Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

US Election Braindump

Thu 8 November 2012, 12:15am

I am too tired and too discombobulated from number crunching to post a coherent, concise article, but there is much of interest in yesterday’s American election results. This was a decisive election for the world’s most powerful nation and, ipso facto, for the whole planet. So I’m just going to do a brain dump on lessons from yesterday. This is probably too long, and certainly insufficiently intellectually rigorous, but I would be interested in Sluggerites’ opinions (and we all have opinions, don’t we?)

The Tea Party
Leave aside for a second whether or not we agree with the basic values of the Tea Party – and I expect in NI, even on the right, we don’t. What has its contribution been to American Conservatism overall? Pretty disastrous – not only did it lose Republicans the Presidency last night, it also cost them control of the Senate, for the second time in a row.

Classic example – the Indiana Senate race. Dick Lugar, a six term moderate GOP Senator, would have cruised to re-election with 70-odd percent of the vote in a state that Barack Obama didn’t even try to defend. He lost his primary to Tea Partier Richard Mourdock. His heresy in Tea Partiers’ eyes was to have a good personal relationship with the President from Obama’s time in the Senate. Mourdock’s lead over Democrat opponent Joe Donnelly was never that big to begin with, and then threw away the race with stupid and offensive comments about abortion and rape in the final weeks. Tea Partiers also threw away an easy GOP opportunity to pick up Claire McCaskill’s seat in Missouri, just as they threw away Nevada and Delaware last time.

And yes, the Tea Party, and the nature of contemporary Republican politics, cost Mitt Romney the Presidency. Look RCP’s polling average of the Presidential race in New Hampshire, a state that Romney, with his local name recognition and popularity, should have won easily. Romney was crushing Obama until the height of the Republican Primary campaign, when he was forced a long way to the right. He never recovered.
The problem is that the majority of the GOP primary electorate in large swathes of the US is on board with both the Tea Party agenda and the Tea Party’s abrasive way of presenting itself. There is no polity in the world where it is more difficult for the leadership of a political party to impose a party line than the USA. That is one of the glories of the country, but for a GOP seeking a route back to electability, it presents a serious problem.
Also, what happens to the Tea Parties supporters if the GOP does cut them adrift.

Will they vote for a Bobby Jindal/Chris Christie/Marco Rubio led GOP where they are marginalised, or will they opt out entirely, establishing themselves as a third party that could become a serious player in the South, High Plains and parts of the Mountain West? Or does the anger, and the easy retreat into paranoid conspiracy theories and claims of stolen elections, morph into something uglier if not given expression within mainstream politics?
Tea Partiers have an entirely different conception of the proper role and function of the State than mainstream conservatives. Republicans are going to find this difficult to manage.
Is civil war about to erupt in the GOP
Until Obama, no President since FDR has managed re-election with unemployment at the level it currently sits at in the USA. Until Obama, no Democratic President since FDR managed re-election with an absolute majority of the popular vote. This was not a good election for Republicans. A segment of the GOP gets carried away by its destruction of Democrats, even at State level, in the South and High Plains and forgets that in doing so, it has essentially destroyed the party on the West Coast and North East, and is in danger of rendering itself unelectable in middle-class white suburbia in the Midwest and Mountain West.
Moderates in the GOP are well aware that this is a problem. Even before the election, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (that well known hotbed of big city multi-ethnic liberalism) said, “if we lose this election there is only one explanation — demographics. If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough I’m going to go nuts. We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

Lindsey Graham is obviously entirely correct, but I doubt that all of the GOP grassroots shares that view. There remains a strong body of opinion within the GOP that both Romney and McCain lost because they weren’t ‘real conservatives’ but backsliding moderates unable to energise the base enough to overcome massive minority and youth turnout for Obama.

While the old north-eastern tradition of liberal “gipsy moth” Republicans is pretty much dead, the party remains badly split between business-oriented fiscal conservatives, pragmatic social conservatives, Tea Partiers and the tattered remnants of the Goldwater/Reagan Western libertarian tradition. Three of those four factions can probably reach a pragmatic modus vivendi, but the fourth can’t. And, as noted above, the faction that can’t is the most powerful in the base. Expect fireworks.

