Restoring a Progressive America

November 06, 2010

Clip: Democrats didn't lose the battle of 2010. They won it.

The big picture isn't about winning or keeping power. It's about using it. I've made this argument before, but David Frum, the former speechwriter to President Bush, has made it better. In March, when Democrats secured enough votes to pass the bill, he castigated fellow conservatives who looked forward to punishing Pelosi and President Obama "with a big win in the November 2010 elections." Frum observed:

Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now. … No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the "doughnut hole" and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents' insurance coverage?

Exactly. A party that loses a House seat can win it back two years later, as Republicans just proved. But a party that loses a legislative fight against a middle-class health care entitlement never restores the old order. Pretty soon, Republicans will be claiming the program as their own.
... [Obama, Pelosi, and their congressional allies ] risked their jobs—and in many cases lost them—to pass the health care bill. The elections were a painful defeat, and you can argue that the bill was misguided. But Democrats didn't lose the most important battle of 2010. They won it.


February 09, 2010

Sarah Palin: Faux Populist

This, actually, is a much deeper insight than it may appear.  

Alec Baldwin: Sarah Palin: Faux Populist.

So, you think Sarah Palin is embarrassed by the crib-notes-on-the-palm incident?

You're kidding, right?

...Palin reads off the palm of her hand because she can't whittle or cast a fly rod or shoot a wild animal while giving a policy speech. (Then again, who knows?) She reads her palm in order to send a message to her anti-Eastern establishment, Obama-hating, OK-You've-Had-Your-Black-President-Experiment, Tea Party types. That message is, "I'm just one person, doing the best I can with what God gave me. Like all y'all out there."

One of the reasons progressives are often flummoxed by the right's obvious hypocrisy, internally inconsistent positions, childish mockery, and lame policy proscriptions, is that progressives mostly fail to see that much of the right as driven more by tribal identity politics than principles and policies. Their goal is to reinforce their "us".  They do this via caricature (Kerry's looks so French! We need a commander-in-chief not a law professor!) and demonize others (Obama's palling around with terrorists! And not only that: he's not actually an American!) to draw the distinction clearly and pull themselves closer together.

This tribal identity politics is vastly more important than "deficit reduction", balanced budget, small government, "freedom" (followed by fist pumps), etc. except to the extent it helps define themselves as apart from and beleaguered by The Others. This is part of why the Tea Partiers are actually driving the Republican Party farther away from mainstream America, into their own little corner of non-pragmatic, rightwing nuttery rather toward a larger party.

It produces internal challenges for Democrats because Democrats now occupy three of four quadrants: not only progressive pragmatists and progressive idealists but also conservative pragmatists (Olympia Snowe being, perhaps, the only one left on the national Republican stage). That's a big tent!

C - P spectrum

 Inspired by Why bipartisanship can't work right now: the other axis.

November 20, 2009

The Wrong Side of History ... again

There is a dangerous meme that says something to the effect that conservatives today need to reform to their basic principles like the good old days. That somehow they've gotten off track and need to return to their roots from some golden age of conservatism.

Let's be clear. It is the same as it ever was. Fear-based paranoia of loss of a mythologized America and one that, then as now, is based not on how things work in the real world but on ideology.

Op-Ed Columnist - The Wrong Side of History -
Indeed, these same arguments we hear today against health reform were used even earlier, to attack President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for Social Security. It was denounced as a socialist program that would compete with private insurers and add to Americans’ tax burden so as to kill jobs.

In hindsight, it seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Social Security passed, and the republic survived.

Similar, ferocious hyperbole was unleashed on the proposal for Medicare.  President John Kennedy and later President Lyndon Johnson pushed for a government health program for the elderly, but conservatives bitterly denounced the proposal as socialism, as a plan for bureaucrats to make medical decisions, as a means to ration health care.

November 03, 2009

Obama Year One: United by Change, Divided by Reform

Obama Year One: United by Change, Divided by Reform:

... the Democratic Party is now deeply divided by two divergent, and seemingly irreconcilable, approaches to reform.  If President Obama fails to grasp soon why his idea of reform has alienated key parts of his base--and if he fails to do something to bridge the divide--the result may be much worse than acrimony from the chattering liberal classes.  He could have a full on mutiny on his hands by 2010.

One way to describe this divide is to say that President Obama has advanced "conservative reform"--repair and improve, but maintain what we have--whereas the base of the Democratic Party wants, and has aggressively demanded, "progressive reform"--out with the old, in with the new. It is impossible to exaggerate how much friction these contrasting approaches to reform have created in just one year.

Consider, for example, the banking crisis...

The automotive industry bailout....

The health care reform debate....

Next up on the environment....

With each of these fights, a larger and larger portion of the issues patchwork Democratic Party base is drawn into a increasingly bitter narrative of disappointment over Obama's approach to reform.

By 2010, just about every Democratic Party member with a stake in some issue will be saying the same thing about Obama: his policies are not a clear enough departure from the past; this is not real reform.

The collective malaise will only be compounded if Democratic losses in the midterm election are significant.

October 30, 2009

Be afraid, be very afraid

Rove's Misread of Tuesday's Elections.

