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What the Green Lanterns Should be Saying

[ 82 ] August 18, 2011 |

Scott of course is right about the Green Lantern theory of domestic politics. There’s just no way Obama is going to will Ben Nelson or Olympia Snowe into supporting a given policy. Giving speeches aren’t going to do anything to change that, and in fact we’ve seen Obama’s speeches become progressively more ignored over time.

There are 2 bigger issues at play here. One is the fact that Republicans need 51 votes for legislation to clear the Senate and Democrats need 60. By this I mean that Republicans have united to filibuster everything and I am extremely skeptical that Democrats will do the same thing when they lose the Senate. Of course, it would only take 41 Democrats to make that work so it’s possible they could lose the Landrieus and Nelsons of the world and still make a go of it, but I don’t think Harry Reid is going to support it.

The second, and more relevant here, is that most legislators fear being attacked from the right than the left. Until that changes, Democrats from purple/red states are incentivized to be to the right of the party line. Here is where Obama might (though maybe not) have made a difference.

The fall of 2008 was a period like few in our lifetimes. For the first time since the election of Roosevelt, you had the left-of-center electorate united, organized, and pumped to do the bidding of a Democratic president. That is a rare species of events. Obama let this power slip through his fingers in favor of his preferred style of compromise centrist governance. The counterfactual question of interest is, what if he had made these people the shock troops of his policy agenda? What if Obama had openly called for rallies to support health care, immigration reform, EFCA, environmental legislation, etc?

At that point, the question becomes whether that public pressure would have scared politicians into falling into line behind Obama? I don’t know the answer. I am sure that FoxNews would have been outraged, talking about the threat to democracy, etc. Beltway insiders would have been equally apoplectic. But would 2000 people, let’s say, in Omaha outside Ben Nelson’s office have convinced him to vote for this or that law? It’s at least worth talking about what that might have been like.

Again, Obama absolutely cannot will senators into doing his bidding. What a president can do is have leverage over those politicians. Obama developed an amazing political machine that engaged millions of Americans. Could he have kept that machine operating into his administration and created the leverage necessary to make it in centrist politicians’ best interest to get behind him?

Maybe. Sadly, we’ll never know since Obama had no interest in this from day one.

Comments (82)

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  1. Obama let this power slip through his fingers in favor of his preferred style of compromise centrist governance.

    Setting aside the conflation of style and ideology, he passed the most significant body of legislation of any President since LBJ, if not FDR, including a comprehensive health care bill, using this style – and he usually did so without a single vote to spare.

    The counterfactual question of interest is, what if he had made these people the shock troops of his policy agenda? What if Obama had openly called for rallies to support health care, immigration reform, EFCA, environmental legislation, etc?

    Would the presence of 2000 people outside of Ben Nelson’s office have made him more likely to vote for Obama?

    Would the media image of a more partisan, more confrontational Obama have discouraged the Nelson/Lieberman/Snowe/Collins/later Brown bloc from working with him, because there was not enough bipartisan cover?

    We can’t know, one way or the other.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      “Would the media image of a more partisan, more confrontational Obama have discouraged the Nelson/Lieberman/Snowe/Collins/later Brown bloc from working with him, because there was not enough bipartisan cover?”

      Clearly that’s a possible outcome.

    • witless chum says:

      I think the real way our fantasy-land Obama who was interested in pushing the country left would have acted was seeing if he could get 50 senators plus Biden to get rid of the filibuster.

      • I think that’s reasonable in hindsight, but let’s at least admit that’s it’s completely about hindsight. In January 2009, ending the filibuster just wasn’t on the radar of pretty much anyone, least of all most progressive activists.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Actually, there were indeed progressive activists who were asking for exactly that, having seen the politics of the previous decade.

          You could, of course, Google the subject.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          In fact, there have been discussions about ending the filibuster all over the place since at least 2006. But that doesn’t fit the predetermined narrative of “all lefties are Monday-morning armchair quarterbacks who should not be taken seriously except to blame them when something goes wrong”.

          • Marc says:

            Has there ever been the slightest evidence that such a move could get majority support in the Senate?

            Removing the filibuster substantially reduces the power of a single senator to impact policy while improving the ability of a party to pass legislation. This is a mortal threat to Democrats in conservative states, as they cannot win if everything becomes parliamentary in nature (whether they are liberal or conservative.) Dodd, for instance, was passionately against changing the filibuster; so was Byrd. The conservative Dems would have been dead set against it, and there would have been no Republican support. I’d bet less than 30 votes in favor.

