Another Defining Moment 47


We all have very high ideals and are desperate to see this country live up to its potential.  That feeling is felt to the left and right of the spectrum.  We want a sense of safety and security and sanity back, yesterday.  Problem is that safety and security and sanity are completely subjective views depending on so many variables that in a diverse country such as ours we need to pretty much agree to disagree at the outset.

Though our sense of desperation is shared, we each offer slightly different views on interpreting President Obama’s motives so far in his presidency.

Are his mistakes to be expected or do they represent some deeper motives at work?  The complaints are ironically similar from left and right alike.  I prefer to use the totality of what I know from months of research to judge Obama on any issue I disagree with him on.  I never believed Barack to be a classically liberal democrat, so I have not felt “betrayed” by anything he has done to date, however misguided.

I considered him an electable and pragmatic second choice to Dennis Kucinich, whom I supported initially in the interest of authenticity.

The general election is about a nation, though, and not just a political party, and Obama was elected through the auspices of a wide swath of the electorate on the right and left.  The governing majority that made Barack Obama president in 2008 requires all of us to expand our minds and see at three or four or five dimension.  Especially now, when the stakes have never been higher.

If we can disagree and still come across as grown-ups, the many folks who don’t bother commenting on these threads, but are reading them for the same reasons we do, may actually learn a thing or two about progress and act accordingly in their real lives.  (If you think a couple hundred bloggers drives enough ads to keep the lights on at TPM, I have a great investment opportunity for you.)

Assuming there is a silent audience, imagine if “progressives” came across as pragmatic and willing to forgive the duped even as they hope to punish the guilty?  Republicans want accountability, too, they just think liberals are conspiracy theorists and melodramatic.  Guilt will need to be proved in a court of law.  Does that make them evil?  I don’t think so.  Just classically conservative. Most republicans aren’t neocons, despite the brilliant takeover of the party by those PNAC/Nixon-era wack-jobs.

I think all Americans are idealists in one way or another and the “center” is heading away from the rightward tilt it has taken in the last thirty years or so.  It is inevitable given the demographics of the country, but the process can be delayed by unreasonable liberals during this time of reconciliation and transition.  Reagan won his landslides by convincing his “enemies” that all of his horrible ideas where in America’s best interest.  You didn’t have to agree, but by God we would fulfill the mission if the president had anything to say about it.

America is very mission oriented.  All major progress in this country has happened by way of 2/3 majorities, not fringe elements imposing fringe beliefs on an unwilling Republic.

Put the GOP on a Green Mission for God and Country if you want to see movement on progressive ideas.   Let’s create an environment where the republicans and the democrats argue over who has the most sustainable policies, despite the methods they use to get the job done.  Let’s use our current dysfunction as an opportunity to make labels immaterial with regards to our larger shared goals as a nation.  A president can create that kind of change, but only if he can speak to a nation rather than a demographic slice.

To use a governing majority,  liberals must be willing to forgive their conservative brothers and sisters for being victimized by the neocons these past 40 years.  They must dispense with labels long enough to feel like Americans first if we are going to fix the many problems looming on the horizon, let alone those already under our feet.  We need to grow up a little and admit the possibility of gray areas.

We have reached the limit of labels to contribute to anything other than the continued desecration of our nearly-dead Republic.  Let’s use this moment in history to to choose a new definition.

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47 thoughts on “Another Defining Moment

  • Ellen

    . . . liberals must be willing to forgive their conservative brothers and sisters for being victimized by the neocons these past 40 years.

    But who is going to forgive those who’ve been victimized by the neoliberals these past 20 years?

      • Ellen

        Well, this quasi-socialist libertarian-manque ain’t gonna be forgiving 20 years of neoliberal transgressions and power grabs any time soon.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          It’s not about forgiveness. It is about smart strategy and tactics. Taking politial slights too personally can keep us from using the right means to our stated ends.

      • Obey

        As I said on your other blog, Jason, to the extent that this is meant to be in part addressed to progressives, it would be nice to some evidence these ‘repentant Republicans’ EXIST.

