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On the Move

Wednesday, May 31, 2006
I probably won't be able to post for a few days, as Brazen Hussy and I are moving tomorrow. Unlike her and I don't have a laptop, so I will have to pack my computer. By the way, this is the last desktop I will ever own.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:03 AM

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All Politics is Tribal

Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Chris Bowers kicked off an interesting conversation by arguing that all politics is, in a sense, identity politics. His latest piece of evidence is the degree to which religious affiliation tracks with political loyalties at the geographic level. Digby asserts that the South has a unique sub-national identity, while the rest of the country is essentially defined by its opposition to that identity. Kevin Drum chimes in, arguing that "activists in both parties often define themselves more by opposition to the other than by support for a positive program of change." His emphasis is on cultural politics. And finally Jedmunds at Pandagon argues that liberals really do have a positive policy agenda that transcends mere tribal loyalties.

I think that we should focus on the main point that Bowers was making - namely that (nearly) all politics is based on identity. E.E. Schattscheider defined politics as "the mobilization of bias." The liberal agenda may be led by middle-class issue-oriented types, but we have relied on ethnic, gender, and class identities at the ballot box. Without the support of gays, feminists, blacks, latinos, and labor unions we'd scarcely be a major party. Each of those groups aligns with liberalism because liberal policies champion their group. Conservatives do the same thing - they're just more ruthless and self-conscious about it. Their coalition trades on the support of white nationalists (particularly in the South) and conservative Christians in order to win support for their pro-corporate agenda. If only those helped by big business voted for Republicans, they'd be even more marginal than a liberals-only party.

Politics is based on issues - but these issues must tap into the core emotional loyalties of various segments in society. The regrettable truth is that these loyalties are most easily tapped into by exploiting their hate and fear. Conservatives are comfortable with this "quick and easy path" and consequently have had more political success in recent years.

I think that a better form of politics is possible, a politics based on appeals to higher interests and the common good. John Kennedy and Mario Cuomo were good at enunciating it, but of contemporary politicians only Barack Obama and John Edwards seem to have the knack. Political rhetoric of this sort begins with basic loyalties, and then seeks to transform them by encouraging us to universalize and transcend them: the interest of the workers, or women, or minorities is the interest of all Americans.

So I'd amend my earlier statement by saying that while all politics is tribal, it doesn't have to be.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:06 AM

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That Was Predictable

Monday, May 29, 2006

You Are Mr. Burns

Okay, so you're evil...

You have big plans to rule the world, and you'll destroy it in the process if necessary!

You will be remembered for: the exploitation of the masses

Life philosophy: "One dollar for eternal happiness? I'd be happier with the dollar."

The Simpsons Personality Test
Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:45 AM

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Has It Really Been Two Years Already?

Friday, May 26, 2006
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of this blog. When I started writing in the spring of 2004, it looked like the Democrats had an excellent chance of turning Bush out of office. Now it's the spring of 2006, and it looks like the Democrats have an excellent chance of recapturing the Congress. Let's hope that a pattern doesn't form, so that the next 2 years don't seem quite as long as the previous ones.

Last night Dr. Brazen Hussy and I attended an event with Al Gore and the makers of his movie. The eminent climatologist James Hansen was also in attendance. I was pleasantly surprised when Hansen said that the window of opportunity for solving global warming had not yet closed - that we still had another decade. This would be nice to believe.

More importantly, this was the first time I'd seen Al Gore close up since I was a teenager. I actually got to meet him! Hearing him speak, I had to wonder at the charicature that appeared in the 2000 campaign. The man was earnest, passionate, funny, and even inspiring. At one point I even got goose bumps, and I'm not prone to such things. Sitting in that room listening at him demand that we do something, rather than wait for some politician to do it, spoke to some of my deepest convictions.

Of course the 2008 question was asked. Gore said pretty much what he said to Alterman: that he'd be lying if he didn't think about it, but that he wasn't sure if he was suited to the "toxic sound-byte culture" of contemporary politics. Frankly he didn't sound like a candidate. I think what he's doing is leveraging speculation about his candidacy to force the media and other politicians to focus on the issue of global warming. It's pretty clever, actually.

It was hard to watch Al and not think about how he was robbed in 2000, and might be again if he ran in 2008. Ezra Klein points out how the media turned of Al simply because he was smarter than them. But I must say that we musn't let the press dissuade our best candidates from running, because they'll do this to ANY of them, not just Gore - just look at what David Broder said about Hillary.

