What if we just make it easier to punch hippies?

I’m not a big fan of the concept of Overton windows. It’s too much like framing, Burkean gradualism, and Niebuhrian realism for me, which is to say that it’s generally either a fancy phrase for commonsense bargaining techniques or a justification for dishonest exaggeration. That said, since punching hippies is such an important part of our political process, wouldn’t it be beneficial to make it easier for Democrats to punch hippies? Booman points out that Lieberman opposed the Medicare buy-in because he thought that hippies favored it (Lieberman even invented a fictitious example of hippie support for it). Lieberman does this because he’s an asshole. But it’s quite possible that Ben Nelson is re-elected in a far-right state in part because the people of Nebraska enjoy watching him punch hippies. It’s even possible that northeastern Republicans like Linc Chafee would still be in office if the Republican party allowed them to punch rednecks or neocons or whatever kind of righties northeasterners like to see punched.

What if teh left had screamed bloody murder, called Obama a sell-out, threatened to form a Freedom Dog Lake alliance with teabaggers, etc. much earlier in the process, like maybe as soon as it became clear the bill wouldn’t put us on a single-payer system? Would that have made it so that the public option or Medicare buy-in was enough of a hippie punch to win the support of principled centrists?

This brings me to my second question, which also involves something that I normally hate, counterfactual historicism. According to the Official Village Narrative, one of Clinton’s most important political triumphs was his Sister Souljah moment. But that was a pretty difficult hippie punch, it involved finding some obscure rapper, going through her public statements for something controversial, and then condemning it. Nowadays, the Obama people can just turn on the tv or get on the internets and find some prime hippie targets faster than you can say Dylan Ratigan. Would the fundamental dynamic of the Clinton years have been different if FDL and the like had been around in the ’90s? Would Clinton have signed DOMA and welfare reform if he could have achieved the same thing politically by saying something mean about Howard Dean? (Probably this is taking it way too far, but I think things would have been different.) Yes, I realize this is a bit like one of those old SNL bits, “What If Elinor Roosevelt Could Fly?” or “What If Napoleon Had B-1 Bombers At Waterloo?”






76 replies
  1. 1
    John Cole says:

    And I thought I was cynical.

  2. 2
    cleek says:

    also… the extremes are probably so repellent to the mainstream that there’s no way anyone who has ever stepped more than .5 std deviations from the center can be elected, now that it’s trivially easy to find those footprints.

    on the other hand: Ayers.

    so, you can find all kinds of people should be punching. but will they have to punch them ?

    i ramble. cleek +2 (cups of strong tea, that is)

  3. 3
    Jim says:

    Does this mean I have to find my log ins for FDL, OpenLeft and MyDD for the upcoming cap-and-trade fight?

    OBAMA IS WORSE THAN BUSH!!! HE SOLD US OUT!!

  4. 4
    DougJ says:

    OBAMA IS WORSE THAN BUSH HE SOLD US OUT!!

    You know, that would be a pretty good tag.

  5. 5
    Regnad Kcin says:

    You do understand this is why we need to replace our false duopoly with a real multiparty system…

  6. 6
    MattF says:

    Thesis topic for PoliSci graduate student in 2030: “Sado-Masochistic Aspects of American Politics in the Early 21st Century.”

  7. 7
    BTD says:

    Very good questions DpugJ.

    I find John’s view of himself as cynical pretty funny.

    John, you are one of the more idealistic, not to say naive, persons in the blogosphere. I mean it as a compliment.

  8. 8
    KCinDC says:

    @cleek, you can step a lot farther than 0.5 standard deviations from the center and still be elected, as long as your steps were to the right, not the left.

  9. 9
    jon says:

    I can only hope that having some small measure of closure on this issue before Christmas will at least prevent it from coming up at the family dinner.

    Hahaha, oh well. I can dream, right? Dream and drink heavily that is.

  10. 10
    Maude says:

    Clinton was a right wingnut and fell into line with the Republican congress. I don’t think any blog would have changed that. After all, he’s worth over a hundred mil.