            Discussions of the filibuster always fail at this point – it’s as if they assume that reform supporters (who exist in the Senate) didn’t even count heads or try.

        • firefall says:

          Thats completely wrong – there were certainly plenty of people calling for exactly that, along with another chunk suggesting a revised and less powerful filibuster. All were ignored.

        • Murc says:

          It’s reasonable to say this for the Congress of 2009-2011, I feel, Brien.

          The cngress of 2011-2013? No excuse. If the Democratic caucus had wanted to, we could have a fulyl staffed judiciary and executive branch right this very moment. Instead, not only did they decide they didn’t want to (a collective failure on the part of the caucus, for which I remain angry that names weren’t named) they actually made public assurances that they wouldn’t even think about trying it until the congress of 2015-2017 (a personal failure on the part of Harry Reid.)

          • Agreed. January 2011 was actually an almost perfect time to end the filibuster, since Republican control of the House made it impossible to paint as an effort to “ram-through a liberal agenda” or something. Not learning their lesson from the previous Congress was a huge and inexcusable blunder by Senate Democrats and the Obama White House.

            And as to the other posters, yes, there were people we’re all familiar and immersed with talking about it prior to 2009, but in the grand scheme of things that was a very niche idea that wasn’t getting a lot of widespread attention, in part because its advocates weren’t really in a position to get a lot of attention and because it wasn’t focused as a major issue of concern at the time.In December/January of 2008-09 we were all talking about an economic stimulus package.

      • You mean like Bernie Sanders?

        Oh, I guess Bernie Sanders isn’t interested in moving the country to the left, either.

        This is just an exercise in making sure you draw your line in the sand where you know it won’t be reached.

        • witless chum says:

          I haven’t kept up with what Bernie Sanders does or doesn’t do, Joe, but getting rid of the filibuster would have been awesome if it had just allowed Obama to sign a card check bill and a larger stimulus package and make his appointments.

          My fantasy land Obama would try to do a hell of a lot more than that and he’d appoint quite different people to the courts and bureucracy than the real one does, but I don’t even need to recourse to that for the filibuster to be a good thing to kill.

          I think that if he’d demanded it from the senate right before his inaguration, when the political press were writing the Republicans obituary and his prestige was at an all-time high 50 senate Dems would have given it to him, but maybe I shouldn’t discount the amount that senators like to feel special, regardless of color, party or creed.

          I’d be interested to know why he and his advisors thought the Republicans wouldn’t try to stonewall them on everything.

          This is just an exercise in making sure you draw your line in the sand where you know it won’t be reached.

          I don’t think I have a line or even any sand. I’m not one of the these ‘Obama disappointed me!!!!1111!!!’ leftists. I didn’t expect him to be substantively more leftwing than he has been and he surprised me positively by moving against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and not backing Mubarak to the hilt. I’m still happy I voted for him (meaninglessly in Michigan, where our primary didn’t count because we didn’t go along with pandering to Iowa and New Hampshire) over Hillary Clinton, because I doubt she’d be better on any issue, doubt her team would be at all good at politics and I think sending a message that support for the Iraq War was unacceptable was worth something.

          I am a little surprised they weren’t better at politics and didn’t go all in on their only hope of keeping congress in 2010, a bigger stimulus package.

          I don’t imagine I’ll ever approve of a Democratic candidate for president who has a chance to win, but I also don’t imagine a time will come when I won’t be voting for one.

          • I haven’t kept up with what Bernie Sanders does or doesn’t do, Joe,

            Then let me fill you in: he has done exactly as much to get rid of the filibuster as Barack Obama. So, therefore, by your reasoning, that must be because he wants a dysfunctional Senate.

            but getting rid of the filibuster would have been awesome if it had just allowed Obama to sign a card check bill and a larger stimulus package and make his appointments.

            No doubt. I’d love to get rid of the filibuster, too. The question is whether it would have been feasible to try to get rid of it.

            • I don’t think that’s the question at all. I think the question is whether anyone really considered it to be a pressing matter in 2009, which they didn’t.

            • witless chum says:

              Then let me fill you in: he has done exactly as much to get rid of the filibuster as Barack Obama. So, therefore, by your reasoning, that must be because he wants a dysfunctional Senate.

              I’m not the dysfunctional Senate guy. I don’t really have an opinion on why they didn’t make it a priority.

