puny change means nothing

Last week in a post against Corporate Personhood, it also contained Lawrence Lessig's criticism (with mine) of the Democratic proposal in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United. Larry Tribe replied yesterday with a post over at the Huffington Post in favor of realism:

I'd be the first to concede that each such response would be merely incremental. And I'd concede that, even together, the responses I favor wouldn't undo all the damage the Court has done over the years by essentially equating money with speech, by increasingly treating corporations as mere "associations" of individuals, and by equating for-profit business corporations with corporations whose very purpose is political advocacy. But this isn't an area where we can afford to let the perfect remain the enemy of the good. It makes great copy to claim that nothing short of reform too radical to be attainable need be taken seriously. But the problems presented by the Citizens United ruling are too important for those who lament that decision to let things get worse in the comforting but misleading hope that, if we just let things get bad enough, the people will arise from their slumber and join hands to effect radical improvement.

Lessig replies, "A Dose of Realism"? How About This for "Realism": We Need Leadership:

This Court has become an angry old dog which has now bitten four times in a row. (The government is 0 for 4 in its defense of campaign finance regulations)... And I don't think you have to be a complete cynic about the Supreme Court to read their decisions to signal that this revolution is not yet over... the Court has launched itself on a radical remaking of First Amendment law in the context of campaign finance regulation.

There's a minor quibble between the two about whether the majority of the court will find foreign political expenditures (ie, corporations that are foreign-owned) protected as speech (of course they will unless they are coherently consistent), but Lessig, who has broke away from the Democratic Party, has a bigger target:

But here I have to get off the bus. For if it is realism that we need, how about this for "realism": Fifteen months ago, America elected the most compellingly progressive president in fifty years. It also elected the largest Democratic majority in the House and Senate in more than a generation. Yet practically every major reform that this young president has promised is now stalled in Congress. Health care languishes. Global warming legislation is no longer even discussed. The financial services sector has yet to be re-regulated (Congress is taking a break from that while they shuttle back and forth to Wall Street fundraisers). The bold effort to create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency has died the death of a thousand cuts, as exception after exception has been inserted into this the mother of Swiss cheese reform.

All true. And like Lessing, I find the notion that Republicans are to blame the worst sort of wimpy-realism-- the sort of noxious claim that will result in democrats surely losing this opportunity of majority leadership. Likewise, the claim by some Democrats (especially the Bayh types) that things are ungovernable is a sure way to convince the populace that you can't govern.

The reason is simple. Our Democrats haven't stood united for anything big in the way of reform. More Lessig:

Somehow this Administration forgot to "take up that fight." Somehow it has allowed the enemy to become the second largest political party in America (Republicans) rather than the single most vilified profession (lobbyists, just below lawyers and used car dealers). Somehow Obama has been convinced that his promise of bold leadership was a mistake. Somehow he has come to believe that realistic if puny ideas are the ways of transformational presidents like Reagan and FDR.

Yet somehow we have got to get this president to recognize that it was the "realism" of 2009 that was his mistake. What American democracy needs right now is leadership. It needs a President who shows us a way to restore our democracy. It needs the anger and impatience of the Republican Roosevelt (Teddy), railing against the corrupting influence of money in politics. It needs the strategic brilliance of the Democratic Roosevelt (Franklin), architecting the long and difficult campaign to, as Arnold Hiatt put it, "convince a reluctant nation to wage war to save democracy."

...And thus the frustration of those of us whose support for this President is baked into our DNA: It is possible that he is the only political figure in America today who could convince this Nation to this essential change. Yet he has been convinced to be "realistic." And with this "realism" dies any hope of real reform.

Now, I think there's a chance that the overall dynamic could change (I don't think CFR will happen until we have 5 justices that don't equate corporate speech with speech by people). I've believed since a few months ago that the HRC would go by way of reconciliation, and probably even get better than the Senate version (hopefully with the addition of a public option). I'm probably being way to optimistic, but I also think that by late summer, the Democrats will have begun to turn around the disaster in the making of '10 that everyone is now predicting. It's not like the nation is ready to turn to the Republicans again-- everyone knows they won't govern. There's a chance that Democrats finally start, and it would begin with putting HCR into reconciliation.

