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Just Hand the Keys to Mittens Right Now


As MacGillis says, Obama certainly could lose in November, but weak performances in meaningless primaries in states he has no chance of winning aren’t evidence of anything.

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  • superking

    OT, but Scott, what’s your reaction to this: http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/yes-it-matters

    I mean, since you always get so up in arms about the BULLY PULPIT!!!!!!11!!!!!

    • mark f

      Heh. Comment #1 (the part in italics is a quote from Amanda Marcotte’s OP):

      There was a knee-jerk Eeyore reaction to Obama’s comments about supporting gay marriage from many liberals, which is to immediately minimize and say it doesn’t matter, because blah blah policy is the only thing that matters.

      True, and this happens with everything Obama does. Sadly, it’s not just the right that has a screechy loud component of people who can never be satisfied.

      Bold in the original. Boy, “never satisfied with Obama” sure is an accurate description of the anti-Bully Pulpit commentary.

      Comment #3 quotes that same sentence from Amanda and adds:

      What’s interesting is that I saw a lot of this come from people who previously had been partisan supporters of Obama. The people who argued that gay-rights advocates should wait for the master plan to develop on DADT-repeal now argue that Obama incompetently gave away the election.

      Who are these people? That Spoonman idiot at Digby’s? No one I’m aware of thinks Obama has been simultaneously too cautious and too bold on gay rights, and no one I know of who thinks Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage won’t make a positive policy or electoral difference thinks it’ll make any negative difference.

      And why can’t you drag over text to copy/paste from Pandagon?

      • Colin Day

        And why can’t you drag over text to copy/paste from Pandagon?

        I just want to ditto everything Lindsay says here about Hustler’s idiotic attempt to “defend” reproductive rights by making crass sex jokes about silencing S.E. Cupp with sex. I like to make fun of Cupp’s obvious play-acting at being a fantasy sex kitten for the easily aroused and rather slow-witted conservative fan base that never seems to grasp the contradictions, but “neener neener, you suck cocks and that makes you a stupid bitch” strategy that Hustler is taking is misogynist and demeans not just women, but sex itself.

        Because you can? The blockquoted part being an example.

    • david mizner

      Yeah, the shift in public opinion proves that the bully pulpit can, in fact, be powerful.

      I suppose Scott would argue that this is a very specific case in that many African-Americans softly supported a conservative position.

      • Malaclypse

        I wonder how many potential votes in Congress changed?

        • david mizner

          Oh, I thought public opinion was also immune to bully pulpiting. Rather than change the goal posts, it’s probably better to point out that Scott and others never said the the ability of president to influence public views was non-existent but rather very limited. This was one of those very limited cases.

          This is the last time I do your arguing for you. Your welcome.

          • Malaclypse

            it’s probably better to point out that Scott and others never said the the ability of president to influence public views was non-existent but rather very limited.

            I was assuming basic literacy and reading comprehension on your part. Apologies for the assumption.

        • superking

          This is kind of irrelevant, in my view. Let’s agree, though, that both the pro and anti-bully pulpit arguments are rather confused. I would agree with Scott and you, presumably, that the President making speeches alone is not going to change any votes in Congress. However, the President has the ability to both influence public opinion and to energize and organize his supporters. As public opinion changes, so will the votes in Congress over time. In specific cases, I think it is possible for the president to mobilize his supporters to put pressure on Congress. Believe it or not, members of congress actually respond to constituent calls and letters. The goal isn’t really to persuade members of Congress through public debate, but rather to shift their votes by threatening their electoral chances.

          • superking

            Or rather, to shift their perception of the policy outcomes that are acceptable to their constituents.

          • david mizner

            Yes, well said. Clearly there’s a link between public opinion and policy. There’s also a link between pols taking a position and not being struck down with lightning and other pols taking that same position. Just a couple of weeks ago we had people here arguing that what the president says is a “shiny object” that has no relationship to policy.

            Tom Hilton says:
            May 8, 2012 at 11:18 am

            It makes a political difference, but it does not (and cannot) have any policy impact. Which is what Scott was saying.

            So sure, what the President says about marriage equality matters…to people who are easily distracted by shiny objects. To people who care about policy, not so much.

