Understanding The Obama Era

For a very long time, I argued on this shitty blog that Obama’s policies were Rockefeller Republican policies–admittedly, not batshitloonitarian Ayn Randian policies–but Rockefeller Republican policies. And it was clear that the Republican party for a very long time had moved well to the left of Rockefeller Republicanism. Self-proclaimed neoliberal shill Brad Delong makes this very clear:

Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. He’s all these things not because the technocrats in his administration think they’re the best possible policies, but because [White House adviser] David Axelrod and company say they poll well.

And [Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel and company say we’ve got to build bridges to the Republicans. We’ve got to let Republicans amend cap and trade up the wazoo, we’ve got to let Republicans amend the [Affordable Care Act] up the wazoo before it comes up to a final vote, we’ve got to tread very lightly with finance on Dodd-Frank, we have to do a very premature pivot away from recession recovery to “entitlement reform.”

All of these with the idea that you would then collect a broad political coalition behind what is, indeed, Mitt Romney’s health care policy and John McCain’s climate policy and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy.

And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years?

No, they fucking did not. No allegiance to truth on anything other than the belief that John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell are the leaders of the Republican Party, and since they’ve decided on scorched earth, we’re to back them to the hilt. So the politics were completely wrong, and we saw this starting back in the Clinton administration.

Today, there’s literally nobody on the right between those frantically accommodating Donald Trump, on the one hand, and us on the other. Except for our brave friends in exile from the Cato Institute now trying to build something in the ruins at the [centrist] Niskanen Center. There’s simply no political place for neoliberals to lead with good policies that make a concession to right-wing concerns.

…accept that there is no political path to a coalition built from the Rubin-center out. Instead, we accommodate ourselves to those on our left. To the extent that they will not respond to our concerns, what they’re proposing is a helluva better than the poke-in-the-eye with a sharp stick. That’s either Trumpist proposals or the current status.

…A bunch of policies that depended on there being a political-economic consensus to support them, as part of a broad agreement about America’s direction, are a lot worse as policies if that political-economic underpinning is not there. There also are a bunch of lessons about how policies that we thought are going to be very effective are rather less effective.

…We tried to do health reform the Republicans’ way ,and what’s now clear with a Republican Supreme Court and with a lot of Republican governors, any attempt to do it the Republicans’ way is going to get shredded. We tried to do climate policy the Republicans’ way, and got nowhere.

Until something non-rubble-ish is built in the Republican center, what might be good incremental policies just cannot be successfully implemented in an America as we know it today. We need Medicare-for-all, funded by a carbon tax, with a whole bunch of UBI rebates for the poor and public investment in green technologies.

Unlike Delong, I’m not a neoliberal, I’m what used to be called circa 1980s and 1990s a liberal Democrat, which are apparently called social democrats these days (it would appear the conservative Democrats who hounded liberal Democrats out of positions of power in the Democratic Party from the mid 1980s through the 2000s and its associated organizations are now calling themselves liberal Democrats. It gets so damn confusing…). Still the recognition that there is nothing to be gained by negotiating with the Republican Party–which currently is best thought of as a mass communicable psychotic break–is useful.

The rest of the ‘centrist’ or conservative Democrats need to figure this out. It’s like Democrats are arguing over whether we should have pizza or Chinese food, and then Republicans show up demanding glass shards and razor wire. With the theocracy, white nationalism, and the batshitloonitarianism, there’s no way to compromise.

Unless you like eating razor wire, of course.

Aside: I would love to hear what Delong meant by “There also are a bunch of lessons about how policies that we thought are going to be very effective are rather less effective.” That seems very important but was unexplored by Vox.

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4 Responses to Understanding The Obama Era

  1. Bern says:

    “And it was clear that the Republican party for a very long time had moved well to the LEFT of Rockefeller Republicanism.”
    You might want to re-align that directional up there^^^…

  2. harrync says:

    I have a hard time understanding Obama. He was presented the opportunity to be another FDR; instead he became, I don’t know, Reagan light [friend of the plutocrats, screw the little guy.] Obamacare is a small plus, much outweighed by his negatives, which together ended up giving us Trump, a major disaster. I suspect in the long run, he will be rated as a failed president. And don’t get me started on the harm the Clintons have done to this country. “Not as bad as Bush or Trump” is a very low bar to clear.

    • jimvogan@juno.com says:

      I’ve always thought that one of President Obama’s strongest priorities as the first black president was to bend over backwards so that no one could say, “see, a black president can’t get along with white people, will not listen to them or compromise with them, and let’s never elect one again.” So he “looked forward, not backward”, invited conservative pundits to dinner, and compromised all over the place. Similar to “only Nixon can go to China”, only an old white man like Bernie Sanders can have a progressive, socialist agenda without being demonized for it (much). The few times President Obama did make progressive comments about gun-worshippers he was in fact demonized for it in much of the main-stream press, as I recall.

      Bush and Trump are very low bars, but in my opinion President Obama cleared those bars by a lot, and while he could have tried to do a lot more, I doubt if he could have accomplished it against Republican opposition. As it was, Romney’s Health Care policy just barely made it through the Senate and past the Supreme Court.

  3. coloncancercommunity says:

    For all the histrionics about what Obama was or how he portrayed himself, there is a very clear bottom line. The middle and working classes are FED UP. They want policies that help THEM not just “hope and change” rhetoric. If the Democrats win in 2020, the most dangerous thing that they can do is NOT PROVIDE RELIEF TO THE BOTTOM 90%. If the vast majority of Americans can’t catch their breath and get back on track economically, there will be far worse than Trump waiting in the wings for 2024.

    The only two candidates who might provide more than talking points are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The rest is just a neoliberal clown car, similar to the Republican clown car of 2016.

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