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Obama the Conservative
January 26, 2009 7:44 PM   Subscribe

"George Bush was not a conservative, but rather a curious hybrid of reactionary and progressive." "The Obama presidency is not a revolution, but instead a restoration. The "values upon which our success depends", Obama reassures America, "these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout history". He asks for a "return to these truths". Nothing new is needed, neither fresh ideas about the human condition's betterment nor utopias; merely a return to and vindication of the past."
posted by leotrotsky (83 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry for all the quotes.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:49 PM on January 26, 2009


While Obama is more conservative in important ways than Bush, all these terms are... well... old. Worn out. Not really appropriate to where we seem to be going, I think.

Never let the Republicans say that Bush wasn't one of them, and, indeed, wasn't their party's foremost leader, with a set of policies that was, ultimately, very Reagan-like in tenor, substance, and in their budget-busting results.

And if the Republican Party ever try to forget his administration, I'd be more than glad to remind them.
posted by markkraft at 7:54 PM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Conservatism can't fail, it can only be failed. And not only that, any liberal who succeeds is actually a secret conservative!
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on January 26, 2009 [34 favorites]


He was just saying that to impress all the elderly white people in the crowd.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:57 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Note the author is actually quite progressive, and not a Republican apologist. It's in the Guardian, for pete's sake.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:05 PM on January 26, 2009


All that means, though, is that he's British and fundamentally misguided about American politics.

Yes, Obama does have some conservative aspects to his policymaking. Yes, Bush was never much of a conservative. Other than that though, his article is kinda bad, and by focusing too much on specific terms, really misses what's happening.
posted by markkraft at 8:09 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd argue that we're making an error in equating Bush with conservatism, or even in making it a dirty word. It's unfortunate that we've somehow let the Republican party first define and then sully BOTH the words liberal and conservative. How did that happen?
posted by leotrotsky at 8:11 PM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Actually, my mistake. Though the author is a Junior Research Fellow at Cambridge, he is, in fact, an American... albeit one who focuses far too much on terminology, and misses the bigger picture.
posted by markkraft at 8:11 PM on January 26, 2009


So taking a surplus and making a deficit out of it isn't conservative? Well, shit.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:13 PM on January 26, 2009


It's just all so much guff when you're captain of the good ship capitalism; any and every tradition or moral scruple must be cast overboard if it slows the onward voyage onto the rocks ahead. Either a failure to understand this or out-and-out hypocrisy has been one of the main absurdities of most "conservative" figures of history - I suspect President Obama will meet an equal lack of success squaring the circle.
posted by Abiezer at 8:14 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let the Republicans deal with their terminology. The new politics isn't to be liberal or conservative. It's ideally to be intelligent and competent... and post-ideological.

Too bad that a lot of the Democratic leaders out there don't quite understand this, as yet.
posted by markkraft at 8:14 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, and I swear I'll shut up now, I think a lot of the talk about "The grown-ups being back in charge" speaks to some of this.

We're able to start putting our trust back in the institutions of government now. But we can do that now because the folks in charge themselves have real respect for those institutions. They've got faith in the underlying strength of our country and its people to overcome the damage caused by the unmoored-by-reality grand visions of the Bush administration.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:17 PM on January 26, 2009


I'm a desperate man
Send lawyers, guns and money
The shit has hit the fan

posted by nola at 8:22 PM on January 26, 2009


Also, spot on.
posted by nola at 8:25 PM on January 26, 2009


Conservative, liberal! Conservative, liberal! Conservative, liberal! Conservative, liberal!

*WHAM!*

Here in conservative we don't tolerate that kind of crap, sir!
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:28 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bush is a right-wing nutball.

Obama is a moderate with occasional left-wing leanings.

However, the frame of the debate in the U.S. is still miles and miles and miles to the right of where it should be. For example, Obama is in favor of putting more troops in Afghanistan, the death penalty, and the drug war, and anti gay marriage. These are unreasonable positions for a liberal, a moderate, or a conservative in the 21st century. In my imaginary utopian America, these would be the positions of a far-right extremist party that would get maybe 1 or 2% of the vote nationally, in their better years.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:29 PM on January 26, 2009 [22 favorites]


I love how commentators are always talking about how Obama is conservative because he has a wife and kids - that that is just so "traditional." Because most Democrats are pre-op trannie dungeon masters with scores of illegitimate children who, naturally, they long to diddle.
posted by billysumday at 8:36 PM on January 26, 2009 [21 favorites]


First and foremost, the boy king was a swaggering arrogant ass hole despite his deep insecurities.
posted by wrapper at 8:37 PM on January 26, 2009


I can't second more strongly the point that, in general, British analysis of American politics is about as tone deaf as possible. The French understand us better.

