Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good

On Washing One’s Hands of the Democrats

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I’m seeing a marked uptick in lefty griping in my feeds, often with some variation on the phrase “washing my hands of the Democratic Party.” I’d say this sort of proclamation was unfair, but I guess its time has come; Obama has been president, after all, for two whole months and yet puppies still die.

Confidential to my fellow travelers: What I wrote about pragmatism during the primaries (1, 2) still holds. I don’t like the way the financial crisis is being handled either, but unless you foresee wholesale Constitutional reforms before 2012 you’re going to have either a Democratic or Republican president. You have to pick one, and there’s only one who will ever even listen to people like us. The happy feeling you get from not voting for a Democrat is worth exactly nothing.

Elections have consequences. To take just one example that passed across my newsreader yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency has now blocked mountaintop-removal coal-mining. That happened because the far-too-centrist, corporatist, hopelessly compromised Democratic Party is now in power. And not just in power, but more unabashedly progressive than it’s been for forty years. Drag the country to the left with one hand, hold your nose with the other, but we’re stuck with the Democrats if we ever want to get anything accomplished. You don’t have to like it—but if you want to be a politically relevant actor in America you have to come to terms with it.

I would have thought the example of the last eight years would have proved this point well enough. Have our memories gotten so short?

FISA Crisis 2008

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The New York Times has dueling op-eds on the FISA issue: the editorial board is unhappy with Obama, while Morton Halprin (who was spied on by Nixon) believes the FISA compromise is the best legislation we can hope for at this time.

I’ve already written about this (in both blogspot and Daily Kos flavors), but I have one or two things to add. First, on the merits of the FISA compromise, I think the bill itself is pretty awful, but telecom immunity isn’t the awful part. I can’t imagine the government making any other policy choice if it ever wants a private company to comply with its requests ever again. The problem here was and always has been Bush administration illegality, not telecom compliance—so the netroots are directing their fire in entirely the wrong direction. This TPM reader gets it right:

Before we all torpedo the best candidate we have had in 30+ years over this FISA thing, be aware of the two facts: (1) there is a long-established government contractor immunity doctrine in American law & what the telecoms did after 9-11 in obeying government demands for compliance is right in stride with that doctrine, and (2) in any event, the federal government is likely required to indemnify the telcos for any judgment or settlement they’d have to pay. Is this really the make-or-break litmus-test the netroots is clamoring for? No way. Is this just another example of liberals eating their own? You betcha.

As I was writing at the tail end of an Yglesias comment thread last night, the grandstanding you’re seeing on the lefty blogs over telecom immunity seems to me to be misdirected anger over the dawning recognition that Bush and his cronies really are going to get away with everything scot free. Well, they are. Pelosi took impeachment off the table—wrongly, I think, though I understand the political calculus involved—and it’s extremely unlikely there will be any substantive investigation of Bush following Obama’s election. There never has been. We’ll “turn the page.” “For the good of the country,” a criminal Republican administration will once again walk, and the really sad fact is the exact same bunch of thugs will probably pop back up yet another decade down the line to do it all again.

We lost the fight to hold Bush accountable when Pelosi took impeachment off the table. I’m sorry that’s true, but that’s reality, no matter what happens with FISA and telecom immunity or what anybody says on the Internet.

What’s actually at stake now is the character of the *next* eight years, eight absolutely crucial years in a very precarious moment not only for this nation but for the entire world—and with regard to that struggle Obama is doing the right thing by taking the FISA issue off the table. He’s being pragmatic. We need to be pragmatic too.

The New and Not Improved Barack Obama

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The New York Times editorial today goes after the “new and not improved” Barack Obama. These reports of flip-flops are greatly exaggerated—why, it’s almost as if the corporate media were attempting to unfairly shoehorn a Democratic candidate into a well-established negative frame—and to whatever extent that he has shifted to the center, well, welcome to American Politics 101. Armchair Internet pundits would be well-advised to keep in mind a number of fundamental political truths:

* we just aren’t Obama’s target audience right now, and we need to learn to live with that;
* conservative media frames should never be embraced, even when you’re Really Mad about Something Totally Important;
* and, most importantly, the point is to win so we can actually accomplish something, not to be pure and perfect or to Prove That We Were Always Right All Along.

Once we’ve won, and have a Democratic majority in Congress, then we can hold Obama’s feet to the fire; for now, we have to fall in line and let the man do his job and get elected. That’s party politics. You don’t have to like it to recognize we’re stuck with it.

A little pragmatism, please.