The Left Flank

Chris Bowers described a part of yesterday's meeting with former President Bill Clinton (I was in attendance):

President Clinton told the assembled bloggers that one of the best things they could do for elected Democrats is to function as a "countervailing" source of progressive pressure. That is, he encouraged us to offer left-wing criticism of Democrats on key policy areas, and that we should urge our leaders and elected officials to favor further reaching, more community-focused public policy. In fact, he indicated that he would have wanted more such progressive media pushing him during his time in office.

Additionally, President Clinton told the assembled bloggers that they should focus their pressure in a "sophisticated" pattern, focusing specifically on members of Congress who could be the most influenced. By this, he meant Democrats in safe blue districts afraid of primary challenges, and members of both parties in districts that could be swung in the next general election. He also indicated that he believed this was the start of anew progressive era in the federal government--the first since the mid-1960's--and was hopeful that major progressive agenda items on health care and climate change would pass as a result.

On the state of the progressive agenda, Matt Yglesias offers a contradictory view:

“[P]olitical capital” is a pretty misleading metaphor. . . . [T]he entire structure of the US Congress with its bicameralism and multiple overlapping committees is biased toward making it easy for concentrated interests to block reform. . . . Meanwhile, the fact of the matter is that in recent years plenty of incumbent Republicans have been brought down by primary challenges from the right and as best I know zero Democrats have been brought down by primary challenges from the left. This has been a huge advantage for the Democrats in terms of winning elections—it’s an important part of the reason Democrats have these majorities. But it also means that when it comes to policymaking, Republicans have a lot of solidarity but Democratic leaders have little leverage over individual members. In other words, nobody thinks that Collin Peterson (D-MN) is going to lose his seat over badly watering down Waxman-Markey and that matters a lot more than airy considerations of capital.

(Emphasis supplied.) This is an interesting observation and to me, demonstrates in many ways the complete superiority of the Right Wing activist model to the of the Progressive activist model. Even when they get trounced in elections, the Right Wing activists wield more power than the Progressive activists. And the reason is, in my opinion, Right Wing activists put their issues first, their pols second.

They remember what elections and politics are actually about - what the policy looks like in the end. Consider this observation from Yglesias:

The American presidency is a weird institution. If Barack Obama wants to start a war with North Korea and jeopardize the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, it’s not clear that anyone could stop him. . . . But if he wants to implement the agenda he was elected on just a few months ago, he needs to obtain a supermajority in the United States Senate.

(Emphasis supplied.) George Bush LOST the 2000 election and barely won the 2004 election. His agenda was disfavored by the American People. And yet he got his agenda through the Congress.

Yglesias has this wrong. The American Presidency is only weakened on policy when Democrats hold the office. This is, in part, because the Left Flank of the Democratic Party is incredibly ineffectual.

I once thought that the Left blogs could help to change that. But it seems there is much more interest in being Charlie Cooks and Stu Rothenbergs or in engaging in food fights with the Right blogs and Glenn Beck than in shaping the policy of the country .

I'll be expanding on this point in an entry at the TPM Book Cafe discussion of Eric Boehlert's book, The Bloggers on The Bus.

Speaking for me only

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    A lot of solidarity (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by vicndabx on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:32:17 AM EST
    We lack it, and it's the biggest reason why we fail.  There's compromise where everyone loses and then there's synergy, where everyone wins.  We d@mn sure need some synergy on healthcare.  I'm sure we'll need some on climate change also when we start talking about that seriously.

    There can be no left flank if there's pieces of it all over the place.

    Another very good post (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:48:37 AM EST
    For some on the left blogs, there is absolutely nothing that the President or Democrats in Congress could do that would cause them to rise up in general (effective) anger.

    Re the Yglesias post, I'm not sure if he's right or just right for Democrats (though the latter view seems likely). I've been coming around to the view that the American model of separating executive power from the legislature doesn't work so well. Yes, I know what Madison supposedly thought it would do, but it does bad things too (just like the Senate and even the limited amount of state sovereignty we still have).

    BTW, are we going to hear more from you (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:49:39 AM EST
    about the big dog, or was it off the record?

    2 more posts (5.00 / 2) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:52:37 AM EST
    this week on the meeting.

    It gave me a lot to think about frankly.


