Politics Can Be Practiced Well: Shifting the Overton Window

By way of Howie Klein comes this explanation of what makes a successful politician–and what gets in the way:

It goes, “I am not part of the political establishment. I am not a career politician. Trust me, because I am a successful business owner and can run government better.”
That’s not much of a sales pitch. As much as they proclaim they do not want to be a career politician, that is exactly want they want to be. They are bold faced lairs. If you don’t [to] want to be a career politician don’t run for office. You are obviously lacking the convictions of your beliefs to fight for what you think is right.
I believe company owners are uniquely unqualified to hold any elected position. Why, you may ask– perhaps not having paid attention the political charades by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mitt Romney?
Because they have the mindset of making all the decisions. No compromise. No discussion. My way or the highway. Sound like Meg Whitman? Carly Fiorina? Ron Johnson? Rick Scott? Linda McMahon? All of the above? And then there’s Joe Miller…
I would argue career politicians are a good thing. If they are honest, vote for their constituents’ beliefs and are not [beholden] to special interests.

Despite the corporate pragmatists fanciful claims that we Dirty Hippies are naive and ‘idealistic’ (as if following ideals were a bad thing), recognizing all the members of your governing coalition–as opposed to denigrating–the pragmatic position is to move to the left (italics original; boldface mine):

Forget the thousand explanations pundits have offered for the administration’s beef with the left; this is the single biggest reason the left is furious with Obama: that one by one, he has willingly and unnecessarily bargained away the progressive positions that would move the national debate back to the center. After all, the counterweight to the right is not the mushy middle, it’s the principled left. Did progressive bloggers really think Obama was going to establish a single payer health care system, bring all Bush warmongers to justice, stop the looting of the poor by the ultra-rich, revitalize the environmental movement, undo Bush-Cheney’s executive power excesses, bring about true social justice and stop needless wars? No. They’re far more jaded and pragmatic than anyone admits. But at least make those the debate points rather than ditch them unilaterally.
…What matters is that Democrats run away from the left like it’s the plague while Republican run to the right like it’s nirvana. The net effect is that the media end up reporting far right positions as though they were mainstream and reporting liberal positions as thought they were heinous aberrations. And you wonder why America is veering off the rails?

What I still can’t fathom is why the Democratic establishment thinks they can piss off the rank-and-file: if nothing else, they need us so they can look respectable. Besides, we’re a pretty cheap date–at this point, some would settle for Elizabeth Warren at CFPA and not making Social Security worse, as pathetic as that is. As a member of the ‘amateur’ left, I don’t expecting these three things is naive:

1) We wouldn’t be demonized by our own political ‘leadership.’
2) On some issues, we would get most or all of what we wanted. That’s what it means to be part of a governing coalition. Instead, Co-Presidents Lincoln, Snowe, and Summers have tanked everything.
3) Democrats would stop talking like conservatives all the time.

Then again, I’m just a Dirty Fucking Hippie.

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7 Responses to Politics Can Be Practiced Well: Shifting the Overton Window

  1. Russell says:

    The problem you’re running into is that Republicans have essentially spurned reason, which leaves reasonable people voting Democratic and tends to make them seem “on the left,” including many who aren’t particular leftist. More, regardless of their political views, these people will run from extreme positions, because, well, they’re reasonable.
    So a Republican can stand up and say “all Muslims are terrorists,” and get cheered and elected to office. If a Democrat stands up and says, “let’s nationalize all banks,” he’s going to get a mass of Democrats saying, “wtf? are you nuts?!”
    Yeah, yeah, I know there’s next to no one urging nationalization of all the banks. I’m just trying to explain the different dynamic right now between the two parties. The GOP has turned itself into the party of purposeful wingnuttery. The Democratic Party is more varied, both in the political positions and interests embedded within it, and the range of ideological fervor of those voting Democrat.

  2. Roddy Reta says:

    Seems like you’re just knocking down a straw man here. The vast majority of Republican politicos aren’t saying all Muslims are terrorists. Demonizing your political opposition makes for fun blogging, but its poor politics at the retail level. You just ending up pissing people off.
    And I would argue that career politcians, by definition, are beholden to special interests of one sort or another. I think people intuitively realize this, which is why a lot of these outsiders are winning office.

  3. Russell says:

    Roddy, I didn’t say all Republican polticos are saying that. I’m saying they can say it and get applauded. Look at the Park51 demagoguery, based directly on the notion that a Muslim building is an affront to the WTC in a way that a Christian church would not be.

  4. blf says:

    The vast majority of Republican politicos aren’t saying all Muslims are terrorists.

    And what percentage are saying “Very few people are terrorists. Being a muslim has nothing to do with terrorism. The worse terriost atrocity in the USA prior to the WTC incident was by a christian. Supported by other christians.”

  5. jerry anning says:

    Re: your last sentence.
    Is it perhaps time, in the interest of moving the Overton window, to start seriously pushing back against the marginalization of anything even vaguely liberal? Could we start by reclaiming some of the language? ‘Liberal’, ‘socialist’, ‘left wing’, ‘regulation’, even ‘government’ are political swearwords. We need a DFH Pride movement.

  6. Seth says:

    Among other things what we need is patience. Keep in mind that the “current” wingnut strategy extends at least 50 years back, probably longer. They’ve been building to this moment for quite a while. We DFH’s can’t expect to erase or undo that history quickly, no matter how much we exhort ourselves to do so.

  7. Paul Murray says:

    You need to examine the process by which the democratic candidates for office are selected.

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