        Like you say, it’s not visible in any Republican with a public profile, I personally can’t see it in the polling either, nor amongst any of the Republicans I know – including most of my family and many former colleagues.

        You mention ‘neo-cons’, though I don’t think that foreign policy is much of an object of debate – Obama has basically continued the more pragmatic second-term Bush policy, reconciling many Dems to that approach (myself not included, needless to say).

        The issues where there remain pretty irreconcilable views and widespread partisan mistrust, imo, are on the more philosophico-scientific debates regarding so-called ‘free markets’ (especially banking reform and HCR), the social safety net (should it be strengthened or weakened), and climate change (does it exist). I don’t see significant numbers of Republicans changing their views – ‘repenting’ – on these things.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          I use neocon as shorthand for modern “conservatives” with very little in common with the early roots of conservative political philosophy in America and remains the underlying perversion of the republican party as far as I can tell.

          As far as “repentent” republicans go, if the measure is some sort of massive mea culpa from conservatives, then we will likely never close this painful political divide. The best any liberal can hope for in that regard is anecdotal evidence of republicans trying to move forward.

          The election of Barack Obama was a huge indication of that paradigm shifting, yet it was almost immediately dismissed by most democrats as well as their “representatives” in Congress.

          I don’t expect liberals and conservatives to ever agree completely on how to solve some of our most pressing issues, but if the only “solutions” we are offered are Huge Government or No Government, I suspect most Americans will simply continue to tune out.

          • Obey

            “The best any liberal can hope for … is anecdotal evidence of republicans trying to move forward.”

            – I think a lot of people around here would really appreciate it if you provided some such anecdotes. Not a criticism, just a suggestion for future blogs…

          • Jason Everett Miller

            Just look below to StillIdealistic as she speaks of her son.

            Read most of my blogs as I speak to republicans I know personally who inspired this independent to help them transform the notion of what conservative means in America.

            Actually, a reintroduction as many of America’s most progressive ideals started in classically conservative political philosophy.

  • new10

    It’s a little challenging to forgive those who are still looking for every opportunity to shove a knife in to your belly, wouldn’t you agree?

    Unilateral political disarmament merely invites attack, as Obama has been discovering. Can anyone imagine Obama’s attempts at outreach invoking a reciprocal response from the Right today? Where are the conservative voices of reason? To the degree that they exist, they certainly have decided that bipartisanship is not worth speaking up for.

    The GOP has become radicalized by forces which it cultivated since the Civil Rights movement. Whether such voices have come to represent the majority of the GOP or not they have certainly come to dominate its actions. No, the correct approach for the Left is reciprocity. Tit-for-Tat, not some continual turning of the other cheek.

    Yes, the party in power should reach out it’s ‘hand’, and if that hand is met with a reciprocal hand then the stronger pulls up the weaker. If, however, that hand is met with a clenched fist then a fist should be returned, but always with the sincere offer of returning an open hand instead. Obama said something akin to this to the Muslim world. It’s just basic ‘carrot-and-stick’ diplomacy.

    BTW: I view the locus of my own political orientation as being center-left, not left.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I think you are living in the past with this comment.

      Obama’s outreach isn’t to the craziest of the crazies. It is to the mainstream and moderate republicans and independents who helped get him through the primary and general elections.

      An eye for an eye simply ensures we all end up blind.

        • Jason Everett Miller

          If the democratic party (especially the Congress) would follow the president’s lead in most matters of messaging and positioning, I think the progressive cause would be much further along after his one or two terms than it is right now.

          It isn’t a perfect solution, I understand, but it seems like a start to me. Problem is that it is against human nature to continue to offer an open hand only to have it slapped away repeatedly.

          I can see the president maintaining persistence in the face of such slights for as long as he needs to, but the average American is just not designed that way, left or right, though I had hoped the democratic party would be a good place to begin the effort given their charter.

  • stillidealistic

    There is hope that some hearts and minds can be changed. My extremely conservative son just got his taxes done and saw the tax cuts in action. That led to a discussion about healthcare reform and how it is the underpinning of making us competitive in the global job arena, and will allow some people to quit their jobs which they only kept for the insurance benefit (which will open up more jobs.)