    Gotcha (none / 0) (#6)
    by andgarden on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:53:36 AM EST
    Also at the end of the (5.00 / 10) (#7)
    by dk on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:16:23 AM EST
    post from Bowers:

    I know it is surprising, but this did really happen. He isn't very Villagerish, even if he is a bit hesitant to call himself left-wing. He certainly seems to welcome left-wing criticism directed at him personally, becuase it he believes it provides him room to break away from the Village. That might explain why the Village hated him so much during the 1990's.

    (emphaseis mine).

    Not to pick on Bowers personally (he lost credibility last year in my book, but of course many others were far worse), but the fact that he finds Clinton's "non-Villagerism" surprising is a good example of the general lack of reality-based thinking and ahistoricism of the "progressive" community.

    What's sad is that Bill has 8 years of... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Salo on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:17:41 AM EST
    ...hard won experience on this stuff. And he holds no office that this very dearly bought experience can be used in.  A third term would have been productive.

    I think the Democratic center... (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Jerrymcl89 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:49:55 AM EST
    ... has always (not really always, but since the late sixties) viewed the left of the party as a political albatross to a much greater degree than that to which the Republican center felt the same about their right, which is why the Democratic left has lesser influence. The Bush years have discredited the right and to some extent rehabilitated the left, but I think that dynamic has only changed a little bit.

    Hmm (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by CST on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:09:51 AM EST
    It is true, a lot of the Democrats from the bluest districts are lifers.  I see it all the time in my state.  We have had the same mayor for well over a decade and the one before him we had even longer.  Kennedy has been in the senate longer than a lot of people have been alive.  Kerry had a primary challenger and that went no where.  Too many primaries and even a lot of general elections only have one name on the ballot.  Granted, most people we send to the federal government are on the left side of the spectrum.  But they are accountable to virtually no one.  They could always be further to the left.

    I've always thought that this (5.00 / 4) (#29)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:25:45 AM EST
    was what democratic politics was all about.  People make their cases, debate policy positions and someone wins.  There seems to be this belief that only views within a narrow scope can be discussed or entertained in order to be "effective", but the reality is that the definition of "effective" in a democracy such as ours is two-fold.  You have to get stuff passed and that "stuff" you pass actually has to be effective.  

    There's a lot of focus on the act and process of passage and too little on the quality of what is being passed.

    The healthcare reform process is in my opinion very close to ending up a complete mess because there is such a strong focus on the process through which anything might be passed.  If a really good and meaningful reform plan can only get passed with 51 votes then that's what we should go ahead and do.  Because honestly the reality is that there are numerous Senators who do not have good intentions here.  Dealing with them - compromising with them on this kind of complex and critical legislation - will yield an ineffective and therefore ultimately failed reform plan - those will be their terms for voting for the bill - and they may not even vote for it in the end.  And, and, and those very same people that they chose to compromise with will turn right around and criticize the flaws in the plan which in many instances might have been designed by them personally.

    No amount of calling "hypocrite" in the aftermath of passage will undo the political and practical damage of allowing their poison pills into the bill in the first place though - and that is where it seems so many on the left so often get caught like Charlie Brown with the football.  I mean come on, taxing individuals' healthcare benefits as a solution to health insurance premiums crippling the country financially?  That's just people daring us to be really freakin' stupid.  But those who are proposing such insanity get airtime because they are "centerists".  It is the quality of the ideas that should be the central focus - not the political ideology.

    This month's Harper's... (5.00 / 1) (#51)
    by Dadler on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:34:24 PM EST
    ...has a very astute cover piece by Kevin Baker titled "BARACK HOOVER OBAMA: The Best and Brightest Blow it Again."  Well worth the few bucks.  

    Much like Herbert Hoover, Barack Obama is a man attempting to realize a stirring new vision of his society without cutting himself free from the dogmas of the past---without accepting the inevitable conflict. Like Hoover, he is bound to fail...

    ...Still worse is Obama's decision to leave the reordering of the financial world solely to Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, both of whom played such a major role in deregulating Wall Street and bringing on the disaster in the first place. It's as if, after winning election in 1932, FDR had brought Andrew Mellon back to the Treasury. Just as Herbert Hoover could not, in the end, break away from the best economic advice of the 1920s, Barack Obama is sticking with the "key men" of the 1990s. The predictable result is that, even as he claims to recognize the interlocking nature of the problems facing us and vows to solve them as a whole, the president is in fact abandoning most of his program, at least for the time being.

