Monday, August 27, 2012
Thomas Frank on Obama and the Overton windowThomas Frank's article "Compromising Positions" in the print edition of Harper's Sept 2012 covers much the same ground he does in the interview in Salon I discussed earlier.
Frank's conclusion in "Compromising Positions" has a bitter edge:
As I watched this upside-down unrest emerge [rightwing Tea Party populism], I used to wonder how long it would take Obama to switch on his inner FDR and start grappling with the nation's problems the way they obviously needed to be grappled with. The years passed, and I finally realized that this was never going to happen. Then a different possibility started to dawn on me: Maybe a second New Deal is precisely what Obama was here to prevent. Maybe that was the hope all along.But Frank is accurate in the results he describes here:
He [Obama] came to the White House amid circumstances similar to those of 1933, but proceeded to rule like Herbert Hoover. Today the banks are as big as ever, and he has done precious little about it. The regulatory system is falling apart, and he is too ideologically demure to tell us why. Organized labor is crumbling, and he has done almost nothing to help it recover. Meanwhile, the people who told us that finance was king, that the "new economy" changed all the rules, that we didn't really need a strong supervisory state - those people are still riding high, still making their pronouncements from the heights of the op-ed page and the executive branch.[my emphasis]As that paragraph illustrates, Frank does give more attention to the (neoliberal) ideological aspects of the Obama Administration than his Salon interview showed.
He also gives this descriptions of how the Republicans have exploited Obama's centrist obsession to drive the so-caled Overton window far to the right:
Let's not overlook centrism's perennial promise: that it is the only way to reach the coveted swing voter, who resides, per D.C. superstition, in the very middle of the political spectrum. That committing yourself heart and soul to a bipartisan approach might allow an opposing party to completely reconfigure the political spectrum is not, as far as I know, a part of accepted poli-sci game theory.The great flaw in that linear image of the swing voter on a right-to-left continuum was illustrated dramatically in the debt-ceiling disaster in 2011, when polls showed that Obama's repeated, desperate attempts to compromise with intransigent Republicans damaged him most among independents, the very group that the centrist posturing was supposed to attract.
Speaking of the "Overton window", the Right Wing Watch website of the People for the American Way (PFAW) points out that this particular concept was generated and promoted by a conservative think tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan:
The Mackinac Center for Policy Research focuses on advancing government privatization and espousing conservative fiscal policies. The group actively advocates school vouchers and the privatization of the University of Michigan. The Center publishes the Michigan Education Report in support of its policies. In promoting other limited-government, free-market economic principles, the group advocates measures such as privatizing Amtrak and prisons facilities and eliminating government subsidies for arts and culture initiatives. The Center is also anti-union, having pursued initiatives to limit union political spending and attacked mandatory union membership policies. Additionally, the Center's President, Lawrence Reed runs a "think-tank school" on establishing and effectively maintaining state-level conservative think-tanks.Tags: 2012 election, barack obama, overton window
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No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."
-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?
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