            Scott Lemieux says:
            May 8, 2012 at 11:22 am


          • njorl

            No one speaking against the power of the bully pulpit has claimed that political leaders can’t shape public opinion over time in such a way that it affects policy in the long term. In fact, many of the same people who dismiss the idea of the bully pulpit criticize Obama for not doing his share for long-term efforts at changing the limits of acceptable policy conversation. There is nothing inconsistant in this.

            What it can’t do is force instant constituent preassure on congressmen.

            • david mizner

              Ok. Then everyone’s in agreement. Let’s stop debating it.

              • joe from Lowell

                If you’ve changed your position, and are now agreeing that “the bully pulpit” cannot be used to change the minds of sitting Congressmen, then you are welcome to stop debating it at any time, and have been welcome to do so all along.

                • david mizner

                  Well, I’ve never argued that, so.

                • joe from Lowell

                  I’m happy to let the readership judge whether I’ve described your views accurately.

        • Sharon

          After the President made his statement Steny Hoyer came out for marriage equality. Steny’s the kKing of the Blue Dogs, so maybe the nudge of Obama’s statement made the political landscape a biotech less treacherous for Hoyer.

          • Sharon

            Bit. Bit less. Damn autocorrect

  • efgoldman

    …weak performances in meaningless primaries in states he has no chance of winning…

    I know the journos need something to write about, but THIS IS FCKING STUPID BEYOND BELIEF.
    These are uncontested presidential primaries with an incumbent president who is going to be nominated unless a meteor hits the White House.
    Tomorrow lets lok at the numbers: how many voted, what %% of the total registered is that? I’m willing to bet my ticket stubs from the 173-139 Celtics victory over the Lakers in ’59 that fewer than 20% of voters showed up at the polls.

    • pete

      Your treasure is safe. “According to the Kentucky State Board of Elections website, only 11.86 percent of state’s 2.9 million voters came of for the primaries.” — WOWKTV [which is a great name]

    • UberMitch

      That should be “unless a meteorite hits the White House,” unless we are assuming a White House that is at the time very high in the Earth’s atmosphere.

      • R Johnston

        Well, metaphorically speaking multiple times over, the White House is very high up in Earth’s atmosphere if not in extraatmospheric orbit.

      • firefall

        always a possibility

      • efgoldman

        A thousand pardons.
        I’m not an astronomer, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

  • mds

    MacGillis provides a useful corrective for the punditocracy, but on the other hand he says this:

    The easy explanation for this is obvious, but I don’t think it’s actually all that simple.

    With all due respect to Mr. MacGillis, the fact that this atrocious primary behavior correlates with voting performance in 2008, particularly with regions where Obama did worse than rich Yankee elitist John Kerry in 2004, I’d say yes, it is in fact that simple.

    • UserGoogol

      The are long-term demographic trends here. Obama did worse than Kerry in Appalachia, but Kerry did worse than Gore, and Gore did worse than Clinton. There’s particular “personal factors” you can take into account in those other elections too, but Appalachia didn’t just suddenly turn away from Democrats the moment they elected a black guy.

      • joe from Lowell

        Obama did worse than Kerry in Appalachia, but Kerry did worse than Gore, and Gore did worse than Clinton.

        The problem is, Gore did worse than Clinton in the country as a whole, not just in Appalachia. Kerry did worse than Gore in the country as a whole, not just in Appalachia.

        While Obama did better than Kerry and Gore in the country as a whole, but worse in Appalachia.

        • njorl

          Normallizing for percent of national vote, Kentucky and WV were slightly more Democratic than the nation in 1992, and have moved Republican every election

          Year %D(WV)/%D(US) %D(KY)/%D(US)

          There was a bigger drop-off from Clinton to Gore than from Kerry to O’Bama.

          • IM

            I wanted to show that you are wrong and that it is just Appalachia. But after looking at Wyoming, Montana and N. Dakota in 2000, 2004 and 2008, now my question is: is the prairie west trending blue?

            • Bill Murray

              well the small towns are dying, at the expense of more “urban” areas, and at least in South Dakota, these areas are now much more heterogeneous in composition, so maybe.

              SD has generally voted Republican in the national and state legislative area, but the House and Senate going to Washington have been split or more Democratic for 32 of the last 40 years

    • Colin Day

      Obama did worse than rich Red Sox elitist John Kerry in 2004

      Fixed that for you

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