A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And Clinton

howardpark has a recommended diary up here at MyDD, "Bloggers Keep Missing The Obama Story" in which he said:

That is a provocative title but I'm experiencing a strong case of deja vu.  Three months ago bloggers and everyone else professed amazement at Obama's number of donors and fundraising success.  Then it died down and pretty much all I saw for the next few months was a lot of meaningless snarky nit-picking about Obama's perceived campaign strategy or utterance by him or a staff person, but really nothing about the what drives Obama and what is propelling his campaign.

OTOH, over at DKos, ArkDem14 has a recommended diary, "Edwards Crushes Fred Thompson!", which goes on to show state after state of SUSA polls in which Edwards outperforms Clinton and Obama against Guiliani.  For example:

Ohio:
Clinton 48%, Guiliani 45%
Edwards 50%, Guiliani 42%
Obama 40%, Guiliani 51%

And, of course, it goes without saying that in national primary polls, Clinton remains far in the lead.

My point here is simple:  All three candidates have different strengths which their proponents can constantly harp on.  But we seem to have a very hard time critically comparing the three.

howardpark goes on to write:

Last week, however, I saw it.  I saw how students at Howard University were grabbing for Obama signs like starving children would grab for candy.  Students are almost always a leading indicator in campaigns.  I've seen it too among friends of friends and family who -- mostly I never could have imagined would vote for a African-American -- who are flocking to Obama in places like my hometown of St. Louis where both Democrat Congressmen (Clay & Carnihan) have endorsed him.  I've seen Obama too, a lot lately, and for the first time since the 1970's someone evokes the best of the 1960's.  The Obama campaign is what generational change looks like and what a movement looks like.
I've already explained in a whole slew of comments why the "movement" claim rings hollow for me, why Obama seems much closer to the charismatic JFK in 1960 than to the actual movement candidacy of RFK eight years later.  So I won't repeat that here.

But I will point out that generational change was what McGovern represented in 1972, and he lost the youth vote to Nixon.  "Students are almost always a leading indicator in campaigns"?  Not in 1972.  McGovern had the students--and Nixon used that very effectively against him.

I sincerely doubt that any Democrat--even Mike Gravel--could lose the youth vote a Republicna this time out.  But winning the youth vote alone is no guarantee--as those SUSA state polls cited by ArkDem14 should remind us.

More fundamentally, to answer howardpark's criticism--that bloggers just don't seem to get Obama--I just have to say that perhaps some don't, and perhaps others do.  Having felt such enthusiasm themselves before, perhaps they can appreciate it without necessarily sharing it themselves.  And this can be either wise or foolish, depending on the consciousness and the thought process it comes out of.

(Not to date myself, but.... Are they Bobby Darin fans scoffing at the Beatles?  Or Beatles fans scoffing at the Monkeys?)

OTOH, ArkDem14's diary has a kind of critical realism about it.  He notes, for example, that Edwards loses against Guiliani in New York--though he argues this need not seal his fate, even if Guiliani is the candidate. And he squarely faces up to Edwards's fundraising slump:

I was extremely disapointed that Edwards is likely going to end being the only candidate to raise less this quarter than during th previous quarter. There's just no excuse. In this game, money is everything, and money is what the media and the pundits care about. 9 million is pathetic, and if Edwards doesn't get his act together he won't be going anywhere. If I were his advisor I would tell him the next three months of his life should be nonstop fundraising. That he shouldn't fundraise as part of a campaign, but campaign during his fundraising. If were him, I would devote 12 hours a day, seven days a week to raising money so that I could pull closer to Obama and Clinton.

So here's what I see as quite typical in these two posts: The Obama supporter is gushing. The Edwards supporter is critically analytical. I'm not saying that all their supporters are like that. But in the blogosphere, the tendency of the most prominent voices certainly tends that way. And I'm not saying that either one is right.

I'm certainly more of the analytic critic when it comes to candidates. (I'll save my gushing for artists, activists, and everyday heroes, thank you.) But I know that campaigns and parties need both kinds.  It's easier, I'm sure, for us analytic types to understand the gushers, rather than the other way around--even though the gushers are positive that we don't understand them at all.

And yet, we have to find ways to speak and listen to one another.  That doesn't mean agree with one another.  In the background, we already agree on a lot that we don't even bother to talk about.  In the foreground, we probably won't agree on much of what we publicly disagree on.

But what if we try to make a new foreground?  What if we try starting a new conversation that's not about the candidates themselves, and how we feel about them, but about the mission of rebuilding America's political system so that it can work for all of us?  We may each have different ideas of who's been left out, and how to include them, but I think very few of us would argue with that description as something we can all agree on.

And if it's not, then let's have another discussion first: What is a framework for politics we all can agree on?  Because one thing's for certain: we need to be building bridges with one another if we're to have any hope of building bridges with the rest of America---and the world.

Tags: Barack Obama, 2008, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards (all tags)

Comments

107 Comments

p.s. Re: Clinton

I didn't address Clinton's strengths primarily because her partisans are barely part of the conversation here--certainly not enough for me to readily generalize.  But if any Clinton supporter reads this and wants to jump in, then by all means, please do so.

I may not be a big fan of hers, but I certainly don't buy the notion that "Clinton can't win because of her high negatives," for example. And I do think that the need to undestand one another includes Clinton supporters as well.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-02 02:02PM | 0 recs
Re: p.s. Re: Clinton

Here's an Edwards' strength - but it's doubtful some will find it as exciting as
pole dancing.

http://blog.johnedwards.com/oc/whatisone corps

by annefrank 2007-07-02 08:26PM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

I agree with your analysis that we have we already agree on a lot that we don't even bother to talk about and note that the Obama and Edwards campaigns, and supporters, have more in common than we acknowledge; a populist appeal, a message of change and egalitarian values.

As an Obama supporter I don't disagree with much of Edwards' platform and have been pleased to see him raise significant issues in the campaign which, it seems to me, have helped pull both Obama and, to a lesser extent, Hillary slightly to the left.

It is interesting to note that the combined polling, not to mention resources, of these two challenges that of the 'establishment' candidate and one wonders what dynamic that will bring to the campaign.  I am beginning to see the Edwards and Obama support as two slightly different expressions of the same progressive aspirations in the electorate.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-02 02:44PM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

I do, however, take exception to your characterisation of Obama's supporters as non-analytical though I can understand why you take this view.  Obama's campaign is a legitimate candidacy by an extremely intelligent and qualified politician who has sincere aspirations for the country and the electorate.  Is it perhaps too soon to dismiss it as a 'Children's Crusade?'

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-02 02:56PM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

I don't think he means everyone. One of the reasons Obama has become a close second for me are offline discussions I have had with supporters who explains his appeal better than some here do. One of the reasons I still have great reservations about HRC is that her supporters off and online seem about the same in their discussions of her.

by bruh21 2007-07-02 03:02PM | 0 recs
Don't Cartoonize What I Said!

You:

I do, however, take exception to your characterisation of Obama's supporters as non-analytical though I can understand why you take this view.

Me:
So here's what I see as quite typical in these two posts: The Obama supporter is gushing. The Edwards supporter is critically analytical. I'm not saying that all their supporters are like that. But in the blogosphere, the tendency of the most prominent voices certainly tends that way. And I'm not saying that either one is right.
Not only was a careful to qualify my statement. I explicitly disavowed the view that one was right and the other wrong.
You:
Obama's campaign is a legitimate candidacy by an extremely intelligent and qualified politician who has sincere aspirations for the country and the electorate.
With all due respect, however, this qualifies as "gushing" in my book.  I don't disagree with it.  I just don't find it terribly informative.

You:

Is it perhaps too soon to dismiss it as a 'Children's Crusade?'
And I don't do that. This sort of defensive trope is what we need to get beyond, IMHO.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-02 03:16PM | 0 recs
No Offence Intended

Senator Obama strikes me as a process-oriented rather than an issues-oriented candidate.  The lofty rhetoric about 'changing the politics in this country' which so frustrates his detractors is matched by a consistent set of process-oriented actions as legislator and presidential candidate.  I understand his message that the process must be changed, that it has an accretion of actors and influences which though merely convention and not law have shaped the outcomes of the democratic process, and not necessarily in the interest of the citizens.  I can see from his career as community activist, Constitutional scholar and legislator that he is qualified to understand this situation and is equipped to discern a solution and act on it, hence his candidacy.

His Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, co-authored with Tom Coburn last year, would give citizens transparent access to approximately $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans.  He authored legislation which was attached to the Department of Homeland Security funding bill which proscribed no-bid government disaster relief contracts and also has introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act.  In the campaign he has openly advocated public election finance, though declining in the primary, and has taken the trouble to get a ruling from the FEC that general election public finance is still a possibility and has invited the Republican nominee to agree to use it.  He has declined to accept lobbyist and PAC contributions and contributors must affirm this on his contributions page.  Recently he revealed his Senate earmarks, and by example challenged his legislative colleagues to do so as well.  Last week he introduced a set of reforms which he would 'impose' as president which would end some lobbyist and contracting practices in the executive branch and give 'the public greater access to government business.'

He is not an anti-War candidate or an anti-Poverty candidate but a candidate who is proposing to change, in fact reform, the processes by which we elect our politicians and they govern.  That seems to be our most pressing problem and one which will facilitate finding solutions to the others.  When he says things like we can change the special-interest-driven politics in Washington and transform our country many people apparently hear an empty phrase but I hear a dog-whistle tuned to just the right frequency.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-02 05:57PM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

Senator Obama strikes me as a process-oriented rather than an issues-oriented candidate.  The lofty rhetoric about 'changing the politics in this country' which so frustrates his detractors is matched by a consistent set of process-oriented actions as legislator and presidential candidate.
I think that's a fair statement. And a good way of getting at what I think is lacking.  Our great era of procedural reform was the Progressive Era, but it came up remarkably short.  More good intentions than results.  In contrast, our great era of structural reform was the New Deal.  But structural reforms also brought procedural reforms with them as well.  The New Deal wasn't perfect, either.  But it was significantly more effective.

I can see from his career as community activist, Constitutional scholar and legislator that he is qualified to understand this situation and is equipped to discern a solution and act on it, hence his candidacy.
I can see that he could be so equipped.  But I think that the historical evidence is plain: procedural reforms, though necessary, are far from sufficient.

He is not an anti-War candidate or an anti-Poverty candidate but a candidate who is proposing to change, in fact reform, the processes by which we elect our politicians and they govern.  That seems to be our most pressing problem and one which will facilitate finding solutions to the others.  When he says things like we can change the special-interest-driven politics in Washington and transform our country many people apparently hear an empty phrase but I hear a dog-whistle tuned to just the right frequency.
This is, however, remarkably similar to what the Progressives believed.  They did some good things--direct election of Senators, passing the Pure Food and Drug Act, etc.--but they generally were mistaken that proceedural change was sufficient in itself.

In fact, overall, their proceedural changes did more to aid the powerful than the powerless.  Their civic reforms tended to block socialists from gaining significant governing power in the industrial Northeast.  Their initiatives tended to be used most successfully by the same special interests who dominated the legislatures they were trying to circumvent.  And their focus on good government was the culmination of an ideological shift against expanded voting rights that was the catalyst of a prolonged decline in voter participation rates that is with us to this day.

