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I’m 46—just a few years above the median age on DailyKos—but I’m feeling mighty old these days.

When Bill Clinton became the first Democrat elected President in 16 years in 1992, I was 30 years old.  I followed the transition fairly closely through newspapers and radio, even though I was working and attending college at the same time.  I didn’t have cable, but I could see that troubles with some of his cabinet nominees were played up by talk radio and the newspapers.  It came back to haunt him not long after.  The meme stuck, and congress flipped over to the Republicans in 1994 for 12 long years.

When Jimmy Carter was elected, I was only 14.  I tried to understand what was going on, but my memories are somewhat hazy.  I recall that Carter had controversies with his Budget Director Burt Lance, and he did not ingratiate himself with congress.  That came back to haunt him later.

Follow over the break

But now as I read DailyKos, I see a plethora of diaries from progressives (of which I consider myself one) fall into the same mistakes that were made in 1993 and 1977.  Several diaries espouse a philosophy of The Perfect roughing up The Good.  Let me tell you from my own ancient personal experience of history, when this happens The Beaten Up and Injured Good often ends up losing to The Bad.

I don’t believe that people younger than me are unable to learn from history, or that most under-30s are too impatient to allow policies to be proposed before they attack them.  Nor do I believe the long-running jokes that Democrats make a circle when it’s time for a firing squad or that Democrats aren’t members of "an organized political party."

If you’re 30 today, you were 14 when Clinton made the last transition from a Republican to a Democratic administration.  So you were probably about as aware then as I was as a young teenager during the transition to the Carter administration.  Maybe you’ve forgotten some of the mistakes that were made in the Clinton transition, and they were many.  If you’re 30 now, you didn’t exist during the Carter transition.  All you know about the last Democratic transition is from books or articles or hearsay.

Let me just tell you—neither the Carter nor the Clinton transitions were smooth.  In fact, the damage that was incurred in those early days hamstrung the two presidencies in deeply fundamental ways.  The Republican transitions, by contrast, were quick, smooth, and effective.  As a mostly homogeneous party, the Republicans weren’t subject to as much infighting.  They were never out of power more than eight years at a time, so they could bring back their top performing operatives.  They held a consistent and dogmatic philosophy for the past 28 years, so they simply recycled their people and erased everything they could that was done in the intervening years of a Democratic administration.

Every time we take power, it feels like a Jacobean Purge from the French Revolution.  Nobody is progressive enough for certain elements that try to out-bid each other.  So The Good are beheaded along with The Bad, and The Perfect are too uninitiated in the ways of negotiations to get anything done.

I personally don’t believe in the kind of message discipline that the Republican party espouses.  I think it has led to their current unpopularity.  But I also don’t believe that the dogmatic drive for The Perfect should exclude The Good.  That’s what I see happening on DailyKos, and that’s why I feel so old and tired and sad these days.

Originally posted to Pangloss on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 08:00 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for patience and understanding history (23+ / 0-)

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, March 4, 1937

    by Pangloss on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 08:01:17 PM PST

  •  Tips for being the same age (5+ / 0-)

    as POTUS and me.  When I was very young, JFK was my favorite president because he had nearly the same birthday as mine, but I was very confused; my Fun Facts About Presidents book showed that he died when I was a year and a half old, but all the grownups were upset about Kennedy being killed now (circa 1968).

    Healthy Minds in Healthy Bodies, now discussing fitness Tuesdays at 6 PM PST

    by indigoblueskies on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 08:15:43 PM PST

  •  I'm even older than you are (7+ / 0-)

    I was 14 when Nixon was elected for the second time. Seen a few presidents come and go. Democracy works slowly--and I'm glad it does. Sometimes it seems that some folks around here would like a Progressive dictatorship. It would be more efficient. But it isn't democracy.

    Yes, things are pretty hairy right now. Obama has a learning curve. We all do. But he's very smart and seems to learn quickly.

    Progress, not perfection.  

    Thank you, Pangloss, for being a voice of reason. And soms, some young people are very wise. You probably are an old soul.

    •  I'm even older than you are (7+ / 0-)

      I was 24 when Nixon was elected for the second time.  I also feel very cranky when observing kossacks slamming Obama for not immediately instituting what you so wisely call

      a Progressive dictatorship

      Many have already forgotten how much he accomplished in his first week in office, wiping away much of the stain of the Bush years.  Already they are dissatisfied and are howling for his scalp.

      Patience is a good thing, and necessary for moving mountains (which is what Obama must do).  The GOP can own the airwaves this week, but when the vote comes they will be seen as taking sides against the unemployed for political gain.  This will not help their cause.

      Give Obama a little breathing room, please!

