The frequency with which the 2012 presidential election comes up in my casual conversations is increasing as 2011 progresses, and the general outlook I've mentioned on here several times has not changed. Obama is vulnerable and the GOP field is historically bad. Romney has the potential to beat him but probably can't win the nomination. Daniels could be a legitimate challenger but is viewed as essentially a Communist by the GOP base (recent pandering aside).

Romney could win because he is polished and projects a competent, moderate image. Note that he may or may not actually possess those qualities; the important thing is that he appears to.
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He would not be a slam dunk or even the favorite. He is merely better than the rest of his field. It is plausible that he could win, which is more than we can say of Newt Gingrich and the rest of the peanut gallery.

Let's say the economy continues to falter – a safe bet. Let's say Mitt convinces voters that as a businessman he is somehow better suited to fix it. Let's say he deflects concerns that as a Mormon he might hold extreme right positions on social issues (or alternatively that Evangelical voters get very excited by the prospect that he does). Let's say Obama can't recreate the magic and excitement of 2008 among a demoralized base made up of people who have heard it all before and have so very little to show for it after four years. Romney squeaks out wins in Ohio and Florida, backing his way into the White House by a few Electoral Votes.

The more I think about this possibility – again, I consider it plausible, not certain or even highly likely – the more trouble I have with my feelings about it. The thing is, I've realized that I don't really care if Mitt Romney wins. With all due respect to the many people who stridently believe that Barack Obama has accomplished a lot thus far, the available evidence strongly supports the contention that he is essentially an Eisenhower Republican. If Romney is truly a New England moderate Republican as I believe he is – someone in the Lowell Weicker / Ed Brooke / Jacob Javits tradition – will any of the outcomes be fundamentally different? Our dominant fiscal policy will still be cutting everyone's taxes. The wars will stagger on aimlessly and without an end in sight. Interest groups and major industries will continue to write all of the legislation that comes out of Congress. The Justice Department will sit around on its thumb. The regulatory and welfare state will continue to be dismantled. All of this is happening now. True, Romney is more conservative on social stuff like abortion and gay rights, but given the same Congress, what is really going to change on those issues in the next four years anyway? It's not like he's going to reinstate DADT now that the curtain has been lifted.

My single biggest disincentive to participate in politics in this country is the lack of meaningful alternatives. The entire political system has shifted so far to the right that we are essentially choosing between a loose center-right coalition and a group of well-organized ultraconservatives when we choose between the major parties. As an article I linked a couple weeks ago stated well:

There was also a sharp change in the U.S. economy in the 1970s, towards financialization and export of production. A variety of factors converged to create a vicious cycle of radical concentration of wealth, primarily in the top fraction of 1% of the population – mostly CEOs, hedge-fund managers, and the like. That leads to the concentration of political power, hence state policies to increase economic concentration: fiscal policies, rules of corporate governance, deregulation, and much more. Meanwhile the costs of electoral campaigns skyrocketed, driving the parties into the pockets of concentrated capital, increasingly financial: the Republicans reflexively, the Democrats – by now what used to be moderate Republicans – not far behind.

Elections have become a charade, run by the public relations industry. After his 2008 victory, Obama won an award from the industry for the best marketing campaign of the year.

The feeling of powerlessness that accompanies the absence of choice is profound and I imagine it affects many Americans, voters and non-voters alike.
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If it honestly doesn't make much difference if Mitt Romney gets elected (You may disagree on that, of course, but it's where I'm at) what does that say about the Democratic brand? How badly damaged is the party? As the last three years have repeatedly shown, it has become a second, slightly more PR-savvy party of corporatists; the GOP-Democrat differences are largely on the margins and the Democrats' best selling point appears to be that they are not Republicans. That's why you and I will drag ourselves out to the polls to cast Obama votes with zero enthusiasm and the sneaking suspicion that while we prefer the Blue puppet, getting the Red one really wouldn't make much of a difference.

58 thoughts on “SUBSTITUTE GOODS”

  • The Mad Dreamer says:

    It would be nice to have a political system where the parties differ.

    Very much expected today's post to be ditched in favor of something regarding the Osama death, honestly.