    I see two problems (5.00 / 1) (#63)
    by cawaltz on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:10:45 PM EST
    with the "progressive" blogosphere. A) they seem to have lost site of the issues in their quest to win(see the primaries for many many examples of this) and B) They already are default voting for the Democrat which leaves them pretty toothless when it comes to getting the Democrat to do something(If he knows he has your vote there is little to no incentive to actually pander for it).

    Sibelius: Obama to block single payer permanently (5.00 / 2) (#65)
    by lambert on Wed Jun 17, 2009 at 07:37:52 AM EST
    Cross posted from another thread, but sweet jeebus, if there were a functioning left blogosphere, let alone a functioning left, don't you think people would be all over this?

    Sibelius on single payer on NPR:

    "Asked if the administration's program will be drafted specifically to prevent it from evolving into a single-payer plan, Sebelius says: "I think that's very much the case...."


    Nice to know that everything is on the table, except what isn't, and everything is open and transparent, except what's not.

    issues first, pols second (none / 0) (#1)
    by dkmich on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:28:48 AM EST
    This belongs on a tee shirt and tatooed on the foreheads of every so called liberal and liberal blogger.   Democrats don't pay any attention to us because they know "the Left Flank of the Democratic Party is incredibly ineffectual".  We tremble at the thought of a Republican winning, so we vote for any idiot with a D after his name.  This is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing, just as you point out.  

    Liberals keep distracting us by sending us out to fight fire after fire.  Hurry, hurry -  call this/that one to oppose/support this/that.  Instead, we need to speak softly and go get a big stick.   We need to teach them to watch their backs.  

    Thanks for sharing.  The last time Clinton met with the bloggers, he campaigned for Lieberman against Lamont.  I knew we could count on you not to get star struck, which is why I hurried right over for your take just as soon as I found out you were there.  

    So, will we ever learn?  Change?  Here's another bumper sticker,  "hope rhymes with dope".

    As an aside (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:30:24 AM EST
    I just want to point out that Barack Obama also endorsed Lieberman....

    People shouldn't get starstruck over him either, apparently.


    And didn't he pick Lieberman (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Radiowalla on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:13:05 AM EST
    as his mentor when he was first elected to the senate?

    First he picked Sen. Clinton (none / 0) (#52)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:36:09 PM EST
    cite? (none / 0) (#56)
    by sj on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 01:00:10 PM EST
    Because a quick search only shows Lieberman.

    Can't produce it as (none / 0) (#57)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 01:05:30 PM EST
    I am on Blackberry.It was a mag.or newspaper article from early in the primaries. He consulted her re being a newbie jr.senator but the object of media attention.  

    Ah, I kind of remember that (none / 0) (#59)
    by sj on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 01:33:34 PM EST
    But it's not the same thing as being his Senate Mentor which is a [quasi?]-official position.

    I don't tink Clinton understood... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Salo on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:35:24 AM EST
    ...how some of these things worked whilst he was President.  He was also saying that he needed a very vocal and angry left wing to give him cover.

    Sadly folk like AdamB and the gang at Kos (with Kos's blessing?) have defnged the ability of Dkos to do it..


    What do you mean by that? (none / 0) (#13)
    by Radiowalla on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:22:40 AM EST
    I rarely go there so I was not aware that they had been defanged.

    I think you misunderstood. (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:05:53 AM EST
    The latest conflict from that Obama DOJ brief on DOMA was "managed", for lack of a better term, but AdamB who argued that the lawyers were just doing their jobs and advocating zealously for their client.  It wasn't their fault that they had to liken gay marriage to incest was the gist of the "party line" over there.  Left criticism of the Obama Administration - actually any criticism - no matter how closely tethered to a genuine policy position is more often than not shot down over there these days.  Of course, you can still be ridiculously mean and nasty about Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid if you want though.