I'm not saying that Obama's good intentions are doomed to have equally problematic results.  Rather, I think they make a good starting place, if people are willing to take seriously the lessons of history that something more is needed as well.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-02 06:34PM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

Well, I guess that is where people like you come in, to demonstrate some of the lessons of history and help us get it right.  I certainly hope we can reverse the ideological shift against expanded voting rights that was the catalyst of a prolonged decline in voter participation rates that is with us to this day.  This seems central to Obama's thesis and we will need to watch this space closely for signs of flagging determination.  Many, if not all, of these historical risks are still relevant and without a proper understanding of how these obstacles can be avoided or overcome we clearly may fail in our stated objectives.

No sooner do we reform this process then those who seek to acquire or maintain extraordinary influence will seek to manipulate the process, I don't see this cycle of reform and degeneration ever ending.  But the price of democratic representation is eternal vigilance and nobody has been minding the store for far too long.

I also agree that this is merely the starting point, but it seems to me the appropriate or optimal one.  If we can reform the process in such a way as it invites the participation of increasing numbers of citizens there is no limit to what might be achieved in the future.  I have a great deal of respect for your grasp of the historical narrative which informs our current politics and agree that we need to be much better informed on how any attempts at innovation or renovation look from the perspective of our own progressive history.  I wonder if we could even contemplate the structural reforms you remind us are missing without some more significant, positive mandate from the electorate.  Creating that mandate, somehow, seems to be where Obama is headed but I admit we are in uncharted waters.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-02 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

I wonder if we could even contemplate the structural reforms you remind us are missing without some more significant, positive mandate from the electorate.  Creating that mandate, somehow, seems to be where Obama is headed but I admit we are in uncharted waters.
This is where Edwards shows his strength by focusing on poverty and getting the kinds of head-to-head results that ArkDem14 presented.  It's where Obama falls short by being too process-focused to claim a substantive mandate for structural reforms.

This could change with time, of course. But that's where I see things standing now.

If I had to commit right now, I'd say that I favored an Edwards/Obama ticket, because Edwards would mobilize a mandate for significant change, and Obama, as VP, would be an excellent facilitator, getting substantial changes passed with broader support by virtue of his attention to process and consensus-building.  Then, by the time it was his turn to be President, he there would be less of a need for structural change, and more of a need for what he does best.

But this is still a long way out from the election, and I personally find it still to premature to choose sides.  I share that thought simply to illustrate the kind of interactive thinking of possibilities into the future that I'd like to see us all engage in.

Whatever possible such scenarios we envision, however, they will not happen without us staying involved.  Although they can play a crucial role, neither Edwards nor Obama is going to save us.  As Eugene Debs said, "I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out."

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-02 07:48PM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

I agree with the framing of Obama as the procedural and Edwards as the structural reformer.  This discussion clarifies that distinction for me and explains why I am also very drawn to Edwards' positions and message.  But I still wonder whether that kind of structural change is possible without re-energising the electorate and getting a broad, unequivocal mandate, at least among Democrats.  Without getting into the horse-race aspects of the campaign it seems, at least at this stage, that Edwards' proposals for structural reform have not resonated in the electorate nearly as strongly as they have among dedicated progressives and this does not bode well for his, and our, ambitions in this respect.

I believe that the procedural reform must occur first, if only to neutralise the extraordinary influence exerted by actors who are not interested in reform of any kind, but in their own, or their client's, power and prosperity.  If I thought that Edwards could achieve structural reform in the absence of a sea change I would support him.  In any case I strongly agree that Obama's and Edwards' strengths are complimentary and that the synergy that they could have if they worked, somehow, together is an underutilised asset to the cause.  My preference, obviously, would be for an Obama/Edwards candidacy in the general election because I believe the procedural reform must precede the structural, but at least now I know why.  

Incidentally, I take Debs' point about the messianic tendency of causes and sincerely hope that is not where this is all headed, Lord knows.  

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-02 08:23PM | 0 recs
Thanks to both of you
for a fruitful thread.
by horizonr 2007-07-02 08:42PM | 0 recs
There Is Certainly A Paradox

between Edwards standing third primary polls, but doing better in head-to-heads against Republicans.

In part because he's a Southerner, and because of his economic populism, he has a chance to win outer South states and run up a very solid majority, which should also help us increase our Congressional majorities.

But he can't do that if he's not the candidate now can he?

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-02 09:13PM | 0 recs
Re: There Is Certainly A Paradox

No.  Nor Obama mobilise the youth, disenfranchised and independents with all the down-ticket benefits which an alternate populist victory might bring if he is not the candidate.  Shucks.  Don't suppose there is any way they could both be on the ticket?

I agree there seems something odd, and promising, in the Edwards polling paradox.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-02 09:26PM | 0 recs
And Wouldn't It Be Wonderful If

solving paradoxes actually solved our problems?

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-02 10:14PM | 0 recs
Re: And Wouldn't It Be Wonderful If

Well, if solving a paradox reveals a possible truth, that's always a good place to start.  But, if I understand you correctly, I agree there is a long road ahead to genuine and lasting reform.

I guess we better get started.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-02 11:04PM | 0 recs
Precisely!

You got my drift.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 05:06AM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

Honestly, people who are being polled haven't heard Edwards' message about poverty. People who are being polled know that he's that good-looking guy that ran with Kerry who had a great accent, but they don't know anything about his policies (yet).

The head-to-heads are pretty meaningless name recognition/positive IDs at this point. A significant number of people don't even recognize Barack Obama at this point, and many more don't know much more than the fact that he's a young black guy running for Senate.

I think the Edwards people are attaching to much significance to this polling (and I think the same is true for the Obama people re: the money race).

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-02 10:36PM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

running for President, not Senate. My bad.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-02 10:37PM | 0 recs
This Is Plausible, But Speculative

Particularly given how much attention has been focused on Clinton and Obama.  And how much Edwards focused on poverty in his first run.

The point of posting this diary was to encourage folks to think beyond these sorts of automatic responses.  Care to give it a try?

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 05:13AM | 0 recs
Sure

The most informed voters are partisan voters. Independent, or "swing" voters, are always, practically without exception, the voting bloc that is the least informed about elections (if you don't believe me, I can probably look up some voting behavior studies for you). The voters that are swinging back and forth between support for Giuliani and Edwards or Obama fall under this latter category.

These are the types of voters who don't really pay attention during the primaries. In fact, they likely won't pay attention until post-Labor Day 2008, and, in the case of the last election, post-Labor Day 2004. Even though Edwards has been talking about the "Two Americas" thing for 5 years now, these voters weren't paying a whole lot of attention to him; they were focused on George Bush and John Kerry. So they may have caught a couple of tidbits from Edwards. Maybe they associate a vague sense of economic populism with his name or maybe they remember the fact that he's the "son of a millworker" candidate. I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to bet a lot of money that not too many know the details of any of his policy proposals, and most are just voting off of what they remember from him in 2004 (young, good-looking and southern, a stark contrast to Kerry). So that's why I think these head-to-heads are very superficial, especially at this early point in the primary season, when an even smaller amount of these voters are paying attention (I'd still argue that Obama's lower recognizables give him more room to grow, but that's quite beside the point of electability being tricky to judge at this point).

What does seem to be good about these numbers is that Edwards' popularity with these voters hasn't taken a hit because of the haircut/hedge fund/mansion string of headlines. Granted, nobody's run a negative ad on him in the history of his national career, but it seems like either people don't know or don't care about his lifestyle (Hillary Clinton's pollster, Mark Penn, seems to be betting they don't know, since he's been spending the money and risking the blowback to try and find out through message-testing polls). That's definitely a good thing, and hopefully it stays that way.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-03 07:17AM | 0 recs
Of Course You're Right About Swing Voters Generaly

being low-information.  But the question tehn is: so what?  It's hard to know from these sorts of polls if they've already got enough information for their purposes, which is what I was trying to get at.

The sorts of polling that could tell you that would have to include a batter of at least 2-3 positive and negative pieces of information, to see how much this swayed people.  And that would just begin to answer such questions.

Absent that, the general consistency of Edwards doing better across a broad number of states despite being neglected in the press does have to mean something.

What does seem to be good about these numbers is that Edwards' popularity with these voters hasn't taken a hit because of the haircut/hedge fund/mansion string of headlines.
Yes, precisely.  This is the sort of thing we need to look at.  It's not the answer, but it's the kind of thing that helps us put together a composite picture.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 12:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Of Course You're Right About Swing Voters Gene

I guess "so what?" is my point about the polls, too. They really don't mean a whole lot at this point, because it's hard to say why people are choosing the candidates they are and how strong they are in their preferences. I would say not very, so all this means to me is that some people have a vaguely positive view of Edwards vs. Romney or Giuliani or whoever. I wouldn't advocate factoring this into anyone's decision, because its very transitory and almost certain to change one way or another.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-03 02:42PM | 0 recs
I'm Not Talking About Making Decisions

I wouldn't advocate factoring this into anyone's decision, because its very transitory and almost certain to change one way or another.
Framing it in terms making decisions is artificially raising the bar, in order to not think about the polls at all.

Of course Obama and Clinton partisans will want to do this.  But the polls aren't totally meaningless, just because they will surely change over time, or because they don't favor your candidate.  Yes, they will change, and our evaluations of them will change as well.  But right now they do say something that is remarkably consistent across a fair number of different states.  And that bears paying some attention to.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 05:56PM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

Obama's rhetoric certainly focuses on procedural reforms, and I think there's a reason for that. People in America understand that there's something greatly wrong with the process in Washington, but don't really have a great grasp on what they want done to fix it. It's awesome that Obama is keying into that frustration and turning it into positive feelings toward him as a candidate. It's a message that people are obviously responding to in great numbers, as evidenced by the number of donors this year (not that his charisma doesn't help, but 260,000 people could be persuaded to give money to someone based on charisma alone).

I think you're selling him short on the positive end, which a lot of people tend to do because they're turned off by the "movement/cult of personality/word du jour" that surrounds him. I'm not sure Edwards has a proposal on his website that Obama doesn't have on his (and watch out for a more detailed education plan when Obama addresses the NEA next week). I think people have really picked up on a frame, in this instance, that just doesn't match reality. I appreciate that Edwards has emphasized policy proposals in his rhetoric, but I think Obama's emphasis on the process actually belies a really detailed set of policy proposals that, for whatever reason, just aren't getting covered in the MSM (but we can't really expect that, can we?) or the blogosphere.

I'm starting to get the urge to write a diary or two a week just outlining a specific policy proposal from the Obama campaign, and possibly comparing it to Edwards and Clinton (though hers don't seem to exist beyond talking points...) to dispel this false notion that Obama lacks policies to back up his rhetoric.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-02 10:52PM | 0 recs
Re: No Offence Intended

ugh, sorry. that first sentence in the second paragraph should say "selling him short on the policy end". No more typing past 1:30 am for me.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-02 10:53PM | 0 recs
It Would Be Great

For you to do such a series of diaries.  That would help to offset the general tendency to gush.

But let me be clear. My argument is not that Obama has no policy proposals. The distinction is what they focus on doing. A diary series would help illuminate that, which would be all to the good.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 05:26AM | 0 recs
Re: It Would Be Great

But do you really think Obama's gonna pass ethics reform and then pack it in for the first term?

During the debates, he has said his top two priorities are Iraq and health care, so it would seem ethics reform, while a key part of his pitch, wouldn't be the beginning or the end of his policy pursuits in the White House.

