Thursday, November 11, 2010

Is Webb done?

Rumor has it that Jim Webb might not run for re-election. It is just a rumor. At this point, though, nothing would surprise me. It's amazing how quickly the Democrats seem to have just given up and accepted the "center-right nation" notion. Webb certainly seems to be one--he started out outspoken, economically populist and proud, and slowly he's morphed into a Bush tax cuts-supporting, DADT-anxious Southern Dem. It's been kind of sad to watch, actually.

I've mentioned this a few times, but I think Greg Sargent captured the struggle within the Democratic Party:
Three dozen moderate Dems have signed a letter to Dem leaders demanding a vote on extending all the tax cuts. And behind the scenes, they are telling House Dem leaders in no uncertain terms that they don't want a vote focused on just the middle class ones, the sources say. The leadership aide says moderates are complaining that if they take the vote, "they'll be subject to a 30 second ad saying they raised taxes."
When you have overwhelming public support for many of your agenda items, and you can't convert that into political victories, there are big, big problems. Not all of those are of the Democrats' making: Fox News, the corporatist Pravda; its enablers in the mainstream media, who are content to let lies stand as truth; Citizens United and its consequences; intense polarization based on cultural factors; and a thoroughly busted structure of government are all things that it's difficult to see how the Democrats can really address alone. So, I've been willing to cut them some slack, since in spite of all this they have accomplished a lot. More than any Congress/Administration pair since the Lyndon Johnson days, as a matter of fact, with a considerable handicap. That's worth a lot, in my opinion.

But the quote Sargent gets here tells a lot about how Democrats in Congress think. I get that there are tough obstacles, but in order to actually succeed, you have to actually believe you can succeed. That's not all you need to succeed, but it's an important precondition. I've met quite a few successful people in my day, and approximately none of them got that way because they were afraid people would say nasty things about them--if anything, they thrive on that stuff, as it gives them more of an incentive to succeed to prove the naysayers wrong. If you're in a place where you're afraid to vote for a tax cut for the middle class because it will be portrayed as a vote to increase taxes, then you've lost. You've been psyched out. All those obstacles don't even matter if you can't even get over the obstacles inside your own mind. And it's nuts, because while spin can accomplish a lot (like retconning Operation Iraqi Freedom into a mission to install liberal democracy in the Middle East), the spin suggested here is simply unintuitive. There's logic here, but the counterargument is so simple I don't see how it could be outspun. There's no desire to fight back against the smears, and there's not even a desire to fight the good fight, even if they lose. The implications are pretty shocking, if you draw them all out.

This just makes me think of the Iraq War Resolution, voted on a bit over eight years ago. Since then, we've had three wave elections that have produced major turnaround in the ranks of Congress. The Democratic Party's demographic makeup is way different now than it was back then, but when I think of the Democrats' performance in the immediate post-9/11 era, there are some striking similarities with how it still operates today. I keep thinking about the Jerry Seinfeld bit about how old people don't buy new clothes, they somehow keep finding new old clothes, which makes me wonder how the Democrats keep finding defeatist seat-fillers to take the place of the departed ones. Every once in a while, they get someone like Tom Perriello in there for a while, but it's hard not to see that as an exception. After the classes of 2006 and 2008 turned out to largely be busts, politically speaking, 2012 will present the Dems with a chance to get it right at last. Let's hope they don't screw it up.

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.