A Non-Ideological Country

E.J. Dionne gets at something here:

Fundamentally, ours is a non-ideological nation. Many who would like the government to act more boldly still need to be persuaded of government's capacity to succeed. Here again, Obama's situation closely resembles Reagan's. Like our 40th president, Obama has been authorized to move in a new direction. If Reagan had the voters' permission to move away from strategies associated with liberalism, Obama has sanction to move away from conservative policies. Reagan was judged by the results of his choices, and Obama will be, too.

I happen to believe that progressive policies will be the most efficacious for the country. Obama said in the campaign that he believed that too. But what he needs to do is push for the policies he believes will work. Because his political success depends on the success of his policies. "Center Right" and "Center Left" will mean nothing to the voters. Which is why Dionne is right when he states:

Yet Reagan offers another lesson: His first moves were bold, and Obama should not fear following his example. The president-elect is hearing that his greatest mistake would be something called "overreach." Democrats in Congress, it's implied, are hungry to impose wacky left-wing schemes that Obama must resist.

In fact, timidity is a far greater danger than overreaching, simply because it's quite easy to be cautious. And anyone who thinks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her followers are ultra-leftist ideologues has been asleep for the past two years.

(Emphais supplied.) Or they are lying for a reason E.J.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

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    I was just musing under my breath (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by andgarden on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 09:56:39 AM EST
    that pundits are apparently more ideological than the electorate.

    I very much agree (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Faust on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:03:43 AM EST
    with this line of reasoning. While probably a good 50% of the nation is pretty ideological one way or the other there are many many people who really don't give two $hits about ideology. They want results, they want security for their families, they want good futures for their children, they want job security and a decent pay check.

    I've talked to so many people over the course of the political season that really are neutral on many questions, mostly because they aren't particularly thoughtful (i.e. they don't think much about it) but if Obama can produce results that make people's lives better then there are many people who will not care about the ideological underpinnings of the solutions whatever they might be.

    I'll add that Reagan's investment (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by ruffian on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:13:16 AM EST
    in defense spending worked for Republicans in part because it created a huge jobs engine. The defense industry workforce (a large part of the economy - I think I saw 30% at one point, but I can't back that up right now) has been a key part of the Republican base ever since. These people are not necesarily ideologically aligned with Republicans on anything but keeping their defense jobs.

    Obama could lay a similar groundwork with infrastructure and energy jobs.

    America... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by marian evans on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:27:24 AM EST
    is a non-ideological country? That's a good one.

    You're kidding, right?

    US politics at its best is a glorious free for all where all voices get to bellow their loudest.

    At its worst, it is a saccharine mix of ideology and religion far too cloying for the tastes of any genuine pragmatist...let alone us little ole rationalists.

    The recent election was a case in point. What a sickening excess of syrupy hagiography and self-congratulation! At this point an emetic would be more efficacious than policy of whatever persuasion.

    You confuse the practice (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:39:05 AM EST
    of politics with the views of a large portion of the electorate, who say over and over and over again in polls how much they hate what's called "partisan bickering."

    I think BTD is basically right, although I'm not sure it's a very good thing.  Would'nt it be nice to have somebody -- oh, like Obama, maybe? -- point to things like Medicare and Social Security and other things that actually work and identify them as explicitly liberal/progressive/Democratic programs.


    As far as partisan bickering goes... (none / 0) (#19)
    by lilburro on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:42:29 AM EST
    I think non-ideological Americans probably also have a low tolerance for party infighting.  If Congressional Democrats are unable to cooperate, Americans will not have a great deal of patience with them I think.  They won't be waiting for their party to work it out - they'll be looking for the next option.

    results results results (none / 0) (#27)
    by Salo on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:35:02 PM EST
    rather than infighting

    The only reason (5.00 / 1) (#34)
    by BackFromOhio on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:25:41 PM EST
    'people' don't like "partisan bickering" is that this mantra is trotted out by the Rethugs every time they want to oppose the Dems on whatever and don't have valid substantive arguments against it.  Anything worth doing is worth fighting for, and certainly the Repubs don't shrink from a fight on issues that matter to them. Why let them determine the agenda and how we frame it?

    Actually, it's the (5.00 / 1) (#45)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:48:41 PM EST
    Broderista Corps in the media that constantly uses the term "partisan bickering" to dismiss and denigrate genuine ideological differences.

    They will be (none / 0) (#38)
    by Salo on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:50:01 PM EST
    painted as the bickering-infighters if Obama is clever enough to trigger infighting among the GOP between the rightwing and the moderates.

