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Tilting at Windmills

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July 9, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS....Is Barack Obama more of a straight-up populist than anyone is giving him credit for? Nathan Newman makes the case.

Kevin Drum 3:11 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Dude ain't Jesus, people. Lighten up.

Posted by: the fake fake al on July 9, 2008 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus or not, there is absolutely no excuse for voting for the FISA bill. As the de facto leader of the party, he should have stood up on this one.

I bet it's not ok for me to break the law now and ask for retroactive immunity.

I have been volunteering, canvassing and doing voter registration for Obama. No more.

Posted by: Matt in Eugene on July 9, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Dude ain't Jesus, but does Obama have principles? Newman is nothing more than an apologist for Obama - so the gov. can ignore laws anyway, so don't get your panties in a bunch over FISA? What's the point of any law restricting the government then? What's the point of the Constitution? Useless..

Posted by: Andy on July 9, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

He raises some interesting points, though I think he glosses over the massive potential for abuses under this new (and unnecessary) iteration of FISA.

I think, though, that he could add to his list of Obama's populist positions by including his commitment to net neutrality, as well as cracking down on mortgage fraud & predatory credit card policies. And while Obama's health-care policy falls short of the populist ideal that Clinton established with hers, it's light years ahead of McCain's.

Posted by: junebug on July 9, 2008 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

i guess Huey Long was a populist too as was Huckleberry. Do not ever confuse populist with progressive and do not confuse either with liberal or libertarian. I feel betrayed by Obama not because he is not very liberal or libertarian or even progressive, but because he is a lying sack of sh*t like every other politician out there who has absolutely no values or leadership skills and simply panders to try and get enough votes. Unlike Newman, I consider the Bill of Rights including the Fourth Amendment to be very important. I do not think I would have an ounce of patriotism toward a country that did not have the equivelent of the Bill of Rights. I also think social security is very important because a lot of people are going to be eating tainted cat food from China without it, yet Obama has given the mouthbreathers a basis for finally killing it by suggesting that it be turned into a welfare program and all so he can get money from the well to do without raising their income taxes. The guy is a fraud and I for one will be writing Hillary's name in on my general election ballot and I do not much care for her either.

Posted by: terry on July 9, 2008 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

My goodness, the orange blossoms are in full bloom today!

Posted by: optical weenie on July 9, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

How is social security not a welfare program? Both are essentially giving you money to support yourself while not working.

Posted by: Sojourner on July 9, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

LOL

obama is a corporate shill that voted YES on FISA and telecom immunity, capitulating to the most unpopular president in modern US history and most likely all time.

Ask people in Chicago Housing whether he represented their interests - the answer is a resounding NO!

Call his campaign and tell them what you think 866-675-2008.

Hillary voted NO - obama is a sell-out. Those that give out to corporate interests on fundamental issues that our country was founded on DO NOT have any credentials as populist candidates.

Is it too late to wrestle the nomination away from this shill? Don't vote for this man - he will sell-you-out.

He is not a "progressive" candidate. He is another DINO like pelosi and reid.

Posted by: on July 9, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

terry: Do not ever confuse populist with progressive and do not confuse either with liberal or libertarian

I won't confuse populist with progressive as long as Pat Buchanan is a populist.

Posted by: anandine on July 9, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Populist has become synonymous with demagogue in America to belittle the populist progressive movements of a century ago. The Graingers were populists who wanted national economic policies to favor small land holders rather than the large railroads that were earning monopoly rents from them.

The eight hour day, the five day work week and laws preventing child labor were populist accomplishments that were opposed by the McDodo's of the time. American populism was a combination of utilitarianism and socialism, something America needs to guide its domestic political economy policies again.

Posted by: Brojo on July 9, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, I agree that populism has been a force for good. I just think it is not necessarily linked with liberalism. There is a nasty nativist branch of populism that gets its voice in Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs and has been a force for evil. I do not think Obama is in that branch.

Posted by: anandine on July 9, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

I would not be too distracted from the fact that the next president will either be McCain or Obama. Those are your choices, and you should consider which you prefer, and work to make it happen.

And if you really think that there is not any difference between them, then do please look harder. On any issue I can think of (except for biofuels, ugh) Obama is closer to the sensible position than McCain. 4 or 8 more years of Republican rule would be ruinous; think of the supreme court judges McCain would appoint, think of how he would damage the economy with his bullshit approach to balancing the budget. I notice that nobody even bothered complaining about McCain's FISA vote -- we take it for granted that it will be wrong, don't we?

