Friday, August 26, 2011

Poutrager argues for a world where only extremists matter

If you ever want to read an article from the left that is the total antithesis of everything President Obama stands for, I'd suggest this one by David Atkins titled No Consequence for Extremism.

There's really nothing new that Atkins is arguing for. The poutragers are jealous that the Republican Party has become a tool for their extremists and want the same kind of power in the Democratic Party. But what is different about this article is that Atkins actually tries to lay out the thinking behind why this would be such a good idea. Its because he doesn't think our current system forces extremists to pay a price.

Well, one way of looking at it is that the GOP has figured out that there is no consequence for extremism in American politics. America has a de facto two-party system. And as much as both parties dream of building the electoral coalition that will turn the other into a "permanent minority", the truth is that in a binary system with sophisticated political strategists and media machines on both sides, no party will hold office forever at a national level. Scandal, recession, and general malaise will ensure that the Party in power will be voted out by a disgruntled electorate, and that by default the beneficiaries of that event will be the Party currently out of power.

What Atkins fails to realize is that we don't have a parliamentary system in this country. I'm not sure what he means by "the Party in power." The truth is that Americans are notorious for voting in divided government.

So I'd suppose Atkins doesn't think we should worry so much about the fact that the 2010 elections were considered a political landslide for the Republicans. We should simply keep pushing our agenda even further to the left and assume that at some point the voters will swing back our way. Seriously, why bother with trying to compromise to get something passed that will actually help those without a job or health care or a roof over their head? If we just wait it out long enough - we'll get our chance to do something. Of course, that means waiting until we have a filibuster proof majority of progressives in the Senate along with control of the House and the Presidency. But surely...that will happen some day. Meanwhile, we can talk REALLY big about what we'd do when that happens.

In the meantime, what does Atkins suggest? He thinks we should obstruct as good as the Republicans.

The GOP has figured out that it is much more intelligent in American politics to consolidate an unassailable ideological voter and donor base, win what elections they can essentially by default, and push the Overton Window as far as humanly possible toward conservatism while in office. And when Democrats hold office, as they inevitably will? Then prevent them from governing as Democrats...

Far from being insane, this approach is actually eminently rational...

Insanity is what Democrats do: try to win every election and remain popular in the polls by compromising and appealing to the moderate voter while insulting their natural base, whether they're in office or out of office...The Democrats' job should be to push policy in as far a progressive direction as possible and build the base while in office, and then prevent Republicans from governing as Republicans when they naturally oscillate out of the majority.

I can see it all now...when Republicans are in the majority, Democrats obstruct. And when the Democrats are in the majority, Republicans obstruct. Now that sounds like a recipe for success, doesn't it? In other words, we take the one thing that is keeping our democratic republic from functioning, and apply it to both parties. The only thing I can think of to compare that to is what happens when children are left unattended and there is - literally - no adult in the room. Of course, the other analogy would be the "mutually assured destruction" of the Cold War era.

Of course, in Atkin's scheme, moderate voters are merely the fickle pawns who are easily manipulated by "sophisticated political strategists and media machines." So who cares what they think? We can easily dismiss them from our discourse in this new world where only extremists matter.

I have to say that this kind of strategy turns my stomach in just about every way possible, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has read what I've been writing over the last few years. So to clean out the synapses a bit, lets re-read that quote from President Obama that I use so often.

A polarized electorate that is turned off of politics, and easily dismisses both parties because of the nasty, dishonest tone of the debate, works perfectly well for those who seek to chip away at the very idea of government because, in the end, a cynical electorate is a selfish electorate...

Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will. This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required. It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.


  1. ebogan63 here.

    The thing that escapes the people who spout this sort of nonsense is one minor thing: YOU HAVE TO WIN ELECTIONS. Which is something that the 'left' hasn't been too effective in doing, and that the GOP and the right has excelled at. And, they have done this by winning at the STATE AND LOCAL LEVEL, not doing as ACT BLUE does, only gather money for national races. Given also that liberals only make up a plurality of the Dem party, and that there are more folks who consider themselves moderate in their views, shitting on them as Atkins, Kos, and other online idiots are wont to do, is the sort of strategic failure the 'left' seems to celebrate. The sort of obsession with the "Overton Window" is more magical thinking that the left has engaged in for the last 40 yrs, and it needs to stop if any of these closely held theories are to come to fruition.

  2. The contrast between Atkin's approach and President Obama's is stark. It's why Obama is president and has gotten more accomplished than any Democrat in my lifetime. Atkins can scream all he wants - but its why the poutragers have made themselves completely irrelevant.

  3. Mo'nin', Ms. Pants

    And, these folks just will NOT stop all of this stupid yelling.

    ebogan63 - as I'm noting they tend to do - makes a salient point...elections must be WON.

    I am not a big fan of baseball. I wasn't good at it - really long arms (makes swinging at an extremely fast moving little ball complicated) - and it's ssslooooow. And, I never really understood that there's actually strategy in how a game is played and one. Felt that way until a guy named Dorrel Norman Elvert Herzog - aka "Whitey" managed the Cardinals back in the 80's. He sped the game UP. Had the largest number of black players on the Cardinals that St. Louis had ever seen and, because of a very consistent strategy, that could actually be seen if it was looked for, won a World Series.

    I have never in my 60 years seen so many people, who think they know better, try to tell a man in this office of President what he ought to do. And, miss over annnd over annnnd over that, because he's the strategist that he is, he's been pretty successful and it's reasonable to assume that he'll continue being so.

    What I'm quite happy about is that your piece on the numbers shows that people in the country - not any number of these pundits - seem to be understanding this about him, too.

    I know, in essence, you say the same thing, from different angles (and you are just SO good at doing it) over and over and over.

    But, as I've said, we REALLY do (as you point out in this piece) need to hear it.

    Thank you again, for all you do.

    P.S. "Brother West" pisses me the fuck off and proves that intellect and common sense AIN'T the same thing.

  4. Don't be shocked when the poutragers start asking candidates to sign pledges, just like the teabaggers.

  5. Came here via Angry Black Lady Chronicles. Glad I did. Will add you to my reader. Good stuff.

  6. Me too, what Sherry Peyton said.

  7. you think Dems lost the 2010 elections by being too far to the left? Hilarious.

    Btw, Dems have won plenty of elections over the last 30 years, but economic policy has shifted ever rightward regardless. It doesn't do a lot of good to win elections if you don't do anything with the power you gain.

  8. Also, I would note that the GOP has been *extremely successful* for the last 30 years with their tactics--win or lose. Dems have been largely unsuccessful--win or lose. We gain ground on social issues, but our politicians have little to do with that. On economic issues, we continue to regress, win or lose.

    I'm still waiting to the see the GOP pay a price for its extremism. I don't think I ever will. Losing an election or two (2006, 2008) doesn't count, since they regain ground regardless and keep America moving rightward no matter what.

  9. Thanks for showing up David.

    I never suggested that we lost in 2010 because we'd gone too far to the left. I was merely pointing out that you suggest that loosing shouldn't matter. So loosing in 2010 doesn't matter.

    You want to suggest that the sole reason Republicans have been successful is because of their extremism. And yet you begin your article pointing out the fact that they have recently gotten extreme about things like social security.

    If your contention that the GOP has been so successful over the last 30 years is true, you are taking a pretty recent phenomenon and giving it all the credit. That's not only short-sighted, its a bit too simplistic by half.

    Here's an explanation of some of the other things you might want to consider.


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