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July 5, 2008

One Simple Reason to Vote for Obama
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 04:57 PM *

The US Supreme Court:

  • John Roberts, age 55
  • John Paul Stevens, age 88
  • Antonin Scalia, age 72
  • Anthony Kennedy, age 71
  • David Souter, age 68
  • Clarence Thomas, age 60
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, age 75
  • Stephen Breyer, age 69
  • Samuel Alito, age 58
Comments on One Simple Reason to Vote for Obama:
#2 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 05:18 PM:

We're going to be stuck with some crazies for quite a while, aren't we?

#3 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 05:33 PM:

On the other hand, I'm seeing polling results that suggest a 5-seat swing to the Democrats in the Senate, and 10-15 seats in Congress. That represents a clean sweep of everything but the Supreme Court, and I note that Scalia's no spring chicken, either: if Obama gets his second term, Scalia will be 79 by the time he leaves office.

Here's hoping for an early coronary over all that librul constitution-hating law that's coming down the pike. (If only.)

#5 ::: Ron ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 05:47 PM:

It'll take a landslide victory for Obama, and the Democrats in Senate and Congress, to bank the political capital to begin undoing the damage done these last years. I'd like to see Attorney General Hillary Clinton prosecuting war criminals to encourage those early coronaries throughout the neo-cons. A man can dream, can't he?

#6 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:11 PM:

I saw a proposal recently that I liked: Supreme Court decisions should require a super-majority. 4-5 is effectively a coin toss on some very important issues. The will of the people should be easy to impose. The will of nine old rich people should be much harder.

Anyone care to add more reasons to vote for Obama now that he's swinging right? I'll give him half a point for mandatory corporate health care, though I'd prefer something that was more concerned with people and less with big business.

#7 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:15 PM:

Oh, please, please, please, let Scalia fall through a one-way wormhole during Obama's administration. We're probably stuck with Thomas for quite a while, but he seems to have much less of a personal agenda to inflict on the nation than his mentor Scalia. The real problem is that the more liberal justices are older, and we need to have a liberal president in place to find replacements for them who won't tilt the court further right. And I mean liberal; what passes for a "moderate" or "centrist" Democrat these days is well right of the presidents who appointed Ginsburg, for instance.

#8 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:21 PM:

Nuts to AG Clinton, I want AG Kucinich.

#9 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:28 PM:

So if we could somehow look into the future, and see that Obama does get to seat 1-2 SC justices, but doesn't undo anything that Bush has put into motion the last 8 years, is that reason enough to vote for him?

I confess I'm not all that pleased with his recent statements about Iraq and his support for the FISA bill; it is making him look like a political opportunist rather than someone with strong ethical views he intends to stand up for.

#10 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:46 PM:

I want a revolution, or at least a new party.

Love, C.

#11 ::: J.K.Richard ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 06:47 PM:

I'm sure they are all aware of the internet...

#12 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 07:28 PM:

John L at #9, what "recent statements" of Obama's are you referring to? Obama's fundamental statements about Iraq are unchanged from what he's been saying since day one: it's pure spin/fiction that he's saying something different. There's a quote at TPM where he talks about it taking 16 months to get our troops out of Iraq -- that was in October 2007. He still opposes any permanent American presence in Iraq. Logistics alone demand that even if we start tomorrow it will take months for all US forces to be gone from Iraq, and we don't have the faintest idea what the political situation in Iraq will be like in January 2009. Would you want him not to be responsive to strategic concerns?

#13 ::: Judith ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 07:33 PM:

Don't forget that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had cancer, and is not well.

We desperately need someone who won't name a Federalist Society member, Catholic male to the seat. Current members of that group are: Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, John G. Roberts Jr., and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

See a trend?

#14 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:10 PM:

Lizzy @12, whenever Obama says anything that leaves him wriggle room on the war in Iraq or Afghanistan, or starting one with Iran, I remember that LBJ was the peace candidate in 1964. But I'll give him another half-point for not saying he'd be happy to stay in Iraq for 100 years.

#15 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:13 PM:

I know I've said it before here, but my Supreme Court fantasy leverages the legislative branch landslide Charlie mentioned to expand the Court by two seats (yes, we could actually do that). Obama could sell that as an essential component in undoing the damage of the last 8 years and give Bush and his "stack the Court for the next 20 years" puppet masters a big ole' upraised middle finger in the process...

#16 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:24 PM:

Damn, there's some old codgers on the SCOTUS.

will: I remember that LBJ was the peace candidate

what in hell does LBJ have to do with Obama? Other than some spin on par with "His middle name is Hussein", I mean?

From someone who recently made a point of comparing the deletion of blog posts with Stalin, you're exhibiting a pattern of prattling purposefully sloppy prose specifically for the spin it suggests.


#17 ::: Jason B ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:24 PM:

J.K.Richard@11: I'm sure they are all aware of the internet...

But are they aware of all internet traditions?

#18 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Josh Jasper@8: Is Kucinich a lawyer? I personally favor AG Edwards, as he had the presence of mind immediately after 9/11 to at least work sunset provisions into the odious PATRIOT Act, when all around him were going nutso.

#19 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:31 PM:

I'm aware that he's restated his position about beginning a pullout immediately, with the goal of getting a brigade/month out until they're all gone. I just fear that shortly after being elected, that goal will end up being revised to the point of disappearing completely due to "existing conditions in Iraq" or some other excuse.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:49 PM:

At least he's still saying it. It's actually a sane position. (Which means there's probably at least one advisor telling him to change his views.)

There are a few campaign advisors I'd like to wish a long trip on, maybe a round-the-world-by-freighter trip. Axelrod is one of them.

#21 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:58 PM:

will shetterley:

I remember that LBJ was the peace candidate in 1964

What are you trying to say here- that we would be better of now if Goldwater had won in 1964?

Anyone care to add more reasons to vote for Obama now that he's swinging right?

I can think of about 75 million ones, actually.

I saw a proposal recently that I liked: Supreme Court decisions should require a super-majority. 4-5 is effectively a coin toss on some very important issues. The will of the people should be easy to impose. The will of nine old rich people should be much harder.

So, you'd be in favor of locking up people forever for being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or allowing public schools to force students to take part in religious activities, no matter what the students' own religion is?

Besides, what's so great about the opinion of the last court before the Supreme Court in any given case that makes you want that opinion more difficult to overturn?

Constance Ash @#10, who's supposed to fight that revolution?

#22 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:02 PM:

Obama has not changed his position on the war. Look at this.

I find myself more and more in sympathy with John Cole, who recently wrote on his blog Balloon Juice:

"PS- I hate Democrats. You all have your little pet issue, and if the candidate does not say exactly what you want, you pitch a fit for five months, all the while remaining incapable of figuring out that if there was sufficient political will in the country for said pet issue, there WOULD PROBABLY BE MORE PEOPLE IN CONGRESS WHO SHARED YOUR OPINION ON FISA (or whatever the issue is). No wonder Democrats can’t get elected. They have to fight the Republicans, the media, and the Democrats."

I have a cold, it's making me very very cranky. Me going to go out in the sunshine now, take a walk around the block with my dog.

#23 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Greg, I think being abusive is just your style, so I'll answer this one, but in the future, I'd be grateful for a little more signal and a little less noise. Trust me, no one wants to see you and me do the flying monkey act. Well, except for other flying monkeys.

Obama is the candidate that centrist Democrats are offering as the peace candidate this year. They offered LBJ in '64. I'm praying BHO'll do better than LBJ, but I'm prepared to be disappointed.

Raphael, whether we would've been worse off if Goldwater won, I dunno. My dad worked for and voted for LBJ, then felt betrayed. I'll vote for Obama for the reasons I've mentioned, and I hope I'll be pleasantly surprised, but my hopes are not high enough to be dashed if he pulls an LBJ. Or a Clinton, for that matter--watching Clinton cave on his promises in his first year was awfully disheartening.

As for the Supreme Court, I would be happiest if they scrapped the institution and started over. Since that won't happen, I'll go with Lance Weber's FDR proposal.

#24 ::: Avedon ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:11 PM:

Are you sure?

#25 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:16 PM:

It starts with SCOTUS, but is far more than that. Here's a diagram that shows the full extent of Republican appointments in the federal courts (taken from the Washington Post via dday, over at Hullabaloo). At lower levels than the Supremes, it stands like this:

Federal Circuit Courts: Dems 67, Repubs 98, 14 Vacant
9 Circuits majority Repub, 2 majority Dem, 2 even

Federal District Courts: Dems 298, Repubs 363, 33 Vacant
9 Districts majority Repub, 3 majority Dem

I shudder to think what those numbers will become under a McSame Administration.

#26 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:29 PM:

whether we would've been worse off if Goldwater won, I dunno.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964
Medicare

#27 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:33 PM:

will shetterley @ 23: "Greg, I think being abusive is just your style, so I'll answer this one, but in the future, I'd be grateful for a little more signal and a little less noise. Trust me, no one wants to see you and me do the flying monkey act. Well, except for other flying monkeys."

Y'know, I had a post all written up, coming to your defense. Then you went and posted this. Greg was out of line before, no doubt, but really--this is just passive-aggressive as all get out. Greg may be more aggressive than you, but he's no more annoying.

For the record, I don't think Obama's recent statements vis a vis withdrawal represent a flip on the issue. He's always said, "I plan to withdraw within 16 months, as long as the strategic situations allows." He just emphasizes different parts of it, depending on who he's talking to. You can dislike the caveat all you want, but it's always been there. (I am mad about FISA, and about the way he threw Clark to the wolves.)

#28 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:35 PM:

I'd like to see term limits for the Supreme Court (10 or 15 years sounds reasonable), but I don't see any way to get from here to there.

#29 ::: J.K.Richard ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:39 PM:

Jason B @ 17: No. Which is why they must be fired.

#30 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:49 PM:

Lance Weber @ 15: "I know I've said it before here, but my Supreme Court fantasy leverages the legislative branch landslide Charlie mentioned to expand the Court by two seats (yes, we could actually do that). Obama could sell that as an essential component in undoing the damage of the last 8 years and give Bush and his "stack the Court for the next 20 years" puppet masters a big ole' upraised middle finger in the process..."

This feels an awful lot like changing the rules of the game just because you're losing. The Republicans got their agenda handed back to them with a firm "No thank you" by the courts for a long time, and in response came up with a strategy to turn the court in their direction. That strategy has paid off, decades later, and now you're upset that you got outplayed?

