Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« If Last Night's Project Runway... | Wanna Go Bowling This Weekend? »

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Ultimate Obama Irony. In a Good Way.

posted by on January 10 at 11:52 AM

The GOP has been successfully hitting the Democrats from the same corner for 30 years: Tapping the reservoir of populist anger about the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Everyone from backlash Reagan to anti-govenment Gingrich to warmongering Bush II has relied on attacking and ridiculing the Democratic Party for its anti-war, bleeding heart elitism—all stereotypes that come from the fact that the Democrats were aligned with and driven by the liberal causes of the 1960s and early ’70s, most notably the civil rights movement.

Bill Clinton tried to clean up the Democrats’ image with his DLC centrism (and homespun charm), and he won two presidential elections doing just that. But, tellingly, the most lasting political moment from the Clinton era is actually Republican Newt Gingrich’s populist revolution against “big government.” Even when Clinton was president, his administration was plagued by its association with ’60s/’70s social engineering. Indeed, Gingrich’s revolution was sold as a “Contract with America.” Get it? The liberals in power weren’t Americans, they were those anti-American hippies (still).

In steps Barack Obama, who actually seems capable of redefining the Democratic Party. Whether his rhetoric is substantive or not doesn’t matter. (Judging from the guy’s record, he’s a flaming SDS liberal.) But no worry, his “We shall transcend” frame has voters believing that the ’60s are dead. Check this quote Sarah Mirk got from Alec Schierenbeck, head of the Iowa College Democrats, after Obama’s caucus victory.

Schierenbeck says. “When Obama talks about politics, it doesn’t sound like politics is a fight between people who did and did not burn their draft cards in the ’60s.”

Obama has found the answer to the GOP’s endlessly effective battle plan. Rather than trying to defend the liberal frame or do defensive somersaults to explain why liberal policies are actually better for America, Obama speaks in sweeping rhetoric that makes all that irrelevant. The GOP will be left snarling at an old foe, while the rest of the country has moved on with Barack Obama. Nicely played, if he can pull it off.

The irony: The whole root of the GOP’s “liberal bogeyman” frame that has dogged the Democrats for 30 years is the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement, with its elitist court rulings and enforced desegregation and forced busing and bratty northern college kids (who would grow up to be the Bill Clinton administration), was about equal opportunity for blacks.

There isn’t a bigger symbol of equal opportunity for blacks than a mainstream, black frontrunner for president.

In a way, it would be the ultimate fucking burn on the GOP if they got caught (still) fighting their coded battle against the fallout from the 1960s, while the practical result of the great gains of the 1960s—a successful black man—became president.

Barack Obama was born in 1961. 1961 was the turning point in the civil rights movement. It was the year of the Freedom Rides—when hundreds of white kids joined forces with black kids to challenge the segregated South by riding Grayhound and Trailways buses into Jim Crow turf. The Freedom Ride movement kicked off everything that was to come in the ’60s.

RSS icon Comments


Maybe you should try reading the article again. Schierenbeck is head of the Iowa College Democrats.

Posted by Lonis | January 10, 2008 11:57 AM

Josh, really, how dare you write this sheepish and pathetic statement:

Whether his rhetoric is substantive or not doesn’t matter.

Posted by raindrop | January 10, 2008 12:01 PM


Whooops. Sorry. Fixed it. Good thing I didn't botch that in the edit of the actual article, Schierenbeck would have sued me for libel!

Posted by Josh Feit | January 10, 2008 12:04 PM

I think this one of the (perhaps less rational) reasons I like Obama: I am, like many, sick to fucking death of fighting the same Boomer fights they all can't help but keep alive decades later. Between the reactionary love-it-or-leave it types who still spin bullshit tales of spitting on soldiers and the self-absorbed radicals for whom it will forever be 1968, no matter what ... it's just unbearable. Send them all off to the retirement home, please, where they can scream about Vietnam and poke at each other with their canes and walkers, and let the rest of the country move on.

Posted by tsm | January 10, 2008 12:06 PM

#4 tooooooooooooooooootally. it's as though like the last 40 years never happened. except now instead of burning your bra, you vote for hillary.

Posted by brandon | January 10, 2008 12:14 PM

I totally agree with you.

I just don't get Clinton supporters, to be honest. She's *not* liberal, she's *not* feminist, and while electing her would be a good symbol, that's all that she would really be. A symbol.

