More On Obama's Theory Of Change

Nathan Newman writes:

My worry is whether [Obama] is really mobilizing them on the content of his substantive message or just the vagueness of "change" in a time when people are angry and distressed. I'm not annoyed like some at his "post-partisanship" message, since the best way to build a big partisan majority is to assert this kind of non-partisan inclusiveness. No, the concern is that the ideas and policies filling his "change" message actually connect with people beyond momentary distress to shape a real analysis of what's wrong with the nation.

I am not sure I understand or agree with Nathan's distinctions here between message and partisanship. I believe that the way to make substantive change in policy is to get folks to agree with your message and policy by voting for you and your political party.


I wonder if there any examples of big change that were not connected to big partisan success? There have been two realigning elections in the last 100 years - FDR's win in 1932 and Ronald Reagan's win in 1980. Both were huge partisan wins. both FDR and Ronald Reagan were unabashed partisans who argued for change and expressly argued that the change was connected to their wins and importantly the wins of their Party and ideas.

Perhaps some of you could point to a successful nonpartisan political victory that I am overlooking.

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    Civil Rights Act of 1964 (4.00 / 1) (#5)
    by BDB on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 04:59:44 PM EST
    Democratic majority with moderate Republicans.  The problem there is that the Democrats who opposed it were Dixiecrats and would now be Republicans.  Many of the Republicans would now be Democrats since few truly moderate and independent Republicans actually still exist.

    But note that John Kennedy, the young upstart former Senator, didn't get it passed.  It took arm-twister extraordinaire Lyndon Johnson to get it done.  It was still a political fight between two sides who did not agree, it just didn't break down exactly along party lines.  But it took overcoming the opposition, not making nice, to win. Today, it would be a totally partisan fight  since a lot of the realignment of the two parties since then has been around race.  Essentially with the Southern Dixiecrats becoming Republicans and the northern moderates becoming Democrats.

    People always talk about JFK's charm (4.00 / 1) (#8)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:03:34 PM EST
    but you are right: the reforms of the 1960s came from LBJ's arm twisting.

    Wiki says JFK's administration (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:34:04 PM EST
    "witnessed the Bay of Pigs Invasion, . . ."  [Emphasis added.]

    Kennedy was a Navy commander during WWII, a member of the House of Representatives from 1947-1953, a U.S. Senator from 1953-1962, and he STILL got suckered into the Bay of Pigs fiasco and Vietnam.


    "Witnessed" (none / 0) (#16)
    by BDB on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:46:02 PM EST
    I do not think that word means what Wiki thinks it means.  

    Me neither. (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 06:01:34 PM EST
    Let's ask Mitt (none / 0) (#26)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 07:01:35 PM EST
    he seems to be an expert on the meaning of witness and saw and realized.  Maybe someone from Mass wrote their wiki article, it is like saying ya'll in Texas

    complete non-sequitur. (none / 0) (#35)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 09:34:53 PM EST
    change (4.00 / 1) (#10)
    by newleftie on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:11:36 PM EST
    The difference between FDR, Reagan, and Obama is that FDR and Reagan had a plan, they laid out very specifically the intended changes they had in mind. Obama's message is vague, something about change, we are all going to change, just like in Rocky IV right,"If I can change and youse can change weze all can change." But even Rocky had a more specific idea of what he was talking about than Obama does. Obama scares me. He has zero experience. The experience he has as a state legislator was unimpressive at its  very best, voting "present" 70% of the time. He has no idea how he is going to protect this nation, and listening to him, I wonder if he even thinks it needs protecting. He just thinks Amadinajab, Kim Il Long, Putin, Hezbolla, Hamas, Mossad,Al Qaeda,Sadr, everyone is going to sit down and make nice because he thinks it is time for "change." The only thing worse than inexperience is inexperience married to reckless idealism.Honestly, I don't know if I can even vote for the guy if he is the party's nominee. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. Obama could scare me into staying home, voting third party, or (gulp) voting Republican, the way so many Democrats (not me) voted in 2004.

    Don't confuse Obama's schtick with (4.00 / 1) (#13)
    by kindness on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:30:39 PM EST
    his unwillingness to tell people what he wants to do.

    1. you can't criticize a plan you can't address - Obama is hoping to not alienate anyone.

    2. Obama thinks not taking a position is a position.  I don't agree with him on that, but I suspect his people like him being vague.  That way he can fit into lots of different minds without being thrown out because of specifics that people don't like.

    There's no (none / 0) (#30)
    by RalphB on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 08:52:11 PM EST
    mandate for anything in that kind of empty campaign.
    If we win that way, we may as well lose.

    Oh yes there is! Obama is using (none / 0) (#34)
    by MarkL on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 09:21:31 PM EST
    the lessons of the Bush 2000 campaign and making them his own.
    And we all saw how much people appreciated being fooled by Bush.. ahem.

    proof (none / 0) (#1)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 04:38:57 PM EST
    There have been two realigning election in the last 100 years - FDR's win in 1932 and Ronald Reagan's win ion 1980.

