Ezra Klein has a piece in the New Yorker pointing out that the Bully Pulpit basically doesn’t work. One of the points he makes, which is backed up by recent experience, is that Presidents advocating for a policy often galvanize opposition, as we saw with Hillarycare and Obamacare. Here’s the nut:
[…] We don’t have a system of government set up for Presidents to drive legislation through Congress. Rather, we have a system that was designed to encourage division between the branches but to resist the formation of political parties. The parties formed anyway, and they now use the branches to compete with one another. Add in minority protections like the filibuster, and you have a system in which the job of the President is to persuade an opposition party that has both the incentive and the power to resist him.
Jim Cooper says, “We’ve effectively lost our Congress and gained a parliament.” He adds, “At least a Prime Minister is empowered to get things done,” but “we have the extreme polarization of a parliament, with party-line voting, without the empowered Prime Minister.” And you can’t solve that with a speech.
One of the relatively recent developments in the pundit-industrial complex has been to just assume and expect Congressional stalemate, and instead concentrate on the President as savior. This piece points out that the President really doesn’t have that kind of saving power, even though we spend two years of every four obsessing about who’s going to be the next one.
Of course, there’s the veto power over that lovely and talented Fugitive Female Slave bill described down below. Although I don’t dispute the gist of this post, that alone might be worth obsessing over, at least to half the population.
*grabs morning popcorn for this one
But there are two possible uses of the bully pulpit: one to try to get particular legislation passed, another to try to shift the frame of debate in the medium to long run.
@ash can…agreed. Let’s not get carried away here. The office can be a pretty nice thing for a party to have.
@Ash Can: You’re right, but what Klein is focusing on is the President’s ability to push through an agenda, not his ability to stop the agenda of the other party. Obama can always veto the most regressive stuff Congress sends him, but if you look at the overall power the President has in face of opposition, the veto is it. Congress has greatly curtailed his appointment powers by blocking most appointments, and the last session has sent forward essentially nothing Obama wanted and is still threatening to shut down government.
Presidents pick the SCOTUS, and if you don’t think the SCOTUS has had a heavy hand in politics for the last 10 years, you haven’t been paying attention.
Beyond that, there is a very wide berth of legislation on the books and numerous agencies already in place such that the President and his cabinet can do a lot without asking Congress for permission first.
In a country that just went through 8 years of Unitary Executive Theory Land, and is still hoovering in that territory, it would be extremely foolish to consider the Presidency anything less than the most powerful post in the nation. That’s true, even if it isn’t the only power.
We obsess over who’s going to be President because a bad one can really mess up the country. GWB wasn’t as destructive with a Democratic Congress, but he still did serious damage to the executive bureaucracy and massively screwed up the judiciary. We want good Presidents because bad ones give us nightmares…while the good ones get to fantasize of a cushy, relaxed retirement where they just have to eternally push a rock up a hill.
Edit: Or what zifnab said above…better than I did.
I don’t think that people are arguing that the Presidency isn’t powerful; rather, this article simply postulates that one of the most common theories of presidential power is objectively wrong. Also, people need to temper their expectations on the legislation front in our current system.
In our next session, we will examine the concepts of “arm-twisting” and “showing leadership”. Your homework is to read Chapters 3 and 4 of Rules for Radicals.
This wouldn’t be that huge an issue if the entire leadership of one of the two parties consisted of either lunatics or people who put power over the best interests of the country. I have had this conversation with friends before – in my lifetime has either of the two parties gone this far over the deep end? I say no, but one friend maintains that McGovern was as far to the left as the GOP is to the right. I say that’s BS, McGovern was a respected Senator, a WWII hero who just happened to be a liberal. I don’t see him as a far-left culture warrior. To be successful in the modern GOP you almost have to be a far-right culture warrior – it defines the party.
@Dan: We are a nation that increases its disapproval of the president if gas prices rise $.10 and then has to sit through 2 weeks of news stories on the matter. (Free market? How does it work?) I’m going to say no matter how right Ezra may be, it won’t matter one little bit. We are americans. Nuance confuses us…especially if you work for ABCNNBCBS.