Karl Rove’s tactics no longer work
A billion dollars of negative attack ads from post-Citizens’ United Super PACs failed to move Obama’s unfavourables one bit. This was entirely predictable. As well as the Fox News/AM radio noise machine, the medical lobby spent hundreds of millions in the aftermath of Obamacare defining the President as an un-American Socialist. Those who believed that were already going to vote GOP anyway. But many didn’t, including many who pulled the lever for Romney yesterday.

In exit polling, a majority of Americans believed that George W Bush still bears more responsibility for America’s economic woes, including many who thought Obama’s response had been inadequate and who voted for Romney yesterday.

Nobody really believes Fox News is fair and balanced, including many who are glued to it, just for the craic. Packaging its key messages into 30 second ads worked in 2004. It doesn’t in 2012. Karl Rove ended up like most failed generals, trying to fight this year’s war with last year’s battle tactics. That didn’t work for Ludendorff either.
Republicans’ final article of faith in this election was that they would win because the polls were biased. One GOP surrogate after another took to the airwaves and teh intertubes in the final week of the campaign to assert that Romney would prevail because African Americans and young people were going to sit this one out. I have never, anywhere on the planet, seen a more self-defeating media line guaranteed to motivate potential stay-at-homes from the other side.

Social change
Until yesterday, marriage equality campaigners in the US had lost 32 referenda on the trot. Yesterday they won four out of four, including Minnesota, a state where Republicans once looked set to take over but now are in retreat. The pace of change on this issue is extraordinarily rapid in the USA, as it is in Europe.

Moderate and libertarian GOPers played a key role in legalising marriage equality in New York last year, and in Washington State yesterday. Yet marriage equality supporters continue to be a small minority of the party’s elected representatives and virtually invisible at the Federal level. They day is not far off when a Republican can’t expect to win statewide office in the Pacific Northwest, in the Northeast, and probably in the near Midwest, as an opponent of marriage equality. How does the GOP manage the expectations of its socially conservative Southern base in this context?

Two states, Colorado and Washington, voted for full decriminalisation of marijuana, the first to do so (and in conflict with Federal law). In what is, by European standards, a very young country, the pace of change in social attitudes on these issues will continue to be rapid.

Hillary is 45
Hillary Clinton must already be the heavy favourite for the Presidential election in 2016, if she runs. And she is going to run. Bill did not spend months of heavy campaigning for Obama for fun. This was about getting the Obama imprimatur, and his appeal to young and minority voters, for the Clinton ’16 campaign.

Her solid performance as Secretary of State has transformed opinion of her, and don’t forget she was the Democratic candidate who ran best with working-class Southern and Appalachian Whites in the 2008 primaries. Polling shows her to be is the most positively viewed active American politician from either party. The only retired, living, politician who rivals her popularity is her husband, whose Presidency now looks like something of a golden age for the USA. She will be hard to beat.

Barack and Bill’s bromance
Although Hillary and Barack seemed to bond once Obama faced the same tidal wave of healthcare reform negativity that Hillary faced in 1993, relationships between Barack and Bill remained icy. But on the campaign trail, the obvious coldness of the relationship seemed to thaw with time, with particularly warm hugs between the men at the end of election rallies in the final fortnight. Some have even called their new found friendship a ‘bromance’.

Rumour has it that it was Bill, back in May, who told Obama that he should not give up on Florida. Although cripplingly expensive to fight, President No. 42 told the incumbent that a campaign heavily focused on Medicare issues could sway the heavy elderly population in the Sunshine State. And so it seems to have proved. Even in the ultra-conservative Panhandle, Obama kept his low, but critical, share of the White working-class vote intact and even recorded positive swings in some Florida counties. Slick Willie remains the world’s most formidable election campaigner. Al Capone said you can go a long way with a smile.

What happens to Obama’s machine?
Another key consequence of the Barack-Bill reconciliation is that Obama’s formidable election machine might not simply decay as it did after 2008. And it was formidable. David Axelrod gave up on Indiana, but otherwise batted .889, fighting partly in deep Republican territory. A polarising black Democratic President, with particular problems among working-class Whites in the South, is playing defence in North Carolina and loses by less than 100,000 votes? You’d better believe it was an impressive machine.

