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NYCweboy: Health Care Bill Part of the Endless Campaign

Valhalla's picture

a good read:

It's tempting, in this, to blame the permanent campaign on the campaigners: in particular, I remain convinced that we are here, in no small measure because of Nancy Pelosi's leadership. With her roles as former fundraiser and local party Chair, I'm convinced that she reflects a partisan sense of policy held in service to party goals. She has made the narrow party-line vote into a necessity because the idea of comity and compromise across party lines serves no purpose in election results. And she can force members into line, essentially, by providing the resources needed for future elections. The circular elements feed themselves.

All of this, ultimately, is why I think so many progressives are aiming their energies in the wrong directions: passionate healthcare advocates miss the reality that radical, thoughtful proposals on broad change don't fit electoral goals; supporters of a Democratic majority miss the reality that "change" - the thematic glue of the Obama campaign - can't happen when the Party relies on legislative incumbency and status quo for success. And most of us in the general electorate, I think, try not to face the realities created by the needs of a permanent campaign: just who gives money, who gets access, what that access gives the people who want it.

There's more, give it a read!

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Submitted by hipparchia on

politicians are always in campaign mode, especially those who are up for reelection every 2 years, it's just that nowadays we can see a little bit better just how much the big money donors and how little the voters matter to those who are forever campaigning.

as for doing legislative things that cement a party's hold on power, isn't the ostensible purpose of having parties -- to build a group of people with a common ideology, get them elected into office, and have enough of them there to be able to enact legislation that their backers want?

the big difference i see is that somewhere in between lyndon johnson and bill clinton, the democratic party morphed from true liberalism to kinder, gentler corporatism, while at the same time the republican party was morphing from corporatism [some of it in the kinder, gentler category, some of it not so much] to far right radicalism.

nycweboy's picture
Submitted by nycweboy on

Thanks for the link!

I debated writing the post for a while, for much of what Hipparchia says - in some ways it was always thus, in both campaigning and partisanship, things I deal with at the start of the post - yet I came down on the side of discussing it because I also think there's a clear sense that something has shifted. And I don't think it's as simple as a notion of "kinder, gentler corporatism" because the influence of business interests in government hasn't changed all that much, either. I think what helps to link that shift in terms of Democratic emphasis from the needs of working class people to more of business interests is the pressure to raise substantial sums of money, which is driven by the cost of campaigning... which then warps the very discussion of what campaigns are for, and in turn, warps the purpose of serving in government. Democrats are chasing an educated privileged elite and their interests because, in the end, that's where the money is... and to not, then, examine what the money's for is I think to fight, in some ways, for a misplaced goal. You will not get Democrats to give up on the chase for money out of a need to pursue higher ideals or better intentions. What I think could be changed - if we focus on the cost and omnipresence, these days, of campaigning - is to intercede at some point in the money chain and either reduce the need for it, or the rewards for getting it.

I don't think the only change in our society, politically, is from some sort of notion of pure liberalism (something that's not entirely true of Johnson, anyway) to a simplistic presentation of the Clintons and the "DLC third way". We are here, now, because it's also the case that our politics reflect our cultural shifts: faster, meaner, less interested in details, more focused on image over substance. Nancy Pelosi doesn't come out of the sixties and some idea of earnest liberalism, nor from some triangulated notion of policy aimed at moderates; she rose to prominence in SF in the eighties, raising money for the party and cementing its hold over an urban enclave (one where, it should be noted, moderation is not valued), and I'm convinced that winning, more than any policy goal, amounts to her driving force. And more than anyone else... it's her party, and healthcare "reform" is her success. If we want to change what Democrats do and how they go about doing it... I don't think we can until we're clear on who, really, is leading it, how, and why. And I remain convinced that if we want this to be about more than winning elections... then we have to focus on, and try to reduce the omnipresence of, the permanent campaign.

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

Although I think you're right to focus on Pelosi's role (and I agree that there's been a shift), I think some significant part of the fault also lies with Dean's 50-State campaign as well. When the goals shifted away from policy (even just lipservice policy goals) and onto the process -- just get someone with a D next to their name elected, it amped up the anything-for-a-win aspect and principles got a serious demotion.

I'm not saying this very well, but it's really an ecosystem of fail we have here. It's all dynamic. Pelosi may be powerful because she's an excellent "money chaser" (great phrase, that), but part of the reason a money chaser became powerful was because the Democrats were shifting into a more process-oriented strategy.

three wickets's picture
Submitted by three wickets on

And I never got what was supposed to be so liberal about her district. Maybe socially, but economically San Francisco was and is totally about being upwardly mobile. I think Nancy has always been about power, and it could be that a permanent campaign mindset feeds that. I wonder though if all Presidents have been as driven by the permanent campaign as Obama. Is is because there's that much more money involved in electioneering these days, or because Obama just enjoys campaigning more than governing.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Prior to the use of consumer advertising for political campaigns, candidates had to have boots on the ground. That could be very corrupt, if machines maintained a hammerlock through patronage and bribery, as with Tammany Hall and the Daley machine in Chicago. However, it did mean that you actually had to deliver for a pretty substantial proportion of people.

When TV advertising became the main force for attracting voters, parties were free to focus on money only, so that a small ruling elite no longer has to deliver very much very far down the chain. You may not like us, but the other party is a huge threat! is the only necessary message.