He's using the ethics reform issue as a way to key into his "new politics" theme with a popular proposal and at the same time distinguish himself and his message from Clinton's and Edwards' (it would be easy to get lost in the shuffle of "it's the middle class, stupid" and "two Americas" by doing the standard Dem thing and talking about health care, the poor, and college tuition).

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-03 07:21AM | 0 recs
"The Standard Dem Thing"???

The fact is, there's a whole lot of data to show that the Dems suffer from not enough identification with standing up for the little guy. It's why the Dems haven't gained in party identification, even when the GOP has faded.

He's using the ethics reform issue as a way to key into his "new politics" theme with a popular proposal and at the same time distinguish himself and his message from Clinton's and Edwards'
And how is this different from the "new politics" of Bill Clinton 16 years ago?

Bottom Line: What would be so wrong with fusing these two messages together?

(Actually, Clinton did a better job of this--rhetorically, at least--back in 1992 than Obama is doing today.)

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: "The Standard Dem Thing"???

Bill Clinton = "It's the economy, stupid." I would say he focused more on bread and butter economic issues, from what I can surmise from the ads I've seen since (I was 6 years old when that race happened, so don't trust my memory).

And Barack Obama isn't a creature of the DLC. He will be a more progressive president than Bill Clinton.

But even so, Bill Clinton's campaign was successful (though it was a 3-way election). It wouldn't be a bad thing at all to sound like Bill Clinton.

Finally, Obama does hit messages of inequality. If you've seen his stump speech, you know he talks about economic fairness. He hasn't made it a part of the "brand" in the same way Edwards has. I hope he can, because I like the focus to be on those issues, too, but I don't think the message of a campaign precludes it from pursuing policies outside that narrow little box once it enters office.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-03 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: "The Standard Dem Thing"???

I definitely agree that Bill Clinton seemed to draw more on the economy than Obama, and I hope Obama does start talking about issues like that more

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-03 02:56PM | 0 recs
Clinton Helped Himself, Damaged The Party

The point is that a winning presidential candidate is necessary, but not sufficient.

The Democratic brand needs reinforcing on the front of fighting for the little guy/gal.  If we do that, we have the potential to rebuild the level of Democratic identification (not just leaners) into the mid- or high-40s.  We do that, and we're the dominant congressional party--election after election after election--for at least a generation.  And we don't just win the elections. We set the agenda.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-04 04:03AM | 0 recs
Excellent, Shaun

That is precisely the difference.  From my view this is exactly why I support Obama.  

We can keep piling issues upon issues, but until we restore a semblance of process and honor to our government, the issues pile up as just more shit to wade through and you never know what dishonest creep your going to find on your way there.

Also, to get things done in this crazy country, it must be done by increments and between the honest representatives (no matter how few there might be on BOTH sides) of our government.

by noquacks 2007-07-03 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent, Shaun

when this process with honor you refer to exist?

by bruh21 2007-07-03 09:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent, Shaun

Also, other than the insurance mandate, it's difficult to find policy differences between Edwards and Obama.

I think most people like both of the candidates, but some respond more to the Edwards message and some to the Obama message. I know there are a few hardcore partisans on this blog, but I get the feeling from talking to "regular" (haha) people that many would be happy with either one.

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-03 09:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent, Shaun

i actually like both- i just only slightly prefer edwards more. there are some stylistic differences that i think affect strategy but its not policy related

by bruh21 2007-07-03 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent, Shaun

yep, that's exactly where i'm at, too (except I'm an Obama guy).

It makes it all the more frustrating to see Hillary ahead in the national polls and watch supporters of the two better candidates beating each other up on the blogs

by Max Fletcher 2007-07-03 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Excellent, Shaun

honestly i am not worried about the national polls. they really are name ID

by bruh21 2007-07-03 10:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Still Gushing

Why Paul, your diary today is positively Obama-esque!  Searching for common ground, listening to those with different ideas and discussing the future of the Democratic Party and the country.  Come on over to the sunny side of the street!  

You are standing in the middle of the track on the back stretch of a hotly contested primary so it's no surprise that you might get run over.  Next March we will be united (sort of).

"Who is wise?  He that learns from everyone.  Who is powerful?  He that governs his passions.  Who is rich?  He that is content.  Who is that? Nobody."

-Benjamin Franklin

PS- you'd make a good Supreme Court Justice- very narrow rulings.  

by mboehm 2007-07-02 05:40PM | 0 recs
Nice

I like this diary quite a bit and I appreciate the points you made. However (and I realize you are making generalizations, and are not saying they apply to everyone), I would argue that Edwards supporters can be just as "gushing" as Obama supporters. Clinton supporters, at least here, are more defensive than gushing. Also, as an Obama supporter, I like to think of myself as analytical, and agree with everything Shaun Appelby already said. But overall, some solid points.

by This Machine Kills Fascists 2007-07-02 06:36PM | 0 recs
I Know What You Mean

About Edwards supporters "gushing" around here, and you have a point.

But if you look at diaries more than comments, then I think my general distinction stands.  While the diaries certainly hype Edwards, a greater percentage of those that draw attention have a substantive focus, compared to the Obama diaries that focus on Obama himself, or the buzz around him.

Of course, there are a fair number on each side that focus on other things, such as horserace stuff.  I am keenly aware that I'm generalizing here, but almost all groups have far more overlap than people realize when you break things down.  Even on hot-button social issues, for exmple, more liberals and conservatives agree than disagree.  We just tend to notice the disagreements more.

The trick, then, is to be able to discuss the disagreements and differences, while drawing on the background strength of the agreements.

The sooner that differences I pointed to disappear entirely, the happier I will be.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-02 08:02PM | 0 recs
Re: I Know What You Mean

Totally agree.

by This Machine Kills Fascists 2007-07-03 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

Excellent discussion, Paul & Shaun.  Thank you.

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-02 09:43PM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

Aw shucks - you gush!

by Michael Bersin 2007-07-03 02:09AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

Obama supporters gush because Obama is doing good and is a good fit for his supporters.  Edwards supporters are critically analytical because they don't like him as much and he is doing worse.

I think that if some guy who looked a little more like they just came out of a bar fight entered the race you would see a lot of previous edwards supporters gushing.  Especially if he did better than edwards.

I think that this was well illustrated in the poll where edwards had 2% strong support.

by sterra 2007-07-03 03:01AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

this is untrue- the difference for me is experience of time. i gushed over clinton, and then I grew up (not saying this is true of present obama supporters, but it is true of me) and I realized politics isn't about gushing, but about deeper things than how I feel. I actually like all three candidates in various ways, but along with liking them, I look at who I think can win, why I think that, what it will mean if they win, why I want a certain type of candidate etc. I doubt I m the only Edwards supporter who feels we have heard all this keep hope alive stuff and why  can't we all just get aalong stuff before. The truth is this country has never gotten along, Progress has always happened in struggle- the civil rights era was struggle, the fight to give women the right to vote was struggle, the civil war was struggle, the gaining of independence was struggle and on and on. So when someone says- we need to build consensus- my response is- no you need to be effective which is sometimes about consensus and sometimes not. I am focused on the fact that I want an agenda more than consensus because the later isn't always desireable. I doubt I am the only Edwards supporter who feels that way. And yes, Obama for me would be a close second because saying all that he's still quantums better than HRC, and I believe he has his heart in the right place, if not the right focus.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 04:59AM | 0 recs
This Is Just The Sort Of Comment I Wanted

Not just because I agree with it.  But because I think it lays out an argument that Obama supporters would do well to respond to.

I hope that they will take up the challenge.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 05:31AM | 0 recs
Re: This Is Just The Sort Of Comment I Wanted

If this is the argument you want, you have just done a disservice to all that was written above.  Let's break down his argument.

1. Gushing.  He accuses Obama supporters of a superficiality to their politics which should be about "deeper things than how I feel".  Let me tell you, there are things much deeper than a 12 point plan on how to fix a particular issue - what we stand for, what should be Government's role in society, what is our social responsibility.  The trouble with the Democratic Party, and especially the Progressive wing of it, has been that like Faith and Politics, we have been become afraid to talk on those levels and thereby ceded that to the Republicans. These are issues the man on the street understands more than policy points.  The Imus flap was brought up in another thread and frankly, you don't get it.  People are fucking sick and tired of the whole cynical, gothca, talking smack, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, brand of discourse in American Politics, in American sports, in American culture. So if I "gush" over a politician who has the balls to stand up against that cynicism by refusing to get drawn into it, who offers a change from that, who encourages us to be better than that, it does not come from a cheap, hip, superficiality, but actually something a lot deeper, a lot more meaningful.

2. Struggle & Consensus.  You are never effective if you don't build consensus; our way of government is built on the concept of consensus.  When you back away from building consensus you are merely lazy, or you don't have the stomach for the fight.  Another misrepresentation of Obama.  He's never backed away from a fight, he in fact enjoys the challenge of going into things where the odds appear stacked against us.  Far too many people in the modern Progressive movement wear their ineffectiveness like a badge of honor.  You can see it in Dennis Kucinich, standing there, I'm right about health care, I'm right about impeachment, I'm right about peace.  Of course he's right, but so what, he's completely ineffective. He is too content with just being right.  He's got no game.  

When the people on the bridge in Selma got hosed and attacked, they didn't go home and walk around wearing their bloody shirt and say you see I'm right and they're wrong.  They got back up and walked back onto the bridge and the country saw that and more came down and they kept doing that again, and again, and again until there was a consensus.  It is never enough to just struggle.

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 07:49AM | 0 recs
Re: This Is Just The Sort Of Comment I Wanted

Once more stop lecturing others about what you Doug think is the right answer. I go through great pains below not to lecture the person above, but instead tell him or her from where my thinking grows. The problem often with you Doug is that your post are about Doug's process as if others haven't though of these things. I've read many of Paul's diaries. He is one of the few around him who is extremely well thought out.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 08:14AM | 0 recs
Re: This Is Just The Sort Of Comment I Wanted

This is another example of an ad hominem attack, an attack of the poster not the post.  My opinion differs from yours so it becomes a lecture.  

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: This Is Just The Sort Of Comment I Wanted

doug if what I say above seems to you to be an ad honiem then that says it all really

by bruh21 2007-07-03 08:47AM | 0 recs
With All Due Respect

I think you're missing my point.  You are reiterating the same old standard Obama defense that we've all heard a zillion times before.  By in large, Obama supporters find it convincing. Others do not.  I was hoping to get beyond this sort of shouting match approach to break things down a little more into component parts, and see if they couldn't be put together in different ways.

Specifically, on your two points:

(1) Of course people are sick of partisan bickering.  But they also want things to get done.  And the things they want done are violently opposed by the GOP power structure. Just look at what's happened in the Senate since January, for example.  The notion that Democrats and Republicans are equally responsible for this state of affairs is simply a lie. And your argument above--intentionally or not--implicitly reinforces that lie.

This hardly means that I think progressives are blameless.  I have plenty of criticisms of how progressives have organized over the past several decades.  But creating polarization is not among their sins.  This doesn't mean they have always handled polarization well.  But it does mean that a more subtle, more nuanced, more sophisticated form of criticism is necessary than that offered by Obama--and especially by his supporters like you, as you express yourself above.