It's pretty appalling to think that journalists will destroy any politician who is smarter than them and doesn't hide it. Because in case you didn't know, almost everybody is smarter than these guys.

On a happier note, here's a dog using a cat as a pillow:

Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:56 AM

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Conservatives Against Freedom

Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wretchard at Belmont Club doesn't come out and say that we should exterminate Muslims and suspend 1st amendment rights for liberals. He doesn't have to.

What he does say is that opposition to Bush's version of the War on Terror is illegitimate - according to him only the hard right is taking the conflict seriously. He also says that dissent is permissible only when external threats aren't severe. When they are, any internal debate becomes off-limits. Tell me who's defending freedom again?

I'm not going to dwell on Wretchard's sophistic slanders - such as that the left (which he epitomizes with Noam Chomsky) wants to destroy western civilization, or that we're Marxists, or that islamic fundamentalists are marxists too (which he has to assert or realize that his movement and theirs are closely akin). I could point out all the smears and fallacies, but that would be rude.

What I think is worthy of comment is how Wretchard and his ilk seem to think Bush & Co. have been effective at combatting islamic terrorism. Tell me again how consolidating the Muslim world against us or bogging down our military in a doomed attempt at regional hegemony (which will only magnify resistance) will enhance our security? Where is Osama again? How often does torture generate good intelligence? How are we supposed to function without any allies? Why is border security against powerless Mexicans more important than border security against nukes in suitcases? As far as I can tell, the Bush approach to fighting islamic fundamentalism has been a complete disaster.

It's also important to point how how quickly our right-wing friends are to abandon even the most basic constitutional liberties - such as the right of free speech - when they think it might be convenient to do so, and how eager they are to imply that their fellow-citizens are traitors or useful fools for traitors. Sorry guys, but if you have EVIDENCE that there is sedition, then prove it. Otherwise shut the fuck up. If you can't stand up to a little criticism, what does that say about the merits of your position?

I would feel sorry for the likes of Wretchard if it wasn't so obvious that he enjoyed the kool-aid. And if there weren't quite so many like him.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:09 AM

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You're No Lloyd Bentsen

Wednesday, May 24, 2006
One of my earliest political memories is of Lloyd Bentsen destroying Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice Presidential debate. I also had the pleasure of that pleasantly vicious old man decapitating John McCain on the Senate floor one day while I was watching C-SPAN (this was a very long time ago - before McCain had won a rep for charisma). Bentsen also crushed George Bush sr. in 1970. So for a lot of reasons, I have a soft spot for Lloyd, and am sad to see him pass away.

Having said that....

When Bull Moose joined the blogger party a couple of years ago, I and others welcomed him with open arms as a defector from the conservative cause. But during that period I have been disappointed time and time again by his eagerness to forward the conservative cause. Moose has persistently lionized the likes of Tony Blair, Newt Gingrich, Joe Lieberman, and of course John McCain. Finally I had to move him from my liberal blogroll to my conservative one. I lump him with rational, well-intentioned right-wingers like Andrew Sullivan and David Beinart. As such I still accord him some level of respect, but reject categorically most of what he has to say.

A good example is his tribute to Lloyd Bentsen. After describing his career, he concludes by wishing that there were more like him:

One of the most unfortunate political developments of the last thirty years has been the decline of the Southern Democratic Party. That decline has influenced the left-ward shift of the national Democratic party. It is no accident, though, that the last three successful Democratic Presidential candidates hailed from the South.

Unfortunately, today, there are only four Democratic Senators representing that region in the Senate. The good news is that Democrats are making inroads in the Governors' offices south of the Mason-Dixon line. And hopefully Harold Ford will soon represent Tennessee in the upper chamber.

The national party desperately needs the voices of Southern, moderate hawks. The Senate Democratic caucus increasingly is dominated by Northern liberals who create the perception of the left wing party.

Moderates like Max Cleland? Sam Nunn? Ann Richards? Jim Sasser? Al Gore? Bill Clinton? Roy Barnes? John Edwards? Sorry Bull - but they're all gone. The region changed out from under them. Lloyd Bentsen would never win now.