    In any case, the ability of the dkos community to agitate on causes, issues and positions that the Obama Administration disagrees with has been greatly reduced in recent months.  He seems to be off limits and a good number of folks over there seem to be constantly on the ready to hold the line if anyone dares criticize his Administration's policies.  Unless of course you can finger Pelosi or Reid and shield Obama lol.


    It is nonexistent (5.00 / 1) (#46)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:14:53 PM EST
    There is no activism at Daily Kos anymore - except for Iran apparently.

    Except for Iran? (none / 0) (#55)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:51:04 PM EST
    The FP position on Iran is that it doesn't have anything to do with US politics (um-kay) - and that they don't know anything about it (kudos at least there) so they won't be covering the situation.

    Anywhooo, people are still trying to reach that audience on matters of liberal/progressive policy.  If they name Obama, they tend to go down.  If they don't, they advance a few squares until someone let's the cat out of the bag and they are beaten back along with the policy...

    At this point, I learn far more here and a few other places about what's really going on with the Administration and the Congress.  As you know, that did not used to be the case - dkos used to be much more of a leader on the "oversight" front.  It is too bad, but it is what it is and apparently a number of people are quite content with it being more of a cheerleading, numbers crunching gig than a place for policy discussions.  It is interesting though because in that context it is difficult for me to understand what the FP is talking about when they use the term, "Better Democrats".  If there is no policy debate outside the current party line, then that term could easily mean something entirely different from what many might think it means.  That term could mean that Harry Reid is a "better democrat" while Bernie Sanders is not.


    I'm with you (none / 0) (#15)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:31:43 AM EST
    DKOS is just as powerful as ever at influencing their own followers.  They weren't harmed by the primaries..

    I guess they don't (none / 0) (#18)
    by Radiowalla on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:58:18 AM EST
    miss me...    :-)

    Once in a while I drop in, but it sure ain't what it used to be.  There seem to be only a scant handful of Clinton supporters so they are pretty much an all-Obama crowd.  


    defanged as anything... (none / 0) (#17)
    by Salo on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:56:18 AM EST
    ... with a potential for driving radical changes.

    Their unofficial counsel basically appeared to be defending a bit of DOJ homophobia.


    Really? That's disappointing. (none / 0) (#22)
    by Radiowalla on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:12:06 AM EST
    But Kos and followers have pledged themselves so fervently to Obama that perhaps they have lost sight of the issues in favor of the man.

    Perhaps??? (none / 0) (#50)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:33:23 PM EST
    On the same day (none / 0) (#28)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:24:24 AM EST
    they also spoke of media bias.  I'm pretty sure it was the same day.

    I chuckled.  I go over there occasionally, but just because they are the unintentional Stephen Colbert of the left.


    Another thought... (none / 0) (#9)
    by Salo on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 09:27:38 AM EST
    ... is the violence that the right is quite happy to employ the real source of their reign of terror over getting anything remotely leftist passed into law?

    Cases in point:

     The systematic murder of abortion doctors?

    The rape and pillage of central America by clients or corporations?

    The decimation of opposition to American hegemony in the Middle East? and how they looted the ME!

    The activities of the Repressive State Apparatus (Lacan's characterization of the Police and courts) in the black inner city?

    The reemergence of the militia/white supremacist terrorism we saw in the early 1990s?

    The gay bashing and discrimination...etc etc.

    They do not shrink from systematic brutalization and murder and randomized terror.

    The American left shrinks from passing a public healthcare option...it's almost pathetic to compare how dangerously robust "they" are and how weak "we" act.

    Well it helps that that the right wing (none / 0) (#12)
    by Faust on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:19:27 AM EST
    is composed largely of:

    1. Religious literalists that want to privilege literal interpretations of the Bible over the constitution (and er...science).

    2. Free Market whoreshippers that treat "Atlas Shrugged" the way the Christian fundies treat the Bible.

    3. American Exceptionalists who think that force should be our primary tool in effecting change throughout the world.

    Each of those blocks is laser beam focused on a handful of issues. The wishy washy left has its own ideologies but they seem quite a bit more spread out. Within mainstream politics you are much more likely to have "democrats" that are "fiscally conservative socially `liberal`" and it's tough to find a comparison on the other side.

    Anyway is all of this the inevitable consequence of having a Big Tent?

    Thay have an unholy trinity. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Salo on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:01:13 AM EST
    We have a hole riddled cacophany.