In Domestic Policy the president is somewhat muted, in foreign policy, they can do almost anything they want. Bully pulpit worked great for Iraq “shut up you traitor!”, not so much for social security / immigration legislation (using GWB’s years as an example).
Bully pulpit is also easier for things which we know are bad but sound good “lower taxes”, “kick the other out”, etc. But for meaningful change or where hard yards are needed, not so much.
The less policy wonkery needed to push through the change / legislation, the more the bully pulpit works (and conversely, the more wonkery needed the easier it is for opponents to attack simply using bully pulpit sloganeering).
please explain why, in a system not set up for the President to drive legislation, boy blunder did it almost perfectly for 8 years?
Yes, I know the GOP maintains strict party discipline but the current administration is too willing to lay low & accept what Congress will give it. Imagine how different todays economic debate would be if Obama had said up front (in the exact way W played this game) he would not accept a stim bill larded with tax cuts when what was needed was jobs right now. Then, assuming he was given the same POS bill he got he could have said that Republicans tied his hands & while this bill would help it would not do as well as his would have.
The bully pulpit is not just about the bullying part, its also about setting the framing for the debate.
The ACA wouldn’t have come close to passage without Obama, and I don’t just mean because of his signature.
First, the reason health care was a priority when it was is that the White House made it a priority. Obama could have decided that an economic downturn was the wrong time to enact this sort of program, and put it off a couple years or maybe until his second term. He let Congress write the bill, but he made it clear that health care was his personal priority. Congress might very well have punted otherwise.
Obama was also essential at multiple stages in the process where it looked like the bill might get bogged down in the face of Republican lies. Just google “Obama pep talk health care,” and you’ll find Obama imploring the Senate to stick with the process in August 2009, December 2009, and again in February 2010. In March 2010, he came to Congress and gave another talk to the House Dems in order to consolidate the wavering middle.
You can try to quibble over whether this is really the “bully pulpit” but I think it is. This is the rhetorical power of the Presidency in operation. Without these speeches, without the rhetorical focus, the ACA simply doesn’t pass. That doesn’t mean the power of the bully pulpit is unlimited, of course, but it’s pretty important.
Public Relations and Advertizing, they don’t ‘work’ either.
I don’t know why the Dems haven’t specifically pointed out to voters that nothing will get done without a strong mandate. A voter’s flip answer is that gridlock is good. But I think maybe a few are rethinking this after experiencing the paralyzation of our economy. And others are realizing how fragile we are as a result.
Perhaps we need a Pull the Dem Lever campaign.
Anyone paying attention should understand what happenens when they pull the Repulican lever by looking at the upper midwest. Maybe ads that hit those highlights and end with a call for a different mandate.
You could argue that President Reagan’s bully pulpit may not have gotten any particular bills passed, but he has set the basic terms of the debate for the last thirty years.
This myth needs to die. Bush got some major stuff passed in his first term, but what did he accomplish in the second? His SS legislation went down in flames. And he got stuff accomplished in his first term because of his popularity post-9/11 and the willingness of Dems like Ted Kennedy to work with Bush and the rest of the GOP. Obama doesn’t have anyone like that on the right. I don’t think the “bully pulpit” had much to do with it.
oh, no doubt, Obama was instrumental in getting the ACA passed. But again, the White House was able to really its own legislators, not convince the public or opposing legislators.
As for the effectiveness of Dubya’s presidency – I’d argue that he was pretty ineffective at actually pushing legislation (outside of the Patriot Act and the Iraq AUMF, which can be explained by 9/11).
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
The bully pulpit for pushing through legislation, especially poking the oppo party, once was, or could be effective by going straight over the congress critter heads, directly to the people. That was before the current partisan insanity with the GOP entering a twilight zone in a hyper cubed echo chamber. They can’t hear anything but the sound of the bats in their personal and party belfries. And are convinced that all unfriendly polling is being funded by Count Soros and his communist sympathizers.
And it never works for dem presidents on their own party. Only getting liberal preening senators and the like ruffling their separation of powers feathers. It can be used as a kind of way to conduct a dialogue from president to voting public in time of elections though.
His pulpit was so intimidating that people threw shoes at it.
Belafon (formerly anonevent)
@Schlemizel: For six years the Republicans controlled all three branches of government?
