Dear Greg Sargent: “Re your Morning Plum reference to Krugman’s column today”
Update appended below.
After a two-and-a-half-month hiatus from regular blogging here—most of my few posts this summer related to my passion about animal rescue and animal welfare—I’m once again feeling like posting about politics, at least more regularly than I posted this summer. (And maybe soon I’ll once again feel like posting about legal issues, but I don’t yet, so y’all who’ve been waiting for that with bated breath, well ….)
I wanted a break from all-politics-and-law-all-the-time, and (mostly) took one. My active reentry here at AB began with two posts within the last few days—one that I thought would get some attention, but did, not; the other that I thought would get little attention, but got more than a little.
After reading emailed Greg Sargent this afternoon an embarrassingly long… eeeek … rant about that post of mine that got little attention—and, while I was at it, about two of my current political obsessions: the silly Hillary Clinton presidential-nomination anointment, by the press and (unwittingly, I think, courtesy of the press) the Democratic Party; and the silly six-year failure of our current White House standard bearer to ever trouble himself to … y’know … like … engage in any refutation of misinformation by … y’know … stating facts, coherently and specifically—I jumped all-in (to use an “in” cliché that really annoys me, but fits here) today.
But since emails from no-names are treated, I’m sure, as emails from no-names, and because, well, I’m just really in the mood right now, I’ll share my rant with all you AB readers, should any of you actually be interested:
Greg, you write this morning in the Morning Plum:
“REPUBLICANS AND THE ‘LAZY JOBLESS’: Paul Krugman’s column today marvels at the ways GOP lawmakers continue to suggest the unemployed are choosing their plight, even as benefits have been slashed and we’re treating them with “unprecedented harshness.” But why?”
The answer to your question is, of course, that most people have no idea that unemployment compensation benefits have been dramatically slashed and are, as Krugman highlights, far lower than they have been in relation to the level of involuntary short-term and long-term unemployment in many decades.
Just as most people have no idea about one after another after another other facts concerning public policy—in Florida, for example, there is a TV ad asking people to vote for Rick Scott against Charlie Crist because “Obamacare has raised healthcare costs” and is “taking money from your pocket,” or words to that effect.
And of course most people think government employment—federal, state, local—has increased during Obama’s presidency; of course, actually, it has decreased, dramatically.
And on and on. Which has been the case throughout Obama’s presidency. Neither of our two current Democratic national standard bearers, Obama and Hillary Clinton, would be caught dead actually educating the public about, y’know, actual facts; neither one will speak in anything other than banal generalities. Clinton, who probably could actually educate the public about such things as facts, instead talks incessantly about how excited she is about her daughter’s pregnancy—because, y’know, we’re all so deeply interested in this–and makes childish jokes about her failure to declare an intention to run for the presidency, deigning to add a few banalities about such things as income inequality so that we all know that her heart is in the right place.
And because the punditry insists that Dem presidential candidates are fungible, Clinton’s home free. Clinton, Warren, and male longtime progressives such as Sherrod Brown, who can’t run because, well, Hillary Clinton probably will run, are all the same; one’s as good as the other. After all, didn’t Clinton say in some speech back in November 2007 that, yeah, maybe income inequality has become a problem? I mean, who needs any more evidence that she’s an economics progressive than that?!
Giving speeches is, of course, what Clinton does. In November 2007 she had been a senator for nearly seven years. During which she voted for a really bad bankruptcy bill, and did nothing at all, at least to my knowledge (or, I think, to anyone else’s), that could matter to, say, people who aren’t upscale women trying to break corporate-hierarchy glass ceilings and such.
I’m a contributor to the blog Angry Bear, and last Friday, after learning about Boehner’s comments from Krugman’s mention of it on his blog, I posted an item about it titled “John Boehner Says the Obama Economy Has Eliminated Involuntary Unemployment! Seriously; that’s what he said. The Dems should use this in campaign ads.” The title was not facetious; I pointed out that Boehner’s representation of fact necessarily presumes a thriving economy in which jobs are available for anyone who wants one; in other words, we really have full employment now. My post gained no attention, best as I can tell, so I’d like to see someone whose blog posts do get attention make the point—because it is an important one. Isn’t it? My post is [here].
