This is an incrementalist time, and the crucial thing is to get the increments right. The economic crisis and the two wars that Obama inherited make this difficult for our embattled president–and the fierceness of the opposition, which I don’t think he expected, makes things even harder. Obama certainly believed everything he said about reconciliation; he thought that he could at least take the edge off the bitter partisanship of Washington politics. Obviously he hasn’t been able to do that, and now every step forward, including the small steps, will require a bloody fight. Meanwhile, the costs of the stimulus and of the wars leave the President very little money for social experiments. He has to move forward with health care and the environment and education even if he can only move slowly, much more slowly than he hoped. This is one form of incrementalism, and what is important is that each move open the way for further moves–no dead ends!
But there is another kind of incrementalism that we need to think about, on the margins, alongside the big issues. I mean things like putting some aggressive liberal/leftists on the National Labor Relations Board, or pushing through small changes in the labor laws that would make union organizing easier, or using federal funds in small amounts to strengthen the kinds of community organizations that the president once worked for, or creating a liberal/left version of Bush’s "faith-based welfare"–enabling local communities, unions, and different sorts of NGOs, as well as churches, to organize family services and mutual aid. This sort of thing is base-building for the future. It can be very quiet and still be effective; its point is simply to loosen the "limits of progressive governance," so that a Democratic president years from now can do more than Obama can do today.
Liberalism is the American version of social democracy, but it lacks a strong working-class base, party discipline, and ideological self-consciousness. None of these are in the offing, but we need to be aware of what we are missing, and we need to begin at least the intellectual work of making up for it.
• • • • •
At Daily Kos on this date in 2003:
This is old news, but ignored the first time. It's attempting a comeback:
THE first President Bush has told his son that hopes of peace in the Middle East would be ruined if a war with Iraq were not backed by international unity.
Drawing on his own experiences before and after the 1991 Gulf War, Mr Bush Sr said that the brief flowering of hope for Arab-Israeli relations a decade ago would never have happened if America had ignored the will of the United Nations.
He also urged the President to resist his tendency to bear grudges, advising his son to bridge the rift between the United States, France and Germany.
It's clear Bush doesn't give a damn about the world or the American public, but is his own father now irrelevant?