  • You could replace "Romney" with "Bush" and "Obama" with "Gore" if you want to reread this piece and see what being catastrophically wrong looks like.

  • dieblucasdie says:

    There *is* a difference on the "social stuff," though; there's a whole host of things the executive branch can do regardless of what Congress looks like. The Mexico City Policy, for example is enacted or revoked each time the party that controls the White House changes. There are other things, too: a ton of DOJ stuff like Civil Rights/Voting Right enforcement, NRLB and FCC appointments. And, of course, Supreme Court appointments.

    I'd argue that while, sure, it doesn't matter much for national policy if Mitt Romney or Barack Obama sits the White House, it does matter, in very immediate terms, whether Mitt Romney or Barack Obama's political appointees are in position throughout government.

  • Monkey Business says:

    * – This article was written before Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, and locked up a second term by a landslide.

  • You're talking about how the blue puppet is no different than the red one. But if you simply compare Obama to Bush you see that there IS. It doesn't mean that we're happy with Obama by a long shot, but I vastly prefer the blue puppet, thanks.

  • GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Seems like Obama has had a pretty good week and it hasn't started yet.
    Releases the, so called, long form birth certificate just in time to allow him to eviscerate Trump and the rest of the birthers at the White House Corespondents Dinner. Good.
    Now he nailed Osama. Priceless!
    Along with defending Medicare I think things are shaping up nicely for 2012.
    Going to be hard to laugh at Obama now.

  • This has gotta be Obama's 11 dimensional chess they're always talking about. Balls of steel to do the correspondants dinner while Navy Seals were taking out Bin Laden.

  • duck-billed placelot says:

    Or we could, you know, not drag ourselves to the polls. Or we could vote Green. Both things that have a better chance of actually changing how the Democratic party acts than actually voting Democrat.

    Lesser of two evils is not something I'm prepared to vote/organize/fundraise for anymore.

  • cromartie says:

    You could replace "Romney" with "Bush" and "Obama" with "Gore" if you want to reread this piece and see what being catastrophically wrong looks like.

    This. You win the internets.

  • tommytimp says:

    Hw DARE Obama not kill Osama Bin Laden HIMSELF! George Bush did! The nerve of the president wearing a tuxedo for the 7 millionth time in his life! It's as if he was doing his job while Navy SEALS were doing theirs! I mean to say, what is this country coming to?

    But seriously folks, Nader made this argument 11 years ago, and he was proved deathly wrong at the local level, which is what his critics said would happen. Which is what will happen the next time the RNC steals a national election: Republican-appointed judges at the local levels hearing local claims cases, local small business ordinances, school board cases, local politicians empowered to slowly but surely turn into Michelle Gohmert Palin, you name it.

  • OK, let's get a few things clear G&T:

    1. The Democrats are the prudent wing of the ruling center-right party. Agreed.

    2. THIS SAID, some prudence goes far and you're dead wrong to claim that it won't make much difference if Romney is elected. In fact, you're dangerously wrong, insofar as you're suggesting progressives opt out next election.

    Obama has been disappointing, but if you think there is a negligible difference in outcomes between Obama and a Romney presidency, you're simply not paying attention to the details of the legislative fights this year.

    Is the Health Bill a watered down piece of crap? Sure. But it gives more people access to Medicaid, helps poor people buy insurance, prevents some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry (like lifetime caps and denial for pre-existing conditions). Those policy changes are going to make a big difference in people's lives and Romney wouldn't have signed this bill (which is ironic, of course, since, well…)

    Or how about the prospect of a the next president appointing four supreme court justice (I'm thinking Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg and maybe Scalia)? The next president may be able to shape the course of American jurisprudence for the next 30 years. Do you really want Romney making those appointments? Do you really think he'll appoint another Elena Kagan?

    Or consider Obama's recent decision to not defend DOMA. Again, could he have done more for the LGBT community – sure. But this is a major step in the fight and Romney would take us in the opposite direction.

    Or consider consumer issues like credit card reform to regulate rate increases, or the creation of the (arguably ineffectual) Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Small steps, but steps that free-market fundamentalists like Romney would not have taken.

