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Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

MORE BICKERING....Eric Martin is fed up with endless talk about "change":

There is also something else that I'm hoping Hillary's New Hampshire victory does: tamps down the breathless repetition of the "change" meme — in both phrase and concept....I appreciate that Obama has seized on a compelling narrative, but the media's wholesale and uncritical acceptance and dissemination of it has left me scratching my head trying to figure out where the there is.

....For Democratic voters who are uncomfortable with [Dennis Kucinich] — or rightly wonder about his ultimate electability — the candidate promising the next highest quotient of "change" is clearly John Edwards....Yet, curiously enough, Obama has been tagged as the man who would shake up Washington — a new kind of politician with a new kind of message — while Edwards is ignored (or marginalized as "angry") and Clinton is pegged as the hidebound insider.

But I think this misses the point. Obama isn't really campaigning as a person who will change policies any more than Clinton or Edwards, he's campaigning as a person who will change the tone in Washington. He's the anti-bickering candidate.

Kevin Drum 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (58)

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Edwards speaks out against unfettered power of corporations. The corporate media find this unacceptable.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

To my mind, Obama is the only one with a really viable idea of "change." Edwards, while I really like him, simply doesn't seem to have an answer to the fact that you can't just declare that there must be change -- almost the domestic version of Bush and Iraq. Hillary, on the other hand, has her experience, but (a) that experience has made her *way* too cautious about the actual limits of change, and (b) she seems to have nothing to say about how she'll work within the institutions of American governance to produce change, just that she "knows how" to do it -- probably by squeaking things thruough with 50+1 support. Obama, to my mind, is the only one who's articulating a theory in which he works within the legislative system to assemble a broad coalition for progressive change. So I see it as:

Edwards: "Destroy the system!"
Hillary: "Work within the system!"
Obama: "Work within the system in a way that changes the system."

I find the latter by far the most appealing of the three.

Posted by: Daniel Munz on January 9, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Change" is the oldest professional staple of the old politics.

Posted by: RonK, Seattle on January 9, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

The "change" mantra is silly and probably will wear itself out. I saw Obama at a rally with a roomful of people carrying "change" signs and realized how stupid it was. Some consultants and pundits labeled this a "change" election, so everyone jumped on board.

All three democratic candidates agree on virtually everything, so they debate whether presumbably the same changes can best be achieved by hard work, anger or dialogue. How silly is that? Edwards is done. So it comes down to who will win -- Obama's great speeches or Hillary's personality as shaped by focus group/poll driven arguments. Obama seems like the better person, so I hope he wins.

Posted by: brian on January 9, 2008 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Gee Daniel maybe you haven't noticed whats been going on for the past seven years but "the system" has taken a hard beat down by the criminals who have doing a piss poor job of running the country.

Posted by: Gandalf on January 9, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

We got a hell of a lot of change when George W. Bush took office in 2001. It sucked and continues to suck.

Of course, now we have to change in order to undo the damage George W. Bush's change inflicted on us.

Posted by: mccord on January 9, 2008 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, enough of this "change" rubbish. I'm waiting for the candidate who pledges to continue the policies of George W.

Posted by: sally on January 9, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Some consultants and pundits labeled this a "change" election, so everyone jumped on board.

Yeah. The hundreds of millions of Americans who hate Bush's fucking guts and everything this administration stands for are just "jumping on board."

We can all legitimately argue about who and what the Dem candidates are going to change, but the fact remains that in the general, the Democratic candidate is going to be all about change while the Republican nominee is going to be all about continuing Bush's policies. Every single guy in the GOP lineup is running straight for the cliff trying to be more Bush than thou while never actually mentioning Dim Son's name.

It is going to be great fun to watch them defend that against the Democratic candidate.

Posted by: shortstop on January 9, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

We need to change the tone and the policies, but obviously the "change" theme has been around a long time, and one need look back no further than the Combeback Kid himself to find change as the core theme of a presidential campaign.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Changes requires that the GOP is willing to cooperate i some regard.
Hillary personifies the polarized staus quo of DC since 1992. Meaning: regardless of ANY sensibility of her positions as president, Congressional Repubs will oppose her every step merely for the sake of opposing them.
Obama doesn't represent the divide that Newt Gingrich and the 1990s produced culmitaing in the 1998 impeachment trials, the 2000 election debacle, and the 7 Bush years to follow.
She is just the flip side to the same coin, and therefor the "same shit different decade."