I think it's time to stop using the Supreme Court as the backbone of the liberal strategy. In the last forty or fifty years, some of the biggest advances in the liberal agenda came out of the Supreme Court. Now that simply isn't going to happen, and we liberals and progressives need to adapt to that--if the Supreme Court can't be trusted to rule in favor of women's rights, then we need to pass legislature guaranteeing it, and resurrect the ERA is necessary. If they're going to rule that "regulation by litigation" isn't legal, then we're going to have to regulate by regulation, by gum.

#31 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Greg, Will, calm down, both of you. I've got the keys to the vowelectomizer right here.

Greg, Raphael, I found Will's point about LBJ pretty obvious: Someone who's for peace while running won't necessarily be for peace when in office.

#32 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:12 PM:

heresiarch #30 said: I think it's time to stop using the Supreme Court as the backbone of the liberal strategy. In the last forty or fifty years, some of the biggest advances in the liberal agenda came out of the Supreme Court. Now that simply isn't going to happen, and we liberals and progressives need to adapt to that--if the Supreme Court can't be trusted to rule in favor of women's rights, then we need to pass legislature guaranteeing it, and resurrect the ERA is necessary. If they're going to rule that "regulation by litigation" isn't legal, then we're going to have to regulate by regulation, by gum.

Mostly, I agree with this. The most lasting advances, and the best defined, will come through clear and powerful legislation. It's a shame some of the strongest voices for progressive causes (e.g., NARAL and NOW) seem not to realize this. (When you support Lieberman, it's pretty clear you fail to understand how to push a progressive legislative agenda.)

The only place where I disagree is that I don't believe liberals are relying on the courts for our strategy; we're simply trying not to have them become the final conservative obstacle to it.

#33 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:13 PM:

heresiarch, you mean you'd like a Congress that actually does its job?

Me too. Support good Democratic candidates wherever they appear, and pray for Ted Kennedy. He's still with us, and determined to get a bill for universal health care through the Senate, probably one with his name on it. How about the Kennedy-Clinton Universal Medical Care Act?

#34 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:15 PM:

Will, I don't see the point of your Supreme Court suggestion. Cases generally don't show up in front of the Supremes without having gone through lower courts first. If you impose a supermajority requirement on SCOTUS decisions, presumably any 5-4 decision means the lower court decision stands. And the lower court is usually a federal circuit court, and those judges are appointed by the President just like the Supremes are.

#35 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:24 PM:

heresiarch @30: "This feels an awful lot like changing the rules of the game just because you're losing. ... I think it's time to stop using the Supreme Court as the backbone of the liberal strategy."
Changing the rules in this case would imply amending the Constitution*. Adding/Removing seats is already a perfectly valid strategy accounted for in those rules. And hell yes, if you're consistently losing then you probably need to change strategies. I completely agree with you in that regard, I think we're just coming at it from different angles.

* Or ignoring it, but we won't go there in this post :)

#36 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:58 PM:

Lance #35:

And this would have also been okay if done by W during the high water mark of recent Republican power, right?

heresiarch #30:

I think using a majority on the court in place of popular support was always a bad long-term strategy. The upside was, some good (and some bad) was done. The downside was, a majority on the supreme court doesn't last forever, and once we're all used to having courts be a mechanism for enacting policy despite the indifference, inability, or opposition of Congress and the people, well, that can be applied just as easily by the right as by the left, just as easily for bad purposes as for good.

And SC cases in my lifetime have included some pretty obviously political decisions, like the pair of rulings that first decided that antisodomy laws were constitutional, and then decided a few years later that they were not, with no change in the constitution. Or the mish-mash of affirmative action related cases, which seem to me to be obvious reflections of the shifting balance of political leanings of the justices, without any possible explanation to be found in the constitution.

#37 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:42 AM:

Lizzy L #22, quoting John Cole: PS- I hate Democrats. You all have your little pet issue, and if the candidate does not say exactly what you want, you pitch a fit for five months, all the while remaining incapable of figuring out that if there was sufficient political will in the country for said pet issue, there WOULD PROBABLY BE MORE PEOPLE IN CONGRESS WHO SHARED YOUR OPINION ON FISA (or whatever the issue is). No wonder Democrats can’t get elected. They have to fight the Republicans, the media, and the Democrats.

This is ridiculous, as it completely disregards the influence of corporate money in our politics, as well as the extent to which the American public has been groomed for ignorance. And as I said in another thread, if I have to compromise everything I believe in to get a Democrat into office, maybe I don't want a Democrat in office.

Also: just once, I'd like to see a Democrat try to get elected without turning into a Republican. Maybe it would make them stop losing.

#38 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:42 AM:

#27 heresiarch, "passive-aggressive", like "politically correct", is a phrase loved by people who hate polite disagreement. I understand preferring the adrenaline thrill of unbridled aggression--I've engaged in my share--but we need ways to disagree without insulting others.

#26 Lizzy L, it's hard to say what Goldwater would've done about either. Civil rights was inevitable, libertarian, and once a Republican issue; Goldwater might've done the right thing there. Ditto for Medicare--Nixon tried to give us universal health care, remember.

I agree that given the information folks had and the nature of the two-party system, my dad's vote was right. That's what I'll tell myself if Obama doesn't live up to his supporters' hopes.

#34 Avram, I haven't thought through the super-majority approach. Bernard Chazelle at tiny revolution mentioned it the other day, saying, "A 5-4 decision means that the experts don't have a friggin' clue. They might as well decide by tossing a coin or checking if Scalia's dog wags his tail clockwise or counterclockwise. A 5-4 decision also means that life-or-death decisions are left in the hands of a senior citizen, usually named Kennedy, who gets to play "Master of the Universe" between long naps."

#39 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:17 AM:

Lance @ 35

Changing the rules in this case would imply amending the Constitution.
If I understand correctly, you seem to believe that changing the size of the Supreme Court would require amending the Constitution. As it turns out it would not. Article III does not set the size of the court, that is left to legislation.

As referred to earlier, FDR wanted some sleight of hand enacted that would allow him to immediately appoint six additional justices to go with the existing nine. It did not go over well.

#40 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:31 AM:

#27 heresiarch: You have been misled by right-wing demagogues about the purpose of the Supreme Court.

Inherent rights cannot be subject to majority rule.

That is all.

#41 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:42 AM:

Hamletta, the only thing worse than majority rule is minority rule. Decisions like Dred Scott make me doubt the wisdom of letting a few old rich folks overthrow the laws they don't like.

#42 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:21 AM:

Claude Muncey @ #39: If I understand correctly, you seem to believe that changing the size of the Supreme Court would require amending the Constitution. As it turns out it would not.

I think you've missed Lance's point, which, as I read it, was that changing the size of the Supreme Court, because it would not require amending the Constitution, isn't a case of changing the rules, but instead of working within the existing rules.

#43 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:43 AM:

albatross @36: As opposed to W's strategy of trampling on and/or ignoring the Constitution? Yeah, given the choice between the two I'd have been okay with a resized court. The Supreme Court shouldn't be a rubber stamp for any party, and in my fantasy world, adding a couple more centrist/progressive/Constitutionalist judges at the beginning of an Obama term seems to be the best path to restoring the court to it's proper role.

Claude Muncey #39: What Paul A just said.

#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:18 AM:

will shetterly @38:

"passive-aggressive", like "politically correct", is a phrase loved by people who hate polite disagreement. I understand preferring the adrenaline thrill of unbridled aggression--I've engaged in my share--but we need ways to disagree without insulting others.

Hey, will, remember this? I don't know that you're arguing for either facts or faith—you seem to be arguing for being able to needle people as long as you smile when you're doing it. As a fifth-Dan black belt in passive agression, let me tell you that you were in fact not engaged in polite disagreement, but rather unbridled aggression by another channel.

My read is that Greg is mad at you from BoingBoing. He was clearly in the wrong to come into the conversation like that. You'll note, for instance, that heresiarch was drafting a comment supporting you. But you strapped on wings and tail and joined the flying monkey act, despite your stated desire not to do so. Worse, you claimed the moral high ground by pretending that that wasn't what you were doing, and now you're complaining about being called on it.

Back to love. Remember that this is a community. Act like it is one; treat people well even when you disagree with what they say. And trust that, because it is a community, people will see when you have been wronged. My experience is that the community will judge you, and Greg, and heresiarch, and me, fairly by the end of the thread. It is your choice whether that is a fate to be feared or welcomed.

#45 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 07:02 AM:

Bruce Adelsohn @ 32: "The only place where I disagree is that I don't believe liberals are relying on the courts for our strategy; we're simply trying not to have them become the final conservative obstacle to it."

Haven't we? Roe v. Wade, Brown V. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia. There were a lot of liberal social ideas put into practice because the Court backed them, not the legislature or executive. Particularly on Roe v. Wade, you can see the blowback that's caused: we never made our case to the people; we made it to the Court, and because it was a good argument, we won. But we were content with that, with having the law, and never got around to creating the public consensus that would maintain the law. Now reproductive choice is being chipped away at again, and we have no recourse now that the Court is against us, because there still isn't any public consensus that abortion ought to be legal.

will shetterley @ 38: ""passive-aggressive", like "politically correct", is a phrase loved by people who hate polite disagreement. I understand preferring the adrenaline thrill of unbridled aggression--I've engaged in my share--but we need ways to disagree without insulting others."

What abi said. Also: I know a thing or two about polite disagreement.

hamletta @ 40: "You have been misled by right-wing demagogues about the purpose of the Supreme Court."

Possibly. What is the purpose of the Supreme Court, and what did I say to make you think I am misled about it? I doubt it was in my post @ 27.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 07:44 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 7... let Scalia fall through a one-way wormhole during Obama's administration

"Hey! There's Maximilian Schell! And what is he doing with that nasty robot Max? That's disgusting!"

#47 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 08:04 AM:

Abi, you're right; Greg and I showed up fresh from a disagreement elsewhere. Sorry I didn't shake that off at the door.

But where did I pretend I wasn't reaching for the monkey wings? I mentioned the monkeys first, after all.

And where have I complained about being called on it? My observation about "politically correct" and "passive aggressive" is ancient. Like "schadenfreude", they turn up as conversations curdle. They're issued as though they were warnings, but they're used like slaps in the face by people who would welcome a duel.

#48 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 08:43 AM:

Heresiarch, I remember agreeing with your position in #160 and #306 in that thread when I first read them. But your comment in #308 is more interesting now:

being "touchy" is a universal human trait.
There are communities in which people are touchier than in others. SF fandom fascinates me because it includes people who are remarkably touchy and people who are effectively oblivious to insult. I bobble somewhere in-between.

Well. Apologies for indulging the digression. Shall we get back to the Supreme Court or Obama? Obama's now saying he's suprised that people thought "refine" might imply "change." Yes, it's tough when people are scrutinizing every word, but that's politics. And given Obama's shift on FISA, why shouldn't we fear rightward shifts elsewhere? That's the basic DLC strategy, and for all that he's keeping away from the DLC, the DLC has loved Obama for a long, long time.