    Interestngly (none / 0) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:46:11 AM EST
    Hagiography is the opposite of being ideological.

    Nope... (5.00 / 1) (#40)
    by OldCity on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:00:57 PM EST
    it's being uncritical, or reverent.  You can be hagiographic and agree with the ideology you extoll.

    Nope (none / 0) (#47)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 04:32:39 PM EST
    Hagiography is blind devotion to the subject irrespective of ideology.

    David Brody style? (none / 0) (#48)
    by andgarden on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 04:35:59 PM EST
    Questions theological... (none / 0) (#52)
    by marian evans on Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 10:30:30 AM EST
    philosophical or political (a la Gilbert and Sullivan)...

    What fun!

    Well, BTD, I don't see why hagiography precludes ideology. Canonization of individuals (i.e. hagiography...if one is talking theologically) occurs within the frame of reference of an existing belief system i.e. an ideology.

    In fact, hagiography (whether of the strictly religious kind, or the metaphoric political kind) depends on the ideological framework to make sense.

    But, hey, what do I know? If the problem in philosophy is to say no more than we know (thank you, Wittgenstein)...then the "known unknowns"* of politico-theology are more than we can say.

    *from the Sacred Text of the Venerable Rumsfield


    fffeld... (none / 0) (#53)
    by marian evans on Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 10:44:42 AM EST

    See, I've forgotten him already!


    Show progressive policies work (none / 0) (#3)
    by ruffian on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:07:21 AM EST
    The sooner progressive policies are enacted, the sooner the public will see them work, and they will gain acceptance that way. I haven't read the history of Social Security or the other New Deal policies like many here have, but I'm sure there was some initial scepticism that was overcome when the public saw how well they worked (and some that did not work probably fell by the wayside).

    I hope Obama is bold in putting forth at least a couple of policies right way, such as large investment in infrastructure.

    What is the definition (none / 0) (#5)
    by lilburro on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:23:15 AM EST
    of a policy that will work?  Some of Obama's polices are aimed at the long-term, the rewards of which will be reaped later (his environmental polices for instance).  So it may actually work, in the long run, but in the meantime, Obama will have to make it work politically.

    As Drum says:

    And make no mistake. Barack Obama's cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions may be technically one of the best we've ever seen, but it will raise energy prices. That's the whole point. So once the public understands that there's more to Obama's plan than green-collar jobs and serried ranks of windmills on the Great Plains, they're going to have second thoughts.

    One example (none / 0) (#30)
    by ruffian on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:47:26 PM EST
    would be massive funding of infrastructure projects that are already planned and have engineering work done, but are waiting for funding to begin construction.  These could get visibly started very soon, and people would see the benefits in local job creation and coming infrastructure improvement, even though completion might be a few years off. In some places I have lived, they put a sign near the construction saying which bill paid for it. Congress could name the bill with a catchy acronym - Federal Infrastructure Sustainment Act - oops. bad acronym.

    giggle!! (none / 0) (#42)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:33:56 PM EST
    Yes, I think I wrote. . . (none / 0) (#6)
    by LarryInNYC on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:30:53 AM EST
    something very like this yesterday.

    In terms of overreaching, I want to go back to what I think is fairly broadly recognized as Clinton's defining overreach -- attempting to wipe out the gays in the military ban.

    Note that this was almost entirely an ideological issue.  There's only a very minor case to be made -- and I don't think it was made at all at the time -- that this change in policy would result in a net positive result for most people in their daily lives.

    My point is that Obama is well advised to take bold actions in his first few months -- but primarily bold actions that can be presented in terms of the hoped for results.  Therefore, he's well positioned for a large stimulus program, jobs, health-care, etc.  Primarily ideological issues (such as lifting the ban on promoting family planning in overseas programs) while morally right should probably not receive a lot of focus (if he does them, he should do them quietly).  They only appeal to those who already support him.

    The global gag rule (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by andgarden on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:33:41 AM EST
    is broadly unpopular.

    Despite what some Republicans would have you believe, this is a pro-choice country.


    I don't disagree. (none / 0) (#8)
    by LarryInNYC on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:47:53 AM EST
    Although I don't necessarily agree, either -- is there polling on the popularity of that rule (polling expressed in terms however close one can come to neutrality on that question)?

    My point is rather that, popular or not, that's not an issue that will affect the lives of most American voters.  Bold measures should used for things that will impact the average voter's life.