    This is just a statement.  Doesn't mean anything. You have seriously gone off the deep end.  Do you have any evidence that they ran as partisans.  Lets be honest to proof this you are going not to have to look at their speeches and statement only in their primary not against a GE challenger.  

    Hey throw in an Obama runs against democrats, your other unproved statement.

    Or maybe that his support is conservative based, also untrue.

    You need to not post for 24 hours and clear out the junk in your head, instead you thinking out loud and just throwing out tons of false statements.

    I gather you were born after 1988 (5.00 / 2) (#24)
    by Molly Bloom on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 06:17:16 PM EST
    and have never bothered to read any biography of either Reagan or FDR. This explains a lot.

    Heh (3.50 / 4) (#4)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 04:47:51 PM EST
    You are the first person to actually ever question whether FDR and Ronald Reagan were partisans that I know of.

    As for proof, I have written long posts, may of them, proving just that.

    I will not look them up for you as I am sure you will accuse me of making up the evidence.

    You are an idiot when Obama is discussed.


    Congrats. (Analytical and calm.) (3.00 / 2) (#6)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:00:07 PM EST
    This is a snippet from Obama for America (!!!!!) website:

    The College Years

    Remembering the values of empathy and service that his mother taught him, Barack put law school and corporate life on hold after college and moved to Chicago in 1985, where he became a community organizer with a church-based group seeking to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods plagued with crime and high unemployment.

    The group had some success, but Barack had come to realize that in order to truly improve the lives of people in that community and other communities, it would take not just a change at the local level, but a change in our laws and in our politics.

    . [Emphasis added.]

    Doesn't say what happened next re the plight of those living in poor neighborhoods.


    the wire, my latest obsession (none / 0) (#18)
    by shaharazade on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:51:55 PM EST
    poor is swept under the rug due to fear. Would like to see Obama and Edwards somehow combine. LOL. A hybrid of populist and rock star combined. A killer combo me and my 14 year old grandaughter often bridge the gap with.  

    I like the rock star analogy, except (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 06:00:36 PM EST
    the stabbing of fingers while speaking is more along the lines of my grade school teachers.

    Obama partisans prove Matt Bai (none / 0) (#7)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:02:32 PM EST
    partially right. To them, history is unimportant.

    Unimportant implies some knowledge. (none / 0) (#9)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:06:38 PM EST
    Your partisans sold you out (none / 0) (#25)
    by Rojas on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 06:47:35 PM EST
    or didn't you notice?

    Explain (none / 0) (#33)
    by andgarden on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 09:16:58 PM EST
    you have gift (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:50:19 PM EST
    of over analyzing with overly simplistic generalizations, doesn't do it for me.

    Overanalyzing with what? (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:55:28 PM EST
    Where's your proof?

    your cluelessness is boundless (3.00 / 2) (#11)
    by seabos84 on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:25:48 PM EST
    I love this internet idiocy of 'proof'

    prove that there are an infinite number of prime numbers, like Euclid did 2000+ years ago, or prove the pythagorean theorem, like ...
    pythagorus!! did 2000+ years ago! Prove the earth moves around the sun?

    Unless you are talking about scientific FACTS, you take a subset of facts and observations and claims, and you attempt to make the best arguement possible. IF you want to call the arguement Proof, in a mathematical / scientific context, AND, IF you want to assert that YOUR PROOF is THE TRUTH ... go ahead!

    However, IF you BELIEVE that your Proof is THE TRUTH, you need your f'ing head examined.

    To take our internet idiocy 1 step further, now people are supposed to PROVE that FDR and RayGun ran as partisans!!!!!!!!

    senior or seniorita Proof, those statements about RayGun and FDR are really axioms -

    axioms are something like
    if a = b, then a + c = b + c,

    and if someone needs to ALWAYS check that if a = b, then a + c = b + c before they do anything else, they'll never get to anything else.

    It is tragic that you are unaware of, or can't accept, political basics that you'd have learned with any kind of political education above some 1953 style 'see spot run' crap high school history curriculum.



    Actually, I'm pretty certain h.s. education in (none / 0) (#12)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:28:34 PM EST
    '53 was superior to h.s. education today.  

    You know (none / 0) (#15)
    by Jgarza on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:43:02 PM EST
    how they ran in primaries?

    give me a break.

    Anyone who is a successful politician is going to have everything they stood for adopted by the party.  Clearly you dont have more then a high school education, since you dont realize that both those figures re dramatic changes in both politics and their parties.  therefore at some point they were runnig aginst thier party, till the party came a long with them.

    THAT IS HOW CHANGE WORKS in a party.

    Sorry BTD's you clearly don't get politics, last time i checked no campaigns call you for advice or pay you for it either.  The bloggers picked the loosing guy, they have gone through months of spinning, and now they are trying to prove there spin.

    BTD you may not have picked a candidate, but you bought the spin.

    Like i said this discussion is about as useless as you wannabe mark penn misleading post.  lets have a discussion on something substantive, instead of this ridiculous over analysis of Obama campaign style, and this ridiculous attempt to apply some of its qualities to everything in his candidacy.


