Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Flunking PoliSci 101

That would be MoveOn.org, which is apparently holding a protest at the White House today, as Chris Good reports. He quotes from their press release:
MoveOn members want to remind the President that the country elected him, not Joe Lieberman, to fix our nation's broken health care system.
Does MoveOn think that Lieberman was, perhaps, appointed by George W. Bush? What about Ben Nelson -- did he inherit his seat in the Senate? Kent Conrad, Senator by treaty with aliens from Alpha Centauri? Hagan, McCaskill, Lincoln, Landrieu...mandated by some obscure provision in the 19th amendment? Jim Webb: just hanging out in Washington for so long that they mistook him for a voting Member of Congress?

No, actually, all of those women and men were elected by the American people to the Article I legislative branch, with exactly as much of legitimacy as Barack Obama. And if they (and Carper, and Bill Nelson, and a few others) don't want a robust public option -- and over fifty of the duly elected Senators do not want such a thing -- then there's very little that Barack Obama can do about it.

Oh -- he could veto a bill that Democrats have been trying to get passed for the last sixty or so years. That, he can do. It sure would show 'em, wouldn't it?


  1. I wouldn't go so far as saying they've flunked Poli Sci 101. The President could have done a number of things to move the ball forward on health care reform, but instead stayed largely on the sidelines. He could have used the bully pulpit; he could have written his own bill and fought for it; he could have told Reid to keep reconciliation on the table, at least as a bargaining chip; etc.

    In fairness to MoveOn, they have also tried to pressure Reid, Obama's partner in this colossal failure.

  2. I think there's plenty of room for argument about whether the president (and Reid, and liberal Senators) chose the optimal strategy and tactics. But in this post, I'm just focusing on the specific claim that the president, and not Lieberman, was elected by the American people. That's just wrong. Holy Joe, the Benator, etc., are just as much elected by Americans as is Obama. That they disagree on policy with MoveOn is unfortunate for MoveOn, but it isn't some sort of weird usurpation of authority.

    On Obama's strategy, I think it's wrong to say that he stayed on the sidelines. By all accounts, the administration has been extremely active throughout, albeit behind the scenes. Again, I think there's plenty of room for disagreement in assessments of the strategy, but to say that the WH has been on the sidelines is, really, factually wrong.

  3. I suppose what I was getting at was having the President more involved in a higher profile way. I know that TPM had a rundown of the WH folks active on the Hill for HCR. And while that is all well and good, I think that the optics would have been better had Obama been viewed as more actively involved in the process.

    And sure Senators are elected by the people of their state. But since when did we expect political actors to couch their arguments in proper political science terms? And in many ways their argument has at least some merit. The bill that is likely to be passed by the Senate reflects many concessions made solely to Joe Lieberman. I'm ignoring the argument, which I think may have some merit, that Lieberman is out in front of some other Senators who have similar concerns. Largely because that is somewhat inside baseball that MoveOn may recognize, but there is no way that argument has any traction to low to moderate information voters.

  4. I'm not asking for terminology; I'm saying that it's not correct to think that the presidency is the "real" election, and Congress is, I don't know, some sort of House of Lords or something.

    And the point is it's not 99 Senators against Lieberman; it's (at best) 58 Senators against four fence-sitters and 38 opponents (except that for the strong public option, it's more like 48 or so for, 48 or so against, and a few fence-sitters).

  5. One could make two cases about Lieberman's legitimacy:
    1) He's more legitimate, because he won as a 3rd party candidate.
    2) He's less legitimate, because he won as a 3rd party candidate.
    It would all depend on one's perspective of the role of parties in legitimating nominations and elections. However, I think the most credible argument would be that Joe Lieberman is DIFFERENTLY legitimate than the other 99 senators.

    Or maybe this is all the general anesthetic talking....


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