Axelrod, the Chicago operative par excellence, dominated the Midwest as might have been expected, yet so long denied by Republicans. You don’t win elections in Illinois without a solid working-class White vote, and Axelrod’s Ohio campaign, in particular, was magisterial. Note also how Obama dominated the Wisconisn farmbelt and eastern Iowa, and fought Romney to a standstill in the more Evangelical-heavy centre of the Hawkeye State. I did tell people that farm policy would be an unheralded strength of the Obama campaign.

Clinton, as we have noted, is not one to miss a political trick. If he has any sense, in return for all the hard yards he put in, culminating in an exhausting day in Pennsylvania on Monday, he’ll ask for the keys of David Axelrod’s Chicago castle.

A nation divided
Nothing epitomises the divided nature of American society more than North Carolina, where despite Obama’s strong performance, both state houses and the governorate were captured by the GOP for the first time since Reconstruction, and Colorado where both state houses and the governorate are now in the hands of the Democrats.

Americans, across the spectrum, despair of the endless negativity of politics and the inability of politicians to bring the country together. Healing America’s national rift, as he initially promised to do, may turn out to be defining issue of his second term.

Americans are rightly disgusted with the rocket salvo of negativity in their elections. The Supreme Court’s decision to abandon any meaningful regulation of Political Action Committees in Citizens’ United was ideological insanity writ large. Meaningful campaign finance reform is essential.

Oh, and Nate Silver was right, despite taking a lot abuse, some of it pretty nasty. I hope he feels vindicated tonight.

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Comments (18)

  1. Great braindump, Gerry.
    You have “done us all good” with your series of articles.
    Re your first bit, I agree that the Tea party has been disastrous for the Republicans. Romney had to go far right to get the nomination and was, essentially, unable to get back far enough to the middle where he naturally belongs, to win the election. It should have been easy.
    But, no matter what, watching American democracy in action is quite the sight. On another thread, someone dumped on the American Constitution. Such nonsense. The Framers did an awesome job in ensuring that no faction could dominate the rest..

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  2. New Yorker (profile) says:

    Very good observations and your state analysis was also knowledgeable and accurate.

    I agree about the slow demise of the Tea Party hastened by this election. I also agree that Karl Rove should be finished because all the money he begged and spent produced little or no effect. We should be thankful for the exit of those two malign factors and keep an eye that they stay in their graves.

    The Obama election team delivered an impressive victory, without counting Florida they won 60% of the electoral college. They are the most talented election team in the country and any future candidate would be fortunate to get their advice.

    I may be naive about Bill Clinton, but I think he put so much effort in because he thinks it is best for the country and only secondarily good for his family. I doubt Hilary has made a decision on 2016 yet and really looks forward to a well earned rest.

    Several new faces are now on the national scene, to my mind the most impressive is Elizabeth Warren.

    The Republican party is headed for permanent minority status unless they purge their extremists and very stale policies. They still think they can control the agenda when they have been sideswiped by a better and smarter opposition; their droning on about the debt indicates they have not learned the lessons of defeat.

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  3. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    Gerry, you’ve done a fine job of work here. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your view of the Presidential election and many times had to remind myself that you’re a foreigner. ;o)

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  4. Kevsterino (profile) says:

    It is probably going to take some time for me to assimilate just what happened in this election regarding the new coalitions and voting trends. It could portend of further development when the House elections take place. In my estimation, if obstruction remains the order of the day in Congress, the GOP will take such a beating it could take them 10 years to recover.

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  5. abucs (profile) says:

    Interesting video on the social change question, free speech and tolerance.

    http://www.tfpstudentaction.org/what-we-do/news-and-updates/video-release-attacked-by-tolerance.html?utm_source=sm&utm_medium=email&utm_content=SAE0130&utm_campaign=MainNewsletter

    http://pfox.org/default.html

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  6. Jimmy McGurk (profile) says:

    Way too much focus on this election I reckon. Not just from Slugger but a whole host of media organisations. Personally, I’d be more interested in less of the domestic US analysis and more on what a prospective Obama or Romney president would mean for the rest of the world.

