Archive for the ‘Meta’ Category

More LBJ Then FDR

Like ThinkProgress guest blogger Jamelle Bouie I don’t understand the basis for Paul Rosenberg‘s claim that,

Barack Obama has manically embraced “discredited conservative ideas” and “helped enormously in extended the hegemonic continuity of [the] Nixon-Reagan Era

That said, the alternative proposition expressed by NY times columnist David Leonhardt that the Obama achievements “rivals any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition”, isn’t really the that powerful a rejoinder. Here’s the full first paragraph of Leonhardt column:

With the Senate’s passage of financial regulation, Congress and the White House have completed 16 months of activity that rival any other since the New Deal in scope or ambition. Like the Reagan Revolution or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the new progressive period has the makings of a generational shift in how Washington operates.

Which is to say that the Obama administration achievements are comparable to the domestic achievements of Reagan or LBJ. Not that they exceed them or are on par with FDR’s achievements. Nixon actually had a pretty robust domestic policy legacy, although it’s a bit of orphan because of it’s mixed ideological direction and Nixon’s personal legacy.

Obviously the important thing will be if the bills make the world a better place. The early results for stimulus bill are lacking. The economy needed more and it just didn’t happen. In size and scope the health care and financial reform bills are historically large. So what, will they work? For health care it’s pretty clear the expansion of coverage will last and improve lives of millions of Americans. But I wouldn’t pretend to know if financial reform will look like an achievement in ten or twenty years. It’s size and scope could just as easily be measures of failure as success.



C&S Hiring an Intern

Insider Reporting and New Media Intern

The Carrots and Sticks Project is a new organization that emerged from the principles and vision of the 2008 presidential campaign. We are a grassroots DC-based action tank committed to rebuilding America’s physical, economic and democratic infrastructure through direct engagement with Congress. Our areas of focus include but are not limited to: green transportation, climate change policy, progressive budget and tax policy, and financial market reform.

We seek enthusiastic and talented young progressives who want to help make the change agenda a reality. The Insider Reporting and New Media Intern will cover congressional hearings and other events around DC, write about policy issues of your interest on the Carrots and Sticks blog and elsewhere, help compile the congressional committee schedule each week and perform other tasks as needed.

The ideal amount of time for this internship is 15-25 hours/week. If you wish to work more, we can assign additional tasks that best suit your qualifications. The internship can start immediately, and we are open to applicants for summer internships although we would prefer a commitment of six months. This internship is unpaid, but there is a genuine opportunity to grow with the organization.

Candidates should possess:

  • Superior research, writing, and interpersonal communication skills
  • A strong desire to make a difference
  • Experience in journalism and/or new media (very helpful but not mandatory)
  • At least a basic understanding of the American political landscape (mandatory)
  • Strong academic background, preferably with a focus in political science, public policy, journalism or a related field

Also, being able to explain why every decent policy gets clogged in the Senate is a huge plus. If you think you can answer this key question, please try to work it into your cover letter. However, don’t worry if you can’t – that will not automatically disqualify your application.

The Carrots and Sticks Project is an equal opportunity employer strongly committed to providing equal opportunity and to achieving an inclusive, diverse workforce that values every individual. Minority candidates are encouraged to apply.

Application instructions:

Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter to Jeremy Koulish at

Lessig on Change in a Broken Washington

Professor Lawrence Lessig, an ardent campaign finance reform advocate, the founder of Change Congress and a multifaceted scholar who’s known Barack Obama for twenty years, wrote the cover story for the most recent issue of The Nation, called “How To Get Our Democracy Back.” The guiding spirit of Lessig is much the same as ours: no matter how honorable and well-intentioned a man Barack Obama is, Change will never happen while Congress is structurally beholden to corporate interests because of the constant need to raise large amounts of campaign money. While Lessig advocates a direct solution, voluntary public financing that can level the playing field for everyday citizens, we are working to build the structures for citizens to engage Congress in a new, more robust way. While these tactics are somwhat different, we share the overall vision of a more vibrant democracy, so we applaud his efforts.

Lessig produced a video with his article, which is well worth a watch:


Go Ahead – Smash Your Television

Last night, the unthinkable happened. The Liberal Lion’s seat was lost to a teabagger. I’ll admit, I thought Coakley would pull it out, but she certainly did nothing whatsoever to deserve a Senate seat. In policy terms and getting legislative results, I can’t say I think too much will change, apart from the current trajectory of final health care talks being derailed. Moving forward, the impact of this election is NOT the difference between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown. Rather, since there is a 60-vote threshold on everything, it’s who that marginal 60th vote is. In other words, Ben Nelson or Olympia Snowe? As far as I’m concerned, that ain’t much difference.