#49 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 09:16 AM:

About the logic and the implications of Obama's recent moves.

Scalzi says it better than I can:

Reminder: There’s No Actual Office for “President of the Left”

Opening and closing quotes...

"Apparently some Obama supporters are shocked and appalled to discover that now that he’s out of the primaries, their man is running to be the President of all the people in the United States, not just the people in the United States who have the “Yes We Can” YouTube video bookmarked on their Web browser. Well, you know: Surprise, people."

"Which is to say that I’m fundamentally unsurprised to discover that Barack Obama, who has been in politics for a number of years, is a politician. And a politician who wants to win as big as he can."

#50 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 09:34 AM:

Michael I #49:

Your link is broken.

Also, not to put too fine a point on it, the two paragraphs you quote would work exactly as well for any policy shift by Obama. Even if he changes his position to allow or extend the use of torture, decides it's necessary to invade Iran and stay in Iraq a hundred years, discards national health care as too politically hard, and backs a Defense of Marriage Amendment to the constitution, his shills supporters can use exactly this argument.

The argument translates to "Yes, he's a politician, so you shouldn't be surprised to find out he's lying about his promises, and that he'll discard his principles to win." Fair enough, my response translates to "Yes, I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican, and if I can't trust what he says are his positions, I can't see why I should send him a dime of my money or do anything more for him than maybe give him my vote in November, if that."

Despite the voting models used by pollsters and campaign consultants, no politician is guaranteed any person's vote. The Republicans have managed to seriously alienate their base with years and years of assuming they could ignore (and occasionally slap down) their base's concerns because those guys had nowhere else to go. The Democrats are still capable of losing this election by doing the same thing.

#51 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 09:54 AM:

Paul @ 42 &m Lance @ 43:

Quite right, both of you.

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:42 AM:

I figure Obama's views, like Clinton's, are about where the Republicans were in the 50s and 60s, minus the views on civil rights. That should give you some idea where the current Rpublican party stands, or maybe falls off the edge.

My most-senior-aunt and I agree that we'll vote for whoever has a D after their name, even if we aren't happy about it, because the alternatives are far worse.

#53 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:51 AM:

Michael I @ 49: [quoting Scalzi]""Apparently some Obama supporters are shocked and appalled to discover that now that he’s out of the primaries, their man is running to be the President of all the people in the United States, not just the people in the United States who have the “Yes We Can” YouTube video bookmarked on their Web browser."

This is based on the assumption that the strategy he's taking is making him more attractive to the majority of voters, which I think is fallacious. The votes he's winning with his run to the "center" are fewer than the ones he's losing for (a) betraying the principles he claimed to stand for and (b) looking more and more like a standard-issue DC opportunist than "Change We Can Believe In."

#54 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:00 PM:

abi@44: Hey, will, remember this?

Jesus. I forgot. Tell you what, will, since as recently as February of 2008 you were denying Nader's spoiler effect of the 2000 election, it seems clear to me that if 8 years of facts can't convince you, nothing will.

And now you're tearing down Obama. You think I forgot about FISA? You think I forgot there was a couple of wars going on? Do you seriously think you're telling anyone here anything they didn't already know?

And then to invoke LBJ? A man who escalated US troops in Vietnam from ten thousand to half a million? You think Obama will likewise escalate Iraq by several orders of magnitude over the course of one or two presidential terms?

Or do you imagine that however you limit the LBJ/Obama comparison in your mind, that's how everyone else will limit it as well? Like everyone will focus on "peace candidate". And the fact that LBJ escalated US involvement in Vietnam by several orders of magnitude and kept us in Vietnam far past his own presidency, that would just be an unfortunate and unintended association your comparison might invoke in others?

Gee, will, do you think that maybe some people might make that association anyway simply because you invoked LBJ?

Do you think that maybe when you compare deletion of blog posts to Stalin, that maybe people might make the association with all of Stalin's brutality, rather than one particular aspect that you happened to have in mind?

It's like you're arguing to vote third party, but there isn't even a third party candidate in the presidential race, and even if there was, they could only act as a spoiler.

#55 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:02 PM:

heresiarch @53, ditto. I don't have a recent poll handy, but whenever I check them, the American people are to the left of the Dems on everything except the death penalty. But when you remember that Dem money comes from the rich left, this becomes easier to understand: the rich left is just right of center.

But doesn't Obama have enough money to press on without relying on wealthier, more conservative Dems?

#56 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:08 PM:

heresiarch at 53, I am confused by the assertion that Obama is making a "run to the center." On what is it based? His Iraq policy (despite what the media says) is the same as it was nine months ago. Is this assertion based entirely on his support for the current FISA bill, or is there more?

#57 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:22 PM:

Greg @54, I do understand that you like two-party politics. I don't. Do you think we should all stop talking about politics until after the election? After all, we now have three choices: vote Obama, vote McCain, or be ignored by the system.

While the corporate media tells us there are democratic feminists who might vote for McCain, I don't think that's true. I think the only voters who are still in play are new evangelicals and rich centrists, and I don't think any of them bother to come to Making Light.

#58 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Lizzy L, you might want to read Tom Hayden's piece here. Or Google "Obama flipflop."

I think Obama could be a great president, but I think people will have to push him hard to the left to get him there.

#59 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Greg #54: Like Avram, I found will's LBJ comparison perfectly clear. And please stop bringing up the BoingBoing discussion.

#60 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:53 PM:

will: I do understand that you like two-party politics.

No, I don't. I've said numerous times I wish we had a condercet style voting system. But I am willing to acknowledge that majority-vote-wins system is the system we have, even though it isn't the system I want. And I'm unwilling to vote in such a way that doesn't take into account the system we have.

Do you think we should all stop talking about politics until after the election?

I thought I was fairly clear. I think you need to stop invoking loaded metaphors and making comparisons that have baggage in excess of a valid comparison.

Comparing the deletion of a blog post to stalin. Comparing Obama to LBJ, when LBJ escalated troops by several orders of magnitude and had troops in vietnam at the end of his second term.

Your comparisons are unfair and unfounded, as unfair, unfounded, and loaded with emotional baggage as pointing out that Obama's middle name is Hussein. Yes, it's a fact. But no one is telling us that to inform us of the facts. They are telling us that to invoke the emotional baggage they hope people have associated with the name Hussein.

You can talk about politics all you want. I want you to stop using the language and metaphors and rhetoric that come loaded with emotional baggage far beyond any valid comparison.

Here's a simple test you can do when you preview a post. Are you talking about the thing itself, or are you talking about something that is not the thing itself? Are you talking about Obama or are you talking about LBJ?

If you're talking about LBJ and Vietnam and what not, then you should invoke LBJ and talk about what he did and said and so on.

If you're talkinga about Obama, then anytime you use something that is NOT Obama in your words, you might want to check to see if that thing comes with any extra emotional baggage. if it does, then you cannot fairly impose a limitation and expect readers to apply your limit purely objectively. Because if its some topic with emotional baggage, then the emotions are going to be there regardless of whatever rational, objective conversation you're trying to have.

And if you're previewing your post, and you see that you're invoking something that has a lot of emotional baggage around it, and that baggage is in excess of the baggage around the actual thing you're discussing, then you need to remove the baggage and everything around it.

If you're discussing Obama, you might want to stick with Obama and avoid invoking Stalin or LBJ or any other metaphor in an attempt to describe Obama. Because you've shown a tendancy to overindulge in allowing all sorts of excess baggage to slip through your comparisons.

#61 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:01 PM:

Will, googling "Obama flipflop" as you suggest would get me a steaming pile of manure. I've read the Hayden piece -- there's barely a fact in it, simply opinion I don't share. I repeat, there's nothing in Obama's current Iraq position that's changed since last year.

And to defend Greg at 54 -- he did not say that he liked the two party system, only that it's what we've got and that a vote for a third party candidate is worse than useless, since [Nader] it may result in electing the candidate you least want in office. (If I've misrepresented you, Greg, please correct me.)

Evidently there's a group of folks on the far left -- *waves* -- who thought Obama was one of them, and are now discovering, no, he's not.

#62 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:13 PM:

At least I knew Obama wasn't 'far left' already. I figured his views to be left of Hillary Clinton (which isn't actually saying a lot for either one, since they're both over in the conservative wing of the Democratic party).

I do think that his basic idea, of building the campaign organization from the ground up, as well as from the top down, is a great improvement over the usual version. This is the first time that I've felt that politics might actually be worth getting involved in, rather than watching the whole thing as a spectator.

#63 ::: Richard Klin ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:38 PM:

Back to the Supreme Court: didn't the Democrats--by and large--vote to confirm most Republican nominees? Wasn't the vote to confirm Scalia unanimous?

#64 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:38 PM:

The problem is that Obama is "far left" compared to Bush and McCain. It makes us forget there's more "left" over here (*waves*).

#65 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:42 PM:

Here's the Scalzi post that Michael at 49 tried to link to. I like it too.

#66 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:56 PM:

What might we expect from an Obama presidency? I'm no better at prediction than anyone else, but having said that, here goes:

We will have a presense in Iraq beyond 16 months, but it will be less of a presense than under a McCain presidency. With less violence and fewer US casualties, it doesn't register as high on the radar as it used to.

We will have more troops in Afganistan, and incursions into the border with Pakistan. This would occur with McCain as well.

On the domestic front, I would expect more drilling for oil off of the Gulf Coast near Florida, and the possibility of drilling off the Eastern Seaboard. I think the ANR will remain off-limits.

To make this more palatable, expect some sort of action that Big Oil won't like - such as ending certain tax breaks. I would not expect a windfall profits tax.

I would expect a government initiative into solar, wind, and clean coal. There will be some more nukes started, but not as many as some would like, simply because of the capital costs.

I think corn-based ethonol will be de-emphasised.

There will some type of carbon limititing action, probably cap and trade. There will be nothing done in India or China that will make a dent in their carbon emisssions.

I would expect some of the more onerous provisions of the Patriot Act will be rescinded. I don't think National Security Letters will survive.

We're in for a recession, and interest rates will remain low. I don't know whether the recession will be shallow or deep.

Barring any Black Swans (unpredictable transformative events), I expect incremental changes, perhaps taking us back to the end of the Clinton era in where the country stands politically.

Social Security will see some changes, with perhaps a modest increase in the payroll tax, and raising the cutoff limit to the $200,000 neighborhood.

Don't expect any Bush administration members to land in jail.

