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Josh Marshall, on the signs of a Republican resurgence in November:

In general, I think the big political tell over the last couple months is the mounting evidence of a stalled recovery coupled with the fact that administration is basically backed into a position of immediate fiscal retrenchment which means we may be tossed back into the water. But this time with our hands tied behind our back.

My own sense is that the first 19 months of Democratic control of the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government has been a missed opportunity, and an enormous one.

When Obama and the new congress took office, they had a country which was staring terrified into the abyss,  angry at the oligarchs who created that abyss, and ready to be led in a new direction by the soaring rhetoric of Hope from their new president. The Reagan/Gingrich-Era conservative revolution was about played out, and people were ready for a change.

This, by the way, is very similar to the election of 1980, if you switch parties and political philosophies. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, there was a general sense in the country that after the hope and idealism of the Democrats from the Kennedy Era through the 1960s, liberalism was fractured, tired, and was not up to addressing the problems the country faced by that time; spiraling crime rates, rampant and stubborn inflation, a listless economy that lacked the dynamism and world-beating energy it had in the 1960s.

The accuracy of that assessment is certainly debatable; my only point is, that's where the country was.

The mood of the country in 2008 (and since) has been a mirror image of 1980 - just reverse the parties and some of the economic details, and the above description of the Democratic Party circa 1980 compares very closely with the Republican Party circa now.

This was (and still is)  a shining, golden opportunity for a charismatic Democratic leader to begin a New Progressive Era in American political life. The story the Right has been selling for decades - that if only government got out of the way of business, it would boom and benefit everyone - is now easy to dismiss as the fairy tale it was: Between 1980 and 2010, the productivity of the average America worker increased by over 40%, while the median wage barely budged. All the benefit of those productivity increases went to the top of the wealth ladder, and stayed there. People were actually talking about things in just those terms in 2008, and they still are.

Barack Obama has accomplished some good things in the last 19 months. I don't deny that.

My point is that he could use the current crisis to accomplish great things, and be remembered as one of our great presidents, if only he focused less on "putting [incremental] points on the board" as Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod seem to be pushing him to do, and make it his mission to remake the whole conversation and agenda in America along progressive lines. As Reagan did with conservative ideas, so Obama and the Democrats must do with progressive ones.

The opportunity is still there; the circumstances of our country now demand it; but it will happen only if the Democrats seize it.

Originally posted to mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 01:44 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

    by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 01:44:39 PM PDT

    •  Build it and they will come (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mftalbot

      So says another diary WRT grassroots organizing.

      The same rule applies for progressive policy ideas during times of economic crisis brought on by years of failed GOP and conservative policy.

      All Dems have to do is develop progressive strategies that deal with issues voters think are most important, then get them passed, holding those who oppose them publicly accountable.

      No fear of corporate ad campaigns, just do what is right.

      There's no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.

      by Betty Pinson on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 03:23:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think we have to get used to the fact that (7+ / 0-)

    he might not have any non-establishment Democratic beliefs.  And on issues of war - he might not have any substantial non-GOP ones either.  

    •  I've considered that, sk7326 (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Betty Pinson

      I think he is susceptible to pressure from below, if we can organize into a movement for progressive change.  

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

      by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 01:54:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it is fashionable on MTP sort of shows to lament (4+ / 0-)

        how ultra-partisan we are in 2010.  This is true as far as rooting for the teams, working for parties - political invective.  But I fear that on substance it is as bi-partisan a time as we have ever had.  I mean:

        * Afghanistan * Scrutiny of Israel * Social Security * Guantanamo Bay * The amount of tax rich people should pay * The power of the executive branch * The need to talk about "faith" in a judeo-Christian sense * Admiration of Ronald Reagan

        These are all pretty bipartisan things between the establishment types.

        •  If by "Bipartisan"... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Orange County Liberal

          ...you mean "afraid to challenge rightist othodoxy," then yeah, it's bipartisan ;)

          Part of the reason I wrote this diary.

          The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

          by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 03:19:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I hope it's what you say - but are we (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mftalbot

            really sure anymore?  So much of this crap is pre-supposed.  When I get mad at the President it is because the man with the conch is actually advancing a lot of this stupidity in the name of bipartisanship.

  •  Where we come in... (4+ / 0-)

    ..."we" meaning the progressive blogosphere - is I am sensing that we need to put what pressure we can on our elected representatives be bolder.

    Obama is the most important piece of the puzzle; our congresscritters may well be the means to apply pressure up the chain, as it were.

    I'm open to other ideas about how we get there.

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

    by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 01:52:09 PM PDT

  •  He does not want to accomplish progressive goals. (8+ / 0-)

    You see. He fundamentally believes in the status quo with some tinkering. That doesn't preclude him doing things that improve people's lives, but it means his mental horizon is not capable of seeing the kind of change progressives want as beneficial.

