In a town called malice

3 02 2017

nope not even close they haven’t even begun to absorb that there are real (as in physics and all not just public will/opinion) limits to economic growth, to employment, to pollution, wealth/resource extraction etc. —dmf

I was going to offer a short response to dmf, but decided to pull it out for a more considered consideration.

The short response is: yes, I agree. When I wrote that HRC and the Dems had done a decent job with the practicalities, I meant that there were some specific policy ideas (regarding, say, college and vocational education, job retraining, etc.) which would likely have done some good. Grand visions are grand, but how to build them?

That said, I agree with dmf that the Dems lack that grand vision which takes a hard account of the limits of our current economic and social standard operating procedures. Incrementalism has its place, is necessary. even, but it is not enough, and neither any post-Reagan Democratic presidential candidate nor the party as whole has offered a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the world as it is.

Despite occasional Democratic victories, the failure overall has been monumental.

I have my own ideas of what that strategy should be, as well as what could be some of the policies (again, some of which might be adapted from the 2016 Dem platform) which would put those ideas into practice. I’ll be tossing them out less with the sense that THIS IS IT than This should be in the mix—less from certainty, that is, than possibility.

I am certain, however, that that comprehensive strategy in service to a grand vision is necessary, not just to overcome the meanness of the GOP view, but to be able to comprehend how deep the troubles are.

We can’t get better if we don’t have a way to see how bad we are.

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Did you hear the falling bombs

17 10 2013

Yet another genius pundit:

If he can split the Republicans in the House, essentially, he regains control of the two houses of Congress and he might be able to enact his agenda. I think that’s what he’s up to,” Krauthammer said.

He added, “I think Obama’s long game has always been, if he’s going to pass his agenda in the second term, where he doesn’t control the House, he has to fracture the Republicans in the House and by rubbing it in or by antagonizing conservatives, he’s going to help in doing that.”

To which I can only say: if only.

President Obama is a smart and able president, and one who certainly thinks beyond the electoral cycle (see: his work regarding nuclear weapons proliferation), but Krauthammer’s glowering take on Obama’s “long game” should be treated with the exact same seriousness as the Sully-dream of him as “eleventh-dimensional chess-master”, i.e., not at all.

What also should not be taken seriously: that the GOP will disappear and/or a nationally-viable third party will emerge in the next decade. Republicans continue to do well at the state level, and the Tea Party, while damaging in some ways at the national level, are unlikely either to get stronger (and thus more damaging) or to leave the Grand Old Party altogether (and if they would, that would likely mean the end of the TPers rather than the GOPpers). Insofar as they turn off independents from the party, they add a few bumps to the 2016 presidential electoral road, but to a deft politician (i.e., not Ted Cruz), they are merely bumps.

Republican puritans make politics more difficult—to say no negotiation, ever, is to repudiate a central function of politics—and thus inflict real harm on the country, but given that they’re unlikely to wreck the GOP, they’re certainly not going to wreck the US of A.

Which is why I have no problem encouraging ruthlessness on the part of the Dems. Politics does benefit from some degree of generosity, but when you know the other guy if given half a chance would stab you in the face, you’d be foolish to hand him a knife.

No, go ahead and twist your own blade. They can take it.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: No sleep til Brooklyn

17 09 2012

Bad sleep last night, so early sleep tonight.

But before I lay me down, I did want to second this Paul Constant bit:

I always assumed that, since the Romney campaign has had four years to plan for this Romney/Obama matchup, they must’ve had a plan for the general election. I figured this plan would include some way for Romney to battle his unlikeability, and to frame the president as a failure while framing Mitt Romney as a competent businessman. But this news is proof that they didn’t have any kind of a plan at all, or that their plan was hopelessly naive. In this stretch in between the conventions and the debates, a presidential campaign is supposed to be running more or less smoothly, hammering home a solid message to voters.

I admit to some surprise at how lousy a campaign Romney has run. He’s smart, he’s disciplined, he’s been running for years, but he’s making consistently bad decisions and seems incapable of adapting to an adversary who is also smart and disciplined and, unlike his primary foes, unlikely either to implode or melt down.

Romney’s had his moments, running with the ‘you didn’t build it’ theme, but he hasn’t been able to build those moments into any real movement for his numbers. He excited some in the Republican base with his pick of Ryan, but not many others. And his focus, pfft, well, where is it?

Again again again, even though a bad week (mediocre GOP convention followed by disciplined Dem convention) or two (killings in Benghazi), two-and-a-half (GOPper insiders ripping the Romney campaign; vid release of speech writing off almost half of the country) weeks need not doom a campaign, the folks in the Romney camp have got to know that the latter half of September, with recovery time running short, is a bad time for the engines to cut out.

I mean, they should know that, right? They do understand that waiting for Obama to crash first ain’t to no kind of strategy. . . ?

Or not. It seems to me a terrible calculus, but near as I can tell from his behavior, Romney figured that he outlasted weak challengers to win the primary and to win the general need simply to outlast a weak incumbent. Only the primary isn’t the general, and Obama was not as weak as many pundits (grrr!) assumed.

Ah. Perhaps then I’m the one misreading the campaign and the dynamics of the entire election season: perhaps Romney is doing about as well as any challenger would to a relatively well-liked, if somewhat battered, incumbent, and his campaign seems lousy only because he’s not winning.

Still, hard to erase the impression that the campaign actually is lousy.





If I had a hammer

29 07 2011

President Obama is smart. Very smart.

You can see it in press conferences and prepared statements, his grasp of the whole of an issue and its part, its relationship to other issues, the uncontroversial and the contested pieces, costs, benefits, risks. . . the guy’s got it down.

All of that analytical might, however, does not translate into political savvy.