#67 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Lizzy L, I don't think anyone on the far left thought Obama was one of them. With the possible exception of health care (where I think Reich's right and Krugman's wrong), we knew that of the centrist trio, Edwards was closest to us and Clinton was furthest. I think some of us just hoped Obama was closer to the popular center than to the political center. And that, I admit, was naive of us.

OFF TOPIC WARNING:

Greg @60, I promise that I'll only make this one attempt to clarify my positions on the things you've brought up. You're welcome to the last word on anything that doesn't involve Obama or the Supreme Court. So:

I'm unwilling to vote in such a way that doesn't take into account the system we have.

You seem to think the Republicans won fairly in Florida. I believe the Republicans cheated with the help of the Supreme Court. If I saw the Democrats doing anything to end or improve the Electoral College, I would have more sympathy for the argument that Americans are always obliged to vote for one of two representatives of the upper class.

I think you need to stop invoking loaded metaphors and making comparisons that have baggage in excess of a valid comparison.

Most people understand that analogies have degrees. Saying someone has a Fu Manchu moustache doesn't mean that person is a diabolical Oriental mastermind who can only be thwarted by plucky Anglo-Saxons.

As for LBJ and BHO, saying two people stood at similar positions in history does not mean they'll follow the same paths. We remember history praying we won't be doomed to repeat it.

And, remembering a little history, I'm now done with these topics in this thread.

#68 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:11 PM:

Will the "clean sweep" in Congress be complete enough to cover the supermajorities required by some of the more arcane congressional rules quibbles?

#69 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:38 PM:

I, for one, think I understood Will's point about LBJ: he ran on something that he turned out not to be, a lot. I thought that was valuable (to me), but I'm young enough that I have very little emotional baggage attached to Vietnam.

I certainly agree with you, Greg, about not liking Will's position in the BoingBoing matter, but I think it's sloshing over into this too much. Your post @60 actually made me say, "Greg! No!" out loud, and I rarely have vocal reactions to online discussion.

Will, your flying monkey post sounded to me like, "Oh, don't go there if you know what's good for you." It's not surprising that Greg, already mad about your BoingBoing discussion, would take it that way. This would be a great time to ignore Greg's post @60.

I wonder if a better moderation system would allow moderated hiding of mutual flamers' posts until some later date? That might be moderately confusing, but it would defuse the tension. Hmm...

#70 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:43 PM:

Will @ 67 - You seem to think the Republicans won fairly in Florida. He seems to think you supported voting for Nader, vocally, for a very long time after the fact, saying that the two-party system was bankrupt.

Also, "most people understand that" implies that Greg is incapable of understanding that.

#71 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:57 PM:

ethan, #59: So did I. LBJ ran as the "peace candidate", but then escalated the war tremendously; Will suggests that voting for Obama on that basis may yield a similar result.

OTOH, it's a badly-flawed argument, given that McCain is already committed to continuing and escalating the war. Okay, so we vote for the guy who might do it, or we vote for the guy who will do it? That's a no-brainer. *clever but unnecessary ad hominem comment deleted*

#72 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Something else to consider, that I learned over at dKos:
Obama likes to play poker, and isn't big on bluffing when he plays.
McCain likes to play craps (for hours on end, if he can get away with it) and he likes to play at the $15 tables in casinos.

#73 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:20 PM:

Lee #71: I've never argued that, of the two of them, Obama isn't the better choice. He clearly is: McCain will continue the Iraq occupation, Obama might. McCain will escalate in Iran, Obama might. It's disgusting to have to choose between those options, but the choice is nonetheless obvious. I dread a McCain presidency far more than I dread an Obama presidency.

But I also think it's extremely important to pay close attention to what he does, and consistently criticize him from the left, so he doesn't end up being yet another Democrat who can literally get away with (mass) murder because we assume he's doing the right thing. And I refuse to give up on the FISA issue--particularly because lawsuits against the telecoms seem to be one of the only viable avenues to actually getting an investigation into the crimes of the Republican and Democratic leadership over the past eight years, and without that investigation nothing will ever change--just to get another near-Republican-named-Democrat into office. We have to criticize him even during the election, because for one thing, the real world doesn't stop during the election and concrete bad things are continuing to happen with his OK, and for another thing, we have to make him stop helping the Overton window move in the wrong direction.

And again: I'm not voting for Obama. If I lived in a swing state or even a firmly Republican state, I probably would. But since Rhode Island is 100% certain to go to Obama anyway, I have the luxury of using my vote to register one more voice to Obama's far left, the better to leverage him with later.

(P.S. You'd think Firefox 3.0 could have added Obama to its spell check list. And dammit, it still doesn't know how to spell Rhode Island.)

#74 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:21 PM:

P J Evans, not being a gambler, I don't know what either style of play implies about the character of either man. Feel free to tell me, it might be fun to know.

#75 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:33 PM:

Lizzie L@65

Thanks for getting a working link to the Scalzi essay.

One additional note.

Scalzi mentions the 1980 election in the context of it being a "generational" election--one that changed the political balance of power for decades. And he notes that 2008 has the potential to be another such election, except that it would change the balance in the opposite direction.

There's another similarity to 1980 that I'd like to mention--the underlying political dynamics of the election (except with the parties reversed).

Basically, we have a massively unpopular incumbent president and an electorate that WANTS to vote for the opposition party candidate but is still concerned that it might be "too risky" to elect him.

The point is that to win Obama likely just needs to clear a fairly low threshold of acceptance.

(Ed Kilgore drew this analogy in a May 28 column at thedemocraticstrategist.org. I think I've also seen similar comparisons elsewhere.)

#76 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:59 PM:

will@67: Are you going to declare yourself done without providing any evidence for

I don't have a recent poll handy, but whenever I check them, the American people are to the left of the Dems on everything except the death penalty.

? That's a large claim; I'd like to see hard data, or even links to reportage of hard data.

#77 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 04:04 PM:

Lizzy L @74:

In poker you are playing the odds against your opponents, in craps you are playing the odds against the table. Poker is easy to learn, difficult to master. Craps is even easier to learn, and there isn't much to master. Good poker players maintain and constantly update a mental map of the game/hands/pot stakes/table/players. Good craps players just need to know what the odds are of any getting any particular 2d6 roll.

Poker is a competitive zero-sum game, hence the saying about there being "no such thing as a friendly game of poker". Craps is a house stakes game - every player can conceivably walk away a net winner.

I'll pretty much let you (and/or others) draw your own conclusions about the psyches of both kinds of players except to say this: Have you ever heard of anyone being renowned as a great craps player? Yeah, me either :)

#78 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 04:12 PM:

heresiarch: But we were content with that, with having the law, and never got around to creating the public consensus that would maintain the law. Now reproductive choice is being chipped away at again, and we have no recourse now that the Court is against us, because there still isn't any public consensus that abortion ought to be legal.

No. Yes, the courts have been a last resort in the defense of those rights but the majority of the public favors them. It's not universal, but it's more than 50 +1 too. As for the others... Loving vs. Virginia... find me a large group which anyone takes seriously (as opposed to them being serious, and even dangerous) who argue that people ought not be allowed to marry no matter their skin color or parentage?

Calif. is, statewide, polling in favor of Gay Marriage (it's a little funny, because the last poll I saw was 51 percent against amending the constitution to overturn the State Supreme Court's ruling). In the cities that's in the low 60s, in the young (under thirty) it's in the high 60s.

That not just because the courts ruled, it's because people talked, and pushed and argued for.

That there is a loud (and minorty) group which has used a hot-button issue to gain power (and spends money like a sailor on leave to keep it) is part of why the 'Consensus) isn't as strong as one might like, but it's not from lack of using more than the courts to press the case.

It's just that those who oppose such things have to defeat the courts too.

For now.

Lizzy L: Poker is a game of skill, with elements of chance. Craps is a game of chance; where there are aspects of play which allow for skill.

To play poker requires being able to read the odds, and the other players. If one has a weak hand (not likely to win, or even doomed to lose) the type of play allowed will let you force other player to back off (no-limit games, esp. Hold-em styles so popular today are largely about money management and figuring the odds. Games with limits have more need to read the odds, and the people across the table, esp. when more cards are in play).

If one has the dice in craps... one is pretty much limited to chance. To play, and play, is to piss money away (the odds favor the house, the longer you play the greater the portion of your paycheck the house takes).

I'd actually like to see a bit of bluffing if Obama plays poker... because to bluff one has to have a sense of people, and history; as well as being willing to take a calculated risk for calculated gain.

But craps... it's either cheap entertainment, or pissing money away.

#79 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 04:16 PM:

For LBJ, there is another point to remember. While he ran as a "peace" candidate, he was already committed to the war, and this committment meant that rather than having his goal be "end the war", it was "end the war under the right circumstances.

Obama, too, is comitted to the war. He wasn't in the Senate to vote for or against it from the outset, but he's voted consistantly to fund it and continue it.

And his "16 months as the stratigic situation permits" is practically meaningless unless we can pin him down on what he is looking for in the "stratigic situation." Does he mean a clear win for the US? Stability for the US-established puppet government? Comittment from Europe and others to continue the war according to US interests? The end of Iraqi resistance to the US presence and power in their country?

For all we know, his idea of the right stratigic situation for ending the war is as impossible as Bush's idea of a successful occupation.

It's too big a deal to throw support behind him for something as vague as the promise that he might do better than McCain. Particularly since he seems to be reasonably good at making vague promises that don't mean much, as with FISA.

"Better than McCain" is a horribly low standard - Obama shouldn't be allowed to use that as the stick to beat progressives into line with his right-of-center agenda. Instead, the need for progressive support should be holding him farther to the left.

#80 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 04:28 PM:

Lance, thank you. I called a friend of mine who is a semi-professional poker player and asked him what he thought. He said, among other things: Poker is a social game. Poker players play the people at the table as much as they play the cards. Craps players play craps because they like the feeling of taking a risk and winning.

#81 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 04:38 PM:

ethan @73, a general ditto. But I'm in Arizona, so I'm voting for Obama because I want the rejection of war to be as loud as it possibly can be.

CHip, the quick Google didn't turn up the article I'm remembering, but I'll see if I can find it. In the meantime, you can always check individual issues. The people, for example, were strongly in favor of withdrawing from Iraq in 2005, when the Dems were still pussyfooting.

Terry and Ulrika, big dittoes.

#82 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 04:41 PM:

ethan @73 - pay close attention to what he does, and consistently criticize him from the left - Yes! There was a story I read once; all I can remember is that somebody goes to the President, they make their case, and he says, "All right, you've convinced me. Now force me to do it." Even if we had [insert your perfect Democrat here] in the Oval Office, it would still be the wrong thing to do if we stopped focusing on what's important, figuring we'd won. That's one reason the Republicans have taken things so very far -- they never stop.