I'd much rather someone in the office that wouldn't make it impossible to come to an agreement with conservatives so that we can actually (gasp!) run this fucking country. Watching right-wingers have a collective conniption would be really, really fun, but if pissing off the right is the only goal for left-wing politics now, our country really has no hope.

Posted by bma | January 10, 2008 12:15 PM

Whether his rhetoric is substantive or not doesn’t matter. (Judging from the guy’s record, he’s a flaming SDS liberal.) But no worry, his “We shall transcend” frame has voters believing that the ’60s are dead.

josh, as a writer, you should understand that a parenthetical is meant to indicate a sentence which could be safely left out of a paragraph without affecting the coherence of your argument. if we took out the parenthetical here, you would be saying ..."[blah blah] doesn't matter. but no worry." so, just don't use the parenthesis on the 2nd sentence, and it all works.

Posted by ellarosa | January 10, 2008 12:16 PM

You can should be able to logically and grammatically leave out parenthetical remarks. But not necessarily truthfully. The whole point of a parenthetical aside is because the remark is vital in order to be truthful, much more than merely logical and grammatical. If your aside isn't necessary to convey the full truth, then just delete it altogether.

(I want to mention that I, too, really want to hear the last boomer arguments.)

Posted by elenchos | January 10, 2008 12:33 PM

Josh, is it possible that affinity to Hillary is driven by your nostalgia for that era?

I'm not a die-hard Obama fan, but I think that one of the things that's more attractive about Obama (and Edwards) for a lot of voters is that he seems to be stealing populism back for the Democratic Party. The Republicans have co-opted it, and younger voters want it back.

Posted by Gidge | January 10, 2008 12:36 PM

9, my quibble was with the unnecessary and inappropriate use of the parenthesis, not with the sentence itself.

and i think even some of the boomers are sick of the boomer arguments.

Posted by ellarosa | January 10, 2008 12:39 PM

I disagree. Judging from IA and NH voters, Obama winning the Dem nomination may be a case of the young, elite, urban professional wing of the Dem party beating the old, blue collar, union wing of the Dem party. That is, verification of what the Republicans have been saying all along (even back when it wasn't true).

Posted by CG | January 10, 2008 12:39 PM

i'm just baffled by the idea that voting for the establishment candidate is an act of radical feminism.

Posted by brandon | January 10, 2008 12:43 PM

I have been making the Hillary-as-Pick-Up-Truck-Crowd-Vote for a year now. So, I'm with you on that.

And yes, the exit polls confirm that he's the elitist and she's the working classer. Again, that's why I've been for her.

But that might be a losing battle (I don't think she can beat a Republican in the counties she won in Iowa.)

So, perhaps it's time for us HRC fans to go with the Obama-mo. Just thinking out loud on Slog.

Posted by Josh Feit | January 10, 2008 12:45 PM

Did that many soldiers really get spit on when they came back from Vietnam? I think their chief experience with the public upon returning was that of indifference, much like what happens today.

Posted by laterite | January 10, 2008 12:47 PM

@4, @6 - good points.

The thing is, although most of the MSM doesn't get it yet, 20th Century politics and 20th Century politicians just don't fly anymore.

We've moved on.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 10, 2008 12:47 PM

re 13 Josh, say it ain't so!!!

So because Obama is a rhetorical force that countreacts the fact that he's now said in two debates that he'd pre-emptively attack Pakistan?

Posted by arduous | January 10, 2008 12:51 PM

Interesting analysis Josh.

I just dropped Hillary a big check but I am prepared to jump onto the Barack bandwagon and pretend I was always riding it if that is the way things shake out in the next month.

Posted by Mrs. Y | January 10, 2008 12:52 PM

i readd this same analysis in the december issue of the atlantic. except it was insightful and enjoyable to read.


The logic behind the candidacy of Barack Obama is not, in the end, about Barack Obama. It has little to do with his policy proposals, which are very close to his Democratic rivals’ and which, with a few exceptions, exist firmly within the conventions of our politics. It has little to do with Obama’s considerable skills as a conciliator, legislator, or even thinker. It has even less to do with his ideological pedigree or legal background or rhetorical skills. Yes, as the many profiles prove, he has considerable intelligence and not a little guile. But so do others, not least his formidably polished and practiced opponent Senator Hillary Clinton.