No, the real issue here is WHY the Democrat lost a high-turnout statewide election in FRIGGIN’ MASSACHUSETTS. Ted Kennedy’s seat! What happened? Well, we know what the useless, self-important chattering media bobbleheads and their G”NO”P puppeteers will say:

The American people have rejected President Obama

This election means the populace is turning back to Republicans and wants them back in control

The Democrat Party has run too far to the left, and needs to stop being so divisive and partisan

The Democrats and Obama have ignored the interests of their constituents

Some variation of all these statements will be made over and over again, to a sickening degree and with little counterargument, in the corporate-owned media. And the teabagger horde will be worst of all in their feverish glee.

But here’s what’s so frustrating about it: three of those four points are completely ass backwards, and the fourth (Dems ignoring constituents) is true, but for a reason different than the chattering class thinks.

On the first two points, let’s see the recent Research 2000/DKos weekly tracking poll:

President Obama: 55 Approve, 42 Disapprove

Congressional GOPs: 19 Approve, 63 Disapprove

Oh. Right. And this is after a terrible week for Democrats across the board (thanks Harry Reid). So much for that.

How about the third point, that Democrats have been acting too much like scaaaary socialists? Let’s look at a recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll.

Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll

So wait, the public is least interested in more bipartisan compromise among all of these things? Huh.

Now to the fourth talking point, that Democrats are ignoring the interests of their constituents. Yeah, I actually agree with that argument. But not in the way the chattering class would have you believe. They want you to think the country is more conservative than Democrats thought, and regular people want less to be accomplished. Quite the contrary. People are pissed off at a broken power structure and want to see results. They are tired of a policymaking process whose primary purpose is to say something was accomplished without upsetting entrenched corporate interests in the least. Remember, the majority of Americans voted for HOPE and CHANGE just a year ago? Simply put, Obama voters of all stripes aren’t seeing the change they hoped they’d get, and are pissed off. And as usual, the nattering nabobs on your teevee will tell you that it’s all your fault for expecting Democrats to do something, anything, with their mandate.

Do yourself a favor. Turn off your television for a few days. Your political IQ – and mental health – will thank you later.


Exxon Mobile and EITI

To give a concrete example to illustrate that businesses can support ethical regulation of their industry see Exxon Mobile’s support of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

Oil companies have broadly engaged in all manner of unethical behavior in negotiating contracts and it made them tons of money. But many of them, including Exxon Mobile, are willing to work towards transparency, which helps the situation greatly. Other companies and industries could follow a similar path, but often choose the unethical path.


42% Support G”NO”P Policies. If Only They Had Any

Yesterday, via Political Wire:

Americans Prefer Democratic Policies

A new CNN/Opinion Research survey indicates that a majority of Americans believe that the Democratic party’s policy proposals are good for the country, 51% to 46%.

In contrast, a majority of Americans think Republican policies will move the country in the wrong direction, 53% to 42%.

HUH??? No, I don’t think there’s anything invalid about the results of this poll. But these numbers are waaaaay too close for comfort. I’m simply stunned that 42% of respondents actually think Republican policies would be good for the country. What, pray tell, are those policies exactly? More tax cuts for the rich, criminalization of all brown people and bomb bomb Iran?

More testament to the fact that we continue to get our clocks cleaned in the framing wars. I’m really, really tired of losing to these fools.


Behind the Current Progressive Split on HCR

As you just may possibly have noticed, there is a lively, heated debate going on among the progressive grassroots/netroots about whether or not to support a watered-down health reform package. I have friends in both camps (as does Carrots and Sticks), and actually am split on the question myself, so I cannot say either viewpoint is wrong. As an organization, Carrots and Sticks has to date chosen not to formally engage on health care reform, not because we do not care about the issue, but rather because it had already been so oversaturated with activists and interest groups that we would have been joining too late in the game to make any appreciable difference. So I don’t think it’s prudent to take one side over the other, but there are a ton of important lessons that we can learn from the public option saga, and I’d like to start laying those out here.

To me, the fundamental reason for the divide comes down to politics vs. policy. After all, the progressive movement came together in a rare show of force and fought for a public option as a unified bloc. Now that it seems the public option is dead in this HCR bill (it could feasibly come back later as a stand-alone measure), we must decide how to react. There is first the question of whether a bill similar to that about to pass the Senate is better than nothing, aka the status quo. Given the political dynamics at play, I must assume “nothing” means “nothing for the next decade or more”. With that in mind, I think the bill as currently laid out is unquestionably a step in the right direction. Sure, it’s far from perfect (the mandate, excise tax and implementation dates being the big issues), but the Medicaid expansion, regulatory insurance reforms and creation of the exchange are huge pluses that far outweigh the drawbacks.