    The Raptor of Spain: A Webserial
    From Muslim Prince to Christian King (Updated Nov. 24)

    by MNPundit on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 01:56:38 PM PDT

    •  I don't disagree... (3+ / 0-)

      ...but I think that he may expand his horizons if progressives can be organized enough to get his attention.

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

      by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:00:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Alas, no (5+ / 0-)

      The debate rages over how much the Democrats combined could have accomplished during these past 18 months. And there's a lot to be said for the argument that it could not have been much better.

      But I don't think there's any denying that the President's overriding goal was to be seen as non-threatening to the establishment.

      Personally, I think with strong thought leadership from the top, better reforms could have been accomplished. But, whether or not, the collective result does not make a strong positive case for Democratic governance. The best case remains negative: You know how much worse the Republicans would have been and will be if they return to power.

      "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

      by Demi Moaned on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:06:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  My point exactly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Demi Moaned, roadbear

        The opportunity still exists for the Presidents and the Democrats to make a positive case; it will require courage on their parts, and massive pressure from below.

        Here's the thing: we progressives don't have a choice. We can't afford the luxury of despair. We have to "dance with the one that brung us," at least for now.

        The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

        by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:12:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Depends on what is true (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mftalbot, Demi Moaned

        For some, the truth would seem to be that leadership that takes risks creates an eventual support that overcomes the odds.

        For others, the truth is that leadership that takes risks, creates animosity in the skeptical opponents looking for whatever they need to gin up into a cause for opposition, thus ensuring a loss in the next election and lost momentum for years to come.

        The argument tends to be between these conclusions that are possible to reach.

        My sense is that experience and a serious assessment of the voters in swing districts across the US, is that the latter is more likely to be the objective truth.

        That would argue for a more considered approach.

        But the reason that this is not easy is that reasonable people can reach some different conclusions about what is or is not true.  

        hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

        by Stuart Heady on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:18:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not the risks that create the support, ... (3+ / 0-)

          it's the better results generated by taking smart risks. In 2008 there was a broad consensus in the country that Republican policies had failed massively.

          But if you follow the same policies, then the bad results are yours, too.

          But avoiding risks out of fear of your opponents' animosity is extremely foolish. Anyone who's been half paying attention should have known that the Republicans were going to oppose the new Democratic President fiercely, relentlessly, with or without reason from day one.

          So adopting bad (or suboptimal) policies out of fear of your opponents is a loser's strategy.

          "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

          by Demi Moaned on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 03:00:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  That approach (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mftalbot, Demi Moaned

        won't save the country from its current crisis, nor will it garner a majority public support.

        Voters soundly rejected GOP governance last time around.  They don't want more of the same and they're increasingly realizing that's what they're getting with this administration.  

        There's no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.

        by Betty Pinson on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 03:27:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  To use salesperson's language... (6+ / 0-)

    ...the "Closing Question/Value Proposition" is this:

    "Mr. President, you can play it safe and be considered a middle-of-the-pack president at best, and way worse than that if things don't get better soon;

    OR

    You can take your place amongst some of our greatest and most beloved presidents, if you're will to rick a little in the short term. Which would you prefer?"

    The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

    by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 01:59:44 PM PDT

  •  We have had two years (5+ / 0-)

    of seeing what the Party is going to do. Maintaining the status quo is a daring as they get.  There is not going to be a progressive movement in the Democratic Party on any horizon I can see out there.  Maybe when people cant purchase food to eat and the food pantrys run out . . .

    2.5 trillion dollars have been "borrowed" since the [SS] system was "reformed" in the 80s and they simply don't want to pay it back. - dKos Blogger -

    by Silverbird on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:00:39 PM PDT

  •  Long Term Vision Needed (19+ / 0-)

    I wonder if you can advertise for this in the want ads of newspapers...

    The basic proposition that can't be wished away is that Democrats have gotten a foothold in Washington with Obama in the White House, with the challenge of turning that into something more lasting.

    What the conservative movement did, going back into the early '70s, and before that, was to create a widespread participation through resources that would guarantee a continued, sustainable drive.  

    A big part of that was a marriage of convenience between large corporations with vested interests and evangelicals bent on using government power to promote their vision.  

    This has somewhat fallen apart, since the basic dichotomies and contradictions have become more apparent.  However, never count out something with millions of dollars and established think tank type organizations going for it.  

    Progressives have never really been willing to be as organized.  Start talking about bylaws, fundraising and long term sustained purpose around progressives and you get A-Z on excuses.

    I think the profound issue below all the others is that for decades, the only way progressives could express policy on the national level was through protest.  Thus, the whole concept of politics is synonymous with protest.

    I think the paradigm shift that is needed is really to think it terms of long term change, no matter who is in office, and patient building towards a vision of the future.  

    If the sails remain set for a horizon based on waiting for something to protest, then the result will be that there will soon be something to protest.

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:13:49 PM PDT

    •  Wow (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Betty Pinson

      Awesome comment. Thanks for that, and for reading my humble little "cry in the wilderness."

