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Keep Raisin’ That Green Lantern!

[ 111 ] November 29, 2012 |

In a further refinement of the power attributed to the BULLY PULPIT, we are informed by Ben smith that the president’s ability to send emails to his supporters is not merely a powerful tool, it is his most powerful tool.   Surely, John Boehner is quaking in his boots about the prospect that a weapon of this power might be unleashed.    And if Bill Clinton’s masterful job getting major health care legislation passed proves anything, it’s that going public is far, far better than meaningless “congressional negotiations.”

Comments (111)

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  1. Malaclypse says:

    MoveOn must be Gods among Men.

  2. wengler says:

    Between MoveOn and the Barack Obama campaign there is some nexus of belief that deluging your supporters with emails asking for money is a good way to win support.

    I unsubscribe from this belief.

    • The Fool says:

      Given the amount of money they raised and the lack of unsubscriptions, I think you’re in the minority on this one.

      Of course, fundraising success has virtually nothing to do with pressuring legislators to pass better legislation.

      • Njorl says:

        I suppose we could raise funds to bribe Republicans. I don’t think we could out-bribe the people paying them already, though.

      • Pestilence says:

        Funnily enough I came to this post immediately after unsubbing from Obama’s campaign and half a dozen others, being heartily sick of the daily deluge of emails

      • CD says:

        “Fortunately for Obama and all political campaigns that will follow, the tests did yield one major counterintuitive insight: Most people have a nearly limitless capacity for e-mail and won’t unsubscribe no matter how many they’re sent. “At the end, we had 18 or 20 writers going at this stuff for as many hours a day as they could stay awake,” says Fallsgraff. “The data didn’t show any negative consequences to sending more.””

        To add a data point, I unsubbed almost immediately four years back, and when my online contributions this time restarted the spam I unsubbed at once too. The thrill of getting e-mails from the President lasts about ten minutes.

        I also blocked their calls.

        To the campaign’s credit, unsub requests were honored immediately.

        • cpinva says:

          the thrill of getting emails from some nameless, faceless, fifth level volunteer lasts about .0000026 seconds.

          The thrill of getting e-mails from the President lasts about ten minutes.

    • Tom Hilton says:

      Actually, in the latter case, they did work. Gotta love (i.e., hate) this:

      Fortunately for Obama and all political campaigns that will follow, the tests did yield one major counterintuitive insight: Most people have a nearly limitless capacity for e-mail and won’t unsubscribe no matter how many they’re sent.

  3. But Scott, how can you say that the President of the United States has absolutely no power or influence, under any conditions, regardless of the context? Indeed, you say this all time.

    Also, stop misrepresenting what I wrote!

  4. UberMitch says:

    If only Clinton’s team had mastered CompuServe and Prodigy we would have gotten health care reform in the mid ’90s.

  5. I’m no fan of Ben Smith. Still I think that it’s worth mentioning that Smith refers to OFA’s email list as “history’s most powerful online political machine” and not (as Mr. Lemieux implies) as the President’s “most powerful tool.”

    It seems to me that Mr. Lemieux needs to exaggerate what Smith wrote in order for it to comport with his “foolish pouty liberals clamoring for ‘Green Lanternism’” narrative.

    While I agree that “Green Lanternism” is usually silly, this particular piece by Smith isn’t really an example of it.

    • tonycpsu says:

      The headline of the piece is “Why President Obama Isn’t Using His Most Powerful Weapon” and the sub-head is “The stakes in “fiscal cliff” talks are high — so where’s the e-mail list? So far, it’s 2009 all over again.”

      Now, maybe a copy editor wrote those, and not Smith, but the whole premise of the piece is that the OFA email list would turn the tide of these negotiations, which is a very Green Lantern-y BULLY PULPIT-y notion not grounded in reality.

      • RedSquareBear says:

        I can’t speak for the editorial policy at Buzzfeed, but it is common that article writers and headline writers are not the same authors (this is or has been the case at Slate, The New Republic, Salon, and The Atlantic).

        • arguingwithsignposts says:

          I can’t speak for the editorial policy at Buzzfeed

          I can: MOAR PHOTOS! NEEDS NUMBERS IN THE HEADLINE! MOAR STORIES!