Posted by: cboss on January 9, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

A part of my law practice involves helping middle class people deal with debt. I thought that business would die after the new bankruptcy law. For a while it did, but despite the fact that I don't advertise, in the last 6 months I have had more and more people come to my office seeking help. The vast majority of the people I meet are good, honest, hardworking people. Many of them have watched as prices have gone up while their incomes and opportunities have remained stagnant. Others have fallen into debt because they lack health insurance. They have borrowed more and more against their real estate. Many of them are up to their eyeballs in second mortgage debt. Without even trying I am encountering more and more of these middle class people who, through no fault of their own, are falling behind. They see no future for themselves or their children.

What can Hillary do to give them hope? She is in bed with the lobbyists and beltway smart crowd whose policies have damn near destroyed the middle class. The Bush wars have exhausted us financially. She talks about 35 years of change but her husband's signal achievement was NAFTA which has done nothing but further hollow out America. Everything else she points too is pretty small beer.

Lets face it, the overt policies of the United States government during this last 8 years have been to fleece the middle class and drive money to the very rich. We haven't experienced such a monolithic pro corporatist government in 100 years.

John Edwards is on to something real. Change is going happen. The current death spiral can't continue. If it goes on much longer there are going to be horrible times ahead.

The choice is ours. Do we want to get ahead of the curve or do we want to wait tell something really bad happens. One thing is for sure the beltway smart people will never advocate for real change. That is why I have a hard time supporting Hillary. She has to make a case that she really gets it and is willing to do something that might really change our course.

Posted by: corpus juris on January 9, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see more debates with actually more concrete talk about change and what the candidates differences really are, rather than just mostly talking about having differences and making change.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Obama, to my mind, is the only one who's articulating a theory in which he works within the legislative system to assemble a broad coalition for progressive change.

What exactly does this theory consist of other than vague bromides about bipartianship and seats at the table?

Posted by: demisod on January 9, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

why does anyone think there's some magical common ground between liberals and conservatives?

No one does. These jackasses define "bipartisanship" as Democrats rolling over for Republicans.

Come to think of it, so do many Democrats...

Posted by: Gregory on January 9, 2008 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

brian seems to understand the dynamic, here. What we have is a bunch of Democrats that pretty much agree about what needs to be done and are running on similar policy platforms.

What that leaves is a group of aesthetic/tonal differences that we're deciding over. This is an echo of the post below regarding whether people want "bipartisanship" or not. The Democratic primary is an example of what happens: just a bunch of mutual wankery followed by disputes over nothing between the candidates.

Other speculation: Obama won Iowa on the back of a campaign centered around "I have better judgment!" and stumbled in new hampshire by drinking is own kool-aid about "change" and "bringing people together" as a reason to vote for him.

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Change is just shorthand for Anybody But Bush;>

Posted by: Martin on January 9, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

he's campaigning as a person who will change the tone in Washington. He's the anti-bickering candidate.

I remain convinced that this is a tactic, not a strategy. Obama's "tone" is meant to be an ablative insulator against the Republican mud machine, i.e., to increase the cost of attacking him.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 9, 2008 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Obama isn't really campaigning as a person who will change policies any more than Clinton or Edwards, he's campaigning as a person who will change the tone in Washington. He's the anti-bickering candidate.

Nice job trivializing Obama there, Kevin. And here I thought Obama was playing to win by broadening the Democratic coalition beyond the 48.3% loser of 2004.

Posted by: Lucy on January 9, 2008 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good heavens! Politicians are talking about "change" this time around? How unexpected! Revolutionary!!

I believe if you review any recent election, you'll find that "change" as a campaign theme is about as unexpected as hot dogs at a ball game.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on January 9, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin quotes Eric Martin that after Dennis Kucinich, "the candidate promising the next highest quotient of 'change' is clearly John Edwards ... while Edwards is ignored (or marginalized as 'angry') ..."

