SteveB over inWhiskey Fire’s comments:
There was a piece in the Economist about Obama, saying he showed promise but needed to prove his “seriousness” by going after the teacher’s unions on merit pay and charter schools.
When I read that, I wondered, “What are Republicans required to do to prove their seriousness?”
For some reason, it’s only Democrats who are required to fuck over their constituents to prove their seriousness. No member of the pundit class demanded, in 2000, that George W. Bush demonstrate his seriousness by taking on the oil industry. And who would dare to suggest that Huckabee needs to prove his seriousness by taking on the Christian right and advocating the teaching of evolution in public schools?
And it’s Democrats who always have to “prove” that they’re willing – and even eager – to use military force. Because the voters need to be reassured that a Democratic President won’t be a total pacifist. No reassurance required that the next Republican President won’t get us into another stupid war.
Mr Obama cannot change his experience deficit; but he can change his substance deficit. His economic policies (like those of the other Democrats, it must be said) are crowd-pleasing stuff. He is iffy about free trade. He wants health insurance for all—and expects the rich to pay for it. He wants schools to get better, but he panders to his leftist base by eschewing merit pay for teachers and independent charter schools. On Iraq, he affects not to have noticed that the “surge” in and around Baghdad is producing palpable successes, and clings to the idea, beloved of his party base, that all troops should be withdrawn even before he putatively takes office.
I bring this up not to talk about Obama at all, really, but to talk about the pressure placed on prominent Democrats to prove they’re not really Democrats before being anointed by the power structure to go out and actually get the votes of, you know, voters. Prove you’re not a filthy lily-livered liberal traitor, and then you can go run for president and shit. It’s Obama, today, but it could be Edwards tomorrow, being asked to repudiate, I don’t know, the American Bar Association, and you think I’m kidding and right now I kind of am, but come on, teachers are part of the leftist base right now? That’s where we are, and so Obama needs to tell them to go jump off a cliff? The fuck?
If by some miracle my Primary Boyfriend, Chris Dodd, were to become the frontrunner, he’d have to personally waterboard someone while talking about it on a secretly wiretapped phone in a commerical for Verizon before Tim Russert would think he was for real. They ask you to stab that which you love most in the heart in front of them, and sometimes I think it’s in no small part just to see if you’ll do it. How willing are you to gain their approval, to follow their guidelines for who is and who is not serious, to get them to nod and smile at you? Honestly, that Economist story reads like a dare, like this is the fifth grade, and Obama needs to come out in favor of cootie protection next.
I have no real problem with somebody compromising in order to advance an agenda in which the person doing the advancing genuinely believes, but I have a problem with the idea of compromise being elevated above what the compromise itself is about, with the idea of repudiating supportersjust to do so, as it seems the Economist is suggesting Obama do. I don’t know who that appeals to, even in imaginaryland, because the punditry half the time spends its days wishing for compromise and effectiveness and the other half the time wishing for boldness and maverickosity and manly smells, and after a while everything starts to sound shouty and dumb.
What I think people need to keep in mind right now is that we’ve had a good five or six years of arguing against the entrenched DC consultancy class that runs campaigns and listens to Washington assholes about what is and is not good politics. That’s a good amount of time, but they’ve had 20 years of whipping themselves over how bad it is to be a liberal (spit, hack, wheeze) and hurt me again, Daddy, and looking tough, and we’re not going to blow that over in a minute. Whoever is the nominee is going to face a tide of this kind of shit, encouraging him or her to run away from the very people who got him or her into the big chair. Whoever is the nominee is going to get this kind of panic thinking thrust on them.
And we need to say, you know what? You don’t need to do that. We’re enough for you. We’ve got your back, and we’ll be here, and we’re who you need to listen to. Believe me, we’ll tell you if we don’t think you’re serious. We need to counter the voice that will say, “fuck ’em over to prove you love us more,” because that’s a powerful voice and it ain’t going away. We have to beat it back with our bare hands, and keep doing it until the idea of running away from your “leftist base” of teachers and factory workers just sounds on its face like the most ridiculous thing in the entire world.