Moose seems to think that the Democratic party has become more liberal, and that is why it has lost the South. I contend that the Democrats have faltered in that region because the South has become more conservative. Just like Moose.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:56 AM

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Recon Mission Completed, Sir!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Brazen Hussy and I have returned from our apartment-hunting trip in the Midwest. It was quite beautiful there, and the food improved. We also found a great new apartment that is bigger and cheaper than our old NYC shoebox. I'm actually becoming excited at the prospect of moving - which I didn't expect.

There are some bloggy pieces I want to highlight:

1) David Niewert provides further evidence of the comparison between the anti-black conservatism of the 1960's and the new anti-immigrant conservatism of the 2000's. I don't think that this strategy will reap the kind of long-term dividends that Nixon's garnered, for 2 reasons. First, the white nationalists most hostile to immigrants are already Republicans - in the 1960's Nixon was peeling off tons of Democrats, while Bush is really just consolidating Republicans. The net effect will be much less. And second, after 1968 African-Americans weren't a "growth" constituency, while Latinos most definitely are. Even if we stopped immigration entirely tomorrow, the domestic Latino birthrate and gradual political mobilization would lead to a major influx of new voters.

2) Apparently James Sensenbrenner has been making the comparison I did a few days ago that illegal workers are the same as slaves. Josh Marshall thinks this comparison is inappropriate, since African-Americans were deliberately enslaved and Latinos came here voluntarily. This is obviously true. But the definition of slavery isn't how someone becomes a slave but the relationship between master and slave. As far as I can tell, the absolute power that companies hold over illegals (and would hold over illegals) is virtually indistinguishable from that of plantation owners over their captive labor. Certainly the origin of that relationship is different - making the African enslavement more grossly unjust - but I think this is really just quibbling around the margins. Exploiting people is wrong, period.

3) Michelle Goldberg talking about christian nationalism and its similarities to fascism:

I am certainly not suggesting that theocratic dictatorship is imminent in America.

Why not? As long as they are yoked to big corporations and white nationalists, it seems perfectly plausible to me.

4) Nathan Newman thinks that voting by mail is a good idea. I think that he's wrong. Yes it's cheaper than traditional ballots. And for the sake of argument I'll concede that the possibilities for fraud might be corrected (although I don't see how). My real argument is that walking into a ballot box to vote is a public statement of one's participation in the democracy. I hate the idea that voting is so unimportant that we have to let people literally "mail it in." Yes we should make getting to the polls to vote easier - but let's not reduce voting to the status of ordering an IKEA catalogue.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:56 AM

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Notes From Culinary Exile

Thursday, May 18, 2006
Dr. Brazen Hussy and I are in the so-called "heartland" this weekend scouting for apartments in our soon-to-be new home. I'm also looking for a new job. The college is big and the town is nice, so things are generally looking fine. I will admit that I'm already missing NYC. We went out to a restaurant and my first reaction was "boy this food is cheap." My second thought was "this is worth every penny." I guesss you can't have everything.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 10:31 PM

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A Way Out For the GOP?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I've thought for a while that the Republican party was looking for a long-term crack-up on the issue of immigration, but now I'm reconsidering. The business wing wants guest workers so they can exploit them, and the nativists hate Latinos. On thes surface it would appear that nothing could resolve this conundrum. But I think perhaps I was wrong.

The trick is to look at the core desires of each group. Business wants a captive labor force it can isolate and exploit at will. White nationalists fear a large ethnic group entering the country that they perceive as profoundly alien. In the short term the nativists just want to boot all the (Mexican) illegals out of the country. But I think perhaps in the long term a strictly enforced guest-worker program with no opportunity for citizenship or amnesty is precisely what the conservative doctor would order - if he were clever.

At heart the nativists want to preserve their domination of American cultural life. They have defined an "in-group" of which Latinos are excluded. If Bush and the corporate conservatives are successful, a permanent class of slave labor will be created. While on the surface this might seem incompatible with nativist desires, upon closer examination it turns out that nativists might be very happy with the presence of a culturally isolated, legally inferior class of workers. Done correctly, it would preserve and in fact underline nativists' desire for exclusivity. A guest worker program could be a blatant symbol of their high status.

There are historical parallels to this system. They're called slavery and segregation. While the captive African-American population might compete with the white southern working class in objective material terms, that never seemed to matter. What was more important was having a group below you to oppress. And this system was remarkably stable - there was little evidence that slavery or segregation were going to disappear on their own. So much so that it took a civil war and tumultuous social movements in 2 different centuries against fanatic and monolithic southern resistance to break up the system of oppression.

