Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Question for Liberals

What liberal politician(s) from the past should Democrats emulate more than they do?

29 comments:

  1. Lyndon B. Johnson > Civil Rights and Medicare.

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  2. Why and how? His bully, his arm-twisting, the various dubiously legal and obviously illegal things that he did?

    LBJ is like Jackson: appealing for his "manly" virtues, the first at rough and tumble, the latter at genocide.

    The tedious virility of the apex predator thrills the blood of Sean Wilentz and Arthur Schlesinger alike.

    But all his attractive qualities and successes are undermined by Vietnam, which is a staggering failure of judgment that draws from the same places that gave him so much strength.

    LBJ also almost certainly saved the country, but I think this analysis suggests him for a metonym, And that his greatness as a President is a consolation prize for wrecking the Democratic Party and all that followed.

    So, I'd love to hear your explanation.

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  3. Theodore Roosevelt.

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  4. Hubert Humphrey on civil roghts

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  5. Replies
    1. Jed Barlet.

      Paul Wellstone is a good choice. I think the connections between the two were no coincidence. You got the sense from him that not all Democrats were too cowardly to actually fight for progressive values.

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    2. Jed Bartlet was a worse centrist than Bill Clinton who did damage to Social Security and whose employment record fell below population. He also lied to the American public quite a bit and muffed his way through Middle East Peace.

      But he made you feel good.

      [The show itself is riddled with the same tedium that "The Newsroom" is: garbage New York Times Op-Ed Page assumptions about American politics married to a strong sense a need to tell you how to feel about it.]

      I'm also unclear on what the value-added of picking an undistinguished two-term senator from a blue state is, exactly. Clean hands and clear conscience, surely, but not exactly something that matters when it comes to running and winning.

      I'd also point out that not all Democrats share progressive values. Neither Brian Schweitzer nor Jim Webb were really all that "progressive," while both were crushes of the DailyKos set.

      And even Paul Wellstone voted for DOMA.

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    3. DOMA occurred in a different era than today. A ton of work by gay activists went into convincing the hearts of the younger straight public. It's important to acknowledge this.

      It's really important to recognize the value of adapting to new information. That's the soul of being a progressive. No doubt Wellstone would have evolved on the issue, had he lived.

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    4. Schweitzer was a Democrat who got elected in Montana in 2004. If you were still smarting from the presidential election, Schwietzer looked pretty damn appealing.

      Webb was a credible challenger to the loathsome George Allen, who was already running for president. He was against the war and talked about economic inequality.

      Was either a dyed-in-the-wool progressive down the line on every issue? Nope. But they were a damn sight more progressive than the alternatives. And these days it's Democrats who are a lot more willing to put up with less-than-ideologically optimal candidates to win in purplish or red states.

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  6. FDR in domestic policy, except for how he treated black people. He might also get kudos for foreign policy as well, except for how he treated European Jews escaping the Nazis.

    JFK for his steely resolve.

    LBJ for his ability to humble himself before his country.

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  7. Earl Warren, Goodwin Knight, and Pat Brown as governors of California. Yes, they were "big spenders" but Californians actually got things for their tax money: the schools, universities, public works, etc. were among the finest in the nation.

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    1. Earl Warren is definitely interesting also, of course, since his most important legacy was his role on the Court, when he was in theory "not a politician."

      And when he accomplished as much as any Democratic politician of the 20th century.

      Obviously, he didn't have the same kinds of institutional barriers to accomplishment that a President or Senate Majority Leader would have, which is undoubtedly part of the point. But it also shows how absurd a lot of the talk about "great legal minds" is when we evaluate potential Justices.

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    2. In that case, put in Nelson Rockefeller!

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  8. Edward Kennedy and Mike Madigan.

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  9. Robert Reich. Or is he only considered an official/bureaucrat?

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  10. I'd say that all things considered, we're doing about as well as can be expected. Future generations will answer this question with "Nancy Pelosi" and "Barack Obama".

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    1. Andrew Sullivan has a great line in one of his always entertaining MoDo burns:

      "It almost reminds me of the Monty Python Life of Brian skit about “what the Romans ever did for us”. Obama’s political style is useless, apart from becoming the first black president, saving the US from another Great Depression, succeeding at getting universal healthcare, rescuing the American auto industry, presiding over a civil rights revolution, ending two failed wars, avoiding two doomed others (against Syria and Iran), bringing the deficit down while growing the economy, focusing the executive branch on climate change, and killing bin Laden. Yes his ethos “sometimes” “collides” with political success."

      http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2013/08/11/modos-pure-washingtonism/

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    2. Sullivan forgot his almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.

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    3. Nancy Pelosi lost the House only two years after the Dems gained the triple crown. Obama was reelected by a smaller margin than his original win. It seems that the judgment of these generations isn't that they are good examples. On what basis do you think that future generations will reverse that judgment? Without an explanation, your lauding of them sounds like blind adherence. With reason, I'm no fan of Pelosi.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. Robespierre and Dennis Kucinich.

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  13. Robert Kennedy and JFK. Robert Kennedy had a bigger and more informed heart than anyone in politics since. He knew the work of poets as well as of pollsters. His sense of irony was earned. His compassion was real. All of this was true of JFK but more of RFK, who knew even more tragedy. And they were not afraid to appear intelligent and cultured.

    Barack Obama has learned from them. But the Democratic Party and the country miss them.

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    1. Much of this thread is Poe's Law in action, but this one takes the biscuit.

      Well played, sir.

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    2. And RFK wasn't afraid to work for Joe McCarthy.

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    3. I categorically reject that my sincere response was an example of Poe's Law or is in any sane sense extreme. The reply of Anonymous is much closer to textbook Poe's Law.

      So the fact that as a young lawyer RFK worked for Senator Joe McCarthy's committee invalidates everything he did or was in later years? Snark like this suggests one reason why there are no RFKs in politics anymore.

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  14. Roosevelt but with cajones like Putin.

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  15. Ted Kennedy. He'll always be stained by Chappaquidick, but as a politician he stood for the right things. He knew how to work with opponents to reach compromise, and yet never compromised his fundamental liberal principles.

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