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One of the more troublesome defenses of President Obama is that progressive critics want a "liberal Bush" as president - that we haven't learned from the abuse of executive power under Dubya and instead just want to do the same thing he did, but from the left instead of the right.

This view, most recently espoused by Jamelle Bouie at True/Slant, makes what I see as a deeply flawed reading of progressive views on the nature of the presidency. Reducing this to "Bush or failure" totally misunderstands the nature and background of progressive criticism of the Obama Administration's lack of success.

Here's the heart of Bouie's argument, which is really just another restatement of the deeply questionable "weak president" theory:

Chait smartly points out that this “liberal despair” comes mainly from a cultish view of the presidency. In this view, Congress is a near-ancillary actor, and all initiative and all action comes from the White House. When bills fail, it’s because the president didn’t try hard enough (or didn’t care). Of course, that’s ridiculous; when it comes to domestic policy, U.S presidents are fairly weak actors, and have to contend with a host of constraints, limitations and competing priorities. As Jonathan Bernstein has noted again and again, the president is weak, really.

This notion of a "weak president" is central to the Obama defenders' efforts to knock down progressive criticism, with Bernstein's work being repeatedly cited as evidence that this view is somehow widely shared by political scientists.

But it isn't. The Bernstein thesis flies in the face of decades of research on the strong presidency, which was always latent in the Constitution but emerged in our present form under FDR - more on him in a moment. Since the 1930s almost all political scientists would agree that the Executive Branch has become the dominant force in American politics, through a combination of the reshaping of how the president's Constitutional powers are used, and through the emergence of the president as the most important political force in the federal government through other factors outside the Constitution.

Political scientists often distinguish between the president's formal and informal power. The formal, Constitutional powers are quite strong. The president can propose a budget, enact regulations, conducts foreign policy, and commands the troops. Most significantly, the president can veto Congressional legislation, and Congress's ability to override it is quite limited, with 2/3 majorities being hard to come by in a situation where the two parties are fairly evenly matched.

The informal powers of the president boost executive power considerably. In a mass media environment, one man (and sadly, it's always been a man) has more ability to set an agenda and provide political leadership than 535 members of Congress. Even the Speaker of the House doesn't have that kind of public persona. And although Speaker Pelosi is one of the most effective Speakers in quite some time, she doesn't have the ability to set an agenda or influence public perceptions of policy debates the way the president does.

Boule argues that Americans are trained by TV and the media to see the president as almost a dictator whose Congress just goes along for the ride. While this is something of a caricature, it's also something that has to be considered in the assessment of presidential power. If Americans actually do believe this, then the president really is the dominant political force in government, despite the Constitution's design of separate and equal powers. Political power is not at all limited to what was written down in 1787, and anyone who thinks it is quite simply has no understanding of how politics actually works. They'd certainly have flunked the American Government and Politics classes I've taught, and would likely do so in almost any other collegiate classroom.

Bouie goes on to argue that the Bush era has essentially warped progressive views of executive power:

I’d also add that the optics of President Bush may have changed liberals’ perception of what the president can do. At every turn, we either heard that President Bush was doing “X” thing, or claiming “X” power, and without the context of a unified Republican Congress or a pliant executive branch, it was easy to believe that Bush was accomplishing these things through sheer force of will, when he simply wasn’t. And after Bush, what many liberals really wanted a “liberal Bush,” not realizing that Bush wasn’t nearly as successful as he was portrayed, and that the president isn’t nearly as powerful as they think.

This is the "it's Bush or nothing" argument, and it also misreads progressive thinking on both Obama and the presidency. It's not Bush that shapes progressive views on presidential power - it's FDR, and to a lesser extent, LBJ and Ronald Reagan. Those three presidents, likely the most effective of the 20th century, showed the power of the presidency to set and implement an agenda of change within the bounds of the Constitution.

FDR set the tone in the 1930s. He was not an ideologue, but a deeply pragmatic deal-maker who nevertheless understood the need for bold action to end the Depression - and the need to aggressively sell the public on that need.

LBJ provided a more recent model. He was a master political tactician (like FDR) and was especially effective at getting legislation through Congress. LBJ's breaking of the filibuster of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was legendary and instructive on how the presidency can use its constitutional role as well as its informal powers to change what happens in Congress.

Reagan too shows progressives what can be done. Reagan, like FDR, was quite pragmatic and cut a lot of deals with a Democratic Congress. But Reagan's true legacy was his skillful use of the public perceptions of the White House to advance and ultimately win the ideological arguments of the day, to reorient American politics around a conservative agenda.