    He’s not ready to go out and vote for progressives, but he didn’t blow me off like he usually does. That’s progress.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I have a feeling events like you describe are happening al over the country for many republicans and former republicans.

      The only thing that can stop that transformation of conservative politics is a more radicalized left as a response to continued crazy from the right.

      At a certain point, progressives of all stripes need to be the grown-ups and stop responding to fits of hyperbolic rage in kind.

  • JadeZ

    There is no real “liberal” debate in this country.

    Name the people that you believe represent the liberal point of view in this country.

    The propaganda that the media is even a tiny bit liberal when it is totally owned and controlled by corporations is laughable.

    When Howard Zinn died I asked if anyone had ever seen him on TV or seen his words even here at TPM>

    no one answered.

    Every resource in the commercial mainstream media
    is used to maintain the status quo.

    No one is allowed to say “hey, wait a second!, the whole premise you guys are talking about is wrong!”.

    Listen to the arguments and words of Chris hedges or Chris Floyd or DR. Michio Kaku…Steve Lendman, the list is endless, but the general public has never heard of them.

    They are not on Keiths show or Rachels show or even the Daily Show!

    The real problem is that the liberal /progressive voices have no part in the debate.
    But I believe their voices are being heard more and more thanks to the internet.

    And I see no hope of achieving the real change that this country desperately needs without them.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I don’t consider Howard Zinn a “liberal” in the classic sense, but most Americans can’t find India on a globe, so I am not all that concerned that they don’t know Zinn’s work.

      Especially at a political blogging site since most people come here to have their assumptions justified and amplified, not challenged at every turn.

      I think you hit on the main point of my thesis, which is the limit of labels such as liberal or conservative to define any sort of coherent path for the country.

      They are too tainted.

      What I would love to see is people starting to question everything they have been taught, on the left and right, so we can begin to craft some actual solutions for a change.

      • JadeZ

        Well its hard to expect people to start questioning everything they have been taught when you admit they come here just to have their assumptions justified and amplified, not challenged at every turn.

        But, I don’t see how you get any movement at all unless you are willing to challenge them.

        And to do that you need to define things and in simple distinctive terms.

        Of course Zinn was a socialist but I get tired of typing liberal/progressive / independent thinker/etc…every time I need to differentiate from the tired norm

        • Jason Everett Miller

          I think Zinn was more of a realist than a socialist. He was an honest and able witness to some of America’s most pivotal moments, always the historian rather than a mere partisan.

          That being said, I think that many here are not willing to shift their viewpoint far enough to be useful but not all. I see a willingness on your part to question assumptions that is mirrored by those on your right.

          What we are missing is a narrative that draws all our parts together in a combined effort at that city on a hill.

      • SleepinJeezus

        From the blog itself:

        “I never believed Barack to be a classically liberal democrat…”

        “…Republicans want accountability, too, they just think liberals are conspiracy theorists and melodramatic. Guilt will need to be proved in a court of law. Does that make them evil? I don’t think so. Just classically conservative. Most republicans aren’t neocons, despite the brilliant takeover of the party by those PNAC/Nixon-era wack-jobs…”

        “…I think all Americans are idealists …”

        “…the process can be delayed by unreasonable liberals…”

        “…All major progress in this country has happened by way of 2/3 majorities, not fringe elements imposing fringe beliefs on an unwilling Republic…”

        This all leads to the “money quote:”

        …”To use a governing majority, liberals must be willing to forgive their conservative brothers and sisters for being victimized by the neocons these past 40 years. They must dispense with labels long enough to feel like Americans first if we are going to fix the many problems looming on the horizon, let alone those already under our feet.