In no way is George W. Bush a progressive. Except that he got progressively worse over time.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:39 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


metafilter: pre-op trannie dungeon masters with scores of illegitimate children who, naturally, they long to diddle.
posted by CitizenD at 8:42 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Gabe Paquette...grew up in Brooklyn, New York." Of course, that would make him British if you hadn't had that pointless revolution.
posted by Abiezer at 8:48 PM on January 26, 2009


I had to go back and reread the Guardian article. The author stated that W was a "radical revolutionary." I could not find any evidence in the article, or in my recollection of the last nightmarish eight years, of this. I like the Guardian...but...do they have an editor, or a fact-checker? (I know opinion pieces are not subject to fact-checking, but, still...)

If Obama is a conservative in the convoluted way he is described in this article, well, fine. But Paquette omits discussion of foreign policy, where being a "progressive" really matters these days. And despite Obama's recent war-mongering appointees, we progressives hope that his rhetoric about preferring diplomacy to war reflects his core values. We will see. It is indisputable that the conservatives, or neo-cons, to use a more combative term, have favored bombs over diplomacy in recent years.
posted by kozad at 8:54 PM on January 26, 2009


the frame of the debate in the U.S. is still miles and miles and miles to the right of where it should be.

See in America, you're allowed to believe in what you want. Although I disagree streniously with conservative politics, I do not think there is a place where the discourse "should" be. It is where it is and I think one of the biggest things that got in the way of the Democratic Party was that it seemed to be talking like this between 1980 and 1990.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:00 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Obama was working on his foreign policy just tonight with his first interview as President on the Arab TV network Al Arabiya.

Part 1
Part 2
posted by inconsequentialist at 9:04 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pre-emptively invading another country on shaky pretexts is a radical concept in historical geopolitical terms. Can you imagine what classically liberal isolationists like Jefferson and Monroe would have made of Chimpy McBunnypants? Even Reagan pulled troops out of Lebanon when he realized what an expensive clusterfuck the whole thing was becoming.

These conversations are interesting, but also frustrating. No matter how intelligent they are, they'll always be channeled back through some career hack like Chris Matthews asking "IS HE OR IS HE NOT GOING TO KEEP US SAFE FROM THE TERRORISTS???"

But Obama does strike me as relatively post-ideological, in a good way. The last eight years prove that Republicans want nothing more than to entrench themselves and loot the national coffers. 9/11 provided them with the perfect cover to do so. Obama understands on which side his bread is buttered, but I think he honestly wants to life America up out of the Republican-created hole it's currently in.
posted by bardic at 9:26 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love how people are stil arguing against george bush. It no longer matters what bush did. What matters is what obama does now.

Obma will ultimately have to run against a refurbished republican party that will hold as its central tenet balancing the budget rather than moral values nonsense. This is going to be an actual problem for Obama, given his pronouncements for trillion dollar deficits for years to come.

And this post is very thin gruel.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:50 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pre-emptively invading another country on shaky pretexts is a radical concept in historical geopolitical terms.

If by radical you mean "stupid."
posted by Ironmouth at 9:51 PM on January 26, 2009


OP/EDs like this represent the Death of Ideological Labels As We know Them. A death by brutal bludgeoning with blunt instruments.

And here comes an aging animator to provide further beating to this defunct equine.
posted by wendell at 9:55 PM on January 26, 2009


Pre-emptively invading another country on shaky pretexts is a radical concept in historical geopolitical terms.
But it's precisely one of the tasks you take on when you take your turn as a major global actor for imperialism. We did it when we forced opium into China (and in countless other instances), the Soviets did it when they tried to get some of the centre of imperial gravity and America has been doing it since replacing the role of the old British Empire. The interests at stake will ride roughshod over even the best-drafted constitution and the traditions that engendered.
posted by Abiezer at 10:01 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Obama's politics are actually liberal to radical. It's just that he got to be a very successful AMERICAN politician. And American politics itself is a natural distillation process that makes the policies produced 'moderate' to 'conservative.'
posted by tkchrist at 10:02 PM on January 26, 2009


If the Obama presidency is a success, pundits and anxious ideologues from every political persuasion will the next eight years claiming Obama for their own cause.

If the Obama presidency fails, nobody will want anything to do with him -- as Republicans and conservatives today, regardless of their specific tilt, want nothing to do with George W. Bush.

I hope Obama succeeds, and that America gets it shit together, and that historians are still arguing about his politics when my kids are grown up.
posted by kenlayne at 10:09 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


He wasn't a rather curious anything.
posted by sfts2 at 10:15 PM on January 26, 2009


This piece is all over the place in terminology. For example:
[George Bush] was a reactionary by temperament and conviction whose methods were borrowed from the most radical progressives. He besmirched the conservatism that he had forsaken and led it from the corridors of power into the political wilderness.

