Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yes We Did. Now We Must.

In the wake of the historic election of Barack Obama, America faces an opportunity to make drastic changes. Democrats hold strong majorities in both chambers of Congress in addition to the White House. By all indications, President−elect Obama is preparing to govern with strength, inclusion, and prudence. If he is able to make good on even half of his campaign promises, then there is real potential to change the “politics as usual” in Washington.

However, for this to come to fruition, we must remember Obama’s victory speech: “This election is not about me. It is about you.” These are words that we must remind ourselves constantly. After all, the vast activist base he built was perhaps the most important factor in Obama’s election. By engaging those previously unengaged, Obama built a movement that could bring change.

But if we’re to actually see change, we must remember that the movement is not over. The movement is larger than any one person or one event. If, after victory, all these new activists go home satisfied and return to the apathy that was prevalent in the pre−Bush era, then we will have accomplished the election of the first African−American President, but nothing else. If Obama had one common theme throughout his entire campaign, it was that the government is responsible to the people, but also that the people are responsible for the government. We elect officials to represent us, but our job is not over after the election. We must diligently demand that our officials are accurately representing our interests. Disengagement of the people breeds complacency in our politicians, and they focus more on themselves and less on the public interest. And as easy as it is to blame gridlock on the government, if the people are disengaged from the process, then we are just as at fault.

So we must stay vigilant. We must constantly hold our leaders accountable. We must constantly demand transparency. This hold true with Obama as well. He will not always be right on every issue. When he isn’t, it is our job to engage him and make our voices heard.

Democrats, we have only won the chance to show that our ideas will work and are in the best national interest, nothing else. Obama is only one man and he cannot magically solve all our problems. What he has done is given Americans the opportunity to make changes through him. Republicans, you must also stay engaged. Not all of our ideas are good, and not all of your ideas are bad. You are now the loyal opposition. If your ideas are the right ones, make the case persuasively and responsibly. Convince us that you are right. If you are right, the evidence will bear it out. Do not take this time to obstruct. Work with the majority to improve America. By no means roll over for the Administration, but engage it positively to accurately represent the interests of all Americans.

At the end of the day, if we are not working for change, it will not come. To place it all on the shoulders of one man, then we are abdicating our own responsibilities and we will have failed. If Obama must be seen as a messianic figure, let it not be because we believe he is The One who will usher in a golden age, but because he preaches activism and community service. This is how he should inspire us. In the end, we govern ourselves. And our work has just begun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Towards Liberal Foreign Policy Strategy

I have just finished reading Francis Fukuyama's America at the Crossroads:Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy. In it, he goes through the history of neoconservativism, explains why the movement failed when its members became the foreign policy elites, and lays out his vision for a US foreign policy strategy, taking the idealism of neoconservative and filtering it through a realistic vision of international institutions; that is, promoting democracy abroad, but using several different multilateral organizations as appropriate, rather than through unilateral action. He argues that the concept of a "benevolent hegemon" is fatally flawed, as shown through the mistakes made in the Iraq War, and that the US must use other tools to promote democracy abroad. Rather than focusing on military might, Fukuyama argues that the United States needs to build legitimate NGOs to downplay its dominance and mitigate any backlash against American power.

Fukuyama's book, along with Fareed Zakaria's Post American World, lay out a relatively coherent framework for a liberal foreign policy. I don't think either book gets talked about as much as they should, especially in liberal circles. There hasn't been a coherent foreign policy strategy from Democrats since Truman's policy of containment. Since then, particularly since Vietnam, Democrats have had foreign policy goals, but not a defined strategy. It is something that I would like to see Obama articulate more. This, I think, has been the major problem with the US since the end of the Cold War. There wasn't a sense of how the US should use its role as the only superpower. We waded through for ten years under Bush I and Clinton, and then experimented in neoconservativism and unilateralism under Bush II, which obviously didn't work for us. Democrats need to better articulate what we believe our goals for foreign policy should be and the best way to achieve these goals. This echos what Ezra Klein said yesterday about Democrats needing to spend less time thinking about good economic policies for the military and a little more time about war policy and a coherent liberal foreign policy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Small Town Girl

Apparently, the RNC has spent over $150,000 "to clothe and accessorize" Sarah Palin and her family. Andrew Sullivan: "$5 grand for hair styling and make-up? As Americans face a depression?"

My own two cents is that spending that much even though Americans are facing a depression isn't necessarily bad. In fact, it's probably better for the economy if those who can afford to spend money did so to keep some money flowing through the system. However, it would probably be better for McCain if she didn't do this a) while the campaign has made an issue of their opponent wanting to spend other people's money and b) she insinuated that being rich made you an elite and somehow evil. This makes it seem as though she isn't being truthful with the American people about who she really is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

McCain's Highlights

Yglesias lists them:
  • McCain spoke derisively of the idea of “spreading the wealth” — he doesn’t want the non-wealthy to get a piece of the action.
  • McCain scare-quoted “health” in the phrase “‘health’ of the mother,” and argued that concern for pregnant women’s health is an extreme position.
  • McCain dismissed the idea of wanting nuclear plants to be safe as somehow obviously absurd.

The Last Debate (Thankfully)

There wasn't a whole lot here that was new. The biggest thing that I came away from the debate and the early reactions on CNN.com was about McCain being on the offensive and Obama being on the defensive. I think this was one of the memes following the other two debates as well. And I agree. McCain most often was on the attack and Obama playing defense. But I think this is exactly what Obama wanted.

For starters, some pundits said that Obama had to be careful not to come across as an "angry black man." It's a lot easier to do that when your opponent is the one attacking or being angry. Obama just needed to keep his calm and let his opponent self destruct. But, and I think this is more important, the way that he responded to all of McCain's attacks gave the sense that he was an incumbent, taking on a challenger. McCain kept attacking on Obama's terms. Issue after issue, McCain would attack, looking for an opening, and often coming off as snarky or nasty, and then Obama could explain his position, authoratively, reasonably, and calmly.

This is what America saw for 270 minutes. A complete ropeadope strategy. And McCain kept playing into this, attacking Obama time and time again. It's not surprising that McCain's unfavorables have been so high and people believe he's running a much more negative campaign than Obama. Yes, he is airing many more negative ads. But McCain also was goaded into constantly playing the role of attack dog, making Obama appear much more reasonable and, ultimately, presidential.



Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No Blogging Today

Unless something major happens, I will not be blogging today. It is my father's birthday.

Happy 58th, Dad.