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February 20, 2009


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I appreciate the effort you put into this post. Frankly, I was up half the night w/anxiety attacks after our email exchange.

One thing I think is you're expecting too much from people to get it or understand fully or whatever you want to call it - it strikes me that you expect total comprehension or clarity about the economic crisis and this just seems impossible to me. The housing bust is unprecedented in scope, few of us were alive for the Great Depression and we are not a country that prides itself on historical understanding, and the world is globalized in a far more intricate and slippery and amorphous way than ever before. We are living through unprecedented economic times, and I would think you'd cut people some slack for figuring it out more slowly. I concede you're right that there has been a conspicuous consumption that we really need to take responsibility for, but it's also true that there are real victims in the post-9/11-we-should-all-go-shopping world we've lived in for the last 8 years. I think it's important to recognize that. You may in your heart; unfortunately, I've missed that in your writing, certainly in part due to my own myopia.

That said, I am very wary of appeals to "fact" and "rationality". Not least because economics shows that there is an enormous behavioral effect or bias in our behaviors. We are not rational human beings. Also "facts" are socially constructed - we can really twist #s quite easily to make our logical cases. Finally, there is an implicit bias in what is rational or logical - the sensible white male authority figure, for instance. I mean, c'mon, you're a Pisces - how capable are you really of rational thought? LOL. :) But you know these arguments. This notion that we can set aside emotions and passions I think is one of the great lies of politics. Harnessing them for productive use, now that I think is worthy of debate.

Not to mention, that the entire dominance of the right for the last 3 decades has been on emotional appeals via carefully design imagery backed up by dubious number crunching. The appeal to white ethnic racial antipathy, the welfare queen, etc. They may be in shambles now, but the cuts to HUD Reagan was able to make, the 1996 welfare reform, these laws and their impacts live on - and they were passed on the waves of resentment and polarization that began under Nixon and flourished under Reagan. People love and hate Obama's admiration of Reagan because this is what he admires about him. I agree with you that Clinton made Obama a stronger candidate during the campaign, but he won based on his emotional appeals to young people and then Democratic Party loyalty. I.e, I don't see her influence as having much of an effect, except perhaps in the debates.

I also agree he's been a disappointment - he's a left-centrist incrementalist, Bill Clinton 2.0, and Clinton came into office more boldly than Obama. I liked HRC somewhat like you did - because I thought she was best equipped to clean up after Bush, she would have been bolder and more aggressive and more proactive, I think. But Obama's what we've got. So I want to understand them and see what we can do with them. There, you and I part company.

Finally, I think there's an important role for activism and movement-building like ACORN plays, for example, and capitalizing on emotionalism is key. Then there's an important role to play in influencing policy design and adoption. Then there's implementation and evaluation. It all goes hand in hand, as part of a system, or a process. I think you and I sit at different places in that process - that's really the conclusion I've come to in our debates. And I guess I've been wondering who exactly is your audience. It's not activists. Is it the general public? Policy wonks? Bureaucrats? This would help me, as one of your most loyal and steadfast readers.

Our Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008 habe brought with them, I think, the emotional satisfaction that comes with winning

Perhaps for some. The primary and the unflattering spotlight it put on Democratic party (thinking misogyny, class warfare, and disenfranchisment here) left a very sour taste for me, one I still haven't quite shaken. Very little jubilation when the winner was someone that, for whatever reason, praised Reagan while demonizing both Clintons.

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