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The Leftward Drift of the Democratic Party

[ 336 ] February 27, 2014 |

I didn’t expect to agree with the bottom line, but having seen several smart people recommend the new Harper’s piece by the genuinely brilliant Adolph Reed Jr….I was expecting it to be better.  It certainly has more interesting insights than similar arguments advanced by the Matt Stollers of the world, but I think what he says that’s true isn’t actually controversial and what is controversial isn’t true. A few points:

  • The core of the argument is the assumption of a “Democratic Party whose center has moved steadily rightward since Ronald Reagan’s presidency.” I find the idea that the Democratic Party has moved right since 1980 frankly bizarre.  A party whose leadership consisted of O’Neill, Byrd and Carter is more progressive than Pelosi/Reid/Obama?  On what planet?  The former Democratic Party controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for 4 years — where’s their progressive achievement comparable to  the ACA or the repeal of DADT?  Right on economics since the (all too anomalous) LBJ era I’ll buy, but I find the nostalgia for the only Democratic president of the last century to govern to the right of (a not very progressive) Congress baffling.
  • Nor do a buy the idea that the left has been “subdued” by the Democratic Party.  Reed asserts that short-term thinking has prevented the left from pursuing goals like single payer.  My question — how many people on the American left, not just radicals but left-liberals, don’t support single-payer (or a similar European health care model?)  His argument seems premised on the idea that it’s impossible to walk and chew gum at the same time, that nobody could see the ACA as a significant achievement and be aware that it remains greatly inferior to the alternatives in other liberal democracies and so should be a beginning, not an end, of reform.  I don’t think this makes sense in theory and I don’t think it’s true in practice.
  • In addition to minimizing the large and increasing gaps between the Democratic and Republican parties — we’ve been through this enough — Reed says that “[m]ost telling, though, is the reinvention of the Clinton Administration as a halcyon time of progressive success.”  He does not cite anyone who has believes this, I would assume because for all intents and purposes they don’t exist.  (Personally, the only people I’ve seen do this are bloggers attacking Obama from the left, which is baffling on many levels.)  I’m not the one who thinks that the Democratic Party is to the right of where it was in 1996, even though I certainly don’t believe that there was nothing to differentiate Al Gore and George W. Bush.
  • Calling Obama a “neoliberal Democrat” suggests that the term has ceased to have much meaning beyond “a politician I don’t like.”  Obama is certainly not a person of the Left, a point Reed establishes in great detail (although, again, it’s not clear to me what non-Republican ever believed that he was.)  But the ARRA or the ACA simply aren’t Reagan/Thatcher or even Clinton private-centered neoliberalism — name me some neoliberals who were big fans of expanding the single-payer program for the poor.  (Yes, the optimal stimulus would have been even larger, but leaving aside the fact that Obama wasn’t the primary reason it was too small compare it to most other liberal democracies, where it was a huge outlier on the left.)  Since the contours of the term have become so elastic I guess I can’t say it’s wrong to call Obama a “neoliberal” — but doing so essentially renders the term useless.  “Moderate liberal” seems more accurate.  Is that the stuff of dreams?  Indeed not.  Is that superpar for a president of the United States? Most certainly.
  • In terms of his conclusion, I certainly agree that ailing in the rebuilding of labor is an urgent task.   But I disagree with the rest of the fatalism.  The left has more influence on the Democratic Party that it has at any point since 1968, with the defeat of Larry Summers and the removal of Chained CPI from the budget the latest wins.  (And not that the golden age of labor influence that Reed cites was a period in which a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats controlled Congress for more than two decades, not only thwarting progressive reform efforts but passing Taft-Hartley with veto-proof majorities.  Progressive change has never been easy.)  The goal should be to keep moving in this direction, not to walk away in despair.
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  1. rea says:

    Oh, but if we walk away in despair, we can reassure ourselves that we are pure and virtuous, and incidently avoid the tough, dirty task of actually trying to govern.

    • Most Favoured Commenter says:

      Clinton straight-up raised rates on the wealthy. Obama never tried to do this when he had a friendly Congress, instead he agreed to a short extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, then just let them expire.

      I’d also argue that this isn’t a fair comparison with Carter, who became president during a period when economic equality was around its all time high. Given this background, was redistribution really a top economic priority for 1977?

      Obama, by contrast, took office when equality was at an all time low, and the country was in dire need of redistribution. The ACA and bush tax cut expiration helped at the margin, but some Obama policies have hurt, such as making permanent some of Bush’s other tax cuts for the very rich, such as those on dividends, estates, and long-term capital gains.

      The AIG bailout was also absolutely horrible for equality, with the largest single beneficiary being the shareholders and partners of Goldman Sachs.

      • Jon C. says:

        Obama also raised unearned income taxes on the wealthy to pay for straight-up redistributive health care subsidies.

        And the AIG bailout was in September 2008. Yes, Obama voted for it, but as long as you’re dinging him for that, why not credit him with managing the successful GM and Chrysler bankruptcies (at the expense of bondholders, not workers).

        • Most Favoured Commenter says:

          “Obama also raised unearned income taxes on the wealthy to pay for straight-up redistributive health care subsidies.”

          Agreed, expanding the Medicare tax to cover investment income was the single best thing Obama’s done IMO.

        • DAS says:

          Redistributive from who to whom? The way I see it part of the redistribution accomplished by the ACA is to have healthy young people without much money, who would forgo anything more than bare bones health insurance due to the low cost/benefit ratio of better health insurance, pay into the system. You could argue that such people ought to pay their fair share into the health care system and ought to have insurance (and that the ACA makes it, barely, affordable for them to do so) … but it’s still redistribution of wealth from healthy young working class folks to less healthy, perhaps older working class folks. I.e. not all the redistribution in the ACA is progressive, some of it is pretty regressive

          • Jon C. says:

            Young, healthy people pay into the system if they can afford it, and in exchange get health insurance. If they can’t, they get subsidies. This has been rehashed for years now. Sure, some people buying insurance now would have chosen to forego it previously, but I think it’s a stretch to call that regressive. Anecdotally, the twentysomethings I know for whom health insurance would be a hardship are grad students/adjuncts — they’re getting access either to good plans for ~$30/month, or Medicaid.

            And as for the unearned income tax, I don’t think you’re disputing that, but it unequivocally applies to high earners. The estimates I can find quickly suggest something on the scale of $200-$300 billion over ten years, so pretty substantial.

          • As a young person without much money, I’m glad I get health insurance, which most of us wouldn’t get otherwise, because most employers of the young don’t provide health insurance.

            Moreover, when you actually look at the structure of the ACA, young people without much money get VERY low prices for good health insurance thanks to the premium structures being designed to entice the young to sign up plus the tax credits.

      • JKTHs says:

        Clinton straight up raised income taxes on the wealthy. He cut capital gains taxes. Obama has raised both and to higher levels than existed at the end of Clinton’s terms. You do have a point of dividends and the estate tax but I’d say those are small bones in comparison. A more worrying long-term trend is too many Democrats getting taken in by the “death tax” rhetoric in the 90s and 2000s which has consistently undercut the position of the party.

        • Aimai says:

          Plus it seems really unfair to attack Obama for failing to raise taxes when the entire dialogue was focused on the expiration of the bush tax cuts and he was fighting a rearguard action against democrats themselves who refused to let the entire thing sunset during a recession.

          • Jon C. says:

            Right, there was no reason to push through an unpopular, counterproductive tax hike when he could sit back and wait for Republican votes on rolling back the Bush cuts while claiming he reduced taxes. Some extended FICA breaks and UI benefits for the delay? Sure, sounds great!

            • Dilan Esper says:

              Right, there was no reason to push through an unpopular, counterproductive tax hike

              I don’t think the Bush tax cuts were either popular or good policy. And if they were really so great for the economy, the tax cuts on the rich shouldn’t have been allowed to sunset either.

              The whole “no tax increase for middle class people” is a product of pollsters and is a terrible principle to guide public policy. Every nation on earth that has a good government taxes the bleep out of the middle class.

              • Jon C. says:

                If this were a video game, I’d agree that you damn the pollsters and set the economy sliders to the optimal tax rates.

                But in 2009-2010 it’s possible to say both that the tax cuts on high earners were unpopular and bad policy, and that eliminating them in a one-party vote would have been at the very least politically controversial and a drag on the economy during a recession. Instead, Obama waited until he could get 85 representatives from the rabidly anti-tax party to join Democrats in a vote to raise taxes on high earners and extend the cuts affecting lower- and middle-income earners. Again, not optimal, and we’ll probably need more tax revenues in the future, but politically that’s a pretty easy choice to take, and still a win.

                • sunset says:

                  The Bush tax cuts were scheduled to expire automatically – the only vote necessary was for their extension. Stick to the economic argument.

                • Manju says:

                  The Bush tax cuts were scheduled to expire automatically

                  Ok, you let them expire and what do you get? According to NYTimes, you get “big income tax increases on most Americans and prevent large cuts in spending for the Pentagon and other government programs” in a less than fully-employed economy.

                  This is the proper left-wing position? One would think it would the opposite: more borrowing, spending, and tax cuts. Boilerplate Keynes.

                  Ok, except for the last one, thats not going to fly with the R’s. So Obama shifted from stimulus to deficit reduction out of political necessity.

                  If your going to go deficit-hawkish when you don;’t really want to the best way to do it is by only raising revenue from the rich and by averting spending cuts on entitlements.

                  Thats what he did. I do not see how letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be a more pure lefty position. Sounds like more austerity.

                • sunset says:

                  that eliminating them in a one-party vote would have been at the very least politically controversial and a drag on the economy during a recession

                  The Bush tax cuts were scheduled to expire automatically – the only vote necessary was for their extension. Stick to the economic argument.

                  words haz meanings

                • Manju says:

                  words haz meanings

                  Ok. I attributed to you an argument you didn’t make. I stand corrected.

        • Brown says:

          Obama has raised both and to higher levels than existed at the end of Clinton’s terms.

          Are you sure about that? Clinton raised the top bracket by 8.6 points to 39.6% in 1993 and it remained at that level for his entire term. Obama raised the top bracket by 4.6 points to 39.6% For income it seems like a draw with Clinton winning on points for increase over baseline.

          NFN – 80% of Congressional Democrats voted for TRA97
          and it did lower the bottom bracket by a third to 10%

        • Pat says:

          The estate tax situation is not small bones at all.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Clinton straight-up raised rates on the wealthy. Obama never tried to do this when he had a friendly Congress,

        It’s a real mystery. I mean, if he had come into office in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression, that would be one thing…

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Wait a second: Obama doesn’t get credit for his tax increase on the wealthy because of the circumstances, but you waive away Carter’s less-liberal economic record because of circumstances?

        You’re bending so far over backwards, your argument snapped.

      • Manny Kant says:

        At what point did “raising taxes” become the most important liberal policy goal?

    • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

      Those contradictions won’t heighten themselves!

  2. DrDick says:

    I do think that there has been a general drift to the right on economic issues, particularly labor, since the mid-70s, largely owing to the influence of the DLC and related groups.

    • Bill Murray says:

      This, which I think Scott forgets because he generally approves of this drift. As President Obama has said, his (the President’s not Scott’s) economic policies would have been seen as moderate Republican policies in the 1980s.

      http://pushbackpolitics.org/2012/12/14/obama-says-hed-be-seen-as-moderate-republican-in-1980s/

      • junker says:

        Right on economics since the (all too anomalous) LBJ era I’ll buy

        Maybe read the post before commenting?

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        because he generally approves of this drift.

        [cites omitted]


        This (the President’s not Scott’s) economic policies would have been seen as moderate Republican policies in the 1980s.

        Which isn’t actually true, but anyway.

        • Dana Houle says:

          This also ignores the fact that since 1968 it’s not only the Democratic party that’s moved left, it’s also organized labor that’s moved left. Walter Reuther took the UAW out of the AFL-CIO because of labor’s support of the Vietnam war, half of the building trades were in outright revolt over affirmative action, the Teamsters were essentially run by the mob and repeatedly endorsed Republicans, and the foreign policy of labor wasn’t solidarity with other country’s unions and an attempt to counter global capital with global labor solidarity, it was to fund anti-communist movements in Latin America that undermined true democratic labor unions.