          Somehow, like HuffPo, they hired a semi-real journalist to give lipstick to their aggregator pig.

      • Mr. Lemieux wrote:

        we are informed by Ben smith that the president’s ability to send emails to his supporters is not merely a powerful tool, it is his most powerful tool.

        I don’t see in the piece where it states that the OFA list would “turn the tide.” Perhaps that’s Hamsher’s premise. However I don’t see it as the piece’s premise.

        • tonycpsu says:

          Are we reading the same piece?

          First paragraph:

          President Obama and his victorious campaign team have signaled that they won’t repeat what many Democratic activists view as the signal mistake of 2009: failing to deploy the campaign’s massive grassroots network, and particularly its e-mail list, to help govern.

          He goes on to make the case that the email list could get the public to pressure the legislators, which could be decisive. How are you reading something different out of this???

      • Chatham says:

        It’s only bully pulpit-y if you squint really hard and try to read what’s not there.

        “…failing to deploy the campaign’s massive grassroots network, and particularly its e-mail list, to help govern.”

        That’s not saying send out e-mail to convince people, it’s saying using the contacts that have already been made with Democratic volunteers to get them mobilized. And whether or not it would help in this particular situation, most agree that Obama’s online organizing efforts were effective.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Mobilized to do what? Obama’s supporters already support Obama’s policies.

          • JKTHs says:

            They will consume Republicans in a zombie-like fashion until the entire US is made up of Obama supporters

          • Chatham says:

            Did you bother to read the article you’re criticizing?

            “…asking his millions of supporters to deluge their local members of Congress with demands that they pass the president’s policy agenda.”

            • Craigo says:

              Which will do, what exactly? Do you think John Boehner’s office is going to get an email from an out-of-district Obama voter excoriating him for not giving the President what he wants, and that the scales will fall from his eyes and he’ll suddenly be a good Democrat?

              • CaptBackslap says:

                Congresscritters are surprisingly sensitive, in general, to constituents’ calls and letters to their offices. The article’s mistake is to assume that remains true when (1) the issue is both very high-profile, and subject to aggressive party discipline; and (2) the calls and letters are the result of an organized campaign by the opposing party.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  (1) the issue is both very high-profile, and subject to aggressive party discipline; and (2) the calls and letters are the result of an organized campaign by the opposing party.

                  This.

              • expatchad says:

                Are his eyes in balance already?

              • JL says:

                It seems like this could be useful if focused on Obama supporters who live in districts represented by wavering/centrist Dems.

            • rea says:

              Do you honestly think very many Republican congresspeople give a shit about getting e-mails and letters from Obama supporters?

              • Chatham says:

                “Hello Boehner, I’m calling on behalf of Barack Obama…”

                I’d imagine that if they were to mobilize people, they’d be a bit smarter than that. Would it have an effect? I don’t know. I know that members of congress do keep track of the positions of the constituants that call them. I imagine how much of an influence it has on them varies.

                But arguing if that’s the right way to make use of volunteers, or if Democratic volunteers can do anything during this, is another debate. Perhaps we’re all spectators and can do nothing to influence this “fiscal cliff” issue. That a completely different argument from “the bully-pulpit doesn’t work so there’s no point in sending out e-mail.”

              • gmack says:

                I know the analogy is not exact, but consider the tea party’s use of the town hall meetings during the health care debate. It’s entirely possible that these mobilizations really didn’t sway anything; but a whole mess of people–especially in the media–considered these disruptions to represent a major groundswell of opposition to the ACA, and the story often told is that this helped harden Republican opposition to the Democrats’ position. So perhaps if there were something like a series of “occupy”-like actions on behalf of the President’s position on the “fiscal cliff,” it might strengthen his negotiations. That’s the theory anyway (I think). And who knows? Maybe in the aftermath of the electoral debacle, you might actually get some Republicans willing to move their positions in the face of such a public action.

                I should add that I’m not sure this would necessarily work; I’m also not sure it counts as “bully pulpit” thinking either, since the theory that this little story rests on is the idea that concerted action on the part of mobilized publics can influence leaders, not that leaders can mobilize their supporters in ways that will convince opponents in Congress to do something they don’t want to do.