Apologies for this lengthy rant.
As for Obama, coherency and specificity, which require actual explanation rather than sound-bite-speak, are just not his thing; I understand that. By which I mean that I understand that that is so—and by which I don’t mean that I understand why it is so, although I suspect that the culprit is a stunning lack of mental agility coupled with an apparently overriding belief that he need not do anything by way of outreach, education and persuasion, that he doesn’t really feel like doing.
As for Clinton … well … speaking in specifics is not her thing, either. It doesn’t pay well, and policy specifics would entail her actually learning specifics (better late than never, but, whatever) and maybe even proposing specifics of her own. Okay, specifics that someone in her quarter-century “orbit” (the media’s euphemism for closed circle of decades-long Clinton operatives) learning specifics. Sorta like what Warren and Sherrod Brown have done by themselves!
We’re all, of course, tremendously happy for Clinton and her husband that they’re about to become grandparents. It’s just that we’re interested in other things, as well. And just that other thing that she’s interested in: ridiculous, cutesy, will-she-or-won’t-she games.
I’m a progressive who cares about more than 1980s-and ‘90s-era women’s issues. (And not just because I’m aware that it is no longer the 1980s or ‘90s; some of those issues remain potent and important, but they are not the end-all-and-be-all of progressive economic concerns, some of which actually have to do with men as well as women.) I don’t want any more generic, look-at-who-I-am-rather-than-what-I’ve-actually-done theater-of-the-ridiculous. Been there, done that. (Okay, I was never a big fan of Obama, but supported him against Clinton because I feared another triangulator president—one who would be hemmed in by her husband’s 1990s policy choices, no less. One who still is hemmed in by her husband’s 1990s policy choices.)
I’ll end this rant by asking this question: Why have the progressives who want so badly to see a Warren draft not trying to encourage, say, a Sherrod Brown draft? Wrong gender? Really?? Warren’s popularity comes not from her gender but instead from her economic population and deep knowledge of, emersion in, and passion for actual specific policy issues. Brown has that, too. And he, unlike Warren, may simply be waiting for someone to ask him to run.
Take a look, progressives. I’m serious. It’s time now to support an economic progressive who’s the real deal, not someone’s who really just a political celebrity. My dream ticket is Brown and Jeff Merkley. Both have been in the economic-progressive trenches for decades. Neither is the spouse of a former president, even a popular and still-popular one who actually knows how to make a point without using a denegrating, condescending manner to do it.
That said, if what Dems are looking for, and if Dem presidential candidates really are fungible, then how about Kim Kardashian? Who knows? She may even be a genuine economic progressive.
We economic progressives finally have the ear of a large segment of the population. And we’re going to squander it by nominating for president someone who’s little more than just a professional political celebrity? Why? Seriously; why?
UPDATE: Turns out that I’m a few days late to this party, at least as it’s host. Molly Ball posted a piece on Sept. 19 on The Atlantic’s website titled “Does Hillary Clinton Have Anything to Say?” Ball reaches the same conclusion that I do: The anwer is, no.
But there are, as I noted above, national politicians in addition to Elizabeth Warren, who do.
I mean, look: Just because your husband was a popular president in the 1990s doesn’t mean that you get to be the Democractic presidential nominee yourself. Your prsumption to the contrary notwithstanding.
Although Molly Ball, Bernie Sanders and I are, thus far, the only partiers. Want to join us?
Updated 9/22 at 4:10 p.m.
Quite a nice rant it is.
I love Senator Warren but I hope she stays a senator, not because she wouldn’t do fine in the White House but because we need good senators who understand the ins and outs of the economy. Warren’s background with bankruptcy law and regulation gives her an essential leg up in crafting legislation.