          The problem, of course, is that since 1968 labor is far weaker. But I’d argue that labor’s positive influence on Democratic politics isn’t that much less than it was in 1968, because at that point much of labor’s influence was being used in pursuit of anti-progressive policies and politics.

          • Erik Loomis says:

            Yes, this is a very good point. Labor is far to the left of where it was in 1968. Or 1992 for that matter.

            • Dana Houle says:

              If only Sweeney had been elected in 1985 and not 1995. But I don’t think Sweeney could have been elected during the Cold War. Anticommunism and militarism was too much a part of organized labor from the 50′s until the collapse of the USSR.

            • Greg says:

              Labor is also more female, isn’t it? These facts may be related.

              • Dana Houle says:

                That’s a part of it, yes. But I think that’s less a causal factor than a result of labor being more public employee and service industry than it was in the past, when it was much more manufacturing, construction and transportation centered.

                • manual says:

                  Lots of drives. But within the house of labor, this is a big one. The AFL-CIO executive council is dominated by public employee unions, who feature more women and minorities, and have much different interests than the building trades for example.

              • And more of color, which is also related to labor’s shift on immigration and other issues.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              Labor is far to the left of where it was in ’68. But for all its awfulness, labor almost won Hubert Humphrey the Presidency that year, when much of the rest of the Democratic Party was at best ambivalent in its support for him (I don’t want to minimize the many problems with Humphrey, but he would have been leagues better than Nixon).

          • Pat says:

            I’d argue that more labor support of Republicans could get more done, if they were the correct people. Making labor bipartisan could help improve its prospects.

            The difficulty would lie in finding non-psychotic Republicans to support who are in deep red states. Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas – these are places where labor could try to gain a better foothold by supporting Republicans.

        • Bijan Parsia says:
          because he generally approves of this drift.

          [cites omitted]

          Why would cites be needed when he see into your heart? Or infer it from the fact that you don’t agree with Stoller or condemn Obama for being a Republican? For heavens sake, you don’t acknowledge that the ACA is essentially the Heritage plan which is true if you are just pure enough to acknowledge.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Which isn’t actually true, but anyway.

          But Scott, of course it’s true! A professional politician said it in a TV interview when he had an electoral motive to do so. Q E D.

      • And how would they compare to Democratic economic policies of the 1990s?

    • djw says:

      I do think that there has been a general drift to the right on economic issues, particularly labor, since the mid-70s,

      This statement becomes a lot more accurate when we replace the word “since” with “during”. Winner-Take-All Politics is strong on this. The shift to the right on economic issues was essentially done early in the Carter administration.

    • ThrottleJockey says:

      I feel like you do, but I’m not sure the polls back us up. Raising the minimum wage, keeping present-day food stamp spending, and keeping Obamacare all command majority support. It may be that while ppl *talk* about limiting government more than ever, its a vague ideal compared to actual policy proscriptions. I def feel you on this one though. Seems like the prevailing sentiment.

    • burritoboy says:

      It was less the DLC but that economics academe shifted from a moderate Keynesian consensus to a Chicago School consensus, and was doing that strongly throughout the 1970s. I think it extremely unlikely that a Democratic Party could resist that shift, especially since the New Deal and Great Society relied so heavily on a narrative of technocratic expertise. If you live by the economics professors, you will likely die by the economics professors.

      The DLC wasn’t even founded until 1985. The rightward shift on economics was evident by the beginning of Carter’s administration nearly 10 years earlier.

      • José Arcadio Buendía says:

        I think “DLC” has turned into the same kind of term that “Neoliberal” has in Scott’s post. The DLC overstayed its welcome and its purpose, but at the time, in the 80s, you have to remember: states like California were still Republican states. Dems lost three presidential elections in a row and 5 out of the last 6. If not for Watergate and Ross Perot, it might have been 7 in a row.

        Someone had to distance themselves from Carter, Mondale, and Dukakis whether or not they really governed all that differently and that person was Clinton.

        Clinton won some states Dems don’t even go to anymore, partly because of Perot, but partly because it was still possible to waive the bloody shirt a little bit in the south against Republicans. Now that the shift is complete and elections are mostly base elections, the dynamics are different and it is easier and safer to be more to the left or more to the right.

        Crying that Democrats haven’t enacted Sweden yet and therefore they are DLC Neoliberal sellouts is typical fringe crybabyism. Only hard work and patience makes progress.

        • sharculese says:

          I don’t think the two are perfectly analogous. At least with the DLC you have an organization that existed at a specific point in time, many of whose members are still with us to give accounts and defense of that group that range from at-the-very-least-worth-reading-even-if-they-dont-convince-you (Drum, Kilgore) to the fucking odious (Al From’s new memoir, as brilliant dissected by Perlstein for The Nation).

          Whereas neoliberalism has always been kind of a moving target.

          That said, I do think you’re absolutely right in talking about how the term is used now.

        • DrDick says:

          That really is my meaning here. These folks did not have a name back in the mid-70s that I remember. Basically, it was a Dems seeking to address the massive Republican fundraising advantage by adopting more “business friendly” policies.

          • sharculese says:

            If you haven’t, read the Perlstein piece Dana linked above. First page does a good job chronicling how this strain of thought was already present in the Democratic party before the DLC was a glimmer in its daddy’s eye.

            • DrDick says:

              Which is why I actually said,” the influence of the DLC and related groups.” As far as I remember (and I was voting at the time), there was no actual label for these folks in the mid-70s (which is the time frame I used to say it started).

              • sharculese says:

                Oh, yeah, I know you know your history. I just thought you’d appreciate the way Perlstein lays it out.

                • sharculese says:

                  Like seriously, dude, I’ve been posting here how long and you don’t think I’m aware of your background?

                • DrDick says:

                  I thought perhaps I had not been clear enough, since others seemed to miss that.

                • sharculese says:

                  You don’t have to defend yourself to me! I trust you know what the fuck you’re talking about!

                • DrDick says:

                  sharculese – I know you are not one to normally misread, but I also know that I am not always as clear as I would like or should be when I write in the comments. I was just clarifying, rather than feeling defensive.

              • burritoboy says:

                I think, though, it’s probably wrong to describe Carter’s economic shift towards what we might now call the Chicago School as some sort of strange intentional alien implant into the politics of the Democratic Party. The economic theory conversation globally was undergoing the same shift in that era. And there were a substantive number of Democrats who had wanted to move in that direction (at least in a vague way) for quite some time – most of them were Southern conserva-Dems, admittedly, but they had been core members of the party for ages.

          • hindsight says:

            I believe they were called Coehlos

          • Wasn’t Atari Democrat the term of art?

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          If not for Watergate and Ross Perot, it might have been 7 in a row.

          Contrary to popular wisdom, my understanding is that Ross Perot did not spoil the election for Bush:

          The effect of Ross Perot’s candidacy has been a contentious point of debate for many years. In the ensuing months after the election, various Republicans asserted that Perot had acted as a spoiler, enough to the detriment of Bush to lose him the election. While many disaffected conservatives may have voted for Ross Perot to protest Bush’s tax increase, further examination of the Perot vote in the Election Night exit polls not only showed that Perot siphoned votes nearly equally among Bush and Clinton,[28] but of the voters who cited Bush’s broken “No New Taxes” pledge as “very important,” two thirds voted for Bill Clinton.[29] A mathematical look at the voting numbers reveals that Bush would have had to win 12.2% of Perot’s 18.8% of the vote, 65% of Perot’s support base, to earn a majority of the vote, and would have needed to win nearly every state Clinton won by less than five percentage points.[30] Furthermore, Perot’s best results were in states that strongly favored either Clinton or Bush, or carried few electoral votes, limiting his real electoral impact for either candidate. Perot appealed to disaffected voters all across the political spectrum who had grown weary of the two-party system. NAFTA played a role in Perot’s support, and Perot voters were relatively moderate on hot button social issues.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      I do think that there has been a general drift to the right on economic issues, particularly labor, since the mid-70s, largely owing to the influence of the DLC and related groups.

      Meh. The DLC types come in, the Dixiecrats go out. That faction was even worse on labor than the DLC. I don’t think you get a net movement to the right.

    • As a historian, these requires a good deal of deaggregation. I would absolutely agree there was a drift to the right from the 70s through the 00s. But I wouldn’t agree on the same from 04-14.

      Large-scale economic stimulus, universal health insurance, increased financial regulations, and EFCA being passed by the House and 51 votes in the Senate in 2007. That’s significantly to the left of Democratic Party economic policy of the 1990s.

      • TlH says:

        The Senate never passed EFCA in 2007. The 51 votes for cloture were merely posturing. In 2009-10, when the bill would have been signed, numerous Senate Dems who had voted for cloture no longer supported the bill and as a result it never made it to the floor. Your other examples are better though both the stimulus and fin reg certainly stem much more from the economic collapse than Congressional Democrats becoming more economically liberal.

  3. scott says:

    “I find the idea that the Democratic Party has moved right since 1980 frankly bizarre.”

    “Right on economics since the (all too anomalous) LBJ era I’ll buy…”

    I’m sure these statements can be reconciled, but the thrust of the Reed piece WAS the point that Scott concedes in passing, that the Party has been steadily herded right on economics and that this is a problem which needs solving.

  4. Gwen says:

    I think it’s plausible, and in fact probable, that the Democrats have moved to the right on economic policy, if you measure by what Democrats are willing to *accept* or *tolerate*. I think the actual policy preference, particularly among rank-and-file Dems, hasn’t moved much.

    In other words, the perceived rightward drift of the Democrats on economics is a more of a function of being less militant, and being willing to tolerate anti-union, anti-welfare types, in the name of assembling a “Big Tent” coalition. That said, the “base” has probably not moved a whole lot, and in fact may have moved slightly to the left since the 1970s on economics. This is particularly true because of the collapse of organized labor.

    If you look at “social” issues, I think the Democrats have moved to the center on race but far to the left of where we were in 1980 on issues of gender and sexuality (and stayed about the same with regard to civil liberties and guns). I’d also argue the Democratic “base” has moved slightly to the left on environmental protection issues.

    I think the Democratic base is also at about the same place, or possibly slightly to the left of 1980 Democrats, on matters of national defense (but again, willing to tolerate a lot of intransigence, hence drone strikes, not closing Guantanamo, etc.)

    In short, I think the Democratic left has been mugged, but not by “neoliberals” or “Democratic elite” but simply by the reality of electoral politics.

    And I’d add: the sort of Stoller-esque arguments about how *horrible* the Democrats are seem to be merely a kinder, gentler form of the old-time Marxist-Leninist kvetching about social democratic “entryism”… except Stoller et al. never articulate an alternative to electoral politics (at least Leninists have a plan for revolution that goes beyond bourgeois bitching).

    • FlipYrWhig says:

      IMHO the mainstream of Democrats probably believes less than it used to in redistributive economics and support for labor (as opposed to support for finance). But I think part of why that happened was that a lot of the people who used to be wooed into the Democratic coalition on working-class issues started to prefer to throw in their lot with racial, religious, and other culture-war resentment instead. When those votes disappeared — think West Virginia — Democrats, in my view logically, started looking for other votes to replace them, and successfully siphoned off wealthier, more tolerant white-collar types — think “Atari Democrats” and Mark Warner. If blue-collar white people stop voting for a party, I’m not particularly surprised that that party would likewise stop building its political strategy around pleasing blue-collar white people.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      t, and being willing to tolerate anti-union, anti-welfare types, in the name of assembling a “Big Tent” coalition.

      I think this is clearly false — there are many fewer conservative Democrats in Congress than there were 30 or 40 years ago.

      • partisan says:

        Unfortunately, there’s also 65-85 fewer Democrats in Congress period.

      • Dana Houle says:

        People notice how few Ted Kennedy/Howard Metzenbaum labor champions there are in Congress and think that means the Democratic party has moved left, without noting the vast distances between Kennedy and, say, Eastland or Stennis, a distance that has dramatically shrunk since the early 1990′s. The left of the Dem caucuses may be a little further right of where the used to be, but the right of the Dem Congressional caucuses are far to the left of where they were, with the center of the caucuses solidly to the left of where they had been.

      • Gwen says:

        This is true. I guess I’m not thinking of Dixiecrats, unless you would consider Billie Carr as such (purely by virtue of latitude, not attitude).