  11. 11
    malraux says:

    @Regnad Kcin: You can’t do that in anything resembling the american electoral system. Duverger’s Law

  12. 12
    jon says:

    @Maude:
    That doesn’t make any sense. Sure he was caught cheating on his wife, but with a adult female.

  13. 13
    Davis X. Machina says:

    What happens when the conference report fails passage by a single Lieberman vote? Does Snowe do what she did on the FinCom version? Does HoJoe trigger another four or five (Nelson and your fave 3 ‘centrists’) holdouts?

    And if it passes, what do FDL, Kos, OpenLeft, MyDD and Co. do for 2010? Do they work for pro-repeal candidates of any party? Or only pro-repeal Democrats? Or only pro-repeal progressive candidates? (I’m guessing that’s going to be a very small group)

    It won’t be pretty, but it won’t be boring.

  14. 14
    Midnight Marauder says:

    OBAMA IS WORSE THAN BUSH HE SOLD US OUT!!

    Now that is the perfect new tag to take us into 2010. It’s probably going to be a race between that one and “Assholes” next year for the Most Frequently Used Tag award.

  15. 15
    Guster says:

    Yes.

    The leftie freak-out is a helpful strategic activity. It’s about the only one we have.

    I’m pretty small-c conservative myself, but the fact that the ‘wonks’ don’t see the negotiating power of the ‘rabid frothing Jane Hamshers of the Left’ makes me crazy. Without them, we’ve got nothing.

    So freak on, you freaky freaks!

  16. 16
    TJ says:

    And if it passes, what do FDL, Kos, OpenLeft, MyDD and Co. do for 2010? Do they work for pro-repeal candidates of any party? Or only pro-repeal Democrats? Or only pro-repeal progressive candidates? (I’m guessing that’s going to be a very small group)

    Read the polls. Talk to local pols. Your small group is likely going to get a lot larger.

  17. 17
    The Bearded Blogger says:

    In modern America, the irrationally yelling wheel that disregard the well being of any other wheel gets the grease

  18. 18
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Read the polls. Talk to local pols. Your small group is likely going to get a lot larger.


    I do read polls.
    Which is why in six months no one is going to remember why they were so angry about this.

  19. 19
    valdivia says:

    I just don’t get this? How will doing this have gotten us to 60? The republicans obstruct and the centrists get to play divas because we need 60 votes. The only way to get to 60 is to craft a bill that gets to 60 not make a bill that gets to 50. Which would be more to my liking but I don’t vote in congress.

  20. 20
    Why oh why says:

    What’s the best strategy to make sure Obama stays in Iraq past 2010, and gives even more money to Wall Street? CodePink and Michael Moore are ready to help, no doubt; who really cares about policy outcomes?

  21. 21
    JenJen says:

    Nowadays, the Obama people can just turn on the tv or get on the internets and find some prime hippie targets faster than you can say Dylan Ratigan.

    Good line, Doug! Oh, and for the record, my favorite SNL skit of that genre was “What if Spartacus had a Piper Cub?”

    I forgot to mention OBAMA IS WORSE THAN BUSH HE SOLD US OUT!! Also.

  22. 22
    jeffreyw says:

    Added the raisin to the knead cycle when the beeper sounded the time. 2+ hours until buttered raisin bread toast with cinnamon sprinkles. I will keep posting on this important topic as events warrant.

  23. 23
    SGEW says:

    I’m not a big fan of the concept of Overton windows. It’s too much like framing, Burkean gradualism, and Niebuhrian realism for me, which is to say that it’s generally either a fancy phrase for commonsense bargaining techniques or a justification for dishonest exaggeration.

    You’re just baiting academics, now. How can we engage in our dishonest exaggeration without name-dropping philosophers or hiding behind definitional terms?

    I think we should all talk about Rahm Emmanuel’s OODA loop and how Weber, Rawls, and Kant have influenced Obama’s domestic agenda. Just to annoy you.

  24. 24
    mr. whipple says:

    Would the fundamental dynamic of the Clinton years have been different if FDL and the like had been around in the ‘90s?

    The only difference between then and now was back then you had to wait for your copy of The Nation to learn how badly Clinton stabbed you in the back and then threw your bloody body under the bus.

    Now we have thousands of little Nations, even more shrill, delivered daily, with mulitple entries, all competing to be the shrillest.

