Why is David Plouffe still sending emails?

If you ever need a quick downer, go over to OpenLeft and read something by David Sirota.  I tend to agree with a lot of what he says, mostly because I'm a pessimist by nature.  Sirota ain't happy with Obama these days.  His team of rival (singular) essentially pits the progressive image of Obama versus the center-right D.C. establishment.  

In this narrative, Progressives have been played somewhat by ponying up precious time and money to get Obama in office only to find out that he's a re-run of the triangulation and lukewarm centrism that is both unsavory and unnecessary at this time.  The counter-argument is that Obama is so overwhelmingly in control that his center-right team will actually help him hone his thoughts and skills to the point that mere mortals will shutter at his deft center-leftitude.

I'm not terribly comfortable with either narrative, but I do find surprising solace in the daily emails I still receive from David Plouffe.  There is apparently a coordinated effort to continue online fundraising and drawing Progressives into the fold.  Obama's team is urging us to get together to share our thoughts for the future and actually organizing Progressive causes into some sort of lasting force.  I find this interesting.

I guess you could take an extremely Sirota-esque (or molluskesque) view of this situation and say that they are essentially co-opting the Progressive movement for their own cause (Obama) or that they are simply getting a headstart on 2010.  After all, nothing says inaction like a bunch of liberals getting together and whining.  Then again, that seems awfully Machiavellian even by modern US political standards.

The other view is that the Obama team really is hoping to turn the Progressive online movement into a lasting force and not simply a one-time honey pot that gets their man the Presidency.  If so, this is reassuring to me.  After all, being invited to participate is pretty much the opposite of getting dumped.  And it does feel sometimes like we're getting dumped.

Tags: email, grassroots, obama, Plouffe (all tags)



Re: Why is David Plouffe still sending emails?

Sirota is pretty much a one-note rabble-rouser.  He typifies many of the blogs in that he sees everything through a good vs. evil lens, and "evil" in this context means anyone who was associated with that triangulating, DLC-loving Clinton administration.  It's a purist perspective where, the minute someone does something that doesn't match the liberal orthodoxy, "they're dead to me."  No one is perfect - even Paul Wellstone voted for DOMA, you know - but they never take that into account.  And in my view, a lot of these people supported Barack Obama not because his politics matched theirs, but simply because he was the one who hadn't disappointed them yet.

Obama, of course, hasn't done anything yet other than make some appointments.  By and large, his focus seems to be on appointing pragmatists as opposed to ideologues.  If people can get past the notion that anyone who touched the Clinton administration somehow bears the taint, I think they'd realize that pragmatism allows one to realize that we're living in different times than the 1990s, that more things are politically possible right now, and that the needs of the country are different right now.

It's one thing if people became disillusioned with Obama over, say, the FISA vote.  But why the heck would anyone choose right now to become disappointed in him and decide that he's just a triangulating centrist after all?  Was the Clinton nomination really THAT off-putting?  It's bizarre to me.  From where I sit, Obama has been exactly as advertised, and it's not too much to expect that people wait to become disappointed until something disappointing actually occurs.  If Sirota's aim is to be the sort of gadfly who pulls the administration to the left, he's not going to achieve that goal by crying wolf on a weekly basis.  Like I said, one note is all he can play.

by Steve M 2008-12-02 06:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is David Plouffe still sending emails?

Yeah, he seems a little over-the-top for me.  But I think his beef is not so much with the Clinton nomination, but in that he has Summers and Geithner as his primary economic team (with Goolsbee, of course).  Combine that with Bob Gates and Adm. Jones, and it does start to look like the "no man" team as described by Sirota.  As Obama said, and I believe him, he is in charge.  But at some point, you need a few allies and if Obama isn't really a center-right triangulator, who are his current allies?  Goolsbee?  Who else?

Sure, lots of things are possible right now, but if all the advice Obama is getting is "deregulate and bail out the banks".  That's a huge missed opportunity.

by the mollusk 2008-12-02 07:01AM | 0 recs

who are his current allies?


Hence the e-mails.  If he has the weight of the American public on his side, he doesn't need to triangulate.

by Dracomicron 2008-12-02 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Easy.