Bush didn’t actually get much done. Unfortunately what he did get done was calamitous.
Corollary: conservative Democrats are much more susceptible to being bully-pulpited than Republicans. That’s basically the whole story: the Republicans undertook a deliberate strategy of refusing to budge and refusing to be constructive at all, betting that they would get away with it. And they won that bet. When Republians were in power, Democrats were unwilling to do the same.
The bully pulpit can work to get ideas into circulation, and, in theory, to get the public on the president’s side. But just because the public is on the president’s side doesn’t mean that Republicans are going to change their votes from the party line in order to please the public.
If the Republicans are willing to turn themselves into automata who say “no,” and there’s no reasoning with them, and they have no fear of losing their offices, the bully pulpit can’t overcome that. Only voting them out can.
Yeah re McGovern: the false equivalency strikes again. It would be great to pull some speeches of his, and ask your friend to identify the speaker. McGovern is a patriot and a liberal.
On false equivalency and a bit OT: did anyone notice that Steve Schmidt, in his mea culpa for putting up an unqualified VP candidate, equated John Edwards and Sarah Palin as people who should never be let near the presidency?
JEdwards turned out to be a crook who used campaign money for personal (and adulterous) purposes, but he was solidly qualified to be president. Knew policy pretty well too, and was well educated and articulate. A pretty dude, but not a Palin.
You got to watch these false equivalenters like a hawk.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
I think Bush and Rove got some odious stuff passed in the wake of 9-11, that dems would likely not have gone for and would have filibustered to death. Out of some stunned sense of patriotism, and the wingers slapping them around with the traitor stick if they didn’t go along. That is not, or should not be an excuse for things like Iraq authorization, or like the bankruptcy bill, and a few others. But is a mitigating factor in making judgements, imo.
They did filibuster some of the worst bills, like the tax cuts for the rich, but the wingers used the reconciliation card on that. Bush didn’t get much of anything his second term though.
@Belafon (formerly anonevent):
Other than his attempt to fuck over social security the last two years were not much of a speed bump for boy blunder (I know, I repeatedly caled Sen. Klobuchars office to complain when she voted for what the douchebag wanted). But that said yes, I acknowledge that, along with the superior discipline of the GOP in browbeating their reluctant members into line. Can you see my point about how different todays debate would be if the pulpit had been used to frame the debate back then? This would have worked for ACA also if there had been a coherent message about what was expected.
similar reply. It is not always the bullying part, the pulpit part can set the framing and generate pressure too.
I would gently remind y’all that passing ACA was hardly a shining accomplishment. It took forever, humiliated the Party and had Obama breaking promises left and right. According to the firebaggers the whole freaking passage is a net negative, folks don’t like the law or the lousy results. Anything that left the insurance companies there was total Fail, that’s the rationale.
[sigh] Anyway, from a rhetorical standpoint to know that you’re not that powerful even before you start is to admit failure before trying. A leader pushes things and frames them to his advantage, only an asshole like Dick Cheney would be a bully about it, and look what that idiot did for hisself.
I think the arguments presented here are good, and I’m not inclined to say Klein is wrong or right. It just totally sticks in my craw to have a Democratic president and then some wapo dc pencilkneck journalist so conveniently say the office doesn’t have much rhetorical power.
Jesus Christ. The guy can kill a citizen without due process but is weak in legislating. Something stinks of convenience here, I notice Obama has no trouble getting that obscene DOD budget passed, but real legislation that would help little people, well, sorry. Yeah, fuck you, we understand.
The “bully pulpit” (oh how I hate that term) is useful when the opposition party is acting in good faith, and legislative intransigence is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.
The Repubs’ opposition strategy for this POTUS is no more sophisticated than…
“Stick it to the ni-CLANG!”
Voting for Bush’s agenda carried no political risk for legislators. At least not immediately or obviously (cough: Hillary). Voting against him was the perceived risky move post 9/11. Voting for the stimulus and Obamacare cost a lot of Democrats their jobs in 2010. And Ben Nelson is quitting for the same reason. That took quite a bit of arm twisting by Obama, Reid and Pelosi and will in time be appreciated by all but the simplest amongst us. I’m still amazed that they got those bills through and by the continued puffing up of Bush’s skills by liberals. So ridiculous.