    Oh, joy.

  25. 25
    gwangung says:

    Read the polls. Talk to local pols. Your small group is likely going to get a lot larger.

    The proof is in the pudding; it’s going to have to be backed up by election of more progressive politicians at the local level. Without that, the small group IS small.

    I’m pretty small-c conservative myself, but the fact that the ‘wonks’ don’t see the negotiating power of the ‘rabid frothing Jane Hamshers of the Left’ makes me crazy. Without them, we’ve got nothing.

    I don’t think they have that much negotiating power, until they can speak for more elected politicians, personally. That goes back to my point above in that viewpoints don’t have that much actual power unless expressed in elected politicians.

    Not that I’m arguing against the viewpoint…just that it’s cart before the horse…

  26. 26
    MobiusKlein says:

    And oh yeah, all you guys & gals yelling at each other?

    YOU ALL ARE IDOTES!!

    /sarcasm

  27. 27
    danimal says:

    Maybe too late but since teabaggers and Hamsherites are in common cause, I suggest: OBAMA IS WORSE THAN BUSH HITLER HE SOLD US OUT

  28. 28
    Guster says:

    @gwangung:

    I don’t think they have that much negotiating power, until they can speak for more elected politicians, personally.

    Oh, I agree. They don’t have much negotiation power at all. But they still have more than less-excitable people like myself, who have none.

    Adding: I’m not convinced that we’d be looking at the current bill (if we are–I suspect Lieberman’s got one more round on him) if it weren’t for Dean coming out again …

  29. 29
    jeffreyw says:

    Mmm…coffee. My own blend of Sumatran and Kenyan auction lot, half and half.

  30. 30
    Maude says:

    @jon: Oops, my bad.

    Made an apple cake, came out well. The raisin bread sounds so good. Enjoy.

  31. 31
    Davis X. Machina says:

    I think we should all talk about Rahm Emmanuel’s OODA loop and how Weber, Rawls, and Kant have influenced Obama’s domestic agenda. Just to annoy you.

    I think we should discuss Mitch McConnell’s theory of the ideal polity: Genghis Khan, and Immanual Kant.

  32. 32
  33. 33
    gwangung says:

    @Guster: Yeah, but Dean >>>>>>>>>>> Hamsher. I don’t think the progressive net people have that much influence at all (much like the wingnut net people, and they have, at least, a closer tie to elected politicians).

    It all goes back to nuts and bolts, on the ground operations. Electing Obama was never enough for progressives; there has to be more progressive Congress critters to go with them (I feel relatively powerless, because my three critters have been reliably liberal; I have no leverage with the schmucks like Nelson).

  34. 34
    Fern says:

    @Guster:

    In what does (just as an example) Jane Hamsher’s negotiating power lie? What does she actually have to negotiate with?

  35. 35
    TaosJohn says:

    I don’t know about any of this, but something happened to me this morning that makes all the strategizing irrelevant: I’m not afraid any more! It just hit me. I’m not afraid. Wow.

    What a blessed relief. Let Sarah Palin try to run the country, see if I care. Maybe then we’d actually get out in the streets. Maybe a real Democrat would finally emerge. If not, let it all fall down, because a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations isn’t worth saving. Waving the right-wing bogeyman flag at me won’t work. Rahm and the rest are wrong. They jumped the shark this time. I won’t cast another vote to keep the corporatist beast alive, and no amount of finger-shaking or Buddhist commando bullshit will keep me on the bus.

    This is incredible. I never knew something like this could happen inside my brain, or is it my heart? I have ESCAPED, motherfuckers! :-) I am FREE! I’m 64 years old and they have LOST me! I love it. I can let go. I can move on with my life. I can stop reading blogs! (Well, maybe not.)

    They pushed me too far. They pushed me out into the light.

  36. 36
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Lieberman’s still the joker in the deck. When cloture on the conference committee report loses in the Senate by one vote, his, what happens to the internet progressive community when they have to thank Joe Lieberman for saving us all from a bad bill. Will they apologize for Lamont?

  37. 37
  38. 38
    PeakVT says:

    What if we just make it easier to punch hippies?

