Nixon And The Dog Days Of August

Nixon is back, haunting every August as usual. This year he fights the centennial of the Great War for media mindshare. It’s an uneven match. Americans emerged almost unscathed from the first European civil war.

Relentless Pat Buchanan cuts and pastes his annual apologia. He reminds us:

Then he [Nixon] succeeded where liberalism’s best and brightest had failed. He ended the Vietnam War with honor, brought all our troops and POWs home, opened up China, negotiated historic arms agreements with Moscow, ended the draft, desegregated southern schools, enacted the 18-year-old vote, created the EPA, OSHA and National Cancer Institute.

Another reminder of how far we’ve come. The Nixon Center/National Interest can’t resist agreeing, too. Just attempting any of Nixon’s acts would galvanize the Movement to start impeachment calls. John McCain today would be against freeing John McCain.

Most striking? Nixon remained an internationalist realist even as America turned inward, indeed to his last day. Nixon advocated his views in both policy and practical political terms.

We’re certain Nixon would be baffled by Obama’s passive acceptance of the political status quo as setting limits on himself and the country. Nixon understood presidents are above all political actors. To lead they must engage political means to achieve their ends – beyond empty rhetoric. (We speak of his legal actions).

Obama believes politics is about judging others and declaiming rational choices. His job is to explain them, often as scold. Societies, however, require politics to address and somehow give meaning to the irrational as well. Aristotle understood we are all political animals.

His comments about Russia could be about anything:

But Obama says, quote, “people don’t always act rationally.” He says sometimes people don’t act based on their own interests.

True, the Movement after 2010 essentially destroyed functioning government beyond even the 1973-77 era. Obama’s passivity is a major causal factor there, too. We all together warned here in 2009-10 about the then embryonic Movement. We explained how Obama should act to co-opt, marginalize or impede it in early 2009.

The Obama White House publicly mocked the Movement, doing nothing, politically. And the Movement seized Congress and ended his presidency.

Nixon, Watergate, Vietnam

Obama sees the world as defining his limits, and thus ours. Successful presidents use politics to change the world and elevate us. Obama’s ISIL airstrike address this week merely another version of his earlier West Point address fiasco. At West Point, he may be the first modern president to “subtweet” his critics so passive aggressively.

Our Obama critique unfortunately remains true since 2007. He seems small today because he abdicated most of what makes a successful president.

In this sense, Obama is the anti-Nixon. And that’s not a compliment.

Passive Aggressive Rot Sets In

Obama’s troubles are ours now. We collectively identified Obama’s peculiarly militant brand of passive aggressiveness beginning in March 2009. Recall our frustration watching the Rightist initial fabrication of the Tea Party then go unchallenged. Or behold Obama’s White House spokesman joke in Summer 2010 they might even lose the House.


Seeing This Car Wreck In 2007

We could do little but share why the re-constituted Movement would quickly mutate into a demonstrably feral brand of anti-Enlightenment, anti-democratic emotive rejections. In the face of Obama and Democratic inaction, we argued ‘the fever’ would not quickly subside. Did we not — at the time in 2008-09 –declare Obama’s chief task to be seen doing one thing surpassingly well? To rebut Rightist narrative and restore faith in empirical government?

Even before his 2008 victory, Obama’s congenital “Goldilocks Syndrome” of compromise in the face of extremes was obvious. Didn’t we predict with scary accuracy how it would work?

Here’s our take from 2007 for new Readers. NPR’s “Spilled Bong Water” show assessed the Obama Campaign and his presidency like a seer.

NPR Spilled Bong Water on 2007 Obama Campaign

[Read more…]

State of Play Spring 2013

Enough time has passed since the election for us to ask “What precisely has been learned?”

Unsurprisingly and unfortunately, “Not much”.

Our politics remain inert and non-enrolling because there aren’t any, aside from the febrile paroxysms within the Movement. We remain isolated and suspended, our very expression of self denied by the suffocating paralysis of Obama and the Democrats’ admonition “At least we are not Them”. Their impotence is imposed upon us.

Witness the Commentariat. What to make of self-identified progressives and liberals [sic] trolling CPAC in 2013? Old 6 years ago. How little understanding still. One well known ‘liberal’ commentator asked “Why do Republicans allow CPAC to happen?” And so on. Decrying Politico’s transactional information culture misses that’s always been DC.

More damningly, the same Commentariat continuously is surprised by events. After their ‘reporting’ these last years purporting to explain Movements, political and economic histories. Do they not read their own words? Demonstrating that the last 20 years taught them nothing. Leaving us further stifled.

The Post November Hangover
It’s Just Something In The Eye

Cheney et al. re-taught the world the basic lesson: process is not politics. Process can serve political purposes, can illuminate and clarify values and goals, but by itself is a nullity. Yet for the last five years, non-radicalized political space in America has been wholly subsumed by nothing other than process and related commentary. We remain stupefied, distracted from concrete engagement by empty rhetorical ephemera and Tweets.

