November 16, 2006

Populism, not conservatism, won the day

Paul Krugman in the New York Times (sub required):
Ever since movement conservatives took over, the Republican Party has pushed for policies that benefit a small minority of wealthy Americans at the expense of the great majority of voters. To hide this reality, conservatives have relied on wagging the dog and wedge issues, but they’ve also relied on a brilliant marketing campaign that portrays Democrats as elitists and Republicans as representatives of the average American.

This sleight of hand depends on shifting the focus from policy to personal style: John Kerry speaks French and windsurfs, so pay no attention to his plan to roll back tax cuts for the wealthy and use the proceeds to make health care affordable.

This year, however, the American people wised up.

True to form, some reporters still seem to be falling for the conservative spin. “If it walks, talks like a conservative, can it be a Dem?” asked the headline on a story featuring a photo of Senator-elect Jon Tester of Montana. In other words, if a Democrat doesn’t fit the right-wing caricature of a liberal, he must be a conservative.

But as Robin Toner and Kate Zernike of The New York Times pointed out yesterday, what actually characterizes the new wave of Democrats is a “strong streak of economic populism.”

Look at Mr. Tester’s actual policy positions: yes to an increase in the minimum wage; no to Social Security privatization; we need to “stand up to big drug companies” and have Medicare negotiate for lower prices; we should “stand up to big insurance companies and support a health care plan that makes health care affordable for all Montanans.”

So what, aside from his flattop haircut, makes Mr. Tester a conservative? O.K., he supports gun rights. But on economic issues he’s clearly left of center, not just compared with the current Senate, but compared with current Democratic senators. The same can be said of many other victorious Democrats, including Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island, and Sherrod Brown in Ohio. All of these candidates ran on unabashedly populist platforms, and won.

What about Joe Lieberman? Like shipwreck survivors clinging to flotsam, some have seized on his reelection as proof of Americans’ continuing conservatism. But Mr. Lieberman won only through denial and deception, for example, by rewriting the history of his once-fervent support for the Iraq war and Donald Rumsfeld. He got two-thirds of the Republican vote, but managed to confuse enough Democrats about his positions to get over the top.

Last week’s populist wave, among other things, vindicates the populist direction that Al Gore took in the closing months of the 2000 campaign. But will this wave be reflected in the actual direction of the Democratic Party?

Not necessarily. Quite a few sitting Democrats have shown themselves nearly as willing as Republicans to bow to corporate interests. Consider the vote on last year’s draconian bankruptcy bill. Mr. Lieberman voted for cloture, cutting off debate and ensuring the bill’s passage; then he voted against the bill, a meaningless gesture that let him have it both ways. Thirteen other Democratic senators also voted for cloture, including Joe Biden, who has just announced his candidacy for president.

The first big test of the new Democratic populism will come over reform of the 2003 prescription drug law. Democrats have pledged to repeal the clause in that law preventing Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices. But the fine print of how they do that is crucial: Medicare reform could be a mere symbolic gesture, or it could be a real reform that eliminates the huge implicit subsidies the program currently gives drug and insurance companies.

Are the newly invigorated Democrats ready to offer a real change in this country’s direction? We’ll know in a few months.

Thanks Mr. Krugman for echoing my point in the "Lessons of the Midterm" post below.

And to DemGorilla and others who tout Jon Tester's victory in Montana as some proof of the need for Dems to become more conservative, I'd warn that a flat-top does NOT make a person conservative. His positions are definitely NOT conservative.

DemGorilla has also apealled for "responsible governing" inferring that blogs were icky and nasty and too partisan.

Here's the total raised by the so-called "overly partisan" left-wing blogs for the supposedly "conservative" Jon Tester: $343,017.27

Tester and other candidates received massive support, publicity, cash, organization and boots on the ground from overtly liberal (and "irresponsible" in DemG's terms Im' sure) blogs, and Tester himself has acknowledged their critical role on his campaign website.
I cannot thank you enough for everything you have done. Words cannot express how deeply grateful and deeply honored Sharla and I are for the hard work and support that grassroots and netroots Democrats gave to this campaign. You opened up your schedules, opened up your wallets, and opened up your hearts to make Montana and our country a better place.
Now DemGorilla wants to be sure that Dems don't pay any attention to the non-conservative side of the party, advocating avoiding being too hard on Republicans or calling them to account for their years of ineptitude and corruption. It's time to put it all behind us and set an example.