Here’s the Steve Schmidt quote, from Morning Joe, as reported in a WaPost/Jonathan Capeheart column:
False equivalency, and very dishonest from a party that brought us Watergate.
Although Richard Nixon is heads and shoulders above any of the GOP field this election cycle (and last). He’d be horrified at what his party has become.
@elizabelle – seriously? Edwards? And Quayle was what? 2004 or was that 1988. I’m at a loss. The point of Schmitt is to make money for Schmitt. He has really no other lesson to offer.
Eat me, Spock. Didn’t take long–only five replies–for some twerp to be juvenille. Try again, asshole, there aren’t tetherpoles and a blacktop here.
No, I actually think Schmidt is frequently honest and a better observer than most of the paid Republican pundits. (Faint praise, yes, but he’s worth hearing.)
You still have to watch what he and others try to slide through.
And LOL, because I’d forgotten about Quayle. A way better example.
(Let’s not forget that the beloved Karen Handel of Komen fame got her start as a staffer to Marilyn Quayle. Likely as a true believer, and not because Handel had sparkling credentials.)
To add on, if you’re a Democrat in anything but a safe seat, voting for any kind of progressive legislation is a very dangerous move. Wingnuts will be super motivated to turn out in the next election but many firebagger types will be dissatisfied so liberal turnout won’t match the wingnuts turnout, and centrist types will be spooked by the real or alleged effects on the deficit and debt by the legislation you’re being asked to vote for. It’s a wonder anything gets done in this country.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
Oh, please. Will this bullshit meme ever die. The ACA, or what the final version of it that could/would pass, was dictated by Joe Lieberman. And if you think a bully pulpit would have worked on him, I have a bridge for sell. Nonsense.
Sadly, the DOD budget is the only jobs bill that enjoys passable support. Every single congress.
I wish our country demanded non-defense-related jobs too.
DOD budgets and health care reform are the same thing! It’s just a matter of degrees!
Hey Spock, Obama humiliated us all with the ACA and all those backroom deals that only made insurance companies richer.
While letting the economy and our people get crushed. While carrying on an insane war and letting bankers off the hook.
Then he capitulated with that insane budget deal, which this very year will cut spending. How I love Greece.
Fuck you, you understand? I’ll rip Obama every morning for months just for you, just so you can’t shut me up.
OT, Richard Cohen trashes Sarah Palin, but can’t do it without throwing in this phrase:
Never mind that Obama’s rapid rise had anything to do with being whip-smart and eloquent — both sides do it!
Whoa! OT, but kinda big news: Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie have been arrested for obstructing justice.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
Yea, and the wingnuts march in lockstep, and can be controlled top down, and were to a large degree by Bush and his Texas Mafia. Dems aren’t like that, which can be frustrating at times, but sublimating the legislative branch into a rubber stamp for the whims of one person, a president, is precisely what the founders did not want. And neither should we, as liberals and democrats.
You know who else marched in lockstep?
Lemmings, that’s who.
Saw that re Rebekah Brooks. That should put David Cameron in a cheerful frame of mind for his hop across the pond.
@elizabelle – well Andrew Johnson turned out to be a fairly bad choice as well. And exactly what were Arthur’s qualifications? Customs house chief. I think if we look at it, the position wasn’t supposed to do much and was treated as such.
@Cacti: I see paradox still has that fainting couch strapped to his back. Good thing, since his hate-on’s been erect for years now. Yuck!
Hey, Pakled, you don’t understand Political Science 101. Count the votes.
@Cacti, et al: “Bully Pulpit” was coined by T. Roosevelt, back in the day when “bully” meant “great” or “terrific”. So he meant it was an excellent platform from which to preach his agenda. Too bad “bully” has taken on its current connotation – I think some occupiers of said pulpit (coughDubyacough) have used it with its current meaning.
Enough with the history/etymology. Carry on.
and Cohen closes with:
Yeah, right, Richard.