              My question is, did they not foresee that the Republicans would just obstruct as much as possible? And what was their plan to deal with that? Yglesias noted in his filibuster post from back in the day that Democrats have to enact things to implement their agenda, while the Republicans can often just obstruct or try to make the government not work to implement theirs.

  2. BradP says:

    By this I mean that Republicans have united to filibuster everything and I am extremely skeptical that Democrats will do the same thing when they lose the Senate.

    Why would you think that?

  3. R Johnston says:

    The ability to give orders to the President of the Senate gives the President a lot more power over Senators’ actions than commonly realized, if the President is willing to make use of that power. Have Joe Biden in the Senate ruling every filibuster out of order and it takes a majority of Senators to overrule him, not 41 Senators.

    OF course Obama never had any interest in having a productive Senate. A broken Senate is much better if you want to avoid acting like you have a majority because that might mean taking responsibility for he Senate’s actions.

    • John says:

      The issue is not that Obama had no interest in a productive Senate. It’s that it is highly, highly unclear that there would have been 50 votes to flout Senate rules in that way. Even pretty solid liberals in the Senate often go queasy when the issue has to do with Senate rules and precedents. I’m not even convinced that Biden would have been willing to do it. The president, it’s worth noting, has no authority to order the vice president to do anything, as John Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin Roosevelt found to their dismay. And Biden was in the Senate for more than 35 years.

    • Have Joe Biden in the Senate ruling every filibuster out of order and it takes a majority of Senators to overrule him, not 41 Senators.

      A majority of Senators voting to undo a rule that empowers individual Senators.

      Clearly, only the perfidy of Barack Obama prevented this easy solution.

      OF course Obama never had any interest in having a productive Senate.

      Oh, of course. Unlike every other President in history, he didn’t want to pass a legislative agenda or be seen as effective…because he’s just that evil, man.

    • Murc says:

      The ability to give orders to the President of the Senate

      Is this actually true? Because I don’t think it is.

      The Vice-President isn’t in the chain of command (he’s not part of the military) and can’t be fired (he’s an elected official) or stripped of his President of the Senate title (constitutionally attached to the office.) By what logic do you assume the President has enough power to give him the order to fetch a cup of coffee, let alone start messing with the Senate rules?

      • This is a perfectly relevant point, because the narrative of the President of the Senate breaking the Senate rules to falsely declare filibusters to be out of order depends entirely on formal powers and procedures and deliberately ignores well-understood political realities on the level of “the Vice President is on the President’s team.”

        If we want to acknowledge the obvious political reality that Obama could, most likely, exert enough power over the VP to get him to do that, then we need to also start acknowledging obvious political realities like “most Senators aren’t going to go along with a White House plan to reduce individual Senators’ power” and even “Joe Biden is a longtime Senator, and he probably does not agree that the Senate’s debate rules should be changed.” Senators actually do seem to believe all that stuff about the world’s greatest legislative body.

  4. mpowell says:

    You might be right about the opportunities passed up, but this is not why politicians shy to the right. It’s because that’s where the money is and it determines not just their chances in the next election but their entire career trajectory, a significant portion of which is lobbying. Yet another reason that public campaign financing is a mandatory element of a truly democratic state. Guess what? We don’t have one.

  5. Njorl says:

    I think the leverage would need to be more than people standing outside Ben Nelson’s office. I think 2000 people going door-door for Ben Nelson in the name of Barrack Obama would be more useful. Donors going to Ben Nelson and saying “I’m here because Barack Obama says you’re an important part of his agenda.” would be more useful.

    A president’s ability to deliver votes is less dependable than his ability to deliver shoe leather and money.

  6. LosGatosCA says:

    The main themes of the Obama administration are:

    1. Lack of urgency
    2. Lack of imagination

    They are very, very conventional wisdom driven at a glacial pace.

    • DocAmazing says:

      I’d add one other theme:
      3. The institutions and people in power are the solution, not the problem.

      I’ve seen little desire on the part of the Administration to replace those who’ve screwed things up. Instead, they get the people whose fingerprints are all over the current mess and bid those who made the mess clean it up.

      Quite a strategy.

  7. There’s precedent to believe Democrats will be united in filibustering at least the most extreme elements of the Republican agenda (the Social Security privatization fight is a good and under appreciated example), but I think the better question is what Democrats would do in the inevitable event that the GOP sought to abolish the filibuster. Would they have the good sense to let Republicans throw them in that briar patch, or would they compromise to preserve the filibuster like they did in 2005?