Nothing has changed.

That’s not to say, for example, that real choices aren’t being made. They are. But as defensive reaction to a fraction of a minority’s submersion in ritual role-play as self-identity. So we are dosed with ‘victories’ permanently enshrining 99% of Cheney’s tax cuts. Surely, you have another favorite.

Perhaps you are thinking health care? Recall health care largely began in the House. With the Senate trailing. A disaster in the making because the other Branch remained bizarrely mute at times – after the infamous Tauzin meeting. Many times the entire enterprise careened into near failure needlessly (from the Ds point of view). Labeling the legislation Obamacare later does not make it so. These words have profound meaning.

As one example, Andy Pincus, former General Counsel at the Clinton Commerce Department, largely on his own initiative and tardily dominated a Republican controlled conference successfully on a major bill that affects your very ability to read this. The EOP wasn’t even really paying attention. Pincus manipulated the appearance of EOP interest to sow discord among Republican factions.

Don’t take our word for it. Committee staffers for a once powerful ex-senator from Texas railed in the press about the Republican debacle. Among others who blamed Lott, etc.

That’s just example when a departmental lawyer can have an impact on a frozen, tectonic situation. The level of toxicity then only seems less with time. Knowing when and how to engage is crucial. Or being lucky. It’s possible Pincus never planned or even knew how Republicans perceived his role. But he acted even if as Quixote.

So back to today. Dinners are nice. Phone calls, too. But if not wed to an expression of goals transcending serving process they’re ultimately nihilism. All of us here have long prepared for accepting calamity by disengaged default in lieu of catastrophe. Long before others, our hearty band here diagnosed the Disengagement Disease (AKA as Goldilocks Syndrome – ed.). November’s sweet escape from Movement’s grasp turns sour quickly.

If only so-called progressives, etc. mocking CPAC, for example, could husband that energy building real, tangible post-2016 politics. All of us in our hearts feel their lack. Perhaps the 2008-2012 crowd took our measure correctly. And dreams of escaping our marginalization become merely recursive. One thing we do control: our hope.

Status Quo – The Line Holds, For Now

Such relief to see the map turn blue. We’ve four more years with Obama as placeholder. Certainly more acceptable than the alternative.

How delightful to see our old good acquaintance Liz Warren triumph. She now sits in the body that refused to give her an up or down vote.

Last night the Movement’s despair and disbelief the finest wine. Watching Rove rage at Megyn Kelly so sweet. You probably have your own favorite story.

Obama Steps On A Bug, Barely

All acknowledge Obama’s technical mastery of the ground game. That advantage will be transient. Political techniques and technologies proliferate quickly.

It’s worth realizing that Democrats and the so-called ‘Left’ [sic] would have lost to Romney and Movement revanchism but for that transient advantage.

It’s worth recalling that Democrats and pundits sputtered about Romney’s shameless serial expediency. Neocons ran with it in 2002-2003. And in 2012 Democrats and non-Rightist media are still clueless. And call out ‘unfair’ to some non-existent referee.

It’s worth realizing that in November 2012 Democrats and the so-called ‘Left’ [sic] were stunned to see overt voter suppression. The Ohio Secretary of State or Rick Scott in Florida flaunted brazenly contempt for the Constitution. Sure, Democrats earlier launched scattered legal actions, but the outcomes left the Rightists free to suppress and Democrats unprepared narratively.


The Days Ahead

Obama’s victory offers some unalloyed bright spots. The Supreme Court won’t be radicalized and suborned. The Neocons are not running DoD, State and the NSC. Bibi will not write 100% of U.S. policy in the region.

For the Democrats, the question remains what have they learned from 2001-2012? They are still consumed with process. Movements evolve (by definition). Democrats have yet to demonstrate they can confront and defeat an opponent with purposeful ideological focus.

For Republicans, the Movement naturally circles the wagons. Scapegoats get attention. Today, we heard a lot about revenge on Chris Christie.

The notion of a new, ‘moderate’ Republican Party is implausible. First, realigning a Movement based on empirical data and rational analysis is antithetical to the very notion of the Movement. Movements expand or alter their shape and ideological content through new narratives, and enrolling people in that new line. If a Democrat doesn’t understand that by now, they should be fired for professional malpractice.

Who can start that narrative? Among the elected leadership there are no moderates. Those called ‘moderate’ by talking heads like Chris Christie are moderate only when compared to Paul Ryan. Perhaps one or two may seek to gain brand visibility by ‘going Maverick’. Changing a narrative, however, requires internal influence and control.

