Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Right and Righter

If David Brooks is good for anything, it is for getting everything wrong by about 180 degrees. Today’s column in The New York Times is true to form. There he “argues” that liberal Democrats (in whose ranks he includes President Obama) are committing “suicide” by “overplaying” their electoral mandate, much as Republicans did in the aftermath of George Bush’s electoral victories. According to Brooks, the Democrats are way to the left of the American people. Only the right-most flank of what I have been calling the POP (the Party of Pusillanimity), the Blue Dog Democrats, gets it right. Evidently, the Republicans in Congress are too coarse, too obstructionist, and too transparently stupid even for Brooks. So, for the time being, he’ll cast his lot with the Blue Dogs.

Like most of what The Time’s “conservative” columnist writes, these latest reflections hardly merit comment. But they do inadvertently bring two thoughts to mind:

-first, that to the degree Obama is slipping in the polls (which is how Brooks and other pundits have been spinning recent poll results where Obama is still doing extraordinarily well), it is not because his proposals are too far ahead of the people who voted for him, but because they lag so far behind. The “anti-war” candidate is continuing one of the Bush wars he was elected to stop; and, at great cost (not just to the treasury but also to the safety and security of the American people), escalating the other. The candidate who was supposed to clean up Wall Street has put Wall Street predators in charge of the economy – with utterly predictable results. The candidate who was supposed to bring the United States to the level of other developed countries with respect to health care has seen fit to take the obvious solution, single-payer, off the table, while promoting (for the time being) only an anemic “public option.” The candidate who was supposed to bring transparency to government, to end preventive detention (and other violations of U.S. and international law), to end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and so on and on – has been prevaricating shamefully. Obama cannot even find it in himself, so far, to bring anyone, much less the ringleaders of the Cheney-Bush torture regime, to account for clear violations of bedrock human rights and inviolable principles of international law. Overreaching? Hardly!

-Brooks’ babble also raises a question about the real liberal Democrats, the ones to the left of the “bipartisans” in the White House. They’re hardly out of step with the American people; in fact, even genuine conservatives should be in favor of ending the Bush wars, saving capitalism from the capitalists, and making health care a right, not a commodity. Real conservatives should also favor transparency and the rule of law and, so long as they’re more worldly than godly, they should not even object to such challenges to “family values” as gay marriage and gays in the military. Thus the positions most members of the “Progressive Caucus” advance are hardly outside the mainstream; they are not even genuinely “left” positions, but only positions the left (along with nearly everyone else) can get behind in the circumstances. Yet these “progressives” have been remarkably unable to influence outcomes! Unlike the Newt and his minions back in 94 when they took out a contract on America, or the Blue Dogs now, they seem constitutionally unable to “leverage” their power – which could become considerable with only minimal effort, given just the force of numbers. Even more than Obama, their error is not that they are too bold or too far ahead of the people they “represent.” Where they go wrong is in their strategic and tactical ineptitude and their eagerness to acquiesce in whatever Obama and his “bipartisans” propose.

Thus, yet again, Brooks gets it just about 180 degrees wrong!

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