        This incoherent contradiction posted as legitimate analysis is quite entertaining on its own, especially because it is offered without an ounce of awareness of the irony expressed therein. But you then make it a total farce by doubling-down in your comments:

        “I don’t consider Howard Zinn a “liberal” in the classic sense…”

        And then from the same thread:

        I think Zinn was more of a realist than a socialist…”

        “…I use neocon as shorthand for modern “conservatives” with very little in common with the early roots of conservative political philosophy…”

        “…I think you hit on the main point of my thesis, which is the limit of labels such as liberal or conservative to define any sort of coherent path for the country.”

        In close examination, there is ONE (and only one) statement made in your whole presentation here that holds up under examination:

        “What we are missing is a narrative that draws all our parts together “

        Just more jem nuggets pulled from your own bloomer pudding. Put me down as an unimpressed observer. I suggest that you might want to try reconciling all the parts of your own narrative before offering it as a supposedly coherent and well-reasoned analysis of political realities.

          • SleepinJeezus

            I never expected you to address the irony of your deep reliance upon labels (in the blog AND in your comments) to arrive at your summation that our problems are caused by “liberals” who “must dispense with labels to feel like Americans first.” After all, there is an obvious reason you never respond to legitimate and specific criticism of your senseless blather with anything like a logical argument that is on point

            Do you ever actually READ what you’ve written? The blah, blah, blah of contradictory platitudes and bromides that you continually pass off as legitimate, reasoned analysis is an insult and a diversion from the conversations that are necessary to focus energy upon solving the many political problems at hand.

            Moreover, in this case your inability to define the political landscape without using labels (see above) completely undermines your thesis that somehow great change will come only after we become a politically homogenous society. Politics is, after all, a contest between divergent political philosophies and ideologies that require labels to define just who is who. And nowhere is this more apparent than in your discussion leading up to your “get rid of labels first – THEN get the change we require” summation

            “We have reached the limit of labels to contribute to anything other than the continued desecration of our nearly-dead Republic.”

            Not quite, sport! As you so clearly point out, we cannot even define political realities without labeling the players in this democratic contest of ideas.
            ————————

            And while we are at it….

            “All major progress in this country has happened by way of 2/3 majorities, not fringe elements imposing fringe beliefs on an unwilling Republic.”

            This is simply and demonstrably false. Requiring a super-majority in support of an idea as a test of its political legitimacy is a sure way to institutionalize paralysis and maintain the status quo regardless of just how counter-productive the status quo might be. Don’t believe that? Just look to our Senate and the abuse of the filibuster to see how effective your suggested super-majority approach to politics is in the real world.

            Leaders do not Lead – and have never done so – by only promoting and enacting policies that already have the full support of the super-majority. Instead, they commit themselves to “better ideas” upon which they are willing to stake their careers and their legitimacy as “leaders” in actually leading us all to a better place. From Moses on down, you will find those most respected as “Leaders” in our history have taken the road less travelled to arrive at a destination previously derided and/or disdained by the majority. That’s simply the way it is in the real world, and all the blather and bromides and platitudes will not change it!

            Lastly, if this is indeed incomprehensible to you, then perhaps I can break out the butcher paper and crayons to render it in simpler terms in a “refrigerator art” medium to which you are obviously more accustomed. I otherwise ask that you respond to the specific criticisms contained herein rather than commit your usual dodge from among your timeworn selection of whines and additional blather points.

          • Jason Everett Miller

            Labels is how we identify ourselves politically in this country, so it is impossible to critique how they are no longer effective without using them to set the satage. It isn’t some deep irony, as much as you would love to make it so.

            It is a literary necessity for the argument being made.

            Your critique is more strawman bullshit that you always drag out rather than having an honest discussion, though I would expect nothing less from a partisan warrior such as yourself.

            Try again next time, pops. Perhaps you should take your medication first, though, so you don’t come across as addled.

          • SleepinJeezus

            Ah, yes. The old “strawman” dodge. I am obviously handicapped by my tendency to read what you write, not what you “meant.” My bad!

            You wrote it. You own it. Them’s the rules, bud, and all the dodge in the world ain’t going to take the stink off this pile of jem nuggets.

          • Jason Everett Miller

            You read everything with partisan blinders and intellectual dishonesty, so it is not a surprise to me that you continue to understand nothing. I guess it is true what they say about old dogs.

