Sunday, November 23, 2008

Where is the Political Middle?

With Barack Obama appointing establishment Democrats to key posts in his upcoming administration, leftists are braying that "progressivism" has been abandoned: Obama was a centrist all along, don't you know, and forget about hopes for a truly left-wing ideological agenda after the inauguration.

Glenn Greenwald published an e-mail from Digby, where she actually cheers the economic crisis as helping promote the left-wing agenda, the only thing truly pushing U.S. towards socialism:

The villagers and the right made it very clear what they required of Obama - bipartisanship, technocratic competence and center-right orthodoxy. Liberals took cultural signifiers as a sign of solidarity and didn't ask for anything. So, we have the great symbolic victory of the first black president (and that's not nothing, by the way) who is also a bipartisan, centrist technocrat. Surprise.

There are things to applaud about the cabinet picks -- Clinton is a global superstar who, along with Barack himself, signals to the world that the US is no longer being run by incompetent, extremist, political fringe dwellers. Holder seems to be genuinely against torture and hostile to the concept of the imperial presidency. Gaithner is a smart guy who has the trust of the Big Money Boyz, which may end up being useful considering the enormous and risky economic challenges ahead. Emmanuel is someone who is not afraid to wield a knife and if we're lucky he might just wield it from time to time against a Republican or a right wing Democrat. Napolitano seems to have a deft political touch with difficult issues like immigration which is going to be a battleground at DHS. And on and on.

None of them are liberals, but then Obama said repeatedly that he wasn't ideological, that he cared about "what works." I don't know why people didn't believe that. He's a technocrat who wants to "solve problems" and "change politics." The first may actually end up producing the kind of ideological shift liberals desire simply because of the dire set of circumstances greeting the new administration. (Hooray for the new depression!) The second was always an empty fantasy - politics is just another word for human nature, and that hasn't changed since we were dancing around the fire outside our caves.

If you want to press for a cabinet appointment at this late date who might bring some ideological ballast, I would guess that labor and energy are where the action is. It would be really helpful to have somebody from the left in the room when the wonks start dryly parceling out the compromises on the economy and climate change. But basically, we are going to be dealing with an administration whose raison d'etre is to make government "work." That's essentially a progressive goal and one that nobody can really argue with. But he never said he would make government "work" for a liberal agenda. Liberals just assumed that.
Now, Big Tent Democrat has a different take. He's not too worried about any lurch to the right. Indeed, putting all these establishment types in office will simply be a way to reposition progressivism as the new political center:

By default, President-Elect Obama gets to define what the middle is. I believe he will define progressivism as the middle. If that is called "Center-Right," so much the better. Consider what that makes Extreme Republicanism (out of the mainstream of political thought instead of occupying the White House) and what that makes the formerly loony Left (the respectable Left flank.) Role reversal. This is a good thing.
I'm putting my money on Big Tent's prediction. Digby's a loon, not to mention Greenwald. But Big Tent's already been attacked as a traitor to the neo-Marxist vision of today's radical left, so for him to suggest the possibility of a new "progressive middle" is a major concession.

And that's the key: Establishment Democrats are just that, part of the governmental establishment. If they've had to tack to the political center, meaning a genuinely moderate-to-conservative balance point, that's because other political actors and the American public required it. Now with unified Democratic control of Congress and the executive come January, we'll see the greatest political liberation on the left since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Nolan Finley, at the Detroit News, puts things in perspective:

As they await his ascension, Republicans are reassuring themselves that President-elect Barack Obama, worried about winning re-election in four years, will shake off a lifetime of liberal allegiance and govern the nation from the middle.

They're delusional. Little that Obama has said or done since Election Day supports that theory. Rather, there's every indication that Obama will enthusiastically lead the liberals who now firmly control Washington in enacting a far-left agenda.

Take as proof last week's unwarranted dumping of Dearborn's John Dingell as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The libs scored their first major victory by replacing the moderate Dingell with environmental extremist Henry Waxman of California, and Obama didn't intervene.

That's because his own views on the environment fall closer to Waxman's than to Dingell's. He's already promised to rescind the executive order opening Utah's promising oil shale fields to exploration and will fully undo the domestic oil production expansion Democrats reluctantly agreed to before the election.

Since the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter, most Democrats who've won office have done so by dodging the liberal label and declaring themselves pro-growth moderates. Even true liberals eschewed that word, insisting that they be called "progressives."

And while Obama hasn't embraced the liberal label, he has endorsed the ideology.

Listen to what he's saying. On the economy, he's calling for a stimulus package that will create jobs through massive government spending on new projects and programs, rather than by cutting taxes and improving the business climate. Start packing, Adam Smith; welcome home, John Maynard Keynes.

Also on his early schedule is a promise to push through the Freedom of Choice Act, which will exempt abortion from all reasonable regulation by the states.

Big Labor has been assured he'll fight to make it easier to organize workers and harder to adopt free trade agreements.
Finley basically makes the case the Obama's early appointments are window dressing for the true leftist agenda being hatched under the radar.

I simply see the positioning of top moderates as bringing to power the establishment Democrats who have thus far been frustrated by checks and balances and public approbation.

When we see Obama call for tax increases on incomes as low as $31,000, when we see global warming legislation elevated to holy writ to save the world, when non-uniformed terrorist killers at Guantanamo are affored public defenders, and when spending programs from public works to welfare entitlments are expanded to the highest levels since the War on Poverty, we'll know just how progressive this new administration really is.

Of course,
Greenwald and Digby still won't be satisfied until we nationalize the economy and dismantle the military.


The Vegas Art Guy said...

This should be a wakeup call to the right that the next fight is NOT 2012, it's 2010! At that point either Obama gets to do what he wants, how he wants because he'll have that 60 seat super majority... OR the GOP will take some of the senate seats back and force Obama to govern from the middle.

Your choice boys and girls...

AmPowerBlog said...

Thanks Vegas Guy!

Laura Lee - Grace Explosion said...
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Laura Lee - Grace Explosion said...
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