Because progressive commentators depict Bush as an arch-conservative instead of the curious amalgam of reactionary and radical revolutionary that he actually was, they remain blind to Obama's conservatism.
The author doesn't seem to understand what progressivism means, and spends a lot of time square pegging his terms to make them fit around his central point. Historically, progressivism has always been grassroots - an organized, concerted effort of solidarity to bring about changes - ranging from minimum wage to national health - from the ground up. Not sneaking into power through the back door with the help of the oligarchy. Bush's "methods" were decidedly undemocratic, which makes them the polar opposite of progressivism.

Bush was definitely "radical", in much the same way anyone exercising a severe, jarring, destructive exercise of power is radical. But radical =/= progressive, and is not exclusive to the left. No matter how neat it would be to think of Bush as some "curious amalgam" of disparate ideologies, he was an oligarch, plain and simple, and led the charge to try and secure a dominance of resources. A robber baron, in other words.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:22 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


And just because Obama doesn't subscribe to Bush's "radical" methods, this doesn't make him "conservative". It makes him not a radical. He is still progressive.

Columns like this infuriate me. You can see he began with his premise, and then proceeds to bend and twist definitions of terms around it in a sort of rhetorical macramé in order to make his theory appear sound.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:25 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This article is an mushy mix of the No True Scotsman and False Dilemma fallacies.
posted by benzenedream at 10:38 PM on January 26, 2009


We've yet to see a lot from Obama period, so for anyone to write about Obama being progressive or conservative seems very premature. I've seen a lot of people keep referring to post-ideological, when what he really appears to be is simply an empiricist at heart.

I agree with the idea that Bush administration was radical, but it also seemed to be the organic evolution of Nixon and Regan. That may have been because he was surrounded by Nixonian disciples like Cheney and Rumsfeld, rather than a reflection of his own ideology. I suspect in the end we'll find he was neither an oligarch nor radical, but simply a frat boy who was enjoying the ride.
posted by herda05 at 11:39 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"his first interview as President on the Arab TV network Al Arabiya."

...which would matter a lot more, if Al Arabiya wasn't the FoxNews equivalent of news for the Arab world, and if AlJazeera wasn't more widely watched.

Even Bush did interviews with Al Arabiya. When Obama starts doing interviews with Al Jazeera English, who would actually ask him tough questions in the vein of the British news services it is largely based upon, it will matter considerably more.
posted by markkraft at 12:03 AM on January 27, 2009


How long until people realize there will be no change? I give it another month or two.
posted by telstar at 12:11 AM on January 27, 2009


telstar: Check out Obama's first interview as president that just came out, with Al-Arabiya no less: Part 1 Part 2, apparently it's already reshaping Middle-Eastern attitudes towards the U.S.
posted by amuseDetachment at 12:26 AM on January 27, 2009


Yes, Obama's job is to put a pretty face on the war industry. Which is going swimingly so far. Some of us remain unfooled, however.
posted by telstar at 1:07 AM on January 27, 2009


Bush is a right-wing nutball.

Obama is a moderate with occasional left-wing leanings.


The 'you're doing it wrong' cliche is applicable here.
posted by dawson at 1:07 AM on January 27, 2009


Label A!

Supposedly opposite Label B!

Redefinition of A!

Redefinition of B!

New mixture of A and B!

Nonono - A!

Not A - new label BA!

Archaic Label L!

Idiosyncratic Label H!

BLAH!

BLAH! BLAH!

BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!

BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH! BLAH!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:58 AM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, if you get that label off without tearing it, you're supposed to get lucky.
posted by maxwelton at 4:07 AM on January 27, 2009


How long until people realize there will be no change? I give it another month or two.


Yeah, I can't help foreseeing disappointment, too. But a black man in the White House; moves to close Guantanamo; hand of friendship exended even to Iran? That lot alone will keep me happy for a while; I won't be complaining about lack of change for several months yet.
posted by Phanx at 4:12 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


telstar: "How long until people realize there will be no change? I give it another month or two."

Have you been reading the news for the last week? Every day since the inauguration has had one or more major executive policy changes. Repudiating torture, Closing Gitmo, Cutting automobile emissions, Reproductive rights, starting the pullout from Iraq, etc. Pay attention.
posted by octothorpe at 4:39 AM on January 27, 2009 [12 favorites]


In an academic sense, Bush was not a conservative-- endless deficits during peacetime, launching a jihad to remake the Middle East in our image, and claiming the executive has the power to indefinitely detain anyone he wants without charges certainly aren't anything that Burke would have defended.

But here on the actually-existing planet, every self-proclaimed conservative politician (except Ron Paul!) was behind all of this, and the Republican rank-and-file supported Bush until he was in his last throes.

That's what conservatism is in this country now. That's not what Obama is.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:50 AM on January 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


It no longer matters what bush did.