  5. jim, some guy in iowa says:

    the party has moved rightward on environmental issues

    • jim, some guy in iowa says:

      maybe just in the sense what’s possible… a result of being dragged rightward by the party’s obligation to do *something* when the opposition is against *anything* constructive. this might apply in general

      • ThrottleJockey says:

        Really, you think the party has moved right on environmental issues? I feel like they get more attention now within the party than at any time since the Clean Water & Clean Air acts were passed (kind of a, ahem, ‘high water’ mark). I don’t know if Obama/Kerry will approve Keystone XL or not but it seems like the party is overall quite opposed to it. Just my sense.

        • jim, some guy in iowa says:

          I kind of think you answered your own question there. yes, I’d agree the party has moved back to the left in recent years, but in the 80s and 90s, as the dems tried to be more ‘business-friendly’, and accomodate the remaining conserva-dems, they minimized their environmental commitments- maybe standing pat doesn’t count as an actual ‘move to the right’

  6. J. Otto Pohl says:

    So Avakian and Loomis for the Democratic Party presidential ticket of 2016?

  7. FlipYrWhig says:

    Coincidentally, I just this morning read the Reed piece. I still think the largest part of the issue is that the left, by which I mean the portion of the public that is both politically to the left of the Democratic Party leadership _and_ disgruntled to the point of withholding its support, is extremely small. In other words, it’s not that the Democratic Party thwarts and defangs radicals, but that there aren’t enough radicals in the first place, and thus they come pre-thwarted. I’m all for making more radicals, and at least Reed concedes that movement-building is what needs to happen, but between now and when the movement is built, you know, there’s shit that needs to be done.

    • sharculese says:

      But Progressive Liberal keeps telling us the solution is to lift our middle fingers like antennas to heaven and shout ‘screw you plebes’ with all vigor we can muster.

      That sounds way more satisfying than doing work.

    • LeeEsq says:

      This. The American population has always contained less self-identified leftists among the general populace than European countries. We aren’t exactly unique in this. Until the 1960s, Canada was known for being more conservative than the United States. With fewer Leftists, natural the political impact would be less. You don’t get Leftist politics without a Leftist population.

      • Njorl says:

        That may change. With no Soviet boogeyman, and with the right calling everything that doesn’t goosestep or have an 8-figure stock portfolio “socialist”, socialism is developing a better reputation in the US.

        • LeeEsq says:

          A bit but even before the Soviet Union was a possibility, the American Far Left was much more limited in appeal than their European counterparts during the First Gilded Age.

    • JL says:

      Not only do they come pre-thwarted, but they burn out or otherwise end up pretty messed up at pretty high rates IME. I don’t think there’s a way to fix that entirely, but more radicals would mean more social support and less work required for any given individual.

      I really really want someone to study leftist protesters and post-traumatic stress. Anecdotally, it’s a gigantic problem in that world. Unfortunately I’m pretty sure I can’t get away with that as a dissertation topic in a computer science department.

    • Gwen says:

      I think there’s a lot of disgruntled people, but you’re right, the people who are so disgruntled as to withhold support (what I would refer to as the Kamikaze Caucus) is pretty small.

  8. sharculese says:

    Reed says that “[m]ost telling, though, is the reinvention of the Clinton Administration as a halcyon time of progressive success.” He does not cite anyone who has believes this, I would assume because for all intents and purposes they don’t exist.

    Well, the second season of House of Cards includes the premise that jagging right on entitlements to undercut the Republicans is a brilliant strategy no Democrat has considered before, so if your sample consists wholly of political soaps not based in reality…

    Also:

    Calling Obama a “neoliberal Democrat” suggests that the term has ceased to have much meaning beyond “a politician I don’t like.”

    Suggests? That ship sailed so long ago Sam Gamgee is gonna follow it west any day now.

    • CaptBackslap, YOLO Edition says:

      To be fair, that wasn’t even close to being the least realistic thing in the second season of House of Cards.

      • sharculese says:

        Honestly, even with the high number of ridiculous events in that show it’s still a tie between supposed master political operator Frank Underwood being totally unaware of the 90s and the fact that if you think for a second about it, the Tea Party shouldn’t exist in the HoC universe.

        • CaptBackslap, YOLO Edition says:

          Qualifying as a master political operator doesn’t seem like it would be especially challenging in the HoC universe. I hadn’t thought about that point with the Tea Party, but that’s true.

          Everything that happened after the big scandal started was comically unrealistic, but a whole season of watching Garrett Walker in action put “that guy being elected President” at #1 for me.

          • sharculese says:

            The Walker presidency is certainly up there in things that mystify me.

            I didn’t think about the Tea Party thing until a comment in the final episode established that Walker was the 45th president, and then I started thinking about the timeline leading up to his election.

      • Dana Houle says:

        I stopped watching season 1 when Frank openly screwed the teachers unions and yet everyone shows up at his wife’s fundraiser and crosses their picket line.

        No.

        Fucking.

        Way.

        that would happen. Just no way, not even conservative Dems who don’t want to openly cavort with labor unions, they wouldn’t so publicly stick their finger in the eye of unions over such a stupid thing with no payback as crossing a picket line to help out a guy’s wife’s environmental nonprofit.

        BTW, that episode also showed the NEA/AFT stand-in as having an office about the size of a closet, with dingy walls and a folding table. Clearly written by someone who knows nothing about the DC offices of major labor unions (especially the NEA, whose offices–I worked for them for about 4 months in 2012–are not at all ostentatious but quite nice in a modern ergonomic workspace kind of way).

  9. howard says:

    2 quick points: yes, many people romanticized obama’s anti-iraq stance and his skin color and took it for granted that he was a man of the left even though there was no reason to believe such a thing.

    and speaking personally, while i don’t regard the clinton administration as some radical left outfit, what i recall nostalgically about it is excellent job growth and income gains all the way down the income distribution ladder. no leftist should be unhappy about that, even if the clinton administration wasn’t any more on the left than the obama administration.

    p.s. let’s face it: the last candidate of the left to win the democratic nomination was in 1972….

    • junker says:

      But wasn’t the Clinton boom at least partly premised on the tech bubble? How much credit should he really get for that?

      • howard says:

        you know, i almost addressed this in my initial comment, so let me make 3 points:

        1. more than 20M jobs were created during the clinton administration. under no circumstances was the dot-com boom responsible for more than a small percentage of those jobs, even if you assume a high multiplier on the cap gains resulting from ipos;

        2. that said, lots of things contribute to how the economy performs and it would be a mistake to overly credit or blame any individual in office. so i not per se saying “let’s credit bill clinton with 20M new jobs.” i’m simply saying that no leftist should be unhappy with that kind of outcome;

        3. that said, what leftists absolutely should thank the clinton administration for is demonstrating the lie that tax hikes have to take the economy. this is an incredibly value talking point that, for some reason, is barely noted by democratic politicians (presumably out of fear of anti-taxers going nuts), but it’s at the heart of the leftist prescription for inequality: higher taxes on high income people.

        and so being able to say “hey, you asswipes all claimed that the clinton tax hike of 1993 would tank the economy were totally wrong then and you’re wrong now that increasing the marginal tax rate once we get into 7 and 8 and 9 digit levels of taxable income would tank the economy.”

        which wasn’t what clinton set out to achieve, but we’ll take whatever arguments we can get!

      • burritoboy says:

        I would argue Clinton should get at least some credit for the tech boom, though peripheral credit. First, if a Republican had been in office, he would have been extremely itchy to start at least some war (perhaps only a comparatively minor war, but still) by the mid-to-late 1990s. That war would have both diminished the economic expansion, as well as reducing public attention to the technology advances of the time. Second, a typical post-Reagan Republican (say, Dole) would have either ignored or simply been largely oblivious to the technology advances. To some extent, since the Internet boom was primarily focused in heavily blue areas, it would probably not be much in Dole’s interest to hype it.

        Conversely, it was precisely in Clinton’s interest to not undercut the Internet boom – just in the most cynical political terms, it’s in a Democratic President’s interest to have booming economic conditions in Northern California and Boston. (Remember, Nancy Pelosi’s seat has been held by powerhouse Democrats like Phil Burton since the mid 1960s.)

      • Dennis Orphen says:

        The right has always ignored, misunderstood or feared technology. The tech boom of the 90′s would have been suppressed by a republican administration. It democratizes and empowers individuals. It disseminates ideas, educates without regard to background or financial means and encourages healthy debate on any and all matters. All of these concepts are anthema to the right. IIRC, when the Clinton administration took over the white house in ’93 the white house staff had no computers, IBM selectrics and filing cabinets were good enough. It helped the tech industry and the dissemination of the technology to have an administration that was predisposed to technology in a Brandian sense rather that actively or passively opposed in an Orwellian fashion. Of course, as soon as possible after the regime change we got the Patriot act. Surprise.

        • sharculese says:

          It disseminates ideas, educates without regard to background or financial means and encourages healthy debate on any and all matters.

          To be fair, a very clever group of people on the right have realized technology can just as easily disseminate misinformation, fear, and paranoia. See e.g.: the integration of direct mail fraudsters and NewsMax into one seamless Voltron of grift.

    • mpowell says:

      This is a good point, but it doesn’t seem like a good idea to use such specific economic results to reach conclusion about the ideological posture of the respective administrations.

      • howard says:

        i agree (as i just somewhat stated in a separate reply).

        however, while it would be wrong to say “the clinton administration was actually of the left because working people benefitted from it in a way they hand’t in 20+ years,” it’s not wrong to say “leftists should at least be happy that under the clinton administratoin, working people benefitted economically in a way they hadn’t in 20+ years.”

    • FlipYrWhig says:

      In many ways I feel like Clinton ’92 was the culmination of lessons learned, for good of ill, from McGovern ’72, and Clinton ’92 has been the template for Democrats ever since. Obama ’08 was a new twist on that template, and future consultants will be looking to copy Obama ’08 for 20 years, give or take. It worked to get McAuliffe into the governorship of VA. Democratic strategists who don’t like the Obama template are going to be disgruntled for at least another decade, then, unless someone comes up with a killer app that reinvigorates working-class populism while at the same time maintaining the Obama coalition.

      • FlipYrWhig says:

        For good OR ill, not for good OF ill, of course.

      • howard says:

        i was recently talking to a friend who is working on a documentary about rfk and the ’68 campaign, and i said to him that i thought the key bobby kennedy legacy that has been ignored was that of course it was possible to have a multi-racial left populism that included the white working class (circa 1968): kennedy was showing that in the primaries.

        but i honestly can’t think of any democrat (not even clinton, with his many other political skills) who has found a way to connect with an admittedly much different white working class (including its extensive number of angry retirees) while at the same retaining progressive rainbow coalition cred.

        but that’s the template for someone to find: a reinvigorated left populism.

        • Dana Houle says:

          Don’t have the cites right now, but serious doubt has been cast on Bobby Kennedy’s actual white working class strength.

          • howard says:

            i’d be happy to read ‘em if you come up with ‘em!

            clearly, wallace’s presidential primary runs on 1964 showed that there was a cohort of white working class voters in play for a right populist approach, and some leakage from the dems was probably inevitable.

            humphrey, of course, still had true labor bonafides, but he was tainted by lbj, vietnam, and increasing crankiness, and other than rfk, there wasn’t anyone even trying on the national level.

            but like i say, i’m all for empirical data if you’ve got some to change my recollection.

    • N. C. says:

      p.s. let’s face it: the last candidate of the left to win the democratic nomination was in 1972….

      Coincidentally, 1972 was also the last candidate of the left to win the Republican nomination!

  10. mpowell says:

    The Clinton administration arguments have gotten pretty silly. It’s basically a process of starting from the assumption that Obama is to the right of the Clinton administration and that the Clinton administration was centrist… and then arguing from there. You’ve already assumed the conclusion. The neoliberal label has become similarly useless. The fairest way to put it is that its used for liberals who aren’t interested in doing much or anything about labor (unions that is) but are interested in safety net type programs. The problem is that neoliberal critics like to take the worst examples of neoliberal looking policy and policy-makers (including people who actually don’t care about safety net programs) and claim that represents the heart of the movement and use that to discredit any policy program along those lines. Now, maybe the policy program is a bad idea. That redistribution without strong unions is not going to work. But it’s the equivalent of using an ad hominen to criticize a public policy proposal. And that doesn’t make sense.