    Hippies would have to get organized before they became Machiavellian. ‘Nuff said.

  39. 39
    K. Grant says:

    @TaosJohn: You are mistaking insanity with freedom. Good luck with that.

  40. 40
    Libby says:

    My last word. Gotta get some stuff done.

    Teh internets changed everything. But they haven’t reached their full potential yet.

  41. 41
    Guster says:

    @gwangung: Yeah, that’s true. But I still think that online freak-outs have _some_ ripple effect, and I’m _certain_ that my personal strategy of quiet ambivalence doesn’t do shit.

    I’m not saying netroots meltdowns are sufficient, but I certainly think they help.

  42. 42
    gnomedad says:

    @danimal:
    This gives me an idea — the next time I run into a winger relative I’ll just rant about how OBAMA IS A BIGGER WARMONGER AND WALL STREET WHORE THAN BUSH and see what happens.

  43. 43
    SGEW says:

    . . . let it all fall down, because a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations isn’t worth saving.

    My I acquaint you with the “streets run red with the blood of tyrants and/or children” historical counter-argument?

    Letting “it all fall down” is not a viable policy option. But if it gives you solace to fantasize about it, feel free.

  44. 44
    JenJen says:

    @TaosJohn: If Americans didn’t get out in the streets in November of 2000 they sure as hell aren’t going to do it if Sarah Palin winds up duly elected.

    Throughout our country’s history, we as a people have shown ourselves to be basically complacent, through many trying and many strange times, so this image of the citizens taking pitchforks and torches to the streets when/if the GOP takes over is little more than fantasy. And even it were to come true “letting it all fall down” isn’t an option I’m interested in pursuing. In fact, it sounds straight-up crazy.

  45. 45
    danimal says:

    @gnomedad: LOL, good idea. Report back.

    I’m afraid they’ll agree and give some baloney about Bush betraying true conservatism yadda yadda yadda. As if everyone will forget that they made Bush the poster boy for conservatism for years.

  46. 46
    Joel says:

    No one (in the real world) cared about Sister Souljah. This is the biggest problem with the Village. They think screaming louder will make people care more.

  47. 47
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @gnomedad:

    Ooooh, getting into a political schlong sizing match? Now that’s a good idea.

    @TaosJohn:

    I view this as a positive move on your part. Good luck with your newfound freedumb.

  48. 48
    ignatov says:

    Elinor?

  49. 49
    Citizen_X says:

    @TaosJohn:

    I am FREE! I’m 64 years old and they have LOST me! I love it. I can let go. I can move on with my life.

    You’re also going to be eligible for Medicare in less than a year. So quit trying to fuck the rest of us up, mmmkay?

  50. 50
    Morbo says:

    @Jules: But… but… it’s going to blow up the deficit!

  51. 51
    dadanarchist says:

    DougJ: What if teh left had screamed bloody murder, called Obama a sell-out, threatened to form a Freedom Dog Lake alliance with teabaggers, etc. much earlier in the process, like maybe as soon as it became clear the bill wouldn’t put us on a single-payer system? Would that have made it so that the public option or Medicare buy-in was enough of a hippie punch to win the support of principled centrists?

    This is right. The more I think about it, the shittiness of the bill is a broad-based failure that began with taking single-payer off the table, extended through liberal activists putting too much trust in the WH and Congress, peaked in the absolute stupidity of the summer, and reached its obvious denouement in Lieberman and Nelson extracting their pounds of flesh.

    And I see no way to change the dynamic of our political process whereby hippies get punched and unscrupulous pantysniffers like Nelson and fame whores like Lieberman get exactly what they want.

    I think this Mike Lux post summarizes my take on the Health Care bill exactly.

  52. 52
    Sentient Puddle says:

    @TaosJohn: OK. Here’s a drunk kitty.

  53. 53
    El Cid says:

    In the Clinton era, it seemed to me that the only activist liberal opposition to the Republican-favoring policies of that period were actually leftists, i.e., people who frequently described themselves as “soci@lists” or if being extra careful “democratic soci@lists”. More important than them was labor union and other various community and interest group mobilizations, but sometimes they crossed paths — the coalition among labor, leftists, workers’ rights activists, Mexican / Latin American solidarity folks, international labor rights activists and old labor liberals on NAFTA.