Kucinich is ignored and marginalized as eccentric or even crazy; Edwards' second-place finish in Iowa, ahead of Clinton, is ignored and Edwards is marginalized as "angry".

That's what the corporate-owned media does to any candidate who really proposes change.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 9, 2008 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Demisod --

Understanding that all of these require some level of assumption about the candidates, I think Obama has a few things going for him. Everything you hear about him indicates a real talent for bringing people around to his side of the issue, both legislatively and in terms of community organizing. He's the only candidate who has any kind of real (i.e. on his resume) experience in what, to my mind, will be the most vital skill in our next Democratic president: Building, as he puts it, "a working majority for change" -- a new progressive coalition. With the GOP having been reduced to its base, there's rarely been a more opportune moment to unite some of the unmoored factions in American politics into a new, left-leaning coalition. Hillary, by contrast, would probably solidify opposition more quickly, focus less on bringing new elements into the process and engaging adversaries. Edwards, I think, has the right mindset but hasn't, to my mind, displayed much palpable skill in this area.

You sometimes hear people say Obama could be "a liberal Reagan," which I take to mean simply that he has a potentially bigger upside than Hillary, but also a bigger downside. Hillary could probably push a program through Congress with 51% support. But that thinking represents a level of risk-aversion that I think is totally unwarranted given the political moment that we find ourselves in. I'd rather give a chance to a strategy that, while it has higher odds of failure, is also the only one with a chance of building widespread, lasting, deeply-ingrained support for progressive policy measures.

Posted by: Daniel Munz on January 9, 2008 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Well, to be fair, there are any number of "changes" that could be made in Washington to reduce the level of partisanship. A fair number of them would fall within the purview of the Congress, but certainly the President can do things like actually nominate centrists to the Federal bench, give the opposition party representation within the cabinet, avoid abuse of patronage, make sure the entire political spectrum is represented on things like commissions, and so forth. All well and good, but I fail to see how that automatically leads to consensus. I suppose you could argue that excessive partisanship leads to measures that are dead on arrival, so singing Kumbaya clears that hurdle. But people feel pretty strongly about politics. At the end of the day you can still have people respectfully agreeing to disagree.

Posted by: demisod on January 9, 2008 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

demisod, what you are describing is exactly what Clinton did, particularly in his 2nd term.

Are we going to argue that 1996-2000 were the bipartisan golden years?

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama isn't really campaigning as a person who will change policies any more than Clinton or Edwards, he's campaigning as a person who will change the tone in Washington. He's the anti-bickering candidate."

My concern with Obama is how does "anti-bickering" differ from appeasement of Republicans?

Posted by: fidelio on January 9, 2008 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

I heard Senator Obama interviewed on NPR this morning. When he was pressed about what his health care plan is, he basically said that he would get bi-partisan support for a plan and push it through. He avoided details by saying there is more to reform thatn just specific policies. You have to get the policies accepted by a broad coalition.

My problem with this is that if he gets elected with such a vague position, what happens to all of his support when he finally does put forth a plan? Will it evaporate when people see the details? Isn't it better to elaborate more in your campaign and try to sell you position in order to get a mandate?

Posted by: sjw on January 9, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Lucy: "And here I thought Obama was playing to win by broadening the Democratic coalition beyond the 48.3% loser of 2004."

Really? After several weeks of watching Sen. Obama's supporters on this blog heap what I initially perceived as abuse, scorn and ridicule upon Democrats who dared to support other candidates, I apologize for having thus concluded otherwise. Thank you for clearing that up for us.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 9, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK


But I think this misses the point. Obama isn't really campaigning as a person who will change policies any more than Clinton or Edwards, he's campaigning as a person who will change the tone in Washington. He's the anti-bickering candidate.

I think that's even worse. Didn't W come to DC saying he was going to change the tone. I believe that was the exact phrase he used... change the tone in Washington.

My concern with Obama, and Clinton as well, is they are too willing to compromise and not firm enough to push through the changes this country needs and desires.