I think that if the Bushies can get a strict guest worker system with draconian border enforcement and no amnesty or citizenship, they can then effectively deploy anti-Latino bigotry to their advantage and consolidate their white nationalist base. Yes this would alienate Latino voters, but if the Republicans can end their citizenship route, then they will be powerless anyway.

And hey, why should only corporations have access to guest workers? What about contracts for individual families. They could even feed and clothe them. And over time I suspect that the inconvenience of recycling new workers would result in the elimination of the "temporary" part of "temporary worker." They could remain permanently as a socially inferior, tightly controlled domestic labor force without political or legal rights. Hmm. What would we call this system?

Is this an utterly repugnant policy? Of course. Which is why conservatives will pursue it. And it is why Democrats should be so critical of a guest-worker program. Liberalism's greatest accomplishment in the last 40 years was the end of segregation. Do we really want to end up facilitating the creation of a whole new system of slavery?

In other news...

The world is ending: Robert Samuelson and Harold Meyerson pretty much agree on something.

Conservatives clearly don't understand democracy:

"So far, I've allowed the guest bloggers here to write pretty much what they pleased about all issues, including illegal immigration. But on the illegal immigration issue, I now find myself having to contend with at least three out of four guest bloggers who will reflexively try to poke holes in any argument I make."
This is an interesting idea.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:02 AM

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Learn How To Become A Human Pretzel! Amaze your friends!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
What a boob. I read the transcript of Bush's speech on immigration, and found it highly entertaining. The highlights: border control through use of the national guard and hi-tech, a guest worker program, a national id card, more prisons for illegals, a limited amnesty, with citizenship dependent on the ability to learn english. Bush is attempting to thread the needle, hoping that a bunch of U.S. troops on the border are going to appease the nativist right, while at the same time the amnesty and guest worker system keeps Latinos from turning on the Republican party.

My guess? Instead he'll alienate both sides. Here's his problem - big business wants slave labor, Latinos want to given a chance and not treated like lepers, and the white xenophobes want all the brown people thrown out of the country. The only group satisfied with Bush's proposal is going to be business, which gets its guest workers. Unfortunately for Bush, business doesn't control that many votes - which is why the Republicans made their alliance with nationalists, libertarians, and the religious right in the first place.

Let me spend just a minute on the substance of Bush's proposals

1) Border control. The use of the national guard is a gesture - no more than that. 6,000 more people, even with great gizmos, aren't going to stop a million people. It's also a stopgap for an expanded border control - a border control Bush has tried to cut, by the way. And may I ask where these extra troops are going to come from? Are we pulling out of Iraq and I just wasn't told? Because last time I checked all our troops were bogged down in garrison duty a half a world away.

2) National id cards. Fine George, if you can make it work. Because God knows you can't get fake id's in this country. No market or infrastructure for that, uh-uh. And I can imagine that the right-wing fringe will go nuts with all the "mark of the beast" stuff, while the libertarians will have visions of a police state.

3) Guest workers. This is why I am against the Senate compromise. Why should we have guest workers again? So big corporations can continue to exploit a captive labor force. Right, I forgot. And the nativists are completely against this proposal.

4) More prisons for illegals. I agree that we should end catch and release, but do you have any idea how expensive prisons are? Where is the money going to come from?

5) Limited amnesty. So you're going to tell people not to come and then tell them that if they do, they'll be fine? How does this reduce the incentive to migrate?

6) Mandatory English. I suppose this means that George Bush loses his citizenship. (thanks for the line, BH!). But seriously, I am all for every American being able to speak the same language fluently. But to require that this be the case to be eligible for citizenship? That's a little extreme, people.

So as you can see, this plan is a bizarre hodge-podge of ideas that are either contradictory, unworkable, or both. Mysteriously absent from Bush's laundry list is any significant sanction on employers - you know, the one's hiring the illegals. I am very aware of the practical problems of punishing companies that hire illegals - particularly that it might lead to employment discrimination against illegals - but I fail to see how the supply of immigrants is going to fall without affecting the demand. And where is the plan to revive the Mexican economy so that immigration is less necessary?

