• But they can't erase the DW-Nominate ones.  Nor is it really possible to isolate regionally-based votes when you're talking about a Democrat representing a Southern state, though the impact of region can certainly be lessened.

    You can try to make a few position's difference into a big deal, but that simply doesn't wash.  The main reason: over time, most politicians tend to bounce around somewhat.  The regions they bounce around in tend to be the same.  And the regions that Clinton, Obama and Edwards inhabit are all the same: the middle of the Democratic party.  They are not consistent liberals like Boxer, Kennedy or Corzine (consistently in the top 10, usually the top 5).  They are not even maverick liberals like Feingold. (#1 in the 107th and 109th, 17.5 in the 108th.)  They are in the middle of the pack, which makes them moderate liberals in the political spectrum as a whole.

    In short, Obama is clearly not a conservative, but he's no Paul Wellstone or Barbara Boxer, either.   And people are just fooling themselves if they think he is.

    This does not even begin to touch on what I think is arguably most important--realizing the need for a political realignment, and what form it should take.  Edwards's emphasis on poverty and the wealth divide indicates that he gets it.  Obama's triangulating rhetoric indicates that he does not.  Which is why I lean towards Edwards.  I really think a head-to-head confrontation between the two of them could improve them both.  But with Hillary leading in the polls, its unclear if that's going to happen, or if we've already seen the best they're going to offer.

  • Three points:

    (1) I never said a word about RFK. In 1968 RFK most definitely was a movement candidate.

    (2) Popularity is not the same as being a movment candidate.  JFK was a very charismatic candidate, but that didn't make him a movement candidate.

    (3) Reagan didn't represent a renewal of party values.  The GOP had been pro-women's rights and pro-civil rights for generations.  His ascendency reveresed his party's values.  That's the sort of change that marks a movement--a significant reversal, expansion or redefinition of values.  Renewal is typically associated with candidates who are charismatic, but not movement candidates.

  • Careful.  You truncated the context.  I was responding to this statement:

       A movement is about motivating people toward a particular end through mass organization.

    To which I replied:

    In which case, just about any presidential campaign would qualify, therefore robbing the word of any real meaninig.
    I think we all know that Obama has charisma.  He has buzz.  And he has folks believing he's a whole lot more progressive than he actually is.  Put this all together and he's able to draw folks into volunteering in large numbers.  I never denied that.

    But it doesn't answer the fundamental question of what the movement is about, particularly since, for many people, it is at least partially about something that simply isn't true--how much more liberal he is than the other candidates.

  • I guess if the word "movement" is too closely tied with "movement candidates" who ride a single issue, I'm willing to start using the word "organization" to avoid furthering the pissing match and detracting from the issues of the campaign or the fact that Obama has a much more liberal record than Edwards or Clinton. Are we cool with that?
    But Obama does not have a much more liberal record than Edwards or Clinton.  Yes, once upon a time he was a community organizer.  But I've known community organizers to go in lots of different directions.  You have to judge people every step of the way.

    And in the Senate, the only place where we can directly compare their records, the most robust record is the DW-Nominate scale, which compares positions taken on all non-unanimous roll-call votes in the Senate (and almost all of them in the House).  

    Here's their respective rankings:

    109th Congress:
    OBAMA         21
    CLINTON       25

    108th Congress:
    EDWARDS       20
    CLINTON       21.5

    107th Congress:
    CLINTON       22
    EDWARDS       38

    106th Congress:
    EDWARDS       24

    Average Rankings:
    OBAMA         21
    CLINTON       22.83
    EDWARDS       27.33

    With the exception of Edwards in the 107th Congress, all three are constently in the 20s, right in middle of the Democratic Caucus.  Their average records are all in the 2os, right in the middle of the Democratic Caucus.  The 1.83 positions separating Clinton and Obama is negligable.  Considering that Edwards comes from a solid red state, and Clinton and Obama both come from a solid blue state, the 6.33 positions separating Edwards and Obama is likewise negligable.

    The ability of Obama to convince his supporters that (a) he is much more liberal than Clinton or Edwards, and (b) he is some sort of progressive leader is certainly worth noting.  But these claims both clash rather sharply with the record, and this is worth noting as well.

    Just wondering--would you consider Tom Tancredo a movement candidate? He's trying to take energy from the immigration nativists and use it to fuel his campaign (albeit thusfar unsuccessfully).

    Also, what about Reagan and the Conservative Movement? Would you say his was a "movement candidacy"?

    Reagan was a movement candidate. He gained a great deal of his support from conservative activists, both individually and through organizations.  Tancredo so far seems like a wannabee movement candidate for what is mostly a wannabee movement.  There's a lot of GOP anger over immigration, but it doesn't really seem organized into a movement, outside of the extremists.