    Or consider all of the incremental behind-the-scenes work at the administrative agencies like the EPA or Interior. You think it makes a difference having an EPA chief that wants to enforce clean air laws and believes in global warming? You trust Romney to appoint another Lisa Jackson?

    Bottom line: Obama may be what used to be called a moderate Republican, but the modern-day Republican party is a band of knuckle-dragging zealots, homophobes, thinly-veiled racists, and Ayn Rand acolytes. Even if Obama accomplishes nothing, his re-election will ensure that the Republican party has no control of the white house for the next four years.

    The 2012 election is HUGELY important. Progressives need to continue to challenge Obama, but we also need to stop being all weepy and demoralized because he's not the liberal icon we hoped he would be. Starting now. We need to get out and vote in 2012, we need to volunteer and knock on doors and make phone calls. Or we could act like petulant children, do nothing and hand the white house to the Republicans. Brilliant.

  • Watching Obama's speech tonight gave me the same feeling I had when I heard Ronny Raygun had died in 2004 (c/o comedian Jimmy Dore: They had three funerals for Ronald Reagan and no one thought to cut his head off and drive a stake through his heart?); the incumbent easily. Obama knee-capped any and all opposition in 48 hours.


    What're the odds that at least two of Kennedy, Scalia and Ginsburg leave the Court in the next 4 or 8 years? Pretty high, yeah? The difference between Democrat and Republican administrations during this time is the difference between a wobbly center-left majority on the Court and A SOLID FAR-RIGHT MAJORITY FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS. Don't know about you, but that seems like sufficient motivation to slightly prefer Democratic administrations.

    As far as Osama goes, no one can know yet how his death will affect the 2012 elections. Conventional wisdom says that it won't; presidential campaigns are essentially determined by the economy and other structural factors. But there's never been anything like the visceral reveling in the destruction of an agreed-upon figure of hatred that's on display now, and Obama completely owns it. There are lots of plausible-ish stories you could tell in which Obama benefits greatly from this. Who knows how likely they actually are.

    Also, this whole shebang sheds a lot of light on the decision last week for the head of the CIA to become Secretary of Defense and for Patreaus to become head of the CIA. I hope to christ the Agency doesn't resume its old habits and become The President's Private Army, but, damn . . .

  • There was a time when saying an Evangelical would vote for a Mormon (as they're considered heretics) would have gotten an, As If…! But seeing how Franklin would even consider someone as morally bankrupt as Trump, shows the lines are no longer there. Trump would only see the Evengelical Right's pet projects as only politically expedient to his winning.

    The reason Obummer needs to win is for the morale and psyche of the Left. If an R wins even a moderate at this time with what's going on in the states would be very bad indeed. Though we can hope For more change in the SCotUS.

  • Regarding the Obama/Romney vs Gore/Bush comparison it holds true it you believe Obama is more liberal than Gore and Romney is more conservative than Bush. Obama is proof that how a President governs can vary wildly from how he ran for the office so we can't tell for certain how Gore would have ran however I suspect Gore would have been slightly to the left of Obama on most issues. Obama governs so far to the right of most Democrats this seems to me to be a safe bet. As for Bush vs Romney, I have to believe Romney is to the left of Bush. Remember in 2000 Bush ran as a moderate who while young would be influences by his father who was a fairly moderate Republican by the day's standards (remember he disparaged supply-side economics as "voodoo economics"). No one in 2000 believed Bush would be as far-right as he ended up much like no one in 2008 Wisconsin casting their "opposition" vote for Brown figured he'd such a radical nut. Perhaps Romney would surprise us in this way as well but judging on his record as governor I suspect he's still left of Bush Jr. It's all irrelevant anyway since Romney's father was born in Mexico which according to the Birthers means Romney is not a "natural-born citizen" so he can't possibly serve as President. Oh wait Romney is white so scratch that.