Posted by: dr2chase on July 9, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sojourner, Social security has always involved an intergenerational transfer (which makes McCain's remarks on the topic particularly ludicrous),but apart from an insurance aspect, you generally get back in some proportion to what you and your employer put in. Some people get back little because they die early and some people get back more because they live a long time. It has never been a take from the rich and give to the poor program until Obama raised the idea of the doughnut and start taxing incomes over $250K. This is so wrong it is hard to count the ways. To begin with social security is grossly overfunded at the moment and Dumbya has used that overfunding to hide the true size of his defecit spending. Some overfunding makes sense because of the Boomers retirement,(social security currently has a savings component to it but that was not the original intent and is not required by law), but the real danger is that the overfunding will get out of hand and like the national debt which grows by leaps and bounds because of the interest that is due, social security could fall into the same situation. In short Obama's proposal fixes something that ain't broke and adds to the possibility that our children will not have to pay social security taxes but will have to pay a lot of income taxes to pay the interest due the trust fund. The poor and lower middle class do not pay much income tax so suddenly we have a welfare payment. That is in addition to the welfare payment being made immediately by those making more than $250 K a year. I do not have an ideologic problem with the concept of welfare, but a lot of people do and we all saw what happened in the 90's when we had a Democratic president. There are a lot of wealthy Republicans in this country who feel about social security the way the president of Iran feels about Israel. Obama plays right into their hands and he does so for the most venal of reasons--he wants more cash flow from the near rich and rather than raise their income taxes--an honest thing to do, he is going to try and backdoor it and if social security dies in the process so be it

Posted by: terry on July 9, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I notice that nobody even bothered complaining about McCain's FISA vote -- we take it for granted that it will be wrong, don't we?

Actually, if you're going to take anything for granted about McCain's votes, you can take it for granted that he won't be there to cast them. Absent, yet again.

Posted by: on July 9, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

obama fraudulently won lead in delegates by lying about what he actually stands for. Hillary voted NO

Contact here presidential campaign (she has not released her delegates) and let them know we need a candidate with the backbone to stand up to an administration and republican agenda that the nation overwhelmingly rejects.

Hillary Clinton for President
703 469 2008
Press option 3

A choice between a fast-talking liar that votes with bush administration and a senile dolt that votes for the administration is not an honest election.

If we are going to install a facist regime, dismembering the constitution, let the history books show it was because of the REPUBLICANS and not because of some "need" to "compromise" with a president that is more unpopular than richard nixon when he resigned.

obama has shown who he really works for - he's not about "change" or "yes we can."

Its about bush's third term.

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

In the immortal words of Joe E. Brown, "Well, nobody's perfect."

And some much less than others. I don't see Obama as some kind of panacea. I do see the choice of him over McCain as the US sending a message heard around the world, namely, "we are not a bunch pathetic fuckwads."

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on July 9, 2008 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

e henry,

nobody expects obama to be perfect...but he could compromise on something less consequential than eviscerating the Fourth Amendment.

Posted by: Matt in Eugene on July 9, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Sojourner,
Working is so 20th century.

Posted by: slanted tom on July 9, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Demagoguery is what Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs and Huey Long practice/ed. Populism was so successful at reigning in the power of the railroads, coal mines and other industries that it had to be discredited as nativist demagoguery.

Historically, American populist movements are known by the names they have for their organizations, while demagogue movements are known by the individuals who use nativist talking points for their popularity.

__________________________________________

McCain will kill more civilians than Obama.

Vote for Cynthia McKinney if you cannot vote for Obama.

Posted by: Brojo on July 9, 2008 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the only "case" Newman makes is that Obama's Kool-Aid is tasty.

Flash: Clinton the "elitist" voted NO on the FISA bill; BO voted YES.

Specific to Newman, Obama still opposes gay marriages, and still says gay marriage issues should be left to the states. That's a HUGE fucking pander.

Condemned bad trade deals? Let's not forget Austen Goolsbee's under the table talk to Canada during the primary season.

The bankruptcy bill, and the tax deal? As long as Goldman Sachs is BO's top campaign contributor, color me skeptical.

And, speaking of “populism,” the Green Party convention starts tomorrow. And, no, Ralph Nader is NOT a Green Party presidential candidate.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 9, 2008 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Matt:

I see a lot of his actions as pandering to get elected. No shock there. And why compromise any principles? To get elected? By who? By the American voting public. I would be very, very happy if Americans paid attention. But they don't. They gobble up the surface of what the MSM spoon feeds them and rarely dig any further. I think Obama is picking his battles, so to speak. I wish he had voted no on the FISA – because I think that he very well could win the election having done so.

