Simple choices

The debt-ceiling deal protected Medicaid.
New ACA regulations require that all reproductive health services be offered without co-pays.
Neither of those policies would remain in place under a Republican President.
“No difference between the parties”? “Obama is a closet Republican”? Don’t make me laugh!

Everyone who thinks that a Republican President would have made coverage of all reproductive health services, including the morning-after pill, without any out-of-pocket charges, mandatory under ACA, or that a Republican President wouldn’t re-write that regulation on January 20, please raise your hand, and keep it up.

Now, everyone who thinks that a Republican President’s OMB Director would have kept Medicaid off the table in the budget-cutting discussion, please raise your hand, and keep it up.

Finally, everyone who is willing to throw reproductive freedom and health care for poor people under the bus on the principle of “the worse, the better” please raise your hand.

Everyone else should be thinking about how to get Obama re-elected in 2012.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

70 thoughts on “Simple choices”

  1. No argument here, Mark; but we need to be conscious of whom we are voting for, whose side he is on and whose side he is not on. I would vote for Ike, or (more realistically) Gordon Smith, or Arlen Specter, or Olympia Snowe in a heartbeat over Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, or any of the rest of them. But I wouldn’t tell myself that deep down they are REALLY Nancy Pelosi.

  2. The choice between bad and worse is a simple, if unpleasant, one. But most readers of this blog would prefer choosing between good and better. And that’s not the choice on the table.

  3. 1) Great! The economy will be wrecked but birth control is covered! And now the Tea Partiers can be really motivated on the social issues, despite achieving nearly total victory.
    2) Medicaid? Um, Obama offered to raise the Medicare age, which has the dual advantages of screwing more people out of more money while undercutting any Democratic message on protecting it.
    3) Obama isn’t thinking about our support, only about that of his corporate donors. He has jettisoned the idea of a small donor campaign; he doesn’t need the suckers now.

    I live in New York, so my vote in the general election can’t possibly matter, but I’ll vote for anyone who primaries him from the left (except Nader). If it were an open primary, I’d cross over to vote for Romney.

  4. Come to think of it, we should be working to convince Obama not to run. That would be the best possible outcome.

  5. Weak tea, Mark. As far as ACA is concerned, during the campaign Barack Hoover Obama talked about fighting for a health care system for everyone as good as that offered to US Representatives and Senators. Which I imagine is similar in relative cost, inclusiveness, and coverage to that of a professor at UCLA. Such a system is particularly important to a cancer survivor who has the mother of all pre-existing conditions. But. He. Did. Not. Fight. For. Anything. Instead he put Max Baucus and his healthcare lobbyist in charge of the whole shebang and then either gave it away, never intended to do anything in the first place, or just let it wither on the vine. And tell me again when it comes into effect fully. 2014? The clincher for me was his support of a public option. Yes, I am a dumbass.

    This President actually offered up a Medicare eligibility age of 67, for god’s sake. And he has a jones to f*ck with my social security, which was put on a sound actuarial basis by Greenspan in 1983, through a substantial tax increase and changes to the overall structure. This “Grand Bargain” he is after? About as real as a unicorn.

    Whether Obama is a Republican or is just spineless matters not. But I am a loyal friend, citizen, and constituent when that loyalty is reciprocated. To Obama, loyalty is a one-way street to his Wall Street benefactors, but not to me or anyone else I really know. And certainly not to those who elected him.

  6. I’d like KLG to pass whatever it is he’s smoking, because that looks like some *powerful* shit.

  7. Are you the real TR? Not smoking anything, btw. Never have. If you want to tell me where I’m wrong I’ll be happy to listen to a sound argument. I know I’m right about the dumbass part. Cheers!

  8. Mark,

    Could you please stop conflating:

    “Re-electing Obama is a much better idea than letting any of the possible GOP nominees win,”

    with

    “Obama is doing a great job.”

    He’s not doing a great job. He has no grasp of the nature of his opposition, no idea how to negotiate, no idea how to frame issues. When he talked, Friday, about the need for a bipartisan solution to the debt issue I lost it. (BTW, where’s that double-secret magic plan you were so sure he had?) This is a guy who, when he goes to buy a car, probably makes the sticker price his first offer, all in the interest of ???.

    I’m tired of it. The man won’t even pretend to fight.