Progressives want a president who can combine these three models into something appropriate for the 21st century. There's no actual evidence whatsoever that we want a "liberal Bush," a "decider" who treats the Constitution like a joke.

More importantly, progressive critics of Obama actually understand pretty well the limitations on Obama's ability to produce change. Our criticism is that Obama is unwilling to do anything about it - and instead actively defends a flawed system.

The root of the problem in American politics is that our system has become deeply corrupt, with large corporations blocking innovation and economic recovery in defense of a failed status quo. Their primary tool is the United States Senate, which is a failed institution in need of radical reforms, if not outright abolition (which is impossible without writing a new Constitution).

The Senate is the great obstacle to the implementation of a progressive agenda. So why are progressives upset with Obama? Because he won't act like Bush and disregard the Constitution to ram his agenda through?

Hardly. With the 20th century presidents as a model, progressives want Obama to use both the formal and informal powers at his disposal to address the dysfunctional Senate before it costs Democrats at the November election and jeopardizes Obama's own re-election, not to mention providing the economic recovery we so desperately need.

Instead, we see Obama not only doing nothing about the Senate, but actively collaborating with its worst actors to reinforce its worst tendencies. Instead of making the case to the American people for change, Obama makes the case to the American people for business as usual.

What many of us would like Obama to do is blend FDR, LBJ, and Reagan in dealing with the Senate. For example, on the economy. Obama was urged by his own economic advisors to propose a stimulus well over $1 trillion. Instead, he proposed a too-weak stimulus for fear of Congress's reaction. Obama rejected the FDR and Reagan approach of starting with a bold move that forced Congress to react, and instead pre-compromised with himself.

When the Maine twins and Arlen Specter then gutted that stimulus, Obama went along without a peep, despite the fact that they gutted some of the most important elements of the stimulus, such as the aid to state governments. Since then, efforts at new stimulus have been blocked in the Senate, and the White House has said they will no longer try to push new stimulus through.

What should have been done instead? Taking a page from FDR, Obama should have argued for as bold an effort as possible, and proposed as large a stimulus as possible. If Congress did whittle it down, they'd have ended up at a larger sum than they eventually got.

Taking a page from Reagan, Obama should have loudly and persistently criticized the Senators who tried to whittle down the stimulus, instead of going along with them, using his high approval ratings to mobilize public opinion against Senate obstruction.

Taking a page from LBJ, Obama should have privately threatened to veto or block the spending and legislative priorities of those Senators obstructing the big stimulus if they persisted in a filibuster threat.

Those would likely have produced a bigger and therefore better stimulus, which in turn would have helped the American people in a time of distress and boosted Obama's own political position. Obama could still do some combination of this today to push new stimulus, but instead meekly accepts the Senate's failure.

Health care played out this way as well. Instead of pushing back hard against Ben Nelson's extraordinarily destructive undermining of the bill, Obama chose to accommodate it with the notorious "Cornhusker kickback" that crashed Democratic poll numbers in December 2009 and played a major role in the loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Obama's eventual solution was instructive: embracing the use of a legislative tool designed to get around the undemocratic filibuster rule. Obama has since shown himself to be quite unwilling to go back to the reconciliation well again.

Of course, we should never have expected anything different. Obama is so deferential to the Senate and its procedures and attitudes that he made his only appearance on Daily Kos to attack us for demanding something different - namely, that Senate Democrats refuse to confirm John Roberts, a demand we have been proven absolutely right to have made.

There are other objections to the argument Bouie makes, including the numerous ways in which Obama has used his own powers to continue the Bush legacy, including his support for continuing some of Bush's practices on civil liberties and the legal process for suspected terrorists.

We don't want a "liberal Bush." Instead we want someone who will not be content with the status quo. Who won't use their rhetorical gifts to reinforce a conservative message. Who will use the powers of their office and the informal powers of their prominent position in politics to provide the leadership that can help us break the logjam in the Senate to bring the change and help that the American people desperately need.

It shouldn't be necessary to misunderstand presidential power and to misinterpret progressive attitudes on the presidency to have this conversation. Unfortunately, some seem intent on delegitimizing progressive criticism of the president through whatever means possible, and claiming we want a "liberal Bush" is one way to attempt it. It's not accurate, and judging by the conversation, it's not even working.