The Republican President of 2013 retroactively thanks you for not uncovering his part in Bush Administration's malcompetence.
posted by DU at 5:36 AM on January 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


Let the Republicans deal with their terminology. The new politics isn't to be liberal or conservative. It's ideally to be intelligent and competent... and post-ideological.

Too bad that a lot of the Democratic leaders out there don't quite understand this, as yet.
What's the difference between being "non-ideological" and amoral? If the goal is "what works" then the obvious question is "for whom" There are clearly a lot of policies that would benefit only the rich, or mostly the poor, or whatever. If the answer is "the most people" then is certainly an ideological position in and of itself. Being empirical in reaching that goal is not non-ideological.
posted by delmoi at 5:39 AM on January 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's funny you would say that because literally moments ago I was thinking the same thing. There are multiple plans that will "work". Choosing between them is a matter of ideology.

That said, the frame is good: "We've tried Republican conservatism, now we need to try something that works."
posted by DU at 5:55 AM on January 27, 2009


That said, the frame is good: "We've tried Republican conservatism, now we need to try something that works."
posted by DU at 8:55 AM on January 27


On what planet and in what fantasy land will trillion dollar deficits "work"?

We didn't try republican conservatism. We tried profligate spending that no one objected to on principle except old-line conservatives. The liberals objected merely because of where the money was going, not that the money was going out.

The election is over. It isn't Obama vs the Republicans. It's Obama vs. the data. By his own numbers he's growing the deficit at almost 10%. It would be arguably supportable if the economy were growing 5-6%. It is totally fucking insane when the economy is contracting.

Unless all that money is being spent on solving a single systemic problem - energy, cancer, etc., we are going to experience epic inflation amidst economic stagnation 18 months from now. And that's when the real fun will begin.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:12 AM on January 27, 2009


Obama is only a conservative in that his politics are rooted in classic American political thought, which are inherently liberal. He has particularly latched onto the idea of "forming a more perfect Union"; he believes the democratic process is not perfect, but is, instead, perfectable. That built into it is the need for change to address new situations and new challenges, and that by using the democratic process to develop solutions to crises, and a government that works, we are perfecting the Union -- an ongoing, endless, and necessary progress. This is "conservative" only in that it looks back at an older concept, and one that was, and remains, in my view, incredibly radical.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:15 AM on January 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


ibmcginty got it on the nose. Bush doesn't fit the old definition of "conservative" at all, but what does that matter when nobody of importance seems to care about the old definition anymore? When "liberal" morphed into meaning "progressive", "classical liberals" sucked it up, started calling themselves "libertarians", and let the language evolve. Now that "conservative" has morphed into meaning "retarded", any old-school conservatives who are left had better start thinking up a good new word before they end up stuck with "paleoconservative" by default.

I'd help, but I'm bad with neologisms, and I just don't care that much. I would suggest find something emphasizing the "wants to make changes only cautiously and gradually" tenet, rather than the current paleoconservative policy positions. I've heard "libertarian" defined as "a conservative who uses drugs", but from the perspective of a libertarian-leaning ethanol-and-caffeine-only user, "conservative" always just seemed to mean "a libertarian except when squeamish".
posted by roystgnr at 6:16 AM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


On what planet and in what fantasy land will trillion dollar deficits "work"?

The one in which Paul Krugman is a Nobel prize winning economist who agrees with most other high-level economists on the issue. It's also the same planet where we won WWII and got out of a depression running up an even larger debt.

The election is over. It isn't Obama vs the Republicans. It's Obama vs. the data. By his own numbers he's growing the deficit at almost 10%. It would be arguably supportable if the economy were growing 5-6%. It is totally fucking insane when the economy is contracting.

Yawn, opinions of internet morons contradicts worlds top economists. No one cares. Film at 11. By the way, are you even paying attention to the words you're using? Where are you getting that he wants to increase the deficit by 10%? What I've heard is that we might have a trillion dollar deficit in 2009 compared too $455 trillion in '08. That's a 50% increase, not a 10% increase. And the deficit fluctuates quite a bit each year anyway. We have a $10 trillion dollar debt and increasing that by $1 trillion would be a 10% increase. But that would imply that you don't even understand the difference between a budget deficit and debt? Is that the case?

And if it is the case, why would you expect anyone to take you seriously if you don't even understand the most basic terminology?
posted by delmoi at 6:27 AM on January 27, 2009 [4 favorites]


I am bothered by the idea that ideology, per se, is bad. That partisanship, per se, is bad. Yes, either carried to extremes can be bad, but neither is bad in and of itself. Partisanship, especially, is not merely bad, but can be quite good.

There are areas where reasonable people can disagree, areas where its possible to reach a compromise. But there are also areas where this is not the case. Either abortion is legal, or its illegal. To take a historic example, either black Americans are full citizens and segregation therefore is wrong, or they are second class citizens (at best) and segregation is right. There isn't a middle ground there, any "compromise" in that context would merely be another word for surrender by one side or the other. There were two competing ideologies, one said that blacks were people, the other said they weren't. The issue was settled by partisanship, both sides fought viciously and one (as it happens, the right one) eventually emerged victorious.

