Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I'm mostly with Krugman. "Meh". Not bad as speeches go, but if there's one thing we've learned about this president, it's that you can't ever assume that his speeches really MEAN much. He'll talk about something, but he won't ever go to the wall for it.

What struck me about it, mostly, is how the Overton effect is holding sway. The country has swung to the right, and it's swung to the right mostly because of a president that—like Clinton—is triangulating between his own quite moderate positions and wherever the Republicans happen to be. We know for a fact, now, that the Republicans opposed him because they wanted to deny him the imprimatur of "bipartisanship" that he so desperately craved, and reaped the reward of a president that hurtled rightward in the vain attempt to bring them on board. He, and the American media, were quick to pay close attention to every right-wing nutball while ignoring anything progressives had to say.

(I mean, for God's sake, they actually gave television time to the Tea Partiers through Bachmann. She's an idiot, and her "movement" cost the Republicans seats. They don't deserve a bully pulpit, but damned if they weren't given one.)

How on earth could the country NOT move to the right in that sort of environment? Same thing happened in Imperial Japan: leftist voices were ruthlessly suppressed, so anybody who wasn't happy with the status quo had little choice but to move rightward. The "center" of the discourse moves rightward and, well, here we are.

Yes, yes, there was some stuff about public investment in the speech. Whoopie. Bush talked about Mars, too, but nothing ever came of that. This is clearly going to be the Democrats' starting point, not the final destination. The Republicans are going to carve up anything that even remotely smacks of public investment. Nothing like the high-speed rail and Internet access is going to happen while they control the House.

Sure, Obama and the Senate Dems are going to shake their heads sorrowfully, in order to try to keep us "pinkos" complacent. But, rest assured, they'll go along with it in the spirit of the only sort of "bipartisanship" that the Republicans accept: Democrats doing whatever the hell the Republicans tell them to do.

And, rest assured, when it happens, you'll have Jonathan Chait and Ed Kilgore babbling about how smart they are, about how America is "center-right", and a whole bunch of other things that really boil down to "I wish the progressives who question my knee-jerk center-right opinions would just go away."

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