    Most people probably don't know about it (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by lilburro on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 10:57:12 AM EST
    I have seen it brought up as part of a series of position reversals to be made by the Obama administration.  Why not make the changes as soon as possible?  No one will say boo.  I hope the horrid regulations newly imposed by the Bush admin. on contraception are reversed within 48 hours of Obama taking office.  These two items can be rolled out together.  

    I am interested to see (5.00 / 0) (#12)
    by Steve M on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:01:52 AM EST
    whether Obama can find a way to take action on issues like this without allowing it to become a huge brouhaha.  Clinton's problem on gays in the military was not just that it was an unpopular policy, but that it seemed like a really non-mainstream priority for a new President to be jumping into.  Perhaps Obama will just have to proceed at a measured pace so that it's clear the economy remains his top concern even though a few of these side issues are getting addressed along the way.

    Well if he could handle the Rev Wright (none / 0) (#14)
    by lilburro on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:17:07 AM EST
    brouhaha, I think he can handle this!

    I realize it's not essential to this conversation (none / 0) (#50)
    by ChrisO on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:26:38 PM EST
    but I would argue that Obama didn't handle the Wright controversy. He thrashed around for months until the public got tired of it. I think ultimately the media cared more about Rev. Wright than the voters.

    Clinton's mistake, I think (none / 0) (#17)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:34:48 AM EST
    on gays in the military was to ponder and consult and think and argue and etc., instead of just issueing an executive order and telling the military brass to suck it up and deal with it.

    Obama could actually do that himself, and nowadays get no more than a few whimpers from some of the real reactionaries in the military (plus a lot of hysterics from right-wingers in Congress, but who cares).  It's a ludicrous rule, and one we certainly can't afford anymore.


    Bill probably would have faced (none / 0) (#22)
    by brodie on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:53:35 AM EST
    an even greater firestorm over the issue than he did.  Possibly getting him into Seven Days in May territory, or getting that dreaded visit from the bipartisan group of cong'l leaders who would inform him that his presidency would be over if he didn't back off immediately.

    He had major opponents on three fronts.

    First, the JCS, all of whom were not only opposed but vehemently so.  CJCS Powell also enjoyed the wide and deep support of the public.

    Second, Congress was overwhelmingly against changing the policy -- and threatened to undo any exec order with an insert into the upcoming military appropriations bill.

    Third, Bill didn't have the public on his side.  A fair sized plurality were against the proposed change, and the numbers of very strongly against far outnumbered the very few who were strongly in favor of reform.

    Bill was stuck having to back up his fairly minor campaign promise to the gay community.  He also naively underestimated the ferocity of the opposition he would face from the military brass.  And his WH communications team did a poor job of putting the whole brouhaha into context.  Instead, the public got the impression thanks to the screaming MSM that GITM was the #1 High Priority item for Bill's first 100 days.

    Now, compare Obama's emerging WH communications team -- no-nonsensers Bobby Gibbs and "C.D." Rahm Emanuel, both tough and experienced customers -- with the D.C. neophytes who did such a poor job for Bill.  


    Right on all counts (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by oldpro on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:07:05 PM EST
    Let's also remember that Bill, unlike Obama, was faced with filling all the administration's appointments with (mostly) people without DC government experience of the sort needed.  It had been a looooong time since Carter's administration...12 years.  Only 8 since Clinton's, hence the goldmine of competence Obama can reliably choose from...as he is doing...and should.

    A good assessment (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by KeysDan on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:35:13 PM EST
     of events in my opinion.  I would add these thought to the collective impressions:  President Clinton seemed poised to make changes quickly and the campaign promise to permit gay men and women to serve openly in the military was an action that he could take through executive order and did not involve major funding issues to implement.  Even the NYTimes in an editorial encouraged the new president to take this action, advice that may have been a contributor to underestimating opposition. Not only did Colin Powell play a key role in undermining the new president (to the extent of insubordination, in my opinion) with his public opposition including a call to resist on moral grounds in a speech to cadets at the Naval Academy, but Sam Nunn, then chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, took an opposing lead in the Senate with carnival-like hearings that included camera-ready tours of  tight quarters in submarines and claims that gays wanted to serve so as to ogle those of fitness.  Clinton seemed to think Nunn would be an ally, but Clinton passed over Nunn for a job he coveted, namely Secretary of State, owing to discriminatory employment practices in Nunn's senate office that were noted and brought to light by some members of the gay community. This was payback time for Nunn and others in congress, with or without strong feelings on the issue, who capitalized on the brouhaha to show their muscle.  The military brass, who were no fans of Clinton for several reasons not the least of which was that he defeated Daddy Bush, was happy to find such support in congress. It was like a coup in the making, until the so-called compromise (DADT) was made and President Clinton had to travel to assembled military to announce it.

