Friday, October 1, 2010

Barack Obama, Dean-Speaker

Yesterday, I described a style of political rhetoric I call “Dean-Speak.” One of its essential features is that it appropriates the moral rhetoric that liberals developed in connection with real outrages of earlier times for everyday use against Republicans.  I observed in passing that Dean-Speaking isn’t part of Obama’s political brand.

Maybe that judgment's out-of-date. Take a look at what Obama’s now saying on the campaign trail about the moral urgency of voting for Democrats in the coming mid-term election.  I guess the idea is that the same well-chosen words can fire up the Democratic base and immobilize the opposition by provoking hysterical laughter. 

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mein Gott -

Look who he was speaking to: he has to fire up the Democratic "base" to avert a pummeling in November. He is simply reminding the crowd that large social changes don't take place immediately, and that--if they vote--their aspirations are still possible.

I know that equivalency games are kind of futile, and convince no one, but the Republicans (and, more pointedly, the Tea Partiers) have been going on and on about the death of liberty in America.

What would you have Obama say? Puh-leeeeze vote for Democrats, I'd really appreciate it?

Ron Replogle said...

Maybe it's just me. I expect a president who'll undoubtedly need the moral authority to persuade his countrymen to make some painful sacrifices somewhere down the line to appreciate the moral difference between ending slavery, enfranchising women, etc. and preserving his party's congressional majority.

Anonymous said...

Ron,

You may normally give The Weekly Standard a wide berth, but given the topics you've explored in many of your recent posts, I thought this one might interest you:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/obama-democrat

The author claims that "President Obama's transformation from post-partisan healer to hyper-partisan attack dog is complete." He then goes on to explore "Why has this happened?"

Ron Replogle said...

Anon. 2:49. Thanks for the link. I do my best to read everything that Jay Cost writes.

Anonymous said...

For a smart guy, it's disappointing that you find Cost's analysis inspiring and convincing. One need only to take a quick look at the behavior of the GOP over the last 20 months to understand Obama's supposed transformation: What we as a nation have experienced from them during the last two years were repeated deliberate and cynical attempts to sabotage every effort by the Obama administration to take what, by virtually any standard, including those held by the GOP in the recent past, were main-stream and responsible policies to stave off pending disasters and long-simmering and seemingly intractable problems. The $800 billion stimulus program, including some $250 billion in republican-esque and likely foolish tax cuts, fits well within every mainstream economic prescription and would have been embraced by republicans under any other circumstances -- but in this case, they cynically rolled the dice, hoping that it wouldn't be large enough nor fast enough to generate a sufficient recovery in time for the mid-terms. They knew that if it worked too well, whether or not they suppported it, Obama and the Dems would be given all the credit and they would lose. On health-care, they vehemently and virulently oppposed every aspect of a program modeled on those supported by republicans in the past and in other venues. And this is only the tip of an enormous iceberg of divisiness, distortion and downright hatefullness. How low does the GOP have to go before one concludes that they have no interest in the nation being healed and, in fact, will take every opportunity to pour salt into the wounds dividing our nation. They are waging war to reclaim power every moment of every day, have no concern whatsoever for the collateral damage, and need to exposed. Why has this happened? Please...

Ron Replogle said...

Anon. 6:29: I find Cost's election analysis consistently worth reading, but I never said that I found his piece on Obama's partisanship "inspiring and convincing." Truth is, I don't much care whether Obama's promises about bipartisanship were empty, as Cost claims, or whether Republicans left him with no choice but to go his own way. I'm sure Obama would have prefered a more compliant opposition just as Republicans would have prefered a less agressive president. But that's always true of governing and opposition parties. It's perfectly fine with me that Obama wasn't willing to pay the price that Republicans like Snowe and Grassley were demanding for their support and not for me to say whether their price was too high--that's for their constituents to decide.

That said, I can't say that I find your thesis--as I read it, that Republicans really think that Obama's agenda is good for the country but oppose it anyway--very plausible. But if you think the facts support it, I don't know of any evidence that will change your mind.

Anonymous said...

Agreed that you didn't endorse the particular article in question. And agreed that there clearly are some true-believer Republican idealogues who wouldn't support anything remotely approaching Obama's policies under any circumstances. However, one need not look far to find clear and irrefutable evidence of repeated unanimous or nearly unanimous Republican rejections, followed by follow-up rejections of changes specifically designed to accomodate conservative views, of policies that reflected and in some cases, mirrored, past actions supported by significant numbers of Republican legislators. Do you really think that only 3 out of some 228 Republicans in the Congress truly believed that the national economy did not need a stimulus package similar in size and design, to that passed? Do you think they all sincerely rejected the analysis of nearly every reputable economist that tax cuts alone would be significantly less effective at combatting the recession? And do you think all of them truly believe their rhetoric about death panels, etc.

I don't for a moment believe that Obama and the Democratics have done everything right nor not engaged in politics, but I've yet to see any evidence that there has been anything but the barest attempt by Republicans to achieve any sort of consensus on decent, main-stream policies. They've thrown a few bones here and there, but unless you know of some secret store of Republican reasonableness, virtually the only evidence out there seems to be of obstructionism and divisivness practiced by the Republicans, those they support, and their mouthpieces and masters in the media. Where is the substantive evidence of Republicans doing much else beyond sowing disorder, discontent and chaos?

Ron Replogle said...

Anon. 10:25:

I hear you. But let me ask you a question: How is the unanimous Republican congressional opposition to Obama's health care reform any different from the unanimous Democratic opposition to the Republican proposal for partially privatizing social security in 2005? That idea had been endorsed in the 1990s by influential Democrats like Daniel Moynihan, but the congressional Democrats all opposed it anyway even though Bush had won reelection pretty decisively campaigning on the issue. You might even say, in hindsight, that Bush's failure to push through the principal domestic objective of his second term was his "Waterloo."

At the time, I thought that was good politics on the part of the Democrats and I'll bet you did too.

Anonymous said...

To be honest, I don't remember arguments to that effect regarding privatization of social security, though you may indeed be correct that the primary motivation for Democratic opposition was political. That being said, while it's obviously impossible to know what will be the long-term grade on health reform, we can be certain that privatization of social security would have been an unmitigated disaster. If it were politics, than consider the nation lucky.

More importantly, however, the privatization argument didn't take place against a backdrop of either a nearly unprecedented economic crisis in the case of the stimulus package or the continuing explosion in the number of unininsured, underinsured (and dying) Americans. Privatization was, and continues to be, a non-urgent policy option with numerous, non-partisan and serious opponents and proponents. At least in the case of the economic stimulus, it's almost impossible to find serious opposition to its general concepts that is non-ideological (see also, global warming and climate change). Also, there are (perhaps numerous) examples of Republican-led legislation and/or policies for which significant numbers of Democrats both supported and at times cooperated, see, for example, "No Child Left Behind" or the Iraq war (which is also an example of a moment in history where a Republican president took what should and likely could have been a remarkable opportunity to continue to unify the nation and even the world and knowingly manipulated it in a divisive and self-serving fashion). Look, I'm not suggesting that the Democrats don't ever engage in cynical politics and neither am I suggesting that Republicans should be expected to never do so, but over the last 18 months the Republicans have brought it down to a level that I don't believe we've seen in years, if ever. Obama is far from perfect, but I simply can't understand how you, or any reasonably objective, informed and intelligent person could lay virtually the entire blame for the current dismal state of national disunity (and to a great extent, inadequate responses to pressing economic and social problems), anywhere but at the doorstep of the Republicans.