Originally posted to robert cruickshank on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 03:36 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  On another note entirely (31+ / 0-)

    For nearly 7 years I posted here as eugene. In 2004 I registered my actual name, but never used it. I'm posting this under my real name as a test drive. "eugene" has a long and distinguished history at Daily Kos, or so my ego likes to tell me, but perhaps it's time I do what I've done all over the internet since about 2007 and use the name my parents gave me.

    Not saying I'm retiring "eugene" - but I'm considering it.

  •  I certainly don't want Obama to be a liberal W... (13+ / 0-)

    but it sure feels like he brings a knife to a gunfight when it comes to pressuring the likes of Lieberman, Lincoln, and Nelson to support his policies.

    Now Nelson wants to filibuster(!) the climate change bill? A Senate Democrat using the filibuster? This guy deserves to lose his chairmanship. THAT'S the Chicago way.

    Groucho Marx sings the new GOP motto: I'm Against It!

    by Jimdotz on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 03:51:07 AM PDT

  •  We want a Liberal Cheney! (3+ / 0-)

    err... Isn't that an oxymoron?

  •  On the Afghasnistan war he's not a liberal Bush. (8+ / 0-)

    He's just Bush. I really can't tell 'em apart.

    No one will believe it's the Blues if you wear a suit, `less you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it.

    by dov12348 on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 04:02:02 AM PDT

  •  Yes, Virginia, there used to be bipartisanship (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Yes, there were days ago where both parties worked together somewhat amiably for the good of the country.  Currently, those days ago seem to be only a fond memory.  Now there is rancor, and neither side talks to the other - a practice unheard of to this extent in the days of yore.  

    I am not so much defending Obama, but the rules of this new ball game have yet to be worked out, and most games result in a 0-0 score.

    •  JFinNe (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      With an ongoing very severe recession, although the final score may be tied 0-0, the team with the ball actually loses the game. Unfortunately, that's how it really works with a terribly nervous and impatient electorate like we presently have here in America.

      •  Bush, the Shrub, gave us instant gratification (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Major Tom

        He was the 'Decider' and decide he did, and we all like our instant gratification.  Obama promised us a long term approach to problems (certainly unseen to me resulting from the Shrub's incompetence) but we want it NOW, not next week or the week after.

        As far as I can tell, Obama chose the worst possible time in U.S. history to run for the Presidency.  Obama is waging a war of balance between the 'people' and corporatism.  I am reminded of the movie in which Robert Mitchum was a murderous preacher who had LOVE tatooed on one hand and HATE on the other.  Mitchum's hands constantly waged a battle to see which hand would win.

        •  JFinNE (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Too often, when one attempts to please all sides, one ends up pleasing none. Yet, again, that is a recipe for certain political disaster during a bad recession - and so goes the polls and the electorate accordingly.

          In my heart, I sincerely want to place the blame on the President's (mis-)advisers.  In any case, within the last ten days, I think we have been witnessing a more affirmative and decisive Obama.

        •  I see no evidence of this (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nippersdad, Angela Quattrano

          What suggests to you that he is seeking a long-term approach to the problems I mentioned?

          What suggests to you that he seeks "balance" with corporations?

          I see neither of these things happening.

  •  We're too far gone as a country... (4+ / 0-)

    ...for Obama to deliver Utopia with a single stroke of the mop. Just mopping up the Bush-shit is going to take some time, and then we reach the stuff that has been accumulating since the God Reagan started shitting on this bed.

    Remember: Obama is a mere Messiah, not God Himself. ;)

  •  please look up FDR's margin in Congress (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    •  It wasn't as broad.... (0+ / 0-) you think. A lot of the Democrats' strength came from the South, where there was a goodly amount of opposition to FDR, particularly after the first few years.

    •  Please re-read the diary and try not to... (4+ / 0-)

      ...miss the point this time.

      Obama isn't trying to do any LBJ-style arm twisting and log rolling to get his way.  Instead, he's actively trying to appease the people blocking his nominal agenda.

      He's not trying to do any Reagan style communication directly with the people to say "I want to help make your lives better, but these people won't allow it." Instead, he remains silent and allows himself to take much of the blame for the lack of action.

      He's not doing any FDR-style bold, sweeping initiatives that, by the time they inevitably get whittled down by moving through Congress, still are muscular, effective reforms.  Instead, he's pre-compromising and then seeing that get chopped down to initiatives of laughable inadequacy.

      Majorities in Congress suddenly matter much less if the president has political skill and media savvy.  And last I checked, Democrats have had the magic 60 vote supermajority in the Senate for a while anyway.