Tags: (all tags)

Comments

20 Comments

agree w/last paragraph.....

.....if and only if Obama shows some leadership.  Reconciliation is the only way to go, not just with health care but also jobs as well.  Reid can't get 60 votes for a puny jobs bill!

Otherwise November will make 1994 look like a cliffhanger.

 

by esconded 2010-02-17 10:48PM | 1 recs
RE: agree w/last paragraph.....

ah yes, why got to RedState or FreeRepublic?

Get your daily dose of Obama-bashing at MyDD.

Who's your alternative?

by spirowasright 2010-02-18 01:04PM | 0 recs
RE: agree w/last paragraph.....

ah yes,

anybody who thinks Obama isn't doing what he should be doing is automatically just like the people at RedState or FreeRepublic.....

by jeopardy 2010-02-18 09:57PM | 0 recs
can we call you a waaaaaaaaaaaaaambulance?

If you are looking for mindless cheerleaders, perhaps you can find the blog of Gibbs or someone who works for the president and is looking forward to a corporate lobbyist job or big bucks punditry on msnbc?

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2010-02-24 11:40AM | 0 recs
Results Matter

The biggest stake-in-the-heart of Campaign Finance Reform was that it didn't have any meaurable results. Years after it was signed into law the corporate/money influence on politics didn't decrease it continued to get worse (or remained just as bad). As a result McCain-Feingold never became a cherised part of the American psyche.

And yes, good job there turning a diary about the Supremes and CFR into a chance to bash Obama some more. Nice pivot there.

by vecky 2010-02-18 01:13AM | 0 recs
RE: Results Matter

Thank Lessig, its his pivot. You know, all about where the buck stops (ah, right, I realize you wouldn't know).

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-02-18 01:51AM | 1 recs
RE: Results Matter

I dunno... maybe Obama should secretly hire hit-men to bump off a few of the Supremes, or maybe he should advocate "packing the court" ala FDR. I mean I certainly thought the "buck" with regards to the legality of the law stopped with the Supreme Court. Maybe I'm mistaken, will have to brush up on my constitution reading.

But leaving Sotomayer's view on this issue aside, Obama did call out the Supremes in the SoTU. That is not something that happens everyday. But it's obviosuly mostly his fault.

by vecky 2010-02-18 02:23AM | 1 recs
RE: Results Matter

What planet do you live on, thinking that CFR didn't have any measurable results?

It transformed the Democratic Party to rely upon small donors instead of corporate money for the party organizations. It also, with donor limits to candidates, made them rely upon people-powered campaigns more than ever. Dean and Obama are the result of CFR.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-02-18 01:56AM | 0 recs
RE: Results Matter

I don't doubt the power of small donors but to me that is more the result of the Internet rather than McCain-Feingold. Individual donor limits were upheld btw, so that is not the Crux of the CFR arguement I think. Maybe the influence of corporates and special interests has declined since 2002. But I don't see it. Even the Democratic party is full of corporatists IMO.

by vecky 2010-02-18 02:11AM | 0 recs
The same planet...

...where people say the ARRA hasn't had measureable results.

Both CFR and the ARRA had measureable results. What Vecky is discussing is the popular perception.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-18 12:59PM | 0 recs
RE: Results Matter

I would love to believe that.  However Obama got more corporate money than anyone ever before him.  I believe most of it was received from the Financial industry and people with visa gift cards and made up names got around the personal contribution rules.

I would like to believe that someday we could have public financing only.  But I don't see how we could ever force congress to vote for that.

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2010-02-24 11:44AM | 0 recs
I agree

And for that matter, let us do away with speed limits as well.  The biggest stake in the heart of the speed limit is that it did not have any measurable results.  Years after speed limits have been put in place, most people seem to just ignore it and drive above the limit anyways.  As a result, the speed limits never became a cherished part of the American psyche.

 

We should also do away with those silly laws against robbing banks.  Most robbers seem to ignore that one. 

And dont even get me started on the silly rules against drink driving!!

by Ravi Verma 2010-02-18 12:39PM | 0 recs
It's a nice attempt at snark...

Even though the content of your "reply" couldn't be more asinine.

