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This Bob Herbert column makes a number of points that seem, to anyone ever-so slightly to the left of, say, Barack Obama, unexceptionable to the point of banality. That’s not a criticism: as Orwell remarked, “sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” Pointing out that the United States has become an unapologetic plutocracy, in which The Money Party buys whatever legislation it favors and orders a well-compensated hit on any initiative it dislikes, is an example of fulfilling that obligation.

Herbert could have added that our foreign policy has also been almost as completely commandeered by elites that largely overlap those inhabited by our financial and corporate overlords. (Relatedly, Glenn Greenwald notes how elite opinion in America manages to condemn the undemocratic character of Egypt’s oligarchical corruption without a trace of ironic self-consciousness).

One important factor that enables all this is the almost complete exclusion of anything that could be realistically called “the left” from what is considered serious or respectable political debate in America. This isn’t true in regard to various culture war battles: When it comes to abortion, or gay marriage, or affirmative action, or the secularization of public life, or any of a number of other issues that are fraught — at least for cultural conservatives — with great symbolic significance, something that could be meaningfully called “the Left” is a recognized and often successful player in public political debate.

But when we leave the battlefields of the culture wars, and turn to economic and foreign policy, the left becomes either completely invisible or a target for derisive jokes about Michael Moore’s waistline, “crazy” feminists, etc. When it comes to blood and money, the debate in contemporary America takes place between the radical anti-government right (the Tea Party and its enablers), the radical authoritarian right (the Bush-Cheney-neo-con wing of the GOP), and the relatively moderate right (the Democratic party establishment, of which Barack Obama is naturally the leading representative). What, after all, could be characterized as genuinely liberal — let alone actually left-wing — about the Obama administration’s economic or foreign policy? The administration’s economic policy is “left” only in a world in which demands to return to the economic arrangements of the Gilded Age are considered part of serious political debate, while calls for a health care system that looks something like that enjoyed by every other developed country are dismissed as typical pie in the sky utopian socialism.

When it comes to foreign policy, the erasure of anything even vaguely resembling a left wing politics is even more complete. The Obama administration’s foreign policy — which after all merely reflects the position of almost all Democratic national political figures — is almost indistinguishable from that of the Bush administration in all important respects. For a politician to seriously question the imperial pretensions that fuel our current orgy of paranoid nationalism instantly marks that person as Not Serious in the eyes of our opinion-making elites.

On the most important issues of our time — questions of basic economic justice, and war and peace — the Overton window has been moved so far right that we have a political discourse which would have been largely unrecognizable a generation ago. The first step toward changing that situation is recognizing it for what it is.

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  • joe from Lowell

    The Obama administration’s foreign policy — which after all merely reflects the position of almost all Democratic national political figures — is almost indistinguishable from that of the Bush administration in all important respects.

    You know, like the Iraq occupation or arms control treaties.

    Remember when George Bush responded to big popular protest against Pervez Musharrif by working to ease him out?

    This statement is sufficiently egregious as to make your whole analysis suspect.

    • DocAmazing

      Please tell me that you’re not trying to argue that we’re not still occupying Iraq. A friend of mine just got stationed there–funny way to withdraw, sending ever more troops.

      And we haven’t even gotten to Afghanistan.

      • joe from Lowell

        Oh, Jesus, this nonsense?

        Really? You’re pretending not to know anything about the SOFA, the withdrawal date, the reduction in troop levels by 75% since Obama took power, the deadline at the end of the year?

        Look, if you want to play dumb, you’re going to have to play solitaire.

        • Um, you do realize that the withdrawal schedule was established by a State of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Iraqi government with George Bush, not Barack Obama, don’t you?

          And you do remember that candidate Barack Obama’s schedule would have had all troops out in 16 months, i.e., by last June, yes?

          Here’s your deck of cards. Enjoy your solitaire.

    • Joe

      The shift makes his “centrist” policies too right leaning for comfort, but I agree to the extent that I still don’t quite confuse the two. Don’t see Obama starting a war ala Iraq. Afghanistan was an unfinished conflict, putting aside disagreement on what he did with it. Living through 2003 and all, I don’t find this like some sort of footnote, so it’s pretty significant. This is true even if I’m not a big fan of stuff like unmanned drones killing people in the country du jour.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        A fairly significant change in US policy toward Iraq took place during the last two years of the Bush administration. In addition to keeping Bush’s SecDef, Obama has essentially continued the policies already in place when his predecessor left office.

        • Ed

          Very true, and a point that doesn’t get made often enough.

        • Joe

          Right. After the barn door was open, some real changes were made to temper the damage. Again, what about the first three quarters of the administration?

        • joe from Lowell

          “A change was made” is a passive voice statement.

          The Bush administration was dragged kicking and screaming into abandoning its policy. They pulled out ever stop they could to get Malaki to back off the demand for a full withdrawal and a timeline, and lost. They signed onto the SOFA because the mandate for American troops to remain in Iraq was coming to an end, and it was the only way to get an extension.

          That doesn’t make withdrawal Bush’s policy. Bush’s policy was a long term occupation and permanent bases to replace those he vacated in Saudi Arabia.

    • Swami

      There is no such thing as “work to ease out” a foreign leader in the modern world.