#83 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Greg London @54:
I was not referencing that thread for its content, or for will's position throughout it, but rather to remind him of something that he had discovered in the comment I linked to. He realized right then that he had got so wrapped up in the argument that he had forgotten about the value of the people with whom he was arguing.

It's something you should consider as well. You came in here personally angry at will, and you've not stepped back from that fury yet. I had hoped that you would read where I said you were clearly in the wrong to come into the conversation like that. But you seem to have skipped that in your eagerness to find a new stick to beat will with.

If you can't get your temper back and address will in a civil fashion, on-topic, then don't comment in this thread. Period.

will:
Likewise. Stay on topic, stay civil, or stay away.

#84 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:33 PM:

Re MacDonald's point in the post: depends who Obama nominates (nearly said appoints) if he gets the chance, doesn't it?

I have a sinking feeling it will be Richard Posner -- U. Chicago connection, nice 'n conservative 'n' "thoughtful" 'n' willing to boldly be a contrarian about all those stupid civil liberties. Posner's the kind of guy who could write opinions that would recast the way the Supreme Court sees itself -- and not for the better, I think.

Nominating Posner might keep the wrong kind of people from hating Obama *too* much. An underlying hypothesis of mine that I can't shake is that it's his fear for his personal safety that's motivating Obama's swing to the right. I think he could pull off (or could have pulled off) a landslide without any concessions (provisionally taking his word for it that that's what they are).

But now that he's a proven liar re FISA amendment act and public campaign finance, one of his best attributes ("different kind of politics," "change you can believe in," etc.) is toast.

#85 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:42 PM:

Oh dear God. Thomas Nephew, are you for real? If Obama had not opted out of public financing it would have been a stupid, stupid decision, a cut-your-own-throat decision. *walks away from computer, muttering. Need cookie*

#86 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:51 PM:

Walk away all you want, get two cookies; yes, I'm for real. My point is, he promised something, then he didn't do it. Now he's doing it again. That's a bad habit for a politician to get into, and a worse one for citizens to accept.

IMO, one does his campaign more of a favor by pointing that out than by "having his back." I agree that eschewing public financing made financial sense; he shouldn't have promised what he promised, is "all," but he should have kept his promise once he made it. *That* would have shown some guts, and the right kind of "being happy to take his lumps" (his words to FISA amendment act opponents on his web site).

#87 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 06:02 PM:

Abi, prob'ly best I take Option 3. I look at comments like #71 and conclude I'll never master the local mores. Lest anyone think I'm being prickly, it ain't no thang. A man's got to know his limitations, and every site's entitled to its house style. I still love the folks here I love. Shoot, it's more for their sake than mine that I'm moving along now.

Walk in beauty, everyone.

#88 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 06:08 PM:

heresiarch #45: Please note the tenses in which we're each speaking: me in the present, you in the past.

I'm not going to argue that the courts have done the liberal cause much good, nor that up until recently we've failed to advance the agenda via legislative or public relations avenues. Certainly several loud voices in the movement (particularly NARAL and NOW) are guilty there. I would say that's been changing, especially with the netroots getting active and avenues of information other than the mass media becoming more prevalent. The move to elect both more AND BETTER Democrats, for example, falls squarely in this category. So, too, do the (so far, too few) movements for positive marriage reform in state legislatures. (I have hopes that after the awful constitutional amendment fails in California, their legislature will pass a GOOD bill for the third time, and that the Governator will sign it as he's now said he will.)

The legislative strategy is still not up to full speed, and will require getting some of those large organizations on board in addition to placing many more non-Blue Dog Democrats in Congress. But it's happening, I hope, each success will accelerate the process and prove that it can be done.

#89 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Thomas Nephew, I am not going to continue to converse with you on this subject, because I can't find a response to you that doesn't come out rude. Not your fault. Perhaps someone else will step in.

#90 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 07:21 PM:

Geoffrey Landis had this pithy comment in Joe Haldeman's topic in SFF.NET.

"People who would rather make a statement than win the election always lose to those who would rather win the election than make a statement."

#91 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Thomas Nephew, what promise are you talking about?
The one I saw was conditioned on McCain taking public money, which McCain decided not to do*. With that condition not met, the promise is voided. Or inoperative, to use another political word.

*There's a much more complicated story there, which I choose to not go into, since it involves the FEC and bank loans.

#92 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:59 PM:

what promise are *you* talking about? ...which McCain decided not to do
I assume we agree Obama has broken his promise not to support FISA amendment acts that include telcom immunity. I think he did re public funding of his campaign as well.

Obama answered "yes" in Nov, 27 2007 to this Common Cause question (link=.pdf): "If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?" I confess I don't know the state of play right now, 7/6/08, but when Obama opted out (6/19) McCain was publicly financed, via matching funds: per CNN he was considering opting out in response, meaning he had not yet done so.

Thus Obama had broken his 11//27/07 pledge. I'm not the only one who sees it this way; Common Cause pres. wrote "Sen. Obama did say at one point that he would opt into the system if his opponent did the same, and for that he gets a demerit.." It's easy to forget now, but Obama was in more of a dogfight back in Nov. 2007, and not just with Clinton. As it happened, he and Edwards were the only two to answer the questionnaire. There was little difference (admittedly, skimming) between Obama's answers and Edwards's, so Obama's answers helped preserve his "progressive cred" against perhaps the main challenger in that regard.

#93 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:08 PM:

will shetterley @ 55: "But doesn't Obama have enough money to press on without relying on wealthier, more conservative Dems?"

Well, I'd've thought so, but apparently I was wrong.

Michael Roberts @ 69: "I wonder if a better moderation system would allow moderated hiding of mutual flamers' posts until some later date? That might be moderately confusing, but it would defuse the tension. Hmm..."

I feel like the practical effect of that would be to make it impossible for those in the midst of the flamewar to go back and check what was actually said. This wouldn't exactly improve things, in my humble.

ethan @ 73: "But I also think it's extremely important to pay close attention to what he does, and consistently criticize him from the left, so he doesn't end up being yet another Democrat who can literally get away with (mass) murder because we assume he's doing the right thing."

Exactly, word, and amen.

Michael Roberts @ 82: That was FDR, I think.

#94 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:27 PM:

#92
McCain opted out much earlier than June, more like January or February. McCain is pretending he never signed up for public funding, even though he used the fact that he had opted into it, in order to get a bank loan (and the news is not reporting that). Problem is the FEC has to approve the opt-out (no quorum available yet); that's why a suit has been filed on this, and they had to wait three months to file. ('Talking Points Memo' has covered this, among others.)

We remember what Obama has said, and we also know from experience that the major news media will not report honestly on any Democratic candidate at this time.

#95 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:48 PM:

Terry Karney @ 78: "Yes, the courts have been a last resort in the defense of those rights but the majority of the public favors them. It's not universal, but it's more than 50 +1 too."

Depends whether you count "Legal in Most Cases." According to the polls, there's a big, big middle ground. More to the point, public support for reproductive rights hasn't exactly translated into legislative success, has it? If there had been a substantial effort to translate public support into laws, into voting patterns, then abortion bans wouldn't be passing/being just barely voted down. The courts should be the last resort, not the only resort.

"As for the others... Loving vs. Virginia... find me a large group which anyone takes seriously (as opposed to them being serious, and even dangerous) who argue that people ought not be allowed to marry no matter their skin color or parentage?"

Well, I can't. Which is how it should be! But that consensus didn't magically appear in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, it happened because people worked for it. Judicial strategies can be, and have been, crucial parts of getting liberal ideas accepted, but they can't be the whole thing. Gay marriage has a growing consensus in California because it's become part of the conversation--because, as you said, people talked, and pushed and argued for it. Without that consensus, the court ruling would be worthless.

The point I'm making is that liberals got in the habit of relying on the courts to rule in their favor. This isn't by itself a bad thing--I humbly submit that we do actually have better arguments, and ought to win in court. But when winning in court becomes a substitute for making people talk and think about new ideas, then wins in the court will be short-lived and uncertain (like reproductive rights). When they're coupled with substantive social movements, and become part of the national conversation, then they are much more secure (like interracial marriage).

Now we're looking a couple of decades where we aren't even going to be able to rely on the courts at all. This is bad, and we should start figuring how to get the courts back right now. But that is going to take a long time, and we to figure out ways of putting our ideas into practice without relying on the courts.

Bruce Adelsohn @ 88: "Please note the tenses in which we're each speaking: me in the present, you in the past."

Oh, definitely. The legislative/public relations strategy I'm advocating is already underway*, and already succeeding here and there. (YES to more and better Democrats, f'rex.) Still, I feel that a lot of liberals and progressives are absolutely paralyzed by the idea of a Court that's simply going to be substantially more conservative than the mainstream for the next couple of decades. There are ways to work around that, and we need to get in practice employing them. Heck, I'm excited about passing some Constitutional amendments!

*And it was never as if Court cases were the be-all end-all of the liberal agenda--popular campaigns were always part of it. But the emphasis has shifted away from courts and towards legislation recently, and I think it's for the best.

#96 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:41 AM:

I got the LBJ reference too, and I am notoriously bad at getting such references. Just ask Avram.

I'm prepared to keep voting for the lesser of two evils. I'm just tired to have to have my standards quite so low.

#97 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:57 AM:

It seems to me McCain opted out of (or tried to opt out of) the *primary* election FEC regime, not the general election one. WaPo: "By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party's nominating convention in September. The general election has a separate public financing arrangement." Esp. after borrowing money using expected FEC payments as collateral, that's certainly shady of the McCain campaign.

But that has no bearing on whether they've opted out of the general election campaign limits (once he's the formal nominee after the GOP convention). They have not, or had not, as of June 20, 08. NYTimes:"With his decision, Mr. Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing — and the spending limits that go with it — since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals. Mr. McCain, who has been a champion of the public financing system, affirmed Thursday that his campaign would accept public financing." (emphases added)

Like it or not (and I don't), Obama has opted out of a public financing system that McCain has not (or had not; again, I don't know what the case is right now). Therefore, like it or not (and I don't), Obama broke his 11/27/07 pledge.

#98 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:01 AM:

PS: the prior comment (#97) is in response to comment #94, by PJ Evans.

#99 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:47 AM:

I've seen it argued fairly persuasively that by opting out of the existing public financing system Obama is actually opting in to the ideal that system was attempting to reach: thousands or millions of small donors funding his campaign voluntarily.

#100 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:20 AM:

Sure, there's a point there, though there's more to it than that: there is(/was) an 'end the arms race' aspect to public financing as well, i.e., an upper bound on what campaigns could spend. That upper bound is shattered no matter what the plurality of Obama's donors are like; the incentive to catch up is the same, even if the donor class will likely be different.

