Monday, November 15, 2010


I agree with Paul Krugman that not fighting back effectively against Republicans is what's painted President Obama and the Democrats into the corner they're in now, but I have to quibble with this:

...In retrospect, the roots of current Democratic despond go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president. Again and again, he defined America’s problem as one of process, not substance -- we were in trouble not because we had been governed by people with the wrong ideas, but because partisan divisions and politics as usual had prevented men and women of good will from coming together to solve our problems. And he promised to transcend those partisan divisions.

... the real question was whether Mr. Obama could change his tune when he ran into the partisan firestorm everyone who remembered the 1990s knew was coming. He could do uplift — but could he fight?

So far the answer has been no....

Actually, the roots of the Democrats' problems don't "go all the way back to the way Mr. Obama ran for president" -- they go back a hell of a lot further than that, and Krugman has made clear in other writings that he knows that, or should. Republicans declare total war whenever Democrats attain power or seem about to do so -- see the mid-1990s government shutdown; see Florida 2000; see Bush responding to his "thumpin'" with the surge.

Barack Obama didn't create that problem. And no Democrat has found a way to solve it without capitulation -- certainly not Krugman's preferred primary candidate, Hillary Clinton, and certainly not her husband. Some of us back in 2008 thought we might as well try it Obama's way, hoping that the goodwill he seemed to be inspiring, combined with the vast nationwide disgust with the Bush administration, might make total partisan war increasingly unacceptable to the public.

It seemed somewhat naive at the time to think so, but how the hell else were Democrats going to be able to fight back? They've never had a media machine like the right's -- even as Bush sunk to near 20% approval in the polls, Air America was going out of business and Fox News was still trouncing MSNBC in the ratings. They've never had the committed ideological base the right had. Maybe fed-up centrists really would rule the day, uniting with earnest young Obamaites.

It didn't work, and Obama had no Plan B for fighting back. But no Democrat in recent memory has had a Plan B for fighting back, other than triangulation and small-ball. And I don't see how that would been an improvement over what we got. What would the 2009-2010 equivalent of school uniforms and the V-chip have been?

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