      As Robert's examples show, there are several different methods for bringing recalcitrant Senate Dems or the few remaining sane Republicans to heel.  Obama has not chosen to use any of them.

      "Raybin is not a lying maniac. I've found this person to be an extremely clever and devious lying conartist, but never a maniac."--RElland on Daily Kos

      by Raybin on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 08:23:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  well there is this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JFinNe, Virginia mom

    Ronald Reagan was an actor, the V.P. was George H.W. Bush who with Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney ran the executive branch.... isn't that about right?

    Obama is the president he has an administration he makes the decisions ... he has long term goals and makes adaptations to short term goals when he has to, it seems to me, that may be advanced or moveed forward when utilized with amendments and add-ons later on as opportunities to work through or work around the obstructionist GOP agenda become possible

    Former 36th CA Gov. Pete Wilson was more than just a Governor, he was a King of all California, he inspires me to this day. - Queen Meg Whitman

    by anyname on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 04:48:04 AM PDT

    •  kinda still focused on Rummy and Cheney (0+ / 0-)

      there was George Schultz and James Baker running the 'Reagan' presidency too!

      Rumsfeld: partial

      # Member of the President's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control—Reagan Administration (1982–1986); # President Reagan's Special Envoy on the Law of the Sea Treaty (1982–1983); # Senior Advisor to President Reagan's Panel on Strategic Systems (1983–1984); # Member of the U.S. Joint Advisory Commission on U.S./Japan Relations—Reagan Administration (1983–1984); # President Reagan's Special Envoy to the Middle East (1983–1984);

      Oops on Cheney: he went from the Nixon and Ford White House back to Congress when Reagan was president

      Former 36th CA Gov. Pete Wilson was more than just a Governor, he was a King of all California, he inspires me to this day. - Queen Meg Whitman

      by anyname on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 05:12:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A bold progressive president (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Tom, robert cruickshank

    David Michael Green agrees with your point in a very poignant essay criticizing Alterman's  thesis that a progressive presidendy is impossible.

    "Why The Presidency Matters, And Why It’s Okay To Believe So"

  •  I'm glad (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    robert cruickshank

    that he's moved away from the Unitary Executive presidency that the office has been moving towards, and I think he has been deliberate in this.  I think he recognizes that the pre-eminent branch of government as the Founders intended is the Legislative branch.  While I agree with you that Pelosi has also recognizes it also, I don't think that Reid quite gets it.

    I also think that there are many that wish he would beat Congress up as Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Nixon and Johnson had done over their terms.  But that's not the way to go.

    I liked your diary, and is the diary I wish I could write.

    It's about time I changed my signature.

    by Khun David on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 05:46:24 AM PDT

    •  What evidence do you have that he is moving (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      away from the Unitary Executive theory of governance? Seems to me that he is cementing and expanding prior precedents.

      "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." Oscar Wilde

      by nippersdad on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 07:47:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  For one, Guantanamo (0+ / 0-)

        Had he acted like Bush, and enacted the policy his administration wanted to follow without input by Congress, he would have closed Guantanamo, transfer the inmates to prisons on US soil (instead of leased Cuban soil) or release them, as he promised and as he had intended in the first days of his administration.

        Instead, he deferred to Congress, and allowed Congress to dictate that Guantanamo remain open.

        Remember, it was the Bush policy to open an illegal prison in the first place while running roughshod over Congress (only allowing the ranking leadership to know what he was doing, and threatening sedition if any of them revealed his intentions, until it was too late).

        It's about time I changed my signature.

        by Khun David on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 10:31:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  This does not explain Bagram, does it? (0+ / 0-)

          I think the deference to Congress is overblown as well.

          By their fruits they will be known.

          "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." Oscar Wilde

          by nippersdad on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 04:31:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  FYI & (0+ / 0-)

    if the CDP only sees Whitman's money and not the conditions and circumstances which surround common public knowledge that GOP Schwarzenegger is the worst CA governor all time; and this is the right time for  the state to elect a Democratic governor.... what would be the purpose of CDP what are they doing if they can't connect and do something with/for the public with Arnuld's 22% approval ratings in the tank

    Former 36th CA Gov. Pete Wilson was more than just a Governor, he was a King of all California, he inspires me to this day. - Queen Meg Whitman

    by anyname on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 05:53:27 AM PDT

    •  ditto (0+ / 0-)

      I worked with Meg Whitman directly as a director at eBay when she was CEO, and I think it is important that those who don't know her hear my first-hand experience.

