Barack Obama Criticism Health care Politics The Opinionsphere

Obama: You’re Calling Me a ‘Bolshevik’ for Using Republican Ideas for Democratic Ends

[digg-reddit-me]I wrote a post a few months ago listing some similarities of the Dole-Chafee bill presented as an alternative to Bill Clinton’s 1994 reform effort to the health care reform effort today which has recently started to get some attention thanks to Obama’s referencing exactly this fact in response to questioning by the House Republicans on Friday:

[I]f you were to listen to the debate, and, frankly, how some of you went after this bill, you’d think that this thing was some Bolshevik plot…

[But] if you look at the facts of this bill, most independent observers would say this is actually what many Republicans — it — it’s similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care.

So all I’m saying is we’ve got to close the gap a little bit between the rhetoric and the reality.

I’m not suggesting that we’re going to agree on everything, whether it’s on health care or energy or what have you, but if the way these issues are being presented by the Republicans is that this is some wild-eyed plot to impose huge government in every aspect of our lives, what happens is you guys then don’t have a lot of room to negotiate with me.

Obama adopted this Republican framework to meet some Democratic goals. (Though I shouldn’t give all the credit to him, as his general framework was created by a number of liberal thinkers including Jacob Hacker, Peter Orszag, &tc, and was adopted by John Edwards and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primary.) Obama’s approach represents a synthesis of the core conservative critique of Reagan, Hayek, &tc with an empirical approach towards government generally favored by liberals. In other words, Obama saw the limits of centralized planning and the power of markets that lay at the core of Reagan. But he did not adopt Reagan’s visceral hatred for government. Instead, he believed government could be useful. Rather than seeing government as something that needed to be attacked, he adopted Hayek’s view that “we needed to think of the world more as gardeners tending a garden and less as architects trying to build some system.”

While I described this as evidence of Obama’s attempt to seriously grapple with Republican ideas while pursuing Democratic ends, a number of commentators – specifically pm317 on Hillaryis44 and Ann Althouse’s blog, seemingly a PUMA – used the post as proof that Obama is a sell-out, encouraging people to:

Tell your bluest of blue friends who are still supporting Obama to read this little piece…

My piece was actually positive in its description of how Obama was grappling with Republican ideas – but pm317 read it to mean the opposite, seeing it as yet another proof of Obama’s awfulness. pm317 wants Obama supporters to reject ideas because they are labeled “Republican” or once were supported by Republicans – and while this may happen,  she presumes these Obama supporters are driven by the same politics of ressentiment and identity that seemingly motivate him/her. Confronted with the fact that I am an Obama supporter, and that I wasn’t condemning Obama for using Republican ideas, pm317 responded:

Obama’s base supporters cheerleading his GoP stunt ARE highly partisan and they want single payer system or at least a public option and don’t want any of the republican ideas. They must see how Obama is sneaking in republican ideas into his plan.

Which is just an odd response. Do he/she presume that “Obama’s base supporters cheerleading his GoP stunt” didn’t notice that he explicitly said in that same event they are “cheerleading” that his health care plan is “similar to what many Republicans proposed to Bill Clinton when he was doing his debate on health care” – which is what started this whole conversation in the first place? How is that “sneaking”?

It seems likely to me, given the evidence available to me, that the accuser is describing themself – describing someone motivated by the politics of ressentiment and someone who is extremely partisan and rejects the ideas of Republicans and Obama supporters out of hand.

I only bring this particular example up to illustrate the seemingly visceral reaction against Obama and his health care plan – and how in this instance at least – it seems motivated primarily by ressentiment rather than any attempt to grapple with the issue.

The problem, in other words, is about politics rather than policy.

[This image is not subject to copyright.]

Barack Obama Politics The Opinionsphere

Shadow Government: warns of a scary Obama! – a site which I have come to love for the ridiculous stands it takes – just sent me an email promoting a new book called Shadow Government. It’s a page turner that “Obama doesn’t want you to read” that “exposes the truth” about “all thirty-five czars Obama has picked to carry out his socialization of America.” Thrilling stuff, clearly.

What struck me about this email was the image of Obama they used – and of course the fact that they placed Obama in front of a bunch of Da Vinci code looking monks rather than menacing Communists. The cover seems to convey the idea of Obama as Anti-Christ more than Obama as secret socialist.

But what struck me was the image of Obama – perhaps it’s fine – but it looks a bit off to me, though I can’t quite put my finger on it – I’m curious if anyone out there could guess what they did to the image or if this is just an odd shot of Obama.