  54. 54
    El Cid says:

    One should probably bear in mind that there’s not a lot of good experience with liberals in general on how to mobilize to press for their preferred policies, particularly not with a Democratic President in office. I don’t remember anyone figuring out how to do so successfully in the Clinton era, particularly when the Democrats lost the House from 1994 – 2006.

    Figuring that out would actually be a big, new thing in U.S. politics and movements when compared to recent decades.

  55. 55
    JenJen says:

    @Sentient Puddle: Ha! Years ago I took video of my dog Strider, in a similar state after he had his knee surgery. To this day I can’t even watch it because I decided I was mean to do that. I think I’m going to go try to find it. :-)

  56. 56
    DougJ says:

    You’re just baiting academics, now.

    I am an academic!

    And I have the same feelings about the use of high-powered math in finance. It was badly overused with catastrophic consequences.

  57. 57
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @ElCid

    Exactly. One of the reasons why, though I was then and am now a paid-up leftie, a 20-yeara DSA-USA member, my gasket remains unblown is back in those days, on NAFTA and sanctuary, and Pershing/Cruise, and Seabrook, I learned how hard it was to roll the small-d democratic stone. Thinks like the Boland Amendment were major victories. Mostly we got dick. And the Congress was purple then, as it’s functionally purple now.

    By the perspective of those times, the HCR, compromised though it is, represents progress of no mean degree.

  58. 58
    Joel says:

    @JenJen: Thirded (fourthed, fifthed?) on the tag.

  59. 59
    jwb says:

    @dadanarchist: No, actually I think it was too much inside baseball, not enough organization. The the administration’s, the Democratic party’s and the activists’ responses to the summer recess was laughably inadequate. They were just caught completely flat-footed.

  60. 60
    skippy says:

    oh, and for the record, my favorite snl skit of that genre was “what if spartacus had a piper cub?”

    and my favorite line, which i use quite often when dealing w/right winger slippery slopers, is jane curtain’s teaser for next week from that same skit: what if the pilgrims had to fight dinosaurs but the man from uncle went back in time to help them?

  61. 61
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @mr. whipple:

    The only difference between then and now was back then you had to wait for your copy of The Nation to learn how badly Clinton stabbed you in the back and then threw your bloody body under the bus.
    __
    Now we have thousands of little Nations, even more shrill, delivered daily, with mulitple entries, all competing to be the shrillest.
    __
    Oh, joy.

    This is my favorite comment on any blog in a long, LONG time. Awe. Some. So fucking true.

    With one caveat: The Nation actually “investigates” and “reports.” The pseudo-nation archipelago of blogs doesn’t look that hard or think twice about whether they’re even correct. It’s more like, flame on!

  62. 62
    Sly says:

    I’m starting to see the word “Obushma” pop up here and there.

    I think this must be how David Brooks feels when he hears Michelle Bachmann speak. If I start writing about what John Stuart Mill would think about the Earned Income Tax Credit, somebody do me a favor a shoot me.

  63. 63
    Something Fabulous says:

    @jeffreyw: Oh too cute all tucked in. Is he the one who went on… hiatus?

  64. 64
    DougJ says:

    I think this must be how David Brooks feels when he hears Michelle Bachmann speak. If I start writing about what John Stuart Mill would think about the Earned Income Tax Credit, somebody do me a favor a shoot me.

    Ha!

  65. 65
    Napoleon says:

    Man o man, what I could have done with B-1 bombers at Waterloo.

  66. 66
    Napoleon says:

    Man o man, what I could have done with B-1 bombers at Waterloo.

  67. 67
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    what happens to the internet progressive community when they have to thank Joe Lieberman for saving us all from a bad bill. Will they apologize for Lamont?

    Well, since Senator Lamont’s presence would have made the bill vastly better, I’m thinking no. If nothing else, it would have spared us the humiliating spectacle of seeing the leader of the free world bent over a table and fucked up the ass without any lube by a guy who’s not even a member of either party.

  68. 68
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    First of all, I’d prefer that we stop with the anal rape analogies.

