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December 08, 2008

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I think most of us continue to project onto Obama what we most want to see. Time will tell who, if anyone, is right.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what we call... moving the Overton Window.

Yay us ! With fingers crossed !

If he gets us out of Iraq and gets us something close to national health insurance and a plan to address global warming, everyone can project whatever it is they like onto his person.

I want the aroma of a rose, not the naming rights.

I want the aroma of a rose, not the naming rights.

this is a funny set of words.

Funny how? What's funny about it?

Good for Obama.
Not so good for those of us trying to reverse the decades-long marginalization of liberalism.

I've got to agree with anhtony damiani. I really hope Obama moves the overton window, but I'm not happy to see it done by a return to the demonization of everyone to the left of bush as "wide eyed leftist demagogues." Maybe what will happen is that they will fix on an actual set of named people "on the left" who will be rejected and scorned who are truly to the far, far, left. They can have ward churchill, for example. But what about the rest of us? are we too to be consigned to outer darkness? Last I looked I was just a liberal/progressive. And last I looked my heroes on the left "were all proved fucking right" to quote Judy Miller. So what is really happening here? Is Obama saying that Saul Alinsky et al were just progressives and is the angry left just the cannibals down river that no one ever sees? That's ok with me as long as we are all clear about what is happening here. I've got no objection to Obama running against Pol Pot or Stalin or Marx (even). But is the ACLU part of the now despised "angry left?" What about "People for the American Way?" What about the UAW? Because I'm not sure who is being told off or why. If its all these centrist, standard Dem groups and communities I'm not that happy. I really object to Obama sistah soljahing the very coalition of progressive interests that brought him to power. Sure, it pisses off the now powerless far right mouthpieces like the NRO etc... but to my mind its like spending time bashing the PUMAs. If "the left" actually exists and is angry it would be more becoming to invite them into the tent instead of insisting that they stay out of the tent with the rest of the unamerican hordes.

aimai

Aimai, I may have missed some kind of anti-hippie communiques from the Obama transition team, but I think what publius was talking about in this post was more a construct of the right-wing dreamosphere. In other words, if Obama does reasonable thing X - which has nothing to do with repudiating "the left" - and Megan McArdle or George Will or some other silly person says "Yay, Obama did X! What a reasonable thing, and totally not leftist! Take that, hippies!" - should we bother arguing with the silly person?

That's a different question than whether we should argue with Obama when he says and does things as President, which I look forward to doing (or at least, I think it'll be more fun and useful than arguing about things he hasn't said or done when he's not President).

What I find most interesting is Townhall's comment "America is a center-right country." I mean, isn't the center defined by, well being in the middle? There is no question that America is right of the center here in New Zealand (and lots of other places,) but I can't imagine that is what he means. There are some other ways we could interpret this statement: mean vs. median, voting public vs. rest of country. ... But really, I think that none of these leads to an interpretation that a conservative pundit would like. My interpretation is that it is deliberate hogwash, stated because when one begins with deliberate hogwash, one can derive just about anything.

Obama ran and won on -- and is promising -- the most openly liberal platform in modern American history, if not ever.

This is simply untrue.

I don't think Obama's platform is that liberal in absolute terms. But the claim here is relative to past platforms. And that's trivially false.

Let's take the 1972 Democratic platform, for example. This platform is significantly more liberal than Obama's in many ways. Some examples...

On jobs: "Full employment—a guaranteed job for all—is the primary economic objective of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is committed to a job for every American who seeks work. Only through full employment can we reduce the burden on working people. We are determined to make economic security a matter of right. This means a job with decent pay and good working conditions for everyone willing and able to work and an adequate income for those unable to work."

On Labor Rights: Among other things, a call for the repeal of Taft-Hartley.

On Wiretapping and Data Collection (compare and contrast with Obama's FISA vote): "The epidemic of wiretapping and electronic surveillance engaged in by the Nixon Administration and the use of grand juries for purposes of political intimidation must be ended. The rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution, as these concepts have traditionally been understood, must be restored.

"We strongly object to secret computer data banks on individuals. Citizens should have access to their own files that are maintained by private commercial firms and the right to insert corrective material. Except in limited cases, the same should apply to government files. Collection and maintenance by federal agencies of dossiers on law-abiding citizens, because of their political views and statements, must be stopped, and files which never should have been opened should be destroyed. We firmly reject the idea of a National Computer Data Bank."

On women's rights: Support for the ERA (of course, the GOP also supported the ERA in the early 1970s).

I'll continue this in a second post...

What I find most interesting is Townhall's comment "America is a center-right country." I mean, isn't the center defined by, well being in the middle? There is no question that America is right of the center here in New Zealand (and lots of other places,) but I can't imagine that is what he means. There are some other ways we could interpret this statement: mean vs. median, voting public vs. rest of country. ... But really, I think that none of these leads to an interpretation that a conservative pundit would like. My interpretation is that it is deliberate hogwash, stated because when one begins with deliberate hogwash, one can derive just about anything.

Continuing with some of the ways in which the 1972 Democratic Party platform was significantly more liberal than Barack Obama's platform...