      Any such effort only taints the target nation’s domestic political opposition with “foreign control”, weakening it- and strengthening the party in power.

      Once a foreign leader has a firm grip on power, removing that leader can be done with brute force, nothing else.

  • “What, after all, could be characterized as genuinely liberal — let alone actually left-wing — about the Obama administration’s economic or foreign policy? The administration’s economic policy is “left” only in a world in which demands to return to the economic arrangements of the Gilded Age are considered part of serious political debate, while calls for a health care system that looks something like that enjoyed by every other developed country are dismissed as typical pie in the sky utopian socialism. ”

    It’s somewhat hard to evaluate that without factoring in governing rules though. I mean, your central poinostly ignore any meaningful center-left point of view is correct, but with a different set of institutional rules, how much would that matter? The House just had a Speaker that I’m pretty sure progressives are happy to call one of their own, so it seems that the 111th Congress would have been drastically different if we had, say, a parliamentary system without the House of Lords and President. Or, for that matter, even if we just had the House and President. Heck, it would have been at least somewhat more progressive if the Senate simply operated on a majority rules basis.

  • jeer9

    And LG&M struggles against the rightward skewing of the discourse by … what? Punching hippies at every opportune moment. Too funny. Within the year, this site will be advocating four more years of corporate Democratic hackery, and not because it doesn’t recognize that the current administration is a group of spineless incompetents, but because as we slide toward fascism it’s important that the Supreme Court retains a strong liberal voice to express minority dissent on our downward path. Discussions of presidential primary opposition or third party candidates are pooh-poohed as irrational or a perverse undermining of progressivism. Those crazy Greens. Even Orwell would hold his nose at their pathetic antics. Yep, it’s best to support the Dems. The first step toward changing that situation is recognizing it for what it is. Indeed.

    • efgoldman

      So let me get this straight:

      The GOBP has allowed (encouraged?) the loony right to be part of their mainstream and guide their philosophy and actions. They primaried many of their stalwarts from the fringe, and in doing so,cost themselves seats they may have won; they’ve overreached at the edges and will cause a reaction which will likely cost them multiple generations of votes and power.

      And jeer9 wants us to do the same thing on the left?

      Look, I wish single-payer had become the health care default. But (much as I hate to acknowledge the war criminal Rumsfeld) we have to deal with the institutional structures and restraints we have, not the ones we’d like.

      That’s no hippie-punching, that’s reality.

      • jeer9

        Many of the “loony” left’s positions (on the wars, Wall Street criminality, health care – not insurance – reform, surveillance and torture issues, marijuana legalization, etc.) are endorsed by a majority of Americans, yet the party that supposedly represents the people can’t seem to put forth candidates who would actually enact such legislation. Instead, the Dem leadership supports candidates who undermine those policies because they don’t truly want them passed into law and when they get into the majority they require an indispensable enemy (or six) who provides deep “structural” barriers to reform. Good luck with the “more and better democrats” mantra. That’s not reality you’re looking at, but doing the same thing over and over again and expecting change. The Dems as a party are rotten to the core. Defending them may not be hippie-punching but it sure ain’t “winning the future.”

        • timb

          Well, go vote for someone else and you can tell us later how that vote helped

        • idlemind

          Sorry, you’re being distracted by polls if you think that, in a battle with the right wing, support for those things wouldn’t evaporate in a heartbeat. I agree that the right half of Democratic Party is nearly as corrupted by money as the Republicans, but what’s left is a definite minority. And they are quite aware that their leverage over the rest of the party is weak compared with the force of the right wing noise machine.

          It boils down to a propaganda war, and we’re thoroughly losing it.

        • Brad P.

          Both parties are rotten to the core, but God help us if either of their evil opponents get in power.

      • hv

        …we have to deal with the institutional structures and restraints we have, not the ones we’d like.

        Disclaimer: Does not apply to candidates, only voters.

        • dave

          Nope, pretty much applies to candidates too. If they can’t raise the big money, they might as well be standing on a street corner yelling about the voices in their head.

          • hv

            Heh, are you suggesting that is an institutional structure they don’t like?!

    • Joe

      Not seeing the Greens putting forth much of a national effort here. When Edwards is your “working man” candidate in ’08, you are in trouble. I’m with Scott in thinking Nader left something to be desired. The Tea Party took their chance and ran with it. How many obtainable seats did Greens pick up in recent years? A few progressive pick-ups. I’m all for strong opposition. Go for it. Not going to buy “pox on both houses” stuff though. One side is lame, but right on various things, the other side is crazy. The “if Palin wasn’t on the ticket, I might have thought of sitting out ’08” brigade doesn’t work for me.

      • jeer9

        Corporate Republican or Crazy Republican?
        A third choice? The Left exercising some pressure by backing a primary opponent? But we’ll end up with a Crazy! I don’t care how many times you hit me I ‘ll never leave you. Expressions of unconditional “love” have always seemed to me to promote more abuse, not less. And if you can argue about what constitutes abuse, all the better. I bet some family members will even come forth and testify that the final battering was utterly unexpected. Nobody could have known!

      • DocAmazing

        Not seeing the Greens putting forth much of a national effort here.