I am very far left, and feel quite out of the mainstream. Just the fact that McCain gets any positive reaction from people -- anywhere -- rather freaks me out. But I have to look at this f*cked up political system, after checking my very liberal creds at the door, as pragmatically as I can. To get elected, he has to do the dance. I am not defending the calls he makes that I disagree with, but I will vote for him, and support him as best I can. I really just think that McCain is that bad.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on July 9, 2008 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, damn straight. See my link just below yours with Green Party convention info.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 9, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, speaking of Nathan's "populism,"

Where were Feingold and Dodd with their filibuster threats on FISA today? AWOL.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 9, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

Vote for Cynthia McKinney if you cannot vote for Obama.

Well, I don't know about that. But it IS time to start looking over the field again. I will certainly NOT vote for either McCain or Obama. I couldn't look my kids in the face after doing that.

Clearly whether you vote republican or democrat, not much is going to change after November.

Posted by: Dicksknee on July 9, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I read Brojo at 4:48 quickly, and thought I read "vote for Cindy McCain." Now that would be Brojo on drugs!

But mostly I just wanted to reiterate:
thripshaw for President.

Posted by: thersites on July 9, 2008 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

The REAL question of the day, though, is: Was Laura Bush’s grandmother a lesbian?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 9, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know!

Here this headline over at Huffington Post:

Roy Sekoff with Dan Abrams on the Fight Over FISA and Rove's Contempt for the Public's Right to Know

Of course, as much as partisan bloggers go, at least I can admit that Obama seem to have a lot of contempt for the Public's right to to know too, so funny how Huff Po does seem to see that.

This may well be where Obama loses this election. It seem like the only people left really are starry-eyed idealist and partisan bloggers. Be curious to see what the next poll numbers are? Be curious to see if Obama fell right back close to McCain are under him.

I don’t think Obama has ANY integrity at all.

Obama is corportist but Edwards is a populist, one that I think at least looks like he be smart enough not to vote yes for his FISA Bill if he had been in congress.

Posted by: Me_again on July 9, 2008 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Major exhibits towards Obama's populism:
1. Reform credit card payment practices etc., such as letting payers specify payments applied to highest rate accounts etc. - this is basic courtesy to consumers.
2. Ending the Enron exemption that has allowed speculation (e.g. in oil) to drive prices much higher, pace the protestations of either libertoon cranks like Walter Williams or enabler dorks like Samuelson.

Posted by: Neil B. on July 9, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

While I am very disappointed with Obama as well, I think it should be kept in mind he voted for all the amendments attempting to strip/delay telecom immunity.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/7/9/122030/7402

Count that as you will.

Posted by: Sojourner on July 9, 2008 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

As for the FISA bill, is it really fair to allow legal punishment of companies cooperating with any but the most obviously improper government requests? They wouldn't be sure, the government has primary responsibility to know whether their requests are constitutional. If the government asked a telecom to do something later found to be wrong, I say the government should be held liable. It should BTW be easier to sue/challenge the government to that end and others.

Posted by: Neil B. on July 9, 2008 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

SocraticGadfly, The cloture vote took place last month and ended debate for Feingold and Dodd. And that with a Democratic tie in the senate--I do not count Lieberman. As to SCOTUS under McCain, for the forseeable future it really is not going to make much difference except that we lose the ability on a few issues to convince Kennedy to stop drinking the Kool-aid. The only good thing about Dumbya and it is true of McCain is that they are such mediocre people. Obama is not mediocre and as far to the left as I am I would rather have a dumb crook as president than a smart one.

Posted by: terry on July 9, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Obama voted for FISA. Clinton voted against it.

Remind me again why Clinton embodies evil and Obama is so very good.

Posted by: lynn on July 9, 2008 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Let me get this straight- he says government will break the law anyway, so you might as well legalize whatever they do? Nuh-uh, FISA tears it. You vote for him.

Posted by: pip on July 9, 2008 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

I too am disappointed in his FISA vote, but the topic has to do with populism. On that subject I think Newman's right. The best example of Obama populism is yesterday's speech about the need for bankruptcy reform. Watch it if you can.

As to terry, I would still rather have a smart Obama as president than a dumb McCain. At least Obama would stop the current tact to a totally corporation biased judiciary.

Posted by: Ron Byers on July 9, 2008 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

It seem like the only people left really are starry-eyed idealist and partisan bloggers.

Don't forget us "please God, anyone but McCain"-ers. You know, those that think McCain is a major league cretin poised to make a f*cked up situation 10x worse.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on July 9, 2008 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

thersites: no can do -- too much acid in the 70's, although frankly, I view that as a plus.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on July 9, 2008 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

You know, those that know McCain is a major league cretin poised to make a f*cked up situation 100x worse.