On rights of poor people: "Welfare rights organizations must be recognized as representative of welfare recipients and be given access to regulations, policies and decision-making processes, as well as being allowed to represent clients at all governmental levels.

"The federal government must protect the right of tenants to organize tenant organizations and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with private landlords and encourage the participation of the tenants in the management and control of all subsidized housing."

On courts and consumer protection (compare with Obama's stated support for "tort reform"): "Consumers should be given access to the federal courts in a way that allows them to initiate group action against fraudulent, deceitful, or misleading or dangerous business practices."

Support for what we today call single-payer health care: "America has a responsibility to offer to every American family the best in health care whenever they need it, regardless of income or where they live or any other factor.

"To achieve this goal the next Democratic Administration should:

Establish a system of universal National Health Insurance which covers all Americans with a comprehensive set of benefits including preventive medicine, mental and emotional disorders, and complete protection against catastrophic costs, and in which the rule of free choice for both provider and consumer is protected. The program should be federally-financed and federally-administered. Every American must know he can afford the cost of health care whether given in a hospital or a doctor's office."

Unconditional support for reproductive freedom: "Family planning services, including the eduction, comprehensive medical and social services necessary to permit individuals freely to determine and achieve the number and spacing of their children, should be available to all, regardless of sex, age, marital status, economic group or ethnic origin, and should be administered in a non-coercive and non-discriminatory manner."

I'll continue this in a third post...

More from the 1972 Democratic Party Platform....

Capital Punishment: "Abolishing capital punishment, recognized as an ineffective deterrent to crime, unequally applied and cruel and excessive punishment."

Abolition of the Electoral College: "We favor a Constitutional change to abolish the Electoral College and to give every voter a direct and equal voice in Presidential elections. The amendment should provide for a run-off election, if no candidate received more than 40 percent of the popular vote."

DC statehood: "Full home rule for the District of Columbia, including an elected mayor-city council government, broad legislative power, control over appointments, automatic federal payment and voting representation in both Houses of Congress; No discriminatory districting;"

This platform is clearly more liberal than the one Obama ran on this year. I suspect one would find that many other past Democratic platforms are also more liberal than Obama's.

Obama ran as a centrist and I expect him to govern as one.

Some grist for the mill. A TPM item about ex Obama advisor Steve Hildebrand's piece about sniping from the left. The bottom of the piece has a good round up of reactions.

aimai,

I don't understand what sistah soldiering you are pointing to. This post was about how there are some on the Left howling loudly about Obama's picks and the Right is gleefully flinging poo at them for not getting what they want. As far as I can see, Obama just goes on doing what he does and ignores the fracas. Publius' point is simply that Obama's agenda is pretty solidly to the left and all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth about his cabinet picks at this point are just a sideshow.

If the folks at Townhall want to claim victory when Obama refuses to confiscate their guns, I say let them have their fun.

I agree with Ben's comments too: the Democrats have certainly moved to the right in significant ways in the last 30 years. Which is exactly why it's silly to say that Obama is going out of his way to reject leftist Democrats; his positions are mostly identical with, and in some cases slightly to the left of, the current mainstream of the party, which was already a more conservative version than in past decades, and hasn't so much argued against its past principles as just stopped paying much attention to them.

But...but...isn't Obama a sekrit sekrit Islamofascist Marxist terraist??

You mean that durign the campaign the right-wing media machine was....telling porkie-pies?

I'm shocked, shocked.

I don't see President-elect Obama disrespecting any of the leftists who helped him into power. For one thing (who put the goalposts on a truck) even two years ago, the thought of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State would have caused mass vapours on the American Right. Now Hillary Clinton defines the American political center.

It also helps to understand that posts such as the Secretary of State need someone with experience. To put an inexperienced member of the "left" in the job would set them up for failure.

I agree with Hob that Obama doesn't have to go out of his way to ignore his party's left. While of course relying on the votes of liberals and the left to win close elections, the leadership of the Democratic Party has been largely ignoring the left wing since at least the middle of the Carter years. Much of the time, ignoring and denigrating liberals and the left is a structural fact of the operation of the Democratic Party, more than a strategy actively pursued by its leaders.

John Spragge's comment provides nice examples of two of the rhetorical tricks that are frequently used to paper over this state of affairs:

1) Using hysterical statements by the right to validate the liberal bona fides of Democrats in power: For one thing (who put the goalposts on a truck) even two years ago, the thought of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State would have caused mass vapours on the American Right. Now Hillary Clinton defines the American political center.

Of course the right accuses any Democrat who doesn't deliver a speech at the Republican convention of being a leftist. And for largely cultural and strategic reasons going back to the Clinton presidency, they've always been particularly hysterical about Hillary Clinton. But Clinton has always been a centrist hawk on foreign affairs. She voted for the illegal war on Iraq (and has never repudiated her vote). And she voted for Kyl-Lieberman, too (among many other such votes).

2) Evoking a very narrowly defined notion of "experience" that eliminates from serious consideration for cabinet posts any Democrat who has not already served in the White House: It also helps to understand that posts such as the Secretary of State need someone with experience. To put an inexperienced member of the "left" in the job would set them up for failure.