    • mds says:

      There’s precedent to believe Democrats will be united in filibustering at least the most extreme elements of the Republican agenda

      Indeed, imagine if extremists like Samuel Alito and Janice Rogers Brown had lifetime positions in the federal judiciary.

      the Social Security privatization fight is a good and under appreciated example

      It’s an underappreciated example because it isn’t an example. There weren’t even fifty votes in the Senate for privatization.

      Would they have the good sense to let Republicans throw them in that briar patch, or would they compromise to preserve the filibuster like they did in 2005?

      This is rhetorical, right?

      • “Indeed, imagine if extremists like Samuel Alito and Janice Rogers Brown had lifetime positions in the federal judiciary.”

        Didn’t I say they caved on that? I believe I did, yes. And, fwiw, Republicans didn’t mount a filibuster of SCOTUS nominees either.

        “It’s an underappreciated example because it isn’t an example. There weren’t even fifty votes in the Senate for privatization.”

        There weren’t 50 votes for a totally partisan plan to privatize Social Security. I think it’s fair to say that reality would have changed quite a bit if 5 or 6 Senate Democrats had been willing to negotiate with Republicans over it and support the final proposal, which the media would have taken to calling a bi-partisan agreement at that point.

        • mds says:

          Didn’t I say they caved on that? I believe I did, yes.

          There weren’t 50 votes for a totally partisan plan to privatize Social Security. I think it’s fair to say that reality would have changed quite a bit if 5 or 6 Senate Democrats had been willing to negotiate with Republicans over it and support the final proposal

          So your precedent for believing that Dems would be united in filibustering the most extreme elements of the Republican agenda is … what, exactly?

    • Njorl says:

      If there are 51 Republican Senators in the next congress they are free to eliminate the filibuster at the beginning of the session, and there’s nothing the Democrats can do about it.

  8. The fall of 2008 was a period like few in our lifetimes.

    Thank you for this. All those people asking “well what could Obama have done?” – for starters he could have gotten elected President of the United States. Done so in a manner that helped bring huge Democratic majorities to both houses. Motivated large segments of teh population – ones that were historically disaffected and under represented in government. Started his Administration with a sense of unlimited potential.

    And then he could have pissed it all away for the sake of bipartisanship.

    What could Obama have done? I don’t know, but I think it’s a reasonable position to say “more than he has”.

    • What he has done is pass the most extensive legislative agenda of any president since LBJ, if not FDR.

      • He could have, again for starters, not claimed that he never ran on a strong public option. He could have, as even he acknowledged, drafted the reforms with less back-room meetings with industry insiders. He could have, as he acknowledged, moved faster on the HCR package to cut off teh summer of proto-Tea Party townhall Shout-It-Down.

        After pulling off a historic election victory – what was recognized as a sea change in the nation – powerful enough that his momentum spread globally, wiping out the negative feelings about the US that W’s administration nurtured. After that, I think it’s not unreasonable to have said “he could have done more”.

        • He could have, again for starters, not claimed that he never ran on a strong public option.

          I would just like point our that your number 1 priority for what you’d like to have seen differently in national politics over the past two years is a petty like pie-fight slap.

          I’m not even going to get into your charge being a misrepresentation of what he said; let’s pretend it’s true. When looking back at the first 2+ years of this President’s term, this is the #1 thing he could have done that would be “more.”

          • d00d, not my number one priority – just the first thing that came to mind. The whole petty pie-fight slap thing? Well I blame the nature of these arguments, what with the postulating scenarios and assigning values to Senate intransigence and whatnot. What it comes down to is that Obama’s promise as seen in throughout the second half of 2008 was huge.

            Here it is – you say Obama’s been totes awesome and gotten tons done. Sure, great, okay, wev. I’m saying it is not unreasonable to have expected more.

            You want to pick nits about how I said it, good for you. You win the Golden nit comb of teh Weebs.

      • Njorl says:

        As he damn well should have.

        It is nuts to think that given the crisis and the huge majorities that he wouldn’t get more done than the vast majority of his predecessors. Getting a health care bill passed and averting a collapse of the banking system gets him a C.

    • firefall says:

      The thing is, he got elected in part by -saying-in-advance- that he was going to be bipartisan / consensus-seeking. So, you’re* getting what you voted for, essentially.

      *Me, I don’t have a vote :)

      • Sure. He also got elected by teh votes of millions and millions of young people. The same young people looking at 25% unemployment right now.

