Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party

The following is from Matt Bai's Book "The Argument; Billionaires, Bloggers, and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics."

[When] the Senate was debating whether to confirm John Roberts, Bush's pick for Chief Justice...[liberal] interest groups and some in the netroots railed vituperatively against those Democratic senators who said they would vote for Roberts, one of whom happened to be Patrick Leahy, the Vermont liberal and the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. In his comments on the Senate floor, Obama said he would vote against the Roberts nomination, but then he did something remarkable: He went out of his way to scold those in his own party who had attacked Leahy for making the opposite decision. He dismissed their criticisms as "knee-jerk," "unbending," "unfair," and "dogmatic."

Bai goes on to recount how the "blogosphere" and the liberal activists went against Obama about this but Obama not only did not back down, but took them on. He wrote a response entitled "Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party." Here is a section of it:

There is one way, over the long haul, to guarantee the appointment of judges that are sensitive to issues of social justice, and that is to win the right to appoint them by recapturing the presidency and the Senate. And I don't believe we get there by vilifying good allies, with a lifetime record of battling for progressive causes, over one vote or position. I am convinced that, our mutual frustrations and strongly-held beliefs notwithstanding, the strategy driving much of Democratic advocacy, and the tone of much of our rhetoric, is an impediment to creating a workable progressive majority in this country.

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don't think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don't think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated.


Sean said...

this is exactly why Obama is leading in the polls, matched with the temperment of McCain's supporters (as we see here)

Max said...

President Kerry was leading in July polls in 2004.

BTW Rasmuessen Daily Tracking on7/22/08

McKean 46
Obama 46

Max said...

Since McKean isn't even on the ballot, that's a pretty good showing !

McCain is also tied with Obama in that same poll.