  11. keta says:

    I think the Democratic base is also at about the same place, or possibly slightly to the left of 1980 Democrats, on matters of national defense (but again, willing to tolerate a lot of intransigence, hence drone strikes, not closing Guantanamo, etc.)

    I’ve been arguing for years that the actions of Dubya (driven by Rumsfeld and Cheney) blasted open such a hug hole in the can that the worms are truly out for good. Torture, GB, drones – you name it and the Obama administration does it – in spades. And from where I sit, the Democratic base mostly chooses to look the other way because it’s “their guys” doing it.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Torture…you name it and the Obama administration does it

      What?

    • junker says:

      Yeah, remember when Bush got us into two wars and Obama upped that by getting us into four? Wait…

      In what sense is Obama responsible for Guantanomo? Wasn’t one of the first things he did was try and get a bill through closing it? And it was opposed by what, 98 senators? Please explain, how is this a failing of the Obama administration? At least you can kind of sort of see the ACA argument that only a few arms needed to be twisted.

      Also it would be great if you could provide actual evidence that Obama is worse on torture than Bush. Has Obama tortured more people? Has the torture under Obama been more insidious and evil than Bush? Any evidence at all?

      So that leaves us with drones. Yes, on that narrow point, Obama is worse. If that’s the exchange for getting out of two wars, then there are worse tradeoffs.

      • keta says:

        Also it would be great if you could provide actual evidence that Obama is worse on torture than Bush. Has Obama tortured more people? Has the torture under Obama been more insidious and evil than Bush? Any evidence at all?

        Ah, the old, “but Bush did it worse!” rebuttal. Which I guess makes torture under Obama’s watch okey-dokey.

        • junker says:

          What the hell are you talking about? What I’m asking is if you have any evidence that torture is worse under Obama than it was under Bush, which was YOUR claim.

          Your link shows that the army manual allows for “torture.” So tell me, how many people have been tortured under the Obama regime? Did Obama insert that language into the army manual? Did Obama order that detainees be tortured under those protocols? What exactly would you have had Obama do to make those protocols unusable?

          If this is the best you can do… well, it’s not very good.

          • keta says:

            What I’m asking is if you have any evidence that torture is worse under Obama than it was under Bush, which was YOUR claim.

            No, I didn’t say that.

            But I did say that the old, “Bush was worse so it’s okey-dokey for Obama” bullshit is rampant, and here you are emobodying it! Nice work!

            • junker says:

              Torture, GB, drones – you name it and the Obama administration does it – in spades

              Seems to imply that whatever bad things that Bush had done, Obama has also done, only worse.

              You’ll also notice that neither I nor anyone here has actually claimed that these things are okay for Obama. “Obama has tried to scale these things back,” isn’t the same as “anything I complained abotu with Bush is OK for Obama.”

              You have provided literally no evidence for any of this. You’re flailing, dude. I’d quit while you’re ahead.

              • keta says:

                Your inference is obviously wrong – you even back up a bit with “seems to apply…” but yeah, I’m flailing.

                Look, if you want to make shit up by all means fill your fucking boots. I’d suggest taking off the rose-coloured glasses might be a better option.

                • Dana Houle says:

                  Obama hasn’t ended torture, defined as solitary confinement, which pretty much every state in America does in their state prisons, so he’s obviously the same as Bush, or worse.

                  Thanks for that. I just lost two IQ points.

                • Dana Houle says:

                  Prison Orange Is The New Green Lantern

                • junker says:

                  Solitary confinement is the same as waterboarding Dana. Come on now.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  The Commander in Chief could stop, to use but one example, force-feeding at GTMO.

                  It has not stopped.

                  The Weak Executive argument only goes so far.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  The Commander in Chief could allow prisoners to starve to death under his watch, yes.

                  Because that’s so obviously moral.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  In an editorial distributed to various news outlets, Duane M. Cady, MD, chair of the AMA’s Board of Trustees, wrote that the AMA endorses the World Medical Assn.’s Declaration of Tokyo guidelines for physicians concerning the humane treatment of prisoners. Dr. Cady wrote that the declaration states that ” ‘Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially.’ “

                  In other words, yeah, moral.

                  Meanwhile, a U.N. report issued in February after an 18-month investigation said that if detainees’ charges that insertion and removal of feeding tubes caused bleeding, vomiting and intense pain are true, “some of the methods used to force-feed definitely amounted to torture.”

                  But of course, all them peoples lie…

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  You, as usual, manage to misunderstand.

                  I agree with you that, among the options of “let them starve” and “force feed them,” the less-bad is to let them starve.

                  But, unlike “Is it ok to torture people?” that is a question about which reasonable, moral people could come to different conclusions. Comparing the decision not to allow suicides in the prison you run, to the decision to strap people to a board and torture them, is a morally cretinous argument to make. So you make it, and don’t even how that makes you look.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Strapping them to a chair and snaking a hose down their noses is benign? Of course, a Marine brig is a place of extremely gentle people–just ask Chelsea Manning.

                  Joe, your ability to defend the indefensible is impressive.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  I agree with you that, among the options of “let them starve” and “force feed them,” the less-bad is to let them starve.

                  Strapping them to a chair and snaking a hose down their noses is benign?

                  Are you really this stupid, or do you fake it for effect?

      • rea says:

        that leaves us with drones. Yes, on that narrow point, Obama is worse.

        Not really. Bush didn’t have drones the way Obama has them–armed drones were just being invented back then–and where Obama would use a drone, Bush would use a couple of jet fighters, with more collateral damage.

    • MRL says:

      If I am understanding this correctly, you are arguing

      (1) force-feeding someone near death on hunger strike is “torture”
      (2) that this torture is essentially the equivalent of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, etc., all done ostensibly at least in the name of interrogation
      (3) that because Bush did (2) and Obama does (1), Obama’s “torture” policies are the same as Bush’s torture policies.

      That is mind-numbingly stupid.

      • keta says:

        I’m arguing torture continues under Obama’s watch. And yes, it is mind-numbingly stupid. But hey, you believe what you want to believe.

        Nice to see someone else sign up for the “Bush did it worse!” team, though! Grab a jersey!

        • NonyNony says:

          You know, it’s actually not a logical inconsistency nor the height of hypocrisy to believe that if A does something wrong and B does something worse that B actually is worse than A.

          I know that when phrased that way it loses its punch of the snark that you want to convey, but if you’re going to try to convince people that Obama is worse than Bush you shouldn’t go with an argument that basically follows the pattern:

          * Bush did horrible things
          * Obama does horrible things
          * The horrible things that Bush did were measurably worse
          * Therefore Obama is worse than Bush.

          It’s not even an argument. It’s just nonsensical.

          (Am I disappointed in Obama? No. I expected him to be an American President who was not as disastrous as George W Bush was and, no surprise, he’s an American President who was not as disastrous as George W Bush was and is, in fact, significantly better on most measures than Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter – the two Democratic Presidents I have memories of – were. I’m not sure why I can’t hold that opinion AND be appalled at what the American government does on his watch. I’ve been appalled at things that the American government does for almost my entire life – I’m not sure why a change in President would make a difference.)

          • keta says:

            …but if you’re going to try to convince people that Obama is worse than Bush…

            Which I’m not trying to do at all. Again, where the fuck did I write that? Nor am I’m trying to be snarky.

            What I tried to convey in my original post was point up the excesses in the use of torture by the Bushies pushed the envelope so very far that anything Obama does short of those excesses – despite still being torture – is mostly excused by the left because, you know, “it isn’t as bad as Bush.”

            My argument is that it’s still torture and it’s still untenable.

            • drkrick says:

              “Bush did it and Obama does it in spades” will generally be understood to mean that Obama is worse. If that isn’t what you meant by using “in spades”, say so and we can all move on.

              • keta says:

                I was unaware that folks on this board subscribe to the odious Jonah Goldberg Lexicon of “shit means what I want it to mean.”

                I define “in spades” as “to a high degree.” If straw man erectors such as junker are enough for everyone else to huff and puff then the groupthink on this site is off the charts.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  You’re the guy making up exciting new definitions for torture.

                • junker says:

                  Well, interpreting your words using their commonly understood meaning IS “erecting a strawman,” I have to give you that.

                • Hogan says:

                  I define “in spades” as “to a high degree.”

                  Close. It generally means “to a higher degree.” Hence the belief that you were comparing Obama unfavorably to Bush.

            • Hogan says:

              “it isn’t as bad as Bush.”

              My argument is that it’s still torture and it’s still untenable.

              Why can’t all three of those things be true?

              • keta says:

                They can and they are. I was merely pointing out that “not as bad as Bush” is weak tea and in no way absolves the Obama administration of torture under their watch.

              • DocAmazing says:

                Because of team identification. If OUr Guy is doing something bad, that’s not a problem as long as Their Guy did something worse.

                • junker says:

                  So is it impossible to acknowledge that the Obama administration has reined in the worst excesses and then some? I fully acknowledge that we’re not where we need to be, but I am pleased with the progress so far.

                  Is there any way to acknowledge that the Obama administration has taken and is taking steps in the right direction without being accused of “OMG YOU ONLY DON’T CARE BECAUSE HE’S A DEMOCRAT!!!!!11!!”

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Wello, it’s very possible to do that, provided you ignore the increasing number of ICE deportations, the off-the-chain DEA, the large number of prosecutions under the Espionage Act and the chasing-down of whistleblowers.

                  Is the administration taking some steps in the right direction? Indubitably. It is also taking a number of steps in a very, very wrong direction. Ignoring that does not make it go away.

                • junker says:

                  I can’t comment on deportations, though I’ve heard on this board from some commenters that blaming Obama for deportations is misguided. Other than Snowden exactly how many whistleblower cases has Obama brought to bear? Also a cursory glance at espionage act prosecutions suggests that Obama has… 8. Granted that makes up a high percentage of the number of times it’s been used, so there’s that. However, if the worst black mark you can come up with for Obama is “8 espionage act prosecutions,” you’ve already proved the point.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  I’ve heard on this board from some commenters that blaming Obama for deportations is misguided

                  ICE falls squarely under the jurisdiction of the executive branch. The buck stops nowhere at all, it seems.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Other than Snowden exactly how many whistleblower cases has Obama brought to bear?

                  Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are the high-profile ones, pursued by Obama’s Justice Department. There are others; you might want to check Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! homepage for more info.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  ICE falls squarely under the jurisdiction of the executive branch. The buck stops nowhere at all, it seems.

                  …and Barack Obama can undo the border security legislation* passed in 2006, and remove all of the walls, cameras, and guards that federal law requires at the border, because Doc has a cliche.

                  They really need to start teaching civics in school again.

                  *All of the additional “deportations,” and then some, are actually cases of people being caught at the border, not actual deportations of people living in the United States. Those have actually declined under Obama, which is why people like Doc need to blur the distinction.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  *All of the additional “deportations,” and then some, are actually cases of people being caught at the border, not actual deportations of people living in the United States.

                  Except that they’re not. Not at all. We have increased ICE presence even here in SF. Long-time residents are indeed being deported.

                  Again, joe, your ability to defend the indefensible is impressive.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Thank your for sharing your anecdote, Ms. Kael.

                  In the reality-based community, we look at the data, such the annual reports about ICE enforcement actions.

                  And they demonstrate that I am right, and your feelings, generated from what you happen to notice, are wrong.

                  Once again, actual deportations of people living in the United States are down. Even it makes your tummy hurt to acknowledge that. Even if it doesn’t fit in with the impression your anecdotal experiences have left you with.

        • junker says:

          So your opinion is that unless a politician completely halts the things you disagree with, it’s a one hundred percent failure? You can’t both be pleased that things are getting better while also pushing for further change?

          Your argument is that if Bush was a 100, and Obama is a 75, that celebrating the fact that we’re making progress is cheer leading for Obama.

          Like I said to Rea: you’ve come into this with your belief, and so therefore everything becomes evidence that your belief is true.

          • junker says:

            I also notice that you don’t seem to have a rebuttal to my GB argument or Rea’s drone argument.

          • keta says:

            So your opinion is that unless a politician completely halts the things you disagree with, it’s a one hundred percent failure?

            Well, that’s not my opinion at all, nor did I write such nonsense.

            If you want to put words in other people’s mouths and then proceed to have an argument with these same fantasies then I’m going to leave you to play with yourself. It appears you’re quite adept at thsi exercise.