      Meg Whitman rode a rocket already launched by the founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar — she rode it to fame and a large fortune — in the billions of dollars.

      At eBay I was appalled at her exceedingly poor leadership. Meg Whitman's leadership was characterized by a disdain for the employees, a cavalier attitude toward any effort that didn't serve her self-interest, and an arrogance impossible to disguise. She surrounded herself with yes-men and showed no interest in listening to others. Her demeanor was always one of a leader who subscribes to the philosophy "My way or the highway."

      I am deeply concerned that she is trying today to buy the governor's office of our troubled state.

      Rita Graziano

      Penn Valley

      Former 36th CA Gov. Pete Wilson was more than just a Governor, he was a King of all California, he inspires me to this day. - Queen Meg Whitman

      by anyname on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 06:02:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  is CPD going to challenge the narcissistic bully? (0+ / 0-)

        "Meg was a pretty good swimmer. But at meets, I had to be there, because if she wasn't at least first or second, she'd be screaming with rage." ~ Meg Whitman's Mother

        Former 36th CA Gov. Pete Wilson was more than just a Governor, he was a King of all California, he inspires me to this day. - Queen Meg Whitman

        by anyname on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 06:06:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  candidates vs consultants (0+ / 0-)

          There’s been a power shift in Sacramento away from the candidates themselves and toward the consultants. Brown is a throwback, a challenge to that trend.

          What would Jerry do with a political consultant anyway? Giving Brown a political consultant is like hiring a groomer for a chimpanzee or a journalist. It’s a hopeless enterprise. Brown is going to do what he wants to do, say what he wants to say. Why should he pay someone big bucks for not being able to do anything? We already have one lieutenant governor. Isn’t that enough?  

          It’s not hard to see why the consultants are so concerned. Jerry Brown throws a wrench in the Consultant-Industrial Complex. (For details on this, please see entry under Whitman, Meg).

          If this is allowed to go unchecked, it’s a slippery slope. Pretty soon, candidates may actually want to think for themselves, stand up to an interest group that gave them money. The possibilities for peril are manifold.

          Consultants are in it for three things: The money. The right to say I told you so. And the money. So in the absence of cash coming from the Brown campaign, it looks like many Democrats are focusing on the other thing.

          But it’s not like there is no Brown campaign. It’s just not called the Brown campaign. Meg Whitman gets it. I’m not quite sure why nobody else seems to understand this. Because of the state’s asinine campaign finance laws, Brown is subject to fundraising limits. Therefore, his supporters are forced to move the big money into an independent expenditure committee. I don’t know how many times I can say this. The union IE campaign IS the Brown campaign, at least through the summer. The Brown campaign itself will kick in some time around Labor Day.

          Former 36th CA Gov. Pete Wilson was more than just a Governor, he was a King of all California, he inspires me to this day. - Queen Meg Whitman

          by anyname on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 06:12:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  OOPS comments got misplaced (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, robert cruickshank

      they were intended in another diary... geeze my eyesight fading zzzzzzzzzzzzz


      Earlier this week, a wingnut attacked the premise of the California's Challenge panel at Netroots Nation. And quickly learned that panel moderator Robert Cruickshank is not the guy you want to mess with.

      California's Challenge : From Failifornia to Progressive Laboratory

      Former 36th CA Gov. Pete Wilson was more than just a Governor, he was a King of all California, he inspires me to this day. - Queen Meg Whitman

      by anyname on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 06:42:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped and recommended for the discussion (9+ / 0-)

    And I understand that the recent models for "strong presidencies" are its 20th Century practitioners.

    But the true prototype for the "strong president" is the guy in my .sig file, who did more to concentrate power in the hands of the Executive Branch than any other president before him, and most presidents since.

    Right now I am slogging my way through this remarkable book, "The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party," by Michael F. Holt, which describes how, for the 23 years that followed the end of Jackson's second term, the Whigs tried everything they could, at all levels of government and in every state in the Union, to unravel or reverse what Jackson had accomplished.

    The "man on horseback" that Jackson represented scared the shit out of the Whigs, who saw in Jackson elements of a return to monarchical powers.

    And at the same time, it fascinated them to the extent that they nominated, and successfully ran, military heroes such as William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor.

    Ultimately, their efforts failed, because Jackson had transformed the role of the presidency successfully and irreversibly, and his true heir turned out to be Abraham Lincoln, who could not have brought the Union back together without the groundwork Jackson had laid for him.