    Bingo (5.00 / 2) (#33)
    by jbindc on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:35:09 AM EST
    The Right has been very good at shaping two major philosophies - laissez-fair capitalism and "family values" (which then has the sub categories of gay marriage, abortion, prayer in schools, etc.) Then they are very organized with getting their people with the same talking point.

    By definition, "liberals" are (or rather, should be) open to many viewpoints - so the people out doing the talking are those whose issues are the environment, gay rights, women's rights, labor unions, poverty and welfare advocates, health care, etc.  Sometimes these interests overlap and sometimes they are at odds with each other (think how many "liberals" dismiss American car companies and their labor unions for "the environment").

    It's hard to be disciplined in your message when some of your Party's messages appear to compete or contradict each other.


    The left contingent suffers from bad PR (none / 0) (#16)
    by Radiowalla on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 10:32:35 AM EST
    The image of the left has been tarnished by the 60s and by the very able right wing noise machine.   This makes it much easier to marginalize a progressive challenger and make him/her seem out of the mainstream.   The hapless Democratic party is of little help, I"m afraid.  The party seems unable to craft a strong image and make it stick.

    Bill Clinton (none / 0) (#24)
    by Dadler on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:15:32 AM EST
    I'm curious what his definition of progressive is.  Does he want single-payer desperately?  Does he view the military industrial complex as extremely dangerous and out of control?  Does he view Wall Street as a discredited den of thieves in serious need of increased regulation?

    This is the downside of having Hillary in the cabinet.  Neither of them, if they really are the progressives some think they are, can be as effective inside this administration as outside.

    In other words... (none / 0) (#25)
    by Dadler on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:16:35 AM EST
    ...Obama seems to have done a good job of sterilizing both of them politically for the time being.

    He said (none / 0) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:21:55 AM EST
    rationally, single payer shou8ld be the most efficient system.

    That discourse (none / 0) (#40)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:06:37 PM EST
    if hespoke as a policy wonk, is one I would have payed to hear.

    Me too (none / 0) (#54)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:49:54 PM EST
    Exactly why (none / 0) (#27)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:22:47 AM EST
    I didn't want her there.

    I consider her a sell-out for prestige and power.  She could have been a much better voice for Democrats and "democracy" outside than inside.  Inside, she's just yet another puppet....yes she does have some power, but ultimately, it doesn't trump his.


    So are you suggesting (5.00 / 2) (#61)
    by Spamlet on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 04:06:13 PM EST
    that her power might trump his if she were still the junior senator from New York, with all the misogyny and slander of the primary season seemingly validated by his victory in the general election?

    She could have been a much better voice for Democrats and "democracy" outside than inside.  Inside, she's just yet another puppet....yes she does have some power, but ultimately, it doesn't trump his.

    Senate positions (5.00 / 2) (#62)
    by cawaltz on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:04:10 PM EST
    are based on seniority. If I'm not mistaken before taking her position she tried to get somewhere where she could have an impact on healthcare and was shut out. I'm not going to fault her for taking a position in the government where she figured she could have the best impact.

    I'm a firm believer in being pragmatic when you need to though.


    Wait (none / 0) (#30)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:27:45 AM EST
    what- how did she "sell out" I mean the only way that makes sense is if one assumes Hillary was some sort of Kucinich level progressive, which no one thinks- a moderate joining a moderate administration isn't selling out.

    No, she wasn't a (none / 0) (#32)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:32:48 AM EST
    Kucinich level progressive, but she was to the left of Obama.  We need a strong voice to the left of Obama.

    And I should have listed some examples (5.00 / 2) (#41)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:07:05 PM EST
    to back up my belief that she's to the left of Obama.

    --She voted against the crappy FISA renewal.  Obama voted for it.

    --She voted for the 30% interest rate cap on credit card rates (yes, that's still too high, but it's better than what we have, which is nothing).  Obama voted against it, then Democrats refused to put a cap in this year's credit card "reform".  Obama obviously didn't want it at all.

    --She was unambiguously pro women's rights.  Her speech stating that "women's rights are human rights" is a far cry from Obama's insistence that women and girls right to wear the  hijab should be protected.