  • With Democrats in power there is the possibility of some moral solutions to real problems if and when general conditions allow any solutions at all. With Republicans in power there is no chance. It is obvious that Romney would be driven by the radical base of his party, which is essentially fascist. Trump's immediate rise to the top of various polls reflects the racism of the base, and the fascism, which means in a word that the powerful should use that power to take what they want, and as a corollary, that the weak deserve what they get–nothing. Given the two-party system, which is the reality of American politics, all third-party votes are juvenile tantrums and are usually self-destructive (see, e.g., Nader, Nader, Nader, and even Perot, for that matter). Voters who see things clearly are like the ghost in Frost's poem about Mme Lajway, waiting patiently for things to turn in it's favor at the top of the basement stairs, confronting a closed door. This is the situation.

  • I disagree FB Ross Perot getting the votes he did is directly tied into Clinton balancing the budget.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    I can only second what MBL said. If you think it doesn't make a difference, you have truly forgotten what the Republicans are.

  • SixStringFanatic says:

    After the presidential election of 2000 and the congressional elections of last November, and the results of those elections, it's pretty fucking sad to see someone drag this tired old shit out again.
    Indiana Republicans just defunded Planned Parenthood in my state.
    Republicans in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan have declared open war on organized labor.
    Congressional Republicans want to wipe out Medicare and replace it with a useless voucher.
    Congressional Republicans are also hellbent on repealing, defunding or otherwise destroying what little health care reform we managed to drag through that nearly useless assembly.
    There will be several Supreme Court openings during the next term.
    Mitt Romney is going to stand up those assholes on ANY of those issues. Hell, he's running as fast as he can from the one damn thing he did manage to accomplish in four years as governor.
    Pretty fucking stupid to shrug your shoulders and say, "What difference?"
    You're usually a lot smarter than that, Ed. Don't troll your own blog.

  • SixStringFanatic says:

    Fuckin' stupid fingers. That sentence towards the end of my rant SHOULD read, " Mitt Romney ISN'T going to stand up to those assholes…."

  • Middle Seaman says:

    The Republicans are fascists, the Democrats are just nothing. Obama is a dysfunctional, spineless and vision lacking empty suit. Other Democrats may be much better. Any Republican in the White House increases the speed of descent to the bottom ten fold, Romney included. Even god cannot help America; we should be in the streets for ourselves and the next generation; we can help.

  • I hope Romney does get the nomination for two reasons:

    1. I believe he'll lose to Obama.

    2. A Romney presidency would not mean the end of the human race on earth. I can't say that about any of the others if they had their finger on the big red button.

  • Major Kong says:

    The Democrats are a lot like the Weimar Republic.

    Weak, ineffective, torn by factions, centrist at best – and infinitely better than what's likely to replace them.

  • This seems to elide the difference between what Romney believes (assuming he believes anything at all — this is a man who makes Arlen Specter look deeply principled) and how he would act as president. There's no doubt he would be a generic, far right chief executive, since that would reflect the views of the base who elected him. You gotta dance with who brung ya, etc.

    Yeah, Obama has been a huge disappointment, but he's not insane or pretending to be. That settles it for me.

  • little foot says:

    I can see how the base of the modern GOP would bite their collective tongue and let a moderate run as a moderate if he beat the odds and won the nomination. Why do you think that same base would ever let a Republican president govern as a moderate?

  • The Moar You Know says:

    A few things have changed since you posted this; and I think it will make a fairly significant difference in 2012.

  • While I disagree with your saying it wouldn't make any difference if the "Red" puppet got elected instead of the "Blue" puppet because of all the reasons given by the commenters above and then some, I do agree with your statement in your last paragraph. The feeling of powerlessness that accompanies the absence of choice is profound and I imagine it affects many Americans, voters and non-voters alike.

  • Monkey Business says:

    America is roughly broken up into thirds: liberal, independent, and conservative. Because our politics have become so polarized, you're never gonna capture more than 60%, i.e. your base plus independents. Obama isn't going to get the people that thought Bush was doing a great job at the end of his second term to vote for him. He could be anti-abortion, pro-gun, pro-religion, anti-taxes, pro-defense, etc., but he's still a black man and a Democrat, and that would be enough to disqualify him for that 30%. And yes, I'm saying that about 30% of the country is pretty racist.

    The battle is over the middle 30%. It's the millions of marginally informed Americans who don't read blogs, occasionally turn on the news, and get their information from whoever happens to be yapping on TV at that point in time.

