Barack Obama, Democrat

The opening salvo of the 2012 campaign was just fired.

“Doing nothing is not an option.”

This was the opening speech of the 2012 campaign, and it was a stemwinder. It was fine to John Boenher not applaud when Obama suggested that it was time for Congress to live up to its responsibilities.

The theme was jobs, jobs, jobs.

And here’s the FDR part:

I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win.

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own – that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.

Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world.

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves – where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?

How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

No single individual built America on their own. We built it together.

My favorite comment so far: “Can anyone ever remember seeing Obama this angry before?”

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:

63 thoughts on “Barack Obama, Democrat”

  1. “This was the opening speech of the 2012 campaign.” Exactly. And here is a reaction I read, not to Obama’s speech today, but to his speech on Labor Day:

    Listening to Obama talk about jobs and shared prosperity yesterday reminded me that we are back in campaign mode and Barack Obama has started doing again what he does best – play the part of a progressive. He’s good at it. It sounds like he has a natural affinity for union workers and ordinary people when he makes these speeches. But his policies are crafted by representatives of corporate/financial America, who happen to entirely make up his inner circle. I just don’t believe this guy anymore, and it’s become almost painful to listen to him.

  2. It was a damn fine speech. I was moved and glad to hear him say over and over “Pass the bill”. I thought it was smart to inject some urgency by noting that Americans don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months for real action. Let’s hope he stays on message until it’s done. He needs to keep repeating this stuff and expand on it by pointing out specifically when and which Republicans and Democrats have supported these items in the past. And in an election season, calling out political obstructionism by its name shouldn’t be a problem for him.

    I hope I’m wrong, but if history is any guide, in the end the reeps will probably get everything they want, the dems will get a few watered down items and the President will call it a fair compromise.

  3. “This was the opening speech of the 2012 campaign.” As Henry says, exactly. That’s all Obama has is carefully crafted campaign speeches. We’re back to 2008. Break out the telepromter. Turn on the lights and cameras and put on the show. But nothing is gonna mask the fact that this dude has a record now. And the record shows that he’s done absolutely jack s@#$ to get Americans jobs and to rebound the economy. That has to go over well with the voters.

  4. The only thing that really concerns me after the speech (which was pretty good center-left stuff that I could definitely live with, although it wouldn’t have an enormous economic impact because the numbers are too small and too much of it is in tax cuts to businesses or continuing tax cuts) … the only thing that really concerns me is how buddy-buddy the Republican leadership is playing their response right now. They mostly seem to like the speech. That worries me quite a lot, and I can’t say just why. It seems like the politics of this are now entering the 12th-dimensional chess realm.

  5. I didn’t watch. I don’t care about speeches anymore.

    But it sounds like he did his best, and I’m glad, fwiw. Do y’all think he moved that window you’re always going on about?

  6. It seems like a sensible plan…and, let’s face it, that means that the Republicans aren’t going to go for it. Good tactic, choosing programs that Republicans have endorsed…but let’s face it, it probably won’t matter. Is there ANY chance of them seeing ANYTHING like reason on this? Even if they could be convinced that it would help…well, I’m not absolutely sure that that wouldn’t be another reason for them to oppose it…

  7. Aw, bless his heart. He got mad. Poor thing. Oh, and what Henry, Tim, Bux, Sean, and NCG said. Why in God’s name would anyone believe this man now? The man is a liar, and not just like all politicians, or the rest of us for that matter. He ran as a transformational figure that we needed at a critical time in our history. Only, he really didn’t mean it. He has no stomach for the fight, and while the alternatives are perfectly unthinkable, I never thought I was supporting with my money, time, and enthusiasm such a pusillanimous prig, to use one p-word that comes to mind. Joke’s on me.

  8. Nice words, but short of what a real Democrat once said about high unemployment:

    No country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order.

    I stand or fall by my refusal to accept as a necessary condition of our future a permanent army of unemployed. On the contrary, we must make it a national principle that we will not tolerate a large army of unemployed and that we will arrange our national economy to end our present unemployment as soon as we can and then to take wise measures against its return.

    More to the point, we’ve all all heard lots of nice words from this president, nice words without much in the way of follow-through:

    To overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend – because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America. That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.


    Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.


    And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.


    I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools the need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens.

    The man is full of nice words. This is just a small taste of Obama not putting those words into action. So forgive my skepticism. I won’t be holding my breath for any substantive improvement resulting from this speech. Indeed, I’ll be surprised if these proposals are still in the Administration’s talking points next month.

  9. Sean,
    It isn’t 12-dimensional chess. The Rs realize that if Obama is proactive and they’re seen as obstructionists, they might catch the blame for the crappy economic situation. So the smart move for them is pretending that they’re passively enacting the “Obama economic program” and then blame him for the results.
    Of course, based on past track records, Obama can’t help himself and won’t stay proactive, and the Rs can’t help themselves and will be in full obstructionist mode. It’s a pity both sides can’t lose the election.

  10. Ugh. KLG, Henry, Tim, Bux, and NCG are the same band of idealistic commentators who hoped that a fairy-tale president in shining armor would solve every problem and make every progressive wish come true just by smiling.

    But the real, difficult world doesn’t work that way. Compromise is the only way to get anything done. So these idealists have decided to just give up. They’re willing to sink the whole ship just because the world didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped–because the real world doesn’t work like a fantasy novel, or a hollywood romantic comedy.

    If the Republicans beat us, over the long term, it will be exactly because of this defeatist, “I don’t listen to speeches anymore” attitude. Based on the comments here, it seems like progressives wimp out when things don’t go their way. I guarantee the right wing isn’t doing this. When things don’t go their way (see elections 2008) they double down and get angry and start pushing. What’s more depressing to me than the Tea Party is the fact that the folks on my side–the so-called progressives–are so quick to form a circular firing squad, or to throw the towel in and give up.

  11. Is anyone interested in whether Pres. Obama put forth right policies, or only in whether he is campaigning for 2012 already? Assuming the latter to be the case (a very safe bet for certain), is that campaign proposing the enactment of laws which will establish justice and promote the general welfare? If so, it should be supported, regardless of the character flaws of the man who proposes them. Alexander Hamilton made the very basic (and now forgotten) point that the future of the nation depended on being on the right side of the question about whether the Constitution should be ratified.

    “And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question.”

    A president may operate from motives not much more laudable than party and ambition, and yet support the right side of what measures are most apt to remedy the nation’s economy and security. Alexander Hamilton would never pass Punditry 101 if he were alive today, because he would be unable to focus on the things that get you air time on the cable news, NPR, and the networks, namely on who is forging ahead and who is falling behind in the race to court popular favor.

    “I have had an eye, my fellow-citizens, to putting you upon your guard against all attempts, from whatever quarter, to influence your decision in a matter of the utmost moment to your welfare, by any impressions other than those which may result from the evidence of truth.”

    If it is true that an infrastructure bill will operate to the public benefit once all costs are accounted for, then it should be enacted, considerations other than those which result from the evidence of truth notwithstanding.

    If we have lost our ability to think in these terms, then the republic is in danger of being lost.

  12. Most likely very little of this will be enacted, but it does raise some hope that Obama’s pollsters have convinced him that being a pushover doesn’t impress independents. Half a huzzah, for the present at least.

  13. Matt, although a member of the “band of idealistic commentators,” I will vote for Obama because, as KLG said, the alternatives are unthinkable. Ed Whitney, of course I support Obama’s proposed job legislation, regardless of his motives. But I was enthusiastic for Obama in 2008 and he turned out to have put one over on me, and I just cannot get enthusiastic again. I am more angry at myself for having allowed Obama to dupe me than I am angry at Obama. I should have known better then, but at least I know better now.

  14. I don’t have much to add, other than to lend my support for the moderate, realist side of things. I’m actually incredibly grateful for Obama. I can barely stomach anyone on the right anymore, much less have to “work” with them at a policy level.

  15. The Obama-haters on the left are so tiresomely predictable. It’s either “use the bully pulpit! Inspire people!” or “just words”. The former is the excuse for disappointment when he can’t force a vote; the latter is the all-purpose excuse when he says something inspiring.

    I heard a lot to like, from the specific proposals to the overall tone and the fierce defense of liberalism. And then I come here.