Obama, moreover, is no saint. He has flaws and tics: Often tired, sometimes crabby, intermittently solipsistic, he’s a surprisingly uneven campaigner.

A soaring rhetorical flourish one day is undercut by a lackluster debate performance the next. He is certainly not without self-regard. He has more experience in public life than his opponents want to acknowledge, but he has not spent much time in Washington and has never run a business. His lean physique, close-cropped hair, and stick-out ears can give the impression of a slightly pushy undergraduate. You can see why many of his friends and admirers have urged him to wait his turn. He could be president in five or nine years’ time—why the rush?

But he knows, and privately acknowledges, that the fundamental point of his candidacy is that it is happening now. In politics, timing matters. And the most persuasive case for Obama has less to do with him than with the moment he is meeting. The moment has been a long time coming, and it is the result of a confluence of events, from one traumatizing war in Southeast Asia to another in the most fractious country in the Middle East. The legacy is a cultural climate that stultifies our politics and corrupts our discourse.

Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America—finally—past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly—and uncomfortably—at you.

At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.


it's a good read.

Posted by some dude | January 10, 2008 12:54 PM

I think that's one reason she did so well in NH, too. She attracted a lot of blue collar votes that Edwards was courting, boosting her numbers above the polls. Obama got his expected student and yuppie vote, so no surprises there.

The real negative for Obama is his followers, and yes, that's the right word for it. Many of them are cultish, and they respond strongly to his deliberately messianic vision. It's all about emotion and symbolism, and the real people who are hurting in this country and around the world are forgotten. I'm probably more liberal than 99% of Sloggers, but I just can't get behind Obama despite his generally good voting record. If he does win, he's going to have to do something to assuage the concerns of people like me. I think he needs a populist VP with working class appeal. Edwards might not want that job and there are probably better choices, but I hope that his campaign ensures that whomever wins the nomination does not ignore the people without college degrees and fancy suburban homes.

Posted by Cascadian | January 10, 2008 12:55 PM

I lean toward Clinton, as any dutiful Slog comment reader knows. But the larger social trends at work here that Josh details are powerful things. If Obama makes it through the vetting process--which will now actually take place after Clinton's victory in NH-- and wins the nomination, I'll happily stand by him to see this historical arc come to fruition. And, of course, to keep the right-wing fucktards out of the White House.

Posted by Matthew | January 10, 2008 12:57 PM

from the same article, there is a good bit about why clinton has an authenticity problem:

A generational divide also separates Clinton and Obama with respect to domestic politics. Clinton grew up saturated in the conflict that still defines American politics. As a liberal, she has spent years in a defensive crouch against triumphant post-Reagan conservatism. The mau-mauing that greeted her health-care plan and the endless nightmares of her husband’s scandals drove her deeper into her political bunker. Her liberalism is warped by what you might call a Political Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Reagan spooked people on the left, especially those, like Clinton, who were interested primarily in winning power. She has internalized what most Democrats of her generation have internalized: They suspect that the majority is not with them, and so some quotient of discretion, fear, or plain deception is required if they are to advance their objectives. And so the less-adept ones seem deceptive, and the more-practiced ones, like Clinton, exhibit the plastic-ness and inauthenticity that still plague her candidacy. She’s hiding her true feelings. We know it, she knows we know it, and there is no way out of it.

Obama, simply by virtue of when he was born, is free of this defensiveness. Strictly speaking, he is at the tail end of the Boomer generation. But he is not of it.

Posted by some dude | January 10, 2008 1:02 PM

Brandon @ 12 is absolutely right.

Hillary Clinton is the ultimate establishment candidate. The idea that she could actually bring about change to the system when she *IS* the system is total insanity.

In case no one’s noticed, she and Bill are running the same campaign that George W. Bush ran in 2000: A phony appeal to a return to better times which never actually existed.

Posted by Original Andrew | January 10, 2008 1:07 PM

Yes, worst generation ever. If only the ice floes weren't disappearing, we could just send them out to sea. They didn't do shit and the country would have been better without all those stupid protests about minorities, women and a war we could have won. The idea that US hegemony isn't a given (remember the Monroe Doctrine and the Alamo) should never have been thought much less spoken.

How can a generation that doesn't understand

html or how to text while driving

be of any relevance?