Maybe the campaign finance system -- including the public financing part -- is so broken and/or misguided that anyone who can opt out should do so. Thing is, though, then that's what Obama should have said that's what he'd do back in November. Instead he promised something else, back when that seemed the politic thing to do. I think citizens shouldn't be in the business of making excuses for that.

#101 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:26 PM:

About will shetterly's contention that the population as a whole is to the left of the political candidates: I've been following social polling for decades, and, in large, this is true, although the way it's expressed is self-defeating. The more fine-grained and specific the questionaire, the more "liberal" the answers; for real-life illustration, look at popular reaction to specific deportation or asylum cases versus illegal immigration in general. When people are asked to lable their political philosophy, they usually choose the word "conservative" even after answering questions about specific political issues in a way which is more liberal than conservative.

About LBJ as the "peace candidate:" well, not so much. He was the candidate who was against the application of tactical nuclear weapons and against shipping troops to Viet Nam "for the duration." Goldwater's positions on Viet Nam scared the hell out of people; LBJ's looked sane by comparison. That may be a valid way of looking at this election; me, I wish people would stop talking about Viet Nam in the 60s and take their lessons from what happened to the USSR in Afganistan, which is a much more similar case to the US involvement in Iraq.

#102 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:26 PM:

Thomas, the worst that can happen by electing Obama is getting another Bill Clinton.
Hate it and criticize it as much as you want (as I do, from the left), but he didn't send 5000 soldiers to die for BigOil; he didn't drive the US deficit to Italian levels; he didn't force the dollar to lose its privileged status; he didn't try to take away that ridiculously-low amount of Social Security that US citizens have.

With McCain you get another 4 years of this. You really don't have a choice.

#103 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:48 PM:

JESR, #101: could you provide cites for that "more liberal", just so we could have them in one place? It's an important reality to emphasize.

#104 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:50 PM:

I think the best Court appointments we can hope for from Obama are people who are conservative but not completely insane. Me, I wish Congress would just impeach Roberts, Scaly, et al. Radical-right sophists and theocratic monarchists have no place on the high court of a secular democracy.

#105 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 04:54 PM:

Randolph Fitz, would that I could give you one or more links: like most of my long-term reading, the bookmarks for that are sitting on the harddrive of a dead Limemac. The best writeups (one from the Peugh Center, if memory serves) came out around this time in 2004, and involved studies of opinions about reproductive rights and the way those opinions varied according to survey structure.

Aside: a point I wanted to address in the earlier comment, and forgot, was that the "Black Swan" may already have landed, in the form of the flooding earlier this month. Depending on the date of first freeze, it is quite possible that the price of most classes of food will have started to go up drastically by early October due to shortage of feed corn and corn and soy based human food components (high fructose corn syrup, corn and soy oil,TVP, et'c). People are already complaining about food costs- there was more talk about that than even gas prices at the family 4th of July bash.


#106 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 06:10 PM:

JESR, #105: These are the best I've seen so far--I was hoping you had more.

<http://openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=6656>
<http://openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=6662>

BTW, if you have a budget--or even a handy friend with a Mac--a working hard drive can be removed from an otherwise dead system and read.

Bonus link:
Pew Charitable Trusts
.

#107 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 06:12 PM:

It's true you can find polls showing that the US public is more liberal on issues than elected politicians of either party. And a lot of liberals (including me) tend to see a lot of hope in those results. It's important not to ascribe too much significance to those results, though. You need to remember some important facts about voter behavior.

First, most people don't vote on "issues". It's easy to construct a model of how people should vote: they should reflect carefully on their policy preferences, study candidates' policy proposals, and vote for whichever of the candidates is a better match. That's not how people do vote, though--which explains much of the seeming mismatch between policy preferences and voting behavior. People vote based on group identity, self expression, broad political philosophy, their assessment of the candidates' characters, and many other factors. Even people in this comment thread have been arguing in favor of some of those criteria. And even when people do vote based on "isues", some are much more important than others, and some are mostly used as windows into the candidates' philosophy or character.

Second, one reason most people don't vote on policy preferences is that a lot of people just don't have well thought out or strongly held positions. You can see that if you ask the same question in slightly different ways: a small change in wording, or a sentence or two of context before the question, can give you wildly different results. Cherrypicking the most favorable poll numbers is a good way to fool yourself.

One instance of a poll result we've all seen, showing the US public consistently to the left of both parties, is the result showing large margins in favor of single-payer health care. This means that our elected representatives aren't representing true public opinion, and that an initiative where voters can directly vote for single payer would surely pass, right? Well, no. California voters had that opportunity a few years back, and single payer lost. It wasn't close. (3-1, IIRC.)

These sorts of polls aren't useless, but they're just one piece of information. Public information is a complicated thing, and it's a mistake to think that these sorts of polls are a higher source of truth than voting behavior.

Politicians know that.

#108 ::: Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 07:02 PM:

Giacomo (#102) -- I agree with what you say; I agree with MacDonald's post. I just think that
(1) so far, Obama has surprised me unpleasantly more often than pleasantly; to return to MacDonald's point in the post, his SCOTUS nominee(s) may also be among the unpleasant surprises.
(2) "Obama in 2008 -- You really don't have a choice" is not what I had in mind when I voted for him in February.

#109 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 08:15 PM:

You'll probably be less surprised if you think of Obama as what he is: a centrist Democratic politician, much like Bill (or Hillary) Clinton. The long and contentious primary obscured an important fact, which is that the policy differences between Obama, Clinton, and Edwards were always pretty small.

So a pretty reasonable baseline assumption for how Obama will govern is what Clinton did: disappointing in some ways, but far, far better than what we have now. A reasonable guess about what kinds of people Obama will appoint is that they'll look a lot like the people Clinton appointed, and a lot like the people Obama has in his campaign. In the case of judges that means people like Breyer and Ginsburg: not the far left of mainstream American legal thought, but quite different from people like Scalia and Thomas, which is what we could reasonably expect from any Republican President.

It's possible to make things over-complicated. Party affiliation, and affiliation with a particular faction within a party, is a pretty crude measure, but to a first approximation it gives an awfully good prediction of how a politician will behave in office.

And party affiliation, by the way, is also a pretty good indication of how an Obama administration will differ from the Clinton administration: Obama will have a different group of Senators to work with. I'm pretty optimistic.

#110 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:05 PM:

Thomas, that's what happens every time a candidate wraps up the nomination. At least this year we seem to have a bit more difference than usual between the candidates (although I won't rule out a surprise at the GOP convention: there's a lot of GOP members who really don't like McCain: witness the primaries where he couldn't get more than 75% of the votes, running unopposed).

#111 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Matt, #107, #109: I suspect part of the reason people vote on other things than issues is that the US electoral system makes it near-impossible to vote on issues. This would have to be studied, but I do think it's likely, and suggests that electoral reform might improve matters. Obama...he flirts with young progressives and old conservatives, but who's he gonna dance with, hey?

#112 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:25 PM:

Matt Austern @ 109:

You'll probably be less surprised if you think of Obama as what he is: a centrist Democratic politician, much like Bill (or Hillary) Clinton. The long and contentious primary obscured an important fact, which is that the policy differences between Obama, Clinton, and Edwards were always pretty small.

Oh, yes, especially as between Obama and Clinton.

What will matter with Obama is how hard people push him.

A cynic might claim Obama's deflating his own people with rightward feints. I say it's time to push back, hard. Obama, unlike either Clinton*, can be moved. I refuse to give in to despair.

*I'm from Arkansaw and heard "just wait till he's President, and we'll see the real Bill Clinton" for a decade and a half, which turned out to be true in one small sense and otherwise a damn lie.

#113 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:56 PM:

#109:

In the case of judges that means people like Breyer and Ginsburg: not the far left of mainstream American legal thought, but quite different from people like Scalia and Thomas, which is what we could reasonably expect from any Republican President.

If we can expect Scalia and Thomas from any Republican (even centrist ones), why the heck can't we expect Brennan and Marshall from a Democrat? Appoint moderates when the presidency and senate belong to different parties; that's fine. But a Democratic President with a Democratic Senate should be able to find an actual liberal to sit on the Court again. It's been too damn long since there has been one.

Scalia, by himself, is harmless and entertaining. It's the three clones that make him dangerous. The Court should have a diversity of viewpoints that mirrors the diversity of viewpoints in the nation - then a consensus of the Court will reflect a consensus of the nation, and they can stop pretending they're not a "political" branch. (Who do they think they're fooling, anyway?)

#114 ::: Greg Machlin ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:03 PM:

Thomas@78, as far as I'm concerned, Obama is not obligated to keep whatever "promise" he may or may not have made bcause McCain *is breaking the law.* He's broken it. No two ways about it. Bush's FEC chairman, David Mason, even agrees.

http://www.crooksandliars.com/2008/06/24/rep-wexler-mccain-broke-the-law-on-campaign-finance/

There's a good summation at firedoglake:
http://firedoglake.com/2008/03/23/mccain-is-now-a-campaign-finance-criminal/

If your opponent breaks the law, all bets are off.

Will@38, While Johnson was godwaful on Vietnam, I *really* hope you're not claiming Goldwater would've done as well as LBJ did on Civil Rights--working very, very hard to pass both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act--continually lobbying Republicans and recalcitrant Dems, seizing his first major speech after JFK's assassination to say to the nation "WE shall overcome"--directly placing the language of the civil rights movement in the Oval Office. Goldwater voted *against* both bills, so to claim he would have supported them as President strikes me as an extreme stretch. (I'm reading a book about how MLK and LBJ went from wary acquaintances to very close allies to get both major pieces of Civil Rights legislation through Congress, "Judgment Days," by Nick Kotz. It's worth reading if you're not convinced.)

We should absolutely put pressure, continual pressure, on Obama *once he's elected*--as well as primary however many FISA sellout Dems we can--but first he *has to get elected.* We have to *win.* Then we push. The mistake we made in '92 was assuming Clinton would do everything right without us pressuring him. So, yes, by all means, keep the pressure on, and yeah, I'm bothered by the FISA thing, but it's Obama or disaster, guys, it really is. Obama wants us out in 16 months. McCain wants us there for 100 years.

The first two Supreme Court appointments will, I'm guessing, be Stevens and Ginsberg, so there won't even be a chance to push the court back to the center (from its extremist insanity right now), but at least Obama can prevent Republicans from doing more damage). Here's hoping Scalia or Thomas--or both!--decide to just enjoy retirement.