          • MikeJake says:

            Seriously, isn’t it the job of the people we elect to worry about this crap? When did it become incumbent on the constituency to deluge their elected officials with emails and phone calls every time some issue comes up for a vote? Am I really going to be able to tell my senator something he doesn’t already know?

            • Chatham says:

              Well, if you’re pleased with or apathetic towards what every elected official is doing, sure. For those of use that think that not everything’s fine, it’s worthwhile to discuss ways to make things better.

            • MikeJake says:

              Meaningless gestures won’t prove I’m engaged. Any deal is going to get done because of politics, not because a bunch of people send emails. We send people to Washington who we believe will act sensibly and in our interests, not because we can cajole them from our computers.

              • Chatham says:

                His suggestion might not make sense; that doesn’t mean that some action isn’t required from people if that want change, or, hell, even if they want to keep the status quo.

              • tonycpsu says:

                There may not be many persuadable congresspeople, but the ones who are persuadable do pay attention to the phone calls and emails. Not to the contents, of course, but to the number coming in on either side. If they’re already leaning for a bill, it’ll probably take more than 60/40 opposition to change their mind, but if the calls and emails are coming in 90/10, that’s persuasive.

                Of course, the impact of this will be somewhat blunted if it’s coming in response to an Obama-led email blast rather than something more organic, but still, I do think there would be some effect on any waverers.

          • cpinva says:

            that’s what “they” want you to believe!

            Obama’s supporters already support Obama’s policies.

    • Craigo says:

      The most important indicator is that the president has not taken the one step that really matters: asking his millions of supporters to deluge their local members of Congress with demands that they pass the president’s policy agenda.

      • The one step that really matters: asking Barack Obama supporters to call Republican Congressmen.

        Because Republican Congressmen care so much about what Barack Obama’s supporters want.

      • The President taking “the one step that really matters” is not the same as the President using his “most powerful tool.”

        One example of the difference is that one is an accurate quotation and the other is an exaggerated paraphrase. There are other examples of the difference.

        • Craigo says:

          As always, the true issue here is not that Ben Smith and others actually believe that an email list of hardcore Democrats is the key to getting the Republican leader of the recently elected House of Representatives to agree to a budget deal.

          The real problem is that Scott paraphrased this stupidity instead of quoting it. Thanks for pointing that out.

          • tonycpsu says:

            Seriously. This is a troll-ish level of tendentious parsing and semantic gamesmanship.

          • Mr. Lemieux’s statement that this piece represents “a further refinement of the power attributed to the BULLY PULPIT” is unsupported without his exaggerated paraphrase of Smith’s actual phrase “history’s most powerful online political machine” into “[the President's] most powerful tool.”

            I thought that I should point that out.

            • Craigo says:

              Yeah, that hair wasn’t gonna split itself.

              • elm says:

                Especially when the title of the article did include the phrase ‘most powerful tool.’ Now, maybe an editor wrote that phrase. But maybe an editor rewrote the ‘most powerful online political machine’ phrase, too.

                Is it out of bounds to attribute to an author all the words in his piece? Is the title not part of the piece? Especially, since as joe points out below, the “most powerful tool” line is actually an understatement of “only step that really matters.”

            • elm says:

              Scott isn’t paraphrasing Smith’s phrase, he’s quoting the phrase that appeared in the title of the piece.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Scott paraphrased this stupidity

            Or quoted the title of the article, however you want to look at it…

            • Craigo says:

              Well, I am granting the premise that a writer is not always in control of the headline.

              But even granting that, it’s a fair characterization, unless you come from a world where “only thing that matters” is completely different from “most important.”

            • “we are informed by Ben smith that the president’s ability to send emails to his supporters is not merely a powerful tool, it is his most powerful tool.”

              To me, recognizing what is readily apparently false is not splitting hairs.

              Perhaps I should squint harder not only at Politico but also at Lemieux’s blog posts.

              • It is apparently false to say that something in an article is not in the article, if it’s the headline.

                Chicken. Relations.

                Please proceed, governor.

                • Try again: “It is ‘apparently false’ to say something is in an article if it is in the headline?”