  9. Barack Obama has not done us proud as President. The most compelling reasons to re-elect him are:

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg — age 78

    Antonin Scalia — age 75

    Anthony Kennedy — age 75

    Stephen Breyer — age 73 this month

    If a Republican president follows the Stepin Fetchit Clarence Thomas precedent of ethnicity über alles, when Scalia (the first justice of Italian ancestry) retires, his successor may be Joe Pesci. After all, no law requires that a member of SCOTUS be learned in the law, and anyway, Pesci did a bangup job in the title role of My Cousin Vinnie.

  10. Liberals, as exhibited by the D-triple C types, including Obama and Clinton (both of them), continuing to give up the store, but characterizing nibbling around the edges the best of all possible outcomes is a policy of abject surrender and failure. But no matter how pretty the tree, if the core is rotten, it will fall.

  11. Calling All Toasters: Medicare is a program for the elderly. Medicaid is a program for the poor. There’s a difference.

  12. Yes, I know. Any Democrat should defend both. But raising the Medicare age is far worse politically, worse for more Americans, and would cut more money from health care than cutting Medicaid. And the jackass *volunteered* to do it.

    He really needs to declare he won’t run. This could have been a big Democratic pushback year. Between the Ryan plan and the sudden support of unions in the wake of Scott Walker’s election, we had the possibility of getting an actual liberal message through. But Obama’s incompetent antics and/or betrayal of the party instead has split us down the middle, and we’re likely to stay there until he’s out of office. The Democrats will be much stronger if we don’t have to support and defend Republican policies.

  13. Oh, and please don’t helpfully point out that the Ryan plan is a Republican plan. I was referring to its unpopularity, OK?

  14. Interesting post and thread, thanks to all. I want to respond to Prof. Zasloff’s observation that he’d vote for Olympia Snowe over Michelle Bachmann, but wouldn’t pretend that she’s Nancy Pelosi.

    With all due respect, that’s not the main point. Barack Obama is what he’s been since the beginning of his political career: a center-left politician. He wants to be at the midpoint of 60% of the body politic (look at his Illinois and US Senate voting records) so that he has the power to advance a progressive agenda. He does that understanding that in politics, on the good days, you get 80% of what you want. (And yes, that’s true for the Republicans on the debt-ceiling vote too.)

    All Prof. Kleiman is doing (if I can presume to speak for him) is pointing out that, if you’re a progressive, having Barack Obama (or any Democrat today) as president on a bad day is better than having a Republican president. This is especially true in our current age of ideologically coherent political parties(or at least coherent enough that virtually every congressional Democrat is more liberal than any congressional Republican).

  15. massappeal: when it comes to things the president can do on his own, you are certainly correct. OTOH, having Obama in means that the Democrats in Congress cannot be unified in opposing the far-right budget bills that Obama “negotiates.” There’s no way both this POS legislation and the extension of the Bush tax cut both pass if Romney (or even Bachmann) is President. As the old saying goes: “it takes an Obama to destroy the Democratic agenda.”

  16. President Obama represents a rational Republican point of view. His record on civil rights, executive privilege and projection of US military power are increasingly indefensible, but his opposition to progressive ideal of applying federal funds and power to supporting ordinary people is part of an ongoing debate demonstrating the health of the American two-party system.

    Now if only there was a second party.

  17. From my side of the aisle, it seems that the conservatives have gotten rolled every time they try to negotiate with Obama.

    Stupak tried and got what seemed like a promise–and now not only is abortion covered, it’s covered more generously than almost anything else.

    And on the debt ceiling–what part of 1)a debt ceiling increase as big as requested 2)on a party-line Republican vote 3)that doesn’t affect Medicare 4)and has a large built-in tax increase 6)and cuts defense more than any domestic program ISN’T a win for Obama?

