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The strange silence

Martin Wolf  of the Financial Times and Bill Moyers discussed the government shutdown /debt ceiling crisis last week.  Check out the whole interview here.  I was particularly struck by this part:

BILL MOYERS: Would you agree that despite what happened this week and the political victory that President Obama seems to have won, would you agree that the conservatives have really won the argument about government?

MARTIN WOLF: I think that is true. What has surprised me is how little pushback there has been from the Democrat side in arguing that the government really did have a very strong role in supporting the economy during the post crisis recession, almost depression, that the stimulus argument was completely lost though the economics of it were quite clearly right, they needed a bigger stimulus, not a smaller one.

It helped, but it didn’t help enough because it wasn’t big enough. And they’re not making the argument that government has essential functions which everybody needs in the short run. Well, we can see that with the national parks. But also in the long run the strength of America has been built, in my perspective, particularly in the post war period, since the Second World War on the way that actually the public and private sectors have worked together with the government providing enormous support for research and development.

It’s been the basic support of America’s unique position in scientific research. You look at the National Institutes of Health which are the most important medical research institutions in the world, these are all products of the willingness of the United States to invest in the long term interest. Then there’s the infrastructure, think of the highway program, which was the most important infrastructure project under the Republicans interestingly.

And those arguments seem to have been lost. So I am concerned that the government that I think Grover Norquist once said he wants to drown in the bath. If you drown your government in the bath in the modern world, we don’t live in the early 19th century, it’s a different world, that the long term health of the United States will be very badly affected.

It’s strange to me that a government which has obviously achieved very important things, think of the role of the Defense Department in the internet, has achieved such important things, that’s just one of many examples, it should be now regarded as nothing more than a complete nuisance. And the only thing you need to do is to cut it back to nothing.

And it does seem to me that the Democrats have, for reasons I don’t fully understand, basically given up on making this argument. And so in a way the conservatives, the extreme conservative position has won, because nobody is actually combating it. So it’s only a question of how much you cut and how you cut it rather than, “Well, what do we want government for? What are the good things about it? What are the bad things about it? How do we make it effective? And how do we ensure that it’s properly financed?”

I’ll touch on the effects of sequester on the future of science in this country in another post but right now, I want to talk about the strange silence from the Democrats and the dangers that wait for them if they don’t start speaking up, soon and loudly.  And part of this has something to do with Joan Walsh and Feministing and what Atrios said a couple days ago:

I don’t offer that as a defense (except for things that happened before his watch, of course), but while ultimately the man in charge is the man in charge, I think that often criticisms of things which happen during this administration are just heard as criticisms of Obama by people who are, understandably, fans and invested in his success.

I’m going to step right into this (because why stop now after five years?) and hypothesize that there are some “fans” on the left who would sell their children into neofeudal serfdom in a heartbeat before they would suffer the completely unfounded accusations of racism that other “fans” would heap upon them if they even dared to strenuously question the Obama administration.

It is pointless to tell these “fans” that there is nothing wrong with criticizing the president and his policies. It doesn’t make you the grand master of the local KKK or mean that you’ve failed Martin Luther King Jr.  In fact, I might even go out on a limb to suggest that the reason Bill Clinton gets so much negative attention from these “fans”, in spite of the fact that his record is more liberal than Obama’s, is because these “fans” are projecting their pent up frustration on a legitimate white target as a proxy. They simply cannot overcome their fear of ostracism if they criticize the president in the strong terms they would like to use.  Just thinking about it makes them feel uncomfortable and oogy.

This is ridiculous but it appears to be useless to point out that if people on the left don’t get over this conditioned Pavlovian response (courtesy of Obama’s campaign strategists) they are condemning their side to complete and utter fecklessness and continued perceptions of ineptitude.  But I might suggest that this is exactly what the bad guys want.  If you don’t raise a fuss, no effective regulation gets implemented and ideas that benefit most of the people in America never see the light of day and are considered politically impractical by the savvy people.