Maybe if I state Becky's point in simpler terms you can understand it: When Buckley v. Valeo (1976) becomes half the issue Roe v. Wade (1973) to the masses, then you will have the populist backing.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-18 12:57PM | 0 recs
Maybe you should use smaller words

Because I must have misplaced all my degrees... I could not understand those big words you used.  You seem so wise, I am sure you can boil all your thoughts down to 3 small words !!

by Ravi Verma 2010-02-19 12:13AM | 1 recs
The dynamic is clear

These puny and tepid responses have been to a large extent because Obama truly believes that the way Washington works has to be changed. The Executive has gained too much power and the Legislature has abdicated its responsibilities. His problem was he had no experience from the other side.

But that looks like it is slowly beginning to change.

The Democrats have a major basic advantage. As much as the public doesn't like them because we are not out of this mess. They don't like the Republicans even more for getting them into it to begin with. And they know it.

How often have you heard ObamaBush in recent weeks? Watch CNBC and you will hear it. The next time I hear some Republican noise talking about the Democrats blaming everything on Bush I hope our balancing noise will come back with "I dont blame it on Bush I blame it on You".

by Judeling 2010-02-18 02:12AM | 0 recs
It's rare that leopards change their spots.

So I am not optimistic.

The Senate is broken by design and further hobbled by tradition.  The Republicans have given Democrats several opportunities to at least break with tradition - they've filibustered popular legislation and blocked inoffensive, important nominees - but the Democrats have refused to use them to their advantage.  Even now, I read they can't begin debate on what they claim is their priority - the jobs bill - because they can't secure 60 votes to proceed. 

The Republicans and conservative Democrats are comfortable with a filibuster of a jobs bill when unemployment is at 10%.  Such impunity is the product of a caucus that allows Max Baucus, Mary Landrieu, and Blanche Lincoln to chair committees in spite of their incompetence and obstruction.  If that isn't evidence that the caucus has put comity before competence and accomplishment, I don't know what is.

Meanwhile, Obama's commitment to bipartisanship has gone from idealistic to misguided to pathological.  I've begun to wonder if it isn't Freudian, like his mother's divorces produced an irrational desire to unite any division, and I hate that shit.  In any case, he seems willing to sacrifice everything, even good government, for bipartisanship.

Well, he'll have it, in the same way that Clinton did: the government will be bipartisan by necessity when the Republican Party wins Congress.

The worst of this is that the Democrats least responsible for this mess, the House, are the most likely to suffer for it.  If they lose, the lesson that they'll learn is that they can't fight the Senate, and the result will be to yeild more power to the least competent.

I'd like to think that the threat of defeat will put the fear of God into the President and the Senate, but more and more I don't think they care if they lose; they both seem to have other priorities.

 

by Drew 2010-02-18 05:07AM | 1 recs
A few quick points:

1) I completely disagree with the statement:

"And like Lessing, I find the notion that Republicans are to blame the worst sort of wimpy-realism"

The GOP IS to blame in large part. They are clearly misusing minority tools and it is a heck of a lot more difficult to get 60/60 (if you count Lieberman) instead of 60/100. The Democrats didn't do this to GWB, and many voted for his tax cuts, Medicare Part D, and the War.

I can't see any rational argument that the GOP isn't to blame in large part for obstructing legislation.It is not wimpy to attack them for it. It is wimpy to refrain from trying to direct public anger at the GOP for shutting down the Legislative Branch of the government and it is wimpy to keep treating them like honest actors in all of this.

 

2) Yes, Obama is far too tepid. As Newsweek recently said: "Did we elect a change agent as president so that someday we could say, 'wow, he increased the income cap on the child-care credit?"

The unprecidented GOP obstructionism, and the fact that they are against the public wishes on nearly every major issue, should be a giant opportunity to guide the direction of public anger and frustration over the economy and the government squarely at the GOP.

At a time when so many people are hurting, the GOP is shutting down the government and voting agaisnt their own bills. It should be the first thing and the last thing out of every Democrat's mouth any time they get on tv. Obama needs to excoriate the GOP for this at every opportunity.

Instead, his admin has spent too much time attacking the left, coddling the GOP, and even talking about the virtues of Republican "ideas" and taking them on as his own. The anger the American people rightly feel is directed at the Democrats instead of its proper target.  It's incredibly dissapointing since Obama has the ability to do so much better in moving public opinion.