Did like this sentence, though:
@Schlemizel: “Generating pressure” is meaningless if the politicians you’re hoping to pressure have decided they’re not going to allow themselves to be pressured. In that circumstance, which is where we’ve been since Obama’s election, the best the “bully pulpit” can do is set up why it’s so important to get the obstructionists out of the damn way. And it would be useful for that. But many invocations of the Bully Pulpit involve statements like “health care reform didn’t go far enough because Obama didn’t Use The Bully Pulpit.” It didn’t matter how much or how little he used it, because the Republicans decided to vote no in lockstep, and wouldn’t have switched from no to yes because of feeling “pressure.” They don’t care about pleasing the public, and dare you to vote for the other guy if you don’t like it. Hence “pressure” goes nowhere.
Aha. Betty Cracker noticed something awry with the Richard Cohen and Steve Schmidt utterings.
New thread follows.
Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor
November’s still far away, but if the election were held today, apparently the little turnips would vote for at least four more years of pretending that the future isn’t already here. At least on Facebook, Louis CK’s trope about Americans being “like a bunch of fat eighth graders” is looking more and more true.
At some point, we’re forced to admit that much of the American public isn’t ready for the 21st century.
Meh. Fuck ’em.
What’s this “us” business?
You have a mouse in your pocket?
slim's tuna provider
this might be getting the history wrong, but didn’t presidents in the first 3/4 of the last century have much more “relative bandwidth”? namely, they were one of the few people who had the means to address the entire country? now, every peroxide blonde/helmet-haired preppie on a network gets to talk at the entire nation more than the prez. what do people think?
also, too, if your electorate’s only mandate for you as a congressperson is to oppose the president, up to and including his attendance of broadway plays, the bully pulpit has the reverse of effect desired (ezra said it better).
“spend(ing) two years of every four obsessing about who’s going to be the next one” is not the same thing as the bully pulpit being useless. Others make this point better than I could in the thread.
That said, I think the term bully pulpit does not fit with modern communication, social networking, and the 24 hour news cycle.
Whoever is president can certainly shape what gets attention in the news and media and can use that influence, not necessarily for federal legislation, but for everything else.
Republicans do well with this knowledge. Look at how many anti-choice, sharia law, drug testing welfare recipient type laws that have been passed and are being floated around in the past few years. The right owns the “bully pulpit” on these types of social issues. Our current president hardly makes a peep on these things, but when he does, it’s powerful.
A lazy, and unconvincing argument. Bush and Cheney did not engender much in the way of opposition. Republicans were disciplined, and Democrats complacent, stupid, and eager to yield (especially Blue Dog Democrats). On the other hand, the recent GOP position is that they are the only legitimate political party in America and, buttressed by the Tea Party People elected to Congress, have made obstruction and opposition their guiding principle.
It doesn’t matter whether a Democratic president uses a bully pulpit or appeals to the spirit of bipartisanship. The current GOP fundamentally believe that the Democrats do not have he right to govern the country.
On the other side of the aisle, the bully pulpit does not work for the Democrats because they are often too unorganized, too easily co-opted, and often to dumb to rally behind their president, to press their advantages when they have them, or to get out the way of their own worst instincts.
Yes, the various B-J commenters with pre-existing conditions who were denied health insurance for years before finally being able to get it thanks to the PPACA certainly seem “humiliated” at being able to have health insurance instead of having to pray they don’t have a cancer recurrance they can’t pay for.
I’m sure the 1.3 million additional minority young adults who now have coverage are, like, totally humiliated by it.
And I’m sure that the women on Medicaid who will be getting improved prenatal care are just, like, humiliated by PPACA.
That can’t be true. I read all the time @ HuffPo and FDL that Obama can get anything passed if he just “uses the bully pulpit”. And heavens knows that Ariana and Jane know EXACTLY what they’re talking about!
Three things of note:
1. Reagan’s use of the bully pulpit was successful because he was willing to lie about people and events, and he did it in such a way as to make it seem plausible. It was his acting skill they needed not intellect or decency.
2. Everyone likes the idea of a savior because then they can sit on their tochis and do nothing while someone else does all the heavy work. I call this the “Harry Potter theory of warfare.” Harry was lucky in his few friends.
3. A lot of liberals seem to think their feelings are more important than doing something constructive. So do a lot of conservatives. Go figure.
4. The most important thing the President can do is appoint Supreme Court Justices. I will vote Democratic for that alone, even if I’m not completely happy with the President.