        You’re not seeing it because the Greens keep having to fight against the Dems at every level. Greens are always expected to assist in Dem electoral efforts, but let a Green make a credible run for dogcatcher and the Dems pour money into defeating him/her–even if the Republican benefits from the fighting. The Republicans, on the other hand, famously embrace their fringe, not fight it, and if they’re losing as a result I’d hate to see what winning looks like.

        If the Dems would concentrate on fighting the Republicans and quit screwing Greens and other progressive candidates, we might just get someplace, but that isn’t happening.

        • hv

          Gore/Nader > Gore/Lieberman

          And yet we blame the voters, not Gore for failing to court Nader.

          • jeer9

            Ahhhhh, there’s a ticket. Not that Nader has ever possessed the humility to play second banana.

            • hv

              Fair enough, change it to someone else progressive, your choice. The sentiment remains about Gore’s attitude to courting progressives.

        • timb

          What’s the old Washington saying: The Republicans fear and their hate their base; the Democrats hate their base.”

          Splintering the Democratic Party in the Congress right after the most liberal, successful Congress of the last 40 years seems a bit “short-sighted.”

          It’s weird to see the Left ape the politics of the Right

          • jeer9

            What’s weird is your belief that the last congress was a successfully liberal breath of fresh air. Yes, we wouldn’t want the Dems to purge their ranks of centrist corporate cronies and support their base. Look at what that has wrought on the other side.

            • timb

              Health care, START treaty, financial reform, S-CHIP expansion, Lilly Ledbetter….

              Perhaps it didn’t all you or I wanted it to do (I’d have loved to see better health care and more stringent financial regulations), but governing is about the fever dreams of pure at heart libs.

              ‘Cause, jeer, you sound like someone on Limbaugh’s show ranting about how so and so is RINO because he/she deviated from orthodoxy and compromised with “the other side.”

              • jeer9

                That must be why the Dem voters showed up in droves to support those achievements and that Congress in 2010. We won’t see the full impact of the health insurance reform until 2014 so it’s a bit premature to call it a rousing success (especially as it appears to have been written by several insurance executive lobbyists). The financial reform bill is a joke. But keep trying. He made lots of promises. I’m sure he kept a few I’ve lost track of.

              • hv

                timb, you may wish to entertain the notion that some of Obama’s “accomplishments” aren’t as robust as you imagine.

                q.v. Nobel Peace Prize

        • Joe

          Like how Rand Paul and others were seized as best friends when first running in ’08? Republicans just blackballed Murkowski too, right?

          The establishment of both parties supported establishment candidates. McCain was rejected in ’00 just like various other candidates that showed some sign of independence.

          If Edwards could be the ‘workman’ candidate in ’08, some actual credible Dean like upstart could have too in other races.

    • Murc

      jeer9, I have a certain amount of sympathy to where you’re coming from on this. However, I’m not sure you’ve worked things through to their logical conclusion. Allow me to elaborate.

      You say that those of us who are leftists ought to refuse to give the Democratic Party our support, either in terms of time, money, or votes, until we start getting some actual leftist policies out of them. Now, that’s fair. I happen to agree with that, when its posed in those terms.

      My question, which isn’t rhetorical because I don’t have an answer to it (and this keeps me up nights) is, what do you do about the metaphorical hostage situation posed by the Right? The money wing of the Democratic Party (I guess I can’t call it the DLC wing anymore?) can make the rather accurate argument ‘well, if you don’t vote for US, that means that President Huckabee will make Ron Paul Secretary of the Treasury and put Glenn Reynolds on the Supreme Court’.

      And while I absolutely don’t like Obama (my primary political issues are civil liberties, averting catastrophic climate change, and preserving and expanding the social safety net, in that order, which should explain WHY I don’t like him) and would vote for someone else in a hot second, the possibility of a second Bush Administration, this time even more crazy, flat-out terrifies me.

      Long-term, that sort of hostage scenario means that the Democratic Party can simply keep moving further and further to the right, consequence-free, as long as they’re less crazy than the political hostage-takers. But I don’t know how to break out of that trap in a way that doesn’t involve gnawing off my arm.

      • You make excellent points, but this comes back to institutional structure and rules, no? After all, a majority of the House voted for a cap and trade bill, and an overwhelming majority of House Democrats would have voted in favor of a strong public health insurance plan. Yet that’s totally irrelevant, primarily because both of those items, and pretty much any other significant progressive priority, died in the Senate.

        • Incontinentia Buttocks

          Then we should devote ourselves to changing the rules and the institutional structures.

          Saying that the rules make progressive politics impossible is the outline for a course of action, not a valid excuse to settle for a race to the bottom.

          • Murc

            This. A -thousand times- this.

            I will note that very recently the Democratic Senate caucus proved it was fundamentally unserious about governing. For two years we heard ‘well, you need sixty in the Senate.’ Fine. Fair enough. When the chance came to make it so it DIDN’T take sixty anymore? Complete punt.

            Not only was it a punt, but Harry Reid actually promised to not bring up filibuster reform again until 2015. So even if the Democrats took back the House in 2012 and hold the Presidency, it will still be impossible to get anything done.

            This, I might add, was done at a time when the House will be producing next to no actionable legislation for the next foreseeable future. A party interested in governing could use all the free time they had in the Senate to do things like solve our federal judiciary crisis and fully staff the executive branch.

            • jeer9

              But they’ll still get your vote? (Scratches head.)