Posted by: gyolland on January 9, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I love the irony of brian, everyone's favorite faux-reasonable concern troll and idiotic GOP talking-point pusher, posting The "change" mantra is silly and probably will wear itself out. immediately after RonK noted, correctly, that "Change" is the oldest professional staple of the old politics..

Blow over? You wish, tool. The American people -- Democrat, Republican, and Independent -- are dissatisfied with the direction of the country and with the mess Bush and the Republicans have made of this country. Rove's so-called "permanent Republican majority" is going the way of the pet rock, thanks to the kind of 50%+1 politics the GOP actually practices.

Decent Americans of all stripes are sick of the Republican wedding of government and corporate power. It's easy to see why those who control the vast majority of wealth in this country are scared -- despite controlling the media and paying useful idiots to post disingenuous bullshit on liberal Web sites -- but Americans want change, and they're going to elect a candidate who can deliver.

As was pointed out upthread, the Democrats have several who can deliver. The Republicans, not so much.

Enjoy the next eight years, jackass. Something tells me we'll see less disingenuous faux-reasonable concern trolling out of you and more of the vitriol you expressed toward Murtha, whose boots you aren't fit to lick.

You lick Republican boots instead. Shame on you.

Posted by: Gregory on January 9, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Tyro: "Are we going to argue that 1996-2000 were the bipartisan golden years?"

I don't know. Are you going to continue to insinuate that we Democrats were somehow responsible for the GOP's extraordinary amount of vitriole directed at both the Clinton Administration and all levels of our party?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 9, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

A fair number of them would fall within the purview of the Congress, but certainly the President can do things like actually nominate centrists to the Federal bench, give the opposition party representation within the cabinet, avoid abuse of patronage, make sure the entire political spectrum is represented on things like commissions, and so forth.

Just to pick one of those examples, suppose the new Democratic president nominates "centrists" (whatever that is) to the Federal bench? Well, after eight years of Bush nominating far right-wingers to the Federal bench, the result would be a bench composed of centrists and far right-wingers, i.e. a bench that tilts to the right. To actually restore balance the President will have to nominate liberal, progressive judges to act as a counterweight to the imbalance created by Bush. But of course if he does that, the mainstream media will squeal that he's not being fair and bi-partisan, and the end result is to righ the game in the Republicans' favor.

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2008 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's "tone" is meant to be an ablative insulator against the Republican mud machine...

Yes, but the question is: Will it work against their accusative conductor?

Posted by: Econobuzz on January 9, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Gore/Edwards 08: "Edwards speaks out against unfettered power of corporations. The corporate media find this unacceptable."

Edwards failed to speak out in his 2004 debate with Dick Cheney. I found that unacceptable.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 9, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Donald, my point was that Clinton did all of the happy-talk "bipartisan" things, and the republicans flayed him and the democrats, anyway.

So I'm agreeing with you. I'm trying to point out the flaws in demisod's arguments.

Posted by: Tyro on January 9, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

You can quibble about the relative degrees to which any of the Democrats would implement change (oh, and do we ever do that), but the fact is that any one of them will, most assuredly, provide a significant and welcome break with the past eight years. Without doing a single thing, the two Democratic front runners, by virtue of nothing else but their DNA, embody enormous change. What kills me about this whole change meme, though, is the fact that Republicans are desperately trying to exploit it. Republicans! Seriously, they've had the Executive for two terms, and they've had -- until recently -- a dozen years of basically owning Congress. By filibustering, they've been able to continue their stranglehold on the Congressional agenda. I would just love to see some whizbang kid like Tweety stick a microphone in front of McCain/Romney/Giuliani to ask them which of the Republican policies needs changing most desperately? Their fucked up economic policy? Their fucked up environmental policy? Their fucked up health-care policy? Their fucked up foreign-policy? Which is it, boys?

Posted by: junebug on January 9, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Donald from Hawaii,

Since I've resurfaced just this past week I'm unaware of the abusive Obama faction you describe. Not sure why a few commentators should be held accountable for the election strategy of a major contender, however?

I am surprised by and do protest the readiness here to dismiss Obama as a charismatic charlatan with no there there and thank Daniel Munz for making the case so well.