                  The rest, I’m going to leave as is.

                • Were we “informed by Ben smith that the president’s ability to send emails to his supporters is not merely a powerful tool, it is his most powerful tool”?

                  We were not.

                  “In a further refinement of the power attributed to the BULLY PULPIT, [an exaggeration that did not actually happen].”

                • We were not.

                  What did “the one step that really matters” mean to you?

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  We were not.

                  Well, except for the fact that this precise phrase occurs in the title of the article and accurately describes its content.

                • I’m trying to imagine the shitstorm that would ensure if I tried to argue that the title on a speech Barack Obama shouldn’t be considered as coming from him. “C’mon, fellas, I’m not an O-bot: some other writer put the title on it!”

                  I’d never do that, though. It’s so profoundly dishonest. It’s more likely to invoke pathos than anything else.

              • “The one step that matters” is not a phrase that Lemieux decided to quote, or, for that matter, paraphrase in his blog post.

                I’m not sure why Lemieux decided not to quote or paraphrase it. Perhaps Lemieux skimmed the article and missed it. (I wouldn’t blame him … who wants to do a close-reading of a Buzzfeed article?)

                “Taking the one step that matters” might mean taking the one step that gets you over some threshold. Of course, there are previous steps that get you to that point. That one that gets you over the threshold seems to folks as being the “one that matters.”

                I also think that’s not an uncharitable reading of the piece to attribute the idea of “the one step that matters” as an idea of “what many Democratic activists view as the signal mistake of 2009: failing to deploy the campaign’s massive grassroots network, and particularly its e-mail list, to help govern.” In other words, this isn’t Ben Smith’s thoughts, but that of the unnamed “Democratic activists.”

                What I don’t see this piece doing is “further refin[ing] the power attributed to the BULLY PULPIT.” Even if I did, I wouldn’t use as my one and only statement in support of such a view a statement that is, at best, an exceedingly inaccurate and exaggerated paraphrase of someone’s words.

                Yes, this (at best) exceedingly inaccurate and exaggerated paraphrase helps “fit” the piece into the anti-”Green Lanternism” narrative in which Lemieux seems quite invested. Unfortunately, it’s still exceedingly inaccurate and exaggerated.

                I mostly agree with Lemieux on “Green Lanternism.” It’s too bad that he’s being so sloppy here — looking for “Green Lanternism” where it isn’t. This doesn’t serve the larger issue well. Neither do defensive accusations of “hair-splitting” and “tendentiousness.”

        • The President taking “the one step that really matters” is not the same as the President using his “most powerful tool.”

          Are you effing kidding me with this?

          Just. Stop.

        • The President taking “the one step that really matters” is not the same as the President using his “most powerful tool.”

          You’re right; Smith’s phrase “the one step that really matters” is even more idiotic and overwrought than Scott’s paraphrase.

          At least Scott’s phrasing allows for the possibility that there are other tools, even other powerful tools. Smith’s phrasing means that no other steps – no other avenues of influence the President of the United States can wield – really matter.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      Swinging from “Berube is a TOOL OF PENN STATE” based on a fairly crappy, hostile reading of Berube to “Scott is misreading Ben Smith” based on a subtle, microparsing, uber charitable reading of Smith is not an improvement.

      • tonycpsu says:

        Oh, I didn’t even realize Mr. Frederick was the Berube vendetta guy. Had I known, I wouldn’t have wasted my time trying to understand logic where there is none.

  6. Right, since Boehner answers to the 27% and since he returned a healthy governing majority in the face of a 12% approval rating, clearly that “not giving a damn what the public wants” mentality is working out for him. But despite the obvious example of Woodrow Wilson I’m not entirely convinced that Bully Pulpiting is always doomed to failure under every conceivable circumstance. I’ve read pretty well-reasoned arguments that Bush was able to get his first round of tax cuts passed with exactly this kind of campaign. No idea if Obama can lead to at least the partial elimination of those same cuts with a similar campaign, but the honeymoon period is the right time to give it a try I guess.

    Also, lots of dropping the “g” on words ending in -ing in post titles today. Is it Kris Kristofferson’s birthday or something?

