[FoRK] No signal is signal

Jeff Bone jbone at place.org
Wed Aug 27 07:36:38 PDT 2008


Apropos Stephen's questioning about how I make the sausage, well,  
here's a slight muse about that.

The most alarming thing about the Democratic convention and about  
Obama is the complete lack of specificity about what the agenda  
actually *is*.  Even the friendly post has started to notice this:

   http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-na-assess27-2008aug27,0,1507532.story

I submit that sometimes no signal *is* in itself a signal.  Bush was  
accused of this in the 2000 campaign and, indeed, all historical  
evidence suggested that he was probably pretty middle of the road.   
(He governed in a bipartisan manner in Texas, worked across aisles to  
get things done, and had a 70% approval rating.)  Yet in hindsight it  
appears that there was a rather well-orchestrated attempt at that time  
to *not* talk about what appears to have been a well thought-out a  
priori agenda (for example, the immediate moves in office -wrt- the  
energy task force as well as certain immediate pieces of social  
conservative legislation, which had to have been drafted and  
coordinated with the incoming administration well ahead of taking  
office) for fear of "scaring" the moderate middle.

In Obama's case it's historically clear that he has presented himself  
as even less of a moderate than e.g. Bush did in his campaign, so the  
concern is that he may be disguising an even more extreme agenda than  
did Bush in the run-up to 2000.  Moderate and libertarian Obama  
advocates are fond of seizing on and mentioning such things as his  
"don't tax startups" comment and his selection of "economic advisers"  
as indications that Obama is going to be an economic moderate;  but  
for each of those things there are the occasional slips, such as the  
"economic justice" comments and others, that in my opinion bely his  
true nature:  FDR redux, the big-government liberal incarnate, the  
first of a new generation trying to resurrect old ideas.  And over it  
all the deafening silence where a more detailed agenda would otherwise  
be.

There are two possibilities:  first, that there is no well-formed  
agenda yet.  That seems quite unlikely, given that he's been prepping  
for this for most of his adult life, and working towards it in  
collaboration with certain central factions of the Democratic caucus  
since at least 2004.  The other possibility is that there is more of  
an agenda than they're letting on for fear that they'll spook the  
moderate middle.  The position papers and other offerings that have  
been put forth are striking in their minimalism.

And the backdrop to all of this is that the Democrats are likely to  
firmly hold both houses of Congress, so the trifecta --- the unchecked  
power to implement whatever they like --- is there, in their reach for  
the first time in a long time, and they've been slighted and  
undermined for years...  Do you really think the true believers, who  
are now the movers and shakers and motivators in that party, unlike  
under Clinton --- do you really think they're going to jeopardize  
their shot at the brass ring by *really* being up front about what  
they intend?

Weight your estimates accordingly.

$0.02,

jb



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