    I loathe the term "transformative," but whatever it is supposed to mean, and if it has any meaning at all when discussing U.S. presidents, it must be applied to Jackson and Lincoln, whose influence lasted not only far beyond their terms as presidents, but far beyond their lifetimes.

    That is why Robert's diary is valuable. It helps demonstrate the manifest falsity, the lack of historical perspective, and the utter intellectual bankruptcy of those who try to persuade us that Obama is, or even might be, a "transformational" president.

    They're looking at the sizzle and not at the steak. They're looking at style and not at substance. Jackson, Lincoln, TR, FDR, LBJ, and -- as much as it sickens me to admit it -- Reagan, all laid out blueprints for advancing their agendas, and all, in their own ways, marshalled public support for those agendas, pushed them relentlessly against all obstacles, and inflicted public, palpable, political pain on their opponents and adversaries.

    Obama's efforts in this regard are weak tea altogether, and all the fawning photo diaries in the world can't hide the relative lack of results and the halting, half-hearted efforts.

    Everybody senses that a "war" is coming between labor and capital, between communities and corporations, between people and profits. It's our job to encourage, empower, and embolden Obama to be more like Lincoln. So far he's showing us Buchanan.

    "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

    by Ivan on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 06:41:45 AM PDT

    •  Yep (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, Raybin, Major Tom, nippersdad, pixxer

      I'd go much further on this point, and will in a later post, but I do think we're looking at an 1850s style political crisis, which does involve a war between labor and capital. I don't necessarily think it'll end in a Civil War, but it will likely produce some kind of domestic political conflict of the sort that spills out into the streets.

      So far the best historical analogy to Obama is Jimmy Carter. Buchanan does seem to fit the bill too.

      •  Obama is good at one thing (4+ / 0-)

        That is positive reinforcement. I'll grant him that. But I also mentioned TR, who even today is known for his use of the term "bully pulpit."

        TR knew that there is the carrot and the stick, and that either one without the other is ineffective. Carter, as you say, didn't use the stick. Obama isn't using it as much as he needs to. Jackson damn sure used it. To say that Lincoln used it is somewhat of an understatement. TR used it and bragged about it. FDR used it, and LBJ and Reagan damn sure did.

        Several Goldman Sachs people should be in jail. Joe Arpaio should be in jail. Don Blankenship should be in jail. Hans von Spakowsky should be in jail. Hope is a strong motivator. But so is fear. It's two sides of the coin.

        "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

        by Ivan on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 07:50:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I mentioned before the election that I see... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ivan, Major Tom, robert cruickshank

        ...a bit of John Adams in him, in the sense that Adams, while attempting to deny the political realities of the day and remain "above the fray", ended up with no constituency in either party and was launched after one term.

        "Raybin is not a lying maniac. I've found this person to be an extremely clever and devious lying conartist, but never a maniac."--RElland on Daily Kos

        by Raybin on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 08:32:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Fantastic comment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, robert cruickshank, pixxer

      I'm going to have to read that book, since the collapse of the Whigs is a subject I've always found very interesting.

      Also worth noting the desperate Whigs tried the man on horseback scheme again by running Winfield Scott in 1852.  Surveying the aftermath of the 2004 election, I noticed the parallels between that and the decision of the establishment to throw all their weight behind John Kerry.

      "Raybin is not a lying maniac. I've found this person to be an extremely clever and devious lying conartist, but never a maniac."--RElland on Daily Kos

      by Raybin on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 08:27:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  progressive critics? WTF? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    First, 'progressive critics's is an oxymoron.
    But frankly, there is no such thing even close to a "liberal bush."
    'Compassionate conservative' is as close as possible.  And we see what that meant!
    I never want a rethug for anything!  Not now!
    At one time, I actually voted for a few Republicans, back when Republican meant decency, integrity, honor.  
    Unfortunately, Democrats are going the way of the old Republicans.  

    Never walk into a public restroom while breathing through your mouth.

    by quityurkidding on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 07:43:04 AM PDT

  •  We'd rather have a liberal FDR n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  Spot on diary! Tipped and recced. (0+ / 0-)

    One small quibble:

    For example, on the economy. Obama was urged by his own economic advisors to propose a stimulus well over $1 billion.

    I think you meant over one trillion.

    "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." Oscar Wilde

    by nippersdad on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 07:51:45 AM PDT

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