    There is a lot of destructive group-think in the online left now. Is there some purpose the relentless negativity serves? Are we suffering from a lack of cynicism? Is there any concrete alternative plan of action, besides endless bitching and moaning and second-guessing everything that the man does? What’s the plan?

  16. “Compromise is the only way to get anything done.”

    Truer words have not been spoken. That’s why if the Democrats want my vote next year they will have to compromise with me. They will actually have to follow though on the president’s nice words tonight. Given the fact that upholding liberal principles isn’t high on Obama’s to-do list, I’m not holding my breath.

    If the Democrats represent Matt’s interests, good on him and them. They haven’t represented my interests for going on fifteen years now. I am pushing back. I’m doing everything I can to convince people to withhold their support from the Democratic Party. Unless the Democrats renounce their unwavering obeisance to their owners and begin acting in the economic best interests of people in the lower 80% of the income distribution they deserve to go the way of the Whigs. If this makes Matt sad, tough titties.

    Finally, the “circular firing squad” is a strawman. I ain’t in Matt’s circle.

  17. Marc, I had precisely the same reaction. At this point, the Left doesn’t even need the Right to beat up on it. It goes ahead and defeats itself.

    The bummer is that it’s a feedback loop: the wimpier and more self-defeatist you become, the more often you lose. Ad infinitum.

  18. Henry, I was watching the 2008 election as closely as you did, and I never heard Obama promise to never listen to business leaders. I don’t know what he’s promised that he hasn’t either delivered, or given his best shot at against a resistant Congress and a resurgent conservative populism. If you feel duped, it wasn’t by him.

  19. “That’s why if the Democrats want my vote next year they will have to compromise with me.” I love the combination of egotism, selfishness, and whining. A party of one ain’t much fun.

  20. Andrew, you’re absolutely correct. I was especially heartened to see the president arrive at the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison a few months ago to deliver on this promise:

    And understand this: If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America. Because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.

    Good times.

  21. “A party of one ain’t much fun.”

    If it’s just me then why waste your effort putting me in my place? <a href=""An ever growing number of people feel that the Democratic Party no longer represent their best interests. Accept it. Too bad if you’re made worse off because of it.

    If the Democrats want the votes of the disaffected Left, they will have to work for them. What a concept!

  22. jm, you understand that what he proposed tonight was a $450 billion jobs bill that would help the working classes, right? Did you miss that part of the speech, or were your fingers firmly planted in your ears?

  23. “Too bad if you’re made worse off because of it. ” I’ll be fine. However, it is too bad if the working classes that you purport to want to help are destroyed because of it. Or the environment is destroyed. You’d prefer to sit on the sidelines with your arms crossed saying “show me.”

  24. Matt, I have an earlier post above with lots of links addressing the all too depressing and too frequent discrepancy between the president’s words and his subsequent actions. It is still in moderation.

    If Obama follows through on tonight’s speech, and by follow through I mean personally and publicly reinforce the message several times a week until the legislation is voted on, I’ll eat my words. Should nothing come of this effort and the president then comes back again with another jobs bill (yeah, it’s that important), and another and another, as necessary, I’ll even vote for him.

  25. Here’s an alternative to railing at jm for the Obama-lovers on this site: If you think he did well tonight, sign up on the website and make a small contribution. $5 is infinitely more than zero. Reward good behavior.

  26. “it is too bad if the working classes that you purport to want to help are destroyed because of it.”

    That’s just it, I am working class. I’m glad to know you’ll be fine, but it’s time to wake up, there are a lot of people less fortunate than you and you shouldn’t presume to know what is best for them. It doesn’t matter to most people in the working class whether we’re being screwed by President Obama or President Perry. Look at voter participation rates for proof of this. Better yet, talk to working class people when the opportunity arises. You might be surprised and you may even learn something new. Meanwhile, the deck is stacked regardless of who is shuffling it, Democrat or Republican. We are screwed either way. It’s a done deal.