Not only that but I would be remiss if I did not point out that the last time the Democrats had control of the White House, the Senate and the House, they passed a much less than adequate stimulus bill and gave us Obamacare.  Yep, it had control of the executive and legislative branches and still found it politically impossible to even introduce the concept of public option or single payer or even cost controls, for gawdssakes, into the debate over a national healthcare policy.  How does that happen??  I don’t mean how does it happen that these things never even got discussed in a legitimate way with our side in complete control of the dialog.  I mean how does it happen that our side stayed so quiet about the fact that the Obama administration had effectively emasculated it?  The sequester should have been the last straw but from the “fans”?  Hardly a peep.

Russell Brand has a point.  If the side that professes to be the one that stands up for the great masses of people who are being treated poorly doesn’t do anything when it’s in charge, then why vote?  Why not do something different?

This is a BIG problem for the Democrats because there is a slim possibility that they could gain control of the House again and have complete control of government policy for 2 years starting in 2014.  And if that happens, it will be because voters will have had enough and the Republicans will have finally hanged themselves.  And if THAT happens, there’d better be some changes made.

But I personally will not take the left seriously if I don’t hear some harsh criticisms of the way this administration has squandered its first two years in office leaving millions of people unemployed, underinsured and at the mercy of very determined social security and medicare cutters.

If your demoralized, older but wiser youth vote, or ladies’ vote, or “name your base here” vote doesn’t show up for the next big election in sufficient enough quantities and decides to seek its own path, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Lambert picked out my favorite line from the Brand interview:

My new rule for when I fancy doing a bit of the ol’ condemnation is: “Do the people I’m condemning have any actual power?”

Exactly.   There’s nothing worse than spinning your wheels and becoming nasty, mean spirited old bigots in the service of the powerful.  Fox News viewers take note.

31 Responses

  1. The leading Democrats nowadays are Catfood Norquist Democrats.
    What you are describing as a problem (and it is to us mere citizens) is to the Democratic Leadership a great achievement. Obama did not “let” Obamacare happen. He actively conspired to MAKE it happen. Obama did not “let” the sequester happen. He actively conspired to MAKE it happen, in part by sending Biden to negotiate the Terms of Sequester with McConnell behind Reid’s back. It is Obama and the Catfood Democrats who are conspiring hardest of all to cut Social Security and Medicare now to set them up for destruction later, and privatization of the profitizable wreckage of those programs.
    And it was Obama who deliberately conspired with Senator Collins among others to make part of the stimulus be BushObama tax cuts.
    I believe ineffectiveness and insufficiency was Obama’s deliberate secret goal all along. “Bipartisanshippiness” was merely plausible cover. Likewise with his deliberate granting of impunity to financial sector criminals.
    Maybe Obama’s young white fan base will get over Obama when joblessness combines with Obamacare sticker shock and crapitude awareness really bites. His black racial tribalist fan base will NEVer EVer accept any criticism of Obama whatsoever. And if the Catfood Norquist Democratic Party maneuvers that Newark Mayor (whose name I forget just now) into the PrezNomination, I predict that the black racial loyalists will vote for Obama 2.0 all over again. What will an older semi-jobless Obamacare-swindled post-young fan base do?
    I’m sure I don’t know.

  2. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the Democratic Party to wise up. The party has fallen prey to corporate interests. It has nearly severed its link to FDRs New Deal. All that waits is chained CPI to cut loose the New Deal once and for all. Oh, D politicians reference things like economic justice and equality in speeches, but those are just words. Words are used to throw the rubes off the trail. Our CEO/President is a master at using verbiage and PR packaging as a substitute for governing, let alone governing in interests of the people who put him in office.

    Even if Ds win back the House in 2014, it’s hard to expect much from them. This is the Party, as you wrote, that passed a feeble stimulus bill and gave us a flawed-possibly fatally flawed- Health Care bill. This is the Party that did enough to avert economic calamity, but has set us on the path of Depression.

    Without a coherent push from the public, it’s hard to see anything really changing. The so-called left has been domesticated and no longer stands for anything except keeping its small plot of land in a crumbling kingdom.

