Posts about Politics

It’s not just me

So now The New York Times frets — as I have — that once he got the nomination, Barack Obama has been making u-turns and right turns as he rejects public financing, embraces the Supreme Court’s gun decision, criticizes the Supreme Court on the death penalty, and flip-flops on FISA. (Oh, and I forgot, as he endorses “faith-based initiatives.” Here, alone, we see a helluva compilation of Constitutional views on guns, unreasonable search and seizure, capital punishment, and separation of church and state. He taught con law — let’s look up some of his old lectures, someone, please.)

I don’t want to — I really don’t want to — say I told you so. But this is what I feared from him: that his empty rhetoric was the mark of high cynicism in politics (if I get get them to buy this hot air without saying anything then I can do anything I need to do to get elected… though he’s not even letting what he has said stop him from flipping). My other fear is that he is unproven and could be Jimmy Carter, and given the clumsiness of his dash from left to middle — overshooting the mark and ending up too far to the right for The Times’ comfort — I’d say he’s not looking so smooth right now.

So what is it you can believe in with Obama? What is change? Answer me that.

Oh, I’m stuck voting for him. So are his cultists who are now protesting his moves; they’re really trapped. But this is what I feared.

Says The Times:

We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games.

There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.

He’s just a politician.

: LATER: In the comments, Fred Wilson is making what is now becoming a common argument: he’s doing what he has to do to win: “I feared he wasn’t tough and polished and skilled. These moves show that he is.” Hear Eric Alterman saying the same thing: “I don’t know what he really believes in his heart.” Read Mike Tomasky saying the same thing: “It’s acceptable – and necessary – for Barack Obama to compromise his liberal principles in order to get elected…. I’ve always objected to setting up principle as a value that’s oppositional to winning. To me, winning is a principle. It’s the highest principle there is.”

So move on, folks, there’s nothing to believe in here. Change? What change? Chump change. Plus ça etc.

Well, since everyone’s abandoning principle for expediency, even though I disagree with the Obama supporters who are criticizing him on FISA — I actually support his stand — I will celebrate how they are holding his feet to the fire on his own principles and I’ll say what we need in particpatory democracy is more folks like them and fewer who are willing to throw aside principle for power, means for the end. That is politics the old way. That is what we were promised would be changing. In the immortal word of another blogger: Heh.

: LATER STILL: In my recitation of Obama’s flipping and sidling, I forgot to include his possible rethinking on Iraq. Here, again, I agree with him — he should reconsider dates and deadlines based on reality; I’ve said that all along (and so did Hillary). But this, too, will piss off the loyalists who got him where he is.

: And the Kossaks are restless. In response to Obama’s statement — which acknowledges the revolt brewing under his own wing at — comments include:

The only explanation for his Oct 2007 FISA stance? Principle. He stood to gain nothing otherwise from it.

The only explanation for his current stance? Political necessity.

The only problem? It’s not necessary. We’re getting played, here, folks. This explanation is crap. He’s using several of the very same frames used by other capitulators and moderate Rs.

We’re. Getting. Played.

But other Kossaks are sounding like the robot on Lost in Space: Does not compute. Does not compute.
One complains: “Has this site always been so insane or has it really, really jumped the shark recently? I don’t belong here anymore.” Another adds: “That’s how I feel Like I don’t belong with the net roots anymore. Even TPM has been hammering Obama.”

And just as in every cult I’ve covered (and I covered them in my San Francisco newspaper days), paranoia emerges: “This is another ‘operation chaos’ style invasion to create a wedge among Obama’s supporters. The sad part is that Markos from Kos and Arianna from Huffpost, indirectly sparked the idea when they criticized FISA. While criticism and accountability should be welcome, those in a position of influence such as Ko and Arianna should use it more responsibly, knowing that Rove, Limbaugh and right-wing nuts are out there ready and desperate to use any tactic to diminish O’s support base.” The cult is cracking. They always do.

Life is right

I see a tweet from No. 10 that leads me to this statement by PM Gordon Brown:

… healthcare is not a privilege to be purchased but a moral right secured for all.

A moral right for all. That is where the debate should begin here.

When your organizers organize you

Ari Melber happens upon what could be an important moment in the history-in-the-making of participatory, self-organized online politics: Barack Obama supporters used his own network to organize a protest against his actions on telecom immunity.