    Anyway, here’s an Australian perspective on the campaign:

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/china/why-chinas-leadership-change-matters-20121106-28uve.html

    http://www.theage.com.au/world/us-election/rise-and-demise-of-an-empire-the-new-world-order-20121102-28pgi.html

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  7. Valenciano (profile) says:

    Rove and the Republicans are like the protagonist of the film The Artist, refusing to adapt to changed times and ploughing cash by the bucketload into an outdated product. I had a few discussions on yahoo with Republican supporters and for many of them the consensus was that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim antichrist reincarnation of Adolf Hiter, who combines all that with being a communist. It’s quite difficult to reason with nutters.

    One big advantage the US does have over Europe is its demographic situation with growth projected up until 2050 while most of Europe stagnates demographically. The problem for Republicans is that white caucasians in the USA are no more likely to have kids than their European counterparts, so the demographic growth will be driven by Hispanics, blacks and even (whisper it softly) muslims. If the GOP does not quickly find a way to change tack and tap into that demographic, it risks being marginalised.

    Overall this was a disastrous election for the GOP, managing to regain only Indiana, which Obama had made the strategic decision to give up on, and North Carolina, which they should certainly never lose in an even year. At this moment, with nothing changing in the interim period, you’d have to favour Hillary Clinton for 2016.

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  8. Greenflag (profile) says:

    Gerry Lynch @ Thu 8 November 2012, 12:15am.

    ‘This was a decisive election for the world’s most powerful nation and, ipso facto, for the whole planet.’

    I don’t think the GOP gave any though to the rest of the planet bar Israel and the possibility of reducing American Jewish votes for Obama . As it turned out Romney’s Israel trip paid off and Jewish voters support for Obama dropped from 76% last time out to 71% in 2012 . In voting numbers this had little effect except perhaps in Florida where of course the break in the Hispanic vote was 70% for Obama and Republican Hispanic voters were even outnumbered by Hispanic ‘independents ‘ by 15% to 14% .

    Great ‘braindump’ btw . I read the WSJ weekend and midweek , the Economist , IT and FT and I have to say Gerry that you put them all in the shade with your analysis .;) I ‘ll admitI was not entirely convinced by Nate Silver’s ‘probability ‘ futuring but I think everybody underestimated the Obama voting ‘machine ‘ in Florida .

    If that ‘machine ‘ or coalition remains intact then Hilary Clinto will be a shoo in for 2016 . The GOP haven’t a lot of time to reform their act and if they play hardball with the fiscal cliff and immigration reform they will be renamed the Kamikazians .

    Puerto Rico as Andrew Gallagher noted on another thread have voted (non binding ) to join the union . That would probably add to the list of ‘blue ‘ states given that American based Puerto Ricans tend to vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats .

    John Boehner has a job on his hands . On the one side he has to face the same futile task as King Canute and at the same time he has to restrain the wired moonies of Primary Republicans from digging an ever deeper political grave for the GOP .

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  9. GEF (profile) says:

    No doubt Donald Trump is seething with anger over all the millions of bucks spent on Mitt Romney’s campaign. If this election goes to prove anything its those guys with the big bucks don’t pull the strings anymore in US politics.

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  10. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Good summary Gerry. I agree with other commenters, this has all been world-class stuff.

    My thoughts were the same. I thought Obama would win but not comfortably and that there was an outside chance that Romney could snatch it out of his lap, especially when Obama appeared to dither over the Benghazi killings. I was surprised that he managed to win the popular vote as well.

    Defeating Obama should have been straightforward. He is far from an effective or decisive leader and seems to be far too willing to water down whatever his principles are for the sake of compromise. He’s got some of the worst unemployment and economic figures of any President facing re-election. The natural Democratic base is feeling the effect of the unemployment and economic malaise. The fact that he won shows not that people wanted him to be back in the job, but that people were scared by the prospect of the alternative.

    The Republicans have been slow, to say the least, to disassociate themselves with organized whack-job fruitcakery as is expressed through the Tea Party “movement”.I think this body of people is the ultimate outworking of Karl Rove’s idea of tactical politics and it has become painfully clear that the demographics are no longer going to support a platform which, to the exclusion of others, combines angry white guys with evangelicals and multi-millionaires. Something is going to have to give and the Tea Party folks are, rather obviously, not the sort of people who will pipe down for the sake of the greater good. As Gerry noted several GOP congressional seats have been lost due to their imposition of fruitcake candidates.

