Thursday, June 17, 2010


I don't know for sure if the $20 billion fund BP has been pressured to create is a terrific or at least very good thing or less than meets the eye, but so far it seems like a win -- a good thing for the afflicted (if it's done right) and a serious bite taken out of BP. It looks like a win for Obama, too, after a disappointing weak-tea speech (the deal makes the speech seem like even more of a waste of time). The BP deal is revealing the true colors of corporatist Republicans like Michele Bachman and Haley Barbour, at a time when the right wants to seem like America's populist wing. (UPDATE: Joe Barton, too.) I'm seeing a lot of good here.

So it seems to me that the apolitical majority of Americans have done something that the left alone has never managed to do: they've pressured a reluctant Barack Obama to move to the left on an issue. When 71% of the country says the president has been too soft on BP and only 3% say he's been too tough, even the conflict-averse Obama responds. On the public option, on breaking up the big banks, on civil liberties, angry lefties alone have never managed to get this kind of response.

It's yet another indication that if the left wants to have any clout, it needs to make inroads among people in the vast middle -- many of whom are inclined to a basic liberalism but aren't fired up by the issues that move committed lefties. We need, as I've said, to make more liberals. We need to get a bigger percentage of the population on our side. And no, I don't know how to do that. I'm just analyzing the problem. The right, via talk radio and Fox, has politicized people who wouldn't have been politicized otherwise; the right has made politics compelling and entertaining, and made right-wing ideas seem to a lot of people like plain common sense. The left needs to find a way to do that for people who aren't ideologues now. The right alone can decide the fate of an issue because the committed right is fairly large; the left alone simply can't do that. It won't be possible until the left grows.

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