I understand what you're saying, but it's obviously not that simple.  If you start to get into discussions about what's best for the country, what's best for the economy, etc.  You can very easily make a case that it's time to deregulate (or delay re-regulation) because of some distant economic theory.  If you're in a room full of these people, it would be very easy to lose your bearings and begin to be affected by the arguments.  There is a much lower chance of this happening to Obama than to me, but still, in such contentious settings, it's better to have actual allies.  Plus, it could create a drag to have a deregulator overseeing the writing of new regulations.  There would be constant pressure to water down any proposals.

by the mollusk 2008-12-02 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Easy.

I think it's a mistake to assume that just because people like Larry Summers broadly supported deregulation initiatives in the 1990s, they must be ideologues who favor deregulation under all circumstances and specifically as a response to the current financial crisis.  In fact, the last few years Summers has sounded more like Paul Krugman, talking about how growing inequality between rich and poor is the fundamental problem we need to confront.

To me, it looks like Obama is putting together an all-star team, advisors with immense amounts of practical experience in their respective fields.  I think that's a smart way to go about things and it doesn't necessarily imply that these advisors are ideologically wedded to a particular point of view.

I also think none of these appointments are particularly surprising considering who Obama's advisors were during the campaign.  I don't think Obama misrepresented himself one bit to the left in terms of economics or foreign policy, but I do think some people allowed themselves to become too optimistic on those points.  Personally, I've always seen low expectations as the key to happiness.

by Steve M 2008-12-02 10:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Easy.

That's a fantastic point: the economic guys that were around Obama were by-and-large Chicago academics.  Those guys think markets solve everything.  It was why I was an Edwards guy to begin with.

by Jess81 2008-12-02 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Easy.

There's something to be said for the last 8 years, and it's that they've provided a brilliant example of the end results of a be-all, end-all deregulation policy.

The people that Obama is recruiting are smart as heck, and those that were intitially for deregulation (to some extent or another) now have a textbook case of it to tell them how it does and, more significantly, doesn't, work.

by Dracomicron 2008-12-03 04:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is David Plouffe still sending emails?

I think it's not only a difference of pragmatism vs. ideology, but also a difference of competing ideologies.  For example, Sirota is die-hard anti-free-trade.  Obama is largely supportive of free trade (in spite of some campaign rhetoric to the contrary).  Obama doesn't see his support for free trade as a pragmatic step toward an eventual anti-free trade stance--rather, he simply sees it as better policy for the future of our country and planet.

I expect if you looked at other issues you would find differences as well.  Obama is not only more pragmatic than Sirota, he has different politics (thankfully, in my opinion).

by markjay 2008-12-02 10:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is David Plouffe still sending emails?

I agree with that, but I see the problem as people who allowed themselves to buy into a silly narrative where Obama was going to unilaterally rework NAFTA on day one and Hillary was nothing but a cheerleader for her husband's GOP-lite trade policies.  If people built up unrealistic expectations, I think they need to find a way to work through their own disappointment rather than ranting that Obama isn't the progressive deity they imagined him to be.  From where I sit, I'm pretty optimistic about what we're going to get out of this administration, but I don't think people should invest a lot of energy into the belief that it's going to be significantly different from what was advertised.

by Steve M 2008-12-02 10:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Why is David Plouffe still sending emails?

Overall, I'm optimistic as well (despite what I said in my post).  But it is hard to deny that Obama, whether he likes it or not, owes a substantial amount of his support to the netroots and the use of the internet to raise staggering amounts of money and time from people with genuinely Progressive views on how the government should act.  You couple that energy with the current economic crisis that begs for more regulation and government spending and there is a legitimate expectation that Obama won't be "GOP lite".

I agree that the common thread in his team is competence and experience.  Plus if Executive Branch experience is what you want, you'll need to go to either the Carter or the Clinton Administration to find capable Democrats.  So that in itself isn't a non-starter.  

But if Obama decides that what we need right now is a cut in the Capital Gains tax and more Free Trade agreements, that will be a major fail and he would rightly invoke the ire of the left.

Anyhow, the overall gist of this post was that I'm a little surprised at the continued contact from the Obama Campaign.  They apparently want this friendship to last and so they will have to keep the Progressive netroots at least appeased.  And I think that's a good sign.

by the mollusk 2008-12-02 11:30AM | 0 recs
He is a progressive diety.

A tunafish sandwich is a progressive diety after all the rightwing nonsense we've had to deal with.

Obama, for all his centrism, is still the most left president we've had since Jimmy Carter.

by Dracomicron 2008-12-03 04:46AM | 0 recs


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