    Had a sane GOP candidate been run against Harry Reid two years ago the party would have had a real chance of affecting a decapitation upon the Democrats in the Senate. Instead, Sharon Angel and “first amendment remedies” blew it for them.

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  11. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Stalin,

    Obama is “far from an effective or decisive leader“. Oh, he is is he?

    Then perhaps you could explain more progressive legislation passed than under any Democrat since the Johnson era, the passage of near universal-health reform, the killing of OBL, avoidance of another Depression, the beginnings of financial reform, the saving of the Auto Industry in states utterly dependant on it, private sector job growth month after month while the rest of the developed world continues to flounder, the ending of torture as policy, withdrawal from Iraq as scheduled, the endorsement of marriage rights for all, followed by a national opinion shift in that direction – and all in the teeth of the most intransigent opposition seen in DC in living memory. Oh, and a re-election. And finally, a political approach that his left his opponents with existential problems, considering their relations with minorities and women voters.

    Yes, certain things haven’t been done that need doing: Immigration reform; entitlement reform and a reckoning over drone bombing. But is the charge that he hasn’t done everything?

    Tell me Stalin, what would this “decisive leader” of yours be doing differently and what would have been the measurable superiors in outcomes?

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  12. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Ruarai,

    To me it is all relative. In relative terms Obama is much better than the alternatives. I quite like him and I like listening to him speak, I’m glad he got re-elected. I think he is a good man and has a lot of the right ideas. But my choice would have been someone more like Howard Dean or John Edwards. I hung out with the Edwards campaign in Reno (three people in a cramped office, let’s be honest) during 2006 and took a couple of great photos of Elizabeth (RIP) giving a speech.

    But taking a more absolute point of view, Obama is not a radical. He is really a few tiny shades to the left of Ronald Reagan (in practice). As Americans say, the best Republican President we could ask for, rather like Clinton.

    For example, he should have told the Republicans to get stuffed, and kept the public option in the ACA. By conceding to them on this issue he handed them the keys through which they could undermine it (by talking of compulsion and taxation). The large banks and other institutions should have been nationalized, so the government could recover the money later by selling the shares (as the UK government is about to do).

    His weakest and most shameful moment was when he attempted to buy the Republicans off by offering cuts in social security and medicare in exchange for getting a budget through. That practically makes him a traitor. It’s part of a generally mistaken “strategy” the Dems seem to try to play – they attempt to be conciliatory whereas the GOP are utterly uncompromising. All they are doing is giving ground on their core issues.

    I am not sure that it is a matter of praise that a President chooses not to embark on destructive wars. It’s a bit like praising someone for not burning their neighbour’s house down. Certain things should be common sense.

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  13. Ruarai (profile) says:

    Stalin,

    your reply makes no sense to me. Consider:

    1. “someone more like Howard Dean or John Edwards” – can you review the brief list of achievements I outlined and tell be either of these to (probably unelectable) men would have achieved them, particularly in the face of that 08-12 GOP? No way you could, right? So what’s their attraction? Seriously? (And remember Edwards, is an admitted liar who fathered a child behind his terminally ill wife’s back who almost went to prison last year ffs!)

    2. “Obama is not a radical” And thank goodness for that. He never claimed to be radical. And yet despite his inherent temperance and maturity, it’s precisely his pragmatism that gets so much done and precisely the lack of pragmatism that condemns “radicals” to bloviating irrelevance.

    3. “For example, he should have told the Republicans to get stuffed, and kept the public option in the ACA” And then it would not have become law. What do you prefer: Passing legislation or telling people to “get stuffed”? Remember, unlike the UK there is a serious legislative branch in the US – the executive cannot pass laws by telling it to get stuffed.

    4. “The large banks and other institutions should have been nationalized“. You may have wanted this – he never did. You can question the effectiveness of his leadership if he fails to effect change in the areas he believes in and campaigned on but you cannot condemn said effectiveness on the grounds that he pursued policies you disagree with. Fair?

    5. “most shameful moment was when he attempted to buy the Republicans off by offering cuts in social security and Medicare in exchange for getting a budget through”. First, “shameful” to try to bargain on an issue that the country is utterly divided on? Second, again, you may not believe in cuts but he does and has always made that clear, the debate is around the size and reciprocity; the terms of the deal, not on whether to deal. And while that (ultimately unmade) deal you reference is not one I would have welcomed either, look at what he was engineered now: “Starting in January, there will be a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that greatly improve Obama’s bargaining leverage.”

