Thursday, October 27, 2011

The "No Difference" Argument Part 3

Obama and Progressives.

I'd been working on this for a bit, when I saw this Atrios post. Obama has done some legitimate damage to progressive/liberal/left/Democratic positions in this country.

The short hand on how this works is:

The President of the United States, is certainly the president of the whole of the US, but (s)he is also, in perception and in fact the leader of the party that (s)he is (nominally) a member of. So if the President is a Democrat, then all the President's positions/policies/ideas are Democratic positions/policies/ideas, no matter whether they are left, center, right, whatever. It doesn't matter if Obama decides to coopt every single GOP policy, all those policies become Democratic policies if he does that.

So when Obama pre-negotiates, and pushes hard for compromise positions that are, at best, slightly right of center, then he has made those positions the left-most point for negotiations, and has made them the liberal position to most people in this country. The Republican conceived free market solution to providing everyone with health care is now considered a liberal/socialist health care plan. Not because it is, but because Obama worked so hard for it.

This is bad. It is bad for progressives. It is bad for conservatives. It is bad for the country. A Democratic president needs to stake out an actual left-of-center position, even if (s)he is fine with or even desires a result that is a compromise between left and right. The President of the US must talk policy as the leader of the party (s)he represents, but be willing to sign compromises to that into law. (S)He must be willing and able to represent all of the US to on an international stage, but domestically, the President is the leader of a party more than the country.

There are a couple frustrating elements to this. One is that this seems more true of Democrats than Republicans (though this is not entirely one-way). Another is that it concedes a level of disconnectedness on the part of most people that I find perfectly legitimate but still frustrating.

But no matter how much I would like everyone to pay more attention to reality over perception, I am aware that it won't happen (soon). As such, if given a choice between a moderate Democrat and a moderate Republican, the latter will actually be better for liberal positions, just as the former has done remarkably well for conservative positions these past couple years. Note that having an actual liberal Democrat on the ticket would change things, just as 2000 having a very conservative Republican did. This Republican preference is only valid if both candidates are, in fact, moderates.

Bush the lesser was not a moderate (particularly with Cheney as VP), Obama is. If Romney wins the nomination, all evidence so far is that he is a moderate (a Republican can't be conservative and be governor of Mass), so unless Obama becomes a actual liberal in the next few months, having Romney win will likely mean that the perceived middle ground will shift to the left, making outcomes more liberal friendly.

The caveat to all this, however is going to be the makeup and level of dysfunction in Congress which, as I've said before, has far more sway over legislation than does the president. One thing that strikes me about the Republican controlled Congress is that they seem to understand politics better than the Democrats. As such, with a Republican in the White House they would want economic recovery and so will likely do more to help the economy than what is possible now due to their intransigence.

...assuming that Dems act as they always do: spineless, with a bunch of blue dog tools.

In reality so long as the Democratic party, when in power, are as pathetic as they have been, having a Republican in the White House is not a bad idea. If the Dems ever grow a spine and actually start to represent the people who vote for them, things might change.

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