Democrats are far too focused on the White House. Yes, absent a total screw up the Democrats are likely to win the presidency because of demographics. The trouble is that legislation gets done in Congress and the Democrats have been poor at building a bench of solid House candidates.
There aren’t many lessons to learn from Republicans but one thing they have done very well is develop candidates throughout the various levels of governments. State legislatures matter (can anyone say gerrymandered district), county commissions, municipal boards and even school boards matter and Democrats have not been good at developing a strong bench.
The other part of your rant Beverly is also quite important. I don’t necessarily believe in what’s being called “green lanternism”, leaders leading doesn’t replace a strong party structure that gets the message out regularly and well. Still, it amazes me that this president, who ran his first election campaign with tremendous discipline in responding to “bullshit” (there really is no other suitable word) has been so poor at correcting misleading and fallacious narratives and facts.
As for the crap that comes through in political ads, is there a way to develop a legal definition of libel that would hold candidates responsible for saying things that are pure crap? Absent a rollback of some recent SCOTUS decisions we are going t be stuck with gobs of money infecting the system but there ought to be some other tactics that will work in countering political advertising that is just plain dishonest. Of course it would be nice if the media would actually do its job but given the ongoing corporate chokehold on our society that doesn’t seem likely to change unless those who are subjected to a sloppy media force it to change.
Oh, gosh, Mark, I’m so with you on that idiotic Obama-should-force-or-cajole-the-Republicans-to-(whatever) Green Lantern nonsense. What I’m talking about, and you clearly understand that, is something else entirely: actually educating the PUBLIC about actual, genuine facts—economic facts, ACA facts, big-gummint-employment facts, Keynesian economics facts, etc., etc., etc., etc.
A few months ago I read some article or blog post in, I think, the Washington Post, by some political scientist who said that it doesn’t make any difference whether or not a president tries to “sell” his policy proposals to the public. This guy’s evidence: George Bush’s unsuccessful attempt to sell Social Security privatization to the public in the months after his 2004 election victory, and some other Bush policy or policy proposal—I can’t remember which one—that, like Social Security privatization, the public was very, very well-informed about and rejected precisely BECAUSE they knew the specifics of the proposal. It was the actual proposal itself, in both instances, rather than some misinformed idea of the proposal, that the public rejected. This political scientist didn’t recognize the distinction. (Which made me say aloud, to myself: Really??)
I hated Obama’s 2008 campaign. At the time, though, I thought he was just afraid to discuss specific policy, and did so only kicking and screaming. Turns out—and, given his lack of major involvement in ANY actual substantive legislative push, as a senator or (before that) a state legislator, it’s not really surprising—he just plain doesn’t DO specific policy. He sort of contracts it out, and never much becomes involved, even after the legislation is enacted (if it is enacted). See, e.g., the ACA and Dodd-Frank.
And the Democrats want to make this mistake AGAIN? Why? I don’t think they really do. But potential primary opponents of Clinton think the Democrats do want to make that mistake. And so, by simple default, we may well make that mistake again.
There is, or used to be, a difference between educating the public and selling them. Maybe that distinction has disappeared as we progress from a market economy to a market society. Your example of Bush is perfect in this light.
If Hillary Clinton is the nominee I will grudgingly vote for her but I think Democrats who care about policy, about government, and about people will run from her and her neo-Third Wayism. Near as I can tell Bill Clinton and Hillary don’t stand for anything much other than winning elections.
Now winning elections is a good thing but if it’s the only thing then what’s the fundamental difference between the Dems and Republicans.
I’m pretty sure it’s horribly naive but I truly believe that you win elections by offering people a clear narrative of the problems and challenges that face the country and the policies and programs that you think will address those issues. I know, you can’t go all Adlai Stevenson on people, there are other factors involved in the wonderful age of marketing but there ought to be an underlying substance to your campaign and platform.
If you lose then either you haven’t done a good enough job in convincing people of either the problems or the solutions or, like Paul Ryan you’ve offered a stinking heap of plutocrat crap pie and you need to rethink the whole thing.
