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More on the Overton Window: Do different issues have different Overton Windows?

Varying sizes? Different locations on the right to left scale? Each issue its own window? General areas of governance? Or is it the general political philosophy? Social "feeling"?

Can Obama work toward leftward Overton movment on some issues while going rightward on others? Close some so the issues aren't even issues any more, simply not discussed? Open some so wide any and all attidudes are acceptable and thus, again, nonissues.

And, to the point of this post, what's he doing to the Overton Window regarding torture?

Listening to the McLaughlin Group today discussing torture was downright scary. Mort Zuckerman wa arguing for the "24" approach --since there are so many "ticking timebombs," ya know. Buchanan and Monica Crowley were arguing about torture as if it's a legal option, clearly accepted in some cases, and simply a matter of choice and necessity. Laws, either US or international? Only mentioned to buttress its use. Constitution? No mention. (Transcript/audio will be available at the link, not up yet.)

Eleanor Clift, iirc, didn't mention the word "torture," but argued in favor of everything Obama said in his speech this week.

Digby nailed it; we are indeed close to losing the argument on torture, and Obama is helping to make it possible for that to happen. Or. we may have lost and will have to fight the long fight to return to being a nation of laws.

Read where the shrinking or moving window has pushed Sen. Whitehouse (from Digby):

To argue by analogy, one can go to court and to a civil standard of proof show that someone is a danger to themselves or others, and obtain a civil commitment restricting their freedom. If we can do this with Americans, it seems logical that we could also do it with foreign terrorists. The question is, what checks and balances should surround the initial determination of danger, and what safeguards should stay with the person through the period of confinement? I look forward to hearing more from the Obama Administration about what schedule of rule of law safeguards they intend to apply, but I think that the example of civil commitment shows that it is not categorically forbidden to restrict someone’s freedom based on a finding of danger.

I think that may be even scarier than Gitmo. It implies use of psychiatric hospitals for political prisoners, a la the Soviet Union. It's a terrible analogy.

Finally, Digby's comments about the MCMers finding Obama's changing policies "just right" and just like Bush's seond term, when Condi Rice and Gates helped BushBoy turn away from the Dark Side and Darth Cheney to the light of reason and lawfulness. David Brooks was hitting this talkingpoint over and over and over on NewsHour Friday (and everywhere he appears in person or print) and Digby has the transcript for it. It was so good then! But Bush just couldn't explain it well to the public, see? And Obama can and does make the public believers. On this issue, Brooks is just fine with Obama.

Digby includes video (update at bottom of post) of Rachel Maddow discussing the Obama meeting with civil libertarians and consitutionalists. She points out the real news may be that Obama told them that he had "no interest" in criminal prosecutions, with Holder sitting right with him. Earlier, Obama has said it is up to DOJ to dertermine whether criminal prosecutions are appropriate and he could have said in the meeting that it was up to Holder and DOJ.

Does that mean Holder has investigated and decided to have no prosecutions? Or that Obama has simply decided there will be no prosecutions? Maddow asks if it shows hypocrisy, saying one thing to the public and another in private. (Rachel: He did this during the campaigns, nothing new here.)

Digby emphasizes that Obama did not like being compared to Bush: "It's not helpful to equate me to Bush" he's reported to have said. Whatchagonna do about that, Mr. President?

I like the Overton window concept and I'd appreciate input as to how is can be applied.

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vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

The concept is that a range of policy possibilities is made to appear more or less politically viable. By controlling the national conversation, certain parties create an aura of relative acceptability of a spectrum of options, with the "middle" of those options generally being the easiest sell (though I could see the least-severe of the options at times being easiest to sell -- such as, "Q. Would you rather be robbed, stabbed or shot? A. Rob me, please!").

For example, when "leading" "Dems" take single-payer off the table, they're moving the Overton Window such that single-payer is not publicly visible as a credible option. The range of possibility is thus moved toward the status quo -- or worse, since taxing workplace health insurance is now on the table.

It's theoretically possible that Obama might move the window left on some issue or other. Anything's possible, as they say.

Submitted by jawbone on

torture policy, other foreign policy issues? Taking it rightward? Narrowing? Expanding, but to the right?

For me, I'm disappointed in how Hillary is describing the Iranians and the way she and others, including Obama, are presenting either/or choices to them. If she's doing this because she's following Obama's policies (which, as SecSt, she pretty much must do), I'm sorry she took the job. Then I look at some other aspects of what she's doing and think they'll in general increase international understanding, friendship, etc. If she'd have said/done these things about Iran as president, I would be critcizing her on that policy front.

Perfect vs. good. Always thet problem.

What I gather is that, yes, an individual pol can have different windows he or she is affecting through statements, which then affect overall actions. Right?

In general, based on what I understand of the concept, Obama is pretty much narrowing the options and moving rightward. Which is pretty sad for a Dem prez.

When he takes leftward options, liberal or progressive or even just left of center, off the table, and then we're told by the MCM, approvingly, that he is a "rigid centrist," that he "needs" to come down in the middle which has been moved right, I'm worried about our future.

But my beliefs about what would be good for this country and our place in the world may be limiting my vision of what Obama's doing. So, I'm looking at various issues, the Overton windows made noticeable to the general public, Obama's actions (statements are good, but actions are absolute and concrete) which affect what can be "on the table," and I wonder, still with some hope.

How much influence do lefty bloggers have on the discourse, the Overton windows?

What can we really do? Guess I'm feeling somewhat depressed about what's going to happen in the near and longer term future....

Since you and lambert seem to know a lot more of this top, how widely used is the term? Mostly among lefties?

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Hopefully I'll have time soon to elaborate on this--I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

Looking at major political realignments and political movements in the US, I see mostly broader philosophies taking hold and influencing several issues. The New Deal was more than just Social Security, there seemed to be a deep "liberal" philosophy guiding sweeping reforms. The rise of the current conservative movement and the "ownership" society was similarly broad and left to sweeping changes: anti-tax, anti-union, anti-regulation, pro-military and covert operations, executive priviledge, etc It seems to me that for real change, there needs to be a broad shift in political philosophy. Obama has been throwing crumbs to liberal ideas, but the entire window is firmly to the right. To me this explains why even the crumbs Obama gives liberal ideas almost always always have a catch.

Fundamentally, Obama seems to be moving more and more to the right in his personal views. The advantage/disadvantage of an inexperienced opportunist like Obama is that he is easily persuadable with little personal pushback. Obama seems to be easily influenced by the "Kewl Kidz" of V2M.

Submitted by jawbone on

issue by issue change. There is underlying change, albeit brought about by years and years of moving the Overton window.

Issues are, by themselves, also very important. Recall that Will Krystal wrote that infamous memo to Repubs that the fight against Clinton's healthcare reform was existential for the party, that if comprehensive quality healthcare was passed by the Dems the Repubs would be out of power for decades.

Repubs and BHIP (Big Health Industry Playahs) did win that battle. With the aid of the MCM, the Repubs got the WH for 8 crucial years. We, the little people, were fucked nonstop during that those eight years.

Perhaps hubris lead to the downfall of the Repubs, but I don't count them out just yet. The MCM is rooting for them, calling on all their corporatist freinds to clap louder, louder!

So, yes, one issue can be motivating, for its proponents if they win, for the people helped if it's widely beneficial legislation, and for the opponents if they win. Issues do count, a lot.

But I agree with you and look forward to your take on this. (And how we do it!)