    I live in a small town in rural California. The $7.50/hr. I made in 1979 is worth more in real terms than the $21.00/hr. I make today. The County Board of Supervisors estimates that nominal unemployment in my town is 26%. The local food bank estimates that it is currently supplementing the diets 1 in 7 people in the county. The business I work for has been hanging on by its finger nails for over 18 months. I’ve had several paychecks bounce this year. It’s nice the president is finally getting around to addressing the employment issue, but at this point it’s too little, too late (assuming he even shows some follow through). When the other shoe drops and we go into the second half of the double dip I have a very good chance of becoming unemployed. At my age, there’s a very good chance that I will effectively be disemployed.

    But here’s the real shocker. Even in the depths of my cynicism, I never thought that conditions wouldn’t improve for the unfortunate innocents caught at the sharp point of US foreign policy. Surely, Obama would put an end to the abuses of the Bush Administration. Stupid me.

    As a result, I am not sitting on the sidelines. I am actively opposing the Democratic Party as it presently exists. I am resisting the power that is degrading the quality of my life and the lives of way, way too many other people the world over. I’ll say it again, the Democrats do not represent me. I am trying to convince liberal minded people that the Democratic Party is no longer a vehicle for enacting liberal principles. I do this through talking to anyone who’ll listen, writing letters to the editors of my local and regional papers and, yes, commenting on blogs.

  27. I’m one of the “idealist Leftists” who is, in general, not too happy with the Obama administration. Recently (a few weeks after the debt ceiling deal), OFA called me up to make a contribution. Their pitch (something about Karl Rove still being evil/relevant) left much to be desired. I told them that my biggest worries right now, and my reservations about the administration, are 1) jobs, and 2) the preservation of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Because of that, I wasn’t going to donate what they had asked of me (+$100) but instead gave $20, as a sort of signal of halfhearted support right now (with the idea being that, should some significant, negative changes occur to 1) or 2), they wouldn’t receive any more donations). I asked if a lot of other people had voiced the same reservations about the administration, and apparently they had. I have no clue whether my “message” will be heard, or even made sense (and, to be quite honest, I’m easy to guilt trip about not lending political support, simply because I’ve always been politically active). But I think the administration only really has to worry about a Romney nomination – if he gets it, I don’t think many Leftists will think there’s much difference between the two as President, and will instead work harder on House/Senate campaigns (at least, that’s what I’d be likely to do). If Perry gets it, that’s quite a different story.

    But the real problem with the Presidency, as far as I see it, is that, at least when it comes to domestic policy, modern Democrats are far more wary of Executive power, and tend to vest more power to the Congress (or the judiciary, if they can). Republicans, of course, are Executive fanatics. So it makes it very difficult for Democrats to get their voice heard on a large scale (rather than in Congressional races) because, when our President doesn’t get much done and things move to the center-Right (as they have since Carter), we feel like “The other guy is basically the same, so no big deal.” But even if the other guy is “basically” the same (like Romney), political pressure from the Right’s base plus Republicans’ willingness to use the Executive to its fullest (and more) combine to make things worse than might be evident before an election. Michael Berube’s post at Crooked Timber ( explains my frustration well. This, I think, is why us “Leftist idealists” want the President to use more executive authority – since the Republicans have already used it, the precedent was set (whether “good” or “bad” for any one person’s ideal of Democracy), and they’ll use it again, so we want a President who will use it to push the pendulum the other way rather than just slow down the shift to the Right. Essentially, we want a (highly) partisan President, but that doesn’t mean s/he has to give up the sort of “bipartisan” rhetoric. The Right does this all the time already (whenever they say “The American people want [insert highly suspect, partisan idea]” – we want our President to start doing that.

  28. @Sean- Thank you. Just so. If Obama had used all of the levers of power available to his office early on, his and the Democrats’ power would have been built instead of depleated. Everytime he backs down he loses momentum/authority and support/votes. Use it or lose it.
    And those centerist/independent/waffley low info voters? When they wake up on election day and scratch their fuzzy little heads they are going to decide to vote for the guy who sounds tough and sure of himself. They always do.

  29. I wish somebody would explain this to me:

    Barack Obama is the best mainstream political speech maker (or has the best writers) that I can remember since John Kennedy (and I can remember John Kennedy). And yet as soon as he gets down off the podium and starts to do the day job he seems like a complete palooka – completely lacking in judgement and resolve. What’s going on here? Does he not listen to his own words? Does he not understand what they imply? What is the matter with him? If Obama the public speaker had been President for the last three years, the world would be a better place; now we find ourselves discussing if it’s a worse one.