    • JKTHs says:

      I don’t think that kind of campaign was the difference between the Bush tax cuts passing or not. In 2001, they only needed to convince a few Blue Dogs/Max Baucus in the Senate by throwing a couple of scraps for the poor/middle class. In 2003, Dick Cheney had to cast the deciding vote. Ultimately, the difference was using reconciliation, not any sort of bully pulpit thing.

    • TT says:

      I’ve read pretty well-reasoned arguments that Bush was able to get his first round of tax cuts passed with exactly this kind of campaign.

      A dozen Democratic senators voting “aye” on the Bush tax cuts helped somewhat, with or without Bully Pulpiting on W’s part.

    • Chatham says:

      Yeah, I’d say Bush made good use of the bully-pulpit to get us into Iraq as well. Being able to effect public opinion does not mean being able to completely control public opinion and nueter all political opponents. I’m not sure why people think that Clinton’s health reform failure means the bully-pulpit never works.

      • Ever look at any public opinion data on the Iraq War?

        Bush’s bully pulpit completely failed to move public opinion. It was only when the troops were on their way and the rally-round-the-flag effect kicked in that it became popular.

        It isn’t just Clinton’s health care initiative that backs up Scott’s position. Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, spend years talking up support for the Contras, and the position only became less popular. George W. Bush went on a nationwide public tour after winning reelection to try to sell the public on Social Security, and it completely flopped. Obama put a huge push on about closing Gitmo and trying KSM in New York, and he got his ass kicked.

        • Craigo says:

          And in the other corner, we have Teddy Roosevelt coining a good phrase a century ago, presumably with the dead carcass of a lion he killed himself at his feet. So there’s that.

        • Chatham says:

          The polls I see seem to show a bit of a bump in public opinion in September ’02 when they decided to “roll out the new product.”

          Presidents aren’t omnipotent, but that shouldn’t be surprising. They’re not working in a vacuum.

          One element that seems to be overlooked is the ability of the president to mobilize supporters. It’s not always the ability to move undecideds, but also to mobilize activists.

          • I’ve never seen anyone question that Presidential rhetoric can mobilize supporters.*

            The question is whether that rhetoric can 1) change overall public opinion, or 2) change the votes of people in Congress.

            *And mobilize opponents, too. Before Barack Obama’s comments on Trayvon Martin, National Review magazine ran a piece titled “Al Sharpton Is Right” about the case. After…there was some unpleasantness.

            • Chatham says:

              I should point out that this article suggests that the Obama’s mailing list be used to not just mobilize supporters in an abstract, rally the troops bully-pulpit way, but to organize them and have them take specific actions. How much any of use can affect the current negotiations is debatable, but that’s a different criticism from “Ben Smith doesn’t realize that the president can’t affect public opinion.”

              Presidents can change public opinion. I know this to at least anecdotally be true. It could be that I’m seeing the .000001% that’s being affected, but question shouldn’t be if they are, but how much.

              If you followed 538 you probably saw how many different polls were needed to have a good idea of public opinion, and even in that case intense multi-million dollar campaigns tended saw opinions move by small fractions, with some amount of that caused by outside events.

    • howard says:

      look, in 2000, both gore and bush campaigned on tax cuts: gore’s was smaller and temporary, bush’s bigger and wanted to be permanent, but the point is that tax cutting in 2001 was the baseline and a tax cut of some form was going to pass: it didn’t need as such to be further “sold.”

      the real key to the bush tax cuts was tom delay, who took the tax cut that bush campaigned on and made it bigger still.

      i don’t think the bully pulpit did much of anything to affect this.

  7. ploeg says:

    The premise seems faulty:

    But the only action the campaign has asked of supporters on the issue of the moment — the taxing and spending negotiations consuming Washington — is easy and nonconfrontational. The campaign e-mailed supporters a graphic outlining Obama’s plan to end the Bush tax cuts only for the wealthiest Americans, and to cut some spending. The only demand: “Share … and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.”

    So they’re sending information to their supporters and asking the same to share the information with their friends. Somehow I don’t think that the Obama campaign intends that it end with that.

  8. sharculese says:

    Can someone explain where the term green lantern theory comes from? I mean, I get what it means, but the significance of the name isn’t immediately obvious to me, and I’ve been wondering about it.

