Comments on populism

Well, today is the day, and what an mess of spin that Politico frames the administration for saying, in the event of a loss. First, the finger-pointing is not worth blogging about; the move of hearing Obama say "fight" and "turn combative" is interesting.

Let's put it in the context of the bank bailout.

First, I think we have to accept that Obama is going to have a credibility gap with the Fire Dogs vis-a-vis his new-found populist framing. The notion that Obama & Biden can lead a campaign of telling the banks to "give it back" when Summers and Geithner were the ones who "gave it away" is a hard sell. I'm sympathetic to the self-respecting progressive ears that find it an insult to pretend that Republicans are all alone in sheparding for the Banks, Insurance, and Pharma agenda, given the past year.

Second, there will not be any election-year traction for the rhetoric of bashing the banks now, without some action. Pass the bill that takes it back from the banks, and then, and only then, will it actually matter; otherwise, its just lame posture-taking populism.

Here's some comments between Universalist and LordMike from the recent post that I want to highlight:

Universalist: I don't think it's a matter of left vs moderate on this. They kind of come together in a health care deal where backroom deals with the drug companies and the favors given to insurance companies led to a reform which enshrines the current system. I'm not saying that single payer would have won moderates. But I think the disgust at our current state of politics was heightened by how Obama/Rahm went about this process. So that the right can be populists again, in the midsts of a great amount of economic pain and unemployment, whether it's on health care or the bail outs, etc. I guess folks need to crack open there What's the Matter with Kansas? book, blow the dust off it, and take a gander it. Or we could bash the "left of the left" and "purists", who have all so much power in *coughs*. The Obama administration seems to have made a past time of this, so why stop the precedent?

LordMike: It's frustrating, 'cos no one cared about all the backroom deals and corruption when Republicans were in power.  I mean, did anyone lose their seat over Medicare Part D even though it was a worse corporate giveaway than HCR?  No!  Some people complained aobut it, but that was it.  And now people are mad 'cos Nelson got a deal for Nebraska.  Well, that's how legislation works.  Yeah, it sucks, but every spending bill is filled with that kind of crap...

Universalist: It's not a good sign when we have to reach to Medicare part D as a comparable example to our current health care bill. But I do think the "culture of corruption" did work against the GOP in 06 and 08. A lot of other things were part of that but Democrats cleaning house and not doing business as usual was one of the strengths the Dems and Obama had and they do not have this this time around. And also with a recession and high unemployment the sort of populism one can use this time around has more punch then it would have any time before 08.

The Democrats are not going to be judged by the Republican standard because we ran on saying "had enough" and "change" and "we can govern better" than the Republicans. We didn't clean house and there was too much business-as-usual. To date, a lot of Fail in that regards has happened. Performing campaign rhetoric isn't going to change that 2010 dynamic-- only actions will. Putting the populist reform to a vote will change the equation.


Tags: 2010 (all tags)



This doesn't matter

While I am sympathetic to the argument that Obama has failed to distance himself from the Banks, it is, in the end, politically irrelevent.

Either the economy turns or it doesn't.  If it does, this stuff won't matter.  If it doesn't no amount of populist rhetoric will save us.

You can argue substantively that Obama should have been more aggresive on the stimulus, and that in turn would have put us in a better position this fall.  There is a lot of truth in that argument. And it was a mistake of the first order not to put distance between himself and Bernanke. 

But the next 3 years are going to be defined by the economy's performance. In January of 1983 Reagan was at 36% in the Gallup Poll and unemployment was well over 10%.  By December of 1983 Unemployment was clearly on the way down and Reagan was near 60. If unemployment is clearly headed down in November the political environment will completely different.  If it isn't we are going to get killed, in part because people will believe that the stimulus was a complete waste.

What Massachusetts does teach is that we do need to do a better job exposing Hypocrisy among Republicans.  This is why efforts like the one FDL launched are so idiotic: they give credibility to the very people who pushed the deregulation that caused this mess.   But in the end, I don't think that will matter.



by fladem 2010-01-19 12:07PM | 0 recs
he went too low on the stimulus

that is the biggest problem--I agree with you.

But it also would have helped for him to go after the big banks.

by desmoinesdem 2010-01-19 12:15PM | 0 recs
I am annoyed

by this spin:

THE OBAMA MACHINE -- A Democratic official says the DNC's Organizing for America, at least, is a winner today: “It's clear, win or lose, OFA has flexed the muscle of the president's grassroots army. One of the primary reasons the race is even close going into Election Day is the work OFA has done which has brought much of the base home and increased Democratic participation according to polls by double digits. The lesson here is that an engaged Organizing for America can help put a campaign in a position to win. Whether a particular campaign has an infrastructure, the talent and the candidate to put it over the top is another story.” From Saturday through last night, OFA vols across the country made 1.2 million calls into Massachusetts on behalf of Coakley.

It would have been horrible for Brown to sneak up and win without anyone noticing, but it will be more of a repudiation if he wins after huge spending by the DSCC and a major GOTV effort by OFA and others. What good is being able to make a lot of calls if your base isn't going to deliver for you?

by desmoinesdem 2010-01-19 12:14PM | 2 recs
Maybe missing the point?

And it's not really your fault, as I believe their argument is worded terribly.

After the 2008 election, it was feared that the Obama grassroots machine had been left in the closet to gather dust. I believe Jerome made a post about this months ago.

What we saw here in MA was an amazing springing to action in about 8 days' time. The machine was in almost full gear, although I believe it was more than enough but too late time wise.