        I’m not trying to say I know better about politics or policy than Obama does. He’s the one that got elected. What I am trying to say is this:

        man teh current situation looks like warmed over crap in a leaky bucket. WTF happened?

        • Bill Murray says:

          and now there’s this fromn the Pres in Iowa — more deficit reduction, cut Medicare and SS. maybe he shouldn’t have tried using the bully pulpit since when he does he isn’t very good at it.

          My prediction deficit reduction will pass broadening the tax base and cutting rates, so that the rich will benefit at the expense of the lower middle and working class and those jobs programs will never appear — well except for free trade agreements which do relate to jobs just not in a positive fashion

          Over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to be putting out more proposals to put people to work right now. And some of them—yes, some of them cost money. And the way we pay for it is by doing more on deficit reduction than the plan that we had to come up with right at the last minute in order to avoid default. We didn’t do as much as we could have.

          When folks tell you that we’ve got a choice between jobs now or dealing with our debt crisis, they’re wrong. They’re wrong. We can’t afford to just do one or the other. We’ve got to do both. And the way to do it is to make some—reform the tax code, close loopholes, make some modest modifications in programs like Medicare and Social Security so they’re there for the next generation, stabilize those systems. And you could actually save so much money that you could actually pay for some of the things like additional infrastructure right now.

          • Pithlord says:

            Bill,

            A broader tax base is a win-win. It is efficient and equitable. It makes tax avoidance harder, which is something the rich tend to have better chances at than the middle class.

            Free trade agreeements have virtually no effect on unemployment, one way or the other.

            Cutting payroll taxes would be good for employment. So would QE3.

  9. strannix says:

    To me, this lets the “shock troops” off the hook. Why do they need Obama’s say-so to lobby for progressive legislation? Why don’t they do it anyway?

    Do you see Grover Norquist is waiting for the President to mobilize them before he acts? Of course not. Do you see the gangs at the National Review or the Heritage Foundation sitting on the sidelines, twiddling their thumbs, because the President is unwilling to use them for leverage? Do you see the Tea Party activists grumbling that their morale is too low to do anything because the President isn’t openly calling for rallies?

    This is all merely a restatement of the Green Lantern theory, not an alternative to it. Obama gets tough, Congressional opponents fold … the same BS we’ve been hearing from the get-go.

  10. homunq says:

    The green lantern is a straw man. That is exactly what people ARE saying. And further, that if Obama had had more fire in the belly, perhaps the 2010 elections wouldn’t have gone so badly. That is to say, politician’s greater fear of the right than the left is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and one that Fox and friends are happy to make.

    • Ed Marshall says:

      This is just cult of the presidency nonsense. The office has higher expectations than it has power to control legislative policy. “Fire in his belly” my ass. Fire in your belly doesn’t move the veto points an iota or have jack shit to do with why, say, the democrats who all sent Bush the EFCA to veto, suddenly got cold feet when it was time to send it to Obama to sign.

  11. Scott Lemieux says:

    Can someone cite some examples of public protests generated top-down by the president actually producing short-term political change?

    • Malaclypse says:

      Does this count?

      Other than that, I got nothing.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I don’t think it’s ever been tried.

    • Blue Neponset says:

      Google “Tea Party”.

      • Murc says:

        Name the short-term victories the tea party has won. I dare you.

        In the medium term, sure, they’ve had some success with their approach. (They’ve also had failures.) They’ve gotten teahadis elected to Congress and to statehouses and those teahadis have wrecked shit. I anticipate more success for them in the long term.

        In the short term? Name someone who had decided to vote one way on something, and then changed their mind because a bunch of teahadis had a demonstration somewhere.

      • The Tea Party didn’t move any short-term votes. The influenced the next election.

        Nobody is questioning whether public messaging and the deployment of protesters can have an effect on elections. We’re talking about whether it can get you those last two votes you need to pass a specific bill in Congress.

        • Murc says:

          And the answer to that question is ‘rarely, if ever, and not in any of the specific situations of the past three years.’

          I’m the first to condemn the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration for not playing long ball. It’s a grievous error of both politics and policy, and represents either incompetence, weakness, betrayal, or some mix of all three.

          But the battle for things like single-payer wasn’t lost because of specific things done in 2009 and 2010. It was lost because of specific things done in 2004 and 1994 and many dates in-between.

          And battles yet to be fought in 2016 and 2020 will be lost because of specific things done in 2009 and 2010. THAT’S why I get pissed off at Obama and the Dems not constantly push, push, pushing and taking the battle to the enemy. It isn’t because I think it would have gotten better results in 2009. It’s because in 2017, when President… lets say President Schweitzer goes to revise the ACA, it weakens his hand. Or in 2013, when President Bachmann tries to repeal it, it weakens the hand of her opponents.