To [Karl] Rove "us" is the Republican party and "them" is the Democratic party. This isn't just Rove's problem - most in both party establishments view the political world this way - with just as many seeing "us" as Democrats and "them" as Republicans. But this view masks what is truly happening - and makes the establishments of both parties blind to what is coming in 2010.

Voters are increasingly seeing themselves as "us" and both parties in Washington as "them". They are not going to discriminate between the two parties in 2010. The results next Tuesday will likely demonstrate the voter's frustration with those in power, regardless of party. Far from signaling a backlash against Democratic rule and hope for the Republican Party, the results on Tuesday will signal that in 2010 incumbents in both parties, of all ideological stripes should be frightened. 

Take off your partisan glasses on Tuesday night and this is what you will see.

October 16, 2009

GOP Base Driven By Bizarre Ideology, Not Racism, Report Finds

GOP Base Driven By Bizarre Ideology, Not Racism, Report Finds.
What drives the GOP base, rather than race, was a genuine belief that Obama has a "secret agenda" to drive the country in a socialist direction, said the authors. These voters want more opposition, not more cooperation.

The report concludes that the extreme GOP voters are not simply at the far end of a standard political continuum that runs left-center-right, but rather they stand fully apart.

The basic belief is that Obama -- a former community organizer who seemingly came from nowhere -- must have been propelled by some secret forces. This is no small segment of the population and represents almost one-in-five voters and nearly two-of-three self identified Republicans.

"While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country's founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail," reads the report.

September 23, 2009

Clip: Key Senators and Paul Krugman Call for Tariffs on High Carbon Footprint Products

Key Senators and Paul Krugman Call for Tariffs on High Carbon Footprint Products |

Creating a system of global trade that is sustainable and allows all countries including the United States to flourish is necessary for a global economic recovery. To do this, we must enact strong laws that don't allow one country to cheat the other by polluting their way to low prices.

Some argue that such measures, such as putting a tariff on products with a high carbon footprint are protectionists and harmful. However, as Steelworkers President Leo Gerard argues today in a must-read New York Times piece defending the decision of his union to call for enforcement of trade laws on tire and paper imports: “Anybody who believes we have a rule-based system, but we shouldn’t enforce the laws, they’re the ones jeopardizing the global trading system.”

Without a commitment to live up to—and a precedent of enforcing—agreements, any climate change treaty signed at Copenhagen or at future summits won't be worth the paper it is printed on.

September 04, 2009

Clip: Who Will Be Hurt if the Democrats Pass Health Care Alone

Lincoln Mitchell: Who Will Be Hurt if the Democrats Pass Health Care Alone.
The reason millions of Americans voted Democratic last fall was to pass progressive legislation such as health care reform. There is little point in having a Democratic majority if the party is afraid to use its majority to actually do anything. Inevitably the Democratic majority will be reduced and eventually the Republicans will come back in power. It would be a mistake to let this time go by without passing progressive legislation and get nothing out of this period of Democratic dominance, however long or brief it may be. 
Second, this argument is at its core, a bluff.... 
If the Democrats pass this bill alone, and are able to do it with a public option, not only will the Republican Party have been proven beyond a doubt to be irrelevant in Washington today, but they will have once again put themselves on the opposing side of groundbreaking legislation. A good health care program which provides a way for millions of currently uninsured Americans to get health insurance will become popular, much like Social Security and Medicare have....
...It might be better for America, and would certainly be better for the Republicans, if this program were passed with bipartisan support, but passing it alone won't hurt the Democrats. Failing to take advantage of this opportunity will, on the other hand, hurt both the Democratic Party and the country which it governs.

August 19, 2009

Are The Health Care Protests Working? And are Liberals Helping Them?

Now here was a great way to frame the debate.  But instead, some Dems dropped the end-of-life counseling payments plan like a hot potato.

FiveThirtyEight: Politics Done Right: Are The Health Care Protests Working?  And are Liberals Helping Them?:

But the real upside to the protests is that they perpetuate misinformation about the Democrats' bills. Forget the birthers -- I want to know how many Americans believe in the "death panels". (I also want to know whether Chuck Grassley, since he seems to be one of them, would accept the following trade: Democrats will drop the "death panels" if you'll drop your opposition to the public option.

March 02, 2009

Obama and the Progressive Movement Open Left:: Obama and the Progressive Movement

Open Left:: Obama and the Progressive Movement      :

But we should be very clear: Obama has decided to cast his lot with those of us who have been fighting for big, transformative change.  If he succeeds, we succeed, and if he fails, we fail - and we fail for at least another generation, because no Democrat will take big risks again for a very long time if Obama loses this gamble. 

2009 is the year.  This is the moment when progressives, and America, show whether we can live up to the heroes of our history.  Progressives in the past have ended slavery and Jim Crow, given women and minorities and the poor the right to vote, created the National Parks System, made dramatic improvements in cleaning up our air and water, and launched transformational programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start.  Barack Obama has boldly announced his ambition to join those historic heroes and create another Big Change Moment.  This year will decide whether Democrats in Congress and the progressive movement can help him deliver on that noble ambition.  Seize the day.

September 2011

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