21 January 2010

good question

Where's the movement?

Indeed. I do remember a bunch of agitated and excitable people a year ago this time. Seemed like a powerful political cudgel to wield. I also remember there were supposed to be meetings around here and around the country by Obama supporters (and/or) interested parties to reform.

Where did it go? Why is it powerless? There's a bully pulpit position for the Presidency, but there's also the associated political capital and resources (in the form of grassroots and corporate support) that were used to elect that President that can be deployed. So... did all the corporatism piss too many people off? Doesn't look like it. Obama is still roughly popular himself (incidentally, Obama still polls almost exactly like Reagan did his first year. It's the economy stupid is still the only answer to how voters make these complex decisions about who to vote for. Not that Americans actually understand "the economy" in any abstract sense. Have jobs, good. DJIA goes up, good. And that's about as complex as it gets).

What appears to be the case, at least in Massachusetts, is that this movement still organized and deployed. It was not given a good and coherent target other than elect this marginally bad candidate to save this marginally halfway decent centrist "reform" (from the perspective of progressives). If you're a tea partier, the same problem applies I think in a national perspective. There isn't always going to be an ability to rally people around a modestly liberal Republican in a heavily liberal state for the purpose of defeating a single issue. A more coherent sense of what the rage is for and over still needs to emerge. This, in effect, seems like the problem with Democrats actually. There isn't a clear and obvious way to mobilize support on such weighty issues as health care or cap and trade as to why those are so essential things to do and how these reforms will change things from a failed institutional set (or even always that there is a failed institutional set to start with). Set out to explain why and how things have failed in order to define the politics of failure, which then makes it easier to lay out what the politics of change or success are. I have not seen Republicans, conservatives, or tea partiers do this. There is a general mood that they have tapped into for political gain. It's not always clear what the hell it is for, what are it's principles and rationales? It is reasonably clear what it is often against. But this is not a political movement. It's a therapy group still working that out.

What is getting "interesting" politically is that the same theatre is playing out with Obama. For someone who ran a very highly organized campaign, and managed to get lots of different people pointing in the same direction, it doesn't ever seem to have defined what that direction was going to do. This is now a problem since it's not enough to get elected; you've got to actually get some of the agenda through.
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