Posted by: Lucy on January 9, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

All the platitudes currently being spewed about how Obama can bring folks together in a bipartisan manner to make Washington "change" are completely worthless. Words aren't what are going to get progressive legislation thru. It is going to take meatgrinder politics - the ability to be able to negotiate and compromise with the other side, the lobbyists, the corporations, and other large interest groups such as NRA, etc. that wield big sticks.

Its just the reality. There are 4 people on the democratic side who actually know how to do this - Clinton, Richardson, Biden and Dodd. But right now the latter 3 are spewing policy that is too far left for the independents to be comfortable enough to vote for. Edwards is basically committing hari-kari by saying he will go after big corporations - they will certainly go on the warpath if he gains better acceptance.

INKBLOT FOR PRESIDENT '08

Posted by: optical weenie on January 9, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, but the question is: Will it work against their accusative conductor?

I have just uplinked your coordinates to my vocative extruder, so watch it, bucko!
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 9, 2008 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

I hope your tongue was in your cheek when you wrote that last sentence, Kevin. Surely you don't think that a promise to end bickering in Washington deserves to be taken seriously as a platform for "change." As one of the previous commenters noted, the promise to end partisan bickering was one of the major themes of W's 2000 election campaign. Remember his bragging how well he had gotten along with the Dems in the Texas legislature? Eric Martin's post was right on target.

Posted by: Tony Greco on January 9, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you think Edwards will wind up trying to hook up with one of the other two (more likely Obama) to try to get the VP slot again or something else he wants? He presumably knows that he has virtually no chance of the nomination, and in view of his ambition, isn't it just a matter of when he makes his offer to join up with someone else?

Posted by: brian on January 9, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps the voters are just tired of acrimony or maybe it is rancor. Is it just me or has there been an upsurge in cries for decency and cooperation since Republican power was diminished, the media started getting called out by all sides, and the DLC got challenged by the progressives on their left?

The goal of movement conservatism is to make government fail. They will defund it, tie it in red tape, overcharge, outsource, corrupt and obstruct whatever they can whenever they can. They WANT the voters to have the impression that government is hopeless. They go so far as to say, as Newt Gingrich said, that they intend to purge even the language of collective action. The only thing Republicans have a positive agenda for is the security necessary for wealth accumulation. Anyone who does not get this has not been paying attention.


Posted by: bellumregio on January 9, 2008 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

he's campaigning as a person who will change the tone in Washington. He's the anti-bickering candidate.

Hmmm, where have I heard that before (circa 2000)

Posted by: Simp on January 9, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Hillary is the candidate of the status quo, and represents the past (Bill's tenure). Obama and Edwards represent change, and Obama is more charismatic. I'm for Obama. I don't think he's all style with no substance.

Posted by: Daydream Believer on January 9, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's Four Changes (The Idea Anway)

Change (1): change in mindset of Dem politicians and policy elites that led/leads to sincere support/calculating capitulation to old policies pushed by Reps, e.g. Iraq in the past, Iran in the future.

Change (2): new policies. Broad similarities among Dems, but see differences in e.g. foreign policy due to change (1).

Change (3): new style. Begins with Prez. Tones down rhetoric; disagrees without being disagreeable; etc. Sets norms of discourse for all politicians, enforced by popularity of this style.

Change (4): new coalition of Dems, Indies, and the occasional Rep *voters*. Broad base of support translates into political power, providing support for or pressure on legislators -- a popular prez is hard to oppose without price.

New mindset appeals to netroot-type Dems. New policies appeal to regular Dems. New style appeals to Indies, youth, and disaffected Reps. Adds up to new coalition of voters that gets substantive policy changes through legislators from bottom up. Will probably have to remain a dog whistle pitch to Dems who will get their policies enacted as a result. Presented more overtly for Indies as "broad support to take on special interests".

Skeptical Dems either don't hear the whistle, or do hear it but disagree that a broad, shallow-in-parts coalition will be effective against narrow, deep opposition. What we need is not the strength in numbers of wide popularity, but insider ninja skills.

Personally, I think of Reagan picking up all those Dems and Reagan Democrats, and I think Obama has the better side of the argument. But reasonable people disagree! Fun, fun.