Yet on the other hand, progressives just went all-in on an issue and came up empty. A major reason this happened was the White House’s (ahem Rahm ahem) arrogant dismissiveness towards liberal concerns. Rahm thinks we can always be depended upon for campaign support when push comes to shove, so our viewpoints can safely be ignored. At the same time, the Beltway punditocracy fully expects the left flank to cave on its demands after the deals are cut. And frankly, they have no reason to believe otherwise, given the trends of recent history. So this is a crucial moment for the legitimacy of the progressive movement. Those of us who consider ourselves representatives of the movement should be very wary of seeming too much like the pushovers Rahm makes us out to be.

As we see, there are two equally valid lines of reasoning, borne from very similar though not identical priorities, leading to diametrically opposing viewpoints. Notwithstanding the value of healthy deliberation and internal dissent, the conflicting messages coming from the left do not serve us well as a political force, and will never help advance the policies we all want to see enacted. Going forward, the key lesson to be learned is how to best limit the possibility for this sort of situation from happening again. Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but there are  a handful of important points to note. Keep in mind, these are open (NOT rhetorical) discussion topics:

  • Was victory (passage of a worthwhile public option) ever possible? I’m not sure the answer is as unequivocally “yes” as we had hoped, especially once Obama decided to make nice with PhRMA.
  • A lack of fierce, mobilized and deep-pocketed opposition would definitely help our cause, although that cannot always be possible (example: banking reform). Obviously, we want to maximize our chances of winning while remaining true to core progressive principles. Thus, how strongly should limiting opposition factor in when we choose our mobilizing issues in the future?
  • Did it make sense to put all of our eggs in the public option basket? It very well might have made perfect strategic sense, but we still need to address that question.
  • Did the strategy of whipping the progressive caucus to draw a line in the sand make sense, in retrospect? Could it have been done more effectively? How else could we have injected our demands into the debate?

Take these questions as food for thought. I don’t pretend to have the definitive answers, nor do I wish to attempt to unilaterally discover them here and now. We’ll no doubt revisit them later.

I’ll finish with a poignant quote from Pandagon’s Amanda Marcotte:

The netroots has only been around for like 6 or 7 years, and only really been a player for 4.  Taking over a party takes longer than that, and that’s all there is to it.  I think there’s a tendency to fight for scorched earth tactics designed to get a lot of results in a very short period of time, and a defeatism when that doesn’t work.  I’ll admit that impetus baffles me, because a lot of us are into politics because we love the game, and so we should have the disposition for a long term fight.  And by “long term”, I mean taking a truly radical stance, which is that political means alone will not get us where we need to go, but that we have to change society itself.


Attacking Hadassah Lieberman

In the shocker of the new millennium, Joe Lieberman has decided to be the weasel that he is and is throwing a giant monkey wrench into health reform. His goal of high-minded principle? Drive a stake into the public option and any other provision that would make liberals (especially the netroots) happy as petty revenge for making him sweat in ’06. If a bill dies because that stance endangers the votes of the couple leftmost senators or the progressive wing of the House, so be it. Truly an odious (and odorous for that matter) position.

As you can tell, I ain’t too happy about Holy Joe’s weasel/snake/worminess, so I can just imagine how furious Jane Hamsher and friends are over at FDL. Well, actually we know just how furious they are. This is now deeply personal, so FireDogLake has decided to launch an initiative to try and get Lieberman’s wife fired from her job at a the Susan B. Komen breast cancer foundation (they of the pink ribbons and little else). I understand where FDL is coming from, and there is a part of me that says “right on, it’s about damn time we fight back and play dirty!”

But that said, I personally just can’t support going after any politician’s family for political reasons. Unless Hadassah Lieberman’s position at Komen directly relates to Joementum’s idiotic intransigence (and there’s absolutely no evidence that it does), it’s really not germane to this conversation. Chances are, the move has a greater potential to make the health care bill worse by further entrenching the Party of One’s opposition to anything worthwhile than to make it better by posing a substantial threat to his personal well-being.

Granted, nobody deserves below-the-belt attacks more than that troglodytic scumbag Holy Joe, but there’s more than enough to say about the guy himself without going after his wife. And believe me, I’m saying most of those things. Did you know Senator Joe Lieberman enjoys squeezing cute kittens to death with his bare hands and drinking their blood?