Essential Reading to Understanding the Political Future

28Feb09

I got into many conflicts with one of politics professors last year, and I kept on wondering why Obama kept proving me right. I remember a different, far more intelligent, professor once confessing that she thought the Baby Boomers may have actually ruined liberalism. Ambinder provides some must read context in a brilliant article:

There is absolutely a generational component to the anxiety. Three generations of Democratic activists view the possibility of Obama’s election through different lenses; the first came of age in the 60s and 70s before the flowering of modern conservatism and the triumph of Nixonian resentment politics. The second rose to power with the election of Bill Clinton, and today, they approach politics with instincts as developed in the 1992 campaign and refined by Clintoncare, the government shutdown and the Monica Lewinsky affair — careful, wily, programmatic, triangulatish, risk-averse, incremental. The third generation rejects all of that, believing that such caution kicked the legs out from under the Democratic Party. This generation rejects baby steps in favor of bold, often populist action; they reject the notion that the default liberal ideology cannot be majoritarian.

Make no mistake, I’m clearly of the third generation, although that’s not to say nothing can be learned from the previous two. Also note, the third generation would have never come to believe what they believe had not George W. Bush screwed up so badly. I don’t think anyone could have predicted how far Bush would fall after the 2004.

The left also dominated the internet game from the beginning, setting the stage for what we see now. It’s a challenging fact that I have to acknowledge that I am one of thousands of liberal bloggers on the net today, and the whole effect can be that of mass mental masturbation (although opinions can build on each other nicely at times). I consciously make a decision to not be outraged as much as I possibly can; there’s too many outraged voices out there writing the same story. That being said, complete neutrality is dangerous. Ana Marie Cox explains better than I can:

When they give equal weight to opinions spouted on the left and the right, the media give opinions the appearance of facts and thus allow for the kind of wholesale mendacity that’s characterized the Bush years. I tend to think this is not a political calculation, but a practical one: The media is so paralyzed with fear of “bias” that they refuse to make a distinction between fact and opinion. That would, after all, require reporting, which is expensive—and, I might add, hard. And to weigh the benefits and costs of a conservative policy versus a liberal policy? That is expensive, difficult and, worst of all, boring.”

Unfortunately that type of centrist reporting is still very much alive in the Obama era; one needs only turn on their cable news network to find outraged Republicans practically screaming about the stimulus package, and now the budget. However, the interesting part is that Obama’ favorability is now at 67% percent; one must wonder if Americans will get tired of hearing outraged, illogical Republicans (believe it or not, I’ll decline to say that is all of them).

But if Obama’s favorability does hold even over 50%, then the fearless generation of Democrats will have won, where the previous generation failed. Obama’s budget actually lays out concrete plans for things that Bill Clinton compromised, and Jimmy Carter’s bad luck lost. His popularity suggests that they could even come into fruition. We will certainly have to examine if we are a “center-right country” as conservatives like to claim.

It is hard to blame the second generation for their approach. The Republican attack machine was far better, plus they never had such a dramatic failure for a president like George W. Bush.  There’s no doubt that the Republicans were harder to beat then. However, that second generation keeps rearing its head. It was almost encompassed in the Hillary Clinton campaign, probably culminating in the “obliterate Iran” comments and the gas tax holiday via windfall oil profit tax. These ideas are outdated and they have already lost out. The media has failed to catch up to a certain extent, still with “crossfire like” formats that assume the country was still at the political deadlock it was at in 2000. The Republicans certainly failed to grasp it perhaps more than anyone. It’s not just that Americans grew tired of the right’s ideas. It’s that the facts (remember, stubborn things) were, and are, overwhelmingly in the left’s favor.

Republicans’ failure to read the country pretty much explained the inevitably doomed Palin pick (although I still wonder what Kay Bailey Hutchinson could have done). The Clinton Dems were worried about her, even though few broke ranks. I remember one of the more heated arguments with that professor was over Sarah Palin. He thought her ability to whip crowds up into a frenzy would translate at the polls, and the Bradley effect would do the rest (he also famously worked for Bradley). I argued that America did look kindly upon some of racism, and at the very least, rampant neo-conservativism spouted by brainless idiots like Joe the Plumber. So who won that one? Well, clearly I did, but the margin brings me to quoting David Plouffe. He was asked what he thought Palin’s impact on the race was:

“She was our biggest fundraiser”

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