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Comment on ‘Conscience of a Liberal’ blog, (Paul Krugman, 01/16/2010)

January 16, 2010

In response to:

Conscience of a Liberal

New York Times | January 16, 2010

Well…at the risk of arguing politics with Charlie Cook AND economics with Paul Krugman, I think both of you have a somewhat quaint degree of faith in the American’s public’s ability to discern the finer points of policy and/or the length of their memory about policy debates. My personal sense is that Obama’s decline in popularity is a direct function of the degree to which he’s sat there while the Republicans have punk-slapped him all over Washington.

For better or worse (OK, for worse), most of us outside-the-beltway types — even us ‘wicked smaht’ types up here in Beantown — are as heavily influenced by the arc of the political process than we are by the eventual outcome. Whether we merely catch soundbites & headlines or tune in every Sunday morning to the talking heads on the round-tables, Americans are keenly attuned to the play of the game. As unfortunate as this is — and it’s something approaching tragic, but that’s a separate topic — the sympathies of the body politic are won or lost based on who seems to be scoring the most points. And the Republicans have kicked Obama’s kiester up & down Pennsylvania Avenue since the stimulus fight.

I think Obama’s core tactic of trying to stay above the fray has alienated both those on the political right, whose rageful ears are deaf to the finer points of policy and who in any case are desperate to delegitimize the very notion of collaborative effort (not to mention him personally), and the left, who feel deeply betrayed at having been denied anything even remotely resembling the kind of bloodletting that it would take to restore equilibrium after 8 years of psychic rape under Bush/Cheney.

To be clear, I’m neither advocating nor celebrating that political discourse in this country has taken on the character of the Roman Coliseum. But my preferences – and, more importantly, the preferences of the educated and principled class of which I’m a member – have nothing to do with it.  Through a combination of evaporating media standards, 30 years of the well-engineered sense of entitlement and victimization that Reagan left as his political legacy, and the chronic, stunning ineptitude of the leaders of the Democratic Party post-LBJ, we’re left with a country that only responds to charismatic leaders. What continues to puzzle – or perhaps “truly confound” is a better choice of words – me is that Obama was actually elected in large part based on his ability to stir passions. Would only that we had that guy in the White House….

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