        • MRL says:

          You were the one who equated Obama to Bush; people are just responding to you. Maybe I missed it, but did you point to anything other than force-feeding individuals on the brink of death to back-up your claim that the Obama administration tortures?

          Because 1, I do not think that’s torture and in fact I think you’ll find your in the minority on that one.

          My position is simple: force-feeding is not torture, and calling it such is stupid. Also, even granting that force-feeding might be some form of torture, failing to distinguish between that and waterboarding/sleep deprivation/etc (done in the name of interrogation) is also stupid. Doing both at the same time is really stupid.

          • DocAmazing says:

            The leftist American Medical Association disagrees with you.

            http://www.amednews.com/article/20060403/profession/304039957/7/

          • keta says:

            I notice Pierce sometimes posts here. Maybe you could engage him on the definition of torture.

            And yes, I do consider force-feeding torture.

            As for your argument that “failing to distinguish between that and waterboarding/sleep deprivation/etc (done in the name of interrogation) is also stupid”; this sounds an awful lot like the whole fucking jiggery-pokery of Yoo et al. justifying “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

          • joe from Lowell says:

            Because 1, I do not think that’s torture and in fact I think you’ll find your in the minority on that one.

            One the bullshitters get you into a wanting contest over the definition of torture, and successfully deflect the conversation away from their original claim that the Obama administration is comparable to the Bush administration, or is continuing their policies on torture, you’ve already lost.

            It’s always the same game; they start out using the term “torture” as shorthand for the issue we all know perfectly well is the actual topic of the claim, and then change the subject to very worthy but completely irrelevant issues like prison conditions.

            • keta says:

              http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/homeland-security/279073-president-obamas-record-on-torture

              Does this suit your definition?

              Seriously, I don’t know how the fuck I can state this any more clearly:

              - Bush opened the door to sanctioned torture
              - once opened, a door like this seldom ever closes again, and surprise! torture has happened during the Obama reign
              - the “not as bad as Bush!” argument holds no fucking water whatsoever

              Has the use of torture lessened under Obama? It appears that, yes, it has. I applaud this.

              Have the Democrats moved left or right given that we now know torture happens under Obama’s watch? I don’t know, how much torturing happened during Democrat administrations earlier? But it certainly appears to me that Dem supporters (wrongly) think everything’s tea and fucking crumpets on the torture front.

              Here’s the fucking nut, one more time: the danger of any administration wandering so far into these woods is that a new benchmark is now set whereby almost anything short of that mark is met with a “ho-hum.” And that is madness.

              • Tristan says:

                - the “not as bad as Bush!” argument holds no fucking water whatsoever

                Has the use of torture lessened under Obama? It appears that, yes, it has.


                ?????????????????????????????

              • joe from Lowell says:

                Does this suit your definition?

                What “this” are you talking about? You refuse to come out and say what you’re accusing the United States of doing that is torture.

                Transfering Afghans captured in Afghanistan to the Afghan government (something Obama has done)? Nope, not torture.

                Their treatment by the Afghan government (that is, something Obama has not done)? Yep, torture. You’ve totally demonstrated that the Afghans torture.

                Is Obama an Afghan now? I thought he was a Kenyan.

                Seriously, I don’t know how the fuck I can state this any more clearly

                Your problem isn’t that you’re unclear, but that you’re wrong. So wrong, that you have to retreat into vagueness, such as using the passive voice “torture has happened” to generate the implication that Obama has tortured people when you know he has not, but you just can’t let the claim go because you so very, very much want it to be true.

  12. Martin says:

    Very good job, Scott. There’s always a market for articles claiming that “the Democratic Party is (and is facing) this huge problem because of [find reason later]“….. It’s always the Democrats’ fault, and it’s always the Democrats’ disaster. If only some nice centrist would come along and explain to them why all their premises are wrong…..

    • Gwen says:

      Circular firing squad is a tradition. Not engaging in self-defeating arguments with other Democrats would be like not having fruit cakes at Christmas (even if everyone agrees that its just horrible).

  13. Crunchy Frog says:

    The left has more influence on the Democratic Party that it has at any point since 1968, with the defeat of Larry Summers and the removal of Chained CPI from the budget the latest wins

    Now, wait a minute. Wasn’t it last week that I was reading here that Obama never wanted Chained CPI in the first place, it was just a negotiating ploy? Now getting rid of it from his budget is a victory of the left?

  14. pete says:

    Isn’t the more important issue the rightward drift of the Republican party? That is what has damaged, if not destroyed, the previous social compact. That also has successfully marginalized genuine social improvements as matters that benefit individuals while demonizing achievements such as incremental healthcare reform.

    • FlipYrWhig says:

      I don’t even think the drift is “rightward” per se. The Republican Party has drifted away from the very idea of governing. Their concept of government is limited to restricting abortion rights. What else do they affirmatively want to accomplish? Low taxes, less regulation, more discrimination… anything else? Even foreign wars seem out of favor.

      IMHO the defining characteristic of today’s Republican Party is that they want to do less and less with the government, ideally nothing, and their supporters reward them for it. Time was, the Republican Party wanted to do conservative things with the power of the government. I don’t think they even want to do that anymore. Getting things done with the government, law, or public money is itself anathema. That’s why they can’t be dealt with. There’s nothing they want to do, and doing nothing pleases their supporters more than doing something would, so there’s no incentive to change. The Republicans even through the Gingrich years wanted to do _something_, but then Clinton got the credit, and they didn’t benefit, so once Obama got in they stopped even trying.

      What would the next Republican president even promise to do? I can’t imagine. All I come up with are negative propositions and rollbacks: cut taxes, prevent abortions, stop people from voting.

  15. Most Favoured Commenter says:

    I’d say the real capture of the Democratic party is by the military industrial complex.

    We get nothing but Republicans to run DoD and quite often others at other national security agencies. We have Obama’s inexplicable appointment of Cheney ally Victoria Nuland to multiple state department posts and getting us mired in Ukrainian politics, and Obama trying to keep us in Afghanistan for another 10 years and butting into various other countries.

    Obama clearly ran as the anti-war alternative to HRC, but his actual military spending and foreign intervention policies I’d wager are to the right of 90% of registered Democrats.

    • sharculese says:

      Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.

      My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain. I don’t oppose all wars.

      After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again. I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.

      What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

      https://web.archive.org/web/20080130204029/http://www.barackobama.com/2002/10/02/remarks_of_illinois_state_sen.php

    • junker says:

      How exactly has the US become “Mire in Ukranian politics” beyond making mostly meaningless statements of support for democracy?

    • Lurker says:

      When it comes to Ukrainian politics, I would not call US “mired” in them. From European perspective, the key players of that conflict have been Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. US has Merkel’s back, and you have sent a couple of men-of-war to the Black Sea, but the US diplomacy has not been the most visible factor in the conflict.

      Of course, it is quite clear that a number of secret services are busy giving out financial and logistics support for both sides in the Ukrainian crisis, like it always happens in these affairs, but that is under-cover work. And the tradecraft has been applied in a competent manner. You really can’t tell from the media reports which Western countries have their services most involved.

      For us, the Ukrainian crisis is a major geopolitical question. If the US would play any smaller role, we would start wondering which side you are on.

  16. Crunchy Frog says:

    I think it’s pretty simplistic to compare Democratic leadership in the White House, Senate, and the House in 1980 with that of 2014 and say that proves the Democratic party is more to the left. Let’s remember a few things:

    1) In 1980 Ted Kennedy launched a campaign from the left to unseat Carter and would almost certainly have won if it weren’t for the structural advantages of the incumbency in the primaries. Listen to his speeches – he says the name “Jimmy Carter” with the sort of disparaging vitriol that GHWB when he used the term “liberal” in the 1988 campaign.

    2) Comparing policy issues – those below the top 3 or 4 that make the headlines – and you’ll see a marked shift to the right. The role of government in education. The role of government in the environment. The right to birth control and abortion. The role of the government in regulating broadcast media. In administering public lands. In providing support to those in poverty. The government’s relationship to the fossil fuel industry (who remembers the “Windfall Profits Tax”?). And, perhaps most importantly, the Democrats are almost apologetic about asking for a top tax rate of 39%. In 1980 it was 70%, and with real inheritance taxes. The Democratic Party thought very differently back then.

    Yes, on all of these issues the Democratic Party moved to the right not of its own accord but in response to a powerful conservative movement. But there are a large number of policy stances that back then were not controversial even to the Robert Byrds and Sam Nunns which today would be branded well to the left of the center.

    3) Not everything has gone to the right. Certainly in areas of minority civil rights we’ve seen improvement. And the push for government funding of renewable energy is a positive – although it’s disappointing just how little we’ve advanced since 1980. A lot of that, though, has to do with how far we backtracked after 1980. You can argue that ACA is an advancement – but even then remember that in 1980 the severity of the health insurance problem was much, much less than it became in the subsequent 3 decades due to deregulation and skyrocketing health care prices.

    In the end, certainly Obama, Pelosi and pro-life Reid “seem” more progressive than Carter, Byrd, and O’Neill, but perhaps only because the “center of the possibilities” has shifted so far to the right that they are more to the left by comparison. If you look at the policies that they accepted as natural and right you can’t make that case.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      In 1980 Ted Kennedy launched a campaign from the left

      So there was a failed primary campaign against a president who was much more conservative than Obama. This proves what exactly?

      The role of government in the environment…The right to birth control and abortion… In providing support to those in poverty.

      What? How has the Democratic Party shifted at all to the right on these since 1976? Where was the huge Medicaid expansion Carter signed?

      And, perhaps most importantly, the Democrats are almost apologetic about asking for a top tax rate of 39%. In 1980 it was 70%, and with real inheritance taxes.

      In 1978, Sam Nunn proposed a 20% cut in the top rate that Senate Dems voted for 2-to-1. And of course Reagan’s tax cuts were passed by a Democratic-controlled House.

      In the end, certainly Obama, Pelosi and pro-life Reid “seem” more progressive than Carter, Byrd, and O’Neill

      They seem like it because they are. And “pro-life” Reid, give me a fucking break — cite one example where that’s manifested itself in any way.

      • sharculese says:

        Yeah, we’ve reached a point where a dude like Terry McCaulliffe (who I campaigned for, because what the fuck were we supposed to do, let the Cooch have the governor’s mansion) knows he has to run as an unapologetically pro-choice candidate. I am not seeing a right-ward shift in the Democratic party on choice. The opposite, if anything.

        • Dana Houle says:

          Since the 80′s Democrats now do quite well in most suburbs outside the South, and they aren’t competitive in many socially conservative rural areas (thus exempting New England, the boutique liberal parts of Rockies and a few pot-loving areas of the Pacific Northwest). Thus, Democrats don’t represent as many areas where a good chunk of the Democratic base vote is anti-choice. And even those who represent some socially conservative states (like Landrieu, McCaskill, Heitkamp, Hagen, etc) are mostly pro-choice.

      • Njorl says:

        So a third of Democrats wanted a 70% upper tax bracket in 1978. I don’t think 1/3 of them want it now, not that it matters what 1/3 of one party wants.

        I think taxes and a few narrow, complex, economic issues (trade and deregulation) are where Democrats have moved rightward, though that started with Carter, not after him.

        I don’t think I can blame the Democratic politicians for moving rightward on taxes. Not doing so was nearly electoral suicide for over 20 years. But I think that now it might be a good time to start pushing back.

      • Crunchy Frog says:

        The role of government in the environment…The right to birth control and abortion… In providing support to those in poverty.

        What? How has the Democratic Party shifted at all to the right on these since 1976? Where was the huge Medicaid expansion Carter signed?

        Are you seriously telling me that if you proposed welfare law, as it existed in 1980, you wouldn’t be branded far left of the Democratic mainstream today? Remember “the end of Welfare as we know it”, which was considered a co-optation of a GOP issue and is now considered as far left as is possible. What if you proposed a top tax rate of 50% let alone 70%? Or a return to BEOG grants, NDSL loans, GSL loans with no interest until you left graduate school – my God, what sort of communist you must be if you proposed an educational funding system like we had in 1980, in which a very large number of private institutions had sufficient government financial aid that they could offer “aid blind” admissions? And only an extreme leftist would today propose something like the Fairness Doctrine or the restrictions on media ownership that existed in 1980.