If you're all for reaching out and creatring consensus, then start doing so right here and right now.  Make some real effort to understand a less cartoonish view of the issues involved.

(2) All the major accomplishments of American political history are the result of political struggle. Consensus-building in the polity at large comes after the struggle.  The consensus-building that matters is that within the movements for change, and the coalition of forces that is willing to support them.  Consensus-building across the aisle is generally a formula for incrementalism--which is fine, provided that the foundations are sound. But the foundations are laid by struggle.

That's why I tend to think that Obama would be a better President after Edwards.  Because Edwards is more of a fighter, and that's what's needed to lay down a new foundation.

JFK and LBJ were generically similar to Obama and Edwards.  JFK would have never established the range of Great Society programs that Johnson did.  Medicare?  Not a chance.  The landmark Civil Rights legislation?  Highly doubtful, at best. Of course Vietnam is a cloud over everything Johnson accomplished.  But he dramatically changed our domestic policy landscape for the better.  No President since FDR comes close to what LBJ accomplished.  Consesnsus feels good. But the challenge of leadership is to do good.

When the people on the bridge in Selma got hosed and attacked, they didn't go home and walk around wearing their bloody shirt and say you see I'm right and they're wrong.  They got back up and walked back onto the bridge and the country saw that and more came down and they kept doing that again, and again, and again until there was a consensus.  It is never enough to just struggle.
With all due respect, you have a very garbled understanding of the voting rights struggle, and the Selma-Montgomery March. It was not about consensus-building, except in a very minor, tertiary way.  It was about forcing an issue onto the national agenda, and doing it at a time when the Democrats had an historic legislative majority, and a pro-Civil Rights White Southerner in the White House.

Johnson pushed through as much legislation as fast as he could in 1965-66, because he knew that the large majorities he had wouldn't last, and the opportunities for GOP support where needed--on Civil Rights, especially--would soon slip away.  He had already gotten the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, before the 1964 election.  Another major Civil Rights bill the next year was too much, too soon according to the conventional wisdom, according to the DC consensus.  But once the grassroots activists put voting rights on the agenda, LBJ was fiercely behind it, and the law that was passed was not the result of consensus.  It became the foundation of a new consensus, over a period of years and protracted struggle.

Struggle => Accomplishment => Consensus

That's the way it works when it comes to the really big issues.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Guess I'm just not getting anything done this afternoon.  Fair enough.  There are obviously major distinctions to draw between the apt JFK/LBJ analogy and the political terrain faced by the 08 candidates.  But the one that can't be ignored is the difference in the media environment.  LBJ could do what he did partly because he could trust at least some organs in the media to give him and his arguments a fair shake.  We don't live in that place anymore.  Instead, we live in this awful simplistic universe where, as Rittenhouse, RIP, so beautifully explained, our political press acts like a bunch of gossipy mean girls who are drunk with the power of deciding who gets to be popular and cool.  Thank God for the blogs and the tiny little stream of air they poked into the suffocating bubble of the elite, mainstream American political press.  But the work of dismantling that beast has only just started.  Total blog readership today is a tiny fraction of the voting public and while there have been lots of victories along the way, the press has become fiercely resistant to the blogs' ascendancy and the deck is still stacked against progressive ideas in the media as a result.    

Let's say hypothetically Obama or Edwards came out with a bunch of bold new plans called "GS2" that were going to help the poor, publicly finance elections, undo NAFTA, create single payer insurance, etc.  Can you imagine the howls and cackling?  I shudder to think of the Maureen Dowd columns.  In fact, efforts to force this kind of a program into the public debate without first changing the terms and the deeper fundamentals are likely a net detriment to the progressive cause.  It's just another opportunity for the broader public to hear another full-scale assault on progressive values, the end result being increased marginalization of the goals we seek to achieve.

The allure of Obama is that he's got enough leeway in the media to espouse these ideas and not get shouted down.  Now, granted, he went out and hired a bunch of jackass consultants who have him speaking like another scared, timid Dem right now.  But the themes that he set out for his public persona and fundamental message are still an excellent articulation of core progressive principles.  So the hope is that he has a chance to really recalibrate the country's understanding of the progressive agenda, and in that sense, I would argue that you have it exactly backwards.  Edwards or someone else can come in and be a fighter afterwards, once Obama has set the table by reestablishing progressive politics as a dominant force in our political culture. While he's at it, I think Obama's given us every reason to believe he would enact a set of reforms that would further this vision with an eye towards growing and broadening the progressive coalition behind him into a "consensus" level, which in US politics translates to roughly 60%+. Judging from polling on virtually every major issue on the progressive agenda--the war, energy, health care, education, minimum wage--I think it's possible.  If he can do it, he will be an absolutely essential figure in this nascent progressive era.  

And to that extent, I think you're giving JFK the short shrift here, Paul.  The put a man on the moon version of the progressive vision and the great society version are indeed interrelated, then and today.  Most of what LBJ accomplished would have been impossible without an America that had been primed for change by a candidate, then President who embodied that desire.  So I don't think us Obama supporters do or should necessarily take offense to your JFK comparison.  That's a good thing, in my book.  

by msbatxnyc 2007-07-03 02:19PM | 0 recs
Some Food For Thought--I'll Bite!

The allure of Obama is that he's got enough leeway in the media to espouse these ideas and not get shouted down.  Now, granted, he went out and hired a bunch of jackass consultants who have him speaking like another scared, timid Dem right now.  But the themes that he set out for his public persona and fundamental message are still an excellent articulation of core progressive principles.  So the hope is that he has a chance to really recalibrate the country's understanding of the progressive agenda, and in that sense, I would argue that you have it exactly backwards.
This is a good argument, even though I'm not sure it's true. The media is undoubtedly the worst obstacle we face, and the question is, what strategy, if any can be effective in dealing with it.

I understand the appeal of Obama, because he seems to have been given a pass unlike any other Dem on the scene.  But I'm wondering, for example, if the "jackass consultants" are part of the deal.  He hires the "right" people, and that's part of what makes him continue to be acceptable.

And then, I wonder, what happens when the press turns on him?

I see a lot of room for Obama to shift gears and recalibrate his approach--some will certainly attack him for it, but if he can do it right, those attacks will be a small minority.

The question is, will there come a time where the media simply stops treating him any differently than they do every other Dem?  And if so, what does he do then?

OTOH, my feeling is that Edwards plans on pushing a class message hard, so that when the media attacks him, this will be read as a class attack, and shrugged off by the core swing constituency he's trying to reach.  He is also trying to establish a fighting persona, to force the press to back off a bit.

While he's at it, I think Obama's given us every reason to believe he would enact a set of reforms that would further this vision with an eye towards growing and broadening the progressive coalition behind him into a "consensus" level, which in US politics translates to roughly 60%+. Judging from polling on virtually every major issue on the progressive agenda--the war, energy, health care, education, minimum wage--I think it's possible.  If he can do it, he will be an absolutely essential figure in this nascent progressive era.
There has long been a progressive majority across a wide range of issues.  It's gotten significantly broader and deeper over the last few years, but even when the GOP took over Congress in 1994, there was still a solid majority of people in favor of sustaining or expanding the welfare state--which is pretty much the core of what Gingrich & Co claimed a mandate to fight against.  So the question has never been the existence of that majority.  The question is, what can be done to legislate what they want?

I would like to see a focusing of the debate about what needs to be done and how.  Right now, I only get a vague sense from folks like you of how this might happen.  And that's part of the problem for me.  Quite frankly, any candidate is likely to have their own ideas about how it should be done, and the question will be, how much do grassroots activists and others defer to the order and agenda of the President?

Whoever is elected, I can understand the argument for deferring a whole lot better than I can understand the argument for disarming.  A muscular progressive movement can be invaluable in helping to pass a progressive agenda, whoever is elected.  And part of bulding a muscular movement is having healthy, productive debates that avoid--as much as possible--going around in circles over the same territory.

Which leads me to this: Do you have anything more specific in the way of ideas about how such a progessive agenda would unfold under Obama?  I would be very interested in hearing this laid out.  In fact, while I welcome a response in a comment, I think it would be a very worthwhile topic for a diary, or two, for that matter.

And to that extent, I think you're giving JFK the short shrift here, Paul.  The put a man on the moon version of the progressive vision and the great society version are indeed interrelated, then and today.  Most of what LBJ accomplished would have been impossible without an America that had been primed for change by a candidate, then President who embodied that desire.  So I don't think us Obama supporters do or should necessarily take offense to your JFK comparison.  That's a good thing, in my book.
Basically, I'm in agreement, with a few nuances.

JFK changing the tone from stodginess of the Eisenhower era was definitely an important factor.  There's no doubt that Kennedy helped change the tone and raise expectations.  But there's also no doubt that Kennedy had very little taste to a robust domestic agenda.  And, of course, the assasination made Kennedy into a martyr, which amped up the power of his charisma into a whole 'nother level.  And LBJ knew it.

Finally, I think you're right, that the comparison is not an insult.  Charisma is a powerful force in politics, especially if people give thought to how to channel it productively.  JFK did this when he pledged to put a man on the Moon, when he establsihed the Peace Corps, and when he challenged ordinary Americans to engage in 50-mile walks (something that history seems to have largely forgotten, but it had a real impact in helping to set a favorable political tone, as well as planting the seeds of the modern fitness movement.)

Just because JFK was not a movement candidate did not mean he failed to reach people in novel and direct ways.  And I'm not trying to poo-poo Obama, either, when I say he's not a movement candidate.  This is not a moral judgement or condemnation on my part.  It's simply a matter of drawing distinctions.  The better one understands the distinction, the better one can make the most of the situation at hand, properly understood.  And that's what I see you starting to do, by raising the points you make here.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 04:08PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Paul, you get me wrong if you think I don't understand your point, I get exactly where you're coming from including the with all due respect part and then under your breath because none is due and then proceed to say my view is cartoonish, my view is garbled. I get that.  It's just that I disagree and I think you are failing, either intentionally or not, to face the issues expressed.  

1A. I bring up that what we stand for, what role Government plays in our lives, and what is our social responsibility are things which are important to the public, and you seize on people being sick of partisan bickering but want to accomplish things and off you go into your political analysis ignoring the point.  Why did the Republican Party succeed at establishing the Christian Right when Christianity is at its core liberal?  I'm not sure what the deep seated reasons are for that, but I do know that to dismiss that and instead solely concentrate on getting things done is no answer. It is symptomatic of the refusal to speak in those terms that the word "gushing" is used as a mild insult.  Faith plays a much larger role in most people's lives than politics.  If we are talking general election politics, and after all isn't that really what we should be after, it is the candidate who can best satisfies the people beyond the issues who does the best.

1B. You italicize "of course" people are sick of the partisanship, as if I've said the most simplistic thing in the world, and then go on with a partisan argument and say that I am reinforcing the lie  that both sides are to blame and it's really the GOP's fault.  With all due respect, the "lie" is to say people give a damn whose fault it is.  Even within our Party.  There is a reason why Obama's "there is not a liberal America and a conservative America but the United States of America" is trumping Edwards "Two Americas" right now.  They are both actually saying close to the same thing, but Edwards is unintentionally playing into the politics of the past which people are sick of.  Obama is articulating a change in the basic way we approach politics. Edwards would be a lot better off if he used the term he uses for his non-profit and Leadership PAC: One America.