Sorry guys - this isn't a plan. This is a political tactic - and a huge blunder at that. As I suspected, the Republicans are going to reach towards their nativist base during the mid-terms, hoping that anti-immigrant sentiment will help them preserve control of Congress. Which will hand the Latino vote to Democrats for a generation. Thanks guys. We really appreciate it.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:14 AM

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Big Government Republicans

Monday, May 15, 2006
The new wiretapping scandal gives the Democrats a rare political do-over. We blew the last one a few months ago, but the revelations of big telecom companies releasing phone records to the NSA is a golden opportunity for the Democrats.

Yes I know that the polls on this issue are ambiguous, and the right-wing bloggers are bending over backwards to say that it's not an invasion of privacy. But for us, we need only hammer away at a simple message: Spying on Americans without a warrant is wrong. The current administration is endangering our freedoms, and big companies are helping them do it.

This is an important message for a number of reasons. First because it happens to be true. Second because Americans need reminding that their civil liberties are worth protecting. And third because it undermines one of the foundations of the Republican party: fear of intrusive government. For years corporate conservatives have attempted (with great success) to extract wealth from the middle class via government policy through favorable regulatory and tax policy, globalization, and the smashing of labor unions. This is scarcely a popular policy, so they masked it with anti-government rhetoric. In this they were exploiting the "Jeffersonian fallacy" that only government is a threat to your freedom.

But now the Democrats have an opportunity to strip away that facade. The Republicans have become the party of big, instrusive government - and they have done so in the name of a few greedy corporations and their own desire for personal power. This has led them to personal corruption, reckless fiscal policy, and fear-mongering. The result has been the decline of the American middle class, the loss of our liberties, and the erosion of small towns and small businesses.

If the Democrats combine this critique of the Republicans with an array of policy proposals to de-centralize government power, strengthen personal liberties, political reform, and assistance to small businesses and small towns - then we have a real story to tell. Strip the Republicans of their rural and anti-government supporters, and they'll be left with a rump base of big companies, xenophobic nationalists, and religious fundamentalists. Not the stuff of which majorities are made.

P.S. Amanda Marcotte has a brilliant post on the way to build a Southern Democratic party.

P.P.S. Where can I get one? (via View from the Left).
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:24 AM

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And I Thought I Hated Rainy Days

Friday, May 12, 2006
I'm a sad dog.


Are you going to let me out?


I didn't think so.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:27 AM

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The Price of Incoherence

Thursday, May 11, 2006
It's nice to see that conservatives are finally abandoning the Bush administration, citing Iraq, overspending, and failure to deliver on conservative social policy. But do you know what bothers me? That conservatives weren't alienated by the rampant corruption and failure to protect civil liberties. As far as I'm concerned they're still pseudo-fascists.

Many believe that the Republicans are going to take a pounding in the midterms, but that the long-term future of the party is still bright. I'm not so sure. The Republicans are a coalition between corporations, nationalists, cultural traditionalists, and libertarians. If any of these factions actually get what they want, then the coalition runs into trouble. Corporate domination leads to low economic growth and corruption, while influence by "values" voters alienates independent voters and libertarians. Imperial expeditions like Iraq inevitably end in disaster. Harsh ultranationalism alienates emerging swing constituencies like Latinos. And small government conservatism requires massive cuts to social spending that people actually like.

So it turns out that conservatives have an enormous problem cementing majority status, because they simply can't deliver the goods. Boo-hoo.

In other news, I think Dean is right, and that this should be our position on immigration.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:54 PM

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More Evidence of the Machine

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
A government contract is withheld because the applicant refused to profess political loyalty to the incumbent party, with the possibility that there was a request for campaign contributions. This is yet another example of what Greg Anrig was described as the "boo-goo" model of government: a resistance to the entire civil service system despite its superior quality to patronage systems. Lest we forget, that civil service system not only enhances government efficiency - it also prevent corruption. The Republican party has been indulging in an orgy of government favoritism to their favored constituencies. Not just policy patronage (i.e. favorable laws), which is somewhat inevitable, but contract and employment patronage.

This country fought long and hard in the 19th and early 20th centuries to destroy the patronage system - a system not only grossly incompetent but massively corrupt. Any political party that attempts to return us to the bad old days must not only be criticized, but utterly repudiated. BushCo. hasn't been guilty of the occasional lapse - what we see here is a systematic, patterned attempt to overturn the civil service laws that prevented big-money donors and party bosses from perverting the political process.