  30. jm, I am sympathetic to your wish to oppose the Democratic Party, but I feel obliged to hold my nose and vote for Obama because of the Supreme Court. Please don’t forget about the Supreme Court. With one more Republican justice, the Scalia/Thomas faction could win 5 to 4 every time without needing Kennedy as a swing vote. This could have an immense effect, starting with overturning the health insurance law and causing the death of thousands of people without adequate health insurance.

  31. jm is working to elect reactionaries, and should be treated as one himself.

    You might as well get paid by the wingers jm – you serve their interests with everything you do.

    How does it feel to be their tool?

  32. Chris, his problem is that the United States do not have a parliamentary system, so he is limited in what he can achieve by the Republicans having veto power in both houses of Congress (and aren’t afraid to use it). There’s a big difference between what he’d (presumably) like to accomplish and what he can actually put through. His track record with respect to legislation enacted by the previous Congress seems to be fine; he may have made a few unforced errors during the healthcare debate, but I think I may also be armchair-quarterbacking here, given the extreme hostility of the opposition he was dealing with.

    Currently, his situation is not to dissimilar from a prime minister in a parliamentary system leading a minority government, where the opposition treats every major vote as a three-line whip. So, far, Obama seems to be playing the hand he’s been dealt better than, say, James Callaghan or John Major did. Not perfectly, but not incompetently, either.

    For what it’s worth, most of my criticism of Barack Obama is based on what he’s done (primarily continuations of Bush administration policies that violate civil liberties), not on what he hasn’t done.

  33. Yes, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a moderate. The Court hasn’t had a liberal justice since Thurgood Marshall retired, except for John Paul Stevens’ final years on the Court.

  34. For the Obamabots, let’s talk substance. The president’s speech on substance was a slightly stronger nod for repair of schools, but other than that, it was more tax cuts and extending unemployment benefits. The issue that New Dealer folks like me are pushing for, and have pushed for, is a strong commitment to infrastructure rebuilding and development. The president simply does not believe this, and I believe him when he says that among his donors and through his spokespersons, and even in public about projects not being shovel ready. Yes, he showed more emotion last night. But he has yet to change the narrative, confront Boehner or McConnell or Cantor and say, enough of this speechifying. Let’s have a direct debate and let’s talk about how it’s the wars, income tax cuts for the rich and the implosion of the economy, and the incredible level of inequality that has developed–and how we get out of this hole by rebuilding the nation and promoting jobs to do that work.

    But he won’t. And never will. It’s not his ultimate style. He won’t show up in Wisconsin when the pickets were up and moving. He won’t call a local public official and say, “What will it take to get this project started on Monday?” He is not transformative in the way that directly confronts the Republican ideology. And in a debate on substance, he’d be more often going “Yes, but” with the likes of Boehner on things like corporate trade deals, that Social Security is not viable, and that Medicare is in crisis because it spends too much money, the reason we’re in this hole is because of “spending,” and we need to stay in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc.

    And the Obamabots, and unfortunately even my friend, Michael Berube, are willing to accept the what is. Leaders who lead change the dialogue. Obama, even in last night’s speech, reenforced the dialogue that makes Perry sound like he should be considered viable.

    What to do, though? Well, since I ain’t famous, I can’t run for president and expect to be considered serious. I just wonder where Rich Trumka is at this point. He didn’t introduce the president at the Labor Day rally–Hoffa, Jr. did. That was strange. Maybe it’s time for a labor party in the Democratic Party since it is so thoroughly controlled by financiers and white collared executives drinking wine and eating brie…(Inside joke to Keith Humphreys). For those who consider folks like me naive in 2011 for calling on prominent libs or Dems to run a primary challenge against Obama, just see who’s naive in 2012 when even when I and other lefties vote for Obama over Perry, Obama still loses because independent voters (low information, short term memory) pull the lever for Perry because, “Well, Obama promised hope and change and delivered on neither. Might as well give this other guy a try….” Those who rip folks like me now will be, “Whoa? Who’d have thought THAT was going to happen?”