          • Jason Everett Miller

            PS: The leaders at our most pivotal moments in history led the country to 2/3 majorities in Congress for every major legislative initiative, good and ill, from the New Deal to Civil Rights to the Patriot Act.

            These programs were not enacted over the objections of nearly half the country. You should read some more history books, because the ones you currently use appear to rely on an equal mix of out-right fantasy and sublimation to paint a picture of America that has never existed.

            Maybe that is the disconnect “liberals” have despite possessing all the good ideas, as you continually point out, relying on factoids that only 20-percent of the country agrees with and treating bare majorities as if they were governing mandates.

          • SleepinJeezus

            From the link:

            Martin Luther King’s presence in Birmingham was not welcomed by all in the black community. A black attorney was quoted in Time magazine as saying, “The new administration should have been given a chance to confer with the various groups interested in change.”[31] Black hotel owner A. G. Gaston stated, “I regret the absence of continued communication between white and Negro leadership in our city.”[31] A white Jesuit priest assisting in desegregation negotiations attested, “These demonstrations are poorly timed and misdirected.”[31]

            Sound familiar? I think we know what side you would have been on in 1963 Birmingham. And I have no doubt you would STILL be looking for non-confrontational consensus to this day if those seeking a 2/3rds majority before advocating for any change had prevailed at the expense of MLK, the SCLC, and the “liberal ideologues” who so forcefully and successfully pushed their agenda.

            “Let ’em eat pablum!” sayeth jem the Sage, up to his elbows in his own bloomer pudding. Go ahead, dig a little deeper into the stench of your own making. If I were you, however, I’d reconsider bad-mouthing the activists among us who are unwilling to give “ObamaRahm the Great” and the Dems a free pass to continue selling out to their corporate owners while simultaneously trying to determine what crumbs they can send along to ameliorate the masses. We elect leaders, for chrissakes, and expect them to lead. And I ask not so kindly for their apologists like yourself to get out of the way so we can get some work done.

          • Jason Everett Miller

            More incoherant rants from WeepingJeezus, completely disconnected from anything I have ever written. You are losing it, old man.

  • dickday

    Problem is that safety and security and sanity are completely subjective views depending on so many variables that in a diverse country such as ours we need to pretty much agree to disagree at the outset.”

    They are, within ranges.

    But I do not disagree with this statement at all.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Thanks for dropping by, Double D. I know I can be a bit of a broken record on this stuff, but hopefully the tune isn’t too strident. :O)

      • OldenGoldenDecoy

        Of course you may . . .

        There’s no way of denying that one.

        But one must also agree that I blame no one. I simply point out the obvious. Just flip ’em the fickled fuckin’ finger of fate! And have patience, be it that what goes around comes around.

        ~OGD~

  • San Fernando Curt

    I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but doesn’t it benefit our elites if we remain fragmented, angry, at each other’s throats? To the extent we are Balkanized by our passions, we are ineffectual, we are weak. There is only one thing that caps the anger of Left and Right, progressive and conservative, toward American banking. And that is the anger of each political camp toward the other.

    • Jason Everett Miller

      I don’t think it is a conspiracy as much as a happy coincidence, but you hit on the main beneficiary of continued warfare at the American grassroots. Irony continues to be totally lost on We The People.

  • cmaukonen

    I know what you are trying to get at Jason. But I am not sure whether you are the optimist or the year or a bit naive or both.

    It you do succeed, I will suggest that you be put in charge of the Palestinian / Israeli peace initiative.

    C

    • Jason Everett Miller

      Probably a bit of both, but we do have road maps from various times in history to rely on.

      The political fringes have been ignored in favor of the 2/3 of us who are somewhere in the middle. I think Obama gave us a glimpse of what that might look like in 2008 as many former political foes came together to elect a man who inspired us to believe in something different.

      The system clamped back down by stoking our political divisions, but we still remain our own worst enemy as the only people who appear to care in this country are the ones who will never compromise for the greater good.

      Stuck in the middle again.