Posted by whatever | January 10, 2008 1:09 PM


Original Andrew, this to me is one of the most frustrating things about Obama supporters. I swear to you, I have done everything I can to get excited about Obama. I had my picture taken with the guy for pete's sake! I've heard him speak, I've looked at his policies. I've listened to Obama-ites talk.

And ultimately, what I get is, Hillary is "establishment," and Obama is "for change."

I have heard these words so often that they have ceased to mean anything to me. Aren't they ... both ... in the establishment? (Which, what the hell is that anyway?) Is establishment just people you don't like? Is it lobbyists, who they are both guilty of pandering to? (Why does Obama support ethanol if not because of the corn lobby?)Isn't the United States Senate one of the most austere examples of "establishment" there is in politics? And frankly, what the hell is the problem with establishment? Do you want Joe Schmoe from Schmoeville to be president because he had a few good ideas? And, even if you can make a case that Obama isn't establishment, is he going to remain unsullied by establishment past 90 days in office? Remember, Bill Clinton was the "un-establishment" candidate and he made a disaster of his first 100 days in office because he didn't know what the eff he was doing and didn't know who to turn to. By contrast, when he was "establishment" in his second term, even Lewinsky and impeachment couldn't keep him from being exceedingly popular and getting stuff accomplished.

And secondly, Obama is for change. What kind of change? Gay marriage change? No. Single payer health insurance change? No. So ... what kind of change again? The kind of change that any democrat will be after 8 years of Republicans in the White House? Right. THAT kind of change.

Can someone please give me REAL reasons to get excited about Obama? Real, concrete reasons? Because I have a terrible fear that he's going to be our nominee, and I need something to make me okay with that.

Posted by arduous | January 10, 2008 1:35 PM

This mostly sums up why I support Obama. Clinton supporters say he's all empty rhetoric, but they are forgetting that he's in the business of politics. Politics isn't just about having good ideas, its about selling those ideas. Hillary Clinton cannot do this. If she is the candidate, even if she wins the general, she will pitch the Republicans and many independents too into anti-liberal (anti-hippie) attack mode. They will fight her to the death at every turn, and might win (Hillarycare anyone?). Obama on the other hand has the same thing Reagan, JFK, and FDR had: the ability to bring people in who might not otherwise agree with his politics. He can sell a solidly liberal agenda to the American public. So yes, Clintonites, rhetoric does matter in this game called politics.

Posted by matt | January 10, 2008 1:39 PM

One of the big reasons I like Obama so much is just what Josh mentioned: Dammit, I'm 27, not 40-something. I'm tired of watching battles played out in national politics over something that happened years before I was born. Obama's choice to not refer back to the 60s, directly or indirectly, pulls the rug out from under GOP "back in the good old days" rhetoric. The simple fact that the 60s were 40 damn years ago seems to escape a lot of people in politics.

That was then, this is now. In order to get my vote you have to remember that I grew up in the 80s and not the 60s. I didn't live through Vietnam or the civil rights movement-- they've always been history to me and my generation. While we can appreciate what happened, we can't identify with people who base all their politics off of reactions to a ten-year period, because it didn't affect me the way it did my parents.

Posted by Jessica | January 10, 2008 1:42 PM

@23 - I don't discount the progress made by civil rights marches and the like. But now I'd like to fight the battles of 2008, not 1968. Consider, for example, the 2004 campaign: we had one candidate who ran largely on his Vietnam service, and another candidate who campaigned largely by undermining his opponent's Vietnam service (if only through proxies). Isn't about time we moved beyond this kind of shit, for Chrissake?

Posted by tsm | January 10, 2008 1:44 PM

I think you're too tied to the civil rights movement, Josh. The sixties divide WASN'T primarly about the civil rights movement (which was originally a fifties and in some ways a forties movement). It was about Vietnam. And more particularly, it was about HOW you were against the Vietnam War.

The Hippies liked to cover themselves in civil rights glory, but their primary motivation was Vietnam. Jerry Rubin and all those other assholes tried to levitate the Pentagon, not the HUD offices. And, from the conservative perspective, it's the Vietnam War protesters who were anti-American, not civil rights protesters.

The original civil rights movement, up to and including King, was serious, sober, and suit-and-tied. And no conservative today can go very long without according it the deepest respect, hopefully getting a little of it to rub off on him. See Mitt Romney's attempts to bring King into his own family (and his father, whether he marched or not, did in fact have some legitimate civil rights credentials that his son lacks).