    See: http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/11/there-is-no-fiscal-cliff.html

    6. I didn’t praise him for embarking on destructive wars. You just made that one up! :)

    7. “Certain things should be common sense.” I might concede you this sentence. Maybe.

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  14. Harry Flashman (profile) says:

    There seems to be a complete and utter misunderstanding of what the Tea Party stands for in this thread.

    It seems that “Tea Party” has now become, like Neo-Con, simply a boogey-man phrase used to depict Americans who hold political and economic views a bit to the right of the New York Times as knuckle dragging, mouth breathing, fascist bigots.

    Just for the record the Tea Party believes in less government and more fiscal responsibility. It has no opinion on sexual or social matters.

    Try not to confuse the Tea Party with Evangelical Christians, they are not one and the same.

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  15. Harry, you’re the one who doesn’t seem to have much of a grip on what the tea party stands for. It isn’t a libertarian movement – it started out that way in its first few months but was soon captured by the religious crazies and conspiracy theorists.

    Michelle Bachman? Viciously homophobic. Christine O’Donnell? Viciously homophobic. Todd Akin? Thinks God gives special magic powers to raped women to stop them getting pregnant (a view as unscriptural as it is repugnant). Richard Mourdock? Thinks when women get pregnant after a rape, it’s a gift from God. Allen West? Paranoid conspiracy theorist who uses his motorcycle gang buddies to bully election officials.

    Whatever the Tea Party started out as, it rapidly abandoned any sense of libertarianism. Barry Goldwater must be spinning in his grave. Goldwater, for all the real-world flaws in his strict defence of states’ rights, joined the NAACP in the 1950s when it was far from hip in Arizona, and contributed money to legal cases aimed at overturning segregation in Phoenix. Today’s Tea Party screams blue murder at any attempt to provide a path to citizenship to undocumented migrants who have been living in the USA since they were toddlers.

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  16. Jack2 (profile) says:

    Gerry – amazing work pre and post election.
    I read Nate Silvers work before polling day and put my money where his mouth was (posted elsewhere here). Ended up 500 quid up :)

    Thanks again for your articles!

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  17. Comrade Stalin (profile) says:

    Gerry,

    I have heard other Americans on the right say the same thing, almost word for word, that Harry just said (I assume they get their opinions from the same rant-blogs). Yet others say that the Tea Party is an organic movement which defies definition, which is not strictly organized and which does not have a strict set of policies.

    I think there is actually a little bit of truth in the claim that the Tea Party is a groundswell. Given that they apparently only found out about the deficit and the existence of social security a few weeks after Obama was first elected and before he’d even had a chance to enact anything, however, there really is no credibility to the idea that it’s anything to with going back to older traditions, and has a lot more in common with the same grassroots movement that tried to stop the enactment of civil rights reforms in the 50s and 60s.

    Ruarai,

    You seem to be overdoing it a bit. We disagree on some things, that’s all.

    your reply makes no sense to me. Consider:

    1. “someone more like Howard Dean or John Edwards” – can you review the brief list of achievements I outlined and tell be either of these to (probably unelectable) men would have achieved them, particularly in the face of that 08-12 GOP?

    I couldn’t possibly do that, nor did I make any such claims. I just preferred their policy positions. I mean, calm down.

    I’m sure they are unelectable. I don’t make my support for politicians conditional on whether other people vote for them or not.

    No way you could, right? So what’s their attraction? Seriously?

    I heard Edwards campaigning on issues such as the environment and talking about “two Americas”. That resonated with me, because that’s what I see every time I visit the place, and the country is the only one with the means to create a true paradise by addressing the grinding poverty that exists there (almost hidden from the public eye, ironically). Howard Dean seems to be decisive, forthright and always seems to talk sense. He was one of a few voices insisting that the ACA would be significantly weaker without a “public option”. I agreed.

    (And remember Edwards, is an admitted liar who fathered a child behind his terminally ill wife’s back who almost went to prison last year ffs!)

    What happens with people in their private lives is of no interest to me provided no laws were broken, and I think it would be healthier if more people took this view. None of it is any of my business.

