Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Big Picture with The Strike: From Euphoria to Passion: The Return of Political Polarization

1. I think why I was so outraged by conservatives yesterday - personally infuriated to the point that I had to breathe deeply for at least five minutes before I could calm down enough to go to bed - was that I was still feeling so euphoric and idealistic about politics after the inauguration, and had almost forgotten about the despicable people, strategies, and ideas that have made politics so frustrating for so long. It’s very disheartening to realize that conservatives still exist, and that their power now lay solely with a dangerous network of ideological right-wing radio hosts, who tell their drone listeners to call their right-wing Congressmen, and together, they all mock everything we’re trying to do. If the Right knows how to do anything, it's how to mock things that ordinary people desperately need, and demean and and deride anyone who is doing something about it. It’s more than Limbaugh who wants us to fail, it’s the whole lot of them, because if this bill succeeds, it will create a whole new generation of Democrats.

2. Even understanding the right’s presence, I think we have come to the point where we have to move from euphoria to constructive criticism. We control the levers of government, and we should get the best darn bill we can possibly muster without worrying about 2010. There's a great quote from FDR when he is meeting with labor leaders who wanted him to move left: "Make me". Exactly. Krugman and Reich and everyone else needs to continuously pull Obama left, especially on the economy. The great thing is that a) tons of left-wing or generally idealistic and compassionate people are now inspired to participate in politics, and they'll pull him left, and b) Obama has to listen to his base, and will listen to left-wing criticism and be moved by it - not all the time, but a million times more than Bush did.

3. Obama especially needs to be pulled left on the issue where I have my one legitimate criticism of his centrism: economic policy and almost as much the politics of economics. What liberal critics have been saying is somewhat true: given the challenges in the country, given the unbelievably receptive political climate and his amazing powers of persuasion, and given the critical importance of bold economic policy, he should be bolder, especially in the way he articulates and advocates his vision. More "hit you in the gut", more defending hardworking people from the bloodsuckers who have dragged us down. Why isn’t he OUT THERE, right now, selling this plan to the country? Why isn’t he in a factory in Ohio every day articulating why public investment is so crucial for our short term and long term economic health, what the deeper societal problems of economic inequality mean for the average American, and why this stimulus should give people hope Obama himself admitted last year that his greatest weakness was passionately advocating his economic vision and programs. He's improved as a salesman a great deal, but there is a ton of room to grow. The good news is that FDR really grew in this regard, as did LBJ, and JFK on Civil Rights. He will be pulled by the Left and pushed by events.

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