              • Murc

                Honestly? Yeah. Kinda.

                I live in New York. I dislike Chuck Schumer and fucking LOATHE Andrew Cuomo. Gillibrand… jury still out.

                I will absolutely not support either of the first two in any Democratic Primary where there are better options on tap. I -didn’t- support Cuomo, in fact.

                But when the general is Cuomo v. Paladino? I vote for Cuomo while simultaneously telling everyone they’d better watch him like a hawk. When its Schumer v. Townsend or, back in 2004, Schumer v. Mills? Schumer.

                I am not quite yet at the point where I’m prepared to sit out general elections or fragment the at least nominally liberal vote in a general. I realize that being what I feel is a responsible citizen may have deleterious long-term effects on the republic, but as I said earlier, I don’t see a way out of the trap. At least not yet.

              • mpowell

                One thing I’ll say about this is that I’d rather vote for a centrist democrat that favored institutional reform than a leftist that did not. I think there is room for improvement in priorities here. We have some genuinely liberal politicians. We have virtually nobody interested in fixing what needs to be fixing, ie, the senate and campaign finance reform. Even Feingold didn’t support killing the filibuster. We don’t need more liberal representatives (right now at least). We need representatives that are willing to focus on institutional reform.

              • jeer9

                Foxes guarding the henhouse.

            • Without being able to count votes, I’d just point out that given the mix of Republicans and conservadems in the current Senate, it’s quite possible that Reid didn’t have 50 votes in favor of abolishing the filibuster.

          • “Then we should devote ourselves to changing the rules and the institutional structures.”

            That was my point.

          • Brad P.

            Progressives have spent the last 100 years centralizing economic and social decision making in support for their favorite policies, so perhaps an extremely critical look in the mirror should be first course of action.

            • DocAmazing

              Right. Progressives have been behind loosened oversight of corporations and increasing approval of mergers and acquistions between them.

              I know that you can only see the gummint when you’re looking for problems, but really, try some new glasses, Mr. P.

        • “Yet that’s totally irrelevant, primarily because both of those items, and pretty much any other significant progressive priority, died in the Senate.”

          No, they died in the White House, because Obama never intended (or wanted) to get them passed, and therefore never campaigned for them.

          Obama is a “Third Way” Democrat, and their entire theory and agenda is anti-liberal. You are not going to get so much as an attempt at liberal legislation (or protecting existing liberal programs) as long as you keep voting for such people.

          • And this is the kind of commentary I don’t take seriously.

            On the one hand, you’ve got Senate Democrats on the record refusing to support progressives policies and goals. On the other hand, you’ve got an administration with somewhat amorphous views on things you’re speculating believe what you want to think they believe to further a victim complex, and rather than blame the people who consistently vote against progressive goals in Congress you want to blame the administration based upon your speculation.

      • jeer9

        Murc,
        We clearly share the same frustration. I would love to see a name-recognized third party challenge from the Left or a primary opponent (Grayson, Sanders, Franken) as I believe it’s the only way we’re going to shift that dreary Overton Window and compel the small faction of actual progressives to stand behind their principles instead of caving. They need to see some actual ballot support to convince them, and the disappointment in Obama right now continues to grow. As long as the Dems serve as a legitimate alternative (2% difference though it may be), they distract voters from the potential choices that might be available. Complaining that such a sorry state exists, but then attacking proposals of other options seems to only support the status quo or the slide rightward. Perhaps I have more faith in the voting public or maybe I’m just deluding myself that the disgust with our current president’s hypocrisy is greater than it is. In any case, it seems very bad political strategy for the Dems to be perpetuating the Republican agenda (which they will then get blamed for) unless they don’t care about winning and sharing the spoils with the Right because only a third party curbs their power – or the electorate’s views are merely the squabblings of a peasantry that the lords feel confident ignoring. After all, the US is a long way from storming any square Egyptian-style, and the corporate media relishes its role as master of misinformation. Look! Over there! Scary tea partiers! Did you read Sarah’s latest tweet? Our problem is not the Republicans but the sad state of the Dems. People didn’t flood the polls two years ago for more conservatism.

        • Murc

          I don’t think I’m quite where you are, Jeer, at least not yet.

          I absolutely and wholeheartedly support strategic, intelligent primary challenges to incumbents from the left, up to and including the President, and FUCK the media narrative. The right has been targeting even its stalwarts with even further right guys, and you know what? While they fail sometimes, and fuck up sometimes (Christine O’Donnel, Sharon Angle) they often succeed, and rightly so.

          Case in point; Bill Bennett. Him getting primaried was absolutely justified from a right-wing point of view. He’s from UTAH, which means that the Republican nominee is more or less guaranteed a win. Why put up someone with some centrist tendencies when you can put up someone who has none?

          There’s no reason why blue states and blue districts, places with D+10 and other structural advantages, should accept representation from sell-outs and centrists when we can elect guys to the left of Bernie Sanders in them.

          That said, I oppose third party-ism. You will note that this is a trap the right has avoided falling into. When their favorite son loses a primary, the right-wing base unites behind the primary winner. This is because they’d prefer not see elections where the super-crazy-right wing guy gets fifteen percent of the vote, the right-wing guy gets forty percent, and the left-wing guy gets forty-five percent and takes home the victory.

