Great Op-Ed in the Times yesterday:
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S apparent readiness to backtrack on the public insurance option in his health care package is not just a concession to his political opponents – this fixation on securing bipartisan support for health care reform suggests that the Democratic Party has forgotten how to govern and the White House has forgotten how to lead.
This was not true of Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Congresses that enacted the New Deal. With the exception of the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 (which gave the president authority to close the nation’s banks and which passed the House of Representatives unanimously), the principal legislative innovations of the 1930s were enacted over the vigorous opposition of a deeply entrenched minority. Majority rule, as Roosevelt saw it, did not require his opponents’ permission.
When Roosevelt asked Congress to establish the Tennessee Valley Authority to provide cheap electric power for the impoverished South, he did not consult with utility giants like Commonwealth and Southern. When he asked for the creation of a Securities and Exchange Commission to curb the excesses of Wall Street, he did not request the cooperation of those about to be regulated. When Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act divesting investment houses of their commercial banking functions, the Democrats did not need the approval of J. P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs or Lehman Brothers.
Roosevelt relished the opposition of vested interests. He fashioned his governing majority by deliberately attacking those who favored the status quo. His opponents hated him – and he profited from their hatred. “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today,” he told a national radio audience on the eve of the 1936 election. “They are unanimous in their hatred for me – and I welcome their hatred.”
My only difference would be to point out that Obama didn’t “forget” to lead. He never knew how in the first place. When he came to Daily Kos to chastise us for being too shrill, his big argument was that the American people don’t share our views of politics, so we need to be more conciliatory.
In my rebuttal diary, which incidentally knocked his diary off the #1 spot on the rec list, I argued that they don’t share our views because they’ve been lied to for years and someone needs to stand up and tell them the truth.
“It is not enough to take a poll and decide what can be done. We must change perceptions so that we may do what must be done. We must educate. We must persuade. We must lead.
Senator Obama says our perspective “misreads the American people.” I say we need a lot less reading and a lot more leading.”
Obama responded to my rebuttal with this:
I also agree that it is the job of Democratic elected officials to help shape public opinion, and not just respond passively to opinion thats been aggressively shaped by the Republicans PR machinery. I am simply suggesting, based on my experience, that people will respond to a powerfully progressive agenda when its couched in optimism, pragmatism and our shared American ideals.
Yeah, it sounded good. But it was complete BS. Obama has had the greatest opportunity of any president in my lifetime to reform public opinion on a score of issues from the role and importance of government to the dangers of too big to fail institutions and monopolies.
Instead he sent out Larry Summers to lie about the economy and tell everyone it’s all coming up daisies.
Obama is a decent orator, though utterly and completely over-rated, but he is not a leader. He’s another Ivy League technocrat. He should have gone back to teaching, churning out more little technocrats. God knows we need more of those.