I don't care what your ideological predisposition is - no one should be in favor of destroying the civil service system. No one who cares anything for the republic, anyway.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:39 AM

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Down The Drain

Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Bush has hit yet another new low in public opinion polls:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's approval rating fell to 31 percent in a USA Today/Gallup Poll released on Monday, the lowest recorded in the survey and a drop of three percentage points in a single week. Bush's approval rating, at 34 percent a week ago, tumbled on declining support from conservatives and Republicans. The poll found 52 percent of conservatives and 68 percent of Republicans approved of Bush's performance, record lows in both categories.
The debate now is whether he will go even lower. I think that he will. Gas prices are going to rise this summer, and the effect of these increases will be felt most strongly in car-heavy rural and exurban areas - in other words, in Bush's base. In addition, it looks like a lot of self-described conservatives are trying to distance themselves from Bush - which means that he can't even count on their support.

By August 1 I think he'll be at around 28%. This dude is the lamest of lame ducks.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:38 AM

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Hopeful Narrative

Monday, May 08, 2006
The media discussion going into an election is critically important. If a party is being framed as disorganized, then its voters are less likely to turn out and its candidates find it more difficult to raise money. Given David Broder's crucial (and lamentable) position in the press hierarchy, his recent op-ed is a very positive sign for Democrats. In it Broder lays out a brand new theme: "Republicans in disarray." Cool.

At the same time, the Democrats have laid out an agenda if they capture the House. It didn't get much coverage outside the WaPo, but now when pundits say "where are the Democrats' ideas?" they can say "read the paper, stupid!"

The Democratic laundry list is perfectly fine, I suppose:

Democratic leaders, increasingly confident they will seize control of the House in November, are laying plans for a legislative blitz during their first week in power that would raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls.
It certainly is "thinking small," however. Yeah, it hits major policy areas - economics, the budget, health care, homeland security - but you must admit this is pretty small-bore stuff. But then the Contract With America was pretty trivial too. This modest platform is useful in that it gives the Democrats something to rally around, and sets the table if they win control. Its greatest asset is that they would force the Republicans to oppose these measures or hand the Democrats legislative successes.

Given the dire situation Republicans find themselves in, what is their response? According to the NYT, Rove is using the fact of Democratic control itself to mobilize the GOP. I don't know guys. Even hard-core partisans are motivated more by substance - even symbolic substance - than by sheer partisanship for the sake of it. And is it really a good idea to predicate your campaign on loyalty to Bush (in order to block impeachment) when Bush's support is so weak. Finally, the Democrats have only to ask "what are you guys so afraid of?"

P.S. This is really brilliant.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:13 AM

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Loki Takes After His Daddy

Friday, May 05, 2006

And you didn't believe me.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:08 PM

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We're All In This Together

Thursday, May 04, 2006
"We're all in this together?" Now wait a minute! That's my line! I've been using that as the core Democratic principle for years (Yeah, yeah Zola - I know you said it first. Consider me your publicist).

More seriously, I think this is basically the correct approach. In fact, I find the direction of conversation about neopopulism and definitional politics very appealing. The idea of commonality and mutual obligation directs one's attention to those who are taking advantage of us - in this case irresponsible corporations. It gives us what Nathan Newman accurately describes as an enemy to rally against. And Ruy Teixeira's corrective note that we can't just make simpleminded class appeals - that we have to take into account Americans' fundamental optimism - is a good one. It makes our task more complicated, but there's no way we're going to be successful if we assert that corporations are evil and responsible for all that ails us.

(By the way, am I the only one who finds it disturbing that Americans believe that we live in a society of perfect social mobility, when in fact we have one of the most socially rigid societies among industrial democracies? Is this some kind of collective delusion, or simply a belief that used to be true and is taking time to die? It's really weird.)

I think that the appropriate strategy would be to identify the problems our country is facing in specific terms, with the focus on economic opportunity and security. We then describe how the current policy is wrongheaded, and who is preventing us from changing it. That allows us to describe specific villains rather than attacking a whole category of people. There is room for some of that kind of talk, of course, but our critique needs to be much more subtle.