  18. Sam:

    1) “a debt ceiling increase as big as requested” is neutral. Approving a debt ceiling as big as requested is standard operating procedure.
    2) “on a party-line Republican vote” Democrats in the House and Senate were split on this, and in all likelihood the President still owns economic performance. Which is now screwed. Big win for the Republicans.
    3) “that doesn’t affect Medicare” Yeah, this I don’t understand. If the Republicans accepted Obama’s offer of raising the Medicare age, I’m not sure who would get the blame from voters 50 and older. But it would certainly destroy any Democratic attempts to portray themselves as protectors of Medicare. Basically, Obama offered to screw the Democrats and the Republicans refused. I call it a draw.
    4) “has a large built-in tax increase” ???? I don’t know what you’re referring to here. Everyone reported that Obama gave up any “revenue enhancements.” Which, if true, would be a big win for the Republicans.
    5) “cuts defense more than any domestic program” The various members of the Armed Services Committees are reporting that they don’t know whether it cuts defense. If it does, this would be a big win for the Democrats.

    That is pretty damn good for a party that controls only one house of Congress, negotiating with the president who is relying on an economic recovery for next year’s election– especially considering that Obama (according to Peter DeFazio) was perfectly willing to use a “14th Amendment solution.”

  19. @calling all toasters (8/3, 5:31 am), thanks for your reply.

    I think you give Obama (or more accurately, the presidency) more power than he has. I have yet to see the evidence that a unified Democratic caucus that consists of a minority in the House and fewer that 60 members in the (all-filibuster-all-the-time) Senate would have changed this bill much, even if Obama stood with them. (If I had some ham, I’d make a ham sandwich…if I had some bread.)

    P.S. If, in the last session of Congress we’d had a Senate operating under majority vote rules, then I think Pres. Obama would happily have signed a bigger, more effective Recovery Act, a stronger Affordable Care Act, a second stimulus bill, cap-and-trade, an infrastructure bank and pretty much all of the 400 or so bills that passed the House but died in the Senate.

  20. massappeal,

    I think you give Obama (or more accurately, the presidency) more power than he has.

    Speaking for myself, and not c.a.t., I don’t think I’m making that mistake. A big part of my frustration has to do with his apparent unwillingness to begin a negotiation by staking out a strong position and stating the argument for it.

    He did that in the stimulus debate. Whatever he ultimately got, and it might well have been little different than the actual result, he would have been on the record as considering it inadequate, and as holding the GOP accountable if it proved so.

    His stance on the debt ceiling was similar. Instead of making a strong case for a clean bill he mentioned it once or twice and then immediately moved to all that nonsense about “tightening our belts in hard times,” etc.

    He simply gives no sense of wanting to fight for, to make a strong case for, his positions. Had he done that consistently, before the inevitable give-and-take, he might well have come out better, and even with the same results he would have retained more popularity with his base.

  21. @massappeal–Barack Obama is what he’s been since the beginning of his political career: a center-left politician.

    But the center has moved right since the beginning of his political career, and he’s happily moved with it.

  22. calling all toasters,

    On my point 4, the Republicans missed the chance to lock in most of the Bush-era tax cuts.

  23. This is an old, old argument. I first heard it when Jimmy Carter, who was too conservative, was supposed to be the candidate of liberals because the Republican was worse. Carter talked a reasonably good talk, promising to increase education spending and reduce military spending. He then increased military spending and reduced education spending, shamelessly punching his liberal supporters in the face.

    Just pause a moment and try to imagine living in a world where liberals thought Jimmy Carter was too conservative.

    The way we got from there to here is obvious: liberals voted for conservative Democrats over and over, more conservative every time, until now we have Obama, who stands more or less to the right of Ronald Reagan. And liberals are being asked to give him their support, in exchange for nothing.

    Nope. Not gonna do it.

  24. > Barack Obama has not done us proud as President. The most compelling
    > reasons to re-elect him are:
    >
    > Ruth Bader Ginsburg — age 78
    > Antonin Scalia — age 75
    > Anthony Kennedy — age 75
    > Stephen Breyer — age 73 this month

    How would Obama get any nominee to the left of Roberts confirmed? Even assuming that the Democrats still nominally hold the Senate majority in 2013, McConnell is now making it perfectly clear that he has Obama’s number and will only allow hard right-wing legislation through. Presumably that will also apply to nominees even more that it already is at this moment; after Obama’s first 2 or 3 candidates are filibustered Obama will learn to make “bipartisan” appointments “suggested” by the Federalist Society.

    Cranky

  25. Mr. Kleiman,
    Could we please get your complete analysis of the debt ceiling process? I for one would be interested in seeing your analysis of your predictions vs. the final outcome. Thanks.