          I’d like not to see that either, but with the left and right tags reversed.

          • jeer9

            There’s no reason why blue states and blue districts, places with D+10 and other structural advantages, should accept representation from sell-outs and centrists when we can elect guys to the left of Bernie Sanders in them.

            I would agree with you in one respect. You still haven’t grasped what the Dem party is all about.

            • hv

              I hate to mention Lieberman twice in one thread, but he was primary-ed successfully but Obama’s endorsement kept the Democrat out — as well as a bunch of big pharma $$.

              So it’s not like the Dems are trying to be progressive but just need help from voters.

              • Ed Marshall

                This was Obama’s endorsement of Lieberman:

                Ned Lamont has waged an impressive grassroots campaign to give the people of Connecticut a choice in the November Senate election. He has a vision for his state and country, and his campaign has been about presenting that vision to Connecticut voters.
                Ned Lamont and I share a commitment to bringing our troops home safely from Iraq, to achieving energy independence, to helping all our citizens realize the American dream, and to empowering the American people to reclaim their government. Ned Lamont’s campaign is about delivering on these goals in Washington.
                The November 7th election is right around the corner. Please join me in supporting Ned Lamont with your hard work on-the-ground in these closing weeks of the campaign.

              • jeer9

                I don’t know about Ed, but this was the version I read:

                “I know that some in the party have differences with Joe,” Senator Obama said, all but silencing the crowd. “I’m going to go ahead and say it. It’s the elephant in the room. And Joe and I don’t agree on everything. But what I know is, Joe Lieberman’s a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America.”

                Then, with applause beginning to build, he finished the thought: “I am absolutely certain that Connecticut’s going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the United States Senate.”

              • Ed Marshall

                He supported Lieberman against Lamont in the primary, he supported Lamont against Lieberman in the election.

              • jeer9

                Thanks for the clearer context, although I’m not sure the fluctuation redounds to Obama’s favor. Supporting Lieberman over the more liberal candidate in the primary shows bad political taste. His support for Lamont afterwards sounds like the sort of beautiful but hollow rhetoric we’ve come to expect from our dear leader.

              • hv

                First, for the sockpuppet:

                Blaming the voters is what the really crazies do.

                Please work on your reading comprehension of my remark:

                So it’s not like the Dems are trying to be progressive but just need help from voters.

                Do you see the word “not” in there? You’re embarrassing yourself — again.

              • hv

                Second, for Ed Marshall…

                As a starting point for discussion, can we compare Obama’s donations to the two candidates? (Money talks, baby.) Or is it just the most recent endorsement that trumps everything else?

                Let’s at least have the cynicism to understand that Mr. Lamont surely negotiated some concession for stopping endorsing Chris Dodd and switching to Obama on Jan 10, 2008. (Especially since Lamont was riding some net-activism cachet at the time.) Lo and behold, Feb. 11, 2008 Lamont gets his endorsement.

                Let’s not confuse business-as-usual in the political realm with real efforts to be progressive.

              • mark f

                can we compare Obama’s donations to the two candidates? (Money talks, baby.)

                I’m guessing it was a tie at $0 per. If not that, max per.

                Lo and behold, Feb. 11, 2008 Lamont gets his endorsement.

                You have the years mixed up. The Lieberman-Lamont race was in 2006. By 2008 I doubt anyone actually cared what Ned Lamont had to say about anything, and Dodd losing an endorsement to a viable candidate is about as notable as a white kid with dredlocks voting for Nader.

                Obama’s support of Lieberman in the 2006 primary and switch to Lamont (i.e. his party’s nominee) for the general was exactly the same as every other Senate Democrat’s.

              • hv

                Darn it!

                I’m stupid; you’re smart. I was wrong; you were right. You’re the best; I’m the worst. You’re very good-looking; I’m not attractive.

                I don’t even want to explain how badly my Google Fu failed me, too embarrassing. Feb. is not my month.

          • John

            Is there a way to strategically and intelligently run a primary challenge against an incumbent president from your own party? Could you give an example of that that worked out well?

            • efgoldman

              Well, lets see…

              In my lifetime…

              Reagan against Ford. Nope.

              Ted Kennedy against Carter. Nope.

              McGovern/Bobby Kennedy against Johnson/Humphrey. Nope.

              Before my time: Teddy Roosevelt against Taft. Nope.

              In each case it “worked out well…”
              FOR THE OTHER DAMNED PARTY!

              • Joe

                Reagan won in the next election. Roosevelt’s progressive vision was furthered against the conservative candidate. Kennedy was assassinated. Kinda hard to tell there. Ted was a lousy candidate. Not sure he proves there couldn’t have been a “strategically and intelligently” one. Unproven.

              • Gus

                You forgot Buchanan-Bush

  • wengler

    I endorse this.

    And also with all of the discourse centered on “originalist” thought, there is never any mention of dismantling our standing army.

    It always amazed me how an unsettled country with any amount of internal threats(native uprisings, slave revolts) didn’t bother with keeping around much more than ten thousand soldiers at times of peace. Now of course exists an imperial relic of the Cold War that can’t have enough money thrown at it to enforce corporate power around the world.

    I don’t think this system changes short of revolution.