    A good warning. I hope enough people are listening.

    • If I understand correctly what I read on this blog a few years ago about Obama versus Clinton, Obama is working for exACTly the people who worked to get/buy/muscle/cheat him the nomination. We are not those people.

      “Some call you the Haves. I call you My Base.”

      • That’s right. Wall Street runs his economic policy, hence the emphasis on austerity. Austerity, of course, is for us, not for them.

        Wall Street helped him secure the party nomination because the bankers knew he would let them skate.

    • GregT,

      Let us hope the Obamacare plan is so fatally flawed that it dies,rots, and stinks so fast and so plainly in open view that huge mobs of health rioters can force a hostile occupation government into
      legislating a better plan . . . like expanding Medicare to cover everyone not otherwise well-covered.

  3. Regarding Atrios, nope, he did not code Healthcare.gov. But his administration is responsible for managing the aftermath of the rollout. And even their messaging is as feckless as the rollout.

    It was all botched. And it’s still being botched.

  4. I got an e-mail plea, something about returning Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. I spewed all over my screen in mirth. She could parade that big giant gavel over to the Senate again, this time with legislation gutting Social Security.

    • Her latte’ liberal base will vote her back in. The only way to stop her from being Speaker again is to prevent the Democrats from regaining a majority in the House.

  5. In fact, I might even go out on a limb to suggest that the reason Bill Clinton gets so much negative attention from these “fans”, in spite of the fact that his record is more liberal than Obama’s, is because these “fans” are projecting their pent up frustration on a legitimate white target as a proxy. They simply cannot overcome their fear of ostracism if they criticize the president in the strong terms they would like to use. Just thinking about it makes them feel uncomfortable and oogy

    That’s it.
    That and, of course, Bill is a big old hillbilly despite his Georgetown, Yale Law and Oxford education. Who the hell does he think he is?
    Not one of our kind, darling!

    • The reason behind the hatred displayed in the major East Coast metro fish wraps. Bush the Smarter was one of them not some Arkansas hillbilly. They had the same disdain for Jimmy Carter. Added to this toxic brew was the hatred of their English betters by a cadre of Irish print and broadcast “journalists”. A hatred that carried over to Clinton’s successor Al Gore.

      • Would Tweety Matthews be a case in point? (In all fairness, if this Irish cadre of press warriors did not hate and downwrite Bush Senior in the same way, then that may not be the explanation). Also, I remember reading early in the Clinton Administration that the Clintons closed the White House Press Office which made various tasks for the White House Press Corps more inconvenient. So they hated Clinton just for that.
        And some of the press-hatefulness for Gore was supposedly due to the fact that the free food he provided for the press warriors at press functions, travels and events was only so-so, not the GREAT food they were used to getting.

        • Part of the media bias was due to Richard Nixon’s constant complaints that the media was unfair ti him and his campaign in 1960. He kept it up for well over a decade (“You won’t have Nixon to kick around” (1962); “Agnew’s “nattering nabobs of negativism”, the repeated mentions that he won the debates vs. Kennedy on the radio but lost on TV. Working the refs worked and since then the media has mostly been terrorized of being accused of bias. Fox’s slogan, “fair and balanced” was both reflection of this and a brilliant marketing technique.

          Ronald Reagan also worked the media . Nancy complained to Johnny Carson that his monologues were destroying one U.S. President after another and he soon started treating Reagan with kid gloves.

          CNN covered both W and Gore with the same reporter, Candy Crowley. It was only recently that I found out that Crowley is related to Bush.

          Of course, W worked the media, too. Instead of studying policy or resting he devoted the plane trips to schmoozing with reporters. Those nicknames may have been stupid but they worked, to some extent.

          Maureen Dowd in particular was really vicious towards Gore attacking him constantly for minor, pointless nonsense like wearing earth tones. The NY Times said that Gore was lying when he cited a think tank that said that W’s tax cut would disproportionately favor the rich. We all know how that worked out.

          Clinton was derided by staff at the Washington Post as “not one of us.”