Mrs. Clinton doesn’t seem to have much substance to offer and in the few places she does, like areas of foreign affairs, it’s nothing I could come close to agreeing with. And if it’s not Mrs. Clinton herself that should turn off voters then the idea another dynastic succession ought to do the trick.
It’s really bad for this country when a limited group of plutocrats like the Clintons and Bushes keep showing up. It doesn’t speak for a vibrant healthy democratic political system.
Mark, I also want to say that I think the reason that Warren will not run for president is that she doesn’t want to have to deal with international affairs. She’s awesomely knowledgeable and passionate about fiscal, regulatory, and economics issues, but would hate to be the one primarily responsible for this country’s foreign and defense policy. It’s just a guess, of course, based on what I think would be my own feelings in a situation like hers.
But what’s really, really important, in my opinion, is that Warren is really the feminist here. She’s deeply involved in economic-policy matters, and never, ever just goes for “the women’s vote.” Her knowledge and policy proposals are not specific to, or targeted to, women; they’re specific to everyone who is not wealthy or well-connected.
I think it’s also important that Kay Hagan is ahead in her Senate race, not because she’s focusing on “women’s issues,” but because she’s focusing on progressive economic issues that are not gender-based. Hooray.
Just read your follow-up post, Mark, and I couldn’t agree with it more.
While I certainly agree that Dems are too close to Reps, let’s not get carried away with it.
Let me know when a Rep president raised taxes on the 1%(and lived to tell the tale. Or let me know when a Rep President raised taxes on the .1% by over 60%(passive, but that is where their income mainly is).
I am not a big fan of Clinton, either of them, but the key is to win elections. And if any progressive thinks there is not major differences in the two parties, they hurt the chances to win.
We already have Five Horsemen of The Apocalypse on the Supreme Court, what’s the chances of Bev wanting to write more about them if we had 6? Or 7?
I do think Warren is best served, and serves us best, in the Senate. She could not win in a general election, even against the GOP candidate they serve up.
Sometimes the choice between two evils is really, really important. Especially in a country with a silly, 18th century style of government.
Whoa, there, EMichael. I wouldn’t be caught dead claiming that there’s no difference between Dems and Repubs. It’s not simply that I remember all those genuises who kept saying that, mantra-like, in 2000, and supported Nader. It’s that it’s unequivocally not true that there’s no significant difference between the two.
And not JUST because of the makeup of the federal courts–about which I could and, who knows, might, write a book.
MY post was poorly written.
I should have included Mark’s quote that set me off:
“If Hillary Clinton is the nominee I will grudgingly vote for her but I think Democrats who care about policy, about government, and about people will run from her and her neo-Third Wayism. Near as I can tell Bill Clinton and Hillary don’t stand for anything much other than winning elections.
Now winning elections is a good thing but if it’s the only thing then what’s the fundamental difference between the Dems and Republicans.”
Hillary Clinton will run as an economic progressive, to the extent that her husband’s policies as president allow it, and to the extent that her major donors don’t mind. Economic populism is, after all, what Dems clearly want right now, and she’s nothing if not willing to adhere to the prevailing political winds as she discerns them.
Right now she’s running as (surprise!) a feminist–and one who even cares about women who AREN’T trying to break the glass ceiling. I still remember that shortly after the end of her term as Sec’y of State, she declared that she would make glass-ceiling issues her political cause. But now it appears that someone tld her that some women aren’t really in the running for glass-ceiling-breaking positions at their corporation of mega law firm or hedge fund, and are instead simply worrying about whether the next paycheck will cover living expenses. So a few days go, she said something to the effect that, gosh, has it occurred to you, her audience, that some women are worried about meeting basic living expenses, not whether they’ll be denied that open vice presidency at ExxonMobil?
She’s also now adopted climate change as a key issue, even though climate change effects men as well as women! She vetted the issue for any conflict of interest between the position she wants to take and the position her husband took as presient in the ’90s, and apparently found that it was okay for her to take an anti-global-warming position; no defensiveness necessary. I was relieved. I’d hate to think that the polar bear population would decline even faster than it already is declining because Bill Clinton took a particular policy position in the 1990s that a pro-renewable-engergy policy in the late 2010s would contradict.