This despite the fact that in Jon Tester's case and many, many others, these blogs that he decries, that have vociferously held Bush and Republicans accountible, have played a key role in revealing their dirty dealings and hypocrisy, and have made the difference and put Democrats over the top and into office.

I don't think ignoring the many millions of people who are NOT conservative and who most certainly do NOT want the Dems to run the government in the same unresponsive, radically right wing way is good policy for the Democrats in the years ahead.

It may seem like a radical shift to the left just to get back to the center, but the mistake should not be made of being timid about doing exactly what the majority of Americans want done. And that's not to continue the past 6 years with only a few changes around the edges.

Changing course in D.C. CAN be effective and "responsible" and civil without getting to the left of the center. And that doesn't preclude being tough on Bush and the Republicans and continuing to speak out loudly and strongly against right wing policies and hypocrisy.

Dem candidates across the board won with populist, anti-Bush policy messages and positions. This was NOT a clear sign that the party needs to follow the utterly failed policy of the past where it continued to try to move right and co-opt and imitate the conservative agenda, not realizing that the idea that most of the country agreed with this agenda was a product of massive spin, not reality.

The message of the election surely isn't to continue to chase conservatives to the right, but to stand up for the majority of people with a common sense populist message and a pledge to clean up and put an end to the the corrupt policies of the Bush administration and Republican leadership. And to do this in an effective way to get results. Obviously, this requires a return to the way government is suppposed to work, as opposed to the way Republicans have run things. And it requires working across the aisle and bringing Republicans into the "reality based" community.

Nothing wrong with that.

But to hand-wring and panic that the Dems might somehow turn out to be out of their minds and do nothing but push far-left agendas that are shared only by a fraction of the party itself is, frankly, nuts and way too much worry about nothing. But it does show the person's affinity for a truly conservative Republican agenda, as by trying to spin the mid-terms as a mandate for conservatism, they're joining the Republican's themselves in trying to box Democrats out pre-emptively from following any sort of center-left policy goals.

I think this attempt to hand-cuff Dems and lock them into right wing positions amounts to simply helping to spread the very spin Republicans are attempting to put out.


At 11/16/2006 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone trying to read "tea levaes" is dellusional. Voters where heared into a stampeed. Next week they will feel diffrently. trying to take your wish and make it the Countries' emotions is wacky!

At 11/16/2006 5:06 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Drinking early?

At 11/16/2006 5:46 PM, Blogger demgorilla said...

Newsweek's new poll says that nearly 60% of Americans say they desperately want Democrats to use their new power for moderation and progress, neither or which was pursued by Republicans.

That sums up what I've been saying the last 48 hours on this blog real estate.

It is our best hope for continuing to capture the independent voters, who are the reason Dems won the House and Senate 9 days ago. Let's reward them for their support by proving we can govern, by proving we're responsible.

That may not be as sexy or fun as hyperinflated rhetoric and the politics of personal destruction characterized by the right wing (and some on the left), but it's best for America -- most importantly -- and for Democrats looking ahead.

At 11/16/2006 9:44 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

And my only response is that the Dems have NEVER been known for "hyper-inflated rhetoric" or any of the other stuff you seem to be warning against.

That's why I've been baffled by your supposed argument, if it is one.

You're saying that Dems shouldn't engage in behavior that they almost never have. It just seems weird.

And if you're suggesting that blogs should "mind their manners", then I think you're a bit of a prig, as blogs are not the party and the party is not blogs. And neither do blogs dictate how the debate in D.C. occurs, other than perhaps bringing issues to the fore, etc.

At 11/16/2006 10:47 PM, Blogger demgorilla said...

What the hell are you talking about? Talk radio, Speak Out and blogs are full of hyperinflated rhetoric and practice the politics of personal destruction. They can, because it's all anonymous, no standards, no one is held accountable.

You can't pass that one by me -- you're slick like Rove but not that slick.

At 11/16/2006 11:06 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

So..... I said Dems, meaning those in national office, haven't engaged in "hyper-inflated" rhetoric, and you respond by citing blogs, am radio and speakout?

I just said that none of those represent elected Dems, and none of those three dictate the debate in D.C. other than occasionally exposing an issue or demanding attention to wrong-doing.

I fail to see why you feel that such wide open political speech is somehow going to hurt Democrats, if that's what you're saying. (and frankly, I'm not quite sure what you're going for.)

At 11/16/2006 11:57 PM, Blogger demgorilla said...

