Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Political pragmatism comes in various flavors

David Dayen has a good piece on Bernie Sanders' very pragmatic and effective role in enacting the ACA/Obamacare law: Sanders, Clinton, and the Big Lie of the “Possible” New Republic 01/26/2016.

And he reminds us of the kind of Democratic pragmatism that the Clinton camp is invoking against Sanders. As I'm writing this, I've just been watching reports on Univision about Obama's latest round of heartless deportations of Latinos. It's producing scenes like the one reported here: Exclusivo: Video muestra el arresto de una indocumentada frente a sus hijos Univision 01/27/2016.

This round is the result of yet another of President Obama's "bipartisan" gestures toward the Republicans. It's in brutal contrast to his nice rhetoric against the Republicans' xenophobic demagoguery.

I'm sick of this kind of "pragmatism."

David makes a straightforward point against the pragmatism argument that the Clinton camp is using against Sanders:

When you saw off every policy to what falls into the immediate range of possibility at the present moment, you give supporters little reason to organize behind your ideas. More important, you neglect the creative ways in which those seemingly unrealizable goals can be realized, no matter the situation in Congress.
He concludes with this expansion of his point:

The key to making progress in a polarized era comes with having more ideas available on the shelf when opportunities arise. It’s how an outrageous handout to big banks that lasted for over a hundred years suddenly got cut, with Mitch McConnell stealing the idea from the Progressive Caucus budget. It’s how the entire student loan system was overhauled as an add-on to the ACA, largely because of outside pressure and one senator taking a stand (in that case, Tom Harkin).

There’s a point at which you can manage the base into oblivion, and jump from dismissing Bernie Sanders to dismissing the largest wing of the Democratic Party. What’s more, telling a new crop of progressive legislators, from Zephyr Teachout to Elizabeth Warren, that they must content themselves with the art of the possible, and back off big ideas, is not only bad politics. It’s bad policy.
Paul Krugman continues to snipe at Bernie's health care plan. But in Potemkin Ideologies 01/26/2016 at his New York Times blog, he emphasizes the asymmetry of the debates in the Democratic and Republican primaries:
On the Democratic side, the argument is about a theory of change: voters really do care about progressive priorities, and are torn between two candidates who broadly have similar ideologies but have different visions of the politically possible.

What we’re seeing on the Republican side, by contrast, is that almost nobody except a handful of pundits and think-tank hired guns cares at all about the official party ideology. ...

What used to happen was that the conservative movement could basically serve the plutocracy, while mobilizing voters with racial/gender anxiety, all the while maintaining a facade of serious-minded libertarian philosophy. But now it’s broken down, and the real motives are out in the open.
He's being a bit generous to the Clinton camp there, though. Dan Roberts reports on what looks like old-fashioned redbaiting, in the days when "red" meant Communist instead of Republican (Sanders smeared as communist sympathiser as Clinton allies sling mud Guardian 01/22/2016):

... the attacks are likely to intensify nonetheless in the days leading up to the Iowa caucus according to a new document that delves into affiliations and statements made by the senator dating back decades.

The dossier, prepared by opponents of Sanders and passed on to the Guardian by a source who would only agree to be identified as “a Democrat”, alleges that Sanders “sympathized with the USSR during the Cold War” because he went on a trip there to visit a twinned city while he was mayor of Burlington.

Similar “associations with communism” in Cuba are catalogued alongside a list of quotes about countries ranging from China to Nicaragua in a way that supporters regard as bordering on the McCarthyite rather than fairly reflecting his views.

Sanders has insisted on many occasions this year that his own philosophy of democratic socialism is very different from that of authoritarian regimes, and much more in keeping with the tradition of American reformers such as Franklin D Roosevelt.
Politics is politics, as Joe Stalin said in a speech just after the Munich Agreement, a few months before signing the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. ("Politics is politics, as the old, case-hardened bourgeois diplomats say." Report 03/10/1939)

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