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

      by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:17:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  top comment (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mftalbot, DBunn, Betty Pinson, SoCalSal

      You should expand it into a diary.

      One thing to consider is that the last great era of progressive movement of American politics and culture - which was the civil rights era followed by sexual and gender liberation and opposition to the Vietnam war - did feature a large and prominent 'protest' component.  It was the golden age in the era of 'top down' media, where getting people into the streets and in front of television cameras really mattered.  Today conditions are quite different, but it is the same kind of a rubrick that often informs progressive politics to this day.

      However, at the same time that progressive America was developing its paradigm of street protest and mass generational change, the right wing forces were launching their own takeover of society's institutions from the inside.  Their plan proved to be much more effective in the long term.

      •  I second that (0+ / 0-)

        Expand it into a diary, please.

        The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

        by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:33:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Protest against whom? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mftalbot, fizziks, etbnc

        In the 60s and 70s, the status quo backdrop against which protests ocurred was fundamentally Democratic and liberal. Insufficiently liberal, hypocritical in significant ways, to be sure-- that's what the protests were about. But the (nominal or actual) values of the establishment were at least somewhat amenable to being moved by the logic and passion of protestors from the left.

        If anything, the opposite is true today, and has been since Reagan. The "flip" in establishment orientation is due in no small part to conservative exploitation of popular resentment and revulsion at left-protest as a standard tool of political advocacy, and over left-protestors personally as apparent freaks and extremists. Whether fair or not, this has become the standard way for establishment media to portray left-protest, to the extent that it is reported at all.

        Today, the protests that impact the political process (and receive sympathetic media coverage) are from the right, not the left. Once again, they are passionate accusations that the establishment is not being true enough to its own stated values, which now are fundamentally Republican and conservative. Once again, the protests are "headlined" by freaks and extremists-- although whether the media will notice and report this fact, or the left figure out how to exploit it, is yet to be seen.

    •  There Exists Little In Society to Organize Prog- (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fizziks, mayim, nickrud

      ressives. Institutional society, and its owners, are mostly rightwing in their very structural nature. We may be a little luckier with rich individuals.

      About the day before the Summer of Love, there was published a Newsweek issue containing an article on a May 67 conference I think in Miami of fundamentalist Protestants organizing to tackle the then dominant liberal Protestantism. I have it because of a cover article on solo sailor Francis Chichester. That's how far back institutions' organizing of the right goes, that far and farther.

      It wasn't so much conservative human beings who organized themselves, to a large extent, it was conservative donors, businesses and churches to a great extent who organized the people and who set up the thinktank network, conservative education system and such.

      What we have to do on the left is build a progressive movement out of the much smaller people-funded issue groups, most of which are not natural recruitment and persuasion organizations like rightwing religion is.

      It can be done but it's a much bigger task for liberal humans than it was for rightwing humans, because so much of it has to be done by human beings.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:44:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Its difficult to organize (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mftalbot

      when progressives have been locked out of the Democratic Party.  Thanks to the takeover of the DNC from Dean, we've been kicked out.

      There's no honorable way to kill, no gentle way to destroy. There is nothing good in war. Except its ending.

      by Betty Pinson on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 03:30:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Party is a Compassionate Conservative (5+ / 0-)

    and competent party by philosophy, not a progressive party. However it certainly has progressives IN it.

    Mainstream Dem policy takes a very dim view on imposing much on business on behalf of the people. There are impositions in health reform, on the other hand they greatly expand the for-profit insurance system that is outlawed in the entire rest of the civilized world.

    That's a rightwing not merely a conservative policy.

    It was obvious that Obama is not a progressive during the nomination race. The best we could hope for was that between election and inauguration, as with FDR, a view of the reality of the situation might have persuaded him farther away from the center right. But it didn't, and perhaps the fact that we were 2-3 years earlier in the depression cycle than FDR deprived him of the same urgency.

    We got a charismatic Democratic leader but not a progressive one. And looking around, there simply isn't one on the horizon.

    The way the far right took over the Republican party was first to recognize that it couldn't get its message out through mainstream channels, so it built up 2 back channels, direct mail and fundamentalist Christianity with its radio- and televangelism. Big conservative money helped fundamentalism organize and grow as well.

    And then they went to work putting officeholders into the entry level of politics all across the country.

    Once the rightwing populist movement had electoral successes, its natural allies the corporatists, financiers, merchants and militarists signed on, and the rest is history.

    Progressivism needs to start by recognizing that they can't get through to the electorate, and develop a strategy first of communicating and secondarily to begin educating.

    And very soon we have to start putting PROGRESSIVES into hundreds of thousands of offices with the intention of taking over the party.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 02:33:20 PM PDT

    •  I agree with much of that... (2+ / 0-)

      ...one reason for optimism is two words: Howard Dean. I have a feeling that the nation hasn't heard the last of him; not by a long shot.

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell

      by mftalbot on Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 03:15:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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