Sunday, January 20, 2008

Young vs. old; partisanship vs. compromise

I was struck while reading Julia Grey's diary, and reminded about what happened at the Bruin Dems' "mockus" two weeks ago. Things got a little heated when someone mentioned the youth vote supporting Obama, versus the older people supporting Hillary. Well, be careful about that. History can be a hard lesson to learn.

I was a teenager in the 60s. The politically active Boomer cohort of that era -- roughly the same demographic that seems to dominate this site, educated people ages 18-29 -- was saying the same things about the Democratic candidates at the time. There was even a very colorful and influential (in all the wrong ways) riot at the party nominating convention by young people who objected to the nomination of "business as usual" Democrat Hubert Humphrey...perhaps you remember him? The one who lost to RICHARD NIXON?

We didn't like the influence old folks had on politics, either. They were "in the way," just like we Boomers are today. If they would just let us take over the party, we'd clean the joint up and send all the corporate fiends packing, yesirree. Well, we did kinda take over the party in '72, nominating George McGovern...who also lost to RICHARD NIXON.

So you can pretty much see where a lot of us got our cautious, practical, reality-based political streak. What you call our cowardice. We started looking at what could be done and how it could be done and all that boring stuff that comes after the bright shining moments of wild enthusiasm and righteous dreams.

I know it irritates you that the Democratic party is like the biddy going 60 in the fast lane. Just fast enough to be a pain in the ass to pass, but too slow for the idealistic traffic coming up from behind her at 80. "Your" party is just poking along, maybe even with her left turn signal on...blink.blink.blink.blink.... It's maddening.

But you're stuck with us, I'm afraid. Millions upon millions of us baby-boom oldsters between you and your vision of total non-corporate bliss. Even worse, we're reliable voters!

We're gonna dare to vote in "your" party's primaries for quite a while yet. Because, here's the thing, it's NOT "your" party. It's not the Young Impatient Idealists party. It's the Democratic party. You know the one: the big tent, the party that wants universal health care coverage, liberal judges on the Supreme Court, troops coming home, and serious investments in public goods like education and infrastructure that the Republicans have shamefully neglected lo, these many years.

So, unfortunately, we'll be here a while, annoying the bejabbers out of you with our insistence on using our influence in "your" party, but helping you elect Democrats for at least another couple of decades.

Still, there's hope on the horizon. Eventually, just in the natural course of events, you'll be rid of us at last...just in time to be contemptuously referred to as "old farts" yourselves.

I wonder... will the youth who support Obama right now still vote for a Democrat if he doesn't get the nomination? Because let me tell you, losing in politics is a hard thing to get over. After Kerry's loss in 2004, I completely shut out politics from my life for 9 months, not reading DailyKos again (can you imagine that?) until the week before Hurricane Katrina hit. Others not as dedicated may leave permanently.

Understand that this is a fight for the long haul. We're not going to fix all our nation's problems in a few weeks, or even a few years. And as long as there are 41 obstructionist Republican Senators come 2009, you can betcha that any Democrat in the White House, whoever it may be, will face getting large parts of his or her agenda filibustered to death by the Republicans.

At the California Democratic Convention last April in San Diego, Obama promised us he would find those 67 votes to override a Bush veto to end the war in Iraq. Yeah... how'd that turn out? How do you "work with Republicans" when they're not willing to work with you?

To this end, I'll cite dday, who was in Las Vegas to cover the caucuses. He talks about this sense of compromise and reaching across the aisle to work with Republicans appearing in both Obama and Clinton's speeches in Nevada.

OK, I don't think the battle of the Party is to find unity. It's to find the best ways to push the Republicans and successfully set the agenda. We actually do need a politics based on ideology, unless the "common sense" that Obama suggests is actually ideological.


But at the very end... well, let me give you over to Matt Stoller, who was there as well:

After a laundry list of items she's going to get done, she posed a rhetorical question of how all of that would be possible. Her answer? By reaching across the aisle, like she has done in the Senate. I hope she's checked with the Republicans on that one.

She says that all the time, actually, and so did Bill Clinton at his earlier event, highlighting her work with Lindsay Graham and JOHN MCCAIN. Um, don't you two know that you might actually have to RUN against John McCain, and the time for puffing him up to increase your own credibility should kind of be over?

Is there some super-secret polling showing that Americans what to "end the partisan bickering" in Washington and come together for the common purpose? I really don't see that. I see a country who has turned on George Bush and wants to go in a new direction. Yet two of our main candidates BOTH keep stressing this theme of unity, and the third candidate, who actually does reject this, doesn't get any love from the media and has been practically shunted aside. What is behind this?

