Thursday, November 15, 2007

I (Shudder) Agree With Sidney Blumenthal (UPDATE With Link)

Something tells me I spend too much time on the computer on my days off.

Ezra Klein wonders at Sidney Blumenthal's decision to leave Salon and join Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Presidency. In particular he sites the following paragraph as something "novel":
The Democrats at key junctures have been seduced by the illusion of anti-politics to their own detriment. Anti-politics upholds a self-righteous ideal of purity that somehow political conflict can be transcended on angels' wings. The consequences on the right of an assumption of moral superiority and hubris are apparent. Their plight stands as a cautionary tale, but not only as an object lesson for them. Still, the Republican will to power remains ferocious. The hard struggle will require the most capable political leadership, willing to undertake the most difficult tasks, and grace under pressure.

In the post in which he comments on Blumenthal's decision, Klein writes:
[W]hile competent leadership is good, I've not seen much evidence that she sees her role as ideological, rather than technocratic, in nature. This is a moment to do for progressivism what Reagan did for conservatism. It's not that I don't think she's up to that task so much as I don't even know that she's interested in it.

The whole Reagan thing is a bit much. We can debate the issue of Sen. Clinton's competence (especially in foreign policy, where she seems to be toeing a Joe Lieberman line which is quite frightening) but it seems to me that Klein skipped ahead a few years by concentrating on a Reaganesque Democrat (in style if not in policies) by not concentrating on a point Blumenthal made in a previous paragraph to the one just quote above:
[Republicans] fear more than loss in one election; they fear the end of the Republican era beginning with Nixon.

This sounds right to me, as does his critique of the politics of meta-politics. Republicans have been running as non-politicians for decades, only to practice the most devious, ruthless politics once in power (see the careers of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Reagan himself for details).

This is also why I am wary, even quite tired, of Obama's constant talk about ending "politics as we know it". We cannot be above politics, nor should we even want to be. One of the reasons, I think, the Democrats keep getting the pants beat off them is they think they can be above it all. The Republicans, who are more cunning than they are expert, manage to then run rings around them while the Democrats continue to bemoan "politics".

Politics is a necessary part of life. It can even be ennobling, as the careers of George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman showed us. Rather than be above it all, "floating on the clouds" as Blumenthal says, we should much prefer someone who not only understand how to play the game, but how to set the rules in the first place, and therefore control the outcome. This means there must be a degree of ruthlessness, of calculation if you will, in order to move things the way you want them.

The Republicans fear Hillary Clinton for the same reason they hated and feared (and still do) her husband. They know she isn't some flaming liberal. They know he didn't run our country in to the ground for eight years. They hate and fear the Clinton's because they are both smarter, and more ruthless, than any Republican politician on the scene today.

An ideological election right now would be too much. I also do not think basic competence is enough to win next year. We need something in between - a commitment to the Constitution, to a restoration of the balance of powers, an end to the political perversion and manipulation of our public institutions. I do not believe that Sen. Clinton adheres to these things. I believe that Sen. Dodd does.

To say, however, that Blumenthal hasn't diagnosed the problem properly (even if I can't agree with his suggestion for a cure, a Hillary Presidency) misses the point. The Democratic Party must embrace, not so much "politics as usual" which is a meaningless political phrase, but just politics - the willingness to exercise power for public ends.

UPDATE: I really like Oliver Willis' take on Blumenthal's decision to join the Clinton campaign.
More than anything, it's probably the single issue I'm most in line with the Clinton people on - the media is something to beat up, not woo. No matter who the Democratic nominee is, I hope they get that through their heads.

The media is not your friend. Not even remotely.

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, the Joe Pesci rule from Lethal Weapon 2 will apply: "They fuck you at the drive-thru."

Whether it's Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Dodd, or Kucinich - these people do not like you, Sam I Am, and they will do everything in their power to destroy you.

Virtual Tin Cup

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More