It’s not unconnected, of course: the man ran a highly disciplined and ruthless campaign against a very strong primary opponent (Hillary Clinton, who is not lacking in the candlepower department, either), was solid against a less-strong Republican opponent, and quietly brilliant in his patience as the economy blew apart: Where McCain flailed, Obama hung back, projecting an image of calm competence as he moved in concert with the White House, Treasure, and Congress.

It worked.

That’s good, at least for those of us who wanted Obama to become president. And I think he’s been pretty good: the Lily Ledbetter law, the Affordable Care Act, the end to DADT, the reworking of diplomacy—all good. I’m well to the left of the president, but as I knew that when I voted for him, I’m not particularly chagrined that he turned out to be the moderate I thought he was.

No, my differences with the president are less about policy (tho’ there are those), than with his tactics and strategy.

Strategy: Unclear.Would be nice if there were some stated positive purpose to the Democratic party in general and his presidency in particular.

Tactics: he has only one—hang back calmly, try to work in concert with the powers-that-be.

Yes, that worked in the fall of 2008, but it is the summer of 2011 and at least some of those powers are rather uninterested in working in concert.

You need new tactics, Mr. President. Holding out your arms and waiting for everyone to gather within them ain’t gonna cut it, now. You have one approach, and when that one approach fails, so do you.

(Oh, christ, did I just address the President? I hate that shit when columnists and commentators do it, and here I just did it. Can’t keep my inner pundit down, I guess.)

Anyway, to restate this in more analytical terms, all me to state (in all obviousness) that any successful leader needs multiple tools, implements, arms, routes—however you  to put it, you need more than one option.

And having a clear purpose might help, here, if only in creating some urgency in developing those new tactics. When he has a purpose—winning elections, passing ACA—Obama is willing to pull out more than one stop.

In any case, I get it: the president runs cool, not hot. His VP, however, can rile himself tying his shoes, so why not unleash the Biden? There are folks outside of government who’d really like to be allies who could rally and provoke and stoke all of those passions of which Obama is clearly leery.

He might prefer his passion furled, but people are rarely moved by reticence. And if you can’t move the House and you can’t move the people, then you can’t move the country, period.

This isn’t meep-meep or 11th-dimensional chess, but a mud-and-blood political fight. So the president doesn’t want to step into the cage himself. Fine, not his thing.

But he still needs those fighters.





Wipeout, pt. III

4 11 2010

Do the Republicans care about ideas?

EmilyLHauser agrees that ideas are important but in a cri de coeur argues that Republicans don’t care about ideas, don’t care much about people, period:

If we, the Democrats, were fighting an ideology that was somehow bigger than “defeat the Democrats and support the rich,” I wouldn’t feel so ill. If today’s GOP were offering, you know, ideas, I wouldn’t feel so ill. If we were engaging on the merits of a case, the merits of a piece of legislation, the merits of this appointee or that bit of policy — I wouldn’t feel so ill.

But what the GOP is doing — what it has done since the Newt Gingrich House — is dragging us down to our lowest level of discourse, our basest fears, our most easily pushed buttons. They are playing us, and they are doing it magnificently. And the depth of the hypocrisy, not to mention the utter lack of concern for honest-to-God real human lives that are damaged or destroyed in the process is just mindboggling to me.

It is enough, she notes, to make me hang my head and weep.

I don’t disagree that the Repubs were nasty and mean, that they appealed to the lowest common denominator—even helped to lower that denominator—or that they impeded the progress of even noncontroversial legislation and executive appointments simply because they could, and because they thought it would hurt the President and the Democrats.

But I don’t know if that’s all they were. Yes, the notion bring-down-the-deficit-by-reducing-taxes is unsupported by the evidence and the show-solidarity-with-the-little-guy-by-helping-the-Big-Guy sensibility is incoherent at best, but that these themes are deployed to manipulate doesn’t mean they’re only manipulative.

There are people who honestly believe in supply-side economics, who think wealth actually does trickle down, so why wouldn’t they try to convince voters of the same? Why wouldn’t they try to bollix up any and all legislation or presidential maneuvers which counters their views?

In the past two years the Republicans have treated the entire executive, judicial, and legislative arenas as fields of action for Total War. Gentlemen’s agreements, practical accommodations for the sake of governance, across-the-aisle alliances for shared agendas—gone gone, gone daddy gone. Day-to-day tactics are now driven by partisan strategy and whether it is good or bad (I tend to think the latter), it is now the standard operating procedure.

The Democrats and President Obama (bless their hearts. . .) have been operating as if good-will still mattered, as if individual legislators would cross party lines in the name of a worthy cause, as if party didn’t override everything. And while they’ve been able to accomplish a great deal, much of what they have accomplished they won precisely because they, too, sought to beat back every bit of opposition to their preferences.

The key difference is that the Republicans have evolved to fight in every way, while the Dems have contented themselves to fighting bit-by-bit.

And here is the hard nut of my disagreement with Mizz Emily: The issue isn’t that the Republicans are devoid of ideology, but that they see all that they do in service to that which preserves that ideology. No, they’re not fighting idea-by-idea; they’ve gone global.

And if the Dems are going to advance their causes, they’re going either going to have to pull the GOPers back to the Dems preferred methods (unlikely, not least because it’s not clear that the Dems have a clear and effective notion of their preferred methods) or they’re  going to have to go global, too.

That doesn’t mean they have to deploy the same hatefulness as did some of the GOP campaigns, but it does mean that they will have to bring it to every.single.thing. they do. It may be ugly and awful, but it’s also necessary.

Ideas matter, but so does the strategy used to bring those ideas forth. Let’s hope the Dems figure that out before 2012.