On the periphery, professional Republican operatives are furiously sending each other PPT slides and speadsheets and they may have narrative impact on the margin. Already they’re calling for a smarter, more agile Movement that retains its inherent nature but seeks to poach elements from Obama’s turnout on an issue by issue basis. Republican operatives, however, don’t determine primaries.

Any change in the Movement narrative requires infiltration into the thought generation centers and distribution channels. Fox is merely the most obvious. It’s a monumental undertaking, far more audacious and protracted than a 10 minute chuckle-fest with Mika and Joe. If any of our Righist friends embark on that journey we wish them well.

Four more years. They will go by quickly. May they treat each of you, Dear Readers, and everyone, well.

Why Political Alternatives in 2012 Don’t Exist

We’ve been talking to alienated political professionals lately. They’re either no longer welcome by their hyper-meme-soaked bases or alienated by them. Either way, they’re largely watching the football game from the stands. Their more practical (cynical?) colleagues join a team and bury their cognitive dissonance.

Politicians Must Stop Hiding Behind Process And Practice Politics

Why do marginalized political figures in the stands choose to sit there? The obvious excuse? Contemporary politics makes rational, empirical choice impossible. It’s true. But outcome determinative. A politician’s task is to change circumstances as much as adapt to them.

Goldwater, Republican, Ike

Alienated ‘moderate’ political figures and operatives, like Obama, elect to abandon actual politics. Thus no organized political activity to reclaim the Republican Party from the Movement. (Obama as incumbent has his party in a bind). Instead, the alienated political figures embrace the pose of process reform. Easier to appear on Morning Joe and blame congressional failure on needed rule changes or deficit reduction. Reasonable people like Mika after all prefer process. And process leads to the Avalon of compromise.

It’s sophistry, of course. And a convenient posture to be a victim. It’s also the perfect political analog for the intellectually bankrupt TED environment which peddles meaningless sloganeering and Newt-isms as knowledge. Unconnected factoids strung together to sound ‘wise’ in 140 characters.

What would actual politics look like? Let’s stipulate the Movement various strands’ are virulent, vindictive and irrational. Taking them on a daunting personal and professional challenge. Yet it’s not excuse. It’s been done successfully before. And we don’t mean post-1964.

American History Shows How Intellectual Movements Gain Influence

Before the Scopes trial, before The Organization Man, there was the Brandeis Brief. That Brief, which introduced science and empiricism into American law, itself rode the crest of a societal immersion in the scientific method, and Taylorism in manufacturing from the 1880s and 1890s. The sociology for how empirical thought gained widespread embrace is rich and detailed.

The Movement’s multiple successes infiltrating the Republican Party, mainstreaming itself and eventually devouring its institutional host yet another instructive model. Whether empiricism’s rise post-Civil War or the Movement today, neither advanced their cause by claiming process as the answer. Process served the political truth. To argue otherwise is to be another Wilkerson claiming if only the NSC had better paper flow he and General Jello could have beaten Cheney.

Could the current band of sidelined ‘moderate’ politicians and operatives carry a renewed empirical torch through a meme-drenched world? As the current process pose suggests, their political skills may be out of phase. Second, oligarchy collectively may prefer to withhold money, gaming further unravelling until a future, rump stabilization. Recent unsuccessful primary candidates do point to their failures as proof no one wants the message.

Yet it’s a duty to at least try. American history shows political movements culminate after decades of investment. It’s more than 1 or 2 election cycles. Or individual personalities.

To remain on the Acela to MSNBC, sigh, and lament the lack of procedural reform is cowardice.

Are You In The ‘New Democratic Coalition’ Or ‘Democratic New Coalition’?

American systemic political dysfunction now meanders into its second decade. Its proximate causes are many. One of them? The dissolution of political parties as functional aggregators and articulators of meaningful political programs.

Broken political process may mean paralytic governance. Still, elections happen. So how do parties respond?

For the Movement, the auto da fé continues. A process begun in full force stretching back to Baker and Duberstein long before the so-called Tea Party. As we’ve discussed, because a Movement survives only by internal narrative control, not institutional belonging, elections are only a secondary consideration. Of course, the Movement wants to win, but elections are just episodically part of the narrative. Elections bestow legitimacy only on Movement victories.

The Democrats, by contrast, still cling to elections as the political Ur Moment: valid and above all, determinative, political exercises. 2008 and the end of history. They sort of have to. Democrats forgot any coherent animating ideology and functioned as a special interest clearing house arguably 30 years ago. Their political relevance bestowed by inertia and luck. All they have is institutional control. 2006-2012 makes abundantly clear this entity’s inability to cope with, let alone surmount, apolitical animus. Obama’s not the only one to blame.

If elections happen, and someone has to win, what can House Democrats do? Apparently a few think a new label is the answer – a new ersatz faction, the self-proclaimed “New Democrat Coalition” (NDC) . Not to be confused with the long existent DLC splinter group, the New Democratic Network, NDC proponents believe that Democrats must move to the center (‘center’ defined by the current AgitProp environment). Their avowed political sweet spot? Social liberals who agree with or are at least amenable to Rightist economics.