    FDR's primary campaign (none / 0) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 05:54:30 PM EST
    Yes you are right. I do not know how FDR ran his primary campaign. For good reason.

    Now I DO know how Ronald Reagan ran his 1976 and 1980 campaigns. Both primary and GE. I submit that you do not.

    The level of your knowledge here is exemplified by your comparing what I suggest to Mark Penn. It is hilarious. I guarantee you that there is a lot more similarity between David Axelrod's and Mark Penn's view on this than there are with mine. Bob Shrum too.

    I'll go you one better - Carville and Begala 1992. there is your source material for the Obama campaign.

    But you would not know that as you seem to have become involved in politics in the last 6 months.

    You certainly know nothing about what I have written about on this issue since I first blogged.


    Roosevelt (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Dadler on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 07:31:39 PM EST
    Roosevelt certainly ran as a partisan, a champion of working class, the man who would slay the Depression.

    The following quote is from a good piece about what today's campaigns can learn from FDR.

    Pre-broadcast era politicians were trained in the art of arm-waving, high-blown oratory. But with the advent of radio, booming rhetoric and grand gestures no longer worked. Roosevelt knew that.

    Listen to the way he opened his first chat; it was on the intricate banking crisis facing the nation:

    "First of all, let me state the simple fact that when you deposit money in a bank the bank does not put the money in a safe deposit vault. It invests your money in many different forms of credit -in bonds, in commercial paper, in mortgages, and in many kinds of loans."

    To make doubly sure it was clear to the many who did not understand "the mechanics of banking," he added: "In other words, the bank puts your money to keep the wheels of industry and of agriculture turning round." He went on, laying the factual foundation for the predicament at hand: "A comparatively small part of the money that you put into the bank is kept in currency - an amount which in normal times is wholly sufficient to cover the cash needs of the average citizen." Again, to make sure the audience was with him, he added: "In other words, the total amount of all currency in the country is only a comparatively small proportion of the total deposits in all the banks in the country."

    After his short course in banking, he went to the crisis itself: "What, then, happened during the last few days of February and the first few days of March? Because of undermined confidence on the part of the public, there was a general rush by a large portion of our population to turn bank deposits into currency or gold - a rush so great that the soundest banks couldn't get enough currency to meet the demand."

    He continued by answering the question he posed, not leaving to chance the public's conclusion, "The reason for this was that on the spur of the moment it was, of course, impossible to sell perfectly sound assets of a bank and convert them into cash at panic prices far below the real value."

    He would then build on that explanation, justifying a "bank holiday" - itself a well-chosen phrase signifying something good, a "holiday" is something that can restore and refresh - and the legislation he got Congress to pass that would reopen the banks, describing the stages of the solution in a simple one, two, three style.

    Ending his chat, Roosevelt hit on his underlying theme: "After all, there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people themselves."

    FDR moved in for the close by wrapping stark reality within the context not of ideology or partisanship but of personal bonding between himself and the citizenry: "It is your problem, my friends, your problem no less than it is mine. Together, we cannot fail."

    Despite that psychologically damaging (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 09:36:47 PM EST
    Presidential poll re McGovern/Nixon, I'd say you turned out pretty well.

    I really hesitate to venture into this territory (none / 0) (#2)
    by oldpro on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 04:40:19 PM EST
    but it strikes me that GWB's election might quality on a number of levels.  Whaddya think?


    2000? (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 04:41:47 PM EST
    Yup. 2000.... (none / 0) (#23)
    by oldpro on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 06:04:09 PM EST
    hmmm.... (none / 0) (#28)
    by Judith on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 07:59:24 PM EST
    didnt he lie and say he wasnt a divider blah blah blah and hide most of his intended "evildoing"?

    uh huh (none / 0) (#29)
    by oculus on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 08:14:13 PM EST
    And this (none / 0) (#31)
    by RalphB on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 08:56:41 PM EST
    is different from the Obama campaign in what substantive way?  I venture none.

    Globalization (none / 0) (#32)
    by Addison on Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 09:05:41 PM EST
    If you want to find big changes accomplished without big partisan gains, look to those who feel the Democratic and Republican parties are one and the same. The things they're upset about will naturally be the things that got accomplished without partisan gains.

    In other words, you write,

    I believe that the way to make substantive change in policy is to get folks to agree with your message and policy by voting for you and your political party.
    Well, if both sides are on the same page you don't have to do any convincing because who are they going to vote for instead? Nader? Stevenson? Perot? I don't think so.

    So, post-WWII globalization is the biggest change in the economy -- not to mention world culture and foreign policy -- in our nation's history. And it has been, in large measure, non-partisan and more the result of America's post-war standing than huge partisan gains.

    I would argue there's been no bigger change, no more wide-ranging policy, and it's been accomplished virtually without partisan divide.

    Of course there was opposition, but it was often barely reflected in general elections. When it came up it was around causes that, I believe, were relatively minor and treated globalization as either a given or an inherent good.

    There are things outside partisan elections that can be played upon to create huge changes. Things like greed and hope.