      It's okay to love our country again.

      by SottoVoce on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 08:27:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm 54 and remember well all those transitions. (8+ / 0-)

    Having spent a career in advocacy, I've been amazed at the hard-nosedness, inability to compromise, downright immature rants I've seen here recently. Let's talk practical politics, folks. I'm not talking a sell-out by any means, but reality is that compromise is the name of the game in getting things done politically. You need to decide what is your irreducible minimum and be prepared to barter to get what you need. It may not be pure, it may not be idealistic pie-in-the-sky, but it is the reality of politics. If you can't make your peace with that, sign up with a think tank.

    It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task; neither are you free to desist from it.

    by beegee kochav on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 08:40:17 PM PST

  •  Nah... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    soms need to have some bloodwork done. While witnessing youth making some of the mistakes you made may make you feel older, it shouldn't make you tired and sad.

    By the way, have you considered having an affair with one of these youth? Nothing can return the rose to your cheeks like having, you know, rose on your cheeks.

    Tonight I'm going to party like it's 1929.

    by Bensdad on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 08:59:55 PM PST

  •  I'm for one (0+ / 0-)

    am grateful to welcome Robert Gates and Judd Gregg as my overlords!

  •  I agree with your point, but... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Man Called Gloom

    I know that Obama needs to be realistic and that he needs at least some GOP support to get anything through the Senate. What I find disapointing in this bill is the failure to live up to the promises, and the failure to provide a plan that will do a lot of good.

    It's especially disappointing because a more ambitious plan might get even more support. What GOP Senator will turn up his nose at massive infrastructure spending in his state? I believe it was Colbert who suggested that we call on the GOP Senators to refuse to accept any spending for their states -- to produce a bill that will boost all the other states. Dirty pool? Perhaps it might seem that way, but it would really drive home the message that we need to do big things here and criticizing it for being too big is moronic.

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 09:09:13 PM PST

  •  You're right, but Judd Gregg? (0+ / 0-)

    When it looked like political jujitsu to get the Dems to 60, it was OK. However, once it was clear that Gregg would be replaced by a Republican, it stopped making any sense. I don't see how it can be justified. Gregg voted to abolish Commerce. Did they do any vetting, or didn't they care about such details? Are we going to be stuck with him for 8 years?

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 09:13:34 PM PST

  •  45 here, and I agree 100% (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pangloss, soms, FarWestGirl

    it is going to take time to correct all of the bad things that have happened over the last 28 years since St Ronnie the bad took office.

    I am personally very happy with what President Obama has gotten done in just 15 days. If he can keep this up, it is going to be one hell of a ride, and a PROGRESSIVE ride, at that. All good things take time.

    As for the house Rethugs voting against the first version, most people I talk to don't see that as a good thing. This IS going to be remembered, and it is going to be used against them. Another thing that just kills me is their proposals to give tax breaks for people to buy homes and cars. They fail to understand that you must have a job in order to buy these things.

    "Remember back when W and the Republicans f'ed up the entire world?"

    by A Man Called Gloom on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 09:26:01 PM PST

  •  We do need to get a decent PR firm in for us (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ohcanada, soms

    Dems, we're missing the boat in a big way allowing the R's to keep battering away on their points and not making ours over and over in the same way. Personally, I think this is how we lost the momentum in the Clinton Administration, the R's go out and be lying, loudmouthed blowhards anywhere and everywhere and the D's are silent as the grave we're going to fall back into if we don't get some message out there, dammit. We're too righteous to lower ourselves to call them on their lying, we think that the electorate is smart enough to see what's good and what works and that's enough. It's not! There are lots of low information voters out there who may only catch sound bites and we need them. Oratory works and we're better at it, when we get up off our asses and speak up. Abandoning the verbal field leaves people with only one side to listen to, and it starts making headway against the vacuum.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

    by FarWestGirl on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 10:08:12 PM PST

    •  Giving the Republicans equal time (0+ / 0-)

      on MSM and associated web sites bothers me.. Obama had a large mandate and with all the wingnuts screaming so loudly it hardly reflects that Obama did have a mandate for change.

      The Democrats barely got interviewed in the early Bush days.

      Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

      by ohcanada on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 10:38:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They're not getting = time, they're getting (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ohcanada, soms

        all the time. And that's got to be our fault, 'cause I don't see any of our supposed side out there hogging camera time. I don't think that it's just the MSM, I think that we're just asleep at the switch and it's pissing me off.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 11:04:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not old enough, obviously. (0+ / 0-)

    If you were older, you would know that nothing that has gone on here lately has had anything to do with the tiresomely and unimaginatively overworked Perfect and Good.

    You would also not make ridiculously expansive remarks like "Every time we take power..." as a follow on to acknowledging that, at best, you remember only two times we've taken power, and you're pretty fuzzy on one of the two. So basically, you have smoked up an entire theory of political evolution based on a sample size of one and a half. Amazing.

    You most definitely would not think that Republican transitions were quick, smooth, or effective. (ROFL)

    But, above all, you would not be suffering under the illusion that the people who are engaged in what you see as a "dogmatic drive for The Perfect" are younger than you are. We are all much older, we remember much more, and our memories are what drive us.

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