2. I wasn't offering an analysis of the voting rights struggle, as I'm sure you know.  It was said as a metaphor, undoubtedly an inarticulate one.   But I agree with everything you say in your first paragraph and everything which follows is quite beside the point.

Except the part about Edwards being a better fighter than Obama.  I would love to know what gives you that impression.  His six years in the Senate, as far as I know, were pretty uneventful whereas Obama has a very strong record of passing major reforms both in the State level and now starting in the Federal level especially on Ethics reform (which circles back to points 1).  Edwards may struggle, but where are the accomplishments?

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 02:27PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

a) The choice of rhectoric for one is a clear indicator of how each intends to govern. And while we are at comparing records- let's do a full accounting- both guys were moderate progressive in terms of their record. What's worse- voting for the war or funding? Answer both- so neither can claim clean hands on that one. This is true of just about all the issues one can name. The real difference is how they propose to run their administration. Obama hopes to convince and then lead, Edwards talks of leading and by leading he hopes to convince. One can claim as you do that he may not mean it or not, but one can not claim that there isn't a clear approach there that goes beyond surface differences.

By what each candidate is  saying we are defining Edwards as the stronger fighter. He's the one saying things like "yes, I am going to go for these policies even if it doesn't at first mean I am catering to everyone." The example of that was his response over healthcare. Early on he has made it clear what sacrifice he expects of people. The problem (or can be depending on where he goes with it) of Obama's rhectoric is that it requires no personal self sacrifice. It maybe implicit in consensus, but not explicit.

b) Paul doesn't seize on partisanship for a random reason. His comments reflect a  central theme of Obama's campaign- "I can build consensus" what do you think that means? FOr that matter, yes, the central concern of Americans if you talk to them or poll them is that Washington gets nothing done. Partisanship is why they think don't get done, but that's another point entirely. The reality is that they are wrong-t hings don't get done because of a lack of leadership to push for things to get done.

c) Everything paul says about struggle isn't beside the point- it is the point. That the forces amassed against say healthcare reform are entrenched- and anyone expecting to change them had better expect a fight of their life. Ask HRC 1993 versus now for example.

By the way-I do find it interesting that based off my comments- which you claim were attacks on you- that you are now engaged in a conversation that is all about what I said in the innitial post which you also claim wasn't that good.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 02:58PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

I disagree with your comment which conflates the AUMF, or other authorisation votes, with funding measures.  I have said this before but it may bear repeating, it is important to take into account the distinction between de-funding the war and de-authorising or mandating withdrawal.

Strategically I believe it is important to de-authorise or mandate a withdrawal for two compelling reasons, it restores the war powers to Congress, where they belong, and it undermines any attempt by the GOP to portray Democrats as putting US troops in harms way without support.  Senator Obama has made this distinction and I believe he is correct and his votes are consistent with this strategy.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-03 03:31PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

I think it's spin. It's pretty simple. Funding is a leverage. In fact, if you want to control things, it's one of the top two powers (tax and spend) that Congress has.

If Obama wants to be a leader, especially, President, then he needs to also speak to perception. In other words, playing a game of chicken here was something the American people wanted the Democrats to do, and very quickly they caved. Rather than seeming strong, it made us look weak.

This is actually illustrative of my chief concern- he understands the issues, how to speak about them, etc, but he doesn't understand how to win at times. Sometimes winning isn't about about who can make the best argument. It's about things like playing chicken. That's the struggle part. He needs to understand that Day One the GOP will be gunning for him. Trying to reason his way out of it by building a consensus only opens up his soft underbelly to attack. Sorry for all the metaphors, but I don't know how else to explain the flaw in the thinking.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Well, if I understand you correctly, maybe this is where we diverge.  I like to see a reasoned strategy adhered to by a candidate who has made a cogent choice on his position.  Obama has been quite clear on this point and I respect his decision not to engage in playing chicken.  I like to think that he considers some of these national issues, which fall into his responsibility as Senator, are more important than perceptions in the campaign or, for that matter, the electorate.  I am not saying there isn't a time and place for de-funding the war, just not here and now.

I would welcome a discussion on the underlying premise, however, as this strategy has been contested by respected voices within the Democratic party in the course of the debate.  It is worth reviewing the McGovern-Hatfield legislation during the Vietnam War for some background on the pros and cons of de-funding versus mandate in a similar historical context.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-03 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Your main mistake- if I can call it that- is the assumption that negotiation is either serious, in which case, it's reasoned, or it's game theory (which is what I am referring), in which case it's not serious. My point is that it's both. His failure,a nd that of the Democrats in general is a failure of the later point about game theory (strategies for negotiation).

by bruh21 2007-07-03 05:23PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

I understand your point but it is a non zero-sum game, the one you are referring to, isn't it?  Games theory isn't nearly so attractive in that context.  My assumption that the 'negotiation' is serious is intentional.  I have deep misgivings about the extent to which adversarial political considerations affect the outcomes of otherwise serious, and often trans-partisan, negotiation in our legislature, though I agree that the Iraq votes this year were partisan conflicts where serious outcomes were not expected by either side.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-03 05:55PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

no- game theory isn't zero sum. it's merely one way to look at negotiation - in actuallity I am referring to strategies of negotiation. ie, if you capitulate too soon- the perception is weakness. You frame this as either/or- when in fact you have to do both- the negotiation tech and the reasonable stuff.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 06:20PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

What I was trying to say in game theory terms is that the outcome of a non zero-sum game is almost always indeterminable, based on the infinite sum of external infuences, that's all.

I was hoping the discussion might continue the analysis of the anti-Iraq voting both last year and since the Democratic majority.  There are some disappointments and opportunities in that history which continue to be relevant, and difficult choices have been presented to all concerned.

I think the inherent Democratic weakness has not been in capitulation but in failing to frame the conflict optimally in the first place.  The plethora of competing bills for ending the war left the electorate, and supporters, divided on the issue.  If Democrats had unanimously disavowed de-funding in favour of mandated withdrawal, for example, it may have improved our chances.  Or the opposite, but not both.  As it was we received the criticism inherent in both approaches but achieved little.  These solution advocacy issues are very difficult processes to manage and I was not expecting miracles, but we need to do better.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-03 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Show me the polls showing a divided electorate on this issue, and then we can continue this discussion properly. Also, it doesn't matter in the public's mind what you explain as the process- what they saw was a reinforcement that we are weak. Nearly every layperson you talk to will say that. There is a reason why. We lost the minute they gave in to Bush. Reason isn't going to trump the emotional impact.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Yes, but that's exactly my point.  Congressional Democrats were divided on de-funding vs mandated withdrawal.  The public saw failure but here at myDD supporters were arguing the merits and weaknesses of these two strategies in the context of the competitive ambitions of our respective candidates.  It was a PR disaster and one has to believe it was avoidable.

Half the Democrats shied away from de-funding on principle, the other half were damned if they weren't going to go for the throat, etc.  Embarrassing, counter-productive and ultimately useless.  I can only assume that Democrats were as surprised by their slender majority in the Senate as the GOP, they didn't seem able to manage this important vote.

It's not that we didn't press home the issue, we just couldn't get our sh*t together, frankly, until the last minute; too late.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-03 07:47PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

let me ask you a question- why do you think that's the case? my honest view is that its because we have an  entire generation of democratic politicians who are used to be in the idealogical minority (If not the minority in fact in terms of where the public is or in actual numbers in congress because of the ascendency of reagan) and so they play that mentality out. most of these people are borne out of a reaction to the reagan revolution rather than as some earlier period. nearly everything they do seems defined by it. that's why i dont think many of them despite being powerful are equiped for the changes that seem to be occuring in which progressivism is potentially on the ascendency. it's true they may have started in an earlier periods as progressive but gone are the days of folks like tip o'neil who knew how to weld power. when we discuss these issues of folks like obama- the concern at base is does he know how to well power? consensus is only one face of power. does he get this is a period in which whoever is the next president more than likely will define democrats for 10 to 20 years or so.  i know he maybe saying these things for messaging and strategy buti do have that concern in the back of my mind.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 07:56PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Yeah, thanks, I am really enjoying this too.  I think you make an excellent point about the minority mentality and then illustrate the diametrical opposite of that condition in Tip O'Neill.  Coupla' things, one Will Rogers wasn't kidding when he said I don't belong to an organised party.  I'm a Democrat and the truth of that will always be with us.  We wouldn't have it any other way but it raises the bar for us when we have a mandate for change.  In fact the level of discipline that the GOP achieves in anathema to the processes we use for finding solutions.  The problem is when it is time to close ranks we are willing but incapable.  We just don't have a suitable framework for achieving party solidarity even locally, like for one afternoon on the Senate floor.  A strong Democratic presidency might change this, but an autocratic one would fail.

I completely agree that we are witnessing a progressive watershed which will set the agenda for the next decade or two.  I personally believe it will significantly change the demographics of the respective party bases and this is the real point.  Democrats gave up majority for values during the civil rights movement and they chose well, but it has been an uphill struggle ever since.

Wielding power is fine but you will notice that those in history whom have wielded it with the most significant effect have been those who forged it in the first place.  It is forging power which is the issue, real power, not some DLC think-tank projection of corporate strategic planning or a memorial celebration of the progressive Hall of Fame.  The electorate is restless, the leader or movement which animates the most people to participate in reaching their common objectives will be in the position to set that agenda.

As for Obama, since you mentioned, can he wield power?  I believe Obama is forging it before our very eyes.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-03 09:11PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

by the way- it's nice talking to someone on here who isn't full of it for a change. you are making some very good points.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 08:09PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

ps a divided washington by the way- isn't the same as a divided public. dc's inner circle maybe have been divided by you will challenged to show the public was divided enough to be anything other than mandate on what the democrats should do.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 07:36PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

by the way- this adversion to risk- to putting something on the line is why they beat us.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 06:21PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Paul--

If I understand Doug correctly, he is not at all "blaming" Democrats/progressives for "partisan bickering."

What Doug says is that

1
Democrats and progressives do not typically campaign or govern on the meta frames of American identity
that Obama is using to drive his agenda; and that

2
These frames are best able to disarm partisan bickering -- which, as I read it, Doug places pretty squarely
on Republican shoulders, when he writes that

People are...sick and tired of the whole cynical, gotcha, talking smack, Rush Limbaugh,
Ann Coulter, brand of discourse in American Politics, in American sports, in American culture.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that your formulation...

Struggle => Accomplishment => Consensus

...is predicated on the dualistic, war-like assumption of a "right side" that wins out by force over a "wrong side."
It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of "old politics" that Obama is running against, precisely because it is
more likely to exacerbate partisan bickering.

Now, in the very same breath, let me ask: Why must you assume that consensus necessarily means unacceptable
compromise? You write:

All the major accomplishments of American political history are the result of political
struggle. Consensus-building in the polity at large comes after the struggle.

It appears that you attaching some sort of moral value to "struggle" -- as if, because consensus has been predicated
on struggle in the the past, not only must it always be this way, it should always be this way.

But what if it has been this way only because we have not had a consensus-building leader with the skills to make it
otherwise? Isn't the essence of a great leader the ability to make people do things they never thought they would do --
and to make them believe it was their idea? What if Barack Obama is that leader?

That said, even Obama understands the limits of consensus. Nor should anyone underestimate what he has in his belly.
The blue of the flame is the hardest part to see, but it's the hottest part of the fire. Here's Obama at the AFSCME forum
in June:

I don't mind a good fight.