    Cranky

  26. @SwiftLoris (8/3, 7:17 am) Thanks for your response. I doubt Obama has “happily” moved right, but that’s not the point I want to make. (I have no evidence as to his state of mind.)

    The point I want to make is that to the extent the “center” has moved “right”, we agree (I think) that Obama has moved with it. I would also argue that to the extent it has moved “left” (e.g., on LGBT civil rights over the past generation), he has moved with it as well.

    As I stated above (8/3, 5:22 am), I think Obama’s fundamental disposition is to be at the heart of a center-left coalition that has the power to, over time, advance a progressive agenda. I recently read Eric Foner’s “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery”. In Foner’s retelling Lincoln, as a candidate and as an elected official consistently and persistently located himself between the two wings of the emerging Republican party on the issue of slavery. As his base and the electorate and the political landscape shifted, so did Lincoln—always striving to keep his coalition together (and therefore, powerful) and his options for future action open in the struggle to end slavery.

    If I’m right about Obama (admittedly, a big “if”), then the challenge for progressives is to build enough power that it allows/forces Obama to move “left”. An important part of that challenge then becomes acting in ways that allow/force the center to move “left” as well. Passage of the ACA and repeal of DADT are perhaps the two strongest examples of progressives setting an agenda and moving it forward—even though neither was/is as much as we might want.

  27. > As I stated above (8/3, 5:22 am), I think Obama’s fundamental
    > disposition is to be at the heart of a center-left coalition
    > that has the power to, over time, advance a progressive agenda.

    I am deeply unclear on where Peter G. Peterson, a person with whom President Obama is comfortable enough to allow him to fund and staff the ‘National [sic] Commission on Fiscal Responsibility’, fits into a “center-left” coalition. Peterson and the desire to damage Social Security fits better with a “conservative-hard right” outlook in fact.

    Cranky

  28. “…the challenge for progressives is to build enough power that it allows/forces Obama to move ‘left’.”

    Obama will move left if, and only if, he thinks he would otherwise lose the votes of the left. If he thinks progressives will vote for him no matter what, which is how he acts, he will certainly move to the right, not to the left.

  29. Sam: you really need to stop watching Fox news. Failing to lock and a tax cut permanently is not the same as a built-in tax rise, no matter how often Neil Cavuto says it.

  30. @Cranky Observer (8/3, 8:15 am) Thanks for your response. Yeah, I wouldn’t classify Peterson as a centrist either.

    It’s pretty common in the organizing circles Obama comes out of to want to have everyone at the negotiating table—most definitely including those who might have the power to scuttle a deal. I say that not as a defense of Obama, but by way of explanation. I think this is the way he understands and approaches politics.

    I also think Obama tends to look for opportunities to “pick off” conservatives and centrists. For example, some of his early Cabinet and personnel choices:
    Ray LaHood (senior House Republican) for Transportation Secretary, keeping Robert Gates at Defense to 1) start the Iraq withdrawal, 2) pass and implement DADT and 3) start the Afghanistan withdrawal, wanting to name Judd Gregg (senior Senate Republican) at Commerce (a relatively powerless job that would have opened the door for a pickup by Senate Democrats), keeping Joe Lieberman within the Democratic caucus (and thus his cloture vote—in the end—for the ACA), John McHugh (House Republican, seat flipped to Dems in the special election) for Secretary of the Army. Again, we can like it or not. But we’re better off, I would maintain, understanding that this is how the guy operates, and then figuring out strategies and tactics that allow/force him to act more like we’d want.

  31. I understand the perfection vs. the good argument, but this is a case of the horrendous vs. the horrific.

    For all Obama’s vaunted intelligence he seems mighty learning-disabled. He still clearly thinks he should work with the Republicans as opposed to investigating and prosecuting them. He(and Holder)have effectively abandoned the third branch of government, one which ought to be deployed in the removal of the pernicious from positions of power, because BO is as unprincipled as he is incompetent.

    Let us not forget:

    Torture: Obama has continuously whitewashed it and suppressed all investigation here and abroad.

    Illegal wiretapping: Obama not interested, or perhaps now actively involved.

    Politicization of the Justice Department: Look forward not back, no investigation or prosections here.

    Wall Street Piracy: Obama says ‘Nothing to see here.’