Of course, given the dominance of the Wall Street and hawkish wings within the Democratic Party for the last three decades, this is a pseudo-neutral test designed only to allows centrists and conservatives into a Democratic administration.

In fact, there are lots of other ways to gain the experience necessary to serve in a cabinet. And there are plenty of qualified people on the left wing of the party. For example, Barbara Boxer, who has served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than a decade, has arguably better foreign policy credentials than Hillary Clinton. Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee, the two co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus, both serve on the House Committee on Foreign Relations.

On the subject:

The Republic Window and Doors sit-in by the laid-ff employees is a seminal political act of the 21st century.

It transcends partisan politics. I guarantee you there are dyed-in-the-wool, armed Republicans sitting side by side with effete, elitist liberal Democrats in that shuttered factory.

The neighbors are bringing food in.

Two things. The Republican Party is irrelevant, at best, on this issue. To quote Jim Cramer, "They know nothing!"

This is where Obama drives home progressive politics.

given the dominance of the Wall Street and hawkish wings within the Democratic Party for the last three decades, this is a pseudo-neutral test designed only to allows centrists and conservatives into a Democratic administration.

Thank you, Ben, that's exactly what I have been noticing ever since Larry Summers was proposed as SecTreas.

And it's not obvious that experience is such a plus here. Sure, nobody wants a repeat of President Clinton's newbie crew stepping on everyones' toes. But Bush's team had some of the longest resumes and best network in history, and it just leveraged their idiocy. Has Summers stopped thinking that what's good for FINRA is good for the economy? I doubt it. The best we'll get from him is the same stupid financial policies, but with better oversight.

Publius, I'm hoping for the best, but I am much less comforted than you by the thought that Obama is the decider. First of all, Obama is not a counterweight to his Cabinet, he is cut from the same mold. Just as during the campaign, what you see is what you get. He is picking centrists because he is a centrist. And even if he were some kind of secret stealth liberal, he would have ensured his own impotence by surrounding himself with centrists. They'll predigest his facts and policy options, which is after all their job description, and they'll carry out hypothetical liberal policies by their own common-sense centrist lights. Nor do I see any indication that Obama intends to look for a way to purge Bush's hacks and cronies out of the Civil Service, so the implementation steps at ground level will be even more right-wing.

Look, I'm glad, very glad indeed, that we probably won't have another 4 years of contempt for science, nuance, budgets, furriners, privacy, and competence. That's a nice start. But we need more than "not a disaster."

Could we get a little more specific here? What policies, campaign promises exactly are people afraid Obama's "centrist" government is going to reneg on? I was under the impression that Obama intended all along to have a centrist, even bipartisan government. I was under the impression that this was one of his strengths.

McArdle, for instance, writes:

in all my time reading blogs, nothing interesting or intelligent has yet to follow this phrase.

let me rephrase that mess:

McArdle, for instance, writes:
in all my time reading blogs, nothing interesting or intelligent has ever followed this phrase.

[ah. now the parts are all in the same epoch, at least.]

socratic_me: Publius' point is simply that Obama's agenda is pretty solidly to the left

His domestic agenda, at least. For American values of "left".

I wouldn't support Obama throwing "the left" under the bus, Bill Clinton circa 1995-style. My point is simply that Obama hasn't done this at all. Liberals are complaining about nothing so far, but conservatives are pretty happy to point out their complaints and disappointments (counter to their own interest, I would add).

The "Obama hasn't thrown the left under the bus" standard is logically a bit like asking someone "when did you stop beating your wife?"

Clinton had a left, at least a small one, to throw under the bus, e.g. Robert Reich.* Another example: earlier, he had actually nominated Lani Guinier to a Justice Department post before abandoning her.

Obama has never had a "left" (i.e. Democratic liberals...as always we're not even talking about the actual left) to betray. This is reflected in the fact that his appointments so far have been 100% centrist or conservative.

As I've already pointed out upthread, the usual response to this--"it's not the personnel that are important, it's the policies"--is belied by the fact that the policies have never been progressive, either.

Using the (utterly correct) assertion that nothing Obama has done so far is remotely surprising as an argument for the left to STFU is particularly insidious because it hardwires the irrelevance of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. It's basically a subtle way of saying to liberals: "nobody in any position of actual political power has paid attention to you for decades, why should they start paying attention to you now?"**

And what of conservatives claiming to be happy about liberal/left complaints? Who the hell cares! The wingnuts will do what the wingnuts will do. Under no circumstances should one let them run one's political life. Remember: just six weeks ago, they were telling us that Obama was a socialist. We'd have been foolish to pay any attention to them then; we'd be foolish to do so now.

____________
* Small in the sense of a single cabinet member, not 4' 10.5"

** This is, in fact, why I think it's particularly important for liberals and the left to come up with ways to leverage power, to make people pay attention to us. Since Obama and the Democrats, unlike Bush and the Republicans, are dependent on our votes, this should be possible.

in all my time reading blogs, nothing interesting or intelligent has ever followed this phrase

Agreed.

BTW Cleek: did you not catch the allusion upthread?

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