And a friendly reminder about the 2000 election--remember, the Florida lists of who could and could not vote were run by a private company, ChoicePoint, whose CEO had donated over $100,000 to Bush (he was a Bush pioneer.) Investigative reporter Greg Palast turned up a list that included over 300 "future criminals"--voters innocent of any crime who were falsely claimed to have committed crimes in 2007. Thomas Cooper was one of 'em.
That's fraud any way you slice it. (See "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy for more details.)

#115 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:41 PM:

Matt Austern @ 107: "People vote based on group identity, self expression, broad political philosophy, their assessment of the candidates' characters, and many other factors."

Yes, but that doesn't make voters voting against their own beliefs inevitable, it only makes it possible. I believe that Democrats can win significant gains in support by bringing voters' group identity closer in line with their beliefs than they currently are. My feeling is that the disconnect between avowed beliefs and party affiliation is freakishly large at the moment, and would be quite easy to narrow (to liberals' benefit). Group identity is determined by things beyond philosophy; namely, whether the identification makes you feel good. Simply put, identifying as liberal has become a terrible ego hit, and identifying as conservative is a huge egoboo.* It's a strong enough force that it has become self-reinforcing: accusing Democrats of being liberal causes them to fold instantly, so no one ever sees Democrats out fighting for liberal ideas, so they never know who might support those ideas, and they see liberals as weak and unwilling to stand for what they believe in.

@ 109: "You'll probably be less surprised if you think of Obama as what he is: a centrist Democratic politician, much like Bill (or Hillary) Clinton. The long and contentious primary obscured an important fact, which is that the policy differences between Obama, Clinton, and Edwards were always pretty small."

True, and the one thing I really thought Obama had going for him compared to Hillary is that he seemed to understand the point that I was making above: he was willing to make the liberal argument, even when the CW was that sounding like a liberal was political suicide. I only really started liking Obama when the Reverend Wright controversy hit, and instead of showing his belly, he stood up and said something important. Ditto on the flag pin thing: he showed that he was willing to stand up for his beliefs, even when they were, y'know, *stage whisper* liberal.

That is what's been so disappointing about his recent behavior. When Clark made a perfectly valid point about whether McCaine's military experience "qualifies" him for the presidency, Obama left him hanging. When FISA came along, he rolls over for the sole purpose of, as far as I can see, defusing some future BS "weak on terror" right-wing smear. These are exactly the battles I was expecting him to fight, dagnabbit! I was counting on him to make being a liberal something people could say with pride, and he's let me down.

*I read it on Ezra Klein's blog a couple of months back that a Republican pollster found that associating any issue with the Republican brand increased support for it--that without that identification, even Republicans didn't support
Republican positions on the issues.

#116 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:45 PM:

Greg Machlin, who is Thomas Cooper and why should I care?

#117 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:54 AM:

Greg @114, I think Goldwater might've signed civil rights legislation, but I agree it's unlikely he would've pushed for it. Most of what I know about Goldwater and civil rights is from much later, when he said sexual orientation shouldn't be something the government messes with.

I actually have a fair bit of sympathy for LBJ. I think he was sincere when he started the War on Poverty. He just underestimated the military-industrial complex.

(Yeah, I'm doing the Minnesota Goodbye and talking on the porch instead of leaving right off. It's my culture.)

#118 ::: Matthew Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:59 AM:

I think we should be very wary of assuming that voters' "own beliefs" are the answers they give to casual opinion polls divorced from campaigns or candidates. It's comforting to people like us, since you can find opinion polls where voters' answers appear very liberal, but that's only part of the story. Evidence suggests that most voters just don't engage in that sort of issue-based reasoning, don't have consistent and deeply held beliefs about these sorts of issues.

The poll results you're pointing to are real, but they're a very incomplete picture. They're the answers voters give to questions they haven't thought much about, answers given in the absence of ads trying to get them to change their mind, answers given without information that most people (including me) consider important, like who endorses which side of the question.

It's quite possible that the US public would be receptive to liberal arguments, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that everyone in the country already agrees with us and that the political system has managed to trick a nation of liberals into voting for center-rightists and far-rightists. There are reasons we have the elected politicians we do, and it's not just campaign finance and ballot access laws.

#119 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:03 AM:

Matt, #118: people don't mostly want to see their kids come home in boxes, they don't want themselves to be impoverished, or be spied on, or be tortured. It's a leap from those human basics to particular policies, but not so great a leap. I think you don't give the public enough credit--most people aren't policy wonks, but they know their own hearts. The problem I see in the US system as it has evolved is that there's almost no way for people to vote their hearts.

#120 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:52 AM:

Lizzy L #116: who is Thomas Cooper and why should I care?

Although there are several very interesting Thomas Cooper's from centuries past, I expect the one meant was mistakenly on Florida's voting scrub list (Florida Central Voter File) for being convicted of a crime seven years in the future.

#121 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:33 AM:

I think there's some implicit support for the idea of a public more liberal than either party in the fact that half the eligible voters don't vote. One of the distinctive features of Obama's primary campaign is that he mobilized a lot of folks who haven't voted before, not just to vote but to get involved in ongoing campaign efforts. And they are a reasonably liberal bunch, looking for things the Democratic Party hasn't been delivering much of lately.

This is why Obama's turns to the right disturb me. I am sure that there are potential voters of liberal sympathy wanting to support someone who seems interested in their causes. I see no reason at all to believe there are a lot of current voters tending Republican who can be at all easily peeled off by a Democratic candidate making some waves in their direction. In practice, they will (usually) keep finding more and more reasons to stick with the Republicans, no matter how many concessions Democrats make, because they are in fact Republican voters. If the tradeoff struck me as at all likely to get votes to match the votes and energy he's giving up, I'd be much less worried and irritated.

#122 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:39 AM:

Well, Obama's next big test is coming soon: we'll see how (or whether) he votes on the FISA bill (wherein a vote for the bill is an impeachable violation of a senator's oath to defend the Constitution).

#123 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:40 AM:

I'm tired enough to stoop for the gag: "Pity it's not impeacheable."

#124 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 07:15 AM:

Randolph Fritz @ 104 -
I think the best Court appointments we can hope for from Obama are people who are conservative but not completely insane. Me, I wish Congress would just impeach Roberts, Scaly, et al. Radical-right sophists and theocratic monarchists have no place on the high court of a secular democracy.

For heaven's sake, why? What "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" have they committed? (Disagreeing with you - or with a generally liberal outlook on the Constitution - is not, last I checked, a High Crime or Misdemeanor).

Look, I've read pretty much one decision recently penned by Scalia that didn't make me want to chuck a brick at him. I think he's a brilliant mind with an agenda I disagree with, and half a belly full of fear from living in the Biggest Target On Earth, Washington DC.

But he's not a traitor, he's not a criminal, and he's not a fool. There are, in fact, traitors, criminals, and fools in Washington. Plenty of them, in fact. But I don't think Scalia is one of them, and neither is Roberts, afaict.

Let's all of us on both sides save threats of impeachment for people who have, you know, actually committed some crimes, not just disagreed with us*? Swinging that club around indiscriminately will not get you a better government. Quite the contrary.

*Yeah, yeah, "The Rethuglicans did it first." "He did it first" wasn't an excuse when I was a kid, still isn't now.

#125 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Scott: I'd start with criminal conspiracy to subvert elections, actually. Bush v Gore was rigged, and I suspect that an investigation at the time would have found documentation tying at least two or three of the justices to the planned disruption of recounts and likely to the tampering with voter lists. Some of the evidence would not meet "beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt" standards, but that's impeachment for you. I know that Scalia, at least, is also repeatedly guilty of participating in decisions he should have recused himself from, and I suspect that one could make a straightforward bribery case there.

Not that it's going to happen, but it could have if there'd been someone with the will to do it.

#126 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 09:20 AM:

On the side, I doubt that Scalia's public attacks on democracy and endorsement of torture and one-man rule and the like constitute anything impeachable, but they'd be fun to quote at a trial for something else.

#127 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:36 AM:

Bruce @ 125 -
Scott: I'd start with criminal conspiracy to subvert elections, actually. Bush v Gore was rigged, and I suspect that an investigation at the time would have found documentation tying at least two or three of the justices to the planned disruption of recounts and likely to the tampering with voter lists.Some of the evidence would not meet "beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt" standards, but that's impeachment for you.

Fortunately (for the art and science of jurisprudence as a whole, not for Mr. Scalia in particular), suspicions alone are not sufficient to level charges against someone, - you need the evidence first. While I agree that more investigation should have been done, I disagree that "I don't like him, and this looks fishy" is enough for an impeachment.

I know that Scalia, at least, is also repeatedly guilty of participating in decisions he should have recused himself from, and I suspect that one could make a straightforward bribery case there.

The only two I can think of that are especially egregious are Hamdan and Cheney vs District of Colombia. And I agree that in both cases he probably should have recused, again, I see a pretty big gap between "should have recused himself" and "maliciously guilty of bribery".

(and this doesn't count Roberts or Alito, both of whom took office well after the decisions in the 2000 election).

I guess part of this is my presumption that impeachment is the Big Gun, when it comes to rectifying ills and evils in the US government (the other two are charges of Treason, and, well, armed revolt). It's only been done seventeen times against Federal officials since the Constitution was put in place.

Yes, it's the equivalent of indictment, and we indict thousands of people a day - but an indictment is handed down only on a preponderance of evidence (lest the prosecution open itself up for charges of wrongful prosecution) - the prosecution has to believe that they can convict on what they have when they indict, not "we'll find more in investigation".

More importantly, an impeachment needs to be clear that it is being used to correct misconduct, not to harass and discomfit political opposition. Otherwise it will become a game of political tit-for-tat, finding some trumped up charge to oust everyone you don't like as soon as you get enough political capital to screw the other side over.

#128 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:59 AM:

"What 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors' have they committed?"

Breaking their oaths to uphold the constitution, maybe? This isn't a monarchy or a theocracy, you know, though it sure looks like one right now.

#129 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:53 PM:

Matthew Austern @118 and previously: First, the general tenor of long-term studies of opinion polls is that "casual" polling (short polls taken in public places by relatively untrained poll takers) are the ones which come closest to predicting immediate voting behavior. The long, in-depth polls which break down political belief into discrete issues and address the intersection of actual behavior and political opinion are only casual to those who have never given nor taken one. The contrast between the surface, impulsive response which seems to be about the level at which people vote and their considered beliefs is instructive (and there needs to be a study contrasting voting behavior at the polls and by mail).

heresiarch's response at 115 does a good job of talking about the need for other-than-far-right political campaigns to find a way to show voters how the opinions they already hold are betrayed by the people who have hijacked them to the right. (and since every word I type is ripped from a dying keyboard, I'm going to leave it at that).