    • Craigo says:

      The members of the Green Lantern Corps all received a magic ring that turned their will to reality.

      United States Presidents are issued a similar ring upon inauguration, and thus have no effective opposition to their goals, either structural or political.

    • The Green Lantern’s powers were based on his will. Anything was possible, as long as he had enough will.

      The term “Green Lantern Theory” was first applied to Bush-era conservative foreign policy hawks, who waved away every objection (“But what if fighting breaks out between Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis?” “Pffft, wimp.”) by insulting the person raising them for just not wanting it enough.

      It’s been repurposed to describe people who think that the President can get everything he wants from Congress if he’d only try, dammit.

      • The Dark Avenger says:

        Here’s one of the best summaries about The Green Lantern(s) to be found on the internets:

        The 1960′s would usher in the era of Green Lantern and airplane test pilot Hal “Highball” Jordan. Selected by the power ring of dying alien Abin Sur, Jordan was the closest person with the ability to master willpower and overcoming great fear. This means that had Evil Knieval been touring the west coast he would have been the first stuntman superhero.

    • sharculese says:

      Thanks everyone.

    • Manju says:

      I don’t know if he coined the term, but I think the meme itself comes from George C. Edwards III, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University. As the story goes, he sponsored a conference on the Bully Pulpit…only to find his presenters spewing voodoo, i.e. anecdotal “studies” in the vain of What’s the Matter With Kansas. Ezra Klein wrote a nice piece about him:

      Like many political scientists, Edwards is an empiricist. He deals in numbers and tables and charts, and even curates something called the Presidential Data Archive. The studies he read did not impress him. One, for example, concluded that “public speech no longer attends the processes of governance—it is governance,” but offered no rigorous evidence. Instead, the author justified his findings with vague statements like “One anecdote should suffice to make this latter point.”

      Nearly twenty years later, Edwards still sounds offended. “They were talking about Presidential speeches as if they were doing literary criticism,” he says. “I just started underlining the claims that were faulty.” As a result, his conference presentation, “Presidential Rhetoric: What Difference Does It Make?,” was less a contribution to the research than a frontal assault on it. The paper consists largely of quotations from the other political scientists’ work, followed by comments such as “He is able to offer no systematic evidence,” and “We have no reason to accept such a conclusion,” and “Sometimes the authors’ assertions, implicit or explicit, are clearly wrong.”

      Edwards ended his presentation with a study of his own, on Ronald Reagan, who is generally regarded as one of the Presidency’s great communicators. Edwards wrote, “If we cannot find evidence of the impact of the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, then we have reason to reconsider the broad assumptions regarding the consequences of rhetoric.

      http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/03/19/120319fa_fact_klein?currentPage=all

      • Chatham says:

        George Edwards book isn’t terribly convincing, but it seems like a lot of people here have based their opinions on it.

        • Vance Maverick says:

          File, appropriately enough, under both “claims without corroborating evidence” and “rhetoric unlikely to move its ostensible audience”.

          • Chatham says:

            For example, he often only uses on poll or set of polls as evidence. I think anyone that has followed this past election knows the problem with that. Even with these polls, he still gives several examples of where there were dramatic changes in public opinion after presidential speeches (Reagan’s Iran-Contra addresses,

            Edwards writes of Reagan’s success in getting the public to push for the ’81 tax cuts, but dismisses it as coming from Reagan’s preparatory work and other negotiations. Later when he talks about what he considers Reagan’s failings (the budget, Contras, defense), he tries to hold that up as evidence as lack of power to persuade the public – but what about Reagan’s preparations and negotiations there?

            He holds up support for NAFTA being the same in two consecutive polls to show that the president doesn’t have much influence on public opinion, but also admits that there was a five point drop in opposition between them.

            It’s hard for me to see how someone could read Edward’s book and not find it, in the very least, inconclusive.

            Also, from your quote:

            “Edwards wrote, “If we cannot find evidence of the impact of the rhetoric of Ronald Reagan, then we have reason to reconsider the broad assumptions regarding the consequences of rhetoric.”"

            Is a peculiar statement coming from someone that wrote that “Reagan was not particularly well liked by the American people.”