    Bankster Fraud: Nothing to see here either.

    Governmwent Whistleblowers: Hang ’em high!, says BO.

    If we exact no penalty, then we condone the offense. That is why Obama should not be rewarded with another term. The best thing he could do for the country is pull an LBJ, announce he will not seek another term. But he won’t, because again, he is as unprincipled as he is incompetent.

  32. @Don (8/3, 8:21 am) Thanks for your reply. Yep, we agree. The question for progressives then becomes (if we’re talking about the 2012 election) whether to vote and if so, who to vote for.

    1) Whether to vote: If progressives get behind, say, the Green Party nominee, then the progressive and centrist votes are split and chances for a conservative to get elected increase significanly. If progressives don’t vote, the electorate moves further to the right, and so does Obama in a quest to get enough votes to get reelected. If there are progressives who think the progressive cause would be advanced better under a President Bachmann, Perry or Romney, they should make that case. (I haven’t heard it yet.)

    2) Who to vote for: I’m still partial to the formulation used by the late, great Molly Ivins: Primaries are for voting with your heart; general elections are for voting with your head. If the souls of Fredrick Douglass, Mother Jones, Walter Reuther, Elizabeth Cady Stanon, Barbara Jordan, FDR, LBJ and all three Kennedys were reincarnated into one body and running against Obama for the Democratic nomination, I might vote for him/her/them. But if Obama’s the Democratic nominee come next November, I have yet to hear the argument that would persuade me not to vote for him. (Though I’m all ears if someone wants to make it.)

    If, on the other hand, progressives turn out in such massive numbers next November that not only is Obama reelected but that Democrats retake the House and (against all odds) hold onto the Senate, then we stand a chance of having the 113th Congress look more like the 111th Congress (which was the most productive and progressive session in 35 years).

  33. @kalkaino (8/3, 8:37 am) The way senior organizers at Gamaliel (where Obama worked as a young organizer for a few years) talk about it is “the world as it is” v. “the world as it should be”. And sometimes in “the world as it is”, your options are bad v. worse. What do you do in that situation? That’s the question. If, as seems likely, next November Obama is on the ballot against (pick one) Bachmann/Perry/Romney, who do you do? What do progressives do? And why?

  34. Massappeal, I don’t see myself not voting. I’ll vote the way I always do: the best of the available choices. Obama and the other Republican having been crossed off the list, it’ll be a third-party candidate. If that candidate gets 100 votes and Obama loses Iowa by 99 votes, well, that is how you get attention from politicians. That is “the world as it is.”

  35. @Don (8/3, 9:05 am) Hey, we all have to live with our own choices. Speaking just for myself, I’m grateful I’m not one of the folks in Florida who voted for Nader instead of Gore 11 years ago. Or those who didn’t vote for Humphrey in 1968 because he wasn’t liberal enough.

    In fact, the memory of those two elections and their consequences is a not-insignificant factor in my own calculations about voting.

  36. Let’s see… Mark wants us to vote to protect reproductive rights, even though we will be voting to allow the gutting of the safety net (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). We are to vote for a president who has stated his desire to change these programs and has offered them up as bargaining chips when it wasn’t required – the other side was not asking to change these programs. So, I am stuck, which is more important, the general safety net, or reproductive rights? Now, the fact that this choice is being forced on us disqualifies Obama as a “progressive” if there was any question. The other argument often given for supporting Obama is the peril to the Supreme Court. He is a conservative Republican and I don’t trust him to nominate for the Supreme Court someone who is to the left of Roberts & Alito. He may do so, but I certainly don’t trust him to nominate anyone not palatable to the right in the Senate. The motivation to even try to keep some peace with Democrats will be gone after 2012. He then can run things as the good Republican he is. I wouldn’t be sure that even reproductive right will still be protected

    So, I don’t trust him to hold the line on the Supreme Court, I strongly believe that there is extensive evidence that if Obama is re-elected there is no question that the safety net is in great peril. How can I work to protect the safety net? When Bush tried to privatize SS, he got his head handed to him by a Dem minority congress – it didn’t happen. I think that with a Republican president, we have the best chance to save the safety net. The only alternative is a successful primary challenge.