Fixed. I got your back during those flashbacks.

Posted by: shortstop on July 9, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I consider myself a pretty-far-from-center-on-the-left-side person, but after hearing all the arguments for and against this FISA bill, I have to say, the immunity thing isn't nearly as big a deal as most of the leftishes are making it. I actually give Obama points for taking a stand that he believes is right, knowing his base will probably come unhinged.

Posted by: James of DC on July 9, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

As for the FISA bill, is it really fair to allow legal punishment of companies cooperating with any but the most obviously improper government requests?

It's a means to an end, Neil B. It's impossible to find out whether or not the surveillance the government was doing was illegal without first going through the telecoms. That's precisely why the administration wants them to have immunity.

Posted by: junebug on July 9, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

I think it should be kept in mind he voted for all the amendments attempting to strip/delay telecom immunity.

So what? He voted for the Get-Bush-Out-of-Jail-Free bill, including retroactive immunity, itself -- breaking his earlier promise to filibuster it -- anyway.

Posted by: Gregory on July 9, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

As for the FISA bill, is it really fair to allow legal punishment of companies cooperating with any but the most obviously improper government requests?

What junebug said at 5:50 -- immunity is about completingthe cover-up, noting more, and the Democratic Congress is a willing accomplice.

Moreover, where is it written the US givernment has the authority to order anyone to commit an illegal act? That's bullshit.

Posted by: Gregory on July 9, 2008 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

thripshaw: acid in the 70's?

You young punk! I thought I was voting for experience. Forget it. I'm going to vote for that nice McCain fellow. I hear he's a war hero or something.

Posted by: thersites on July 9, 2008 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Here's my really basic problem with Obama here. He sold out his base, and he did so with breathtaking speed, no plausible excuse, and there really is no political upside to having done this. If he is willing to do this for FISA, if he is willing to do so to help political enemies cover their asses, then I have no idea when he would ever do the right thing.

One of my fears about Obama is that he would quickly be in over his head. I'm stunned that it has happened this fast. He's completely clueless about what is going on here.

Posted by: Whispers on July 9, 2008 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Thersites,
You been dabbling in e henry's stash again?

Posted by: optical weenie on July 9, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Terry, I believe that there still were ways for an actual individual filibuster. If not, invent one.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 9, 2008 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Are you experienced?

Have you experienced warrantless surveillance? I would wager the organizers of a recently created populist movement called MoveOn have. General Electric, Exxon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff probably insist that their government monitor populist extremists and their organizations to preserve corporate profit standards.

Posted by: Brojo on drugs! on July 9, 2008 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

You been dabbling in e henry's stash again?

He's a mean SOB, and won't share. Kids today. Sheesh.

Posted by: thersites on July 9, 2008 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

demagogue movements are known by the individuals who use nativist talking points for their popularity

Ron Paul is a demagogue. MoveOn is a populist org. Ron Paul's movement ends with him. MoveOn could exist even after someone name Nita stops sending emails.

Posted by: Brojo on drugs! on July 9, 2008 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks to Obama's FISA flip-flop, I'm going to flip-flop on my planned contribution and campaign efforts in support of Obama. I understand Obama has to move a bit closer to the center, but FISA is so fundamentally wrong that he should have stuck to his original position and voted against it.

Sorry Obama, you ain't getting my money and time. If you flip-flop on another important no-brainer issue to suck up to the right wing nuts of this country, you can also kiss good-bye to my vote in November.

Posted by: rational on July 9, 2008 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Obama family photos

Posted by: Luther on July 9, 2008 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

Luther,

Thank you so much for blowing the lid off of these secrets.

Wake up, people! Barack Obama has African relatives! The horror, the horror.

Now do the rest of your job, and find us the pictures of St. John of McSham divorcing his first wife so he can marry a rich woman.

Posted by: thersites on July 10, 2008 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

Russ Feingold is a dildohead.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on July 10, 2008 at 1:14 AM | PERMALINK

"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed." --- Michelle Obama.

Posted by: Pat on July 10, 2008 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Not justifying his actions, but if anyone out there really thinks Hillary "Kyl/Lieberman" Clinton would have voted NO on this FISA Bill had she won rather than lost the nomination, I have some prime Louisiana swampland I'm looking to unload for a great price, and you look like just the type of savvy consumer who could make it work...

Posted by: Piper on July 10, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

That sounds pretty good, Piper. Could I wear my diapers there?

Posted by: Dave Vitter on July 10, 2008 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK
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