    My recollection is hazy (none / 0) (#28)
    by Fabian on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:39:40 PM EST
    But I thought Bill Clinton wasn't exactly popular with the military brass even before DADT.  To come swaggering in and slap that on the top brass without some kind of consultation would have been past bold and bordering on politically suicidal.

    All the more reason he (none / 0) (#43)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:37:40 PM EST
    should have just done it quickly right away, IMHO.  But (sound familiar) he didn't really want to risk any political capital on it. But pontificating on alternate history is pretty silly, so I'll just say that's my opinion. :-)

    Maybe (none / 0) (#24)
    by Steve M on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:21:43 PM EST
    but I think the root of the problem was that Clinton genuinely wanted to put the issue off for another day.

    No. He wanted to do it (none / 0) (#33)
    by oldpro on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:08:18 PM EST
    and get it behind him...and us.

    Really (none / 0) (#37)
    by Steve M on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:43:27 PM EST
    He genuinely saw it as a priority that he wanted to address in the opening days of his administration?  I'd be interested to see the historical record that bears that out.

    Opening days? No...they (none / 0) (#51)
    by oldpro on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 08:39:06 PM EST
    jumped the gun on him and he was caught in the maelstrom....but yes, he wanted to do it...possibly later first year...or second...and now we see how right he was; translators, for instance, who have been lost to our intelligence system.  STUPID!  That loss alone should make people take notice and reverse course.

    My understanding is that it (none / 0) (#44)
    by esmense on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:45:58 PM EST
    was aggressive political manuevering by those in opposition to gays in the military -- the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- that forced the issue as an early priority.

    It's baked in to the things (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by andgarden on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:00:43 AM EST
    Democrats do when they take office. Bill Clinton made the change on his first day in office in 1992 without serious impact; so will Obama.

    To be fair, the GITM issue (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by brodie on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:01:26 AM EST
    was pushed onto the front-burner not by Bill but by the mischievous MSM and hostile cong'l Repubs, eager, imo, to put his feet to the fire early on re a hot-button social issue that would pit the draft-dodging prez against a hostile Pentagon.

    Even when BC sought to put off a final decision for 6 mos, ordering a SecDef study of the matter, his political opponents wouldn't let go and demanded to be heard.

    Obama, with all the ex-Clintonites on his transition team, is probably quite aware of this early and nearly disastrous defeat for Bill, how it almost crippled him in his first year, following all that good will and positive spirit coming out of a successful election, as it lead to a sizable wrong-way change in his favorable/unfav numbers.  

    Unlikely Obama will allow himself to be buffeted about passively, as happened with Bill, by his political enemies.


    In the last 8 years (none / 0) (#35)
    by BackFromOhio on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 01:28:04 PM EST
    the climate has changed on the gay issue.  I don't think anyone but some in the military and right-wingers would care as much now about who serves in the armed forces; we have a hard enough time getting people to serve.  The youngest voters have grown up in a different climate.  Are there age-breakdowns of the vote on Prop 8?

    Yes there are (none / 0) (#54)
    by CST on Tue Nov 11, 2008 at 11:04:59 AM EST
    And younger voters voted overwhelmingly against prop 8.  The only silver lining in a very upsetting vote.

    You bring up a good point about the military as well.  Most of the lower brass is on the younger side and they really don't care that much.


    I know I worte something like this (none / 0) (#13)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:04:16 AM EST

    Really? (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by LarryInNYC on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:24:58 AM EST
    Maybe I'm getting us mixed up?  But I don't think so -- my point was that Obama doesn't have a mandate for the policies he ran on so much as the promise of results different from the Bush Administration.  And that that's a good thing since it will allow him to be bolder and  more liberal than the rather timid polices he ran on.

    Again (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 11:50:49 AM EST
    I know you did not recognize that I wrote because the ideas expressed were not understood by you.

    I suggest you consider this point - progressive policies are the most efficacious policies.


    By definition. (none / 0) (#23)
    by LarryInNYC on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:17:29 PM EST
    progressive policies are the most efficacious policies.

    Since "progressive" has no agreed definition in politics.  If by progressive you mean "moving forward", of course progressive policies are the most efficacious.

    The important point is to separate the policies to be implemented from the policies campaigned upon, and to hope the former turn out to be more liberal.


    Actually, it does, (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by OldCity on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:40:30 PM EST
    but is almost always used as a synonym for "liberal".  