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  • R. Porrofatto

    As if to almost prove Herbert’s point about our plutocrats’ well-funded frontmen and their power to even infect a Times comments section, we should note that the entire “poor people are really affluent” tirade in the third comment of this thread comes verbatim from the Heritage Foundation — with the exception of the commenter’s personal sighting of a mythical welfare queen in the supermarket — and its dishonesty has been circulating for years.

  • David M. Nieporent

    Shorter Paul Campos: since appropriate economic policy ranges from government ownership of every aspect of the economy to government control of every aspect of the economy, then mere government control of the economy is “moderate right.”

    • Murc

      I’m not sure I’d describe government control over the economy as a left or right position so much as I’d describe it as a precondition for having a functional economy -at all-. I have a hard time envisioning any economic system that’s ever existed that wasn’t government controlled in some way.

      • DrDick

        That is certainly true for all market economies, which cannot function in the absence of at least minimal strong government controls (and never have – some of the oldest written records we have are market regulations).

    • DocAmazing

      Somebody get this guy a copy of Wealth of Nations.

      • DrDick

        You assume, on the basis of absolutely no evidence, that he is capable of reading and understanding it.

    • hv

      Shorter David M. Nierporent: Externalities, schmexternalities.

      • Brad P.

        When you show that government can provide reasonable, sustainable solutions to externalities, rather than just replacing them with myopic and corruptible planners who are even more likely to consciously create externalities, then you can complain about them.

        In the meantime, nothing about Neiporent’s post denied externalities or denied a government role in offsetting them.

        And just to extend Neiporent’s point, Greg Mankiw, who you would undoubtedly consider a prominent rightwing economist is among the strongest proponent of Pigouvian taxes, which explicitly address externality problems.

        • hv

          Ok, Econ 101: the entity that handles all market externalities is called the government. Since any market could produce any kind of externality, in effect the government must exert control over every aspect of the market. What aspect would be immune? Even when the government chooses not to intervene due to externalities, they still are exerting control in that decision/non-action.

          With me so far? Ok, now re-read David M. Nierporent’s post again. Was he documenting some particular abuses of a particular government? Or just bemoaning government control in general? This inevitable control, due to externalities, why is it alarming, damning?

          =======

          Now, many particular governments do lots of silly things that don’t relate to externalities; I will be happy to debate those on the exact same level of documentation and precision as my opponents choose to display. Your demands notwithstanding.

          • Brad P.

            Two points:

            1. I wouldn’t complain about reasonably administered corrections to externalities that didn’t also remove competition from the market. Most of the time progressive legislation makes it into practice, its so full of regulatory costs and carve outs that it serves as an very effective barrier to both price selection by consumers and market entrants by rivals.

            2. You have a weird definition of control. I could similarly decide to find you and force you to listen to that Little Bit of Mambo song for 24 hours at gun point, but that doesn’t mean that I control you when I decide not to.

            3. You missed the point of my comment. While I don’t think every market could produce some sort of externality, even if it did, you have still not justified government intervention. Externalities are a problem of perverse incentives. Government has a severe problem with perverse incentives. You are basically proposing that we solve one problem with an institution that has come to be defined by that very problem.

            • hv

              First of all, that’s not two points.

              Secondly, you seem to be drifting into a debate about the “true” function of government… I don’t intend to engage on this debate (too boring, goalposts always shift, and no upside to winning); I don’t even want to know what entity libertarians assert will handle externalities, instead of the gov’t…

              So let me remind you where the goalposts originally were: does David M. Nierporent adequately describe the normative component in his bile about governmental control? Or does the way he raises the issue also cover the very trivial gov’t oversight that is inevitable and natural, given a) externalities and b) judicial remedies for contractual disputes? Thereby justifying my shorter summary of his silly comment.

              See the difference?

      • David M. Nieporent

        Setting aside the fact that that isn’t even a coherent argument, it’s not remotely responsive to what I wrote. Prof. Campos’s post wasn’t about what’s good policy — if he were, then his complaint would be self-contradictory, since left-wing economic policy isn’t — but about what’s within the bounds of permissible debate. But his argument ironically involved lopping off half the spectrum as not being worthy of “serious political debate,” and then complaining that among what’s remaining, the media focused on things towards the “right” — i.e., the center.

        But did he/you ever consider that the media doesn’t focus on what he calls “left-wing” economic policy for the same reason Campos ignores what he calls “Gilded Age” arrangements — they believe it’s not “part of serious political debate”?

        • Uncle Kvetch

          But did he/you ever consider that the media doesn’t focus on what he calls “left-wing” economic policy for the same reason Campos ignores what he calls “Gilded Age” arrangements — they believe it’s not “part of serious political debate”?

          This would be the same media that gives national radio and TV shows to a man who thinks Russia is poised to take over the Netherlands and install a Marxist Caliphate there, right?

          • Brad P.

            Its also the same media that has treated Ron Paul as if he were some combination of a foolish and naive holdover from the 1920s and a henchman for evil corporate overlords.

            It seems rather silly to alternate between posts about the irrelevance of libertarianism, how libertarians are rightwing nutjobs, and how the Overton window has been shifting to the right.

            One of those oft discussed and reconfirmed topics does not fit. I will let you figure out which one it is, but I will also provide a hint: believing the latter two are very strong self-affirmations.