    2. “Obama is not a radical” And thank goodness for that. He never claimed to be radical. And yet despite his inherent temperance and maturity, it’s precisely his pragmatism that gets so much done and precisely the lack of pragmatism that condemns “radicals” to bloviating irrelevance.

    I don’t particularly rate his achievements – I have to struggle hard to think of them – and I think there are people who could have done a better job than he did. He was relatively young and inexperienced and that did not help. Your idea of pragmatism seems to be the same as the one which apparently encourages Democrats to give way on almost everything they claim to hold dear. I’ll skip on it, thank you.

    3. “For example, he should have told the Republicans to get stuffed, and kept the public option in the ACA” And then it would not have become law.

    The Democrats (briefly) had a majority in both houses and that is the only reason why the ACA even passed in the first place. So for a start, no compromise was necessary.

    Either way, I do not see how it is strategically in any way sensible to get into compromising with people who are not interested in talking sense. It only encourages them to continue acting like asshats. The Republicans pushed and pushed, Obama gave more and more ground and won no concessions in return, over anything. They even said in public that it was their priority to see him a one-term President. Obama put himself in real danger of alienating his own base just to get the GOP on side. Had the GOP been slightly less insane about it, it would have cost him the election.

    What do you prefer: Passing legislation or telling people to “get stuffed”? Remember, unlike the UK there is a serious legislative branch in the US – the executive cannot pass laws by telling it to get stuffed.

    On the contrary, Roosevelt did a pretty damn good job of it. Not only did he threaten Congress, he went even further and threatened to pack the Supreme Court. Hardball tactics like that are completely justified in cases such as these and Obama was too weak and unsure of his ground to play them.

    I note today, with satisfaction, that Obama is showing a rather more bullish side by asserting – as he should do – that his policies and ideas have passed the electoral test and that theirs have not. It is now clearly incumbent on the GOP controlled House to make concessions in their position with respect to the mandate that Obama has obtained. He is in a strong position and while horse trading is to be expected there is no need for a sellout.

    4. “The large banks and other institutions should have been nationalized“. You may have wanted this – he never did. You can question the effectiveness of his leadership if he fails to effect change in the areas he believes in and campaigned on but you cannot condemn said effectiveness on the grounds that he pursued policies you disagree with. Fair?

    This is completely incoherent waffle. My best effort to decode it suggests you think I’m supposed to refrain from criticizing the President’s decisions because, er, he didn’t mention them in his manifesto ? What sort of nonsense is that ?

    5. “most shameful moment was when he attempted to buy the Republicans off by offering cuts in social security and Medicare in exchange for getting a budget through”. First, “shameful” to try to bargain on an issue that the country is utterly divided on?

    Obama has a mandate, the Republicans do not, and the idea that there is such stark division on social security and Medicare is overstated by Republicans who did nothing in their time in office to address any of the concerns they claimed were urgent as soon as they were out of the White House.

    You, sadly, sound very typical of the modern day Democratic party member. You allow the Republicans to set the agenda and then you spend the rest of your time coming up with excuses for pandering to it.

    Second, again, you may not believe in cuts but he does and has always made that clear, the debate is around the size and reciprocity; the terms of the deal, not on whether to deal.

    Huh ? Obama believes in cutting social security and Medicare ?!?

    And while that (ultimately unmade) deal you reference is not one I would have welcomed either,

    The fact that the deal did not come off is not the point, of course.

    look at what he was engineered now: “Starting in January, there will be a series of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that greatly improve Obama’s bargaining leverage.”

    Look, I know you’re a fan and all but describing this as some sort of clever engineering of the situation is a bit silly. It’s the default position, going back to before he was in power, it is what was always going to happen. Yes, of course he has bargaining room because now the GOP will have to deal in order to follow through on their claims of stopping tax hikes. But he has more bargaining room because he just won an election after which he faced all of their bullshit and saw them called on it. I hope he continues to put himself about a bit.

    6. I didn’t praise him for embarking on destructive wars. You just made that one up!

    You praised him for “withdrawal from Iraq on schedule”, as if he consciously and deliberately took the decision not to extend the war there. He had no choice but to withdraw. Shame about Gitmo of course.

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  18. [...] Crossposted at Slugger O’Toole… [...]

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