But the question is, how can we create a majority consensus in this country to actually win
some of these fights?

And what I have argued is that we're going to have to win some independents. We have got a lot
of disaffected Republicans. After six years, they -- George Bush has actually been a good advertisement
for the Democratic Party.

And we have got a whole bunch of folks who are starting to ask some questions, and say to themselves:
How do we move this country in a new direction, and how do we unify, instead of divide? How do we create
a politics that's based on hope, instead of based on fear?

And that means that we have got to reach out to some folks who may not seem like natural allies to us, but
actually are hungry for something new.

And what I have seen, as I have traveled around the country, you meet independents, you meet Republicans.
When you talk to them, it turns out that they want a return to common sense in our politics. And they don't
want to see just arguing and squabbling over little things. They don't want a gotcha kind of politics.

What they're looking are some big ideas, but also the capacity to pull people together around a larger purpose.

You know, I mentioned the issue of energy. The fact of the matter is, that we can solve our energy problems
both at the pump, in terms of our foreign policy and our environment, but we're going to have to come together
to take some difficult steps.

We have got an energy bill right now in the Senate, and we can't even get an increase in fuel efficiency standards.
If we increase fuel efficiency standards to 40, 45 miles a gallon, we would have to import zero oil from the Middle
East. And if we import zero oil from the Middle East, that means that gas prices are going to go down at the pump,
and it means our environment is going to improve. That is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. That's an
American issue, that we should be able to solve right here and right now.

But let me just say one last thing about what we can't compromise on. We can't compromise on a progressive
vision that says if you are able and willing to work, you should be able to find a job that pays a living wage. We
should not compromise on retirement security for our senior citizens.

We should not compromise on issues of racial equality and gender quality. We should not compromise on the
right of workers to organize and collectively bargain to improve their standing in life. We shouldn't compromise
on the idea that every child should get a decent education. It shouldn't just be a slogan.

So there are some things that are worth fighting for, and if people disagree and we can't persuade
them, then we've just got to beat them
, and that's what we`re going to do in this next election.

I agree with you that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the product of struggle, not consensus. But that just proves my point,
namely: What did the Civil Rights Act ever do to end racism in this country?

That's where Obama's headed -- and I'm with him.

by horizonr 2007-07-03 02:39PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

The problem Obama faces is where does his rhectoric lead us? The reason why he's a close number two,b ut still number 2 for me, is that of having political experience. This is not the first time we heard such rhectoric.

Let me cut something you wrote as the crux of the point. You wrote that he said "I don't mind a good fight. But the question is, how can we create a majority consensus in this country to actually win"

The problem with that sentence is the word "but." Here's how it should have been written "I don't mind  a good fight in which I will lead a consensus in this country to win." Let me give you an example. Healthcare- 9 in 10 Americans say they want major systemic changes. Obama has a plan now, but does he understand that in building consensus his plan may end up being less than what the American people by a sizeable majority really want? Consesus with who is the question? The American people or Washington Insiders? Let me put it to you this way- who exactly at this point does he need to convince on this issue? Why are we not coming at this from the history that we already have so that we know day 1, we will have to fight?

by bruh21 2007-07-03 03:06PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Bruh, you crack me up...but in a good way.  But please don't become a speech writer.  I think Obama's got you beat in how to turn a phrase.

But to go to the heart of what you are asking (are you asking?). Obama has a few good one-liners and one of them speaks directly to how he approaches health care reform.  He says to the Insurance Industry and the Pharmaceutical Industry you have a seat at the table but you don't get to buy all the chairs.  He very clearly wants to walk into that negotiating room with a mandate from the nation that it insists on health care reform now.  But he also adds to his position by reserving one of those chairs for the Automotive Industry, one of the chairs on his/our side.  The deal he's laid out to the car companies is if you raise CAFE standards on your cars, if you start becoming an ally with us in the environmental crisis, then  we will take care of your health care costs for retirees.  Suddenly he's got the Automotive Industry in there as a lobbyist for the people on the Health Care debate.  It is a slight insight into how he works, how he looks for the connectedness of issues and uses them toward a greater good.  He builds consensus by looking for the places we can all  help each other.

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 03:51PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Here's the thing. What manadate ? with whom :? Again and again- i ask- what audience and to whom are you and others referring because if the polls are correct, that 9 out of 10 Americans want govt to fundamentally change healthcare as we know  it, he already has his mandate. The real issue is to lead so that he can accomplish the goal so that the forces alligned against this change don't get in the way. We aren't fighting with teh american public over ideas- we won that war-. The GOP knows it. The right knows it. The real battle is one over who will lead on the left to implement what the American people say they want. That's not a matter of consensus. That's an FDR crack skulls, ask questions later scenario.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 05:29PM | 0 recs
Nail, Head, Whap! Whap! Whap!

This is precisely the core of the matter: What sort of consensus, with who, about what and for what purpose?

A consensus with power players who've created the problem in the first place is not going to get the job done, and will only leave people even more disillusioned than before, since Obama will have raised people's hopes, and then not met their expectations.

If Obama could address these concerns, I think he could gain a considerable amount of additional support from people who are still undecided, and a lot more respect from those who support other candidates.

Such respect is very important, BTW, since it's still the case that Clinton gets a lot of people's second place support.  If Obama can take that away from her, it could be the key to him winning.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 04:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Nail, Head, Whap! Whap! Whap!

Are you suggesting we are going to pass Health Care reform in the next four years without negotiating with Insurance and Drug Industries?  We all know Dennis has the plan, but there is not a chance in hell we jump from the most corrupt health care system in the industrialized world to a single payer plan in the first term.  We've already had a glorious failure in the Clinton Administration. Obama has a strategy that gets us that base accomplishment to build from, to keep chipping away, to keep struggling, to keep building...

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 04:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Nail, Head, Whap! Whap! Whap!

No- we are suggesting that if you want to win against them- don't think you are for one moment going to go to do so by negotiating with them. see, you pressume reasonableness on their part that I do not pressume. They aren't reasonable and they don't want change. Day 1 whoever is the Pres who handles this issue must assume regardless  of what they prepose they are going to have the fight of their life. When the Clintons (part of the reason I don't support them is that I think they are shellshocked from the 90s over this) entered office- they made this same mistake obama is making. He sounds like Clinton 1992 to me on some levels. A new kind of Democrat. Wanting consensus etc. It pressumes that the people in Washington are going to play by those rules when in fact they will eat you a live if you play by those rules. The way to change the game is to make your moves unpretictable. To not be a "new democrat" who is interested in 'consensus" but an old FDR democerat who is interested in winning. FDR, if you read the history, wasn't a nice partiasan. He wasn't reasonable. He threatened to pacmk the courts. He threatened the GOP. This is how you , if you want to win, win against this present situation. THis may all seem counter intuitive, but it's really not. It's reflecting a model is true of just about all forms of leadership whether in the public or private sector. This is why I get what Paul means by saying Obama should come after Edwards as president- rather than vice versa. The qustion is what is this moment. I see it as 1980- a moment where a leadder can come into place who can redefine the game not in terms of consensus but redefine what we think of as the center. If you redefine the center to the left, you control the definitions. Obama's approach- i don't see how he controls the definitions. I see how the definitions can be control by others. i support him as a strong second choice because I think some of his ideas are good. But this critical element concerns me. In a way - he's tailor made for the left of present day however. Why? Because the left likes to believe it its the reasonable one etc. Me- I don't carea bout that. I care about how much health insurance cost, I care about the war. etc. I don't have any rules for how we get there. Consensus is fine when it works. Busting heads is fine when it works. Etc.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 05:37PM | 0 recs
Precisely What's Wrong With Doug Dilg's Approach

He's still playing defense from 14 years ago.

He's never heard the phrase, "The best defense is a good offense."

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-04 03:49AM | 0 recs
And I would add to it

He also enacts the toughest legislation to date, and continues adding to that, on Ethics reform and open government which continues to weaken the influence that the Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies have over this issue.  That's why he has made Ethics reform a central part of his campaign because it is connected to everything we want to accomplish.  It is why immediately after passing the legislation that makes earmarks public after a bill is passed, he went out published his earmark requests along with 40 or more other Congressman.  This is the crux of ever passing any Progressive reforms in this country and it is very interesting he's ahead of the pack on this earmark issue, including Dennis Kucinich.

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 04:24PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

By the way- are you serious with that last comment about what did the civl rights act do to end racism? It's job was the end the effects of racism not change how people think. Time and the lessening of Jim Crow and other legal racism helped to change that overtime so that we have a better, alhtough not perfect, racial situation in teh US. I hope you aren't claiming Obama can go into people's head to change their thinking? I mean- you aren't and neither is Obama- going to change how people think. Especially on racism. If that's what you are claiming then that's truly messianic type of rhectoric,a nd I doubt this is what he means. I hope not, or else I am really worried that he's not my close number two.

I really don't think you mean that. I think you said it to win an argument. That's fine  and would be far more acceptable than claiming that by consensus he means ending racism or changing minds of those entrenched interests on the right.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 03:16PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

Ending racism itself -- not just the effects of racism -- always is the goal. Consensus-based
politics, rather than struggle-based politics -- is a more useful tool for helping us to get there.

Of course, politics is not psychology. But leaving that aside, why shouldn't Obama or me or
you or anybody else be trying to end racism? Why is this effort to be dismissed as "messianic"?

by horizonr 2007-07-03 03:45PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

And thus with this conversation we get to the core problem. What do you think the role of government and laws are? what power do you think they have? For that matter- what do you think came first with ending racism? Did Jim Crow end because we sought consensus? Or did others lead first to create that consensus through their leadership? Would we have had the advances without them? It's a chicken or egg conversation. It's messianic because you don't explain how its going to get done. Laws like the Civil RIghts Act and the struggle that went into it, and the leadership that had to exist to create them is how things get done. Consensus is , in otherwords, secondary, not primary,a nd often it only  happens as an afterthought to the struggle. Not before the struggle has even started. Strategically anyway.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 03:52PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect
Consensus is...secondary, not primary, and often it only happens as
an afterthought to the struggle. Not before the struggle has even
started. Strategically anyway.

Clearly, when consensus-building starts in the Oval Office, it's consensus-building
on the President's terms.

The problem with the model both you and Paul are describing is that it contemplates
"struggle" and "consensus" as discrete, self-contained moments within a linear succession --
this happens, then this, then this....

But that's not how history works -- indeed, the linear model of history has been discredited
for some time now.

What Obama has in mind is something very different; something much more attuned to
how politics and history actually unfold; and, ultimately, something much more productive
for the country:

Not struggle, then consensus.

Not consensus, then struggle.

Consensus-building as struggle.

by horizonr 2007-07-03 04:47PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

No- it completates it as one among many tools in the tool box. It's no an end in and of itself. The goal is to win, and to win because that is the only way to achieve policy. You go in prepared for struggle, and to bust heads, but you also accept when things arent a struggle. The point is to not have a predictable approach. Your approach- as we are talking about problems- is that its predictable.

The insurance companies can spin and market what you are saying- or think you are saying- into blocking what you really want to have happen. I guess my point is that laws act as coercion (if we are talking about civil rights act) and that's one of the tools that has to come first. speak quietly and carry a big stick and all of that.