Talk radio, Speak Out and blog are full of hyper inflated rhetoric and character assassinations ... that's why people read them. They can be totally irresponsible and full of lies, but who cares, there are no standards of accuracy or accountability. America, free speech, man, get with the program, get some backbone.

At 11/17/2006 2:29 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Another person with extremely limited knowledge of or experience with blogs getting their impressions from inaccurate sources and assuming it's true.

Tell me, just what blogs do you read on a regular basis?

I'm not being harsh when I assume that you really don't know much about blogs or blogging, but have only adopted the usual uninformed opinion of them that those who feel threatened by them usually do.

There most certainly ARE standards on blogs, though I'm not certain you even know what blogs are with any accuracy.

Blogs rise or fall by their standards and content, just as a person or a publication relies on their reputation and standards, so do blogs.

To suggest that all blogs are just full of lies and made up stuff shows both your predjudice and your ignorance.

Though I've made this point repeatedly, apparently there are still those who can't quite pound it into their heads, yourself in cluded.

Blogs are NOT newspapers. Newspapers are not blogs.

Blogs are for those among us who have developed the ability to judiciously process information and, taking into account a wide range of factors including the author, the evidence provided, the sources provided, the veracity or credibility of the source, and a large dose of common sense and experience to judge whether something has the ring of truth.

It also assumes that people are smart enough to realize that if someone comes along, say, praising one candidate while making idiotic assertions about their opponenent, that it's crap and safely ignored.

And I hate to break it to you, but this ability to filter and judge the veracity of what information comes their way is an absolutely essential skill for nearly anyone, whether they get their information from a source which you supposedly feel have "standards", like newspapers, or those who have none, like political PR people paid to skew and distort the truth for their clients.

You always need to be vigilent and realize when something does not make sense, when something is illogical, when something is designed to mislead or cover up, etc.

Blogs aren't the only place where people need to use a sharp sense of skepticism and judgement when getting information. To say so is ignorant.

Again, a person needs to use these critical thinking skills and good judgement when hearing or reading ANY information.

Just because it appears in a newspaper or is on TV obviously does NOT make it a proven fact, obviously.

The best papers in the country routinely get it wrong, are duped into printing hogwash, and worse.

There's really not a huge difference between a responsible blog and a newspaper other than a blog allows people to respond.

Obviously, you don't like that one bit. People are messy and icky and that offends you.

But I'm always on alert, dumping comments which might ruffle your feathers, and only providing those which are "responsible".

It is the height of irony however, that in direct opposition to your priggish offense at people speaking their minds, is the fact that when I don't publish the more "out there" comments, I get roundly torn to bits for "censorship" and accused of not printing things that I don't agree with, etc.

It can't be both ways. Just be thankful that I'm currently trying to sheild your delicate eyeballs from some of the more raw comments.

At 11/17/2006 6:14 AM, Blogger diehard said...

I think that 'Loose Change' should be run on network prime time.
Americans can miss Deal or no Deal and Survivor for one night!

At 11/17/2006 8:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two reasons that people voted democrat.


End of story.

Try and serve it any other way and it is wrong.

At 11/17/2006 2:23 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm always suspect of someone who thinks they possess the absolute truth, especially on something subjective like what won the elections for Dems.

But I'd add to your list, as supported by polling, that Republican corruption from Enron to Abramoff to the gay speed-freak fundy preacher were right up there with the war.

In a real way, the Dem hero in this election should be the gay former prostitute who courageously blew the whistle on the preacher (no bad pun intended, honest)

He did more than a elevator full of blowhard consultants could ever do to swing the undecideds.

At 11/20/2006 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Dope, I will say that my gut seems to be backed up in a poll that was reported in newsweek when voters were asked for the major reason that democrats were able to gain control, 71% cited dissaproval of Bush's job preformance. 85% blamed his handling of the war in Iraq. These two answers were by far the biggest issues.

I'm always suspect of someone who thinks they possess the absolute truth, especially on something subjective like what won the elections for Dems, but here you go again. "In a real way, the Dem hero in this election should be the gay former prostitute who courageously blew the whistle on the preacher (no bad pun intended, honest)" Quated from the Dope above.

At 11/21/2006 1:50 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I stand by that statement. And commenters, not myself, have asserted that they know the answer, period, end of story.

Are you suggesting that the outing of the gay drug using preacher didn't further cement the entire corruption/hypocrisy thing in voters minds? Get real.


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