    Right now, I think Obama is in an excellent position to capture that 30%.

    First off, we're discounting the effect that the Republican primaries might have on these candidates. Right now Mitch Daniels seems like the reasonable guy in the room, but after the GOP base is done with him, he's going to look like a rabid dog next to a president whose temperature never goes above "ice cold".

    Second off, it's hard to beat incumbent presidents. Even if they're doing an iffy job, they still get the benefit of the doubt.

    Third off, I think we need to seriously discuss The Osama Effect. Obama just ordered a team of Navy SEALs into Pakistan, where they promptly put a several bullets in Osama Bin Laden and escaped the country without a single American loss of life. This is like Reagan bringing home the hostages from Tehran. Last I heard Obama's approval ratings were hovering in the high 40s; I'd expect them to break into the high 50s. A President with approval ratings like that is almost guaranteed. Also, he's going to end every sentence for the next five years with "Did I mention I had Bin Laden killed?"

    I'm not saying that Obama being ousted isn't an option. I'm saying that an exceptionally weak field of opposition candidates and a stellar brass balls moment are going to make Obama a very tough out.

  • WyldPirate says:

    All you folks predicting a walk for Obama in '12 are out of your minds.

    In early '91, Poppy Bush had just successfully kicked Saddam's ass out of Kuwait. Throughout the year in '91 we had a MILD recession. Bush got beat.

    The economy blows big junks now. It is not getting better and some of the state's budgets are looking more grim this year than last. Lots more teachers are going to get laid off, lots more policemen.

    If the economy is this bad or worse in fall '12, Obama is vulnerable.

  • Jared Lessl says:

    > Better than what would replace them

    Well that is simply not enough. Because there are enough actors in this country pushing for the same thing as Republicans (bankers, tycoons, billionaires, etc) who are not elected, that simply not being completely GOP-level evil doesn't cut it. They actually have to fight back, and democrats in general, and Obama in particular, simply aren't willing to do that. They'd rather go along to get along, sacrificing the public on their altar of civil bipartisanship.

    Frankly, if the country is going to go to hell no matter who's running things, it'd be best if it did so in the hands of conservatives. It might at least serve to discredit their schizophrenic ideology for whatever nation comes next.

  • Frankly, if the country is going to go to hell no matter who's running things, it'd be best if it did so in the hands of conservatives. It might at least serve to discredit their schizophrenic ideology for whatever nation comes next.

    Yeah, I had enough of that "burn the village in order to save it" philosopny from 2000-2008, thanks.

    Ed, the perfect is the enemy of the good. I'm sorry there's no NDP option for you to vote for in the US, but things are what they are, and employing this strategy doesn't make things better, as is proven repeatedly. So hold your nose and pull the lever lest you'd prefer a government run by thoecracy.

  • grumpygradstudent says:

    I'm sort of curious to see how Ed's political science side would reconcile the "no difference" thesis with the overwhelming evidence of growing polarization between the parties in government. It's perfectly possible that 1. we've drifted as a whole to the right. 2. and while that happened, the parties polarized. But I haven't this argument laid out yet.

  • I think Romney is an underrated candidate and nowhere fucking close to the Dick 'n' W poltergeist, but his obvious shock at his own "hang him" gaffe proves he still lacks the stomach for "firing up the base." I also don't think anyone's forgotten that he lost rather badly last time to Uncle Angry. I can't see him making it past Super Tuesday.

    I can't argue with the Hicksian puppetry thesis, but in this case I'd rather have the devil I know (gridlock and infuriating compromise, plus semi-progressive Supreme Court nominations) than encourage the GOP on iota. They've gotten off way too easily after the Bush debacle, and I'll vote for a few more rounds of humiliation before their core constituency starts croaking en masse. That's what they get for embracing all of the worst in the American character.

    I've only ever pulled the donkey lever out of spite, but it's always been enough. I wonder how it's come to this and I don't like either option, but it's not hard to choose between shit on my hands and shit in my mouth.

  • ProgressiveATL says:

    Werd, ginandtacos, werd.