The chicken or egg part is about the fact you think you are going to gain consensus with people who are never going to go along with you no matter what. So- my question is- why bother? why waste time trying to build what you aren't going to build anyway? To say that you tried? Well, we've been trying for 30 years now- and that got the hunting of the Clintons. That got you Bush etc.

I am rambling now, but I hope I am getting my point across.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

to cut it short - the struggle preceeds a new consensus, not the othere way around.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 03:55PM | 0 recs
@horizonr I Appreciate Your Efforts To Clarify

So let me try to sort out points of agreement and disagreement.

I agree that "Democrats and progressives do not typically campaign or govern on the meta frames of American identity." And I agree that it is important for Democrats to do so.

But I disagree that only Obama gets this, and is addressing this failing.

I think that both Obama and Edwards are both addressing meta frames of American identity, but in different ways.

Edwards's "Two America" theme is that this is not what America is supposed to be.  It's supposed to be One America.  And while some will fight against this vision, we are not fighting against them, so much as we are fighting for that One America, which has a place for everyone--even those who fight against it.

Implicit in how I've just described Edwards and his vision is a response to another point you raise:

Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that your formulation...

   Struggle => Accomplishment => Consensus

...is predicated on the dualistic, war-like assumption of a "right side" that wins out by force over a "wrong side."

It doesn't have to be war-like.  But it does have to be a struggle.  Every major advance in American history has required tremendous struggle.  And what has stood in the way of progress, more often than not, has been consensus.

Before the Abolitionists arose, there was a consensus in American society on race.  It was called "African Colonization."  North and South, politicians agreed that the solution to America's race problem was to send black back to Africa.  Of course, this was a purely theoretical agreement.  It was never a serious proposal.  The slave population was regularly increasing much faster than anyone could conceive of sending slaves back to Africa.  And besides, why would slaveowners give them up?  But it served as a unifying "consensus" ideology.  And the Abolitionsts had to first destroy that consensus before they could make substantial headway in attacking slavery itself.

As long as the consensus on colonization stayed in place, slavery stayed in place without needing any defense.  Everyone could say, "Well, of course, we're not in favor of slavery, but we're stuck with it until we can figure this colonization thing out."  What the Abolitionists did is they listened to the free blacks who rejected colonization, and said, "These are people, too.  We can't just send them back to a continent that almost none of them have ever even seen."  And once they began breaking down the consensus, then things began a slow, but inevitable process that ended in the Civil War--not because the Abolitionists wanted it, but because the slaveholders insisted on it.

The situation was roughly similar with women's suffrage.  There was an overwhelming consensus against it at first, which women and their male allies had to fihgt against tooth and nail.

Again, after the Civil War, there was a period of struggle to try to maintain and protect black rights in the South.  This effort was defeated by the 1890s, and as a result, black rights were rolled back in the North and West as well. A new racist consensus arose, with different forms of racism in different sections of the country. And once again, it took decades of struggle to break that consensus down again.

Now, there is a philosophy that says change can and/or should only come when there is a broad consensus for it.  That philosophy is called "conservatism."  This is the philosophy of gradual, "orgnic" change.  It is a philosophy with a perfect track record in America: it has never lead to a single major social-political advance in our history.

It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of "old politics" that Obama is running against, precisely because it is
more likely to exacerbate partisan bickering.
Given the history of how change actually happens in this country, it seems to me that Obama is as deluded as Joe Lieberman if he actually believes that.

This is such an historically ignorant position that I find it very difficult to believe Obama really thinks this is so.  He may wish it were so. And he may want to make it so.  But to completely ignore the vast sweep of American history--that is something that no genuine progressive can do. Conservatives can ignore. The Versailles media can ignore it.  But progressives--the ones primarily responsible for bringing about historical change--simply cannot ignore the most basic lesson of American history: "Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never has, and it never will." -- Frederick Douglass.

Now, in the very same breath, let me ask: Why must you assume that consensus necessarily means unacceptable
compromise?
I don't think that it necesarily means unacceptable compromise.  But consensus-seeking in a context of unequal power will.  If you want consensus-seeking to work, you must first redress imbalances of power.

William Ury, of the Harvard Negotiation Project, describes this as part of his comprehensive description of peacemaking processes in his book, Getting to Peace

You write:

   All the major accomplishments of American political history are the result of political
    struggle. Consensus-building in the polity at large comes after the struggle.

It appears that you attaching some sort of moral value to "struggle" -- as if, because consensus has been predicated on struggle in the the past, not only must it always be this way, it should always be this way.

Only as long as inequitable power relations make it necessary.
But what if it has been this way only because we have not had a consensus-building leader with the skills to make it otherwise? Isn't the essence of a great leader the ability to make people do things they never thought they would do --
and to make them believe it was their idea? What if Barack Obama is that leader?
Short answer: Hope is not a plan.

Long answer: Such boundless hero-worship is naturally at home on the right. But it has no place in the reality-based community.

Consensus-building leadership can play a very crucial role. But it cannot compensate for other sorts of factors.  In addition to equitable power relationsips, the right sorts of incentive structures and social norms must be in place for consensus-building processes to even have a chance.  If those are not in place, then consensus can do nothing more than reproduce a relatively modest variation on what already exists.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: @horizonr I Appreciate Your Efforts To Clarify

Professor, if you think affordable Health Care and more coverage for all rises to the level of abolishing slavery then we have two very different views on what reality is.   Trouble is I see very little real grasp of reality in your statements, if it's acceptable to throw around the old my reality is better than your reality which is actually Joe Lieberman's reality.  You want an incentive structure for consensus building?  Well try removing the non-negotiation clause in the Prescription Drug bill to get their attention - something which Obama does before they sit down at the table.   You say you want reality based plan of how to accomplish something and then you go off and start quoting Frederick Douglas.  Well to give you a quote, when I read this post what I heard in my head was Allen Iverson without the questioning inflection saying, "Health Care. We're talking about Health Care.

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 06:27PM | 0 recs
Health Care, Global Warming, And Terrorism

Of course health care alone cannot be equated with the abolition of slavery.  But it can be compared.  The US is the only advanced industrial nation that fails to provide health care for its people.  This is a big deal.  It is one of the deeply defining characteristics of our political system and our economy.  It is an enormous waste of resources, and it is an issue that the entire political system both trivializes and distorts.  Fixing health care is the key to the long-term survival of the American welfare state, and that in turn is the key to the survival of American liberalism.

Movement conservatives recognized this quite clearly in late 1993, when they decided that they didn't need to accept any health care plan as an alternative to the Clinton plan, because any plan at all would essentially validate the Democrats worldview that government can do good.  This decision on the part of movement conservatives is what laid the groundwork for their Congressional takeover the next year, and the shape of American politics the next 13 years.

But yes.  It's not the same as abolishing slavery.

Saving the planet and avoiding a century or two of world-wide religious war just might qualify, however.  And those are both on the table as well.  We are very much at a watershed moment in which the political system has been failing for the better part of a decade--just as America's political system failed in the 1850s. And the necessary changes will not be made by the political system absent a good deal of outside grassroots pressure.

These are three epochal decisions all coming down at once.  There are huge entrenched interests in all three areas that are absolutely committed to making things worse.

Being reality-based means recognizing both the gravity of the dire situation we're in and the reality of entrenched interests who benefit from opposing the common good.

Hence, Frederick Douglass.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-04 03:43AM | 0 recs
Re: With All Due Respect

I am hoping this is in the right place. i want to add something to what Paul has said of consensus. It's not the end - the end is the changet hat we want to occur. I think thats important to remember. The goal is not consensus. Consesus is the by product of having achieved the goal. Racism has decreased because we achieved the goal of ending Jim Crow. The goal in a legal sense was to end Jim Crow- not racism. More over- where it becomes messianic to the extent that you his followers aren't able to articulate how he will engage the struggle to effectively accomplish the real end- change.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 05:51PM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

And yet this post is as amorphous as you claim Obama to be.  Have you looked at his agenda, have you really read not just the issue blurps but the speeches where he lays out issues in extreme detail and articulates clearly his focus on how go about accomplishing those goals.  If you have, where is the agenda lacking, where does he lack focus?  

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 07:04AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

Yes, I have. As a matter of fact, if you click on my name, you will find that unlike many others- I went through the trouble of comparing and bringing up as a source of discussion each candidates views of healthcare compared to what the American public has polled that they want. So, if you are looking in a quick comment what I stand for good luck- but then that's your modus operandi, now isn't it? Seeing what you want to see. I like Edwards, and I have called you on your diary hijacking, so I must be evil. That's how your mind thinks. Next time check out what I've actually written first.

by bruh21 2007-07-03 08:08AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

And yet another ad hom.  I asked you, if you have checked out Obama's positions, where is his agenda lacking, where is his focus off.  You respond by saying I am diary hijacking and calling you evil and telling me how my mind works.

by Doug Dilg 2007-07-03 08:33AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

and yet again you are misusing words based how doug views reality. here is the definition :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

"consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim"

Please point out how your comments make sense in the context of where the conversation is about how people think?

by bruh21 2007-07-03 08:51AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards And

also point out based on that definition- how my pointing to a diary that factually disproves your claim as to my thinking is an ad honinem attack?

by bruh21 2007-07-03 08:52AM | 0 recs
No real evidence for that.

Many Obam supporters simply are not as interested in issues.  It's about Barack Obama.  His ethnicity, his coolness, his chidhood overseas.  Not all, but way to many.  You find left leaning folks supporting Edwards becuase of his stands on issues.

Barck Obama could endorse invading Iran tomorrow, and most of his supporters would ratinalize it and stay.

If John Edwards did so, most of his supporters would leave.

A cult of personality is not good for democracy.  But waht I say will be meaningles to those who adore Obama.  He is just a person.  

I actually like the person of Barack Obama just fine, but the projected messiah of his supporters, not at all.  

by littafi 2007-07-03 05:05AM | 0 recs
Re: No real evidence for that.

Your judgment is a little off, like your spelling. I wanted to comment on the statement in the original post that RFK was a "movement" candidate. I'd like to hear more about how his candidacy fit that definition. For me, Eugene McCarthy would be closer to that category.

by howieinseattle 2007-07-03 06:02AM | 0 recs
McCarthy & RFK

At the time, I would have agreed with you. I distrusted RFK because of his visible record, his reluctance to come forward on the war, the charisma factor, etc.

However, I've changed my mind over the years.  Three factors were key: (1) McCarthy defnitely responded to the Anti-War Movement first.  But he really didn't have a clue about how to help build the movement. (2) RFK not only responded to the Anti-War Movement--albeit belatedly--but to by-then-radically-diverse Civil Rights Movement, including Black Power and Chicano elements. (He was tremendously close to Cesear Chavez, for example.) (3) The sheer number of people I've met in my life who credit RFK with getting them involved in politics who remain active to this day, and who have brought others into polticial activism as well.

As the above indicates, although I remain quite skeptical of claims that Obama represents a movement candidate, that judgement could change over time.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 10:08AM | 0 recs
FWIW

I found a brief thread recently which discusses shifting the paradigm of politics from adversarial to collaborative.  Some of it made sense and was reminiscent of the process of exchange and synthesis here at myDD, not to put too fine a point on it.

