Two words, Barack: party building
Bill Clinton was a hell of a politician — at least when it came to Bill Clinton. When it came to building the Democratic Party — well, not so much so.
Democrats entered the Clinton era with huge majorities in both houses of Congress. Two years later they were gone. Clinton doesn’t deserve all the blame, of course, but he has a fair share coming.
He gave the country (or the country gave him, depending on one’s viewpoint) years of strong economic growth. He kept the peace, for the most part. Peace and prosperity — yeah baby, that’s the stuff. Yet, at the end of his eight years, he turned the country over to the worst president in history.
Does Clinton deserve all the blame for that? Of course not. But once again, he does get his share.
Bill Clinton was a political star, but, unfortunately, in many ways a very selfish one. Party building just wasn’t his thing.
Barack Obama seems on the verge, of course, of becoming an even bigger political star — and the early signs were encouraging on his commitment to building a stronger Democratic Party. That was actually one of the primary reasons I supported him for the nomination. And this seeming commitment to party building carried forward to the general election, where his decision to run a more nationally centered campaign than customary — and even more so his decision to go aggressively into states the Democrats had previously written off — did wonders for the Democratic Party.
And that’s a very big deal. I know it isn’t politically correct to say it right now, but the truth is that helping to build a strong Democratic Party — one that can win consistently — is the single biggest contribution Barack Obama can make to achieving positive progressive change in this nation. A single gifted president, even serving for the full eight years, can only do so much to improve this nation. A strong progressively rooted Democratic Party, able to effectively fight the good fight for a generation or more, on the other hand, can change the world.
I think Obama knows this: but, to be honest, he’s starting to scare me a little. He played the GOP masterfully during the stimulus bill debate. But there’s a danger in his incessant talk of bipartisanship. It has the effect of putting the GOP — and its response to Obama’s proposals — into the very center of the story, while at the same time marginalizing other Democrats.
Why should anyone care what congressional Democrats have to say about the economy, when the whole storyline has become how the GOP will respond to Obama’s proposals?
Look what’s happening: the Sunday talk shows and cable gabfests are awash in Republicans. Given Democrats are now in control of just about everything in Washington, on first blush, this seems nothing short of astonishing. Yet, the fact it’s occurring is undeniable: television news programs are offering up wall to wall Republicans, but nary a Democrat to be seen. Why?
The now well documented media bias in favor of giving Republicans an inordinate share of the screen time on televison news talk programs is one factor, of course. But something else is also at play. Unquestionably, one big reason Republicans in Congress are getting more than their share of media coverage is because Obama, through his futile quest to win them over, has made them the story, not the Democrats.
It would be a mistake to underestimate the danger this poses. If nothing else, it means that most of the public debate over economics right now is being fought on the GOP’s turf.
I understand the siren song of bipartisanship sounds loudly in the spirit of our new president. And making a public show of reaching out to the GOP is probably good politics — at least for Obama himself. But building a strong Democratic Party is better politics. And it is also an essential element to building a better and more just America over the long haul.
So two words, Barack: party building. Press them to your chest and put them under your pillow at night. Never forget them and never neglect them. Because when all is said and done, they may just represent the single most important inheritance you can give this nation.
January 31st, 2009 at 1:38 am
I detest the conservative movement and all the greed and selfishness and elitism it represents. It is toxic and corrupt. However, it grew stronger and stronger because of its expanding base. It drew in the disaffected in large numbers, appealing to human greed, stereotypes and ‘wannabeeism’. It fanned the flames of social issues that divide many Americans. It has brought out the worst in human nature. The condition of the country shows it. So, playing to the “Base” can have some very ugly results. That being said, President Obama was elected because he promised change. The Disaffected became disaffected with losing their jobs, their homes and their healthcare. He also appealed to Independent voters looking for a competent, decent man to elect. Okay. Fair enough. Nevertheless, Progressive Democrats played a large role in his election. They were the work horses, the loud voices, the committed and determined bundles of humanity who gave hours and hours and hard-earned money to get Barack Obama elected. They are HIS Base. In some areas, he has done some great things in a short period of time. In others, he appears to be turning a deaf ear to those who put their heart and soul into getting him elected. The Republicans in Congress are from exceedingly conservative districts. They have nothing to gain and their seat to lose, if they go along with ANYTHING Obama proposes. They simply are not going to do it. They are fanatics, ideologues, and in many cases, bigoted, angry men and women. They would elect Sarah Palin in a heartbeat, corrupt, self-serving behaviors and all. In the Senate, there is no filibuster-proof majority. The Republican Senators can bide their time, play politics to the hilt, and live a life of luxury and privilege. Men like Dick Lugar know they have the majority of people in their state nicely trained and docile. Most of these Republican Senators are not moderates. They are the friends of and socially connected with the corporate fat-cats and wealthy contributors of the upper class. They dont give a Tinker’s damn about working people or even the white-collar middle class. Their position is safe, their wealth is safe. Even if they lose the next election that comes up for them, they will continue a privileged life, quite separate from the average citizen. Conservatism is an ideology that protects and serves that life. They are not going to waver from it. Good heavens, I am hardly stating anything new. Surely, President Obama can see this! He needs to do what is best for the common good at this moment in time, in this crisis. He needs to create jobs. He needs to let the country know exactly who is for that and who is against that. He needs to forget appeasing the fanatics and ideologues, because appeasement never works, and is a losing strategy for economic recovery.
And, by the way, why cant Congress get the billions back from the dirty, rotten scoundrels on Wall Street by passing a new tax aimed at billion dollar bonuses or some such strategy. God knows, new taxes pop up every time the calendar changes, whether its on tobacco(a good one) or on fuel (time to tax Exxon for windfall profits) or on whatever comes down the pike.
March 9th, 2009 at 6:13 am
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