Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The last word in the Obama backlash.

Katherine, in a comment on a prior post, let us know that:

Obama was assigned to Joe Lieberman when he was elected. All senators are assigned a mentor when they are elected. Obama and Lieberman have had lunch. Once. That is it.

I know this because I talked to Obama's staff for an hour to clarify his points and positions.

That's an important clarification, since several people (including me) have given Obama grief for having Holy Joe as a mentor.

She also wrote a long post defending Obama. I wrote a couple of long comments there, and now feel like it would be a big waste of time to write that much and not at least use it to pad my own blog, so I put them below the jump. I did promise to lay off Obama after this, and I will, unless he does something specific that pisses me off.

More below.




Bills in the Senate need a majority vote to pass. Right now, there are a majority of Republicans in the Senate. So, if any Democrat, from the hated Lieberman to flavor-of-the-week Feingold is going to get a bill passed, he’s going to need the support of a few Republicans, not to mention all of the Democrats. So you can’t criticize Obama – or any other Senator – for working with people you don’t like, if you also expect Democrats to get anything done.



I have to disagree strongly with the premise behind one this argument. I don't believe that it's worth it for Democrats to try to pass a single bill in this Congress. Anything worthwhile that makes it out of the Senate will just die in the House. Worse, as we've seen time and time again, if the Senate passes a decent version of a bill and the House passes a troglodytic version, Frist will just freeze all the Republican compromisers out of the conference committee, and the result will be an conference report with all the decent stuff stripped out, which then can't be filibustered. Any Democratic Senator who introduces legislation in this Congress as anything but a political move is wasting his time.

The dynamic I described is doubly true when it comes to lobbying reform, which you've described as Obama's signature effort more than once now. On the one hand, no real effective reform will pass both houses of this Congress. On the other, working on any kind of "reform" bill only supports the public message that Republican corruption can be solved with a few new rules. That's a Republican message, not a winning Democratic message. A winning Democratic message is that it's this particular group of people that are the problem, and we need to change them. Frankly, that message is closer to the truth as well.

Supporting other candidates: Obama supports the candidate that he personally believes can win the race. In the case of Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, he’s still better than Rick Santorum.


This kind of calculation about electability as the foremost reason for supporting one Democrat out of many is exactly the kind of meddling in primaries Chuck Schumer has been practicing, and it's exactly what has been angering many Democrats. I don't find it particularly admirable.


Tags: Barack Obama, politics

5 Comments:

  • At 8:30 AM, Blogger Katherine said…

    Hey.

    I think that your idea is valid simply because the way the Senate works (to quote myself) is currently being manipulated by Frist & Co. and ultimately makes us look bad.

    However. Our Democratic Senators have to run for re-election, and it doesn't look good for them to have been sitting on their asses for the past 6 years, regardless of the reasons why. Instead, Obama can now campaign with "worked for true lobbying reform, but smacked down by Republicans (and Joe Lieberman)."

    I hate the electability issue myself, only because the candidates whom the Democratic party seem to think they can get elected always either lose or suck.

    However, keep in mind that Pennsylvania has repeatedly re-elected a man (Santorum) who thinks gay sex is on par with bestiality. Do you think these voters are suddenly going to jump ship for Chuck if you push him as the better, more liberal candidate? Probably not.

     
  • At 11:15 AM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    Our Democratic Senators have to run for re-election, and it doesn't look good for them to have been sitting on their asses for the past 6 years, regardless of the reasons why.

    True enough, but that does not mean working with Republicans to try to get legislation actually passed, as Obama's staff told you he is doing and you argued was good of him. It means introducing legislation that every Democrat and no Republican can vote for, at least for the next seven months. What you want is exactly what you say next:

    Obama can now campaign with "worked for true lobbying reform, but smacked down by Republicans

    I would argue, however, that this is the opposite of working bipartisanly.

    I hate the electability issue myself, only because the candidates whom the Democratic party seem to think they can get elected always either lose or suck.

    Here I think we part ways again. I agree with you that Democratic party leaders seem to have a rotten and patronizing idea of who is "electable," but you seem to imply that if they had a better understanding of electability their meddling would be justified. Whereas I think that for them to use "electability" as a reason to meddle in primaries is both unjustifiable and extremely dispiriting to Democratic party members. Democrats should feel free to nominate someone who they feel represents their values, even if that someone really would have a harder time getting elected. Candidates themselves can make the argument that they'd be more "electable" if they like, but for Obama to declare that he supports candidates in primaries against other Democrats based on that calculation rather than based on whether they'd do a good job, or represent values he likes, well, I find that extremely annoying. The fact that Bob Casey would be a (marginal) improvement over Rick Santorum is a reason to support him in the general election, not the primary.

     
  • At 12:52 PM, Blogger Katherine said…

    I agree to your point in theory on putting forth legislation that only Democrats and the Independent Guy can vote for. My question is this - what kind of legislation is that?

    For instance, Obama's proposed amendment to prohibit Congressmen from becoming lobbyists (or staff members of lobbyist firms) in their first year out of office was tabled as being "off topic." Why it was labeled off-topic is moot, but that sounds pretty fair to me.

    Second, what about Senators like Lincoln Chafee who are legimitate moderates and old-time Conservatives (rather than NeoCons) who also happen to be pro-choice?

    As for electability, you make a strong case, and I agree, in theory, again. However, if you watch cable news or read the paper, you know that a fundraising shortage immediately translates into cries of "s/he's not electable!" Voters hear that, and without understanding why it's being said, start to internalize it. That is my bigger problem with "electability."

     
  • At 12:56 PM, Blogger Katherine said…

    Oh, one other pragmatic comment on only introducing legislature that the Democratic minority votes for and Republican majority votes against -- that means that until we retake the Senate and perhaps also the House, only Republican laws will get passed, while the Democratic party is perceived to be increasingly weak.

    I think I'll pack my bags and my two X chromosomes and head for Canada, thanks.

     
  • At 1:44 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    that means that until we retake the Senate and perhaps also the House, only Republican laws will get passed, while the Democratic party is perceived to be increasingly weak.

    Two things. First, as I've already argued, I believe the first thing you say here is already the case anyway. Second, the second does not necessarily follow from the first. Democrats can appear strong by killing Republican efforts, as they did with the attempt to gut Social Security.

     

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