his WSJ tormentors, always suffers tremendous mood swings prior to critical elections. Remember back in 2007 when he dreamed of a Ruddslide, thought that the policy revolution was nigh and touted “the last Liberal“?

In politics, a little bit of contrarianism goes a long way.

I am more a glass half-full kind of guy. Things are never as good as they can get. But they are never as bad as they seem.

* My initial predictions were more accurate. On policy I was a little too skeptical, hosing down expectations: “for the first term at least, Obama will be more janitor than Messiah…on universal health care I remain skeptical of Obama’s messianic pretentions…on financial regulation my gut feeling is that Obama will go soft on the Big End of Town.”

On politics, I correctly surmised that “Obama was basically a canny Centrist politician, Clinton without the sleaze”. I noted that “the US polity has a fairly large mass of (temporarily submerged) Right-wing ballast”. They did not disappoint. But I still think they will fall over when the job market recovers.

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Chris 12.05.10 at 12:51 am

I believe even the weak healthcare bill wouldn’t have seen passage if it weren’t for all the folks loudly clamoring “Pass the damn bill”—almost exclusively, people pushing from the left.

Crediting this to critics-from-the-left strikes me as revisionist history, given the inter-left firestorm over Hamsher’s decision to ally with Norquist (!) to attempt to kill the bill (for different reasons, of course). The moderate left position was that the bill was better than nothing and we probably couldn’t expect much better from the Senate that existed at the time, so we should take it and build on it. Hamsher and other leftier-than-thou people disagreed, publicly, claiming (IIRC) that not only had Obama sabotaged a bill that would otherwise have been more liberal, but that the more-liberal bill could still pass if the existing “sellout” version was killed.

Of course everyone pushing for the bill was pushing from the left side *of the country’s political spectrum* — the conservative position was that nothing needed to be done and certainly nothing remotely resembling the contents of the bill. But not everyone on the left side of the country was pushing for the bill — some of the farther left were pushing against it, while the moderate left was much more united in support — so the net effect… well, the bill did pass, we know that much.

You could even evolve a theory that Hamsher’s opposition gave political cover to Congresspeople to vote for the bill without appearing too liberal — because everyone who was paying attention knows the really radical liberals *opposed* the bill. But that’s at least as elaborate as the idea that Obama deliberately cut his own loaf in half (or conspired with Pelosi and Reid to cut it for him) because he didn’t think a whole loaf could get through the Senate, which is supposedly “eleven-dimensional chess” and waaaay too complex for a career politician to come up with on his own without nefarious ulterior motives.

And when that bill (mass of compromises that everyone on the left agreed it was; to the right, of course, it all looked like radical extreme liberalism regardless of degree) passed Congress, Obama signed it, which seems like an odd act for the Republican mole some people like to paint him as.

The one completely unambiguous thing we can say about Obama’s actions (i.e. it’s not subject to arguments about half-loaves) is that he had the constitutional authority to veto the bill, which would very certainly have killed it, and he chose to sign it into law, and moved the nation’s health care policy a disputable distance to the left of the status quo ante by doing so.

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Chris 12.05.10 at 1:10 am

Oh yeah, I forgot about Social Security and the Simpson-Bowles commission. The commission was obviously going to go nowhere, which was pointed out even at the time it was announced, so the idea that it’s an actual attack on SS is ridiculous. Nobody storms the bastions of Social Security armed with a spork. If Obama really wanted to attack SS (I’m about 99% sure he doesn’t) he’d have chosen a more effective weapon than a bipartisan commission that was obviously doomed to come to no consensus at all (as has already been pointed out, they didn’t even agree among themselves sufficiently to submit a slate of recommendations to Congress) and what suggestions individual members did make would predictably be unpopular to the point of political suicide.

Meanwhile, as soon as the report came out, policy wonks could be expected to tear it to pieces (which they did) and point out that SS isn’t really the problem in the first place (which they did) and liberal think tanks could be expected to rebut it with actually progressive alternatives that meet the same deficit goals (which they did). It only moves the Overton Window to the right if you think that any discussion of anything moves the Overton Window to the right because nobody wants to look like a liberal — and to the extent that might actually be true, it long predates Obama and isn’t really fair to blame on him.

What the commission *did* establish is that Obama is concerned about the deficit (some voters are too, so that’s a cheap political point to score when there’s no actual policy result), that he’s willing to cooperate with Republicans on things they both agree on (if they can find any), but that there are no easy answers to the deficit (which might pre-refute some deficit snake oil, if we’re lucky). After all, if we really could solve all the nation’s deficit problems with revenue-positive tax cuts (a la Laffer) and wastefraudandabuse (the stone from which every politician promises to squeeze more blood than his/her predecessor), the commission would surely have said so rather than the painful and unpopular things they *did* say.

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