And I wasn’t suggesting that there’s no difference between the two. The Democrats still have an affinity for meaningful policy not power for power’s sake. However if the Democrats adopt a “winning is the only thing” attitude, an attitude that the Clintons do seem to espouse to some degree, then there really may not be much ethical space between the parties.
I wasn’t suggesting there isn’t a distinction now and I do understand that winning is important. What kind of nominations do you think we’ll get if winning is the only driving parameter?
President Obama has made some smart picks in highly publicized nominations like SCOTUS but look deeper and there’s some pretty ugly stuff. I follow postal issues, Mr. Obama’s picks for the PRC and the BOG have been dreadful with one exception and that was political payback.
Do you really want Mrs.Clinton picking judges by focus group and triangulation reasoning? Should political calculation be the only guiding hand?
How you win and why you win are important? Without an underlying ethical and political philosophy elections become nothing more than an exercise in marketing in quest of market share.
Beverly, many of us share your feelings, but think talk of third parties is exactly the wrong way to go. What is really reprehensible about all of the Washington Democratic elite — Obama, his self-serving team, the DNC, the DSCC, the DCCC — is that they just don’t care that much about winning. Where are the aggressive ACA educational ads providing cover for Congressional candidates who will have to be associated with it? Where are the ads that remind the majority of people who think they weren’t affected by ACA that now, if they lose their job, they no longer need to worry that they will not be able to get insurance (i.e., showing the benefit to the majority of voters rather than the minority who don’t have insurance or the parents of adult children)? Where are the ads ridiculing all Republicans showing Boehner and Romney insulting every 55-year-old who worked hard for 30 years and then was laid off when the economy tanked because of Republican trickle-down economic policies, or McConnell showing all he cared about was politics, or how every Republican pledges loyalty to a damned lobbyist for billionaires over their duties to the public? Will Democrats focus on full employment as their central objective, rather than just being silent and implying they care about the same things as Republicans but aren’t as crazy?
The problem is that there is a difference and the first priority must be to get every Republican possible out of office. The key is massive turnout, but the Democratic establishment will not fight for that. It must come from the grass roots — a quantum increase in participation by voters whose turnout historically has been low. Massive turnout will also change the calculus for Democratic politicians for how much to listen to the elites and how much to what the people want.
Remember, too, that Clinton will have by far the biggest coattails, which is a huge, huge consideration. But I’m all for Bernie Sanders (supported by Warren and Sherrod Brown) getting in there and without weakening Hillary for the general election, nudging her towards the populist positions that if expressed in apple-pie good-governance terms will help get her elected.
Hillary could pick her nominees with a quija board and I would be happeir than a Rep’s pick.
The spending on pushing the ACA’s benefits was, in large part, curtailed by the Gop..Spending against the ACA was by individual “people” and not affected by Congress.
Look, I’m not happy, but we are facing the evil empire here. Let me know how many Dems were elected President before they took the big money that entered politics(illegally) during Watergate.
“Look, I’m not happy, but we are facing the evil empire here. Let me know how many Dems were elected President before they took the big money that entered politics(illegally) during Watergate.” EMichael
Was the nation in better condition before or after this reformation by the democrats took place?
In terms of most policy you’re talking about Joe Lieberman in a pantsuit. What could go wrong?
While the world was better, the super rich were going to change elections regardless of whether the Dems moved to embrace the dollars.
Without that money, Reps take control of the government and we have a country with a Ryan budget(or someone worse). How’d you like a SC with another couple of RW hacks?
well, me too.
but you won’t find politics health at the local level either, at least not where i live. there is NO willingness to take on the criminal banks, or explain Social Security to people, for example.
politics looks to me like a poker game among the members of the country club. they are glad to take each others money and enjoy the pleasures of “winning,” and some of them may talk nicer to and about “the help,” but don’t expect to be invited to the game…. or given a raise.