5. It’s not always about me. Or you. Go figure.
Please look up the Medical Loss Ratio. You are stunningly ignorant of the provisions in the ACA.
Why the hell did the insurance companies spend $2 million per day to defeat the ACA?
@Emma: And yes, I ended up with five. Sue me. Here’s a sixth.
6. Republicans don’t beat up on Republicans from the left, or during tight votes. Democrats beat up on each other AND their President no matter what. The whole thing about “not belonging to an organized political party”? Yeah.
Another quote from the New Yorker article:
There seems to be a very delicate balance and no easy rule.
Leave it to mistermix to use this for yet another installment of one of his ridiculous dot connecting exercises.
A soldier with past head trauma went bezerk and killed people. Therefore all war is bad and we should end all war now…..sigh. The stupid it burns.
Davis X. Machina
@Emma: Reagan’s bully pulpit was successful in getting people to support measures they liked anyways. Especially in foreign affairs, where the president is almost all-powerful.
I remember our invasion of Nicaragua. And we have Marines in Lebanon to this very day. The bloody nose we received in Grenada turned people against him, though.
Of course, in the early years of the country, the second place finisher automatically became VP, so there was an automatic incentive for the president to weaken the post if he didn’t like the VP or perceived him to be a potential adversary.
Excellent historical point.
I don’t even see what the argument is about. If the president had stepped to a microphone and soundly condemned Rush Limbaugh, all those republican women who finally took off their blinders to the misogyny of the unofficial party spokesman would have sucked it up, and carried I <3 Rush Posters and had that vajazzeled on their vaginas. It would not have helped. Ergo, in this situation, with this particular electorate, the bully pulpit cannot really galvanize people towards an ideal. Same thing with the Wisconsin protests, with idiots like Ed Shultz decrying the President for not making an appearance. Even as movement leaders said they did not want him because once he entered, a broad, trans-partisan coalition could have been torn apart, simply because we think political parties are football teams. National public policy building that can work has a better chance if it starts outside the Presidency and once it is fully entrenched, garners his oblique support. Not great, but it is a good way forward. We're not going to have some wondrous national moment of some guy banging a podium, rallying people to his presidential cause, and then causing congress to act in accord to his wishes. NAGUNNAHAPEN.
I love the double standard that always pops up in defense of moderate/conservative Democrats. Somehow people are able to simultaneously believe ‘HE CAN’T MAGICALLY BULLY PULPIT CONGRESS INTO DOING ANYTHING!’ but also ‘LOOK AT ALL THESE LEGISLATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENTS HE HAS!’ It’s almost as if there’s a double standard here…nah, couldn’t be.
Anyway, I’m surprised no one in the comments tagged this reaction, because it highlights a passage in the article that puts this “debate” in perspective.
From the article:
And Digby’s reaction to that passage:
I’m always amazed at how often the “pragmatists” are so wrong on the politics. What good are they, again?
obama does in fact use the bully pulpit to its fullest extent, but he generally does it to promote milquetoast verbiage. ‘non-partisan’, ‘working together’ etc. so he voids all the power his words could have.
it’s not that presidential rhetoric can move individual pieces of legislation. it’s the pounding away at, yes, partisan themes that can put the opposition on the backfoot. and over time, that can have an effect. for example, there’s no earthly reason ‘stimulus’ had to become a dirty word.
importantly though, the president is only one part of the picture. the only reason reagan’s ‘welfare queen’ etc moved the debate and stayed with us is that it was unremittingly, continuously, inveterately echoed by practically the whole spectrum of republicans everytime they got some face time on camera.
democrats simply won’t do that, not because they play too nice, but because they are fundamentally compromised. for example the reason obama didn’t put up the slightest fight for the public option was not because it couldn’t pass, but because corporations pay into the democratic party, same as the republican.
if he and every other democrat had fought for it, it wouldn’t have passed, but it would have moved the needle on health care further to the left, and the whole notion would be firmly entrenched in the public ether, instead of being just an irrelevant, policy wonk thing.
klein is just constructing a straw man and providing cover. we get the democrats other people pay for.