The Post 9/11 Generation

The Twin Towers

On September 11, 2001, our nation – and much of the world – watched – in shock, with emotions raw – as two towers, two massive feats of engineering, symbols of the triumph of capitalism and technology, of greed and power, of America and freedom, stood with gaping holes burning on a crisp, clear September morning. Then the towers fell.

In that moment, we Americans were united and much of the world with us. We are all Americans! We are all New Yorkers!” Le Monde declared. Vigils were held in Tehran for the victims. Around the world, there was outrage and sadness over the events. We were a long way from freedom fries and Ahmadinejad.

Three Generations

Three generations of Americans stood before their televisions sets and on the streets of New York City and Washington D.C. and watched these events unfold: the Greatest Generation which had endured the Great Depression, fought a cataclysmic world war, and set America on a path to isolate the Soviet Union and win the cold war; the Baby Boomers split into two camps: those liberals who had seen the corruptions and hypocrisies of their parents’ world and marched in support of civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and against the Vietnam war and American imperialism; and those conservatives who decried their parents’ tepid stand against Communism, wanting this totalitarian ideology declared the evil that it was, who wanted to fight Communism wherever it was and destroy it, and who at the same time, wanted to preserve traditional values at home, to ward off the rapid changes the Baby Boomer liberals and the Greatest Generation had put into motion; and then there was us, a generation without an identity, who had not yet been shaped by great movements or moments in history, and who saw the two towers burning fall. On 9/11 we were all one people.

On 9/12 we began to put each of our selves back together.

Those in the Greatest Generation, elderly, stood aside, offering advice, waiting to be called upon for service and sacrifice, looking at FDR’s marshaling of America’s resources after Pearl Harbor as a model.

Our generation, uncertain, waited for guidance.

Those in power, Republicans and Democrats of the Baby Boom Generation, panicked. Congress passed bills expanding government power without reading or understanding them; the directive went down from the President: the gloves are off: we must use any means necessary to stop another attack; the media, sensing the mood of the country, placed American flags on every broadcast and avoided asking tough questions.

Karl Rove

But as the dust settled, old divisions began to reassert themselves. Perhaps the most pivotal figure in the domestic fallout that followed was Karl Rove. Rove had been trying to find a defining moment which he could use to create a new political consensus, to create a transformation in the electorate. He saw that 9/11 would be a transformational event, and that it could be the defining event of the early 21st century.

So he decided to harness this anti-American attack and to use it to isolate those views he saw as threats – the views of the liberal Baby Boomers. He believed history had provided him with the lever to move the electorate and the country into his ideological camp. Rove thought he could use 9/11 to initiate a shift in the electorate and consolidate his party’s hold on power. Gradually, his strategy backfired, and America became more polarized than ever, split roughly along the same lines as they had split in the 1960s. The Baby Boomers, united on September 11, 2001 had become polarized again by September 11, 2002.

Here is where we leave history leaves us today – with out parents’ generation hopelessly polarized, bringing to this pivotal moment in history their various prejudices and suspicions; somehow, the challenges we face from islamist radicals, from global climate change, from a failing health care system, from the demands of globalization have become subordinated to a culture war in which there can be no winner. Like a bickering couple, this generation has polarized around every issue and made each issue serve a purpose in their larger and more petty generational conflict.

The Post 9/11 Generation

My generation – those who have graduated high school between 1997 and the the present, the post 9/11 generation – has been shaped almost entirely by the post-Cold War administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. We have watched and sometimes participated in this war of our parents, but have never been entirely invested in it. Instead, we volunteered locally, we created communities over the web, we started businesses, we marched against war on our campuses – we made a difference in each of our local communities, but made no impact on our nation’s course.

We can see the enormity of the problems facing us, and we realize the pettiness of so many of the issues that take up the media’s attention. While our society waste reams of paper debating whether to accept gay marriage, evolution, or presidential trysts, the issues of civil liberties, terrorism, environmental issues, health care, education, and free speech (including net neutrality), are largely ignored. After 9/11, my generation realized that we would soon be inheriting this world with all of it’s burdens and responsibilities, and today, six years on, we see a fucked up world falling apart and we are divorced from the levers of power, unable to alter the unfortunate trajectory of our history.

We, the post 9/11 generation, are a cynical generation. But we hold out for the promise of hope.

This is why we must show up at the polls and caucuses this winter to determine which candidates we will have to choose from. We must not let this election pass us by. This next election is our chance, our opportunity to make our voices heard. And we cannot let another four or eight years pass with more of the same petty culture wars overshadowing the real and pressing issues we face. Our parents may not have to deal with these issues, but we will.

2008 must be the year we lay our claim to the leadership of our country. We may yet have another chance before these issues are hard upon us; or this may be our last chance to prepare for coming storm.