#130 ::: will shetterly ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:17 PM:

A decent look at Obama's financial choices: Four Myths of Obama's Money Machine.

I do agree with the folks who say the problems with Americans being to the left of the Democrats are:

1. Many of those who vote identify with the right, even when it's not in their interest. (I suspect this is because the right stresses individual liberty while it represses it, and the left stresses subordination to community even when the actual issues are matters of choice.)

2. Many of those who don't vote see the Dems as too quick to run to the right in times of trouble. (This is why I think even if you believe the 2000 election was fair and honest, you shouldn't assume the voters for Nader and Buchanan and all the other third-party candidates would've voted for a Democrat or a Republican if there had only been two choices on the ballot.)

Huh, Maybe I won't take Abi's last option after all. But I think I'm done on this subject. The sides have been chosen; all we can do now is hope Obama does better than his critics fear.

#131 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:24 PM:

Oooooh I can't WAIT until Obama is president!

#132 ::: John ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 08:54 PM:

Yea, let's vote for change. Oh? What is the change...that we will find out if he is elected because he sure has not spelled it out to anybody. I guess he is just expecting us to trust his wisdom that he has used in his accomplishments...wait...what has he accomplished. Nothing that I have ever heard of.
The grass is always greener...isn't it!

#133 ::: An Occasional Commenter Going Anonymous Just Once ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Greg at 114,

If my company's dealings with CheesePaint are typical, I can easily believe that the wrongly purged voter rolls were due to incompetence rather than fraud.

#134 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Matt Austern @ 118: "The poll results you're pointing to are real, but they're a very incomplete picture. They're the answers voters give to questions they haven't thought much about, answers given in the absence of ads trying to get them to change their mind, answers given without information that most people (including me) consider important, like who endorses which side of the question."

And my point is that right now all of those factors tend to skew people rightwards. An issue by itself isn't as popular as it is once a Republican endorses it. An issue by itself is more popular until a liberal endorses it. My point is that if liberals did as good a job of making their endorsements seem desirable, if they did as good a job making ads to convince people to lend their support as the Republicans did, then all those endorsements and all that advertising would come out as a wash, and people would start voting more liberally.

Republicans have enjoyed a huge debate advantage in the last 40 years of television. Conservative arguments are easier to make in 3.8 seconds than liberal arguments. It's easier to convince people to keep believing in what they already know than to change their minds, and liberal ideas are by their nature new and different. It's easier to call your opponents appeasers than it is to explain why war with Iran would be sheer madness. It's easier to say that God made Man and Woman the way they are than it is to bring people up to date on modern gender theory. It's easier to scoff at the idea that the climate is changing than it is to present the evidence that, actually, it is. Put a liberal and a conservative in a two-hour debate, and the liberal will rip the conservative apart. Put the same two on Hardball, and the conservative will win nine times out of ten.

This is why liberals have grown wary of stating their beliefs in public--they know that they'll only get as far as "Well, it's important to understand that--" before the commerical break, where the conservative will simply shout out "God hates gays!" and sit back in satisfaction. Things are changing now, with the internet, to level the playing field. A quiet, background liberalism was perhaps the best we could expect before, now is the time to start making our arguments loudly, and with confidence.

#135 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:53 PM:

Scott, I know you know this, but for the benefit of bystanders: One reason to launch impeachments is precisely to perform an investigation that would be stymied other ways. If a thorough investigation produces evidence that the charges won't stand, that's fine with me. What I want is evidence.

#136 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 09:31 AM:

"Jenny" and "John", what do you get for McCain Points?

#137 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 09:51 AM:

heresiarch #134:

You mean like the liberal idea of leaving Social Security and inheritance taxes the way they are?

I don't think the conservative advantage has been about ease of explanation of ideas. An in-depth discussion of anything is hard in TV talking head format, but quick pithy slogans are about as easy from the left ("make the rich pay their share") as from the right ("repeal the death tax").

I'll admit up front that I could be all wrong about this, but my sense is that the Republicans have done a very good job of appealing to the identity of a great many voters. Watching TV news, you'd think the Republicans were the natural party of all Christians and all whites. Conservatives like to play up the small fringe on the left that's overtly anti-Christian (hence the "war on Christmas" stuff), like to play up the overwhelming support of blacks and gays for Democrats (and liberal positions that attempt to help out blacks and gays) as evidence that they're the natural home of straight whites. They play up the patriotism angle, to make their party and movement seem the party of the flag.

In the midwest and the south, I think liberals are strongly linked with the elites on the coasts, who are often seen (sometimes correctly, usually not) as politically imposing their values upon flyover country. (They're also seen correctly as imposing a lot of their values on flyover country via being the origin of most media products. And saddling anyone with the blame for US bottom-tier mainstream culture is a hell of an effective smear.)

#138 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:21 AM:

albatross @ 137: "You mean like the liberal idea of leaving Social Security and inheritance taxes the way they are?"

Given that Social Security privatization is the one issue in recent memory where liberals actually trounced Republicans, I can't say I view it as a particularly telling counterexample of my thesis. The fact that new, strange arguments are harder to make than old, comfortable is one that cuts against liberals a great deal, and weighs in their favor every once in a great while. It's certainly not the only factor, but it is a pervasive one.

"I'll admit up front that I could be all wrong about this, but my sense is that the Republicans have done a very good job of appealing to the identity of a great many voters. Watching TV news, you'd think the Republicans were the natural party of all Christians and all whites."

I'd agree that that is another very important factor. On the other hand, they're not unrelated--identity issues are tied pretty tightly to people's desires to preserve things the way they are (or were). See: War, the Civil and Family, the Nuclear.

#139 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:12 AM:

McCain on Social Security
McCain told a townhall in Denver on Monday, "Americans have got to understand that. Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace and it's got to be fixed."

You'd have a hard time convincing people that this wasn't a joke, if there wasn't video of him saying it.

#140 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:41 PM:

Albrtross, #137: "In the midwest and the south, I think liberals are strongly linked with the elites on the coasts, who are often seen (sometimes correctly, usually not) as politically imposing their values upon flyover country."

Really, I think, the enormous under-pricing of energy is the culprit here, with its sidekick political corporatism; cheap oil makes agribusiness possible, and without those, there would be much less pressure on rural ways of life. But this message has to be put out there, and there is a disadvantage to both major parties in doing so.

"They're also seen correctly as imposing a lot of their values on flyover country via being the origin of most media products."

Wait a moment, there! Disney's values, for instance, are very much those of flyover country. Ditto country music. Both of these are enormously popular, widely available, and very profitable--the media "elite", if you can call it that, is perfectly willing to make a profit by selling "flyover country" material consonant with its values. So I don't think that's so; do you see something I'm missing?

#141 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Those people in 'flyover country' were buying satellite dishes and VCRs (and DVD players) in order to get all those 'elitist' products more easily. (Not to mention having 4 BBS services in a city of 25,000, in the mid-90s. Someone certainly wanted to connect. At a top speed of 28.8k, too.)
They're also exactly not lining up to start film and TV studios in the middle of the country, although I don't know anything that's actually preventing them from doing so.

#142 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:38 PM:

P J Evans, #141: "They're also exactly not lining up to start film and TV studios in the middle of the country, although I don't know anything that's actually preventing them from doing so."

Nashville and St. Louis both have fairly significant media centers--Nashville, especially, gets good distribution. I'm less familiar with the Christian broadcasters, but I believe they also have significant production facilities in places like Colorado Springs (gack!) and Salt Lake City. I am suspecting that the claim that "flyover country" doesn't have media access is about as accurate as the claim that the media is liberal; the more I learn, the more I believe that as a whole, the USA media are a fairly accurate mirror of the USA.

#143 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Randolph, what we keep being told - and it's what we get even in LA - is that production is done in LA, maybe in NY, and in Canada. I'd expect there to be facilities in Dallas and Houston, as well, since they're major cities. Atlanta and Chicago ought to have studios, too. (I personally like the idea of having stuff that isn't from the same handful of places all the time. Even a lot of the stuff set in NY is filmed in LA.)

#144 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Scott: Lying to congress at their appointment hearings? The Bush v. Gore decision (looking at the entirety of the record of the five who voted for the decision shows a massive reversal in how they apply the principles used, as well as the justices introducing the Equal Protection claim when it wasn't raised in the briefs of the appellants).

For Scalia, in specific, the recusal issue is pretty strong (vis a vis at least one plain case related to the present holder of the office of vice president). If Frankfurter could be forced to resign to avoid an impeachment... Scalia ought to be a slam dunk.

I understand, and appreciate, the reluctance to impeach, but if we set the bar to dead people in one's bedroom, and ignore pattens of regular malfeasance, then impeachment becomes useless; and just as detrimental, as it might be were it too often used.

The former, makes it, practically speaking, impossible to remove anyone from office unless they get caught blatatly breaking the law (and that Bush has declared he did break the law, is still breaking the law, and intends to keep breaking the law not being worthy of impeachment is one of the more depressing and problematic failures of the House and Senate in the history of the republic).

The latter isn't as bad (IMO) because it would allow for more concrete guidelines to be imposed. Abdicating the duty to see that the holders of appointed offices are living up to the oaths they took is worse than having impeachment become odius from overuse.

A well run impeachment, as opposed to a show trial, will pull (with the power of subpoena, and testimony under penalty of perjury) a lot of evidence out. If the accused isn't guilty, then the case will be made.

If they are... worrying that showing this will cheapen impeachment seems a strange position to take.

#145 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:45 PM:

but if we set the bar to dead people in one's bedroom

I thought the bar was blow jobs in the Oval Office?! Or is that only for Presidents...

#146 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 11:15 PM:

The bar is falling for special prosecutors traps and telling non-perjurious fibs while under oath; if you're a Democrat.

If you are a Republican; the bar has not been set, but anything less than buggering an underaged pony while wearing a wet suit on national television; during Saturday morning cartoons will even be entertained for scandal.

Mere boasting that one is breaking the law, and intends to continue to do so would be a partisan hit job.

No, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

#148 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 04:42 AM:

Mary Dell,

Comment destroyed; it wasn't even interesting enough to disemvowel.

Note to future trolls and drivebys: Could you at least be interesting? Honestly, it's not that much effort.

#149 ::: Yay, Mary & Abi; boo, wanker ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 09:13 AM:

Thank you both for snagging that. We had a power outage last night and were only sporadically present.

Man, that guy's a wanker. This is his idea of fun?

#150 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 10:27 AM:

I misread #149 for a minute and thought it said "sporadically prescient." Imagine, being only sporadically prescient.

#151 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 12:15 PM:

ethan @150 - I knew you were going to say that.

#152 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Neil Willcox@151

But you only knew that part of the time...

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