    Ok, now. Begin your personal attacks on me. In the words of FDR, I welcome your hatred.

  35. …except, of course, that the real Obama (not the fantasy evil Obama) actually did propose an ambitious infrastructure rebuilding program. I don’t think that you’ve bothered to learn anything about it. Just like Iraq, and a lot of other things in your post, it doesn’t seem as if what is actually happening corresponds to what you say is happening. This makes it hard to engage you – because if you believe things that aren’t so, and just dismiss contrary evidence with a regal wave of your hand, there is nothing to talk about.

    Calling people who disagree with you robots is a nice trick; one thing that it doesn’t do is convince anyone. News flash: people can disagree with you without being mindless cultists.

    I’m a member of the reality-based community. Primary challenges to Democratic incumbents have never succeeded in the modern era. They haven’t caused an insurgent to win the general election, ever. They haven’t caused a more liberal candidate to win the general election, ever.

    So, basically, I think you’ve made up your mind that you detest Obama; you’ll spend all of your time attacking him online; you aren’t interested in what he actually says, or what he actually will do. (I heard a strong defence of liberalism last night, for example.) The “I’ll vote for Obama” bit would be somewhat more persuasive if you could spare any energy for attacking his opponents, as opposed to your evident passion for attacking him.

  36. I don’t believe that I ever thought the president would turn out to be a superhero. I *was* expecting a moderate Democrat, though. And the jury is still out on that. I could give you a list, but I won’t bother. (I don’t know who “Matt” and “Marc” are, but they seem to be new. We’ve been talking about these things here for weeks already.)

    Although I do think we need a primary challenger, I would only support this if it’s someone who’s smart enough to get out of the race before electing another Bush. Ie, *not* another Nader.

    Allowing another GOP president would be a disaster. As disappointing in some ways as this administration is, at least they didn’t *start* unnecessary wars. It really is a big difference. And the Supreme Court matters too.

    But if people want to hear happy talk, go somewhere else. “What is actually happening” has mostly been quite bad, and I’m very, very tired of people who try to tell me that what’s falling on my head is rain. You two must live in DC to be this out of touch.

  37. Having said that, I must say how much I enjoy Mark’s optimism. It really is a tonic. If he can believe, maybe I can at least try to work up a tiny bit of hope.

    And, it’s true that the HCR was one for the books. So, there’s that.

  38. Iran, Hugo, and Russia would be hurting for petrodollars if we could tap into all the energy consumed in the back and forth between the “Now I hate him” and the “I still have faith in him” voter blocks. Sadly, all this activity also adds up to a big zero for the Democratic Party.

    How about we try a little creative thinking?

    What if the “Now I hate him” group sets up separate fora for their, um, conversations. Then the “I still have faith in him” group could get on with the business of organizing democratic voters in what promises to be a herculean effort to stave off another backslide into the dark ages. We need to concentrate here people; because y’all know how organizing Democrats is like transporting jackrabbits on a flatbed truck.

    Meanwhile, the “Now I hate him” group could do like the Tea Party – give themselves a name, and then squirrel themselves away to work at purifying their internal message to the point where it shines like the top of Karl Rove’s head. This group could call itself the “Pajama Party”. And since, like the Tea Party, they are still somewhat in the minority, it would still be up to the organizing centrists to determine the presidential candidate – again, just like the GOP. But the twist here is that the winning Pajama Party candidate would become the choice for Vice-President!!! (actually, that too is how it seems to be turning out for the GOP). The advantage to this strategy is that it keeps Democratic votes in-house (wow, again just like the GOP!) and avoids a nasty mess of hopeless third-party candidates sucking on the Democratic jugular.


  39. Brian,
    I think you’re being a bit too harsh. Even the people who think that Obama is a Rockefeller Republican in drag believe that a Rockefeller Republican is far better than today’s Mutant Zombie Party. And nobody wants to pull a Ralph Nader.
    The problem for those who are disappointed in Obama is how to bring him further to the left without compromising his chances for reelection. One way to do it is to stop funding the Democratic Party and start funding every credible PinkoPAC out there, as well as appetizing local D candidates. This is about 80% as effective in getting Democrats reelected as a direct contribution to the Party, but Obama will have to listen to a well-funded PinkoPAC. Money talks, y’know.