Picture 21

Now if a campaign is going to argue that it’s truly grassroots, what is it to do with a revolt or protest from within? I’ve argued since Howard Dean’s run in 2004 that campaigns aren’t or can’t really be bottom-up when it comes to policy. They are necessarily propagandistic: This is what the candidate says. Indeed, Dean’s supporters acted like white blood cells in his blog discussions quite effectively surrounding and strangling dissent and opponents in the bloodstream. That’s the way campaigns have to work if you’re going to decide what this guy stands for and whether to vote for him, right? It’s about the message, no?

Ah, but when it’s a grassroots organization that makes you — rather than a party — and you say you’re beholden to them not to special interests and big money and lobbyists, well, then you really are beholden to them. If they rise up from within to tell you that they don’t like what you’re doing — when they use your own organizational tools to do that — then I’d say you ignore them at your peril. Live by the crowd, die by the crowd.

It so happens that I agree with Obama on this issue (and I know my view is as unpopular as his). When government forces you do to something then that force must come with immunity. The problem is not the telcos going along but the government making the demand and there being no check on that. But that’s a different debate.

I have disagreed with other things Obama has done since getting the nomination. I am profoundly disappointed in him for his decision to turn down government campaign financing. He stood on expediency not principle. I also find tragic irony in the fact that the best reason to vote for him is to turn around the Supreme Court before it is too late (if it isn’t already) and yet Obama endorsed just the kind of decision I dread coming from a right-wing court: last week’s ruling on handgun bans. So should I go into MyBarackObama and try to organize pressure groups from within who agree with me? Should I encourage my fellow Hillary Clinton supporters — now that we’re all unified — to do likewise to try to get him to promise truly universal health coverage? Why not? In the open organization, what’s yours is mine.

I find two things fascinating about this: First, we are beginning to see a campaign built openly on coalitions. Even though I disagree with them, I am happy to see the anti-immunity lobby crack the monolithic, glassy-eyed facade of the Obama fan club (the sort of people who yell at me in my comments and tell me I’m not allowed to disagree with him about anything). Thank goodness we see disagreement and discussion — democracy — inside a campaign. I believe the greatest impact the internet will have on politics will be that it enables like-minded groups to find each other and organize apart from old organizations and labels (red, blue, Republican, Democrat); we will organize around issues and priorities rather than parties. See the comments under this post.

Second, I wonder what these self-organizing groups will look like when they get into power. The Deaniacs and Joe Trippi made valiant attempts to stay organized after their campaign melted but that didn’t work. If Obama gets into the White House, though, will his supporters at MyBarackObama continue to use these tools to influence him and government? And will he have to listen because he is beholden to them?

Nobama blogs kerfuffle

A bunch of anti-Obama blogs were apparently shut down on Google’s Blogspot as suspected spam. They say that Obama fans reported them as spam to get rid of them. I have no idea what the truth is. The fear online has been that false information could be spread. It’s another fear that speech can be silenced.

(I suppose I should make clear that I don’t think any official Obama campaign effort is remotely behind this if it’s true. The point, instead, is that rogues can cause trouble. This would seem to be a variation on Swiftboating but rather than try to get a message out, the goal would be to bat an opposing message down.)


Barack Obama’s first two notable acts after clinching the nomination are rejecting public campaign financing and endorsing the Supreme Court’s gun decision.

He’s not making this easy.

: LATER: Howie Kurtz writes:

Barack Obama is under hostile fire for changing his position on the D.C. gun ban.

Oh, I’m sorry. He didn’t change his position, apparently. He reworded a clumsy statement.

That, at least, is what his campaign is saying. The same campaign that tried to spin his flip-flop in rejecting public financing as embracing the spirit of reform, if not the actual position he had once promised to embrace.

Is this becoming a pattern? Wouldn’t it be better for Obama to say he had thought more about such-and-such an issue and simply changed his mind? Is that verboten in American politics? Is it better to engage in linguistic pretzel-twisting in an effort to prove that you didn’t change your mind?

Regardless of what you think of the merits of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning the capital’s handgun law, it seems to me we’re entitled to a clear position by the presumed Democratic nominee. And I’m a bit confused about how the confusion came about.