Posted by: Dug on January 9, 2008 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Significant "change" will not come from inside the political system. The system cannot effect change upon itself as it has become structurally corrupt. [i.e. corruption is an intregal part of the system itself].

Significant change will only occur when the people find a leader to voice and mobilize their frustrations. Change must be pushed from below... with enough pressure that it cannot be denied or held up by the established powers.

Kucinich may have the progressive ideas, but he is not the charismatic figure required to catalyze action. Obama may not have all the the progressive ideas but he has the charisma to get the people motivated... how much and in what directions? Dunno. Maybe we will get a chance to see.

The rest of the candidates... well, I'm afraid they are'business as usual' on both the left and right. Some progressive things may (or may not) happen but you won't really see much of that elusive 'change'.

Posted by: Buford on January 9, 2008 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

When Obama speaks hoary platitudes about change and hope my eyes glaze over. When he gets specific and talks about getting out of Iraq, getting healthcare for everyone, getting off of our addiction to oil, I sit up in my seat.

Who are these people who want so badly to believe in a politician? A politician is just a man or a woman. They're deal makers and salesmen, not heroes. I just don't get it.

I find the signs all over Obama rallies with the word "CHANGE" on them to be just silly. But that's politics for you. George Bush got people to think of him as a great leader by using the word "leadership" in every other sentence in 2000. Obama should probably stick with this approach. I'm sure it'll work.

Posted by: Rob Mac on January 9, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't GWB going to change the tone in Washington?

Posted by: Bluegrass Poet on January 9, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

....For Democratic voters who are uncomfortable with [Dennis Kucinich] — or rightly wonder about his ultimate electability — the candidate promising the next highest quotient of "change" is clearly John Edwards....Yet, curiously enough, Obama has been tagged as the man who would shake up Washington — a new kind of politician with a new kind of message — while Edwards is ignored (or marginalized as "angry") and Clinton is pegged as the hidebound insider.

Bolding mine. It wasn't Dem voters who applied these tags. It was Obama, the press, and the blogosphere, respectively. That's oversimplifying a bit, but the point is there's no contradiction between what Dem voters are doing, and the application of these tags.

In particular, the way the press plays things has a major effect on what voters do. If the press ignores Edwards, then a lot of voters aren't going to notice him, or are going to assume without even thinking about it that he's an also-ran. So in their search for Kucinich-lite, they disregard Edwards, not because of some failing of Edwards, or some bad decision-making on their part, but because the media skilfully nudged them away from thinking about Edwards to begin with.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on January 9, 2008 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Obama could demonstrate that his rhetoric means something by persuading 9 Republican Senators to vote for cloture on bills to cut off funding for the Iraq war. If he can't do it in the Senate Chamber, how will he do it from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue ?

Posted by: H-Bob on January 9, 2008 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

@H-Bob

Oh no, that's to easy. You're just trying to make him look good.

He won't get my support unless he can persuade Dick Cheney to commit seppuku on national television.

Jackass.

Posted by: Adam on January 9, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Obama isn't really campaigning as a person who will change policies any more than Clinton or Edwards, he's campaigning as a person who will change the tone in Washington.

I don't think so. Edwards and Clinton want to increase the federal entitlements and increase the taxes to pay for them. This pits the old vs. the young, the insecure vs the secure, the pessimists vs the optimists, the poor vs. the unpoor, etc. Obama wants the young and the old to unite together in a sustainable solution. Clinton and Edwards treat people who oppose tax increases or federal expansions as adversaries; Obama wants to enlist some people who oppose tax increases and federal expansions to work with him to create something no one else in the Democratic party is proposing -- whatever that is.

Bush tried to bridge the poles by proposing "compassionate conservatism" -- but he was not nearly smart and well-informed enough to bring it off. Obama is proposing something more like "libertarian liberalism" (don't hold him accountable for this phrase.) He is smart and well-informed enough to bring it off, if it can be brought off.

When Clinton talks about "change" she means giving the unions more of what they want. When Obama talks about change, he means liberalism without union domination. Or something like that.

