Kiss Right, Kick Left

11 comments December 19th, 2008at 11:39am Posted by Eli

You’ve heard the phrase “Kiss up, kick down” used to describe someone who sucks up to those above them and abuses those below?  Well, turn that on its side, and you’ve got Obama and the Democratic Party:

Embracing someone like Warren is no more “inclusive” than inviting a White Supremacist or, for that matter, a Christian-hater to deliver the invocation.  People like that espouse views that are shared by many Americans; why not include them, too, or have Pat Robertson deliver a nice prayer?  Obama’s “inclusiveness” mantra always seems to head only in one direction — an excuse to scorn progressives and embrace the Right. Not even Bill Clinton’s most extreme Dick-Morris-led “triangulation” tactics involved an attempt to court Jerry Falwell.

In fact, as Chris Bowers suggests, this may actually be a calculated political strategy:

This morning, First Read argues that there are clear benefits for Democrats who are able to generate public, left-wing outrage against their actions:

When liberals attack: Axelrod and Gibbs have to be smiling this morning with the news that gay-rights groups are angry that Obama has announced that conservative evangelical Rick Warren will give the invocation at Obama’s inauguration. Why are they smiling? Because it never hurts — at least when it comes to governing or running for re-election — when you sometimes disappoint/anger your party’s interest groups (in this case, People for the American Way and the Human Rights Campaign).

This is a widely held view, and is openly shared by Democrats as high ranking as Rahm Emanuel. As long as the generation of public, left-wing outrage toward their actions is understood to be politically beneficial to Democrats, then many Democrats will continue to undertake actions that have the direct or indirect goal of generating public, left-wing outrage at their actions. This is pretty straightforward. As long as the cost of annoying progressives is not only zero, but actually a net positive, then Democrats will continue to annoy progressives ad infinitum.

In other words, however screwed-up their reasoning (I think it basically boils down to “Everyone hates liberals!”) Democrats have convinced themselves that repeatedly pissing off their base is a brilliant idea.  The fact that most of them hate our guts probably makes it much easier for them to believe this.  Bowers goes on to argue, and I agree with him, that the only way to stop them is to change the perceived outcome of progressive-poking from a net positive to a net negative, primarily by primarying the progressive-pokers.

Bowers focuses on the negative-reinforcement aspect of primarying anti-progressive Democrats, but an equally important aspect is our need to show political muscle and brains.  Democrats fold again and again because they crave the money and clout of the business interests, and they believe that we’re such suckers, and so afraid of Republicans, that we’ll continue to vote for them and give them our time and money no matter what they do.  They believe they have impunity, and when that replaces accountability, representative democracy dies.

Progressives need to demonstrate, again and again until the Democrats get the message, that we are electorally indispensable – that we can push candidates over the top, and shoot them back down.  Look at how the Republicans defer to the religious right.   They depend on them for boots on the ground, and they’ll stay home if they consider a candidate… unsuitable.  That’s why Mitt Romney had to give his “I’m just as intolerant as you are!” speech.  That’s why McCain got saddled with Sarah Palin.  Did Obama choose a progressive darling for his running mate?  No, his campaign floated names like Hillary, Evan Bayh, and Tim Kaine, and finally settled on Joe Biden – mostly not a bad guy (*cough cough Bankruptcy Bill! cough cough cough*), but certainly not a progressive.

Our party simply does not take us seriously, and they never will they until they believe that they can’t win elections without our enthusiastic support.  Of course, that’s easy enough to say – the challenge is figuring out how to get there.

Entry Filed under: Democrats,Obama,Politics,Religion,Teh Gay,Wankers


  • 1. Spear and Magic  |  December 19th, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Well, the lesson that I’ve drawn from this is that my political contributions will no longer go directly to any Democrat. Period. This election season I pursued a mixed strategy, contributing some money to 527s and PACs and some directly to specific candidates with whom I almost completely agreed (e.g., Franken) or whose election I thought was crucial (e.g., Obama).

    But not anymore. If they want my money, they can go beg for it.

  • 2. Mahakal  |  December 19th, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Of course, if the right wing is successful in separating Barack Obama from his base, who will defend him when they attack?

  • 3. Eli  |  December 19th, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    But why would they attack Obama when he’s being so nice to them? That would be totally out of character…

  • 4. Mahakal  |  December 19th, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    I’m reminded of The Scorpion and the Frog.