        As a country, we’ve forgotten so much about how far to the right our government is now from what it was.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Are you seriously telling me that if you proposed welfare law, as it existed in 1980, you wouldn’t be branded far left of the Democratic mainstream today?

          You’re comparing a “do nothing” option with a “shift policy to the left” option, as if policy incumbency is meaningless?

          In England, the free-marketeer true believers all pledge their allegiance to National Health. Why do you think that is? Because they’re socialists? Do you think they’d be proposing it if it didn’t exist?

          • Crunchy Frog says:

            True, the Overton Window has shifted dramatically to the right since 1980.

            So we’re comparing the Democratic Party today to a Democratic Party in 1980 which led a government that had by far more liberal policies enacted than we do today. And you’re arguing that the Party today is more progressive because … why?

            In any event, I think you’ve identified the massive disappointment the left has with the Democrats during the 30 year conservative movement. Even when they won elections they kept rolling back the progressive achievements of years before (especially under Clinton).

            • joe from Lowell says:

              And you’re arguing that the Party today is more progressive because … why?

              For the reason I just explained to you.

              Drop the bogus concept “Overton Window” from your thinking. We’re not talking about feelings here; we’re talking about the state of the law and of political institutions. We’re talking about the difference between mounting a political effort to change the law, and doing nothing.

              In any event, I think you’ve identified the massive disappointment the left has with the Democrats during the 30 year conservative movement. Even when they won elections they kept rolling back the progressive achievements of years before (especially under Clinton).

              Twenty-year conservative movement. And yes, sometimes you’re on defense. Sometimes the odds are against you and a win means you give minimal ground instead of vast swathes. If you don’t get this, you end up like Ted Cruz.

              • Crunchy Frog says:

                At some points it’s just semantics.

                But to clarify something – the 30 year movement I’m talking about dates from 1976 – 2006. The Reagan election in 1980 didn’t happen overnight. I suppose you could split hairs and date it from 1975, the founding of Heritage, but 1976 was the birth of the political movement backing Reagan, which was distinct from the 1964 Goldwater anomaly, and also the introduction of what we now call “evangelicals” as a significant voting segment. In 1976 they were mostly voting for Southern Baptist Carter (look it up – in 1976 voting registration was down everywhere but dixieland) but would soon be hearded by leaders like Falwell straight into the arms of the GOP.

                The conservative movement hasn’t actually ended, but certainly it ran out of steam for the time being in 2006.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  The difference between a framework and laws and vague feelings about where the political center is is not “semantics.”

                  But to clarify something – the 30 year movement I’m talking about dates from 1976 – 2006.

                  I know, and I disagree. I don’t think the conservative movement was still succeeding at pushing the Democrats to the right up until 2006. I think that stalled out by 2000.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      1) What is this supposed to prove? The incumbent Presidents are vulnerable during lousy economies? That Ted Kennedy saw Jimmy Carter as too conservative, while being an early supporter of Obama and working himself to death to pass Obama’s agenda?

  17. Anonymous says:

    The left has more influence on the Democratic Party that it has at any point since 1968, with the defeat of Larry Summers and the removal of Chained CPI from the budget the latest wins.

    But, but, but… I thought Chained CPI was a brilliant eleventy dimensional chess gambit that was only there to sucker the Republicans and was never intended to be implemented. But removing it is a win for the left!

    • Anonymous says:

      Oops – just noticed Crunchy Frog at 1:08 pm made exactly the same point. Sorry :-)

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      But, like him, you fail to notice that there’s no actual contradiction. Obviously, Chained CPI has not going to be enacted in any form proposed by Obama, but it’s still better not to have it as part of the budget proposal.

      • Anonymous says:

        Why classify something that was never going to happen, not happening, a victory. Are all inevitable conclusions victories or just this specific example of one?

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Well, if you want to say that it doesn’t matter whether a proposal that can’t pass is in the president’s budget or not, fine with me. That’s not the argument most people were making at the time.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            Well, if you want to say that it doesn’t matter whether a proposal that can’t pass is in the president’s budget or not

            …then you’ve given away more than half of the evidence of the Democrats’ rightward drift.

      • Ethan Gach says:

        Scott, you agree that this is an incredibly low bar, no?

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          As long as Republicans control the House, large-scale policy victories comparable to the ACA or stimulus aren’t on the table. And I don’t think the Summers defeat is a minor matter — the left sure as hell didn’t consider it a minor matter when it looked like Summers might get appointed — although the chained-CPI symbolism is. Anyway, Reed invited the low bar by asserting that the left has no influence on the Democratic Party.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      But, but, but… I thought Chained CPI was a brilliant eleventy dimensional chess gambit that was only there to sucker the Republicans and was never intended to be implemented. But removing it is a win for the left!

      But But But….I thought Chained CPI was a deadly-serious proposal, very likely to become law, that serves as Exhibit A in the rightward drift of the Democratic Party!

      So, which is it? Is the narrative of the rightward drift bullshit because Obama never intended to see it become law, or is it bullshit because the Democratic left has the power to get such items scrubbed?

      • Crunchy Frog says:

        I suspect this actually is a good argument that the left wing of the Democratic Party is seeing its influence grow. Obama caught so much flack for the Chained CPI that whether or not it was a serious proposal he dropped it.

        And I think we can see lots of evidence of that growing influence in other areas. But we have a long, long, long way to go before the policies of the political “center” are anywhere near where they were in 1980.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Obama caught so much flack for the Chained CPI that whether or not it was a serious proposal he dropped it.

          I can’t help but notice that he dropped it the moment it outlived its political utility, and that he also stopped talking about it during the 2012 campaign.

          Which is to say, I don’t think he dropped it because of pressure from the left, but because he’s won that fight, and there’s a different one that requires different tools.

          But we have a long, long, long way to go before the policies of the political “center” are anywhere near where they were in 1980.

          We certainly do. The Democrats may have moved back to where they were in the 70s, but the Republicans are well to the right, and also larger, resulting in a significant rightward drift overall.

          • Crunchy Frog says:

            So without intending to you’ve just confirmed the original point, though I know you’ll split hairs and deny it.

            Which is to say, I don’t think he dropped it because of pressure from the left, but because he’s won that fight, and there’s a different one that requires different tools.

            Yes, and that’s consistent with Scott’s post from last week. Which is why Anonymous and I were pointing out that it makes no sense to call the removal of Chained CPI one of the “latest wins” for the left.

            It’s only a “win” for the left if they got something for it – if not a policy change, then either a change in view from the President or a concession that the optics were wrong. You and Scott are arguing that the President did neither – that his action of removing Chained CPI from the budget was not in reaction to the left, and that the removal did not change policy in any way. So how can it be a “win”?

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              that his action of removing Chained CPI from the budget was not in reaction to the left

              Whoa, whoa, I never argued that.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              So how can it be a “win”?

              Because – and you seem to miss this, not just in this particular debate, but overall – there is more to leftist politics than opposing Barack Obama.

              The elimination of the CPI proposal, even as a bargaining ploy, is a massive win for the left over conservatives who actually support Chained CPI.

              Remember them?

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Yeah, I’m confused on this.

              While I agree with Scott and Joe that Obama doesn’t have any intrinsic brief for C-CPI, I’m less sure as to whether he might not be willing to use it in some trade that I would not think sufficient (he was good at killing deals that included it, though). Plus, there are other people who are more on board with it and to them, having it in the budget is seen as helpful. Pushing that back is a win. It’s a win on a symbolic thing, but that’s a win, nevertheless. It’s not nearly the win, for example, that defeating the Bush SS destruction drive, but so?

  18. LeeEsq says:

    The Democratic Party has never been an ideological leftist party in the way that the UK’s Labour Party or the various Social Democratic Parties on the continet were. What the Democratic Party has always been was coalition party of people felt isolated from the American establishment. From about the late 19th century to the Great Society this meant that it was the party of the South and West, immigrants and their progency, blue collar workers, and urban professionals. The “outsider” status of the Democratic Party made it take up various causes that were left-liberal in nature but it wasn’t exactly a leftist party.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      In the US, you form the coalition, fight the election, and govern if you win.
      In Europe, you fight the election, and if you win, you form the coalition and govern.

      When I was a lad, Senators Kennedy and Mondale sat in the same Democratic caucus with Senators Stennis and Eastland.

      If that’s not two different, perhaps radically different parties, sharing one coalition label, I’m an Adélie penguin.

      The situation may not be as extreme today, but there are still a couple, maybe three, overlapping Democratic parties, a couple of GOP splinter/rump factions, and a GOP sensu stricto.

      And only two lines on the ballot.

      • LeeEsq says:

        American political parties and the coalitions within them were never about a particular ideology in the way that European political parties are. Each party might be vaguely associated with particular beliefs but it was not a strong association. The GOP didn’t considered itself explicitly conservative until very recently. The Democratic Party never referred to itself as whole as being liberal.

        • Davis X. Machina says:

          In other words, we have the effects of fusion voting without actual fusion voting.

        • Dana Houle says:

          An under-appreciated factor in US politics is regionalism. Sure, people know about it wrt the Civil War, but look at the electoral map of 1896 and then look at the maps from 2000 to 2012. We’re still very much a country of Southern nullifiers (since post-WWII, with allies in the rural plains and lower Midwest) and the rest of the country.

          • LeeEsq says:

            American and to a lesser extent Canadian political parties were formed more along geographic-ethnic-religious divisions rather class-ideological ones. Before LBJ, the Democratic Party represented the South, the Great Plains, and the cities. The GOP was the North East, Mid-West, and to an extent Coastal West plus rural areas outside the South and Great Plains. The Democratic Party was Ethnic White, Jewish, Catholic, and Southern Protestant. The Republican party Whites and people of color. This all got mixed up after LBJ but geographic-ethnic-religious divisions are still important in American politics.

  19. Ed K says:

    Sorry, but I think ACA is pretty damned neoliberal in a lot of respects. First off, that ‘single payer expansion’ you’re talking about is essentially the policy concession required in order to shore up the larger function of the bill as an enormous corporate welfare program for private insurance companies.

    Neoliberalism isn’t just deregulate everything and let the market decide. It’s put in a set of policies in order to institute the right kind of market that ensures that the right kinds of people doing the right kinds of things get validated by the market.

    The private health insurance industry is more deeply and more securely embedded in the process of providing health care to Americans post ACA than it was pre. The failure of the system to provide not only for the profoundly indigent but also for increasing numbers of modest-income working people has been patched, in a way that ensures that all the revenue for providing care ends up in private hands. I think that’s accurately described as a neoliberal solution even if you ignore the fact that it was originally a Mitt Romney and Heritage approved plan.

    • Dana Houle says:

      First off, that ‘single payer expansion’ you’re talking about is essentially the policy concession required in order to shore up the larger function of the bill as an enormous corporate welfare program for private insurance companies.

      Sound point, backed up by all that non-existent polling data showing single payer was popular.

      Oh, wait…

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        You’re not taking into consideration the false consciousness of the proletariat.

      • FlipYrWhig says:

        Trying bravely to do something less “neoliberal” and failing honorably would surely have been rewarded by both voters and pundits across the political spectrum. Activists would be elated, the blogosphere would rejoice, and politicians would be showered with hosannas. “At least they tried! And that’s worth something!” they’d say. Let us never forget how Clinton’s health care reform flop led very quickly to better, more popular, and more liberal policies in this vital area.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Sorry, but I think ACA is pretty damned neoliberal in a lot of respects. First off, that ‘single payer expansion’ you’re talking about is essentially the policy concession required in order to shore up the larger function of the bill as an enormous corporate welfare program for private insurance companies.

      “Except for the major parts of the legislation that neoliberals hate, the bill was neoliberal. Let’s imagine that neoliberals favor might tighter regulation of the insurance industry too.” Can’t see any flaws with this argument!

      The private health insurance industry is more deeply and more securely embedded in the process of providing health care to Americans post ACA than it was pre.

      This is just completely false.

      even if you ignore the fact that it was originally a Mitt Romney and Heritage approved plan.

      Utter horseshit.

  20. rnelson says:

    Couple of things.

    First of all, “economic issues” means a number of different things. In terms of financial regulations, and the Democrats’ closeness to Wall Street, the 1990s-2000s (continuing through today, although somewhat contested) is the period that we’re talking about, not the carter era. Also, too, NAFTA.