Perhaps you could say that Clinton wants more statism ("it takes a government to raise a child"), whereas Obama wants "progressivism without statism".

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on January 9, 2008 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Obama wants to enlist some people who oppose tax increases and federal expansions to work with him to create something no one else in the Democratic party is proposing -- whatever that is.

Wow. That was the most breathtakingly ill-informed comment I've seen in a long time. Can you offer *anything* to support any of what you claim about the Democratic candidates? Not that she isn't friendly to labor, but what, pray tell, is it that you think the unions want, and what has Clinton done or said that tells you she aims to deliver exactly that?

I'm not even going to ask what progressivism-without-statism is. I wouldn't want you to pull a muscle.

Posted by: junebug on January 9, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

The comment by MatthewRmarler (no offense intended) illustrates for me something that I've noticed among some Obama supporters: that they have made Mr. Obama into some sort of Tabula Rasa , upon whom they have projected all of their hopes, and all of their ideas on how to run a good government. In other words, they may not have any idea what Mr. Obama will actually do once he achieves the Presidency, but they know that he will do it righteously.

But I like Mr. Obama. And as an underemployed person with no health insurance, I like Mr. Edwards, too; he speaks for me. And I trust that Mrs. Clinton is up to the job. It's a good day to be a Democrat!

Posted by: bbo on January 9, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

The comment by MatthewRmarler (no offense intended) illustrates for me something that I've noticed among some Obama supporters...

I have no idea which candidate MRm plans on voting for, but I'd be surprised if it were any Democrat. His occasional posts usually have something to do with why the WarrenTerra is necessary & good, and why the President isn't contemptibly incompetent, but a misunderstood genius. He's in no way representative of Obama supporters.

Posted by: junebug on January 9, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is implicitly blaming the victim(s) with this "no more bickering" "I can get along with them" garbage. He is implying that Democrats bear a large share of the blame for the tone in Washington. This is delusional. The right wing attack machine had no problem smearing John Kerry, a decorated war hero, by claiming he had lied to get his medals. They accused the Clintons of everything up to and including murder (and a lot of people believed them). They attacked Gore as a liar by lying about things he said. AND our vaunted mainstream media went right along with all of this.
How does Obama think he will stop this? The Swift Boat crowd are already going after him with lies about him being a closet radical Muslim, and I am already hearing from people who believe it.

Posted by: BernieO on January 9, 2008 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Escuse me, but aren't most elections about change anyway? Either we want change the whole thing, or we just want to change some things, but elections are all about changes. . . some want change, others don't - frankly, I want change - but I WANT SPECIFICS.

Posted by: Cymric on January 9, 2008 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is talking from a community organizer's perspective. He says change but he means paradigm shift. Tall order for sure. I hear him saying he will mobilize The People into a coalition of agreement that will force change in DC. It's not about Repubs and Dems in DC all making nice because he says so.

As everyone else has jumped on the change bandwagon, the word has lost its meaning. For instance, when Hillary insists she has been a lifelong agent of change, I think, "More accurately, you're an agent of Improvement." If Hillary were a natural change agent, we would have gotten health care in 93.

In his speech in NH Tuesday night, Obama seemed to be moving on from the word change to a YES, WE CAN call to action that would be central to the collective coalition notion.

I'm finding the whole "conversation" quite, quite fascinating.

Posted by: Victoria on January 10, 2008 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Anti-bickering" is bull. Politics always involves lots of bickering, because people always disagree on issues, big and small.

There are only two questions for a voter: how close are the candidate's feelings to your own, and how effective will they be at getting their way?

Obama hasn't given me reason to believe either. As far as I can tell he feels a lot of hope and really believes in himself. Other that that, I can't tell what he wants to do ("change the tone" is a standard non-incumbent political prop, used by both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in their first races) or how effective he'll be in doing it.

Hillary Clinton may waffle and play political games, but I've got good reason to know where she'll roughly fall and how effective she'll be. John Edwards has a very clear vision of his policies, while his effectiveness is unknown and likely highly dependent upon Congress.

Posted by: M on January 12, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

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online backgammon - http://www.nacr.net/ Posted by: online backgammon on February 1, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK
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