  • But I don't think Obama has to necessarily has to co-opt a single movement, like Dean did with the anti-war movement.
    I don't tink Dean co-opted the anti-war movement, any more than Gene McCarthy or RFK co-opted the anti-war movement in 2008.

    A movement is about motivating people toward a particular end through mass organization.
    In which case, just about any presidential campaign would qualify, therefore robbing the word of any real meaninig.

    There are a lot of different reasons why the thousands of people who work on Obama's behalf work for him, and there are even some very specific ones that form major blocks in the movement (ending the Iraq war and installing a President with wisdom in foreign policy matters, getting affordable health care coverage to everyone in the nation, reforming ethics rules in Washington, electing an African American President who has spent his life on civil and voting rights issues, etc.)
    I agree he's charismatic, particularly because his proposals in these areas by and large don't seem particularly distinguished.  The fact that people over-identify with a candidate who's specific proposals are not remarkably differentiated from other candidate's proposals speaks to the presence of charisma as a dominant factor. If issue differences were dramatic across the board, then there would be a stronger case to speak of a movement candidate.

    I'm not saying that charisma doesn't more people.  That's precisely what it does.  But moving people is only one sign of a movement.

    He isn't a "movement candidate" in that he's tapped into a specific issue movement like Dean, but he's a candidate building quite an impressive movement around himself. He's bringing in new people to politics and energizing the party. Can we agree on those things?
    Replace "movement around himself" with "following around himself" and I would agree completely.  And I would reiterate the comparison with JFK.

  • You wrote:

    All language is conventional. A movement is just whatever enough people say it is.
    That is directly parallel to claiming that a tail is a leg if you call it a leg.

    It's also parallel to saying that rightwing caricature of liberalism is correct if enough people say it is. Or that creationism is correct if enough people say it is.  It is, at bottom, an Orwellian claim, and I utterly reject it.

    Words have meanings.  Those meanings do naturally change over time.  But all change is not equal.  When they change by being deliberately abused, misused or misapplied, then the language--and people's ability to tell the truth--suffers.  We should not abet that process by carelessly misusing words ourselves.

    Anyway, the larger point is that the term "movement" is used to describe so many different kinds of activity that its definition must be broader (more general) than the strict one you've been proposing.
    If you read my comments you will see that I have said there are a wide variety of movements, and even named some of them.  I don't think I've been particularly strict in my use of the term. Plenty of things qualify as movements in my view. On the other hand, I think the distinction between a charismatic candidate and a movement candidate is significant, important, clear and fairly obvious.

    Finally, I cannot stress this enough: this is not an anti-Obama argument.  It's an anti-misrepresentation argument.  (I am still undecided on who to support.) Movement candidates are not always better in my view. Goldwater was a movement candidate, but I much preferred JFK over Goldwater.

    I'd like to encourage folks who support Obama to listen carefully to what I'm saying, not as an attack, but as analysis. Maybe what it will mean for them is some kind of work to make their activities more movement-like.  They don't have to abandon supporting Obama if they come to agree with me on this issue.  That's not the point of what I'm trying to do.  I am perfectly comfortable with people supporting whoever they do.  I just want that support to be more thoughtful, more critically aware, more self-directed, more informed.

  • One point that I think I didn't make well, and maybe I need to write another post on this, is that I don't think Obama's campaign is "the movement." As I said before, I think candidates are like planets that we can slingshot around to build a movement....

    I don't think Obama is the movement. I think there is a nascent, multi-issue progressive movement that we are building. I think because it's multi-issue, it's more about principles than it is about single issue platform positions. I think a couple of the key principles are interdependence and participation in democracy.

    I've repeatedly been quite frustrated in trying to engage in substantive dialogue with Obama supporters about broader issues.  I don't think it needs to be this way.  So I would really enjoy a dialogue on these subjects.  I think they are precisely the sort of issues that need to be examined.

  • As I said, JFK was a charismatic leader. So is Obama.  Neither was a movement candidate.

    Saying warm and fuzzy things about Obama does not speak to the question.  And the fact that many Obama supporters continually miss this point is both part of the problem and part of the indication that he is not a movement candidate.

    If he were a movement candidate, people would be clear about what that movement is, and how Obama supports it. The more that people fall back on rah! rah! rhetoric, the more they feed into the perception that there's no there there.  I am not offering this as proof of anything.  I am not saying that there is no there there.  I am merely offering it as an indication of why those who aren't already true believers often feel turned off.

  • Leg?


    It doesn't matter what you call it.  It's still a tail.