    --She *FOUGHT* for health care reform in the 90's when doing so definitely wasn't cool.  Obama fights for nothing, except himself.

    And those are the issues I can think of off the top of my head.

    I have no idea where she would stand on GLBT rights, but I don't think it could have been worse than it is now.  I really think the left would have screamed if she'd issued the hate-filled brief that Obama DOJ issued.  I don't think she would have dared to do so.

    I think she would have been great as a "corrective" voice.  Now, the Obama administration has neutered both she and her husband....it's a travesty, but one she bought into, so I blame her as much as I do him.


    Interesting on the Hijab (none / 0) (#64)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 08:39:44 PM EST
    bit- so you believe that Women and Girls should have their religious and cultural rights infringed upon in order to better fit your own ideology.

    Sorry (none / 0) (#36)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:57:47 AM EST
    but its hard to see how Hillary was significantly to the left of Obama, they each had issues where they were more progressive and issues where they were more conservative, on the whole they weren't greatly different ideologically, their differences were primarily stylistic.

    Pretty much the same on the issues (5.00 / 1) (#39)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:04:41 PM EST
    and on health care, Obama has moved to the Clinton position.

    What does that even mean? (5.00 / 4) (#53)
    by sj on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:44:49 PM EST
    on health care, Obama has moved to the Clinton position.

    Because I don't think it means that he has suddenly spent 20 years studying it and therefore has an idea of which aspects of [true] reform get more bang for the buck.  She was doing her own research at least since she was an unknown First Lady of Arkansas.  I used to volunteer for Colorado AIDS Project in Denver and I know one of the people she pumped for information back then.  He's been a supporter ever since.  

    Throwing out a few phrases as bones does not equal an advocate.  And he has been pretty clear that bipartisanship is more important to him than the end result.  Moreover, if he has "moved to the Clinton position" (which I don't buy) it's with such dispassion that he can just as easily move to another position without troubling himself at all.

    On Foreign Policy issues you may be right.


    Apparently (none / 0) (#31)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:29:30 AM EST
    He's more of a progressive when he's not president than he was as president, because things like DOMA, Welfare reform and the DADT aren't exactly the actions of a progressive admin, and are rightly criticized when the Obama admin perpetuates them.

    The fact that you casually (5.00 / 4) (#34)
    by dk on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:45:53 AM EST
    lump in DADT makes me think that you are one of those non-reality based, ahistorical "progressives" like Chris Bowers.

    You do realize that prior to Clinton, gay and lesbian Americans were flat out prohibited from being in the military, whether they "told" or not, right?  You do realize that Clinton publicly supported, initially, the notion to gays and lesbians should be able to serve in the military with no strings attached, right?  You do realize that Democratic senators at the time announced their opposition to the idea, and threatened to pass a law (which would have been veto proof due to support from a number of democratic senators, as well as almost all republican senators) to ban gays and lesbians from the military?

    The only way your notion makes sense is if Clinton thought at the outset "Hey, I really want DADT, so I will openly advocate for full integration so that my own party and the military can revolt against me (undercutting my authority and depleting any political capital I may have) by ramming through a draconian law and then I will look like a hero in agreeing to a stupid, unworkable compromise."  Surely you don't think that, do you?  Because that is CDS, pure and simple.


    DADT (none / 0) (#35)
    by Socraticsilence on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 11:56:09 AM EST
    could be viewed as a step forward when it was first implemented, however by the end of Clinton's second term it is really hard to make that argument. Secondly, if DADT was the only real area where Clinton made a mistep that would be understandable, however when taken in the whole of his term Clinton's use for the left becomes pretty evident- they were there for him to "Sistah Souljah"- to spin off of and offer a moderate answer that co-opted a lot of GOP rhetoric as well as some (but not too many) conservative principles, its the exact same thing that Obama's doing now.

    What do you mean? (5.00 / 1) (#44)
    by dk on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:14:28 PM EST
    At the end of his second term, the Republicans firmly controlled both houses of Congress and had just tried to impeach him.  You think it would have been easier for thim to do it then?  

    Once again, pure ahistoricism.


