Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dump the Dems?

When I saw this, I was encouraged. When the governor of my state led this, I was moved. I am a lifelong partisan Democrat.

However, I’ve become convinced that the Democratic Party, as currently constituted, is more part of the problem than of the solution. So it needs to be reconstituted. And I’m thinking the only way to do that is to abandon it in 2012. The current leadership and structure of the party are addicted to their post-Vietnam fecklessness and caution, and it may be that the only way to save it is to go cold turkey. My beloved Democratic Party needs some tough love.

I hope somebody primaries Obama – and I would love for it to be Hillary. I can even imagine a scenario like 1968, where an unknown from the left, somebody with basically no resume, a la Gene McCarthy, opens the door… and then an electable star (Hillary, playing the role of Bobby Kennedy) walks through it. Is there any doubt that Bobby would have won the election if he had lived? Is there any doubt that Hillary would defeat anybody the Republicans nominated?

But I don’t believe that will happen. And if it doesn’t, I have come to think that it’s vital for the real Democratic Party to surgically remove the cancer represented by Obama, before it irreversibly becomes that cancer. And if some surrounding Congressional and Senatorial tissue has to be removed at the same time, so be it.

We can disagree about who and what Barack Obama actually is. I don’t personally believe he’s a diabolical genius of the right, but rather a personal and political cipher. An invisible man – to go all dramatic-irony on ya. He’s a fiction writer, the creator of the character “Barack Obama,” described with an adjectival and metaphoric vividness – “audacity”… “fierce urgency”… “hope”… etc. – that couldn’t be farther from the reality of whatever person is buried deep inside him. There’s a good chance we will never know that reality – that he himself will go to his grave never knowing it. In fact, it’s kind of haunting that this modern-day Chauncey Gardner seems entirely and permanently cut off from reality. There’s something deeply spooky, almost psychotic about his convivial smoothness, casual style, preternatural self-control… in the context of such a profound disconnect.

But that’s a topic for less urgent psychological and historical reflection. The matter at hand is that he is doing deep damage to the Party, the country and the world. The President of the United States at this inflection point in the global economy and in our broader history needs to be a force for progress – not just to keep the U.S. competitive, but to use America’s standing and capabilities to help crystallize a new global era of greater openness, prosperity, interconnection, fairness and sustainability. We need to make real progress, ergo a real progressive.

Of course, this was knowable – by many of us, it was known – in 2008. We knew we needed FDR, and we knew this guy was at best Jimmy Carter. Probably the most accurate analogy is the one Anglachel has made, and that Krugman has lately been substantiating: from a policy perspective, Obama is Herbert Hoover. The enraging spectacle of the Democratic Party embracing that and rejecting a serious thinker, doer and leader – with the accompanying misogyny, frat-boy shallowness, smugness, trickery and disenfranchisement – was simply awful… never to be forgotten.

But that’s water over the dam. The question is: What do we do now? The cards are on the table. It is no longer possible to pretend that Obama is a real progressive who is doing whatever can actually be done in a bad world. When our putatively Democratic president is pushing hard for policies to the right of the majority of Republican voters… when he is repeatedly dealt strong political hands that he invariably tosses away or misplays… when he runs the U.S. economy into the ditch again and again and again… we need to get him out from behind the wheel.

It would surely be godawful if we had President Michele Bachmann… or President Sarah Palin… or President Newt Gingrich. It would be deeply depressing to have President Mitt Romney. But – and here’s the key point for me – I don’t think it would be materially worse vis a vis the economy. It’s a danger re the Supreme Court, and re civil liberties, and those are non-trivial. But they can also be repaired. And with regard to the social safety net, I believe it would actually be harder for a Republican president to eviscerate it than for this “Democratic” Herbert Hoover. Nixon, China and all that.

Anyway, the point, finally, isn’t this person. The point is the Party, and whether it will matter to the world. If the Democrats are to return to political and policy relevance – much less innovation and progress – they need a swift kick to the gut, a slap upside the head, a bucket of cold water. The election of America’s first African-American president was a wonderful, historic event – but now we’ve done it. We passed that symbolic milestone. Now, we have work to do.

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