    Second of all, even if Lieberman couldn’t have caused trouble, there was enough resistance and skulduggery from that whole “centrist” (ptui) group that I have a bad feeling it would have been someone else dragging the bill in the wrong direction. Evan Bayh or Blanche Lincoln or Mary Landrieu could have made themselves even bigger nuisances.

  69. 69
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Didn’t I read a report that Lieberman was providing cover for a larger group of anxious “centrists,” meaning that Lieberman could be out there as the martyr/lightning rod sparing a cohort of like-minded weasels? I can’t remember where I saw that, but I believe it.

  70. 70
    Citizen Alan says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    First of all, I’d prefer that we stop with the anal rape analogies.

    Rape implies lack of consent. If my analogy offends you, suggest another one which properly describes Obama’s willingness to utterly debase himself before his political enemies just to get a bill he can sign, regardless of its crippling flaws.

    Second of all, even if Lieberman couldn’t have caused trouble, there was enough resistance and skulduggery from that whole “centrist” (ptui) group that I have a bad feeling it would have been someone else dragging the bill in the wrong direction. Evan Bayh or Blanche Lincoln or Mary Landrieu could have made themselves even bigger nuisances.

    I recall reading statements attributed to anonymous staffers that some moderates had concerns about the bill and were glad that Lieberman was sand-bagging it because they were too gutless to do so themselves. Since Bayh, Lincoln and Landrieu still care about their future in the Democratic party, they could never have made themselves as big a nuisance as the founder, standard-bearer and sole member of “the Lieberman for Lieberman Connecticut Party.”

    Simply put, if Obama and the rest of the Democratic establishment had actually gotten solidly behind the guy who actually won the 2006 Connecticut Democratic primary instead of cringing in fear of Lieberman’s revenge, the single biggest obstruction to health care reform would have been replaced by someone who was genuinely progressive on the subject. That anyone can deny this simple fact smacks of delusion.

  71. 71
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Guster:

    I’m pretty small-c conservative myself, but the fact that the ‘wonks’ don’t see the negotiating power of the ‘rabid frothing Jane Hamshers of the Left’ makes me crazy. Without them, we’ve got nothing.

    It’s not the rabid frothing that drives me up the wall. It’s that the rabid frothing always ends in “I’m taking my ball and going home!” and not “We’re taking donations to primary every one of you motherfuckers and get people in there who will do their fucking jobs.”

    If the frothers would actually come up with a goddamned strategy to get what they want rather than trying to hold their breath until they turn blue because then Daddy will be sorry, I would have a heck of a lot more sympathy for them.

  72. 72
    MNPundit says:

    Why do you hate counter-factual history? I write alternate history for fun you know.

  73. 73

    Could we be witnessing the demise of the two-party system?

  74. 74
    Batocchio says:

    I wrote something similar in a thread the other day, actually – what if Rahm punched those damn hippies over single payer – they’d have to settle for the lousy (robust) public option!

    As to the Overton window, I think I get your objection, but don’t really see it the same way. The media routinely calls conservatives such as the Blue Dogs “moderates,” even though most of those “moderates” are to the right of Reagan on economics. Add in the media’s fetishism for “bipartisanship,” and it’s a serious problem. The Overton window’s one way of discussing that, although you can do it using other terms.

  75. 75
    Sly says:

    Could we be witnessing the demise of the two-party system?

    SATSQ: No.

    You’ll see the end of plurality election systems before you see the end of the two-party system, and plurality elections are inherent in U.S. politics, at all levels. Your garden variety party dissatisfaction won’t get rid of that. We’re talking about the transformation of election law in every state, to get rid of single member, winner-take-all districts, as well as a constitutional amendment to get rid of plurality-reinforcing institutions at the national level like the electoral college.

    Not gonna happen.

  76. 76
    DougL (frmrly: Conservatively Liberal) says:

    @Batocchio:

    I would love to slam the Overton window closed, throw a few ‘kill the bill’ assholes through it, then brick and mortar the frame closed, cover it with drywall, paint it and hang a black velvet picture of Elvis on it.

    Then burn the house to the ground, toasting marshmallows all the while. Works for me.

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