To say that we are in a "post partisan era" is to deny reality. There are areas in which people simply cannot find meaningful compromise, in which reasonable people can't agree, and in those areas the only thing left is partisanship.

As far as ideology goes, the idea that its wrong to have ideals, to have ideas, to have goals, and to have both approved and disapproved methods of achieving those goals is poisonous to the survival of the republic. Ideology is, at absolute worst, a good thing taken to a bad extreme.

Pastabagel wrote On what planet and in what fantasy land will trillion dollar deficits "work"?

Ya know, I'm going to stomp this one right away and I'm never, not for one instant, going to let up. Bush spent at least, at least, two trillion dollars in Iraq. Bush wanted to make his crony Paulson king of the money and let him spend a trillion dollars, with no oversight, and no accountability. *NOW* you're throwing a tantrum about fiscal responsibility? Now that we might spend some money on projects to actually, radical idea I know, improve American lives, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, invest in science and prepare for the future, *NOW* you're going to demand radical spending cuts and a balanced budget?

No. Absolutely not. No one gets to complain one tiny bit until Obama has spent the same three trillion that Bush squandered. Once that happens you "fiscal responsibility" types can start your whining. But I don't want to hear one peep out of you, or anyone like you, until Obama's spending equals the money Bush was allowed (with no real complaints from the "fiscally responsible" crowd) to squander on a pointless and evil little war.

Yes, maybe you objected to the fiscal irresponsibility of Bush. But who cares, I note that if you did it didn't stop anything. More important, the economic bigwigs, from Alan "screw working people" Greenspan on down thought Bush squandering a few trillion was a great thing.

Right now we *NEED* spending on domestic stuff, and if it runs up the debt I really don't care that much. I can't care that much when Bush blew two trillion on Iraq and wanted to toss a third trillion to his pal Paulson and all the economic hotshots were all for wasting that money. Right now any bleating about "fiscal responsibility" is nothing more or less than an attempt to undermine the urgent need to actually invest in America for a change.

Now, if by "fiscal responsibility" you mean "tax the upper 1% until the bleed from the eyeballs to pay for the urgent and needful domestic spending" I can go along with you. But if you mean "let's gut Obama's domestic plan" then I'm bitterly against you. And if you intend, for whatever ideological reason, to do what you can to undermine the desperately needed domestic spending plans I'm against you.
posted by sotonohito at 6:32 AM on January 27, 2009 [11 favorites]


Pastabagel, 90-plus percent of the time I'm on board with your anti-deficit orientation.

But Hoover was wrong to prioritize balancing the budget, as was FDR in 1937.

Now, we're not facing a depression, but we are probably facing the worst climate since then. Deficit spending is our only option.
posted by ibmcginty at 6:34 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now, if by "fiscal responsibility" you mean "tax the upper 1% until the bleed from the eyeballs to pay for the urgent and needful domestic spending" I can go along with you.

Pastabagel claimed to be in the top 5% of income earners, so I kinda doubt that.
posted by delmoi at 6:44 AM on January 27, 2009


Shorter Paquette: If we define "conservative" to mean "thoughtful, logical and competent," and "progressive" to mean "a dangerous and ignorant buffoon," then Barack Obama is conservative and George W. Bush is progressive. QED.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:56 AM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel:I love how people are stil arguing against george bush.
Me too! In some parts there are folks still argueing against RAY-GUN.

Pastabagel It no longer matters what bush did. That is a pretty sad summary of 8 years of prime American Republican leadership.
posted by zenon at 7:49 AM on January 27, 2009


fwiw, i liked this formulation :P
Thesis -> Antithesis -> Synthesis (new thesis) -> new Antithesis -> etc.
Applying this to modern economics we have:
Classical -> Keynesian -> Reaganomics -> Obamanomics
Where Reaganomics is a form of Post Keynesian Neo-Classical Economics and Obamanomics is here assumed to be some sort Post Reagan Neo-Keynesian Economics.
(”Look, this is just a way of looking at how economics develops over time. It’s just another model in the Vast Matrix of Models we use to try to understand the world” explained the White Rabbit.)
and while it's, uh, refreshing to have a president that has stated he wants 'facts to guide' policy (rather than 'facts to deny'!) and one can actually believe him when he sez such, i do think it's a stretch to say we've entered an era of washingtonian (OG) post-partisan* or post-ideological politics,** if for no other reason than politicians still represent constituencies (altho i would like to believe that we've moved on to a post-boomer age ;)

so until politicians and all those who would wield power -- now including US and anonymous -- have in mind larger groups or 'assemblages' i'm afraid we'll have not as yet arrived at the promised land*** however much obama would like to asymptotically approach there...

cheers!

