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?”