            • Holden Pattern

              It seems rather silly to alternate between posts about the irrelevance of libertarianism, how libertarians are rightwing nutjobs, and how the Overton window has been shifting to the right.

              Actually, they’re all quite nicely tied together if one realized that libertarianism as actually practiced by people who have a meaningful and funded platform is a bullshit rationalization by paid courtiers supporting the part of movement conservatism that says that the wealthy übermenschen ought to be allowed to loot the country.

              If on the other hand, you’re still looking for the One. True. Scotsman. of. Libertarianism. then I can see where those things would seem inconsistent to you.

              • Brad P.

                Actually, they’re all quite nicely tied together if one realized that libertarianism as actually practiced by people who have a meaningful and funded platform is a bullshit rationalization by paid courtiers supporting the part of movement conservatism that says that the wealthy übermenschen ought to be allowed to loot the country.

                Then wouldn’t the shifting of the Overton Window to the right be illusory?

                Ron Paul is the archetype for rightwingers, and NOBODY takes him seriously outside of his little libertarian followers.

                Watch Paul’s speech at the CPAC that I posted below. If that is the direction that our media and opinion makers are taking us, then I have missed it.

              • Holden Pattern

                Ron Paul is a gold bug nutcase whose libertarianism is oddly tuned to help rich white guys. Every once in a while he finds a nut — for example isolationism is a great model when stupid wars are at issue but not for many other situations.

                Once again, “Libertarianism” in practice in the United States is basically a courtesan that gets trotted out to explain why government is always evil, and the rich are not just different than you and me, but much much better. Which is why Ron Paul runs on the Republican ballot line.

                So libertarianism in whatever true scotsman utopian model you may prefer is entirely pointless and impractical, but as a rhetorical device to be whored out to support the preferred policy outcomes of wealthy pirates of industry, it’s alive and well.

              • Brad P.

                Once again, “Libertarianism” in practice in the United States is basically a courtesan that gets trotted out to explain why government is always evil, and the rich are not just different than you and me, but much much better. Which is why Ron Paul runs on the Republican ballot line.

                And progressivism is basically a courtesan who gets trotted ou to explain why government needs to give more money to corporations. But, unlike progressives, at least libertarians like Ron Paul are mounting a popular refutation of the party they typically align with.

                Here are some quotes where Ron Paul somehow managed to find nuts:

                This past week, we had a pretty good victory for the Freedom Movement, we had a vote come up all of a sudden under suspension and it had to do with the PATRIOT Act, and the PATRIOT Act we know has nothing to do with patriotism, they always name it opposite of what it is. The PATRIOT Act is literally the destruction of the 4th Amendment, that’s what it’s all about.

                Well, we didn’t get a majority vote but they didn’t pass it automatically with a two third vote, sending a message that this country is waking up, and we want to protect our civil liberties as well as our economic liberties.

                The [Egyptian] government is crumbling and the people are upset, not only with their government by they’re upset with us for propping up that puppet dictator for all those years.

                I am sure that half the people in this room won’t cut one penny on the military, and the military is not equated to defense, defense spending is one thing, military spending is what Eisenhower called the “military industrial complex” and we have to go after that.

                We have bipartisanship on medical care, you say “yeah, the current administration is giving us bad new medical care.” But what is done on the other administration, we’ve been involved for a long time. It’s the bipartisanship of the welfare system, the warfare system, the monetary system, the challenge to our civil liberties, it all goes through with support from both parties. So there’s way too much bipartisanship. This should be a challenge of the issue of philosophy, good philosophy versus bad philosophy.

                But where I think we go astray on this exceptionalism is there are some people and sometimes they’re referred as neoconservatives and they’re sort of neo-Jacobins where they believe that we have this moral responsibility to use force to go around the world and say “you will do it our way or else.” Well force doesn’t work, it never works.

                So yeah, fuck that guy. He believes in a gold standard!

              • Holden Pattern

                And progressivism is basically a courtesan who gets trotted ou to explain why government needs to give more money to corporations.

                Please identify three actual progressive think tank funded to justify the transfer of money to corporations. I’ll go first with the libertarians, just off the top of my head: Cato, Hoover, Mercator (I’ll even spot you AEI).

                Otherwise, this is just pretty much a lie. Every single person I know who identifies as a progressive (or even a liberal) hates the extent to which we subsidize corporations (directly and by tax subsidies) to do things which should be done directly by government. Actual progressives who have meaningful platforms also hate this.

                And do you know why we are stuck with the corporate welfare train wreck? Because conservatives have spent the last 40 years using libertarian rhetoric to explain why government can’t do anything right and you have to do everything through the private sector, and dismantling every single public program.

                But, unlike progressives, at least libertarians like Ron Paul are mounting a popular refutation of the party they typically align with.

                Liberals are struggling to figure out a way to allow the government to at least provide some level of assistance to the poor, regulate pollution, etc. etc. so they’re reluctant to abandon the Dems completely. But many many lefty Democrats criticize all of those things that Ron Paul does.

                Ron Paul basically thinks the federal gummint shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING, so it’s not surprising that he’s opposed to the various things you’re saying he’s opposed to. It’s pretty safe for him to say all this stuff right now — when a Dem says it, the Republican party targets them for destruction. Get back to me when the Republican establishment spends as much money to destroy Ron Paul as they did Alan Grayson.

