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The Producers - I'm In Pain And I'm Wet
Get More: The Producers - I'm In Pain And I'm Wet

Jonathan Chait, of The New Republic, has delivered a much needed rhetorical slap to the collective face of hysterical members of the left in an editorial in the New York Times, titled What the Left Doesn't Understand About Obama.
The most common hallmark of the left’s magical thinking is a failure to recognize that Congress is a separate, coequal branch of government consisting of members whose goals may differ from the president’s. Congressional Republicans pursued a strategy of denying Obama support for any major element of his agenda, on the correct assumption that this would make it less popular and help the party win the 2010 elections. Only for roughly four months during Obama’s term did Democrats have the 60 Senate votes they needed to overcome a filibuster. Moreover, Republican opposition has proved immune even to persistent and successful attempts by Obama to mobilize public opinion. Americans overwhelmingly favor deficit reduction that includes both spending and taxes and favor higher taxes on the rich in particular. Obama even made a series of crusading speeches on this theme. The result? Nada.

That kind of analysis, however, just feels wrong to liberals, who remember Bush steamrolling his agenda through Congress with no such complaints about obstructionism. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald recently invoked “the panoply of domestic legislation — including Bush tax cuts, No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Part D prescription drug entitlement — that Bush pushed through Congress in his first term.”

Yes, Bush passed his tax cuts — by using a method called reconciliation, which can avoid a filibuster but can be used only on budget issues. On No Child Left Behind and Medicare, he cut deals expanding government, which the right-wing equivalents of Greenwald denounced as a massive sellout. Bush did have one episode where he tried to force through a major domestic reform against a Senate filibuster: his crusade to privatize Social Security. Just as liberals urge Obama to do today, Bush barnstormed the country, pounding his message and pressuring Democrats, whom he cast as obstructionists. The result? Nada, beyond the collapse of Bush’s popularity.

It's obvious that many people on this site are currently hysterical, wet and in pain. I recommend that everyone read this editorial in its entirety. [Side note: Chait takes a slap at some of my favorite "progressive" pundits to dislike: Glenn Greenwald, Jon Walker and Drew Westen]

And speaking of Drew Westen, does anyone else remember that op-ed he wrote for the New York Times a few weeks ago. One of the key themes of that piece was the importance of storytelling and the inadequacy of the stories Barack Obama has told the American people.

So, Westen took it upon himself to give us all a little taste of what good storytelling sounds like. Here's the little tale he wove:

I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.

That's a story? Your scared. It's the Republicans fault. I'm going to make it all better. The end.

Does that strike anybody else as shitty storytelling?

Here's a story:

A modest, laconic stranger comes to town. There is something about the way that he carries himself that bespeaks deep reservoirs of personal strength. The townspeople are being terrorized by a group of bullies who are bent on owning all of the land in the area. After showing an initial flash of gumption in standing up to the bullies, our mysterious stranger is oddly passive, depsit escalating provocations. The people of the town become angry and frustrated with him for not doing more to stand up to the bullies. The mysterious stranger is ritually taunted and menaced by the bullies and the good people of the town. In the end, when it seems that the good people of the town are doomed to complete, final, humiliating defeat at the hands of the bullies, the mysterious stranger prevents his closest friend among the townspeople from riding to certain death by knocking him out cold with the butt of his pistol. Then the mysterious stranger mounts his horse and rides into town.

And if you've seen Shane or countless other Western/Samurai movies, you know what comes next. And if you don't, here you go:

Now, that's storytelling. And it's a story Barack Obama is telling us with actions, not words.

Right now we're in the gutwrenching part of the story where the bullies are doing their worst and having a grand old time of it, while the good people of the town have pretty much lost their faith in the mysterious stranger and the possiblity of a happy end to their problems. We are still over a year away from the climactic scene. There are many insults to be borne before we get to that scene.

But the payoff will be sweet when it comes.

Originally posted to seanwright on Sat Sep 03, 2011 at 09:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by The Yes We Can Pragmatists.

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