Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Real Rivalry In the Team: The Cabinet vs. The Campaign Promises

By David Sirota

Just as an add-on to my column this week, I wanted to add two more macro thoughts about Obama's appointments, and progressive unrest about those appointments.

First, I think there's a psychological aspect to what bothers progressives about Obama's refusal to appoint movement progressives to key positions. The
public opinion data overwhelmingly confirms that Obama won with a clear progressive mandate - to argue otherwise against cut-and-dry numbers is to mimic an ostrich shoving its head in the sand, or to mimic the Braindead Megaphone's insistence that this is a "center-right nation." Additionally, nobody argues that his victory wasn't the product of huge progressive grassroots support. So in light
of that, there's a perception that he's delivering the spoils of that victory to those who embody what the election rejected.

In that sense, there's a Rodney Dangerfield harrumph - we progressives get no respect. That's understandable, but we're going to have to keep our eye on the policy, understanding that personnel impacts policy, but isn't policy itself. And the policy is ultimately what defines true respect (and disrespect).

Second, the meaningless "pragmatic Team of Rivals" nonsense - and it
truly is media-created nonsense - is clearly being used as a rationale to pack the incoming administration with Establishment figures.

Indeed,the "rivalry" isn't between the "team" of appointees (most of them come from the same team - ie. the center-right team of permanent Washington). The "rivalry" is between the positions/ideology of the appointees and the positions/ideology Obama explicitly campaigned on.

It's certainly possible that Obama will not be affected at all by the voices he puts around him, and that -
as I wrote earlier - he is banking on getting center-right Establishment figures to carry center-left Establishment-challenging policy. We should withhold final judgment until we see the policies come January 2009 and beyond. We don't know that this conservatives-carrying-progressive-legislation strategy is his goal, but we can certainly hope, and we can additionally hope that he didn't appoint center-right Establishment figures to carry a center-right Establishment agenda.

That said, I think those who say that the latter isn't possible and that the only rationale thing to do is simply trust
Obama's "buck stops here" promise yesterday are being willfully stupid and dishonest - both to themselves and to those they are arguing with.

The truth is, we all want Obama to do well - but there's nothing
disloyal, silly or uniformed about looking at his appointments and asking why many of them seem to individually represent positions and ideologies at odds with the positions and ideologies he campaigned on.

It’s no accident that the conservative noise machine from
Karl Rove on down is praising Obama's appointments, and effectively creating that
rightward pull. If there isn't similar progressive pressure now, don't be
surprised if the debate - and thus the policy - starts slowly creeping



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