              • hv

                Brad P
                Then wouldn’t the shifting of the Overton Window to the right be illusory?

                Instances of conservatives receiving poor media treatment are not enough to disprove the Overton effect. Despite how poor the treatment of Paul has been, it still might be relatively favorable compared to what he deserved. Thereby confirming the Overton effect.

                People’s opinions on what treatment Paul deserved may vary.

        • DocAmazing

          Right. Scandinavians are dying like flies. Obviously, socialism is beyond the pale.

          Whereas the Gilded Age is celebrated as the pinnacle of health and longevity for the working people of America.

          Jesus, Mr. Nieporent, don’t you even try anymore?

          • David Nieporent

            Do you have Tourette’s? I’m just wondering, because that seems to be a random spouting of words that doesn’t even remotely respond to what I said.

        • hv

          David M. Nieporent says:
          “…it’s not remotely responsive to what I wrote.”

          You were complaining about gov’t control of the economy. Which sector of the economy doesn’t produce (or even potentially produce) externalities? We will be happy to exempt those sectors from gov’t control.

          Of course the government controls any particular aspect of the economny, that’s its function. You aren’t documenting any particular overreach or corruption; I don’t understand the normative component of your complaint against this inevitable, definitional gov’t control.

          Thus: externalities, schmexternalities.

  • flounder

    My take is that most of our media is left-leaning when it comes to the social issues, and the shame they feel for that, plus the salary scale and institutional pressure makes them overcompensate toward being very right wing on economic issues.

    • DocAmazing

      Since when is the media left-leaning on social issues? They drive the “lock-’em-up” tendency and trivialize or ignore abuses in the penal system; they froth ignorantly about illegal drugs, having set rational drug policy in this country back three decades; they give churches cover for nearly all their misdeeds; at best, they take the “abortion is icky and regrettable” stand, when abortion is discussed or portrayed; and they portray law enforcement and intelligence personnel as being nearly universally heroic, with the rare bad apple thrown in as a plot device. They’ve been decent, in the main, on the portrayal of women and gay people, mostly because there are enough of both of those populations in the business to discourage the portrayals that used to be de rigeur.

      That’s not even taking into account media outlets like Fox News, Clear Channel, Reader’s Digest and the various religious broadcasters and talk radio stations.

    • timb

      The co-opting of the media with rock-star journalists making millions (and those rock stars are the goal of any j-school grads) is one of the tragedies of the last 25 years.

      • Bart

        Atrios has his post up listing the names on the Sunday gas bag shows: No dems; only has beens and know-nothings.

  • partisan

    Good post. I want to add a point. If you wanted to name an unpopular policy that otherwise weakwilled liberals and centrists were willing to support (I’m thinking of you, Slate), it would be gay marriage. Obviously Democratic politicians aren’t so ready, but it’s intriguing to ask why people so nervous about popular opinion on other issues are willing to take a stand on this one. And the reason, I think, is that self described contrarians actually know homosexuals. And they don’t know people on welfare, people on death row, illegal immigrants, people in sweatshops, people who need a union who have been cheated by it, people who are going to face the brunt of global warming.

    • timb

      True dat. The closest David Plotz or Will Saletan will come to poor person is when they send their assistant to the store

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  • You are so right, & we are so screwed.

  • cpinva

    mr. herbert’s column was interesting as far as it went, restating (as he notes) the blatantly obvious. what i didn’t see was any reference to the mainstream media, the “village people” who, for the past 20 years, have been the vehicle by which the plutocracy has been “normed”.

    with rare exception, the villagers have toed the plutocratic line (which just happens to also be (act surprised) the republican/tea party line). oddly, mr. herbert neglected even a passing nod to his colleague’s collaberation. not. even. a. word.

    sadly, this is what passes for “liberal” commentary these days, in the MSM. worse yet, people like mr. campos actually buy into it.

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  • Brad P.

    This is incredibly similar in tone to Ron Paul’s speech at the CPAC:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM8d_Arjz6g&feature=player_embedded

    • soullite

      Even a racist clock can still properly display the time…

      • Brad P.

        How many democrats can you name that have been correct on these issues:

        War in Afghanistan and Iraq
        Foreign Policy
        DADT
        Auditing the Fed
        The Patriot Act
        The War on Drugs

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  • On the most important issues of our time — questions of basic economic justice, and war and peace — the Overton window has been moved so far right that we have a political discourse which would have been largely unrecognizable a generation ago. The first step toward changing that situation is recognizing it for what it is.

    This is an absurd rewrite of history. From the very beginnings of our country, this has been true. Particularly in the realm of foreign policy where the bloodiest conflicts in our history were often initiated by the Democrats.

    • DocAmazing

      If you’re attempting to show that throughout US history the Democrat-Republican conflict was a left-right conflict, you can stop right there.

      • Holden Pattern

        But, but, labels are eternal. All Democrats are forever the “bad” statist Democrats, both as vicious racists and crazy marxists, and all Republicans were always the great liberators and the keepers of FREEDOM!

      • My objection was poorly written, I was saying that there has been no overton window shift, republicans and democrats have been united imperialists since the beginning.

    • soullite

      Hey look, it’s Bob dole circa 1996!

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