“Time and cunning and talk”

Judith Shklar praises Ben Franklin for understanding that politics is “not action, but patience.”
Remind you of anyone?

Judith Shklar on Ben Franklin:

… he and his highly organized following paved the streets, put in new street lights, set up schools, built a hospital, organized a militia which elected its own officers, and much more. How did Franklin do it? By persuasion and organization. He was one of the few public men who understood that politics, apart from its military aspects, was not action, but patience; that persuasion took time and cunning and talk, not “deeds.”

Remind you of anyone?

By the way, the health care bill, which involves a permanent redistribution of $200B per year down the income scale, is now a clear favorite to pass in the Intrade betting: passage by June 30 is 61 cents bid, 69 cents offered.

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

20 thoughts on ““Time and cunning and talk””

  1. The only question being whether it will pass in a manner anybody besides a committed Democrat would recognize as "passing"? I get the impression there are plans to stretch the enrolled bill doctrine to it's very limits, and possibly beyond.

  2. Ah. A new secessionist meme on the way: laws passed by Democrats are not really laws and can presumably be disobeyed with a clear conscience.

  3. No, the meme is that there's a difference between actually passing a bill, and 'passing' it by a procedure which avoids actually having a vote on the bill. A vote on a rule isn't a vote on a bill.

  4. Yes, Brett, we're all shocked – shocked! – that Democrats are considering using parliamentary maneuvers to overcome unprecedented Republican obstructionism. Very similar bills have now passed both Houses. Through some procedure, those two bills will now be reconciled and sent to the President for his signature. It will then be a law, and no one will care about the details of the sausage-making.

  5. Who exactly is Obama persuading? Reconciliation is an end run (one I have no problem with, by the way, even though I think this bill is bad idea) around those in his own party who oppose the bill. And the comparison of Obama and his followers with Franklin and his is a stretch to say the least. In what way has the HCR process been "highly organized"?

  6. Mark, are you trying to become the world's most decorated Obamabot? Get back to us when he actually gets something important done, other than the Lily Ledbetter act. Run it by me again. How is HCR (sic) that won't do much for those who need it most until 2014, when the crisis is now, such a magnificent accomplishment? If it actually passes, that is? The President has had public opinion on his side through this whole debacle; didn't seem to matter very much, did it? Even with his supernatural powers of persuasion.

  7. Yes, KLG, having waited for this since 1907, when TR proposed it, we'd be silly to be satisfied with changes that mostly don't take effect until 2014. Why didn't Obama do it yesterday? Last year? In 1948? Thanks for illustrating my point, and Shklar's, about the characteristic shortage of patience in political life.

    And no, jm, reconciliation is an end run around the filibuster, and the solid Republican "party of no" bloc vote that makes it an impassible barrier.

  8. Although I agree with Mark's assessment of the significance of HCR, I'm not sure how much credit Obama should get. Even bad generals win battles sometimes, especially when they have most of the troops. And Obama has certainly had his share of doozies:

    – Bargaining against himself, both on the stimulus package and financial-sector reform. (The consumer protection section of the Administration's financial reform package went out of its way to abjure usury law. I think that usury law is good policy–as did Adam Smith. But even if you disagree, it's usually good politics to open the bidding with more than you are going to get.)

    – Being gobsmacked on Brown's win, even though it was no real surprise.

    – Tolerating a slow process. This didn't kill HCR, but seemed to hurt the rest of the agenda.

    The jury is out on Obama's political skill. Mark might be right in the end. But taking 15 months to get HCR is not overwhelming evidence.

  9. You're welcome! Glad to be of service. Ah, yes. Patience in political life, such a wonderful thing to have. Pie in the sky when you die, and that "long run" in which we will all be dead. Keynes, wasn't it who said that about the long run? Now, there's a political thinker with something to teach President Obama. Too bad he would rather listen to…who exactly does he listen to besides his Chicago Boys and Girls? Oh, yeah. Almost forgot, Summers and Geithner. Well, the way things are going in Kah-lee-forn-ya, maybe UCLA will eventually have to dump you into the individual insurance market and take back your retirement. Then you can exercise some of that political patience should you need a doctor for anything major or contemplate retirement from the rigors of academic public policy teaching, research, and writing. Which you do very well on very important subjects, I hasten to add. Including making the RBC one of the better political sites on the interwebs.

  10. Would reconciliation even have been necessary had the Obama team been highly organized and persuasive? If they had been highly organized and persuasive, wouldn't they have avoided the fustercluck of August-December? Wouldn't they have passed a final bill before they lost the 60th vote in the Senate? (Would they have lost the 60th vote in the Senate?)