It’s quixotic, of course. First, as you know, most House districts aren’t in play because of gerrymandering. Districts are deliberately designed to punish NDC-kind of fence straddling. The Blue Dogs (or Chris Shays, Tom Davis, etc.) could tell them that. Second, on an objective basis, Democrats are already there. Obama’s objectively governed center right. Hard to see an inside baseball label making much difference in any district where Obama underperforms.

If the NDC improbably catches on and becomes a quasi ‘thing’, how will they survive? We’ve previously sat through untold numbers of Blue Dog breakfasts, receptions and soirees representing big companies. Mostly to be polite.

The Blue Dogs’d ask for cheques, “Support us, we’re pro-business unlike San Francisco Democrats and we can get your legislation through”. Except, of course, they couldn’t really, marginalized within their caucus. And for what they offered, Republicans already covered. In short, they made no political difference. Our companies always walked away (although sometimes the food and drinks were ok), reluctantly giving to others in actual power. (Contrary to popular belief, most companies find the constant shakedown annoying at best, even for their issue champions).

The NDC? Perhaps they’ll have a killer logo.

Conversations Frozen In Time: Movement Campaigns In Disarray

Together over the years we have discussed among ourselves the fundamental nature of political movements beginning on the Continent and their often unrecognized manifestations here. While this version of the Bunker captures some of it, STSOZ 1.0 probably has the more complete analysis. You can find it at the links above and search.

All of which is to say that we together have understood that political movements require amorphous natures and to survive must ignore formal organization (even when proffered for show). So it’s no surprise to see so many Rightist Movement campaigns stumble and flail – at least according to the considered professional judgments of political pundits unschooled in political philosophy and deploying the smirk certitude of assumed American participatory pluralism. Or the “Republican” professional campaign mercenaries.

We’ve had conversations with long time Movement operatives close to two such campaigns (no, we’re not including Newt). Long story short, you’ve probably already grokked the basics – new media ensures there are no confidences anymore, just delayed Tweets. In one case, a formerly high flying candidate rejected objectively sound advice and we’re told embraced a modern day Rasputin for final advice. Some of the instances shared with us sound unusually idiosyncratic. The candidate, however, remains in the game, continuing to send Movement dog whistles. It’s frankly hard to imagine when this candidate announced that a movement campaign in this environment would somehow subject itself to the discipline and boring work such as planning and budgeting. So, in that sense, everyone involved made their own beds.

A separate conversation involved a still leading campaign (currently struggling with a brutal news cycle). The ask was for contributions on themes heretofore ignored by the campaign. As typical in a Movement entity, despite the existence of a formal Vice President for X, Vice President for Y was seeking advisors and information about X to give to the candidate. It’s true that some duplication and rivalry is inevitable when a stunt campaign inexplicably finds itself forced to become (or at least pretend) the real thing. But the underlying process of ‘working towards the leader’ for favor and face time ignoring formal organizational tables is inherently a trait of ideological movement entities. So we weren’t surprised or put off. It’s just how these things roll.

There does seem to be a growing resignation that Romney will be the nominee among the professional Movement operatives. Much talk about how damaged Rubio is by implosion of his immigration mythos. Which gives the tattered remnants of the professional “Republican” class some relief. What they see in all of the above is a glimpse that the radical tide of 2001-2011 finally might be spent, and having reached its crest, begin to recede. Which poses the interesting question of who is the most out of touch?

Republicans In Vegas Fight For The Conch

Whether Anderson Cooper planned the mayhem or he lost control of the proceedings early on, slapped down disdainfully by the candidates, this Vegas affair showcased unleashed looniness. Proving one never knows. We were prepared for a snooze fest.

You, Dear Reader, doubtless have a favorite scuffle. Our macro take away? Romney content to let Republican primary voters draw the necessary conclusions seeing the competition. Cain did no damage to himself nor did he add energy to his trajectory. Did we miss anything?

Ralph: “Whoever holds the conch gets to speak.”

Jack: “Conch! Conch! We don’t need the conch any more. We know who ought to say things.”

The ‘Republican’ Inner Voice: Let Them Die

The hypothetical? If a young healthy person elects not to get health insurance but encounters sudden catastrophic medical emergency, should society help?

In fairness, Paul hearing the chants of ‘yeah, let him die’ answered ‘No’, suggesting the hypothetically illl person a Randian martyr and offering local charities. That moment an accurate snapshot about the health of our social contract. How lucky are we to have such a resolute champion to articulate the America we remember.

Republican Party, Tea Party, Republican Tea Party Debate, Let Him Die, Right WIng, CNN Debate