Friday, September 07, 2018


I haven't watch today's Obama speech yet, but what I'm reading about it leaves me with mixed feelings. I like this:
Warning that these are "extraordinary" and "dangerous" times, former President Barack Obama on Friday unleashed his most direct and forceful attack on President Donald Trump and said internal resistance in the administration is not the right way to stop him.

During a speech at the University of Illinois, Obama slammed "crazy stuff" coming out of the Trump White House....

"It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents. Or to explicitly call on the Attorney General to protect members of our own party from prosecution," Obama said....

And Obama took Republicans in Congress to task for being "utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work." Even Republicans "who know better," Obama added, "are still bending over backwards" to protect Trump.

"This is not normal," Obama continued. “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?"
And I'm pleased that the stated purpose of the speech was to encourage people to turn out in November and vote Democratic.
There was nothing subtle about the speech. Vote, and vote for Democrats, Obama said, several times.
But in that case, was there really any purpose to this?
“Even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy, even if you agree with more libertarian economic views, even if you are an evangelical and the position on social issues is a bridge too far,” Obama said. “I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government. It should not be Democratic or Republican. It should not be partisan to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents.”
Or this?
The former president said both parties had, at times, been “infected” with the kind of politics he said the nation should abhore. He praised Republicans who in the past had helped expand civil rights and other protections and said neither party “has had a monopoly on wisdom.”
This is precisely what didn't work for Democrats in 2016. Hillary Clinton tried to reach out to moderate Republicans, and those Republicans, even the ones who had doubts about Trump, came home to their party's nominee on Election Day. Nearly all of them are going to do that this year as well, or they're going to stay home.

This message doesn't reach the people at whom it's aimed, while it suggests to some committed progressives that the Democratic Party really isn't very different from the Republican Party.

Libertarians won't vote Democratic. Nor will evangelicals. Lefties who hear that the Democratic Party is a safe choice for these voting blocs are likely to come away thinking that Obama has just confirmed everything Jacobin, Glenn Greenwald, and Chapo Trap House have been saying about Democrats for years.

I know that this has been Obama's message since that convention speech in 2004. I'm not arguing that Obama needs to move sharply to the left. He shouldn't make that move if he's not comfortable with it. (In the speech, he did praise Medicare for All.) I'm saying that he should focus sharply on what the problem is -- the Republican Party -- and on what we need to do immediately to start solving the problem -- electing more Democrats, because Democrats are better than Republicans. Not Democrats are better than Republicans even though Republicans have been good in the past, and Democrats haven't always been so great.

This is not a time for qualifications. This is a time to make the choice clear and obvious. We need to make sure that we get the people who are fed up out to the polls. We're not going to get the votes of people who still aren't sure whether they're disgusted.

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