    Progrssivist iniatives are usually broad reaching efforts designed to affect the largest segment of the population possible, in a positive way.  The push for single payor universal healthcare, for example, is progressive.  Reasserting the FDA as a stand-alone agency without contribution of resource by drug companies is another.    

    You wrote that Clinton's defining overreach was the gays in the military issue.  I think by far the more disastrous was his healthcare initiative.  That was a truly progressive push that was bungled from start to ingnominious finish.  

    I think Obama would best serve himself by issuing executive orders banning torture and closing Gitmo.  I also think that economic stimulus has to be a priority, including some sort of rescue for the auto industry...and that won't be universally popular.

    The problem with orthodox conservatives is that they refuse to acknowledge the sequelae of allowing say, GM to fail.  One in eight American jobs have a direct relationship to the auto industry, whether through manufacturing, shipping, finance, etc.  The idea that they should be allowed to fail illustrates a callous disregard for the nation.  Sure they were/are poorly run.  Sure they signed ruinous collective bargaining agreements.  But even so, the consequence of failure is dire.  

    Off the soapbox...I think it's critical that he does things that will burnish us from a foreign policy perspective and als do things that will show an appreciation for the domestic situation, and do them right away.    


    You mean you do not agree with the meaning (none / 0) (#25)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:31:16 PM EST
    Which is another matter entirely.

    But then again, I would love to hear your "agreed to" definitions of "conservative," "liberal," "moderate" hell, even "extremist."

    I am a Centrist and I know what that means to me.


    BTD, Larry's just using ... (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:18:42 PM EST
    an old debating strategy, when you can't win on points attempt to redefine the terms of the debate.

    It's a snoozer.

    Science Fiction writer Damon Knight when asked to define Science Fiction said:

    "Science Fiction is what I'm pointing at when I say 'Science Fiction'."

    I forward the same argument about the word "progressive."


    So, you it when you see it? (none / 0) (#46)
    by OldCity on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:57:28 PM EST
    You simply shouldn't use a term you're not prepared to define.  

    Science Fiction is a pretty lousy example.

    I note you didn't volunteer any clarification.  


    You obviously don't know the ... (none / 0) (#49)
    by Robot Porter on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 04:46:25 PM EST
    heated debates about defining the term Science Fiction.

    But the point Damon Knight made is that this manner of nomenclature is used to define a pre-existing thing.

    There are progressive policies, and they are over there.

    We could call them spatulas, but we don't.

    And the history of the term is irrelevant. Clocks used to refer to a type of stocking, but it doesn't anymore.  And to pretend someone meant stocking when they said clock is just silly.

    But that's exactly what these debates devolve into.

    So I use Damon Knight's argument and say:

    Progressive is what I'm pointing at when I say "progressive."

    Many political movements have devolved into such heated battles over nomenclature that they didn't get anything done.  That was well parodied here.

    Anyway, get back to the fight to get progressive policies enacted.


    Nope. (none / 0) (#31)
    by LarryInNYC on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:59:58 PM EST
    I've heard "progressive" self-applied by people from your position (on the relative right) to Naderistas.  Some people feel it means pragmatic compromise to effect legislation, others feel it means a far left position, one that looks down on liberalism as a sell-out philosophy.  Often it's used by liberals who are ashamed to use the word liberal.

    While one can always quibble on very particular issues, "liberal" and "conservative" are have broadly understood meanings.  You can figure out where a person stands on 85% of the issues if you know they're a liberal or a conservative (for conservative, you probably have to know whether they're a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, or both).


    That's been my argument (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by OldCity on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 02:58:51 PM EST
    for ages...

    "Progressive", as a political term, has a historical definintion based upon the actions of previous "Progressive" movements.  These days, we see it used over and over as a poor substitute for "liberal".  

    The Progressives of earlier eras were lots of things; more importantly, their views were easily co-opted by liberals OR conservatives.  Today's so-called progressives don't (or, rather, lampoon those who ask them to) define their meaning of the moniker.  

    Progressivism was extremely anti-corporate, yet the common thought is that we need to preserve corporations such as AIG and GM...now, that's liberal, since it will rescue jobs, but certainly far from Progressive.  

    My point is, if you're going to use the term, then you need to be clear about your interpretation.  I don't think that's much to ask, but then again, it sure is easier to be defensive than assertive.  


    let's drink a drink to lilly the pink then (none / 0) (#26)
    by Salo on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 12:31:39 PM EST
    for she invented medicinal compound most efficatious in every way