Thursday, December 9, 2010

More Political Commentary: What Principled Pragmatism Really Looks Like

And, if you can stomach more political commentary in a single day, there's this:

Jonathan Weiler on how meaningful pragmatism can never be divorced from principle (and how Obama's tax-cut decision completes the Reagan revolution):

Contrary to President Obama's formulation yesterday, principle and pragmatism are not easily separable in debates about taxation, spending priorities and the well-being of ordinary Americans. Obama's deal with Republicans further hardens the single most damaging reality of American political life today -- that no matter how bad things get for everybody else, the privileges and prerogatives of the rich are not to be disturbed. This is the single greatest bequest of Reaganism to American life.

And this: Jeffrey Feldman on how Mr. Obama's principles-lite pragmatism is guided by the North Star of political calculation re: what he and his advisors call economic pragmatism:

Unfortunately, what lurks behind Obama's North Star rhetoric is his apparent conviction that only economic improvement, not political battles, are important for gaining back political ground for the Democratic Party.
It's only the economy, so forget everything else... stupid.

Standing behind Obama's economic pragmatism is the consensus found in most intro-level college political science courses: A bad economy hurts the incumbent part, a thriving economy helps it. Or at least that's what the lab-coat science says.

It's reasonable science. But outside of the lab, economic benefit resulting from government policies -- even those that result in direct improvement of people's lives -- do not necessarily translate into political gains. Just look around -- huge blocks of American voters have been voting against their political self-interest for decades, if not longer.

And finally this: Michael Fauntroy on how the president does far better by his enemies than his friends:

George W. Bush, an incompetent president, never treated his base as contemptuously as Obama deals with liberals. Even when Bush angered them -- No Child Left Behind and rampant federal spending, for example -- he worked hard to keep them in the fold. Not so with Obama. He responded to the criticism launched from within Democratic ranks that he sold out his campaign promise to let the tax cuts lapse by dismissing his critics as sanctimonious and fixated on purist policymaking. This unproductive response is part of a trend. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs derided the "professional left." Former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel lashed out at some liberal groups as "f+@king retarded" for their plans to run ads against conservative Democrats opposed to the president's health-care plan. These and other examples will likely be duly noted when the fundraising requests for the 2012 reelection campaign begin to hit the mailboxes of the sanctimonious professional left retards that elected Obama in the first place.

 And, of course, they imagine they can behave this way because they think we will have no place else to turn  in 2012, faced with the choice between any flavorless principles-lite Democrat who is really a neo-conservative in Democratic clothes, and Sarah Palin.

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