An example: Attacking high oil prices and asking why Republicans are against energy independence leads to the obvious claim that Republicans are in the pocket of greedy oil companies. This gives the "culture of corruption" attack real teeth while defining Democrats as the party of sane solutions to real problems and the Republicans as corporate tools. We don't even have to say so explicitly - people will get the idea. It will also bury the canard that Democrats "don't have any ideas."
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:37 AM

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Moving On.....

Wednesday, May 03, 2006
My beloved spouse Dr. Brazen Hussy has gotten a job in the Midwest. Yeah! This means that I will very shortly (and I mean VERY shortly) be experiencing a dramatic change in scenery. At the end of the month we will be residing in the "heartland." There are going to be a lot of personal changes (like me having another job and hopefully finally finishing my dissertation), but I'm also looking forward to the political changes. There are actually going to be Republicans around! The good news is that this means is that I am less likely to spend my day fighting with other Democrats. The bad news is that I'll have to listen to bloviating wingnuts. Oh well, it's been a long time since I've had a chance to humiliate one of those pseudo-sentients in public. It'll be like coming home.

But don't worry, faithful reader. I'll probably need this blog more than ever. In internet terms, I'm not going anywhere.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:17 AM

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I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
George Bush has clearly never taken a civics class. Or if he did, he was asleep. The phrases "separation of powers," "checks and balances," and even "Constitution" are very important words - words that Bush swore to observe when he took the oath of office. Bush's actions seem to indicate that has more interest in undermining all of those principles than preserving them.

The latest evidence of Bush's hostility to the Constitution is this article by the Boston Globe. It lays out how Bush has asserted his right to be sole interpreter of the Constitution, and as such has ignored over 750 federal laws. Funny, I thought we already had a branch that determined constitutionality. Huh.

I've written before how the "imperial presidency" interpretation of executive powers is alien to the Constitution and dangerous to American democracy. To sum up, Bush and his defenders are claiming that the President has total control over foreign affairs and war, and that he has emergency powers, by virtue of the "vested in" clause of the Constitution granting inherent powers. But neither external relations nor emergency powers are part of the grant of executive authority - they are in fact called federative and prerogative powers, respectively. The Constitution clearly divides federative powers among all three branches and grants prerogative powers to no one.

George Bush has vetoed a single congressional statute - unprecedented for a Presidency in its 6th year. But he has not done so because he believes that he does not need to - that he can ignore any law he likes. This leaves Congress without any recourse and effectively annexes the legislative power to the President. By asserting his right to interpret the Constitution, Bush has also usurped the rights of the Judiciary. In other words, we have a situation in which all political power is being concentrated into the hands of one man. This situation has a name, and it is tyranny.

George Bush has demonstated that he is an enemy of the Constitution, and as such must be removed from office. Were I in the Congress today, I would introduce bills of impeachment. Forget censure - this man has to go.

Let me end by engaging in a hypothetical. Let us say that an opposition party gains control of Congress because of the misdeeds of a President. What happens if that President stonewalls every investigation, and ignores every act of Congress? What then? Does the Congress attempt to remove him from office? What happens when that President orders the military to seize all members of Congress and declare a state of emergency on the grounds that as the nation is at war, we can't afford political instability? What, may I ask, is to stop him?

I used to think that Bush was just the worst President in history. I am now coming to believe that he is paving the way for dictatorship. Even if he has no such intention himself, what's to say that someone else, more able and more ruthless, won't follow his example?
Posted by Arbitrista @ 8:32 AM

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Fleshing Out the Democratic Message

Monday, May 01, 2006
Zola responds to my last post with the following argument:

But can we have a "kitchen sink" coalition? Doesn't -some- of the millions of things the Democrat confederacy argues for have to go to the back of the line?

I would respond by stating that the "common good" politics encompasses only one half of the equation - that of economic opportunity. We need the 2nd half of the equation as well - personal freedom. The Republicans have no reasonable claim any longer to the libertarian anti-big government, anti-big business vote any longer. They are the party interested in spying on you, of making you a servant of Big Brother, and of wasting your money. Issues like abortion and gay rights, but also wiretapping and torture, are all part of this story.

It's not a question of groups going "to the back of the line." It's more a question of how we interrelate the policies we are for with each other - how we fold them within a broader vision of society. It is our failure to do this, rather than special interest politics per se, that has given us so much rhetorical trouble over the last generation.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:54 AM

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