I call bullshit. This is a reasonable bully pulpit theory, but that’s not in fact what the loudest bully pulpiteers were saying. They said, repeatedly, that the reason why Bill X wasn’t better was because Obama didn’t Use The Bully Pulpit. What that means is that if Obama had done a better job of that, the people would have clamored for what Obama wanted, they would have browbeaten their Congresscritters about it, the Congresscritters would have voted for it, and thus there would be less need to water down Bill X. The bully pulpit has to translate into politicians’ Yes votes for that sequence to work.
One major problem. “Every other democrat” didn’t want the public option. Sure, if we presume that “every Democrat” believed in the same stuff and voted uniformly for it, we would have a better party and a better country. But, alas, they don’t. This “fight harder” stuff is always so nebulous, anyway. If the public option had been the absolute line in the sand — no public option, no HCR — then we’d have no public option, no HCR, no next attempt at HCR for 20 years, and a huge legislative defeat that would poison the well for Obama for the rest of his term.
If you believe that, then you disagree with Ezra Klein and the premise of the article itself. I’ll add emphasis, from the article:
If you don’t want to believe members of Congress can be persuaded by their constituents, then there are lots of implications to that belief. For example: every now and then BJ frontpagers try and get people to call their local congresscritter to tell them…something. I believe there was a big push to call them to vote for ACA. Surely you believe that was and is pointless, and surely you’ve made that clear in those comment threads?
@TK-421: I believe it’s pointless to attempt to sway Republicans. They have concluded that they’d rather hang together and dare their constituents to vote them out than to swing towards what _even their constituents_ might want. It’s a dramatic change in American politics. You can’t even presume that Republican Congresspeople will vote in their own blatant self-interest. There have been extremely few exceptions to this since the ’08 election. Contacting them might serve as a warning that the voters are watching and just might vote them out the next time, but it won’t in fact swing their vote. They fear their party’s leadership more than they fear their own constituents.
OTOH, I don’t believe it’s pointless to attempt to sway skittish Democrats.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
I’m always amazed at how dishonest and glib emo progs can be when not making fully fleshed out arguments, or misinterpreting what they read.
You really can’t use Ezra’s statement in a vacuum, because for Obama’s first two years, dems didn’t need any votes past their own caucus to pass major leg, like the ACA. The Stimulus Bill was the one exception, but that was early on when the glow of the election and Obama’s political capital account was full. And still he got just one GOP vote with a smaller dollar figure than wanted.
Whereupon, the GOP completely closed ranks for voting yea on anything by Obama for the next two years, until 2011, when they won the House . So Obama did something a little different, and that was some rope a dope engaging the wingers, but using his wits to trap them into giving stuff up, and giving up very little himself, like the bogus spending cuts for the first government shutdown, and a trillion in delayed spending cuts outside of the safety net the wingers wanted to raid.
Then maneuvering them into a debt ceiling deal, where he gained control of future debt ceiling raises until after the election, and a supercommittee with a trigger that was all dem win, with auto cuts to the military and medicare providers. Both things dems had been wanting, and the wingers did not want. That wasn’t bully pulpit, that was pol chess played in a phone booth.
Any damn fool can stand at a podium and spout tough trash talk to his opponents. A smart president offers them in for a spot of tea, and they leave in their birthday suits with nary a pot to piss in.
Unless I missed it, which is quite possible, this discussion has all been about the President’s domestic limitations. The Presidency was designed to give the Executive significant foreign policy powers. While Congress has put some limitations on this and refusing to ratify treaties made by the Executive being the main one (and since the League of Nations, it is the GOP that has exclusively exercised this power)and, more recently, the War Powers Act, which the Administration ignored in the case of Libya. But on a whole lot of foreign policy fronts, the Executive still has greater sway.
Ok, so that major major push to call Dems to vote for ACA was, according to you, not pointless.
But if it’s worthwhile and effective to use the Bully Pulpit to rally people to pressure Dems to support something they might be “skittish” about (because according to you that pressure is not pointless), then that logic applies regardless of the details of the policy details in question. So it applies to, for example, ‘voting for ACA’ or ‘voting for ACA (with a Public Option)’, or ‘voting for a Stimulus Bill’ or ‘voting for a (big enough) Stimulus Bill’.