    Now it would be nice if the Republicans nominated a real liberal (perhaps we should take over the Republican Party and make it happebn). But if the choice is between Obama and any of the current batch of potential nominees – supporting the Republican is the only way IO can think of to protect the safety net. Voting for Obama guarantees that the safety net will be gutted. Sorry about the reproductive rights, but if I am forced to choose, there it is.

    Obama won’t even appoint someone to head the Consumer Protection Board, so don’t tell me that Obama gives a healthy damn about the middle class or those less fortunate. Yes, Obama throws his party a bone on occasion (reproductive rights), but when he is a lame duck, there won’t be any motivation for even that. He is acting to destroy the Democratic party. If we don’t find a way to actively oppose Obamna, by 2016, there will be little left as Obama gives reproductive rights while he tears great holes in civil liberties in a way that Bush could only dream of. Bah, another topic – addressing that leads to the same conclusion – no support for Obama. I look at what Obama has done, and on balance, he is every bit as bad as Bush – worse as he presents far better than Bush.

  37. “Speaking just for myself, I’m grateful I’m not one of the folks in Florida who voted for Nader instead of Gore 11 years ago. Or those who didn’t vote for Humphrey in 1968 because he wasn’t liberal enough.” So are you saying Obama can’t do anything (more) to lose your vote? What would he have to do to turn you away from voting for him?

    Presidential wars? Secret prisons? Torture? Summary executions without trial? Immunity for war criminals? He’s done all those things.

    Proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security? He’s done that too. And advocated austerity during a recession, because that worked so well when Hoover tried it.

    So seriously, what would he have to do to lose your support? Cannibalism?

  38. > @Cranky Observer (8/3, 8:15 am) Thanks for your response. Yeah,
    > I wouldn’t classify Peterson as a centrist either.
    >
    > It’s pretty common in the organizing circles Obama comes out of to
    > want to have everyone at the negotiating table—most definitely
    > including those who might have the power to scuttle a deal. I say
    > that not as a defense of Obama, but by way of explanation. I think
    > this is the way he understands and approaches politics.

    Peterson wasn’t “at the negotiating table” though; he literally _owned_ the negotiating table, having provide half the funding and all of the staff for the Catfood Commission. That’s not compromise; it is surrender.

    Cranky

  39. Brad is correct. Anyone whose primary issue is to protect Social Security and Medicare should support the Republican nominee in 2012.

  40. Don’t know if anyone’s noticed but it takes more than votes to get elected. It takes lots and lots of money. I’d say the best option for progressives under current circumstances is:

    Give your vote to Obama but give your money to progressive candidates who can win. Give like your life depends on it because it just might.

    If we can take back the House and keep or increase our hold on the Senate, it won’t matter as much who’s in the White House. But there’s no denying it would be better to have Obama there.

  41. Massappeal (8/3 8:58) BO doesn’t seem to have taken the message (treat “the world as it is”) to heart. He still seems to believe that Republicans can be enlisted in some sort of honest partnership for the greater good. And that’s simply delusional.

    And maybe it’s Pollyannish of me, but I still tend to believe that a leader who shows principle, wisdom, candor, and courage can actually change things for the better, even in the real world. BO seems to believe that platitude, denial, and expedience serve just as well. I guess we’ll see how that works out.

  42. Again, we all have to do what we think is best. If you come to the conclusion next November that electing Rick Perry (for example) is the best option for advancing the progressive agenda in the following 4-8 years, by all means do so.

    However when Brad (for example, not picking on you) argues (9:34 am) that he doesn’t trust Obama (whose track record of Supreme Court nominees includes Sotomayor and Kagan) to nominate someone who is to the left of Roberts and Alito, then it strikes me that something other than cool strategic reasoning is involved in our conversation. Which is fine…even appropriate given the events of recent weeks, but it’s at least something to be aware of.

    I’ll repeat something I’ve said before (though perhaps not here). Obama, for a variety of reasons and most definitely including that he’s our first and only African-American president to date, is not going to twist arms like LBJ, or decry “economic royalists” and say he welcomes their hatred like FDR, or preach like Martin or Malcolm, or pound the podium like Ted Kennedy. Those rhetorical devices and negotiating tactics are not available to him for reasons beyond his control.

    That means that we who elected him have not gotten and will not get the emotional satisfaction we might derive from Obama “putting the Republicans (or Wall Street, or the Chamber of Commerce, or the tea partiers) in their place”.