  • comment on a post Capturing the Rural Vote over 7 years ago

    I'd like to point out that the White South makes up 34% of this sample (274 out of 804), which puts a significant skew into the results.  We desperately need to stop thinking of "rural voters" as an undifferentiated block.  They certainly share some common concerns, but they represent vastly different cultural and political traditions as well.

    We need to realize that the white rural South is one of the hardest groups for us to reach, and we should not be fooled by their inclusion into overlooking the distinctive opportunities afforded by rural voters elsewhere.

  • I largely agree with your characterization of the pro-movement argument, and disagree with your characterization of the anti-movement argument.  But I think they have nothing to do with the existence of an actual movement.

    I agree that Obama is a new face who is attracting millions of new followers.  I disagree that "Obama is nothing new. everything always turns out the same way anyway."  I am glad that he's attracting new and more people to politics.

    But that doesn't make him a movement candidate.  It makes him--like JFK before him--a charismatic candidate.

    Part of the way Obama tries to package his charisma is by claiming the mantel of being a movement candidate.  But that's marketing, not reality.  And the marketing of something as a movement is, generally speaking, diametrically opposed to what a movement is all about.

  • There's no doubt that the Civil Rights Movement was the pre-eminent movement of the 1960s, which served to catalyze the rest, but it was hardly alone.  The Womens' Movement, the Anti-War Movement, the Environmental Movement, and the Gay Rights Movement were all major movements that sprung directly or indirectly from the Civil Rights Movement.

    Beyond that, however, there have been dozens of movements since then. The Civil Rights Movement, for example, gave birth to a variety of indentity-based movements: the Black Power Movement, the American Indian Movement (as opposed to the organization of the same name, which unified many, but not all elements of the movement), the Chicano/a Movement, and the Disability Rights Movement, as well as the already-mentionaed Gay Rights Movement.

    What makes a movement is a cause that supercedes any one individual or group, which commands the allegience of individuals to produce social change.  It's certanly expectable that movements will express themselves differently at different times.  But it's hardly fair to say that we don't know what a political movement would look like today.  There are quite a number of them around to tell us.  While some have changed relatively little over the years, others are progressively evolving.

    I think it's fair to say that Dean helped to catalyze a movement that was largely organized online to re-democratize the Democratic Party.  (Reform movements within parties are a special genre that sometimes have dramatic political consequences, and other times merely compensate for organizational failures.) That movement has now created some institutions of its own, while working on transforming existing instutions of the Party.

    Obama has deliberately shunned some of those institutions, while drawing support from some of the individuals drawn into the movement Dean helped to catalyze.  Thus, he is drawing on that movement.  He has also reached out to others not previously involved, utilizing a variety of online tools.  All this makes for an interesting and novel campaign, which has the feel of a movement for many of the people involved.  But one can almost say that all good campaigns have the feel of being a movement or a crusade.  The feel and the reality are two different things.

  • But it still doesn't come anywhere close to making Obama a movement candidate.  The same sorts of things could have been said about JFK.  (And I'm not dissing JFK, either.)  Being a candidate who inspires hope is nice.  People need hope.  But a movement is about more than hope.  A movement is about issues and ideas.

    What he's actually doing is much wiser, much more calculated: gradually, carefully, purposefully building a 50-state campaign from the bottom up. If that's not a movement, I don't know what is.
    With all due respect, that's not a movement.  It's called political organizing.  It's a good thing.  But it's not a movement.

    (BTW, my parents lived in Nebraska in 1954-55, where they met Ted Sorensen, organizing Democratic "Kennedy clubs."  Kennedy didn't run for president until 6 years later. That was a lot more long-term than Obama has yet had time to prove himself to be.  But it still didn't make Kennedy a "movement candidate.")

  • Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but movements change the world.  Discussing the former may reveal a good deal about the beholder.  Discussing the latter has the potential to educate people about what constitutes a movement.

    Just because there may never be perfect agreement doesn't mean that there can't be much better informed and well-reasoned disagreement.

  • I was there, and I saw it.  It was chaotic, sometimes incoherent and self-contradictory, and it burned out rather quickly, but it arguably was a movement for a brief while, and the proof of it was that it came into conflict with Perot himself from time to time.  It was not just a vague general wish.  It had enough substance that people fought over what it meant.

    But adamterando is right. The conflict you refer to isn't the result of an extreme left and an extreme right.  The extreme right is attacking habeas corpus for God's sake!  Habeas corpus certainly was a leftwing idea--back in 1214.  From 1215 onward, not so much.

    Our problem has not been an intransigent left opposed to all this--it's been the lack of such an opposition.


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