---
*i like to think of party politics as, essentially, sports teams and their associated (rabid) fan bases
**while it'd be nice to move to the rational empirical (scientific) government, given how people remain taken by theatre and narrative -- myself included -- as (self-)organising principles, the world at least from some ways away will still seem somewhat staged... but then, by the same token, that opens up the possibility of artful and ludic co-creation (alongside naked ambition and subjugation, ethnic balkanisation, paranoid religiosity, nationalism, capitalist accumulation and general rapacity)
***or as jorn barger sez: "no promised land, no holy book, no chosen people"

posted by kliuless at 7:53 AM on January 27, 2009


Obama's two greatest strengths are his ability to articulate a vision, and his seeming penchant for inclusion of multiple constituencies which helps both practically and from a perception standpoint. I've never seen him as an ideologue with left-leaning bent, but rather a politician with a strong pragmatic bias. His tenure will be defined by a number of groups being disappointed but empirical progress and improvement on many fronts.
posted by sfts2 at 8:09 AM on January 27, 2009


It no longer matters what bush did.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:16 AM on January 27, 2009


See, this is why I now lean toward prescriptivism when it comes to word meanings. It's trivially true that the terms "conservative" and "liberal" are not used in the same senses in which they were used in the past. But it goes even deeper than that. The terms aren't used in any particular new sense either because we never intentionally shifted their meanings: they've just been thrown around carelessly for so long now by people who didn't really understand or care what they were supposed to mean that they've now lost their meanings completely. The terms just don't have coherent meanings at all anymore, in the context of American politics, but we still use them as if they do.

And this erosion of meaning deprives us of any means to talk clearly about our political leaders actual political orientations and what those orientations mean in terms of how they can be expected to lead.

I disagree with the authors claims about Bush's progressivism, though, because the author seems to be defining progressive politics in terms of its methods rather than its aims, when clearly, the aims of progressive politics have always been what defined progressivism from Mark Twain's era to the present-day (social justice, racial and gender equality, labor causes, etc.). Either that, or the author is taking at face value the farcical Bush claims about their broader goals being to "spread democracy in the Middle East," which on the face of it, does qualify as a progressive goal. But it's definitely accurate to characterize the Bush administration as "radical" because it broke with so many previously established policies and legal precedents.

As an aside: it's a crying fucking shame we don't learn more about the American Progressive Movement and Gilded Age era politics in high school history class. There are so many parallels to recent history: Wealthy industrialists and business interests like Rockefeller drawing accusations of robbing the treasury and shifting trade offshore at the expense of American workers; American foreign policy drawing accusations of neo-Imperialism with our military entering into another unnecessary war that would likely never have begun without the relentless drumbeat of the press. (Some political cartoons from the time that underscore this point here and here. Seeing these, it all just seems like same shit, different day.)

When "liberal" morphed into meaning "progressive", "classical liberals" sucked it up, started calling themselves "libertarians", and let the language evolve.

The Progressive Movement in America dates back to the 19th century, and except to the extent that one is a natural outcropping of the other, it wasn't about liberalism in the classical American sense of personal freedom--it was about social justice and equality.

As a society, I'm afraid we don't know or understand our own history well enough anymore, and so we get into all these incoherent discussions based on poorly-understood premises and uselessly vague terminology--we feel passionately about our own idiosyncratic, political viewpoints, as defined in our own private political languages, and much of the wailing and teeth-gnashing that results comes from semantic confusion because we don't have any common understanding of the terms of discussion. That's why I wish the meanings of common political terms like these could somehow be stabilized a bit. But that's obviously never going to happen, so eat the rich.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:22 AM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bush Was a Big-Government Disaster
posted by caddis at 8:31 AM on January 27, 2009


I am totally against tax cuts. Can we all agree that the boomers (of whom I am one) cannot possibly pay off the national debt as it stands now? Right? Right. Okay then, what that means is that every tax cut enacted going forward has a corresponding charge to the credit cards of our children and grandchildren. In other words, a tax cut now is nothing less than a transfer of wealth from future generations into our own pockets. It has reached the point where it is feeling downright immoral to me to continue doing this to those future generations.

Now, spending the money from future generations on something that will A) make life better for those generations growing up and B) will BE THERE when they are adults -- that is fine with me. A new electric grid? Great! Massive expansion of alternative energy? Wonderful! Piles of new schools? F-ing awesome! But tax cuts? Taking money out of the wallets of the future to put that money in our own wallets? I don't want to do that. I cannot in good conscience agree with doing that, however much it might benefit me personally. And the funny thing is: I don't even HAVE children, and it STILL feels immoral to me!
posted by jamstigator at 9:00 AM on January 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


When "liberal" morphed into meaning "progressive", "classical liberals" sucked it up, started calling themselves "libertarians", and let the language evolve

Only in the US, oddly enough. Liberal still seems to have some libertarian premises over in Europe (or at least in Austria, which I doubt is much of an outlier).