    What we have gotten is what we get from every Democratic president—someone to our right who governs as the head of a center-left coalition, who makes compromises we don’t like, who at times attacks us for being too “pushy”.

    As with Bill Clinton, we elected a relatively young politician who has made some of the mistakes young politicians make. We elected a man who occasionally gets rolled by powerful institutions and actors (e.g., Obama in December ’09 on the Afghanistan surge). We elected a guy who’s pretty bright, who’s pretty good at politics, and who has the capacity to reflect and to learn from his mistakes.

    By all means, be upset at this debt ceiling fiasco—and at any number of other mistakes Obama has made. I’m just advising that we hold off on declaring our votes 15 months before the polls open.

  43. Obama won’t even appoint someone to head the Consumer Protection Board

    Read a blurb in the NYT yesterday that the House has been technically meeting for a few minutes every few days during “recess” to block Obama’s ability to make recess appointments. Not trying to apologise for him, just saying… What I don’t know is whether this is the 1st recess of the 112th. If it is then this is mute.

  44. @kalkaino (8/3, 10:37 am) I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer about my understanding of “the world as it is”. “The world as it is” is, among other things, filled with terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad people and institutions that would let millions die if it meant they’d get a second dessert. “The world as it is” is filled with people who would kill you for the color of your skin, your sexual preferences, your religion (or lack thereof), or your uppityness. “The world as it is” for almost all people in almost all of human history is an uglier and more dangerous place than it is for you and me (well, me certainly…I’m guessing about you).

    As for the relatively (relative to Hitler’s Nazi, Stalin’s Bolsheviks, Verwoerd’s Boers, etc.) benign modern Republican party: it’s not that I think they “can be enlisted in some sort of honest partnership for the greater good”. It’s that in “the world as it is”, they have power that the rest of us (Obama included) must reckon with. After last fall’s elections, they have significantly more power than they did before. If they hold the House, win the Senate and win the Presidency next fall, they’ll have even more power.

    I don’t know whether you’re Pollyannaish or not. But I do know that in “the world as it is” even leaders with “principle, wisdom, candor, and courage” know that those traits and $2 will buy them a cup of coffee. Leaders need followers. Leaders need organized people and organized money to have the power to act on their agenda.

  45. Massappeal, you persist in conflating (a) a vote for someone other than a major party candidate with (b) a vote for Rick Perry.

    It is one thing if people decide to vote for Rick Perry. It is another thing if people decide to vote for (say) the Green Party nominee, and as a result Perry wins with 49%. In the former case, Democrats would move to the right to win back the Rick Perry voters. In the latter case, Democrats would move to the left to win back the Green voters. Those results are distinguishable.

  46. @Don (8/3, 11:00 am) I’m sorry I’m not being clearer. Let me try again.

    1) A vote (by a progressive) for, say, Rick Perry has the effect of taking one vote away from Obama’s total and adding one vote to Perry’s total.

    2) A vote (by a progressive) for, say, Ralph Nader has the effect of taking one vote away from Obama’s total and does not change Perry’s total.

    You argue that “in the former case, Democrats would move to the right to win back the Rick Perry voters”. I assume you do not favor that outcome. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    You further argue that “in the latter case, Democrats would move to the left to win back the Green voters”. Given the results of the most recent relevant example, under your theory the Democratic party nominee in 2004 would have been to the left of the party’s 2000 nominee. I’m willing to hear the case made that John Kerry was a much more progressive candidate than Al Gore, and that Kerry’s candidacy therefore was a step forward for the progressive movement, but I haven’t heard anyone make that argument (and I know progressives who like—and worked hard for—Kerry).

  47. I’m sorry I’m not being clearer.

    You haven’t been unclear.

    I’m willing to hear the case made that John Kerry was a much more progressive candidate than Al Gore, and that Kerry’s candidacy therefore was a step forward for the progressive movement….

    Point taken. Democrats always have the option to simply continue to act as if they’re entitled to liberal votes. People often don’t change their minds when presented with evidence that they’re mistaken. (Everyone now looks meaningfully around the room, at someone other than themselves.) Perhaps it would take a much larger third-party vote to get the Democrats’ attention. Perhaps they will never get it.

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