If the Bully Pulpit is worthwhile and effective at swaying skittish Dems, then that certainly applied to ACA and the Stimulus. And isn’t that most of progressive criticisms of the Obama Admin? Why yes, yes it is.
Thank you for validating progressives’ criticisms of the Obama Admin not using the Bully Pulpit to achieve bigger change.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
I know you are too cowardly to debate me, but I will respond anyways. The major push was for congress to finish its work on the ACA, not for any particular version, or policy prescription in it. It was after the Scott Brown election, and dems were about to give up, but Obama and Pelosi wouldn’t let them. It wasn’t about bully pulpitting them into giving Obama a specific result. Just to not give up. That is not really the bully pulpiting the left has been pounding Obama for the past 3 years. They want him to brow beat both dems and repubs into doing what they want Obama to want congress to do. Policy specific, ie public option. Some of us are actually relieved that Obama is not presidenting like Bush, letting the legislative branch be a separate co equal branch of government that writes laws. While simply drawing some broad boundaries, that he, Obama cannot sign on to. With the ACA, that core progressive goal of near universal coverage, not necessarily to be done by one means or another.
Obots like you keep telling us over and over that the president has no power.
So how is it that Barack Obama has the power to murder American citizens without a trial or even charging them with committing a crime?
How is it that Barack Obama has the power to kidnap American citizens and hurl them into a dungeon forever without access to a lawyer?
How is it that Barack Obama has the power to strip a U.S. citizen of all hi/r assets, freeze hi/r bank account, take hi/r car and house and everything s/he owns, without even charging that U.S. citizen with a crime?
How is it that Barack Obama has the power to spy on Americans night and day, recording all their phone calls and scanning through all their emails, and demanding their banks provide records of all their transactions, without even alleged that those Americans have done anything wrong?
How is it that Barack Obama has the power to modify or nullify or append or abridge or enhance any law he chooses with a signing statement that may mean the opposite of whatever the law actually says?
How is it that Barack Obama has the power to reach into other countries anywhere on earth and seize domain names of companies outside the United States and shut them off the internet?
For someone who’s powerless, the president of the United States sounds like he has a whole goddamn lot of power.
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
Yo Mclaren, why are you up and about with the sun still shining?
@General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero):
As usual, you have nothing substantive to say — no facts, no logic, nothing but the usual drivel. At this point, why should anyone pay attention to you?
General Stuck (Bravo Nope Zero)
I do to have a fact. Like the fact are apoplectic fool that mixes some truth with heaping helpings of untethered bullshit, hoping to bait someone in to a discussion with you, that if they take that bait, will likely end up having suicidal thoughts. That is my fact, buttonhead.
Well, gee, I’ve only been saying this since 200fucking9.
The latter doesn’t happen if the former doesn’t (see: tax cuts)
He did? So that’s why Social Security is privatized and we got immigration reform?
Um, isn’t it a lot easier to browbeat Congress directly?
If you are right about this (and I think you are) then it really proves the Obots’ point. If most of the Democratic caucuses in Congress are corporate stooges (and I agree they are) what’s the point in trying to browbeat them via their constituents?Sure they all want to get reelected, but they want the sweet lobbying gigs and corporate board seats afterwards even more. Your average Dem congressman would rather go down in defeat than burn his bridges with the oligarchy.
So if you’re the president, and you want to enact as much and as progressive policy as possible, you find areas where you can play one lobby off against another,work the backrooms, cut little deals, whatever you have to.
For a variety of reasons the American political system does not allow for independent action by a left-wing working class movement. Anything you want done in that vein has to be in coalition with goo-goo middle class liberals, blue state chamber of commerce types, and sundry other center to center-right elements.
THE DEMOCRATS ARE NOT A LEFT WING PARTY. They are the equivalent of Gaullists or Christian Democrats, or Disraelite Tories. I have no idea why you are surprised and outraged that they don’t behave otherwise.
Does that suck? Oh my yes. But let’s stop pretending it is a betrayal. Or that things could easily be different. Or that the Constitution (the non-amendment-y part that no one reads) doesn’t present real obstacles to changing it.
It’s pretty simple. The accomplishments all come from either unilateral executive action, beto threats, and/or dealmaking with Congress, usually in backrooms. Basically none of them come out of the pulpitist script.