Among other things the author posited two types of leaders, on the one hand the process-manager, facilitator and visionary, the progressive leader and on the other the authoritarian, hero-genius and solution advocate, the conservative leader.  An interesting perspective, perhaps, on current candidacies and what blends of leadership are on offer.  The author judged conservative leadership ineffective but it seems to be pretty popular.

by Shaun Appleby 2007-07-03 05:59AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths--Obama, Edwards

Paul - really good diary.  I am sitting the fence b/c there are parts of a number of candidates that I like but no one fills all my goals/desires.  I must say as someone who has been voting in Presidential elections since 1984, I cannot remember as strong a Dem field as we have this year.  All of the top candidates have strengths and weaknesses but I am confident that all of the top 4 (I include Richardson in the group) can beat any of the Rs and I can't ever remember feeling this way.  

by John Mills 2007-07-03 06:15AM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths

Great diary.  As a somewhat waning Obama supporter I'll take a hack at these analytical issues Paul is so god at raising.

My perspective right now is, I think, pretty blogopherically typical. I am 1) praying Gore gets in, 2) praying that either Edwards or Obama can consolidate the anti-Clinton vote by January 2008 and win the nomination, 3) about 80-20 pro-Obama in terms of a preference for the anti-Clinton mantle carrier.

In this discussion, I'll leave aside my concerns with Clinton, as well as the Gore prospects, and drill down to the Edwards v. Obama question. I end up with Obama because of a few pretty basic factors, mostly what I perceive as Edwards negatives and a few Obama attributes.  First, Edwards negatives.  The big problem Edwards has is his AUMF vote.  I credit him for his honesty and integrity in owning up to his mistake, and more than that, going to far as to admit he made a political calculation looking ahead to a Presidential run.  It's an honorable thing to do and he earned my respect as a result.  But as a political component in this race, I see it as exceedingly crippling to his candidacy.  Above all what I want most out of this election is a President who steps into the WH on 1/21/09 with an unquestioned mandate to 1) end this war and 2) restore and enhance this country's image abroad as a responsible world citizen.  Edwards' history on the war, as well as his tepid criticism of war policy as a VP candidate and silence on Abu Ghraib and torture in 04, makes him a far less suitable vessel for that course of change.  

Obama, simply by virtue of his background, has a big head start--have you seen how many books the guy has sold overseas?  He would assume the office with an ability to address the world community as a respected, appealing figure.  And, of course, he was on record opposing the war from the start, which is what it is.  To me, it makes perfect sense, in light of all this, that Edwards has to work to get to the left in this race.  I am not surprised that Edwards talks a great game now, nor that he is able to be more specific in his proposals and bold in his criticism of the administration (also obviously a product of his abdication of a senate seat that he probably could have held onto as things shook out in 04, though he probably wouldn't have been on the ticket as a result).  Of course Edwards sounds good now; he's got a lot of explaining to do (don't even get me started on the VP debate).  And it's big than a mere trust issue.  It's not that I don't trust that Edwards, if elected, would govern with the progressive vision he has espoused as a candidate.  It's that I have a hard time picturing the process of him winning the Presidency while selling that line, and then fending off all the questions about why he changed his mind since 2004.  And even if he wins, it will be a tougher fight, ideologically speaking, and less likely to yield the mandate I want to see.  Edwards as the nominee emboldens all the Bush era frames of the Dems--flip-floppers, too scared to do the right thing when it counted, the liberalest bunch of liberal ass liberals, fake, pandering, etc.

My next big issue is health care, and here I simply have a strategic prefence for Obama.  The fact of the matter is that whatever a candidate says in the primaries about his health care proposal means close to nothing once it comes time to actually pass legislation.  What's possible is a function of the hypothetical Dem President's ability to lead and the realities in Congress.  So right now the most important work is on a much higher plane, where Obama usually likes to play.  I think the right focus for Dems right now is to promote health care for all as a value and a matter of social welfare.  Obama's fundamental vision of reviving American communal interdependence and responsibility is simply the best table setting I see for this issue.

And if Obama gives us the best chance at an Iraq mandate, a sane foreign policy restoration and health care access and quality expansion then I see him as the candidate with the best chance to enact the policies I support.  The only other issue that could tip the balance for my is energy-environmental policy, but I don't see enough of a differentiation there to have Edwards win me back (as opposed to Gore, of course).  And again, I think we're at a point where the real work needs to happen on this issue at the values level and that's Obama's strength.

And the last element that's the kicker for me is that Obama is, I believe, a media darling with staying power.  This is due in no small part to his considerable rhetorical talents, but also his looks, his backing by several powerful media figures and his expertly crafted image as a self-made, thoughtful, compassionate family man (with a big assist from Oprah).  And I know plenty of people do reasonably disagree with me, and think that he's in for a thrashing from the media if he gets the nomination. But I think this fear misunderstands horse race coverage.  Horse races are just like sports.  If someone is perceived as a loser, then the frame is always going to be "will the loser overcome?"  It's like the coverage an underdog boxer gets before and during the big title fight.  The announcers are always looking for signs of weakness and attempting to foresee the decisive moment and explain how the champion takes the challenger apart.  The champion starts from a position of strength and superiority and the commentators will look to point out everything he does well, again with the thought of anticipating the expected result.  The burden is on the challenger to prove himself in order to reverse that dynamic.  This is what Kerry and Gore never understood.  By acting timid and careful they were assuming the loser role that the media wanted to assign them.  Contrast that with Obama, who comes in with a winner's glow.  Whoever the GOP nominates, they won't get the treatment Bush got as the favorite against Obama, and may themselves get cast as the loser depending on the polling circumstances.  Edwards, on the other hand, will be easy to cast as the loser because he lost last time.  He'll be "too liberal to win" and his progressive agenda itself will be protrayed as a liability in the media versus Obama's which is more likely to be portrayed as a strength, originating out of his sunny optimism.  All of this pales in comparison to what they'll do to Hillary, but it's another significant factor for me--Obama doesn't just have money; he also starts with a huge head start in the media.

by msbatxnyc 2007-07-03 09:05AM | 0 recs
An Excellent Response

This is a perfect example of the sort of integrated argument I was hoping to elicit.  Not the only sort of response I might wish for, I hasten to add. But an exemplary one.

Let me ask just one thing, reagrding your discussion of health care:

The fact of the matter is that whatever a candidate says in the primaries about his health care proposal means close to nothing once it comes time to actually pass legislation.  What's possible is a function of the hypothetical Dem President's ability to lead and the realities in Congress.  So right now the most important work is on a much higher plane, where Obama usually likes to play.
As I see it, the most important factor will be citizen organizing from outside the Beltway.  The forces inside DC are adamantly opposed to single payer, opposed to reducing the role of insurers, and thus, opposed to anything that will actually be effective.

For all his good intentions, Obama seems much more firmly aligned with this mindset than opposed to it. Edwards--though not perfect--is more the reverse.  I think that an enormous knock-down, drag-out battle may be inevitable to get what's needed, and if so, we should welcome it. It could define our politics for the next 30-40 years.  But this goes directly against Obama's deepest inclinations.

How do you respond?

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: An Excellent Response

Thanks for your kind words.  I think I hadn't worked out most of this until after reading Jerome's movement post and your superb expansion of those ideas in the comments at dkos a couple weeks back.  

I may come back later after I'm home from work to write a more complete response, but I'll give you my short answer now: where we get down to putting meat on the bones of an idea like "reducing the role of insurers" is where I think we get past the point that 90-plus percent of the electorate cares or follows.  In Obama's book I think he says something about an example of a plan with pools at either state or federal level for which insurers would have to compete.  Does that satisfy you?  It's more an attempt at increasing the bargaining power of the insured than necessarily reducing the role of insurers. But the point I am making is that I don't think it would it matter if it did please you.  I have no doubt that Obama (and Clinton and Edwards) would drop such a plan in an instant if the political circumstances required it.  And the Chairman of the relevant senate committee (Kennedy, I believe) will have as much or more to say about the outcome of that question than a President.  Generally, I suspect that legislative tools will do far more to determine what the final result looks like--let's pass a law that restricts all the insurance practices directly and couple it with cancer research funding and anything else health care related that's impossible to vote against.  The language in the platform at the convention and used by the President in speeches will only have an effect insofar as it has opened the public's mind to consider other alternatives.  I think Obama's deliberately vague approach is actually a net benefit in this regard.  Rather than arguing over who's five point plan is best let's make sure we convince huge majorities of the public that some sort of increased social insurance model is a necessity.  Dems have a habit of getting lost in the details and not laying the necessary groundwork like this.  Obama is a refreshing change of pace in that respect.  

I agree that the health care fight could be a struggle for the next couple generations.  So, to me, this means I ought to make my judgment on a different basis.  I want to know who will do the most to pull the discussion in the right direction.  To me, that's Obama, or at least I see him as having the most potential right now.  I'll admit that I was more bullish on his prospects on this and a host of other issues six months ago (thus my waning support). And I should add that I see Edwards as running a close second on health care, given that he does have credibility on the issue, having worked on significant health care legislation in Congress and because of the applicability of his "two Americas" theme from last cycle on this issue.  Hillary, on the other hand, is a disaster in the making on health care, but that's another matter.

by msbatxnyc 2007-07-03 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: An Excellent Response

I should add that I also agree that grassroots organizing on health care will be an important factor.  And both Edwards and Obama are assembling grassroots operations that are unheard of in modern Democratic politics apart from Dean.  Those folks won't all get jobs in the White House. They'll be trained and they'll have to go somewhere.  So I see a great opportunity for synergy on health care between the grass roots and both of their candidacies.  One of my concerns, though, is that single-payer and/or Edwards partisans will attack Obama in order to raise their profile, and in doing so would amother the baby coalition in its crib.  Another reason to not get too bogged down in the details just yet.  I understand the desire to get a commitment out of the nominee to do something specific, but I don't see that as the most effective means of achieving the change that I want to see happen.

by msbatxnyc 2007-07-03 12:43PM | 0 recs
Re: An Excellent Response

The "details" of whether you allow a public insurer to compete with for-profits (Edwards) or you don't allow them to (Obama) are HUGE.  It's the difference bewtween baby steps and moving toward single payer and an entirely different public ethic in America.  Same with mandating insurance (Edwards) to get to effectively 100% insured and a plan that still leaves about 20 million uninsured (Obama).  Those aren't details, those are key aspects.

In short, one plan is universal coverate with real competition (Edwards), the other is just a small-time increasing-access plan (Obama).

by philgoblue 2007-07-03 06:13PM | 0 recs
Re: An Excellent Response

How do you define effective?  Is this a worry about cost cutting or actually insuring the uninsured?

by sterra 2007-07-03 03:26PM | 0 recs
Effective In Providing Health Care For All n/t

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-07-03 05:48PM | 0 recs
Re: A Tale Of Three Strengths

I couldn't disagree more with this

The fact of the matter is that whatever a candidate says in the primaries about his health care proposal means close to nothing once it comes time to actually pass legislation.

What a candidate says during a campaign helps him win a mandate which he can generally use to push legislation through congress.  See Bush in 2000 pass the tax-cuts with Democrats, see Bush pass No Child Left Behind.  See 2004 Bush not run on SS privatization, then claim a mandate, fall on his face and begin the steady fall in his popularity.

I don't think Edwards changed his mind so much as you don't know enough about him in the Senate and need to understand that he's not representing Red State North Carolina anymore, but America.

by philgoblue 2007-07-03 06:10PM | 0 recs

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