  40. I think the gloomoids here are missing the fact that in politics words are deeds. Obama has chosen what we wanted of him, more confrontation with his GOP enemies, win or lose. It’s unlikely to get any more legislation passed in this Congress, but the point is at least to stick the blame for the mess where it belongs. We may be unduly pessimistic. The political focus has changed rapidly in recent weeks, from the imaginary deficit problem to the real jobs one; and the GOP mantra on jobs – tax cuts for the rich i good times and bad – is a bad joke, far less credible (leaving morality aside) than its line on the deficit – benefit cuts for the poor. Suppose Tea Party rallies are replaced in it the news by marches of the unemployed?

  41. ES: We’ve had people admitting here that they are actively working against the Democratic party. From jm above:

    “I am actively opposing the Democratic Party as it presently exists. …I am trying to convince liberal minded people that the Democratic Party is no longer a vehicle for enacting liberal principles. I do this through talking to anyone who’ll listen, writing letters to the editors of my local and regional papers and, yes, commenting on blogs.”

    Sorry, but the above sounds an awful lot like Naderism. In a 2 party system this leads to only one place: Republicans.

    Similarly, anyone advocating a primary challenge is engaging in magical thinking. Whatever you think of Obama, this has never achieved anything positive. What’s different now?

    I respect criticism based on substance, not that based on a pre-determined narrative from people spending a lot of time in a virtual bubble. More to the point, I’d love to see what is gained by the naysayers? What goals are being achieved? What do they propose to do?

  42. Ebenezer: thanks for saying that.

    The only thing that makes talking about a primary challenger magical thinking is that I’m not rich. But I don’t see why Bernie Sanders, or someone like him, can’t take a few weeks out of their busy schedule, and raise some he**. Then, before doing *actual damage,* quit. What is so difficult about that?

    Or, Marc, are you trying to say that the Obama administration is truly progressive and we should all just get in line??? Because if that’s your line, good luck with it, here or anyplace else where people read newspapers (admittedly, this is less and less of the electorate).

  43. Mark, where are these new people coming from? The Washington Post group that this blog is now linked to? ‘Cause that might explain a lot.

  44. I’m saying that we have a 2 party system, and that for many years I’ve worked to elect people more conservative than I am.
    Because I work to elect the person closest to you who can actually win a general election. If primary challenges from the left worked as well as those from the right do, then I’d support them. We now have a track record of complete failure on that score – especially given the utter lack of an actual plausible candidate. To the extent that it has an impact it’s a bad impact (Nader vs. Gore, Kennedy vs. Carter, etc.) So why flog a failed idea?

    I’ve been a sporadic commenter for a long time, by the way, so the claim that I’m some interloper is amusing, yet non-factual.

  45. Well, since you just joined us again, many of us here — while finding many nice things we like about the president, mostly his personal qualities, and far from being Obama-haters (Matt), want him to be re-elected, as a *Democrat* — would like to see that “Overton” window (I think that’s what it’s called — somebody help me out here) moved significantly to the LEFT.

    We talk about how to do that.

    If this upsets you, maybe stay out of the kitchen.

    And we already have Mark, the original Obama cheerleader. When he does it, it’s cute.

  46. NCG, I’ve actually been a reader of this blog and occasional commenter for quite a long time–a couple of years now. I take the implication of your asking where the “new” people are coming from that somehow I ducked under the velvet rope without having my opinions properly policed? For what it’s worth, I tend to agree more with Mark Kleiman (who you’re nicely condescending to) than Jonathan Zasloff on matters of politics and the president.

    And by the way, far from being upset by what you say, I agree with most of it. Like you, I want the Overton window shifted drastically leftward. I just don’t think that a Naderist rebellion will cause this to happen. Nor will whining about how unfair it is that reality didn’t turn out the way we were promised. In fact, like Marc said, I think being mopey and relentlessly cynical about Obama will only lead to one thing: more Republicans. And lunatic apocalyptic Republicans at that.

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