/pedant
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:25 AM on January 27, 2009


I am totally against tax cuts. Can we all agree that the boomers (of whom I am one) cannot possibly pay off the national debt as it stands now? Right? Right.

It should be possible to cut taxes for the lower and middle income earners while closing tax loopholes and/or raising tax rates at the upper income levels to offset the difference. The real question is whether or not the political will is there, since much of America's political machinery is lubricated if not owned outright by the upper income earners.

I mean, to put things in perspective, consider the fact that in 2001 the top 20 percent of income earners in the US controlled roughly 84% of the nation's wealth, and of that group, the top 1 percent alone controlled roughly 40% of the wealth (source). All recent indicators are that these inequalities have only grown more dramatically in recent years, so it seems you wouldn't necessarily have to rejigger the tax system much to accommodate both the demand for middle class tax cuts to provide economic stimulus and the need to increase overall revenue to partly offset the cuts. Of course, strictly speaking "wealth" =/= "income," but the same scale of inequality applies to annual household income as well.

The counter-argument is that increasing the tax burden on those at the top of America's income pyramid would harm venture capital investment and slow economic development in general, but that could be remedied, I'd think, by offering tax incentives and penalties to encourage the reinvestment of personal income. Just tax the hell out of any personal income over a certain level that might otherwise be taken out of economic circulation and horded for no good purpose. You might call it "use it or lose it" taxation: Let's put capitalism to work for America, instead of continuing to put America to work for capitalists.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:14 AM on January 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


saulgoodman Use it or lose it taxation. I like that frame, thanks.
posted by sotonohito at 11:13 AM on January 27, 2009


Krugman: Bad Faith Economics
posted by homunculus at 12:30 PM on January 27, 2009


Let's put capitalism to work for America, instead of continuing to put America to work for capitalists.

Word.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:54 PM on January 27, 2009


I am totally against tax cuts.

Cool. Can I have five bucks? We'll call it my tax on you. With your money, I'll do something good for the world.

Wait, you don't want to give your money to an entity over which you have no oversight for the purpose of fulfilling unclear and possibly dubious goals?

Well, then you're not totally against tax cuts, are you?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:02 PM on January 27, 2009


Cool Papa Bell: Does he get to elect you? And then vote you out if he doesn't like what you do with his money?

It's pretty obvious, if you're not a total blinkered buffoon, where most tax money has gone/goes: the military, roads, sidewalks, bridges, streetlights and street signs, schools, water treatment plants, railroads, utility systems, the railroad system, libraries, waste disposal services, research into new technologies like the internet and the computer chip, the police force, fire and rescue workers, prisons. We all know where the bulk of our tax dollars go, and in most cases, the functions absolutely couldn't be fulfilled by the private sector without public funding because they provide the minimal necessary infrastructure that makes profitable commerce possible in the first place, but aren't profitable functions in themselves.

The history of US railroads and the telegraph are a great example: The construction of the interstate railway and telegraph systems, though carried out by the private sector, were completely publicly funded. Without public funding, no cost benefit analysis in the world would have justified building America's railroads. But we funded the development of the first railroads anyway (specifically, the Republican administration of Lincoln did with the Pacific Railway Act), at a net loss of public revenues, knowing that it would provide substantial longer-term economic benefits to the nation as a whole by expanding the scope and efficiency of interstate communications and commerce and recognizing that the lost revenues would eventually be recouped due to the increased scale of commerce.

Now tell me with a straight face we'd be better off if we hadn't pursued ambitious programs like the Pacific Railway Act (or for that matter the Federal-Aid Highway Act pushed through by the Republican Eisenhower administration to build the first interstate highway system)? Convince me that the bulk of the wealth held at the upper-income levels of our society could have been accumulated at all without the free availability of the ubiquitous public infrastructure that commerce depends on?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:35 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cool. Can I have five bucks? We'll call it my tax on you. With your money, I'll do something good for the world.

Are you in congress? No? Well, only congress can levy taxes, so while you can ask for money you can't call it a "tax" and claim anyone opposed to it is against tax cuts

And furthermore, you can't even propose a new tax and then claim that anyone opposed it is for tax cuts. By definition a tax cut is the removal of an existing tax.
posted by delmoi at 1:55 PM on January 27, 2009


Obama's call to arms: By rejecting Bush's torture tactics, the new president is urging Americans to reclaim their principles -- and their courage.
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on January 27, 2009


saulgoodman and delmoi, you are being deliberately obtuse, failing to hit me with the bad man stick, and you know it.

You both know there are good government programs and there are bad government programs. We can pull examples out all day and all night.