          THAT’S what pisses me off.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        1)The tea-party didn’t generate in response to presidential rhetoric; indeed, it only emerged in opposition to a president.

        2)The biggest impact the tea party has had is to primary and threaten to primary Republicans they see as too moderate. This is a real, concrete strategy, and there are cases where it would be appropriate for progressives to do this. My point, after all, is that to get more progressive outcomes the most important variable is more progressive votes in Congress.

        3)In and of themselves, I think Tea Party protests mean about as much as the larger Iraq War protests did…i.e. not much.

        • Malaclypse says:

          3)In and of themselves, I think Tea Party protests mean about as much as the larger Iraq War protests did…i.e. not much.

          There is an important difference – Iraq War protesters did not bring guns to Town Hall meetings.

    • dan says:

      You know, I am actually old enough to remember the summer of 2009. There were Republican Senators who were willing to vote for HCR in some form. See, e.g., Chuck “There Is A Consensus In Favor Of A Public Option” Grassley. Republican opponents of HCR chose to influence public officials through public protest, Obama chose to urge supporters not to take significant public action. History has shown that those Republican Senators who were amenable to voting in favor of some form of HCR were susceptible to public pressure. So, you know, just maybe public pressure the other way might have helped. Maybe. I mean, I’m as much a detractor of the U.S. Senate as anybody, but surely it can’t be that unreasonable to suggest that there might be a few Senators out there who can be swayed by public opinion. After all, I’m also old enough to remember the vote on the Iraq war. And the other Iraq war, too.

    • Njorl says:

      There’s the invasion of Iraq.

      The Bush administration went to great lengths to sell that war. It became very difficult for Dems to vote against it.

      Admittedly, that isn’t protests, and Bush probably would have gone to war anyway, but they believed public opinion mattered enough to tell big lies about the matter.

      I would have liked to have seen Tim Geithner on the Sunday morning talk shows explaining that we need a $1.5 Trillion dollar stimulus or there might be the economic equivalent of mushroom clouds.

  12. Tracy Lightcap says:

    I’ve said this before here. What people simply fail to take into account – and I’ll be damned if I know why – is that Barack Obama is a black guy and the first one to be elected president.

    What is the first thing a substantial part of the white population (and some Hispanics to boot) think about black guys? That they are “angry.” That they “have it in for white people.” That you “can’t reason with those people.” That “if they get power, they’ll use it to run over whites.” Ect., ect., ect. And, of course, in bad economic times, there’s another tranche of opinion that might be tipped this way if their opinion of the president shifted just a bit.

    Does this suggest anything about how Obama would govern, no matter what his actual opinions on various policy matters? Does it suggest why he is always “no-drama Obama” and tries to get consensus, even when he knows damn well he won’t get it? Does it further suggest why he’s especially careful to not be as confrontational and ideologically up-front as Dubya was? That would be: yes, yes, and yes.

    There’s a reason why the president still has pretty good (remarkable, actually) approval numbers in the face of high unemployment and low growth. And let’s think for a minute what, exactly, would have been achieved, by partisan confrontation of the type called for here in his first two years. I agree with Scott: not much. And, of course, now that Congress is divided and bent on obstruction, it would be even less productive.

    Racism, institutional and otherwise, is not a spent force in the U.S. Obama is not, I repeat, not Bill Clinton. He has to deal with the public as he finds it, not as his supporters expectations would have it.

    • Pithlord says:

      This is correct.

      Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of George W. Bush’s ideological style or the Big Daddy theory of the presidency at the time, and I wasn’t aware that it was a core progressive principle.

  13. norbizness says:

    By all means, I’d love to hear everybody’s ideas on how self-identified liberals in Nebraska swing elections.

  14. Pete says:

    The problem with Obama is that he did not even try. Even on an issue like Iraq which was the issue that he differentiated himself on in the beginning – his own administration is now doing the hardest it can to extend even the Bush timeline. What does Obama stand for – I do not know.

    I take issue with your characterization that Democrats need 60 Senate votes and Republicans need 51 Senate votes. If the Democrats unilaterally disarm themselves does it make it more appealing or less appealing for me to vote for them?

    Similarly if Obama is never going to get 60 Senate votes to pursue progressive policies, I’d rather sit out the elections.

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