Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don Pedro Replies to Gleckman

Jonah has just written a thoughtful post on Howard Gleckman's response to my post which riduculed Gleckman's suggestion that Obama hire McCain adviser Holtz-Eakin as budget director. (That's the kind of back and forth that we bloggers dream of!) So I'll try to do more than just repeat the points that Jonah has made.

Gleckman certifies Economists for Obama as a voice of the "Left" and then says

...the Old Left has been waiting four decades for a president to respond to what they see as deep-seated national needs. As for the New Left, much of the liberal blogosphere was not yet born the last time Washington tackled issues such as poverty and health care with ambitious new programs.
This is a confusing misuse of these dated terms. The "Old Left" was made up of 1930s-era C0mmunists, and the "New Left" referred to various radical movements of the 1960s. Use of these terms either suggests that Gleckman is ignorant of their history (unlikely, I'm guessing) or is consciously attempting to paint liberal Democrats as standard bearers for dead or aging Commies and hippies. No one who Gleckman wants to define as a member of the new "New Left" would use that term. So, Howard, please refrain from using these terms in the future, and stick to "progressive" or "liberal." (Jonah has undermined my case by freely using the term "Left" in his post, but I assure you that he has tongue firmly planted in cheek!)

Also, before Gleckman invokes his authority as an elder journalist, it might also be worth noting that most living Americans were not born yet in those fabled liberal years long past of which he speaks. (Census estimates on this page show that 60.7% of Americans in 2010 will be under 45, i.e. were born after 1965.) Gleckman seems to be assuming that most progressive bloggers are on the young side. But is there any evidence this is true? My four favorite liberal economics bloggers--Brad Delong, Mark Thoma, Dean Baker, and Paul Krugman--all arrived on the planet pre-1965. (I'm not sure of the age profile of my friends at Angry Bear.)

Gleckman posits the claim that has made its rounds in Beltway pundit circles: that Obama's supporters are "infatuated" with him and have been deluded into imagining that he is the Great Progressive, the 21st century FDR-in-waiting. I suffer from no such illusions, and my read of bloggers like Atrios and Daily Kos is that they have very realistic expectations for what an Obama presidency will look like.

Gleckman's main point is that Obama's big problem will be satisfying the pent-up demands of bloggers, and whoever else constitutes his "Left." I seriously doubt it. I think what most of his supporters want is for him to end the war in Iraq, expand health care coverage, and move towards addressing global warming. This is all doable, even with some tax cuts for the non-rich thrown in. (I'll be happy to address the specific figures in another post.)

As Jonah points out, the much bigger challenge for Obama will be the right, as it was for Clinton. I would expand that group to include the corporate lobbyists. The Washington Post today highlighted how lobbyists are expanding their ranks in anticipation of the battles to come with an Obama victory:
Attacks from the presidential wannabes and the likelihood that Congress will become even more Democratic -- read: more activist -- means that many corporate interests will face increased danger next year and will have to employ more of the people whose job is to protect them -- lobbyists....

Health care will probably be an early focus, especially if Obama wins. America's Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance lobby, has been working for two years to get ready. Its newest weapon: a network of what it hopes will be 100,000 people who are willing to contact their lawmakers to defend private insurers....

Lobbying's guns-for-hire also foresee a gold rush in their billings. One reason, they say, is that Congress has been stalemated for so long on topics including taxation, energy prices and climate change that a flood of legislation probably will come tumbling out under a new president.

"There's going to be a whole lot more activity for people who do what we do," said Jack Quinn of the lobbying firm Quinn Gillespie & Associates.

Obama will be able to handle us bloggers. It's the lobbyists, along with the angry Republican minority and its media noise machine, who will be the real threat to his presidency. I have more thoughts on how this will play out that I will save for a future post.

1 comment:

Ken Houghton said...

The only AB commenter who I know is post-1965 is Tom Bozzo.

pgl references high school in the late 1960s; Robert Waldmann is a college classmate of Brad DeLong's; I graduated the year before Barack Obama. (Of course, you could nitpick and say I'm not an Obama supporter, but see below.)

Rusty and coberly have also made references that imply they were born before 1965.

I don't think Obama will have as much of a problem with "the right" as the Dems in 2000 and 2004 did, for the simple reason that the opponent has so many strikes against him that even someone inclined to vote Republican (because we fondly remember what Ford actually did, or saw the Unintended Consequences of some of Nixon's domestic efforts) will at best decide that McCain isn't worth the effort to vote (think 1992, when GHWB made it clear he didn't want to be re-elected, or 1996, when Dole, er, fell down on the job and referenced "Hideo Nomo of the Brooklyn Dodgers").

There's a conservative traditional Republican (Obama) running against a "Republican" who is uninspiring at best. At the margin, right-leaning (as opposed to "right-wing") voters have an easy choice.