    2012 might be first election I don't pull a toggle. Viscerally, feels like I'd be taking a knife to myself. To folks who would profane me for that, go torture yourself on your own time, I ain't into that kind of thing. Only Rome burning may still get me to that booth. Maybe. If our country can't learn from history, why do I bother.

    I got some Bill Hicks fun for you:

    And @Cromartie, just in case you're still tuned in, I got something fun for you, in case it's not where you derive your moniker and you're unaware of this silly delight:

  • Screamin' Demon says:

    I don't know what makes any of you people believe that Obama ran as a liberal in '08, or would have governed as a liberal if elected. I never thought so, he never said he would, and yet I pulled the lever for him anyway. I knew a McCain administration would be an unmitigated disaster, and I still think so. I'm sorry, but that was enough for me. Besides, do any of you think Osama would be dead today if McCain was president? He said he would never go into Pakistan, and criticized Obama for promising to do so (that's at least one promised kept.)

    I think it's laughable that so many of you still cling to the naive idea that Obama was going to miraculously transform the country into a progressive paradise. He never promised to do that. America is a center-right nation, thanks to thirty years of corporate media propaganda, and empty suits like Reagan and Dubya. It still amazes me that Obama was elected at all in such a polarized climate.

  • Aaron Schroeder says:

    Nate Silver replies, with maths:

    The analysis seems to show that, given his positions on a number of liberal-conservative pieces of legislation, President Obama tends to be slightly less liberal than Democratic presidents have been historically, but slightly more liberal than an average Democratic member of Congress today. And either way, significantly more liberal than even the most liberal Republican President – or Congressman in the early 90s.

    That said, Silver admits that the DW-Nominate numbers are open to a criticism that Ed alluded to: that 'what it means to be a Democrat' has changed in the last twenty-five to thirty years. Put differently, there's has been a 'long-term ideological shift' for each party, with each (so goes the criticism) becoming more conservative. The idea there seems to be that, while a bill may broadly speaking be liberal or conservative in nature, its content can be significantly more or less liberal or conservative than versions of the bill previously voted upon. So, what it means to pass health care reform today may not mean what it meant thirty years ago, and so, a vote in favor of health care reform today may count as a liberal vote in the data, but the vote may be significantly more conservative than the vote for health care reform at some previous time.

    And, you know, that sounds right, to me; the Democratic party isn't as liberal as it was forty years ago, and that's too bad. But it's considerably less conservative than anything approaching the average Republican today. And further, the "he's not liberal enough" response is an explanation seeking to explain (a) the disappointment we feel and (b) President Obama's behavior at negotiating positions with Congress. It's interesting to note, though, that (a) and (b) are equally-well (if not better) explained by the fact that the center has shifted, and the President's liberalism, whether intentionally or not, has shifted with it. This, I imagine, is the lasting legacy of the Moral Majority-Reagan-Democrat-etc. revolution of the 80s and 90s – that a significantly number of Americans had their views shifted to the right on just what is the role of government in our society. But I guess I'm loathe to blame the President for proving unable to turn back a thirty-year old tide in as little time as he's had.

  • 1) Yes, Obama is not a real progressive – and I also wish he were.

    2) "lesser of two evils" is not a great rallying cry, but whether you pick the candidate you like the most OR the candidate you disklike the least, you are picking which one represents you better. NOT voting is no solution.

    3) Democrats will not stop following corporate masters until they have enough money to win elections without them. And not before. If winning elections is a function of money ( and as the playing field is set up, it is a very important variable ) then corporate money will have a lot of influence. When the system is changed to remove the money, we can again have democracy.

    4) We need a Democrat in the White House for the Supreme Court – if nothing else.

  • Wow, what a load of self pitying crap. Wah! Obama doesn't give me what I like within a political system that frog marches reform into the abattoir of Congress.

    Romney would be no worse? What the fuck have you been watching since November 2010? You think Romney vetoes the Ryan budget? You think Romney can afford NOT to repeal ACA with 2016 to win? And as has been noted: The Supreme Court.

    This post is beneath the writing and thinking I've come to expect from this blog. Jesus, if – in 2011 – you can't tell the difference between Republicans and Democrats, you're students deserve a refund on their tuition.