  • 5. Spear and Magic  |  December 19th, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    The Scorpion and the Frog? When I was a boy, I always heard that same basic tale told as The Python and the Hubbard. (“If you put me around your neck, you will look really cool for your baseball card.” “But why wouldn’t you just strangle me?” “Then I wouldn’t get to appear in a really cool baseball card either…”. Tragic.)

  • 6. Cujo359  |  December 19th, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    When progressives are willing to target candidates who do this to them, and beat them, then we’ll get respect. Until then, it’s not going to happen. And by targeting them, I don’t mean “run someone in the primary”. I mean “make them lose”. Period. Even if a Republican wins. Unless progressives are willing to do that, they might as well get used to complaining.

    The last place my money is going is places like MoveOn. Talk about a black hole for campaign dollars.

  • 7. Eli  |  December 19th, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Yeah, “Make them lose” is pretty much where I’m at as well. Until we can demonstrably determine electoral outcomes, we can safely be ignored. And we have enough of a cushion in both houses that we can afford to let some anti-progressives lose in the general if they get past the primary.

  • 8. Charles II  |  December 19th, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    My solution is simple. Washington is a full toilet bowl. The way to get it clear is to keep flushing. Support Democratic challengers in Republican districts and the occasional Ned Lamont. Tell the DSCC and the DCCC that you’ve joined the Constitution Party or the Greens or the SWP (just to get them to stop calling).

    Obama has one very important feature: he is not John McCain. He will not appoint another Sam Alito to the Supreme Court (he may, of course, appoint a Rick Warren; we shall see). So, his election was a positive thing. He did defeat the anointed Democratic candidate and he did train an army of grassroots volunteers. If they can use those skills to send a bunch of actual people to Washington, things will change, and this time for real.

  • 9. Eli  |  December 19th, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    I’d say more than the occasional Ned Lamont. Although we may collectively need to figure out how many primary challenges we can support without diluting our resources past the point of effectiveness.

    I agree completely about Obama being better than McCain – I don’t even like to contemplate how screwed we would be with another 4-8 years of Republicans in the White House and in charge of all government agencies.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Obama is aggressive enough to confront the “business-as-usual” establishment to effect real and constructive change; i.e., to actually fix what’s broken. I think he’ll end up applying some half-assed compromise patches which will be completely inadequate to cleaning up our financial mess or the disarray BushCo. has left our government in.

    And since the patches won’t actually fix anything, and the Republicans will be actively working to ensure that the economy continues to tank (either as a deliberate political strategy, or simply as the natural outcome of their conservative urges), I think there’s a pretty good chance that Obama will be a one-termer.

    I sure hope to be proven wrong, and that the members of Obama’s volunteer army have minds of their own, and won’t just swarm in defense of whatever misguided centrist policies Obama may advance.

  • 10. Charles II  |  December 20th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I have noticed a diminution of the noise from the Obama army when The Leader is criticized. I think it’s sinking in that he is, after all, human.

    Krugman thinks that the economy is going to continue to tank through 2009 and that the problem is bigger than Obama is willing to admit to at the moment. So, that part of your fear is likely to be realized with or without Republicans. As for whether the Republicans will continue to be maggots, I think one can assume that they will. I still can’t understand why Maine continues to vote for the twisted sisters, knowing that they’ll back Republican filubusters and other mischief, but there you are.

    What is likely to change things, unfortunately, is mass misery. Foreclosures are probably going to jump by 4 percent or so. Homelessness does get people into the streets. It’s just a d–n shame it takes that sort of extreme event to do it.

  • 11. Eli  |  December 20th, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Homelessness does get people into the streets.

    Can’t argue with that logic.

    The $64 trillion dollar question is, who takes the blame if the economy does melt down? The Democrats because they’re in power and failed to stop it, or the Republicans because they set it in motion and stubbornly blocked all attempts to avert it?

    Whoever won that messaging battle would win a tidal wave election in 2010 or 2012. Yet another reason why it terrifies me that the Republicans own the media.

    The ideal situation all around would be if Obama and the Democrats somehow manage to stave off disaster, or if the economy somehow manages to self-correct while they refrain from doing anything stupid.

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