Also, you don't have to be only in Congress to levy taxes. States, counties and cities all have their hands out, too. But I'm not missing your point.

There are then "good taxes" and "bad taxes," inasmuch as there exist taxes to pay for things you like and taxes to pay for things you don't like. We can debate that, too, forever and ever and ever.

But a sweeping statement of "I am totally against all tax cuts" is ludicrous, undergraduate thinking that blurs any serious conversation.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:40 PM on January 27, 2009


Astro Zombie: I'd say "improvable" over "perfectable".
posted by absalom at 3:46 PM on January 27, 2009


Conservative? Progressive? Reactionary?
Hell, Bush was so corrupt he wasn’t even on the political spectrum. I mean, it’s like asking what political ethos Sauron had. There’s no context.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:45 PM on January 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


Smedleyman: Republicans for Sauron
posted by leotrotsky at 5:51 PM on January 27, 2009


I mean, it’s like asking what political ethos Sauron had. There’s no context.

Yeah, but the Uruk Hai were total neo-cons. Remember that part where Gorbag the orc and Shagrat the Uruk had a throw-down over the mithral shirt? Yeah, Gorbag was a dick, but Shagrat was a total neo-con moonbat. The fucker.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:10 PM on January 27, 2009


We didn't try republican conservatism. We tried profligate spending that no one objected to on principle except old-line conservatives. The liberals objected merely because of where the money was going, not that the money was going out.

Really? Because what I saw was that only one President since Hoover balanced the U.S. budget and that was Bill Clinton.

What was that? You say the House Republicans should get some credit?

sorry, but they were the "republican conservatives" who just let Bush run the deficit to a record.

That IS Republican Conservativism. Look at the deficits. Highest under Reagan and Bush 43. Lowest under Democrat Bill Clinton.

The Republican party gave up the ghost on being the party of no deficits years ago. You see they decided that tax cuts were more important than balancing the budget.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:02 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't understand people who fellate Reagan and then say even a single nasty word about deficit spending.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:31 PM on January 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Smedleyman wrote Hell, Bush was so corrupt he wasn’t even on the political spectrum. I mean, it’s like asking what political ethos Sauron had. There’s no context.

Disagree. He had an identifiable ethos, even if it was really nasty.

The first, and possibly most important, point was his unwavering belief in the office of the presidency being essentially a position of elected kingship. People make fun of his word choice, but his "I'm the decider" speech expressed a very definite political ideology. Its an ugly, anti-American, ideology, but hardly off the political spectrum.

Bush was a believer in international interventionism, not isolationism. He believed that the tool of choice for such interventionism was military action and threat of military action. Speak loudly and carry a big stick, if you will. We can argue about how blatantly Bush was lying to get us involved in Iraq, whether or not his personal animosity for Saddam Hussain ("tried to kill my daddy") was a factor, etc. But none of that changes his the fact that he did hold an ideological position on the subject. More important the invasion of Iraq (as opposed to any other random middle-eastern nation) was urged for more than a decade by several conservative think tanks, most notably the Project for a New American Century. Military interventionism, or, rather, adventurism, is a staple of modern conservatism.

Bush was also a believer in the idea that one of the prime functions of the government is to move money around. He specifically believed that this meant moving money to those who were his friends and comrades and away from everyone else. That is definately corrupt, but again the idea that the government exists, at least partially, as a mechanism to reward loyalty to the victors is hardly original to Bush, or off the political scale.

All of Bush's ideology is quite obviously evolved from that of Reagan and Nixon. Naturally none of it is "conservative" in the classical sense of the word, the foreign adventurism (if nothing else) is anathema to the isolationist conservative of yore. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a natural outgrowth of classical conservatism, nor the fact that virtually all self identified conservatives in the USA both identified Bush as a fellow conservative and supported his policies. He was conservative, and thus his ideology is "conservatism", by the simple measure that other conservatives would agree with those statements.
posted by sotonohito at 7:24 AM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I still have trouble believing that Dubya was much more than a sock puppet chosen for his pliability and electability. A loyal Republican to be sure, but one who could be relied to do what he was told to do. Hardly a neo-con mastermind.

An uncomplicated man is usually a poor liar. In the last few years, whenever I saw video of him speaking on the more important issues, I believe I saw a man who was saying things he didn't fully believe (or understand), hence the awkwardness and fumbles. It's probably a huge relief to him to no longer have someone's hand up his ass, moving his lips and waving his arms around.

The word "conservative" is really due for an overhaul. If by conservative, you mean principled, thoughtful, pragmatic, then hell yeah Obama is conservative.
posted by Artful Codger at 5:49 AM on January 29, 2009


And if by "raging alcoholic" you mean "member of the Democratic Party", then Obama is a raging alcoholic.

*eyeroll*
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:36 AM on January 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


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