    Oh, and those "New England Republicans" don't exist anymore. Chaffee's running as an independent, and the REASON HCR was watered down was Snowe and Collins.

  • A) For the love of god think of the Supreme Court

    B) Even though Obama is hardly the savior we'd hoped for, he'd veto some bullshit like the Ryan budget. The damage the GOP could cause if they were in power is staggering. I'll take a midcentury moderate over those frothing sociopaths any day.

  • Republicans always play to their base. It doesn't matter if Romney is – by inclination – a moderate. If he's elected he will govern as a hard right conservative. Bush had the same reputation – a moderate Republican. How'd he govern?
    And as for the differences the parties, there's the Supreme Court which has already mentioned. How about the NLRB. They tend to rule very differently depending on which party is in power.

  • "I think, and am better able to distinguish between people who are actually interested in the activism/cause/candidate/issue they claim to be interested in and those who just want daily affirmation of their belief that everybody and everything notthem sucks."
    /inb4 your screeching like a bitch at rethugs' actions once they take office

  • "I don't know what makes any of you people believe that Obama ran as a liberal in '08, or would have governed as a liberal if elected."

    Probably because he said he'd end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq when with McCain many people feared we'd get involved in a third war in Iran (instead we're in Libya now). Probably because he said he'd close Guantanamo. Probably because he said he'd push for a single-payer healthcare system yet caved in right off the bat and provided us with this monstrosity of a corporate hand-out to pharmaceutical and HMO big business. Probably because he promised to transform NAFTA yet hasn't touched it. Probably because he has yet to push his Justice Department or SEC to punish a single Wall Street crook for the largest economic clusterfuck in history which required trillions of taxpayer dollars to bail out (and no Bernie Madoff doesn't count, he was arrested during Bush's term).

    Sometimes things need to get very bad for there to be real progressive change. Sometimes the American people can be so blind and stupid about what really goes on in Washington that they'll support and fight for real progressive change. It happened in 1932 and I had hoped it was happening again in 2008. Maybe it'll take another Depression for people to realize Republican ideology is a ticket to poverty for 99% of the population before we can have a real New New Deal. The problem with having a milquetoast Democrat in the White House is he'll get much of the blame – and rightfully so – for the direction we're heading and taint the party in general.

  • As has been touched on above, one of the major reasons to actually oppose the Democrats is the damage they do to liberality when in power. If Obama hadn't been elected in the first place, policies such as torture, indefinite imprisonment without charges, bailouts for bankers, and starting wars left and right would all be Republican policies, and progressives would oppose them.

    Instead those policies are now consensus liberal Democratic policies, and as we see in several comments in the thread above, people (sensible people) are lining up to defend them, because "it could be worse". The damage to liberality is incalculable. Evil in Republican form is, at least, *opposed* by right-thinking people. Evil wearing a Democrat hat rots the progressive part of the country from within, and the only sensible thing to do – the obvious thing that would have happened long since in any country with a reasonable electoral system – would be to split off and form a non-corrupt progressive party. The longer that is delayed the worse things will get.

    Get it through your heads: the Republicans are a terrible party to elect. And so are the Democrats. Trying to determine degrees of badness is a fool's game.

  • Monkey Business says:

    Do a cringe a little every time I pull the lever for a Democrat? Absolutely. I'm sick to death of watered down candidates whose principles and ideas are just rehashed GOP ideas from the 80s. However, I understand that just as the Democratic party has been dragged to the right, so has the GOP, and that's terrifying. So yeah, not thrilled about voting for Democrats, but it's better than voting for Republicans to spite them.

    My sincere hope is that the President finds or borrows a pair of cajones for his second term and kicks some Republican ass.

  • Michael: while you are wringing your hands worrying about the "damage to liberality" – an abstraction – the rest of us here on earth will continue to worry about the very real and catastrophic damage to our country and our people that would occur with a Republican in the white house.

  • The problem with being the lesser of two evils is exacerbated when the other side is ramping up the evil. In that case, your evil can be a lot worse than it would be otherwise, and still be lesser. This is not a good thing.