Win or lose, I am positive that the grass roots machine will have made a huge help. Many of the seniors I called already had OFA organizers giving them rides. Yes, it's implausible that Scott Brown could have snuck up the entire way, but he also got way too far doing so.

I'm not terribly worried about the DSCC spending half a million on this campaign. I think it is money well spent considering their financial advantage. The democratic party got caught sleeping. We knew an attack would come in 2010. Now we know what direction it will come from, and how it will be conducted. I guarentee you every complacent incumbant democrat is vigilant today. And we have seen that OFA will be there for them.

If a 2 year seat warmer senator is elected today, but it saves a swing state 6 state senator tomorrow, I agree with Jerome that it might be a good deal if it also forces the democrats to get their act together.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-19 03:33PM | 0 recs

Spending and Deficits would end the careers of a lot of democrats in the Nov. elections . I am surprised it took the administration so late to understand the dynamic as it relates to those two issues . The unpopularity of the health care bill comes right from that . The administration burned through a whole year on the health care debate and ended up with a bill almost universally disliked for its size , scope , cost and all the special interests bribes in there ...It never made sense to me why an incremental approach on health care wasn't followed instead of the massive bill they tried to craft especially when almost 80% of people are satisfied with their own healthcare, it looked more like an ideological exercise instead of common sense to me......

by lori 2010-01-19 12:25PM | 0 recs

There is no way to do it "incrementally".  The problems are so vast and so interconnected, only a big bill would suffice.  BTW, in May, only 40% of people were happy with their health care.  I suspect that if reform goes down, this may will see the same drop in numbers, and the dems will end up being even bigger losers in november.

by LordMike 2010-01-19 12:40PM | 0 recs

An incremental approach makes sense in hind-sight, but who in July-August could have guessed 250 house Dems and 60 Senate Dems would fail to agree for months on end?

Secondly, the biggest part of the bill is the extra spending - about $150 billion a year when it starts - on the medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies. That's big cheese, if it can't be done now it will likely not get done for years. Strip that out of the bill and your left with the exchanges, the medicare commission, some insurance regulation and that's it really.

by vecky 2010-01-19 01:13PM | 1 recs
Merely Public Relations

Populism sucks, it's merely PR. I resent the accussation that "Summers and Geithner were the ones who gave it away" - has the blogosphere forgotten the previous admin already? Over the past year the admin and Congress has done a lot to help common people and recover money from the banks. With the exception of the autos and AIG pretty much all TARP money has been accounted for. The rehetoric is largeyly irrevalent - yes since 2010 is a campaign season I suspect it will get harder, but I don't expect the dems to be in campaign mode 24/7 in off years. Sometimes one has to govern too.

by vecky 2010-01-19 01:09PM | 0 recs
RE: Merely Public Relations
Vecky You forget the other taxpayer subsidies to Wall Street banks. Note for example that taxpayers have guaranteed the debt of Goldman Sachs, Citi and others. Consequently they can borrow at lower rates compared to their smaller bank competitors. All their commercial paper has also been guaranteed. Geithner on Christmas Eve has given Fannie and Freddie a blank check for all their losses which will run into the hundreds of billions. Think about this. China with a $4.5 trillion economy is spending with a stimulus plan $200 billion to build a national high speed train network. The US on the other hand has given out to Goldman, SocGen and other banks $180 billion via AIG to payout 100 cents on a dollar on CDS bets with no negotiations for a haircut. Blankfein told the FCIC that he was not even asked by Geithner. You make a correct observation that Paulson/Bernanke and the Republicans are equally complicit. The difference is that Obama campaigned on changing politics as ususal in DC but in actions just followed through on Bush's policies in the financial realm. That's why people are pissed. They are angry about the corruption in DC and with both political parties. But since we don't have a viable third party they keep voting one and then the other with the no change to the kleptocracy.
by ab initio 2010-01-19 02:37PM | 2 recs
RE: Merely Public Relations

The problem is we really don't know how much money was actually given to these banks over and above TARP. It's a black box. Then of course you have Citi, that has been granted a sweetheart deal thanks to Summers/Geithner. Recently there was the revelation as how the government just forgave 25 billion in taxes for Citi, after they bought themselves back from the government. The reason given was they would have written off the taxes anyway because of past losses, now that they are solvent. Except maybe not, because Citi just reported a 4Q loss of 7.5 billion. So a basically insolvent company was given a back door bailout through tax relief (which incidentally they were legally obligated to pay), why? Anyone? At the same time Citi is hiking CC interest rates up to the wazoo for everyone.

by tarheel74 2010-01-19 05:13PM | 0 recs
I always agree with you, but...

I was terrified here in Boston at how Scott Brown was able to tap into it.

I, too, had dismissed those calling for more populism from Obama.

But if MA has taught me one thing, it's that people want it, and they will take it from even the republicans.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-19 03:37PM | 0 recs
RE: I always agree with you, but...

We should meet up sometime and have a Bostonian MyDD post mortem of sorts.

by Kyle Shank 2010-01-20 01:37AM | 0 recs
Democratic Party is held to a higher standard

because we are suppose to be the party of the worker and the not party of the corporations. Everyone expects the Republicans to look out for the corporations, so no one feels betrayed when the Republicans do.

Democrats always do better when they fight for the workers, because that is our role in this political system. When Democrats try to become a Corporate Party too our whole Political system becomes unbalance and our country goes to crap. It is Yin and Yang thing.

by srliberalguy 2010-01-19 01:42PM | 1 recs


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