          On the other hand, I kept looking for Obama to get payback from the media for his treatment of Hillary. It never came and for once, he got more favorable media coverage than the Republican candidate (mCain and probably also Romney).

          • Thanks. I forgot all about the Nixon-Agnew forward browbeating of the media.
            About Obama media payback . . . why would the media pay back Obama for his Democratic Establishment treatment of Clinton when the media supported and extended that very treatment?

  6. This is a BIG problem for the Democrats because there is a slim possibility that they could gain control of the House again and have complete control of government policy for 2 years starting in 2014.

    It’s no problem at all for the Democrats – they’ll pass whatever their corporate masters want passed. If some upstart introduces something remotely liberal, they’ll claim they can’t get it through the Senate because the Evil Republicans(tm) will filibuster. The DCCC, DSCC, and the party itself will capitalize on this for fundraising purposes, spamming millions of poor saps for small donations to provide cover for the big bucks they obtain from PACs.

    You know, just like 2009.

  7. Off topic: Lou Reed died today. 😦


    Satellite’s gone up to the sky…

  8. Okay, a little off, but on the strange silence of Democrats, a related post that I think very true…as I watched it unfold. Ian bangs a ten, please give it a read.


    • Thanks for the link. Great post, excellent commentary. Jerome Armstrong’s comment is a post in itself.

    • Me, I think the reason is because the bloggers who had power to change things were bought. Maybe if their leaders hadn’t started out as “reformed Republicans” to a great extent — or maybe if they’d had REAL principles and weren’t so easily purchased by the highest bidder, they’d have real power. But they took took the lazy way out and took the bribes from Obama’s huge 2008 coffers. Of course, now they’re sitting pretty financially, but have no power.

      If you look at them even now, they are a Democratic propaganda machine. As one example that is near and dear to my heart, Obama’s administration botched the Obamacare rollout, one of the worst acts of incompetence in recent Democratic history, and barely a word was spoken in the “A-list” blogs, no accountability required from them whatsoever. And the botch really distracts from some horrors that are far worse. Many if not all of the plans amount to really expensive Medicaid in their doctor coverage (which will lead to the same kinds of doctor access problems as Medicaid) and certainly NOBODY is speaking of that on the major blogs. If these were actually grass roots, you’d think it would be an issue since the Dems RAILED about the same problems in the 90’s. The insurance companies now completely control the individual market, more than they ever did before. They are now doctor extortionists. And I do believe the architects of the law knew ahead of time how the Insure-Co’s were going to game the system, and have put together a network of secrecy that includes the “A-list” bloggers. NO Democratic politicians are talking about it either, except in NH.

      The bloggers were BOUGHT and they likely continue to receive paychecks from the same kinds of orgs that Congress gets their personal slush funds from. That’s why they are worthless.

      Ian is right. You need people with true principles. But the discussion of why these people lack principles is the flaw in his article.

      It’s always about the money.

      • “Reformed” Reptilians = same old pro-plutocratic Reptilians who had enough sense to wake up and realize their Tea Bircher allies were crazy enough to sacrifice the pragmatic interests of the plutocrats for Tea Bircher principles. (After socialism, the next last thing any well-connected, cushy-comfy crony-capitalist plutocrat wants is real, competitive, capitalism, and the Tea Birchers tend to be Randroid true believers in capitalism.)

        The same realization is why enough plutocrats defected to the Dinocratic Party (settling comfortably into the places prepared for them by their hired help, the “Democratic Leadership Council”) to buy Obummer and drag his dead @$$ across the nomination finish line in 2008.

        They had to have a Dinocratic Prez in 2008, because the Chimperial Cheney @$$ministration had screwed not one pooch, but the whole kennel of pooches, in positions Dr. Ruth never heard of. They could not have installed another Reptilian Prez without rigging the elections beyond the limits of plausible deniability. (Also, enough plutocrats may have looked at the pooch-screwing record of the CCA and decided even they’d be better off with the Dinos.)

        By 2012, a preponderance of the plutocrats had decided Obummer had served them faithfully enough that they would be shrewd to keep him, plus their memories of what happened the last time the Reptilians held the White House.