  • The Democrats respond with progressive change only when failure to do so results in the mass migration of their votes to a third party. You think FDR gave you the New Deal and are thankful to the Democrats for it, when you should be thanking Eugene Debbs, the socialists and the labor unions for FORCING his hand in order to win reelection. Roosevelt was a politician, and they respond to only one thing from the electorate: Fear.

    A vibrant political movement outside the bounds of a political party is, in our two party state, a sign of ideological health. That the left refuses to even consider straying from Team D is all the evidence you need for how utterly dead our ideas are in this country.

  • Eugene Debs strongest run for President was in 1912, a full twenty years before FDR. It's a bit like saying Obama's 2008 policies were due to Dukakis.

  • It's like saying building a large and vibrant movement outside the bounds of one of the two dominant political parties over the course of decades leads to society transforming policies. Eugene Debs unsuccessful runs did indeed pave the way for progressive change 20 years later. It's like saying we have Ronald Reagan to thank for the disastrous policies we see today – because we do.

  • dj plan b says:

    too true. best blog post by a well-known progressive in some time. too many are afraid to say the same thing even though they know it's true.

  • dj plan b says:

    a lot of the comments here are just too ludicrous. trust me, I live in Missouri. I know exactly how bad a state legislature can be. We are wingnut effing central here, with Dana Loesch to boot. but G&T is 100% correct, voting for Obama over Mitt wouldn't change anything about that. the problem is too many fucking idiots who DO vote and way too many people who see through the whole charade and realized long ago that voting is, by and large, a waste of time.

  • This post is to Gin and Tacos what Michael Jordan's year playing minor league baseball was to Jordan, an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise legendary career. Come back, Ed! You've still got championships left in you!

    Oh and anyone who thinks it's preferable to vote for a third-party to "send a message" to the Dems, at the expense of letting the Republican party wreck the country for a few decades, is an imbecile. The Dems may be ineffectual moderates whose policies mostly serve their corporate paymasters, but as I've said above, the Republicans are Ayn Rand-worshipping zealots whose policies EXCLUSIVELY serve their corporate paymasters. BIG difference.

    There are better ways of pushing the Democratic party leftward other than voting them out. The conservative movement didn't need a third party to shift the ideology of the Repub. party over the last 20 years. It used media (like Limbaugh, Hannity, right-wing talk radio) and very effective advocacy orgs (like Heritage Foundation, Cato, Focus on the Family) to win the war of ideas and change the ideological makeup of the country. The politicians responded accordingly. We don't need a progressive party, we need a vigorous progressive movement that can articulate and sell progressive values to the American people. We need to reframe the national debate away from watchwords like "individual freedom" and "deficits" towards "social justice" and "equality." Eventually, the politicians will follow.

  • Two things, ed.

    1. I remember that in the lead up to 2008, you were constantly trying to tell people that Obama was pretty much what he has turned out to be. I get the disappointment of those who thought he was going to change everything, but you knew better from day one. So why the angry?

    2. I also recall the "you call this a choice?" meme from 2000. Enough said, methinks.

  • Whether you end up with a centrist/milquetoast Democrat in the White House or a Republican it only changes the speed with which this handbasket is traveling not its general destination. Maybe for us it'll be better to slow our decent into Hell so the next generation feels the worst of it instead, but maybe it would be good to hit our low point early like we did in the 1930's under Hoover and finally wake the country up enough to have another FDR (or better) to institute another round of progressive change. Maybe we can reverse this course and perhaps even turn things around by electing conservative Democrats but I suspect koala bears will start shitting skittles first.

  • The Congress will not pass the programs that some want. I don't see that as Obama's fault. To be at fault, he would actually have to be more powerful than every Senate member. He is not. He & the House could do well, but the Senate is a bunch of old white men holding on to the power they've accumulated over the many years they've been there. They all resent him for having more power than them.

    I'm voting Obama for the Supreme Court vacancies and because the GOP is intent on privatizing Social Security & Medicare & eradicating Medicaid. Bush tried SocSec & now Ryan is out reintroducing his failed Medicare privatization scheme. They're getting closer.

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