    Except ... (5.00 / 3) (#49)
    by Yman on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:33:18 PM EST
    at the time that DADT was developed as a compromise, Clinton was facing a hostile Congress, DOD and American public, the majority of which opposed the repeal of the ban.  He paid a high price in political terms for pushing the repeal early in his first term.  Obama has a strong Congressional majority, no DOD opposition to speak of, and a public that strongly favors (70-80%) repealing DADT and the ban.  He also has (for the time being, at least) strong public approval and support in general.  In short, the rest of the country is ready for this, it's just that he isn't willing to take on (even a relatively easy) fight.

    Beyond that, by the end of his second term he was facing a Republican-controlled Congress with ZERO chance of getting a repeal.


    Same is true for Obama (none / 0) (#37)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:03:07 PM EST
    Pols are pols my friend.

    They are not your friends and you need to fight for your issues because pols will fight for their interest (getting elected) not yours.

    Sometimes those interests coincide. The idea is to make them coincide as much as possible.

    That is what "make them do it" is all about.


    Asking for votes (none / 0) (#42)
    by lilburro on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:11:21 PM EST
    it seems to me that on an individual level Obama asked for votes (of course, I want better healthcare, etc.)  Personally, I thought he was far better than McCain.  And that seems to have been true of 99.99% of Democratic bloggers - as individuals, Obama spoke to them.

    But as a collective, blogs totally missed an opportunity in 2008.  As a collective, blogs asked for no respect from Obama.  Is it wise for blogs to support a candidate that says "f*ck you" to the entire medium?

    Over at Pandagon, Amanda tells me that "there's a real danger in bloggers seeing themselves as an entity who needs that sort of catering response, because we sacrifice independence for it."

    Independence during the primaries was largely sacrificed anyway.  It would have been much more lively to read a blogs in a blogosphere that had their vote up for grabs at all times - one week, for example, TL could support Obama, the next week Clinton, etc. etc.  That way the candidates could understand in terms of support there was no sure thing - a vote and a blog community would have to be locked down.  

    Instead blogs chose a candidate and ran with him/her.

    Obama doesn't sit down with bloggers.  Is that a problem?  Yeah, I think so.

    Did she say that? (none / 0) (#43)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:13:25 PM EST
    That has is a** backwards. It shows independence to DEMAND action in exchange for your support.

    I'll have to reread what she wrote but that strikes me as incredibly wrong.


    That is what she wrote (none / 0) (#45)
    by lilburro on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:14:37 PM EST
    in response to my comments at Pandagon, here.

    And I thought what she wrote at TPM Cafe was pretty much the same.


    For example (none / 0) (#47)
    by lilburro on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:21:46 PM EST
    She wrote at TPM:

    But like many of the bloggers Eric interviews note, ours is the energy of outsiders. The metaphor people grasp for more than anything is punk rock, and it's apt (especially the way that people who break into the mainstream are berated for selling out). So, instead of being mad at Obama for keeping us at a distance, I humbly suggest that he did us a favor. If he'd brought the bloggers into his inner circle, then it would be a lot harder for us to criticize him and hold him accountable for what appears to be a long 4-8 years of selling out progressive values because the skittish Democratic mindset is kicking in.

    Being outsiders actually makes us better allies to the Democrats when they actually deserve it...

    You want Obama at a distance?  You want to keep yourself at a distance?  Are you in the game or out?  You want to be in the winner's inner circle - in politics.  


    I disagree with your interpretation (none / 0) (#48)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 12:32:27 PM EST
    She is arguing, in essence, for a Left Flank.

    She argues it is easier to be that as an "outsider" rather than an "insider."

    I think that is an irrelevant label.

    If Obama does good, inside or out, say so.

    If he does bad, inside or out, says so.

    To me it is pretty simple.


    I think the distinction (5.00 / 1) (#60)
    by lilburro on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 01:38:06 PM EST
    between inside and outside is relevant.  To set in motion the political pressure of "make me do it" the political figure has to be listening.  

    And I don't know what barometer they are using to measure the nation's mood or desire for change.  What determines what they think is politically achievable at any given time?


    I find it encouraging (none / 0) (#58)
    by oculus on Tue Jun 16, 2009 at 01:29:49 PM EST
    Pres. Clinton solicits liberal bloggers in contrast to Pres. Obama, who disdains them  

    But I have to wonder: did the Obama admin.vet this mtg.  Kind of subversive, no?