Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's all incremental

I'm sure that the climate change and health care bills that pass Congress will almost certainly be somewhat disappointing to liberals, but Ezra's got the right idea here. The same thing was probably felt about the 1957 Civil Rights Act. For all of his virtues, Dwight Eisenhower wasn't really keen on pushing civil rights, though I think he did much more substantively for the issue than anyone other than Lyndon Johnson. If 1957 were the end of the story on civil rights, then obviously that would have been a disappointment. But Ezra's right: it's not the end, it's the beginning.

I've been thinking about this quote from E.D. Kain recently, and I think it applies:
The Democrats have Obama, and without him I’d say they stand a much less likely chance of holding on to power unless, of course, Obama cultivates a strong following within the Democratic leadership – but we’re only half a year in to the new administration. In four years, if he is as skilled a politician as he seems to be, he will have remade the party in his own image, and that’s dangerous for conservatives.

I think part of the reason why the Democrats in Congress kinda suck right now really is because it's still, in large part, the Party of Clinton. I think that the 2006 and 2008 elections were helpful in bringing in a more progressive group of people that hold promise. Sure, there were some really conservative inductees in those congressional classes, but there's a real difference between a Democrat like Bob Casey and one like Evan Bayh. Both are classified as "moderate" but Casey is, like most newer Democrats, an economic populist and Iraq opponent (though he is socially conservative). Bayh is fairly liberal on social issues but is otherwise functionally conservative. I think this shift will continue, but even more than that, it's a question of attitude: Dems like Bayh, Landrieu, Nelson, etc., tend to be more deferential to the right wing because of the formative experiences of their careers, but more importantly, they tend to have a different conception of what it means to be a Democrat. To these folks, one can be a Democrat while taking vast amounts of corporate and special interest money. There's no conflict to them. Their careers began during a time when fundraising was difficult for Democrats without sucking up to those powers--something that doesn't really hold any longer, considering institutions like ActBlue and MoveOn and all the rest can raise money as well. Obama swamped McCain in fundraising last election. The game is changing.

So I think that getting something done now, then waiting and seeing and fixing what wasn't fixed before seems like a good idea. Leaders can have a dramatic impact on the future of their parties--just think of the GOP now and the GOP circa 2000. Or 1990, for that matter, before Newt Gingrich. Hopefully Obama will turn out better than those two.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.