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When I read progressive op-eds or liberal blogs, I get the feeling that the audience is the President himself, that their ultimate goal is to either inspire or goad him to do the thing that they believe in. The idea seems to be that the President should stake out the liberal position and defend it with the bully pulpit. The actual audience for these blogs is a small subset of the left wing, who are, of course, already believers, and they are being rallied around the cause.
When you watch Fox News or listen to right wing radio, however, you see and hear something different. Their audience is rarely the President, even when he is a Republican, and what they are saying is not directed only at true believers. It is true that true believers are in their audience, and it is also true that without these true believers, they wouldn’t be able to build an audience at all, but nonetheless, their audience is broader — it is everyone on the right, and anyone who happens to tune in.
While the left is building a case for why they are correct and trying to dismantle the case of the other side, the right starts with the de facto position that a case does not need to made at all. The starting point is that the conservative position is merely reality and the liberal position is hogwash - the US is a Christian nation and that taxes are the ultimate evil and Democrats are the ones doing all the spending and Rupert Murdoch is a victim of persecution, don’t you see?
This drives me crazy, but it works. A tip of the hat, assholes!
The genius of Bill Clinton - what has been called “Clintonian triangulation” - was staking out a policy position that differed from the Democratic Party and which took ideas from the Republicans.
The genius of George W. Bush was that he positioned himself publicly as a reasonable “compassionate conservative” but actually pushed incredibly right wing positions.
The genius of Barack Obama is that he is able to stay above the political fray while actually advocating for things the left wants — health care reform, gays in the military, the end of DOMA, closing Guantanamo. It is true that he does not always achieve the ultimate goals of the left, but given the poisonous rancor he faces, it’s still rather remarkable what he has gotten done. His genius is that the louder the right gets, the more anger and rage and stubborn refusal to compromise that they throw at him, the stronger his bargaining position, because his public image is about seeming pragmatic and reasonable. This only enrages the right more.
What weakens Obama’s position is, ironically, that the left has acquiesced far too quickly on too many things. We gave up on our fight for the public option and instead were angry at Republicans for the fact that we gave and gave and gave and they took and took and took and still weren’t happy. They’re jackals, what did we expect? But ultimately, we followed the President’s lead and gave in.
But what many don’t seem to realize is that Obama needs a liberal base that actually opposes his position; he requires the left to be equally loud and obnoxious, so that he can convince the wide middle of the country that he is the adult in the room. If he is to achieve what we want, he needs there to be something like the Tea Party on the left, something vocal and borderline insane.
So, if we want to strengthen the President’s bargaining position, we have to do what should come naturally, we must fight for left leaning positions and we must do so vigorously. This seems obvious, but isn’t, because it seems to me that deep down, the left wants to support the President and only reluctantly criticizes him. When he goes for the middle, many of us concede, at least internally, that we know his position is more tenable than our own. By building his election campaign on pure emotional appeal - hope - he forged a connection with his supporters that was deep. So while we are disappointed that he hasn’t been a forceful advocate of the left, we still can’t help but love the guy.
Stories that say that Obama is losing the support of his base are therefore very wrong when they conclude he is losing bargaining power. He is losing bargaining power because the left have swallowed horseshit without complaint. With our mouth full, thank you sir, may I have another?
Our arguments whither.
We need to find a way to be as angry and vocal as the right, to push for the most progressive causes. That is to say, we need to not support the President in order to support him. This kind of political judo is something the left is pretty bad at, but it is the sort of thing the right is very good at. So we have our challenges.
In short, we need to realize that the job of the vocal left is not to convince the President so that he can convince America. Our job is to convince America directly.
The President knows what he’s doing, and it has nothing to do with catering to the base. Since he is not running toward us, but away from us, the left should stop trying so hard to be his best buddy. The left needs to make its case to the American people directly and to find a way to oppose the President in public while supporting him privately. The further left we push, the more we move the middle towards us.
Most importantly, and I say this directly to myself, for I am equally guilty of it, stop blaming Obama. It’s not his fault that we didn’t believe him when he campaigned as post-partisan. It’s not his fault that we have done a crappy job convincing America of our vision. It’s not his fault that we all thought our job was over when his job began, that the cause ended with a big party in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2009.
Via my buddy Onkel Chrispy, Aeron Alfey over at Monster Brains scanned and cleaned up over ninety amazing Ken Reid drawings from the seventies. Here’s the Flickr gallery. They’re all pun-named monsters, many based on famous landmarks. Sort of a precursor to Garbage Pail Kids, I guess. A few of my favorites:
A quantity of marijuana or hashish, ostensibly worth $50, but which has been taxed. By “taxed” is meant that the drug has been procured through a middle-man, who has taken some of the product for himself, secretly (or, to use the vernacular, “on the sly”), as covert payment for his services. Whilst taxing is standard procedure among Marijuana Addicts, the Gay Man’s Fifty is distinctive because it is taxed excessively: the marijuana is so heavily taxed that it is thought (by the middle-man) that the intended recipient will not accept it. It being a seller’s market, fortunately for the middle-man, the recipient always does.
"Yo, I thought that dude was my cuz, but he sold me a gay man’s fifty, son!"
Do people say this? Please tell me that this is not an actual thing that people say. Thing is, I can understand (though not tolerate) people’s use of angry slurs. They usually come from a point of rage. But this makes no sense to me. I don’t get it and I don’t want to get it.
Well, jeez. How do I feel? Such a complicated range of emotions.
I mean, first I was in denial. “This is just a joke,” I thought, but then I became angry. Really angry. “This is unfair! It’s an outrage!” Then I thought about how much time is left before the price hike. “I just want to hold on to both DVDs and streaming until HBO gets on there.” But that’s total bullshit, it’s never gonna happen. I found it all so depressing. “Why bother watching movies or TV at all? What’s the point.” But then I accepted it. “It’s going to be OK. I can’t fight it, I might as well prepare for it.”
Also: my balls dropped, my voice got deeper, and I became a man.
The good thing about biking to and from a night of drinking and watching a rock show is that you get some exercise done. PBR’s and biking go together like beards and dock shoes, but I was not built for this. I live at the top of a goddamned giant hill, so by the time I got home tonight, I was a sweaty disgusting mess. Clarification: a sweaty disgusting drunken mess. So I got on Turntable.fm in my boxers and spun a bunch of punk and garage tunes about drinking and partying. (Not many songs about sweating.) Now it’s 12:22 and I’m still kind of sweaty and I should probably shower.
Note to self: you are 35 years old. Grow the fuck up.