Feigned Disbelief and Political Theatre

by matttbastard

Steve Hildebrand responds to critics in an interview with Greg Sargent:

“I don’t regret any of it,” Hildebrand told me when I asked him a few minutes ago by phone whether he regretted the tone of his piece, which many found condescending and finger-wagging.

“My intent was exactly what I wrote,” Hildebrand said, adding that the criticism had “surprised” him.

Hildebrand also confirmed that the Obama team had had no hand in writing or approving the piece. “This was not collaborated with anybody in the Obama camp,” he said, and a source close to the transition confirms this.

Perhaps Marc Ambinder and Ezra Klein are correct, and this was all just a Machiavellian attempt on the part of the Obama team (does anyone really buy Hildebrand’s hard-to-swallow contention that he called an audible with this play?) to shift the Overton Window via political theatre. Sure would be nice to finally see imperative policy endeavors like withdrawal from Iraq, health care reform, and climate change firmly established as mainstream pursuits in the US public interest, rather than planks in a narrow communist socialist Marxist anti-American ‘liberal’ platform.

Still, even if this is, in Klein’s words, “a calculated messaging strategy,” I don’t believe Hildebrand should expect much online backup from the (unnamed) angry “left-wing” boo-bears unwittingly cast as foils in his Kabuki production if and when he makes a behind-the-scenes play for the (operational) DNC chair.

And maybe that was also taken into careful consideration.

h/t Ta-Nehisi Coates

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How Not to Stem Criticism From Obama’s Left Flank

by matttbastard

Memo to Deputy Transition Director Steve Hildebrand: poking a beehive with a sharp STFU stick isn’t gonna stop the buzzing. It’s just gonna get your dumb ass stung.

David Sirota patiently explains why muzzling progressives isn’t the answer:

The reason the Republican Party and conservative movement were so successful [up until recently] was because they developed a symbiotic relationship. Specifically, the party apparatus knew that sustained conservative movement pressure on the party was good for the party in keeping it disciplined and on message. By contrast, the culture of the Democratic Party since the McGovern debacle in 1972 has been to bash the progressive movement – to triangulate against it as proof of “independence” and “centrism.” We saw where that got the Democratic Party for the last 30 years – but by the looks at the public post-election attacks on “the left” from Democrats, it seems like the party higher-ups still haven’t learned the simple lesson that pressure from a strong movement strengthens the party as a whole.

In other words, internal criticism from individuals and organizations who share your goals serves as a self-correcting ideological quality control mechanism.  Such good-faith criticism is a benefit, not an impediment.  Stifle it and you risk weakening your mandate.

Look, like Sirota, I’m not ready to give up on Obama just yet.  Every new administration will stumble at times, and I’ve been vocal (if perhaps a bit too impolitic) when I believe the criticism has been impatient and unfair.  But pat-patting progressive critics on teh heads with smug condescension and smarmy dismissiveness , as Hildebrand did, is just plain idiotic.

As Bob Cesca put it:

The better approach here would’ve been to underscore President-elect Obama’s progressive appointments and to remind us that even though the Republicans are on the run, we still have a lot of work to do together. “Together” is the appropriate word here. If the goal is to be all-inclusive, and then to write a piece that doesn’t reach out to the netroots, what are we supposed to take away from the message?

Couple this boneheaded online PR maneuver with Jon Favreau’s recent Facebook follies, and one can’t help wonder if the Obama team should perhaps rethink its wicked awesome new media strategy.

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Reality Check

by matttbastard

Despite the empty promise of a magical unity pony being giddily floated by the Very Serious Set (sample conventional wisdom: “[t]he big argument for centrist governance is that nothing significant can be achieved in Washington without bipartisan support, without members in both parties owning a stake”) politics, as they say, ain’t bean bag. Sooner or later it’s gonna once again get real ugly in Washington and, as Digby observes, nakedly partisan:

Considering that the Republican party really has been purged of moderates now, I’d say that the GOP is going to be the much bigger roadblock to compromise than the left. They’re more radical than ever. The Republican party is now led by Rush Limbaugh. There’s nobody else. And when Obama reaches out his hand to Rush Limbaugh he’s going to get it whacked off with a chainsaw, at which point, these villagers (who haven’t even considered this political problem) are going to blame Obama for being unable to govern in a bipartisan fashion.

All over television this morning the gasbags seemed convinced that Obama had been elected to stop the left from ruining the country. And when it turns out to actually be his supposedly cooperative new partners in governance — the right — that stands in his way, they will blame him for being too far left. It’s a trap.

Something tells me Digby has a Scrying pool somewhere on the grounds of her palatial estate, because the preceding sounds like an all-too-plausible dispatch from the near future. Look, change is not magic, nor is it going to bestowed upon us from on high by any individual, remarkable as he or she may be. It is going to take some hard goddamn work from the ground up and from all of us to move forward with a progressive agenda in the US, Canada and the rest of the world (or, at the very least, put a stop on the regressive course of the past 40 looooong years of movement conservative ascendancy.)

Party time’s over, kids; time to take a deep breath, roll up our sleeves and once again get down to the dirty business of making a better world. We’ve been given an opportunity. Let’s not squander it.

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Quote Of The Day: FTW

by matttbastard

Steve M. fucking nails it:

Now I remember why I resented it when the left blogosphere (or the kool-kid part of it, anyway) turned into the “netroots.” I hadn’t thought we were blogging with the direct intent of helping Democrats win elections. I thought the point was to create a counternarrative of American politics, which might actually spread the notion that Republican ideas aren’t reasonable and Democratic ideas aren’t cockeyed and treasonous, and might further spread the notion that the political world thinks Republican ideas are reasonable because Republican character-assassination politics has made Democrats and liberals seem like freaks. Oh, and maybe we’d eventually have Democrats within the system who didn’t believe Democrats are freaks, people who believied it was worthwhile to go on fighting even while being called freaks.

But instead, in 2006 we just elected a larger-than-usual crop of the same kinds of Democrats we always elect when we elect Democrats. And they suck.

PREACH!

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