            • Vance Maverick says:

              Thanks. I’m still not sure why you think people here have “based their opinions” on it.

              • Chatham says:

                Well, the last time I talked to people here about this issue I was told I wasn’t qualified to comment on it until I read Edward’s book. I’m not saying that everyone here has based their opinion on it, but at least some give it such weight that they think it’s required reading.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Well, it’s an excellent book. What evidence do you have for the (implausible) assertion that presidential speeches can significantly alter presidential opinion?

                • Chatham says:

                  I guess it depends on your definition of significantly. Table 2.2 of Edwards book shows a number of cases where large changes in public opinion followed a presidential speech. As we have seen from the previous election, relying on one set of polls (and he uses Gallup, no less) isn’t terribly reliable; this is underscored by Edward’s statement that he thinks there needs to be a polling shift greater than 6 before we can be sure that the results reflect a difference.

                  You might think that a 0.5% or 1% shift in public opinion isn’t significant, but given that hundreds of millions of dollars were just spent to do just that (and not terribly successfully either), I’m inclined to be more generous.

  9. howard says:

    once again, we are reminded that the best deal is simply to go over the “cliff” and then let republicans vote to do two of their favorite things in january: cut taxes and raise defense spending.

    • …while pretending that he really wants a deal, but those mean Republicans are so crazy and irresponsible that they won’t make one, so they end up taking a political hit.

      Maybe they’ll end up with another delayed sequester, so he’ll get to do this to them yet again.

      • Craigo says:

        Maybe they’ll end up with another delayed sequester, so he’ll get to do this to them yet again.

        That would be nice; I’d like to see the Democrats on the fun side of “Stop hitting yourself” for once.

        • I really, really want the income tax cuts on $250,000+ income to expire in January.

          But – devil’s advocate here – a 22-month extension could buy us a lot of ponies from the Republicans, and also make their candidates spend the 2014 campaign talking about them.

      • JKTHs says:

        Maybe they’ll end up with another delayed sequester, so he’ll get to do this to them yet again.

        That actually seems to be the CW (that there’ll be another sequester). Except this time it’ll fall on low-income programs entirely so no one in Congress will care

        • It is? I thought I was just making that up. Have you seen this idea written about anywhere?

          • JKTHs says:

            Well I was being facetious about the low income part (pointing out that rich people and defense contractors can scream about the end being nigh and be heard, while there is relatively little attention paid to unemployment benefits).

            The second sequester part is real and seems to be CW as a way to enforce a deal. I don’t know if there’s any discussion of how it would work this time though

  10. thebewilderness says:

    I think he has that backwards. It is supporters willingness to open those emails that makes them a powerful tool, not his ability to send them.

    • Richard says:

      How is opening the email a powerful tool? I’m on the president’s side on this so getting an email from him (which I get daily already) isn’t going to convince me of anything. And if I forward the email to my congresspersons, all of them democrats, what will that matter? And if I forward the email, or my own email saying I support the President, to Republicans, how is that going to change anything? Has anybody ever been convinced by receiving a bunch of bot generated emails?

      The only way this idea makes sense is if Obama, at such time as a bill is ready to be voted on, identifies a dozen Republican office holders who might be willing to vote for a compromise bill and who might cross the line if it was apparent that public opinion was on the side of a compromise. But that’s obviously not the case now and if that is the strategy, you wait to unleash the torrent of emails at the appropriate time.

  11. Anna in PDX says:

    Personally, I think the OFA email list doesn’t necessarily help him even if us sending emails were a deciding factor for Congress, simply because voting for him is different than supporting his particular take on tax policy and the overall budget. I don’t agree with him on everything he wants to do – my position is farther leftward (I want a stimulus and no cuts at all, dammit, except to defense, for example, not something likely to happen but that’s what I want). I also don’t want any grand bargain with the Republicans on anything. I prefer us going over the “cliff”.

    So as one of these target people on the OFA list, I opened the email and read it, but it did not make me likely to do anything (either write congress who I have already been writing on specific issues, or share on facebook which anyhow seems dumb and not leading anywhere), whereas when he was running for president and needed donations I actually got involved by sending money.

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