  11. I agree with some of the commentators in this thread that the jury is still out as far as Obama's political skill is concerned. I don't think Obama was well prepared for the Tea Party movement nor the volatile town halls around the country that whipped up a fury. To be honest, I didn't quite see that coming either nor did most anyone else. To say that Obama's agenda wasn't hurt by that is to be in flat out denial. I like Obama, there's a reason why I voted for the guy and I think he's done an ok job so far, but he's obviously had to go through some trial by fire here. He and his team made a political miscalculation when they assumed that Republicans would actually listen. Team Obama also made a mistake by relying on Dems in Washington to take care of business. He should have had a much more involved role from the very beginning and it seems that he finally realizes that. Team Obama seems to think that the American people really pay attention to how cozy Dems are with Repubs. Pardon the language, but the American people couldn't give two shits about bipartisanship. People that voted for Obama didn't vote for a guy that was going to play nice. They voted for a guy that was going to make things happen, and if that meant stepping over Repubs (just like Repubs stepped over Dems under Bush II) so be it. What the people care about are results. Mark's point about patience is well taken. There are many cases in which patience pays off, but this honestly hasn't been one of them. We're no better off than we were a year ago. The only viable option is reconciliation. Partisanship rules DC more than ever. The bill has been stripped down considerably. We're now in the awesome position of having to make compromises on core Democratic and liberal values such as abortion in order to get anything done. I don't see why this could not have been achieved a year ago. Instead, Democrats once again appear weak willed and there's a strong possibility that they're going to lose the majority come November. The price for patience has been very high indeed and, depending on what does happen in November, will reverberate for years to come.

    All that being said, its actually pretty amazing that we're even having this conversation. This is potentially the first signification healthcare reform we've had since forever. And for that, Obama does deserve credit. Its far from perfect, but groundshaking legislation never is. My only problem is that there was no reason for the wait.

  12. Brett Bellmore says:

    "No, the meme is that there’s a difference between actually passing a bill, and ‘passing’ it by a procedure which avoids actually having a vote on the bill. A vote on a rule isn’t a vote on a bill."

    Stop lying, although I've got to give you credit for packing so many lies into one short sentence. First, if the House passes the Senate bill, then that bill will have been voted on. If modification is passed, it will have been passed by an actual vote in both houses.

    Meanwhle, what *you* are trying to do is to deny everything possible an actual vote.

  13. Paving the streets, putting in new street lights, setting up schools, and building a hospital are all "deeds."

    Just in case any one had a question about that.

  14. "First, if the House passes the Senate bill, then that bill will have been voted on."

    Indeed. And my point is that, in order for the House to pass the Senate bill, they have to vote on the Senate bill. Not on something else. You don't "deem" bills passed, you pass them by voting on them.

    The problem here, I suppose, is that the Senate, above all else, want to not have to vote again on the bill it just barely passed when there were more Democrats. While the House wants to avoid facing the voters this fall complicit in the passage of a purely Senate version of the bill.

    Can't square that circle. If the House passes the Senate bill, it goes off to the President, and reconciliation never happens. And the vulnerable House members face the voters wrath.

    While if the House actually originates a health care bill, per the Constitution, (Instead of the Senate appropriating a House bill number for a totally unrelated Senate originated bill.) they can send the Senate a bill they're not afraid to face the voters after voting for, but the Senate will have to vote on it again with their present membership.

    But there's no constitutional procedure that satisfies both the House and the Senate's priorities. Unless the only House priority is making the process opaque enough that they can claim the Senate suckered them when they face the voters this fall, which I don't think the voters are going to buy.

  15. Barry: "First, if the House passes the Senate bill, then that bill will have been voted on.”

    Brett Bellmore says:

    "Indeed. And my point is that, in order for the House to pass the Senate bill, they have to vote on the Senate bill. Not on something else. You don’t “deem” bills passed, you pass them by voting on them."

    Is it actually possible for you to stop lying? The only way that that bill can become law is for the House to vote on and pass that ****exact same bill*****.

  16. "Is it actually possible for you to stop lying? The only way that that bill can become law is for the House to vote on and pass that ****exact same bill*****."

    I keep saying that, and you keep saying I'm lying. Are you even bothering to parse what I say?

  17. Actually, I did, trying to figure out what you meant by 'deem'. That's what those links are about – you're pulling an IOKIYAR – as usual.

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