Friday, January 04, 2008


I have had some more thoughts on Obama. OK, I'm still not happy with him saying that the health care industry will have a seat at the table for reform. Not a great idea to tell these people they can write themselves checks from the Treasury. On the other hand, I have been thinking about his talk about transcending partisan divisions, and could it be . . .

First of all, I am pretty much in lock-step with Duncan, digby, and the rest who are down on Washington establishment blathering about "bipartisanship" as code for "Democrats bend over and take it from Republicans every time". Any talk about transcending current partisan divisions too often boils down to lying down and taking it like a man, perhaps while thinking of England, to mix metaphors.

Listening to Obama from last night, however, and I wonder if he isn't talking about the "R" word - realignment. If so, then this is a whole other kettle of fish (God, I'm just tossing around the cliches; so sorry). I think my statement that Edwards' populism is more in touch with current moods might miss the simple fact that Obama's partisan-transcending message may just include Edwards-style populism, progressive politics, and more centrist (Matt Yglesias-style, not David Broder-style centrism) policy positions, rather than the Hobson's choice of Right-Wing Republicanism or nothing that we are currently stuck with. If this is so, this could truly be a return to big-tent Democratic politics, a la the New Deal coalition that included southern segregationists and urban African-Americans; urban ethnics and rural populists who had until fairly recently supported the nativism of the KKK. By stressing the centrality of the economic crisis as transcending demographic divisions, Roosevelt transformed American politics for a generation. First Nixon, then Reagan did the same thing by uniting tax-cutters, social and cultural conservatives, and foreign policy uberhawks. Theirs was a much less stable coalition, in many ways, than the Democratic one, as their election numbers over the past thirty or so years clearly shows. Yet, it has managed to govern, consistently if not always well.

It is now in tatters. I think that Obama, of all the candidates, recognizes this fundamental reality. This, more than anything, might just explain his appeal among younger voters. Frustrated that their concerns are not represented in our current political debates, Obama gives them a voice. More than a voice, perhaps.

Things are pretty shaken up right now, unless you're an establishment media type, in which case McCain won last night by taking fourth. The Democrats just don't seem to be anywhere in any consideration. I think this is a fundamental error. The Republicans are destroying themselves, and this spiral will continue, getting nothing but worse, I think, until the convention this summer, at which time I think their implosion will be on display for the whole country to see, in primetime. If they were smart, they might deny coverage of the proceedings to the networks, but I doubt they will even have the gumption to do something like that.

Anyway, if what I am starting to suspect about Obama - his talk about "hope" is something real, something transformative - even if still pretty void of anything substantive, then I think Edwards might have a seat at the table. And Hillary. And Dodd. I think Obama might be on to something.

More than any candidate since Reagan, Bill Clinton talked a positive message, and the country rewarded him for it. I think Obama understands this, and is adding the possibility that a victory for his campaign will transform American politics in a way that hasn't happened since 1932-1936. We may be living in very interesting times, indeed.

Virtual Tin Cup

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