The Third Estate
What Is The Third Estate?
What Has It Been Until Now In The Political Order?
What Does It Want To Be?

Whose Fault Is This Mess?

Thursday, August 04, 2011
Continuing my diatribes regarding the debt ceiling deal........

Last time I promised to announce who I thought bore responsibility for our current situation. Well, at first glance there is plenty of blame to go around - political history and the general trajectory of events, conservative intransigence, democratic timidity - these have all been building for a long time. But in the final analysis I'm not a historical determinist. The objective situation may constrain the behavior of the actors, but they still have scope for action. So ultimately I guess I do blame Obama. If not the ultimate cause of the disaster, he's certainly the efficient cause. Whether he's corrupt, evil, weak, naive, or whatever, doesn't really matter. He came into office with the best hand that any Democrat has had in 40 years - majorities in the House and Senate, a discredited opposition, a united and enthusiastic party, and a country eager for a new direction. He faced a pressing set of institutional crises, in the economy, in foreign policy, in the environment, and most of all in our political institutions. So with a huge pile of chips in the pot and a full house in his hands, what's he do? He folds to a pair of twos. Sometimes it's irresponsible NOT to gamble.

I think Rude Pundit has it about right: asking ourselves why Obama did this or why he did that is a big fat waste of time. Obama was supposed to be our leader, and we waited for him to lead us, and that was probably our mistake. The elected officials in democracies aren't supposed to be leaders, not even (maybe most especially) not the President. They aren't our friends. They aren't our bosses. They're our employees. Rude Pundit wrote a great Dear John Letter, while I think the better analogy is the Notice of Termination. We hired the man to do a particular job which, for whatever reason, he has been unwilling or able to do. Time to move on.

So what now? There are lots of people seriously asking whether the debacle of the Obama presidency raises questions about the value of supporting the Democratic Party. Tim Duy (via Economist's View), Oliver Willis, and Matt Taibbi all ask what the point is if voting for the Donkeys only results in conservative policies. Really it's worse than that. For most people Obama IS liberalism. You laugh, but that's the perception. So for most Americans, liberalism now means cuts to Medicare, national surveillance, wars, Wall Street bailouts, etc. You know, all the things we're against. So Obama's presidency has been much worse than just more counterproductive incrementalism. It's been a betrayal of the legacy of more than a century of struggle for a more just America.

My principle with respect to conservatism is simple: You can't make deals with the devil. Their aim is to overturn the twentieth century, to create a hierarchical society in which everyone knows their place (under their boot). Turning the other cheek will only encourage them.

We need to disenthrall ourselves from our identification of liberalism with the Democratic Party. Liberalism didn't succeed because Democrats gave us what we wanted - we took it. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop working in Democratic Party politics. Flawed as they are, they're the only game in town. What it does mean, however, is that I and everyone else has to be lot readier than we have been to call bullshit. It also means that when we push an agenda, it has to be about a lot more than our own pet policy. Conservatism has been so successful in unraveling the New Deal in large measure due to the fact that their assault has been structural. Breaking unions, de-funding the welfare state, expanding the role of money in politics, suppressing voter turnout, and yes, encouraging suburban sprawl all please their supporters, but they also undermine the ability of the Democratic Party to function. It is long, long past time we start to respond in kind.

This isn't a little tussle over what team of officeholders gets to hand out the goodies. Quite frankly, it's them or us. It always has been.


Posted by Arbitrista @ 3:27 PM
  • I never believed it before, but now it seems so obvious. The Democrats really are just weak.

    Conservatives are better at building a narration and getting a message out. And, more importantly, they are way better at pushing through an agenda EVEN in the face of public opposition.

    Obama is certainly the worst offender - the very picture of a political eunuch. But the Senate isn't much better, the bunch of cowards.

    I disagree, btw, about the President being a leader. Yes, we hired him. But we hired him to lead us in the fight back to the right path. We need a leader for that fight and the President is the best person for the job. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be Obama. Lying, despicable bastard.

    By Blogger Rebecca, at 5:00 PM  
  • Okay. I agree. Completely. But why did anybody think he was the man to lead such a revolt? He had some structural problems from the get-go, and a conciliatory habit. If we want to have real change, we have to have somebody who is not going to mediate their way through the rubble, but push, pull, bulldoze or whatever. I'm not advocating violence here, but substantive action requires real outsiders who have more to lose than the system is going to tolerate.

    His genius was getting people so excited and getting them to support the current system, to believe that change could come from the White House alone. Not going to happen.

    By Blogger Belle, at 8:37 AM  
Post a Comment
<< Home

:: permalink