Actually, I don't think it's so difficult. In a time tailor-made for progressive ideas, when the conservative brand is almost entirely trashed, we have two centrist candidates running to lead the party. They say this every day, and no matter what kind of onion-peeling and "no, what they actually mean is THIS" you try to do, that's pretty much the answer.

The strategy Clinton and Obama appear to be employing is a perfectly normal general election strategy. “Bringing the country together” isn’t all that radical a political theme, and after 8 years of “my way or the highway” conservatism, I can see how it would have some limited appeal. But we’re in the middle of a Democratic primary. I think it was Stoller in a post about a month ago who wondered if we could be pandered to just a little bit before we were ditched for independents and swing voters. It could be that the first few primaries are open to independents. But yesterday I felt like I was watching the candidates for the nomination of the Independent Party of America, and it rankled me.


Obama at least talks about how he can’t do it alone, and how change happens from the bottom up. And I’m not averse to talking about “working together” with Republicans. But Republicans ARE, and the conservative movement is not likely to give up so easily and watch as an agenda to which they are diametrically opposed gets installed.

Partisanship is a good thing. It gives people choices. There are legitimate differences about how to meet our challenges. The point in between those two differences is not necessarily the best; in fact it’s often the worst. When one side of the political aisle has leaders who believe in the value of that middle point, and the other side believes in the extreme, guess where we’re going to end up. “Screwed” would be the word I would use.

And frankly, I have seen no indication that Republicans are going to do anything other than stick the knife in our backs the first chance they get. They fucking sustained Bush's veto on SCHIP expansion, which all the polls showed freaking 80% of the country supporting! As mcjoan said, "Bipartisanship only works when the other side compromises, too. Otherwise it's just capitulation." And now from Nevada, we may have seen the first signs of Obama's Reagan comments backfiring.

As Stoller writes:

In Iowa, Obama beat Clinton by 16 points among those who consider themselves as 'very liberal'. In New Hampshire, they were even. And now in Nevada, Clinton simply destroyed Obama within that block by 16 points. In other words, while it's not entirely clear who 'won' Nevada, whatever that means, had Obama run even with Clinton among those who describe themselves as 'very liberal', he would have soundly defeated her at the caucuses outright instead of having to play delegate games.

Both Edwards and Clinton dog whistled hard on Obama's Reagan remarks. Many readers and friends simply don't believe me that the stuff he said about Reagan was bad. Here's what it sounds like to people who lived through that period, which is still a majority of the voting universe. Digby helpfully wrote this in a frame of reference many will understand. Imagine George W. Bush in 2000 saying this.

We're still having the same arguments. It's all around regulations and smaller government and it's all ... even when you discuss traditional values the frame of reference is all around abortion. Well, that's not my frame of reference. My frame of reference is "what works." When I first came out against abortion, my first line was I don't oppose all abortions, specifically, to make clear that this is not a theocratic, you know, snake-handling prayer vigil kind of approach."

I think Lyndon Johnson changed the trajectory of the country in a way that JFK did not and Nixon did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of racism and anti-communism and government refusing to raise taxes to care for the poor and the elderly, I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, we want a return to that sense of community and compassion that had been missing."

Bush would have lost the nomination right then and there. Conservatives simply do not run away from their past, they create narratives that reinforce it as a tradition worth belonging to. What Obama did when lauding Reagan as an answer to the 'excesses of the 1960s' (which you can very well see is a conservative meme by doing a quick Google book search) was attack and insult the liberal traditions of feminism, civil rights, environmentalism, consumer rights, and peace movement work from that time.


The past matters. It just does. And if you want to know why, just remember that Bush has rung up a huge credit card debt that we will have to pay off. And if we can't explain that Bush rang up the bill by referencing the past, the country is going to blame Democrats for what Bush did. It's happened before. Just ask Bill Clinton and the 1994 Congressional class of Democrats, who paid the price for Ronald Reagan's binge spending.

We have been fighting Ronald Reagan's psychologically diseased followers and predecessors since, well, since they called themselves the Confederacy and fought for slavery. And we will keep fighting them if we are to retain a republic. That's why the self-identified very liberal Democrats swung away from Obama and took Nevada from him. Because he very self-consciously explained that he is not part of that fight, and they want a leader who is.

Another thing to consider. Many of the February 5th states have closed primaries, so those Independents Obama loves to court will not be participating. If he wants to win this thing, he'll have to wrestle away some of Hillary's support among loyal Democrats. And BTW, right now, Edwards is the reason Obama has the lead in South Carolina. Edwards drops out, and suddenly Obama is tied with Hillary. The two Nevada polls which showed Edwards as weak had Hillary winning Nevada by about 7.5 points; she won by 6. Just something else to consider.

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