        • Perfect, and those same plutocrats have decided that another Clinton will never, again, get within sniffing distance of The White House.
          As my sister says, “Like all pols, the Clintons may screw us over, but, at least, they leave a hundred bucks on the bureau.”
          That’s a hundred bucks that could be/should be in some plutocrat’s pocket! The malefactors don’t care if they strip mine the US and leave the rest of us with a smoldering shithole.
          They want it all.

          • “I’ll be gone; you’ll be gone”–the motto of modern CRAPitalism.

            Dammit, the old robber barons were corrupt exploiters, too, but at least they made and supplied useful things.

  9. Progressives in the House had the power to stop the ACA dead in its tracks. They could have formed a tactical alliance with the GOP to block its passage unless major changes to the bill were made. They posed no serious resistance to the Obama Administration, who bribed, cajoled and arm-twisted the progressive caucus to get behind a badly flawed bill.

    We won’t get courageous politicians unless we start demanding them. The Tea Party,at least fights for what it believes in. It realizes that to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.

    • The only way to get such officeholders is to vote against the ones who aren’t that way. The price of that is large Republican majorities in the Senate and House. The benefit of that would be a minority caucus of Left Gingriches who are ready to shut down the government
      and freeze the debt ceiling (and keep it frozen) until they get us what we want, or stop what we reject. And of course any Left Gingrich Caucus willing to do that would also be willing to do the lesser things one step short of that.

      Pelosi’s latte’ liberal base will keep re-electing her no matter what.
      But if every other Democrat in the house were a Left Gingrich, they could prevent Pelosi from being their Minority Leader. That could make it harder for Catfood Pelosi to attack Social Security and Medicare.

      Remember the Alamo? “Impeachment is off the table.”

    • I still wonder what sort of threat Obama made to Kucinich during that Air Force One ride to get him to knuckle under and back the ACA.

      Must’ve been a doozy.

      • Perhaps Obama threatened to have Kucinich’s wife and/or daughters assassinated if Kucinich voted against Obamacare at that crucial moment. Not in so many words, of course. Something like
        ” nice wife and daughters you got there. Too bad if something was to happen to them.”

        There is a community organizer/journalist named Al Giordano who went for Obama early out of distaste for Clinton and out of racial reparations ecstasy about getting to support America’s “first Black President” and also out of personal validation about getting to support another “community organizer”. This is unfortunate because Al Giordano has done good work otherwise. Anyway, soon after Kucinich’s fateful “plane ride”,
        Giordan wrote a blogpost celebrating and gloating over all the public and documentable pressure the Obama Forces were able to bring to bear on Kucinich to extort his “yes” vote on that fateful day. The name Al Giordano can be searched and I believe his blog is called The Field or The Field Report or some such. One of those plus the name Al Giordano should call it up. Then one could search for blogposts written just after the day of that fateful vote. I don’t have the time or patience to try finding that blogpost now.

  10. I think RD basically hit the nail on the head. I really don’t think you can overstate the importance of Obama’s race in all this. For decades, the Civil Rights movement was the central core of the post-LBJ Democratic Party (even as the economic-liberalism of FDR, Truman, and LBJ was gradually abandoned). Once black voters rallied round Obama (and it was his race, not his policies that caused them to do so) a near (but not quite) majority of white Democrats were never going to go against him, in Congress and out. And they still won’t, because in their mind being the party that has minority voters is what being a Democrat is all about.

    I suppose I should add that, of course, the Civil Rights movement was one of the most important in American history. This isn’t about disdaining its accomplishments, but about the dangers of confusing symbolism with achievement. And that I even have to say that is because of how often the Obama machine has resorted to calling its opponents “racist.”

  11. We won’t get courageous politicians unless we start demanding them. The Tea Party,at least fights for what it believes in. It realizes that to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.

  12. Great post, excellent commentary. Jerome Armstrong’s comment is a post in itself.

  13. that is really nice and good post.

  14. Pee-yew! I smell a spam troll… 😛

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