Wednesday, November 03, 2010

On His Head

Sorry to keep quoting myself, but when you're right, you're right. On June 7, 2008, I posted The Front Lines of Democracy, an analysis if HRC's "concession" speech. I quoted her at length and then talked about how her presentation of the issues and challenges facing Democratic candidates and constituencies differed from Obama's:

The speech also becomes a teaching moment. She shows exactly how the appeal to unify the party must be made. In her endorsement of Obama, at every step, she attaches conditions. Real relief to the struggling middle class. True independence from oil and real actions to combat global warming. Bringing our service men and women home with respect for their service and support for their needs. The biggest moment was her extended meditation on gender and what it means to be equal. She starts with a simple statement: I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us. She then describes concretely what it means for her that others have stood firm in the past, have refused to retreat in the face of defeat or to settle for half-measures, and makes clear the advances that have happened because of determination that it shall be so: "When you stumble, keep faith. When you’re knocked down, get right back up. And never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on. " ...

And now we get to the heart of the matter. This speech was a concession speech only in a formal sense. Hillary has surrendered nothing. She is being gracious and is directly advocating all Democrats act in the interest of retaking the White House and creating the conditions under which we can seize those opportunities and benefit Democratic constituencies. Hillary has served notice that she will do everything within her power to make this happen.

If it fails, it is all on Obama's head. If he fails to heed her advice and pledge himself to fighting for the concrete material needs of Democratic constituencies, he will lose. If he tries to appease the Right rather than support the Left, he will lose. If he continues to disdain the messy, contradictory, not sufficiently PC particularity of the Democratic base, he will lose. And, should he fail, she will, without rancor and without revenge, pick up the pieces, go on with the fight and never surrender to the foes of democracy. She will always be on the front lines. ...

With Hillary, unity of the party is for the sake of the constituents, the power to act on behalf of and in the interests others in very concrete ways. Her laundry list of objectives and initiatives so ridiculed by the press corps got people's attention because it addressed their needs and fears. It demonstrated to them that this was someone who gave a damn about their particular issues and really would try her hardest to fix what was broken and create what was missing. ...

With Obama, he falls into the usual trap of the Stevensonians, praising unity as such, considering it a good in and of itself, and not worrying too much about the messy, grubby, delivering the goods kind of politics that so upsets the technocrats. If we only reform the system and make it all rationalized and fair and formally equal, then what results will be satisfying to the public. Um, no. It is not, as some would have it, that Obama is some kind of false front, a crypto Libertarian/Republican/Communist/Black Nationalist/Islamacist/[Fill in your favorite crazy ass conspiracy boogey monster here] as much as that he does not make delivering the goods to the voters the center of his political cause. It is abstract, formal, reassuring to those who are already on-board and doing OK, but simply cannot speak to the woman working three jobs and frantic for health insurance.
And, sadly, this is precisely what happened. Obama wasn't a false front (he was bought and paid for by Wall Street and has delivered well to them, in a thoroughly bi-partisan manner, after all); he has for two years failed to deliver the goods to the rank and file, and they let him know they weren't happy with that performance. I think "smack-down" is too strong of a term for the message sent to the Unity Democrats, Obamacans and cultural Stevensonians yesterday. The demand that we be unified for their sakes was met with a cool stare and uncomfortable silence. The Republicans gained seats, but not because of anything they did (please...). Instead, it was a quiet, stubborn refusal to participate in the marginalization of the party faithful who can be termed Clinton Democrats.

This is also why the various calls to do, um, something dramatic and bold and powerful and letting them know that we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it! from the self-identified liberals and progressives and anti-Obama contingent will have little effect on electoral politics. The people capable of mounting a viable primary challenge to Obama (who number, at most, two in the entire Democratic party) absolutely will not agree to it because the true victims of that kind of party in-fighting are the constituents who need the party to represent them, even as the party in question is doing a piss-poor job of it at present.

Running a primary challenge is what the precursors of the Obamacan/Unity faction did to both Carter and Gore, when Teddy Kennedy and Bill Bradley respectively decided that they were far more deserving of the nomination than those tedious men, party faction be damned. They were Northeast Stevensonian Elites and, by that standard, the proper recipients of the crown.

I'm confident that my critical stance on The Precious is well known. I'm going to say now that trying to recruit a primary opponent is a stupid thing to do, and anyone who would take up that role does liberal politics no favors. It is simply a waste of energy and money. Take a page from Hillary's book and get past revenge. As I talked about two years ago, parties are about power before anything else. Don't waste time crippling the Democratic nominee worse than he's doing on his own. You won't win the nomination, and Obama will screw himself over six ways from Sunday when it comes to the general. His sole political purpose now is to encourage the Republican Preznit wanna-bes to butcher each other in the primaries, much as they did two years ago.

All of this presumes he isn't impeached and/or pulls a Nixon to get himself out of the spotlight, which leaves us with Jack Nicholso... uh, Joe Biden as Preznit, and that should at least be entertaining, if a trifle terrifying. Yes, I actually think that is a possible outcome, given Republican rhetoric. And then the challenge becomes getting someone besides Biden for the next nomination. Perhaps a well timed investigation...

Identify the state and local candidates who will talk and act on behalf of ordinary pocket-book issues - not about deficits and formal rules and blah, blah, fucking blah, but about putting money in working class pockets, NOW.

America is, at best, a center-left society. That's what you're going to get if the constellations align. As long as people are feeling economically threatened, it will be center-right. The way to move left is to get wealth flowing downwards again, and we have enough of a shitty economy that people can still be moved to throw the bums out and take a chance on a new raft of bums.The fantasy of the Stevensonians, that the society will meekly agree that they are the best and know best and should be allowed to rule untrammeled, ain't happening. Ever. To the degree that you share that world view (and I do share it, I am of that socio-economic class and their prejudices are my own - when I rail at this group I am criticizing that in myself), lose it. This may become a more egalitarian society, but it will never be culturally liberal.

I'm both pessimistic about reversing the wealth transfer and unreasonably hopeful. It's happened before when the ordinary voters turned the plutocrats on their heads.


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