June 14, 2012

Morning Line: The price of not losing

Sam Smith - One of the reasons Obama isn't winning better is because he's so afraid of losing. Losing on the right issues in the right way is one of the great skills of politics. It helps to define one's difference with the opposition. It gives you something to talk about when you're running for reelection. It shows courage and integrity. But it's not very popular these days.

Obama is not alone in his fear of losing, but he is obsessed with winning even if what he wins bears little resemblance to what he should be winning. This is how the health care bill got so messed up: the good parts got buried in a mountain of compromises.

Compare Obama to Harry Truman. Truman had faced a Republican Congress, but this hadn't turned him into a quasi Republican. When he ran successfully for reelection - one of the great unexpected victories in American politics - he used his failures with Congress as a weapon. Here are some excerpts from just one of his campaign speeches;
Now, if you will remember, when President Roosevelt was down here, he ordered this aqueduct to be built because it was necessary to furnish water not only to this part of California, but to keep the naval works and airplane factories going that were in San Diego. The first thing the Republicans did, as soon as they got into office, was to try to sabotage that great project, but we succeeded in getting it restored; and the Democrats--are now working on a plan which we hope will increase the water supply to this part of the country.

You are interested in housing. The Republican Congress sabotaged the housing bill. That bill passed the Senate and went over to the House, and the Chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee and the Chairman of the Rules Committee prevented the House from voting on that measure. I am sure that the House, if it had been allowed to vote by the Republican leadership, would have passed that housing bill.

That bill was introduced nearly 3 years ago and it was called the Wagner-Ellender-Taft bill. It passed the Senate at that time and was defeated in the House. In the 80th Congress it was introduced again in 1947, and it was called the Taft-Ellender-Wagner bill. It passed the Senate, went over to the House, and Senator Taft himself helped to kill that bill--his own bill with his name on it.

That is customary with the present Congress and its leadership, and you want to bear in mind that if you send another Congress back there with a Republican tinge and a Republican majority, you will have the same old bunch of mossbacks in charge that are in charge now, and you won't get a thing.
Truman used the defeat of his legislation as an important weapon in the campaign. Obama can't because he has repeatedly given in.  He's not alone among politicians in this regard, but he's where showing some courage could have paid off big time by turning his losses against the Republicans.


Anonymous said...

I got nuthin.
so does He.

Anonymous said...

Sam, what on Earth makes you think Obama wants to score against the GOP?

You of all people should know how much of politicians' Sturm und Drang is pure, psychopathic theater meant only to keep us peasants bamboozled.

Anonymous said...

Gore Vidal wrote not too long ago (a few years ago) that the two major political parties were essentially the same political party. Therefore it becomes for voters to decide a simple question of which "wing" gets the spoils. Neither political party has represented the interests of the majority of the population, in fact, they have always represented the dominant economic social classes. It is true that from time to time the Democatic party over the last 100 years has been using language which appeals to the interests of the lower socio-economic classes, but this has simply been to create a hegemonic political block against the other block. Neverthe rless even in FDR's time as President neither the Party nor the elite put into question the political or the economic system. Conrad Black in his biography of FDR states the obvious -- FDR was not anti-establishment -- FDR was steadfast in his support. In fact the system itself was not in question, as Weber or Schumpeter might have put it, he was trying to rationalize the system to maintain its equilibrium.

Anonymous said...

Post-Buckley candidates can't be compared to predecessors who competed under democratic rules. The donors will ease up on funding Romney if they the decide he should lose. Our system is modeled on the USSR under the KGB.