    Second of all, there is the question of baseline policy vs. relative progressiveness to the baseline. This harkens back to the discussion of Nixon. As someone pointed out above, Carter may have been less progressive relative to policy baseline than Obama is to policy baseline, but we live in a more unequal society today than existed in the 1970s.

    Third, what makes Obama a neoliberal is not just the exchanges in the ACA. It’s his education policy, his land/drilling policies, his support for fast-tracking TPP, his fetishization of technology and “smartness” in warfare, his MyRA program, his “Urban Promise Zones” (low-tax, low-regulation zoning changes for urban areas designed to increase business), etc. He’s not a doctinaire neoliberal, but who is? He’s a a middle-of-the-road Democrat, which is to say influenced by neoliberalism, mid-century liberalism, racial liberalism etc. Those things coexist in a complex relationship, but neoliberalism is prominent among them

    • burritoboy says:

      You’re deliberately ignoring that – even though they didn’t use the same jargon – there were plenty of Democrats whom you might describe as neoliberal for many decades back. FDR did a lot of things that one can easily consider neoliberal too. Leaving aside how vague the term neoliberal is, it’s not at all clear that the Democratic Party has become more neoliberal when you consider that the Southern conserva-Dems largely no longer exist. And those conserva-Democrats were – more or less – quite receptive to what we now might call neoliberalism.

      • FlipYrWhig says:

        Maybe this is too simple, but I feel like the Democratic Party picked up the segment that used to be called “Rockefeller Republicans,” and shed the segment of racist populists, who had decided that it was more important to live out their racism than their populism. So the resulting Democratic Party, after that swap, was more “neoliberal” on subjects like business and finance and capital, but much more inclusive and tolerant on matters of race, gender, and sexuality.

        • Dana Houle says:

          Another way one could say that is the South swapped parties with New England and the Pacific Northwest.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          What good were those “populist” racists when it came to economic policy, after about 1940?

          In 1968, that faction was anti-welfare, pro-slum clearance, “tough on crime,” anti-union, and very, very happy to see factories close in New England and reopen in Carolina to take advantage of lower wages and worse working conditions. I don’t see why dropping them for the John Lindsays works out to an net shift to the right at all.

          • Manju says:

            What good were those “populist” racists when it came to economic policy, after about 1940?

            Medicare in 1965 was the last of the big War on Poverty Acts.

            Here are how the votes of the 22 Southern Dem Senators, including Byrd and Hayden (borderline states) and minus Thurmond (switched parties), who voted against cloture for the 1964CRA (more important than the final vote) did:

            AL Aye Hill, Joseph [D]
            AL Aye Sparkman, John [D]
            AR Fulbright, James [D]
            AR Aye McClellan, John [D]
            AZ Aye Hayden, Carl [D]
            FL Nay Holland, Spessard [D]
            FL Aye Smathers, George [D]
            GA NVt Russell, Richard [D]
            GA Aye Talmadge, Herman [D]
            LA Ellender, Allen [D]
            LA Aye Long, Russell [D]
            MS Nay Eastland, James [D]
            MS Nay Stennis, John [D]
            NC Nay Ervin, Samuel [D]
            NC Aye Jordan, Benjamin [D]
            SC Aye Russell, Donald [D]
            TN Aye Bass, Ross [D]
            TN Aye Gore, Albert [D]
            TX Nay Tower, John [R]
            TX Aye Yarborough, Ralph [D]
            VA Nay Robertson, Absalom [D]
            VA Nay Byrd, Harry [D]
            WV Aye Byrd, Robert [D]

            13-7-2 (Aye, Nay, No vote)

      • rnelson says:

        sorry, you’re absolutely incorrect. Neoliberalism refers to the use of technocratic, market-based, financialized, deregulatory schemes to “solve” society’s problems. All of the policies I mentioned are of that character. Southern Democrats of the early and mid-twentieth century were conservative in many respects, but they were most certainly not neoliberals. Just think about the difference between the Third Way/DLC types (finance-y neoliberals) and the blue dogs (social conservatives, guns, states rights, racists, etc.).

        • rnelson says:

          and by “you”, I meant burritoboy. Flipyrwig i agree with

        • Dana Houle says:

          There is no clear, agreed-upon definition of “neoliberal.”

          • rnelson says:

            astute. there is, in fact, no clear, agreed-upon definition of “liberal,” “socialist,” “conservative,” “name-your-political-ideology-here.” So how would you substantively disagree with my above characterization of neoliberalism?

            • Dana Houle says:

              I think you meant to use “Caricaturization.”

              • rnelson says:

                again, substance would be appreciated. How does neoliberalism, in your understanding, differ from the attributes I laid out. I’d go so far as to say that even self-identifying neoliberals (matt yglesias for example) would agree with the rough contours of what I said

                • Dana Houle says:

                  his fetishization of technology and “smartness” in warfare,

                  Yes, such a cogent and precise feature of neoliberalism. That’s why the kings in Mesopotamia (chariots), the Greeks (flaming oil), the Medieval Chinese emperors (gunpowder), Ghengis Khan (horses), the various European royal rulers (firearms), Lincoln and Davis (iron ships), Clemenceau and the Kaiser (tanks), the Italians and other European leaders of WWI (aircraft), Hitler (long-range rockets) and FDR/Truman/Stalin (nukes) are all considered neoliberals.

                • Dana Houle says:

                  [Hope I get extra credit from Farley for that one.]

                • UserGoogol says:

                  Matt Yglesias self-identifies as a neoliberal partly because he’s a smartass. People attacking him from the left call him a neoliberal sellout, so he’ll embrace the label on that level. But he seems kind of ambivalent as to what the word actually means.

                  The sort of politics he likes is somewhat along your definition, but another label he’s quite fond of is Nordic social democracy, combining market means with a very strong welfare state. And when neoliberalism and socialism are able to overlap that much it does make me question the usefulness of the category.

              • Anonymous says:

                needs more dbaggery

        • burritoboy says:

          And I would argue you’re simply openly misrepresenting that the Southern conserva-Dems shared many of what you now call neoliberal positions. Certainly, they didn’t appear in the same stylistic mode as an archetypal neoliberal Democrat of the 1990s – one could not have a viable political career in the South taking on that style in the 1930s through the 1980s. I.E., a Southern conserva-Dem of that period simply wouldn’t be an investment banker or an economics wonk.

          But that’s just style. The Southern conserva-Dems, in their actual economic positions, were often proto-”neoliberal”. Sure, they liked pork from Uncle Sam coming to their districts, but in their overall economic policy, they repeatedly argued for privatization, were strongly anti-union, favored things being done by markets rather than institutions, and so on.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      his land/drilling policies

      OK, we have officially reached meaninglessness.

      • rnelson says:

        ? Perhaps empowering private corporations to cheaply and increasingly lease public land for natural gas drilling is just good old corporate welfarism instead of strictly “neoliberalism.” But I dunno how we’ve reached meaninglessness

        • joe from Lowell says:

          OK, those two terms actually mean two different things.

          You don’t seem to get that. You keep taking words that have actual meanings and blending them together into meaningless “right of me” mush.

          • rnelson says:

            I, in fact, walked back my previous statement, although I think that your comment that “we’ve reached meaninglessness” was a little overblown.

            Also: you critique the guy who says that pro-corporate drilling policies are neoliberal instead of the previous commenter who said that Southern Democrats in the mid-twentieth century were neoliberal. Hm. One of those things seems like more of a mischaracterization than the other

  21. actor212 says:

    where’s their progressive achievement comparable to the ACA or the repeal of DADT?

    I’ll give a counter-argument: why are these progressive achievements, when the atmosphere and environment that changed them was primarily, if not strictly, a recognition of economic realities.

    If you tell me that gays in the military were finally sympathetic figures (a la the black equality movement of the 60s, a true progressive movement) or that healthcare grew out of some shame for abandoning welfare families in the 1990s (slightly included in the era you’re outlining, Scott) then I’d agree with you.

    But let’s face facts: healthcare reform was a recognition that even middle- and upper-middle-class families were doomed economically, and freeing gays in the military was not a decision made on a moral basis, but DADT’s repeal was about the liability issues of Wit and the Log Cabin Republicans suits.

    • Dana Houle says:

      Then I guess it’s bullshit to think of the New Deal as liberal.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      How were any of the great progressive achievements of the 20th century not based in a recognition of economic realities?

      Do you think Medicare was driven by hearts breaking about poor people who grew old in Harlem? Or about suburbanites thinking holy crap what we going to do with Mom?

      • actor212 says:

        I think Medicare (as well as SocSec) were driven by the fact that the elderly were dying prematurely in droves.

        You can find economic benefits in any liberal initiative and to draw the conclusion that an initiative that doesn’t have an economic benefit is somehow “purer liberalism” is absolute booshwash, but let’s face facts: they could have gone single payer instead of ACA and really done something progressive. That the political reality forced them into a compromise does not make it suddenly progressive. It’s still a policy founded in the Heritage Foundation and it still benefits an economic minority at the expense of the rest of us.

  22. Sly says:

    Economic issues is far too abstract a category to make any kind of argument regarding an ideological shift in the party, even one spanning decades. And once you start pulling out concrete sets of issues from that category (trade policy, labor policy, infrastructure, tax policy, regulation, the welfare state, etc) it is, at worst, a mixed bag.

    The only credible argument I think one can make about the Democratic Party moving “rightward” on any particular set of issues, at least since the Carter administration, is with respect to public education.

    • FlipYrWhig says:

      The Reed piece in Harper’s (with which Scott begins) suffers badly from a drive to compare the best of the past Democrats with the worst of the present ones. Do that and you’ll always be able to find rightward and other baleful shifts.

  23. Njorl says:

    LBJ was anomalously far left on the spending side of economic issues, but not the revenue side. Democrats have been taking two steps right and one step left on taxes for 54 years now.

  24. joe from Lowell says:

    I stood as much as I could stand, but I gagged when I got to this:

    True, the last Democrat was really unsatisfying, but this one is better; true, the last Republican didn’t bring destruction on the universe, but this one certainly will.

    He writes this in the aftermath of the Bush/Cheney administration. Iraq. New Orleans. Wall Street. Lower Manhattan. But technically, the universe didn’t end.

    This guy is either an idiot or a bullshitter. You’re on the left, and you write that about the last Republican?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      At least your typical Naderite goes with the “there was no way to know that a guy who governed to the right of the Texas legislature was a conservative!” as opposed to “Iraq, torture, upper-class tax cuts, Alito, economic collapse — the Bush administration wasn’t all that bad in the end!”

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Even if you think the W. administration is not a fatal rebuttal to the “both sides the same” narrative, it’s one that at least warrants an acknowledgment.

        If you can’t even bring yourself to do that, you’re bullshitting someone. Might be yourself, might be your readers.

    • Malaclypse says:

      I really need to put “has never destroyed the universe” on my resume.

  25. joe from Lowell says:

    I find the idea that the Democratic Party has moved right since 1980 frankly bizarre.

    Maybe you could make the argument that the Democrats moved right between 1980 and the end of Bull Clinton’s second term (or 2003), but to pick up on that shift and then somehow manage not to notice the much sharper movement left between the early Bush administration and today is highly suspicious.

    Future generations are going to look at commentary like Reed’s with bafflement. “How can people have possibly thought that, right in the middle of the great resurgence of progressivism?”

    • Crunchy Frog says:

      I think this is probably a fair representation. Comparing policies between 1980 and 1996, say, you’ll find that the Democrats relented on a whole host of issues: fairness and concentration in the media, anti-poverty programs, equal financial access to higher education, protection of the environment, and of course taxes and wealth concentration. We probably didn’t notice it as much in the 1990s because that’s one of the nice benefits of economic boom times.

      I think it’s also fair to say that there has been a pendulum swing of sorts in the other direction. Not with the same momentum the conservative moment had, and certainly without the same funding level, but a movement nevertheless. Perhaps it was in part a reaction to the Bush administration overreach after 9/11, in part a reaction to a weak economy, and in part a reaction to the extreme inequality resulting from 30 years of conservative economic policies. Or maybe not.

      But even with all of the dixiecrats who were still in the party in 1980 it’s hard to argue that the policies of today’s Democrats are to the left of Democrats then. Oh, I’ll give you minority civil rights and DADT – fortunately that is an issue area which just seems to make progress with time regardless of political movements. And ACA is definitely better than the law of the land in 1980 – but then in 1980 the health care crisis was nowhere near as bad as it later became – in part because back then there were much stronger anti-poverty programs and in part because health care costs hadn’t started their Reagan-era skyrocketing.