 

by jeopardy 2010-02-18 02:20PM | 0 recs
A few quick points:

1) I completely disagree with the statement:

"And like Lessing, I find the notion that Republicans are to blame the worst sort of wimpy-realism"

The GOP IS to blame in large part. They are clearly misusing minority tools and it is a heck of a lot more difficult to get 60/60 (if you count Lieberman) instead of 60/100. The Democrats didn't do this to GWB, and many voted for his tax cuts, Medicare Part D, and the War.

I can't see any rational argument that the GOP isn't to blame in large part for obstructing legislation.It is not wimpy to attack them for it. It is wimpy to refrain from trying to direct public anger at the GOP for shutting down the Legislative Branch of the government and it is wimpy to keep treating them like honest actors in all of this.

 

2) Yes, Obama is far too tepid. As Newsweek recently said: "Did we elect a change agent as president so that someday we could say, 'wow, he increased the income cap on the child-care credit?"

The unprecidented GOP obstructionism, and the fact that they are against the public wishes on nearly every major issue, should be a giant opportunity to guide the direction of public anger and frustration over the economy and the government squarely at the GOP.

At a time when so many people are hurting, the GOP is shutting down the government and voting agaisnt their own bills. It should be the first thing and the last thing out of every Democrat's mouth any time they get on tv. Obama needs to excoriate the GOP for this at every opportunity.

Instead, his admin has spent too much time attacking the left, coddling the GOP, and even talking about the virtues of Republican "ideas" and taking them on as his own. The anger the American people rightly feel is directed at the Democrats instead of its proper target.  It's incredibly dissapointing since Obama has the ability to do so much better in moving public opinion.

 

by jeopardy 2010-02-18 02:20PM | 0 recs
RE: A few quick points:

I completely agree.  The Democratic Party is (and always has been) a very diverse group of people, as opposed to the relatively homogenous Republicans.  It's absurd to believe that we should have been able to easily get all 60 Democrats to always vote the same way on liberal legislation, especially when that 60 included Democrats from Nebraska and Arkansas.  If the Republicans had not gotten together and decided "hey, let's just vote as a block to filibuster and say 'no' to EVERYTHING," and the Tea Partiers hadn't threatened primaries against any Republican that dared support Obama on anything, Nelson, Lieberman and Landrieu would be irrelevant.

This is the Republicans' fault simply because they decided they would just all get together to say no on everything and filibuster everything.  The Democrats never did this to Bush, and expecting the Democrats to always get 60/60 votes is just completely blind to the realities of the world.

by bannana873 2010-02-18 04:03PM | 0 recs
wimpy realism

you and I are not in disagreement. I of course agree that Republicans are the roadblock. wimpy realism is an attitude of viewing that as an obstacle, and presenting it as such for the reason of failing to pass anything substantial.

I've pointed this out multiple times before, but the reason why Republicans are successful is because of the terms that the Democrats are agreeing in how governing works. They don't know that we can win by losing. That to me is the whole key of how politics has dramatically changed through the people-powered politics over the netroots, and Democrats haven't learned how to apply that to tactically governing.

You can look back at the early campaign losses, Dean, Hackett, for example; did they kill the movement by their losing?  No, it just got stronger. And that, even in the face of hostility and mocking from the victors. Same with the NY 20th special election-- the convervatives just got stronger from that loss and built into Brown in MA. You win from losing the good fight (not from running a shitty campaign using the old ways) and it builds momentum to win even bigger in the future.

The old way of doing politics in governing-- counting the votes, bartering, bribing, compromising integrity-- doesn't work in this transparent age. Democrats need to realize that they have to govern using transparency, and how to make their losses, as you say, turn into directed public anger at the GOP. We don't have leaders that understand the new dynamics (they fear too much in losing a battle to win the war) of how to engage campaign politics with a new method of transparent governing in such a hostile partisan environment.

Ironically, Obama cued some of the ways this could be done, such as opening the process up to C-SPAN and the internet, but his lack of experience and sway in DC has made those campaign pledges impotent for now; even something to turn against him by opponents, as his crew slogs down failed attempts of the the old way.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-02-18 04:05PM | 1 recs

Diaries

Advertise Blogads