Friday, December 11, 2009


At Rumproast yesterday, Kevin K. declared this (a comment from co-blogger StrangeAppara8us) the "Quote of the Day":

Whether or not Health Care Reform is a hoax and even if Obama is a degenerate criminal mastermind, I find the whole spectacle of spoiled-brat Lefty drama queens swooning on divans whilst shouting "Betrayal" "Perfidy!" "Third Party!" "Impeach Them!" and "Avenge Me!" infantile and embarrassing. It makes Liberal activists look about as organized and formidable as the cast of Godspell.

This is fucking politics, not a Christmas pageant. Government isn't a mechanism for implementing idealism. At best, it is a social institution that hampers evil by making it visible, and forcing the Worst Impulses of Man to compete for funding.

Up to a point I agree with this. I never expected the Obama administration to be the Jane Hamsher administration or the Glenn Greenwald administration.

What upsets me, though, is that Barack Obama and congressional Democrats went into this year with what seemed to be a considerable store of goodwill for some form of non-conservatism -- and they seem to have pissed it away in a year. You don't have to have to try govern as far to the left as I would. But if you fight the policy and propaganda wars so ineptly that the public emerges no longer believing that liberals or even moderates can be trusted with the reins of government, you're failing. Especially if you're committing a lot of unforced errors.

Obama's election led a lot of people to predict that the GOP era that started with (choose one) Bush or Reagan or Nixon was stone dead. Last spring, James Carville published a book predicting that Democrats would dominate U.S. politics for forty years. What happened? At this moment Democrats trail the "generic ballot" question for Congress in polls from Gallup and Bloomberg as well as Rasmussen. A new Bloomberg poll shows an increase in economic despair and a drop of 8 points in two months on the question of whether the country is headed in the right direction. Another new poll shows Mike Huckabee in a statistical dead heat with Obama for 2012, while the Obama-Palin gap, which was 20 points in March, is now, God help us, only 6. And, most appallingly, the same polling outfit, Public Policy Polling, tell us that the gap between those who'd rather have Obama as president right now and those who'd prefer George W. Bush -- the worst president in American history -- is also a mere 6 points.

Obama had to deal with a massive downturn. Eventually he was going to be blamed for miserable economic conditions. But he at least needed to seem as if he understood that dealing with the economy was vastly more important than anything else he could be doing as far as the American public was concerned. He's failed to convey that sense of urgency. The public thinks he's got an Ahab-like fixation on health care -- and he's failed to make a persuasive case for making health care a priority.

He's also failed to anticipate the depth of his opposition and to counter it effectively. He went into the health care fight like someone planning a prison break who has fifteen checkpoints to get through and has a plan for maybe nine or ten. I'm not saying that he could have anticipated every element of the opposition -- the tea parties, for instance -- but he seems to have been caught flat-footed by the fact that Blue Dogs are Blue Dogs, or that Joe Lieberman is a sleazebag, or even that opponents would lie, and successfully catapult the propaganda of their lies. Steve Benen, citing a new CNN poll, describes the result:

... it's clear that much of the opposition is the result of the public believing the lies they've been told. For example, a whopping 79% of those CNN polled believe that the federal budget deficit would be even higher if reform passes, despite all the evidence pointing to the exact opposite conclusion. What's more, 85% believe their taxes would go up, which is also clearly not true.

The moral of the story, then, is to lie like crazy during all policy debates. An apprehensive public is likely to believe bogus claims, and the media will simply pass blatant lies along with "he said, she said" reporting. Treating voters like grown-ups will only lead to punishment when tackling the major issues of the day.

But if you can't see going into a fight like this that the noise machines of the GOP and Big Medicine are going to find it fairly easy to distort the truth, and get the media to parrot those distortions, and you don't have any plan whatsoever for dealing with that inevitability, shouldn't you ask yourself whether you have what it takes to fight this fight at all?


I'm finding it harder to post these days, and this is why. I'm not an ideological purist; I guess I'm a competence purist. I think competence on the part of non-Republicans builds trust in non-Republicans -- which is critical, because Republicans are crazy and will destroy America the next time they have power -- and that's where I think Obama is failing. So I've been grumpy. And now I've gotten this out of my system, and I hope I'll be more on the "amused" side of the "disgusted"/"amused" axis. If not, well, my apologies.

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