      • M&O says:

        You need to account for the first two years of Clinton -
        FMLA, OBRA93, Brady, EITC, Direct Loans, DADT, ending the gag rule, Motor Voter, Americorp, VAWA, Head Start, CDPA were all a break from the Reagan/Bush era. (NAFTA, GATT and the crime bill were not)

        Policies did not go to shit until after the 94 elections.

  26. joe from Lowell says:

    But even with all of the dixiecrats who were still in the party in 1980 it’s hard to argue that the policies of today’s Democrats are to the left of Democrats then.

    Well, the Democrats then had inherited the New Deal. Doing nothing about tax rates in 1979 doesn’t put you on the same place on the ideological spectrum as someone advocating 1979 tax rates in 2014. You have to account for the political environment.

    In England, all of the free market true-believers pledge their allegiance to National Health, but if it didn’t exist, they’d throw themselves on the railroad tracks to stop it from being adopted.

    • Jesse Ewiak says:

      Bingo. You couldn’t have passed most of the welfare programs and extensive education support that were still active in the late 70′s in the late 70′s.

      Most of those programs are a side effect of either laws that were originally passed with racist portions that were snuffed out during the aftermath of a beloved President being killed _or_ were passed in the aftermath of a beloved President being killed which led to a massive landslide for his Vice President thanks to the conservative party nominating a massive extremist.

  27. Random says:

    Unfortunately I don’t have time to comment on this other than to say

    1) I love you Scott.

    2) Democrats thinking that the Democratic Party has moved to the ‘right’ is a symptom of how far to the ‘left’ the Democrats have become.

  28. Ethan Gach says:

    There seem to be two main thrusts of Reed’s piece to me:

    1. The Democratic Party has dragged American liberalism to the right over the last several decades because its easier, on net, to get liberals, such as they exist, to support a platform that appeases a more centrist/conservative/neoliberal wing of the electorate than it is to bring those outliers in-line with a more liberal agenda. In simpler terms: The left has moved to the right.

    2. That relative to where we are now, and where a “true” leftist politics should want to see things move, leadership in the Democratic party needs to be dragged substantially to the left, not by chasing after it, but by forcing it to chase after the constituencies that a new political movement builds. In simpler terms: true lefties needs to build their own coalition and push back against the Democratic Party.

    Arguing that 1 is false because the Democrats were always centrist, or because the net-rightward move over the past several decades has been effectively zero, are both two different things. Also, a more helpful approach, either from Scott or Reed, would be to simply focus on whether the majority of the Democratic platform (and those parts that are actually fought for, rather than simply espoused) are sufficiently liberal.

    “I don’t think this makes sense in theory and I don’t think it’s true in practice.”

    So would the strategy for a new left be to push hard for candidates in the upcoming mid-terms and 2016 that want to “fix” Obamacare by making it more closely resemble a single-payer government take over?

    “But the ARRA or the ACA simply aren’t Reagan/Thatcher or even Clinton private-centered neoliberalism — name me some neoliberals who were big fans of expanding the single-payer program for the poor.”

    So the ACA is to the left of the 1993 Clinton plan?

    “The left has more influence on the Democratic Party that it has at any point since 1968, with the defeat of Larry Summers and the removal of Chained CPI from the budget the latest wins.”

    In addition to the ACA–you would consider these to be the two other biggest liberal policy victories of the last 6 years?

    “The goal should be to keep moving in this direction, not to walk away in despair.”

    This goes to number 2–where as Reed is urging the left to break with the Democratic party and build coalitions that can be leveraged against it, I assume you Scott would disagree with this strategy? That it is enough perhaps to primary some candidates, but that no right-thinking lefty should fail to support Democrats which are not to the right of Obama?

  29. Scott Lemieux says:

    So would the strategy for a new left be to push hard for candidates in the upcoming mid-terms and 2016 that want to “fix” Obamacare by making it more closely resemble a single-payer government take over?

    Well, progressives should always be fighting to get the most progressive viable candidate elected in primaries. If you think that single payer in 2016 is a viable goal, you probably need to think a little harder.


    So the ACA is to the left of the 1993 Clinton plan?

    This is debatable, but it’s beside the point because a Democratic Congress wouldn’t pass it. (It’s also completely irrelevant to whether the ACA is “neoliberal,” which it obviously isn’t.)

    In addition to the ACA–you would consider these to be the two other biggest liberal policy victories of the last 6 years?

    The stimulus was obviously bigger.

    This goes to number 2–where as Reed is urging the left to break with the Democratic party and build coalitions that can be leveraged against it, I assume you Scott would disagree with this strategy? That it is enough perhaps to primary some candidates, but that no right-thinking lefty should fail to support Democrats which are not to the right of Obama?

    Of course I do, since we’ve actually seen the fruits of this strategy twice at the presidential level in the last 50 years and both times it couldn’t have worked out any worse. The idea that the left will gain by fighting against the Democratic Party is a stupid idea in theory that’s been a catastrophe in practice.

    • DocAmazing says:

      The idea that the left will gain by fighting against the Democratic Party is a stupid idea in theory that’s been a catastrophe in practice.

      By the same token, the Democratic Party’s tactic of fighting against the left (in a weird attempt to woo Mudcat Saunder’s neighbors) has shown itself not to work. Yet still we have Dems bashing labor, Dems turning loose cops on demonstrators, and Dems pushing for ruinous trade pacts.

      • sharculese says:

        I think the difference is that the things you list are things those dudes want to do whether it helps the party or not.

        • jb says:

          Exactly.

          I think most of the neo-liberals among the Democratic party really do believe that

          a. Certain unions (teachers unions primarily) are bad because they fight “education reform”(which a certain number of democrats really believe is good policy)

          b. Since free trade is always benefical (I’m not saying it is, it just is what they believe), the TPP is a good treaty for America to sign up to.

          So they are going to fight for those things regardless of wether they will help the Democrats, because they believe them to be the right policies.

          As for demonstrators, I know of very few governments throughout the world that have not reacted to them in a hostile fashion.

    • Ethan Gach says:

      “If you think that single payer in 2016 is a viable goal”

      That is the root of the disagreement though, no? Your fundamental disagreement with Reed, as I understand it, is over what constitutes “viability” (especially over the long term) as well as how much it should be prioritized (i.e. what’s the “best” ratio of give/take when it comes to pursuing a left agenda).

      “This is debatable, but it’s beside the point because a Democratic Congress wouldn’t pass it. (It’s also completely irrelevant to whether the ACA is “neoliberal,” which it obviously isn’t.)”

      It has everything to do with establishing how much more or less lefty the Democratic party has become. And I’m genuinely trying to parse through what precisely your position is on this: I assume that you would say the pace of progress, such as is indicated in the 1993 policy’s inability to make it through a Democratic Congress vs. the ACA’s passage more than a decade later, is enough, or at least close to what can be optimally achieved, where as Reed would probably argue (rightly or not) that it’s not (and is ultimately overtaken, on net, by back slippage in other areas)?

      “The stimulus was obviously bigger.”

      This is the issue of baselines again–why is the stimulus considered a victory, rather than simply the successful maintenance of the status quo (especially considering the actual make-up of the stimulus package)?

      “Of course I do, since we’ve actually seen the fruits of this strategy twice at the presidential level in the last 50 years and both times it couldn’t have worked out any worse. The idea that the left will gain by fighting against the Democratic Party is a stupid idea in theory that’s been a catastrophe in practice.”

      Could you point to examples? Also, if the possibility that a political constituency will break with the party has been foreclosed by all serious persons involved, what incentive is there for the political party to appease it?

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        That is the root of the disagreement though, no? Your fundamental disagreement with Reed, as I understand it, is over what constitutes “viability” (especially over the long term) as well as how much it should be prioritized (i.e. what’s the “best” ratio of give/take when it comes to pursuing a left agenda).

        Whatever my disagreements with him, I very seriously doubt that Reed thinks that absent the ACA we’d have single payer in 2016. I do reject the idea that killing the ACA would make single-payer more viable, for the obvious reason that it doesn’t make any sense.

        It has everything to do with establishing how much more or less lefty the Democratic party has become.

        Why? The “Democratic Party” didn’t support it. I can easily prove that the contemporary Democratic Party is very liberal if Elizabeth Warren can speak for the entire party.

        or at least close to what can be optimally achieved

        I’m a little uncomfortable with the word “optimally,” but if you’re asking if the ACA was the most progressive viable policy given the Congress of 2010, I do believe that, and arguments to the contrary generally range from implausible to embarrassing.

        This is the issue of baselines again–why is the stimulus considered a victory, rather than simply the successful maintenance of the status quo (especially considering the actual make-up of the stimulus package)?

        1)It wasn’t the maintenance of the status quo but legislation with a lot of progressive elements, and 2)if by makeup you’re referring to the excess if tax cuts, I’d like to hear your theory about how a more powerful left could have somehow made getting Republican votes for the package necessary.


        Could you point to examples?

        Uh, 1968 and 2000?

        Also, if the possibility that a political constituency will break with the party has been foreclosed by all serious persons involved, what incentive is there for the political party to appease it?

        You don’t increase your influence in the party by walking away. That’s never worked and it never will work. It’s not how conservative took over the Republican Party.

        • Ethan Gach says:

          “Whatever my disagreements with him, I very seriously doubt that Reed thinks that absent the ACA we’d have single payer in 2016. I do reject the idea that killing the ACA would make single-payer more viable, for the obvious reason that it doesn’t make any sense.”

          This addresses nothing in the point of disagreement I laid out. I know what *you* think about the ACA, and you probably know that *other people* think differently. Presuming that the position of your interlocutors is obviously false, or constructing an obviously false one and then attributing it to them, and working backwards from there demonstrates an unwillingness to actually engage on this issue.

          “Why? The “Democratic Party” didn’t support it. I can easily prove that the contemporary Democratic Party is very liberal if Elizabeth Warren can speak for the entire party.”

          See previous.

          “I’m a little uncomfortable with the word “optimally,” but if you’re asking if the ACA was the most progressive viable policy given the Congress of 2010, I do believe that, and arguments to the contrary generally range from implausible to embarrassing.”

          I already explained what I meant by optimally, and it wasn’t simply what was “viable policy given the Congress of 2010.”

          “1)It wasn’t the maintenance of the status quo but legislation with a lot of progressive elements, and 2)if by makeup you’re referring to the excess if tax cuts, I’d like to hear your theory about how a more powerful left could have somehow made getting Republican votes for the package necessary.”

          Democrats controlled Congress at the time, so I presume you mean “how a more powerful left could have somehow made getting Democratic votes for the package..” Dems passed a center-right stimulus package almost all by themselves.

          “Uh, 1968 and 2000?”

          Illuminating…

          “You don’t increase your influence in the party by walking away. That’s never worked and it never will work. It’s not how conservative took over the Republican Party.”

          Is it how the Tea Party did?

  30. Famfiz says:

    Scott- please acquaint yourself with Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Health Plan of 1974- blueprint for the ACA
    http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/stories/2009/september/03/nixon-proposal.aspx
    The “Great Recession” shared all the debt characteristics for the worst of the economic crises throughout history as per Rogoff and Reinhart in “This Time is Different”- times not comparable to recent economic history after WWII.
    Your piece is naive.

  31. [...] in place.Scott Lemieux, an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose, takes issue with Reed’s premises at Lawyers Guns and Money:The core of the argument is the assumption of a “Democratic Party whose center has moved steadily [...]

  32. [...] curious thing about the Reed essay is that we don’t have to discuss the merits of electoral nihilism in the abstract — [...]

  33. [...] so I still don’t buy Reed’s argument that the Democratic Party’s “center has moved steadily rightward since Ronald [...]

  34. […] egregiously stupid.) What was the impact of this? Well, my opinion is that the Democratic Party has shifted modestly to the left, but this is not plausibly the result of Nader’s spoiler campaign; there was no serious third […]

  35. […] Admittedly, this metric does not account for the most important quality of a presidency, the content of his speeches (or, more accurately, a willfully selective recollection of the content of his speeches.) But for people actually interested in the question, I find the idea that the Democratic Party is to the right of where it was in 1975 — let alone 1994 — incomprehensible. […]

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