But you will NEVER hear a conservative say a good word about the hippies. Not the original Vietnam protests, with priests and nuns at the front of the crowd, but the crazy longhairs of Woodstock, Chicago '68, and Manson (all one group, according to boomer conservatives). Note that hippies didn't actually have a very good track record on race (or gender). But they sure made a lot of noise about overthrowing society; this cannot be denied. They really did act like revolutionaries. And a lot of stupid white hippies (the kind who got into the news) actually supported groups like the Weathermen.

The political hippies (as opposed to the Grateful Dead pure hedonists) were motivated originally by Vietnam. Vietnam, and the hopeless response to it by both the Democratic establishment and the Old Left, was the major factor in creating the New Left.

And frankly the boomer conservatives' criticisms of hippiedom mostly ring true today. They WERE stupid and counterproductive. Anti-American antiwar protesters got Nixon elected twice and prolonged the war. Burning flags, taking drugs, and the antics of idiots like John Sinclair and the Black Panther Party (who were not seriously part of any civil rights movement) were incredibly damaging to the country and to mainstream liberalism. THAT'S what boomer conservatives get boiling angry about.

Of course, now it's just rank symbolism. Both the boomer conservatives and boomer liberals have agreed to pretend that hippies were what the sixties was all about. The liberals point to the civil rights movement -- which they had nothing to do with -- and the Vietnam War protests -- which prolonged the war -- as if they were their own special achievements. But of course, in the REAL sixties, almost all young people had short hair, went to school or jobs, and limited their radicalism to making out in their parents' Ford. And conservatives point to flag burning and getting naked in the streets and bombing bank branches as if that was a significant part of most people's lives.

Both sides are self-aggrandizing liars. That's why a lot of people today just don't give a shit about Woodstock, MAAAAN, and are interested in twenty-first century solutions to twenty-first century problems, not whether somebody went on a bus ride to Mississippi or not, smoked a joint at a Dead concert or not, burned their bra or not back in the day. It's ancient history to them.

But the boomers -- the liberals and the conservatives both -- will never, ever, ever let the battle go. Even though most of them never actually did fuck-all in the actual sixties.

Posted by Fnarf | January 10, 2008 1:50 PM

@ 25 So, the point is simply, we should support Obama because he's a better salesman?

I mean, that's a totally valid reason for you to support Obama, I guess, but it doesn't make me feel any better about the guy. :) Especially because, in the end, I feel like he's a good salesman, but he's kind of like the door to door salesman that hasn't really learnt the route yet? He's really enthusiastic, and eager, and people sure like him, but I'm not sure he has the political where with all yet to seal the deal and MAKE the sale.

Remember, Bill Clinton was a good orator. But, he was also, like Obama, the "anti-establishment" candidate. And in his first term, he proved no match for the republicans. Reagan was the governor of California before he became president. He had a huge amount of experience. JFK's presidency was uplifting but in terms of getting stuff done, it was a little bit of a disaster. Remember it was LBJ, the experienced politician, who got the Civil Rights Act accomplished after JFK was assassinated. And FDR was governor of NY.

I think Obama will get there. I think a lot of his policy positions come from naivete (like his willingness to pre-emptively attack Pakistan or his obvious coal and corn lobby pandering.) I think in 8 years, he could be one of the greatest presidents in history. But right now? I just don't think he's crafty enough and savvy enough to get crap done with Republicans in office who will do whatever it takes to stymie you at every move. Even if the public really likes you and the polls support you. The Republicans don't care. Remember, they were willing to impeach Clinton even though the public was against it.

Posted by arduous | January 10, 2008 1:54 PM

And frankly, what the hell is the problem with establishment?

You're right, I think we should reward the faction of the Democratic party that has done such a good job building a stronger, principled party the past 10 years. i can't think of anything they could have done better, so they have earned my full support.

Posted by some dude | January 10, 2008 2:03 PM

Bring back Estes Kefauver!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | January 10, 2008 2:05 PM


MAYBE Obama can't make the sale, but I think he has a much better shot than Clinton. We have to ask ourselves how a Hillary Clinton campaign and presidency would play out. 45% of Americans have said they will not vote for her under any circumstances. Republicans despise her, indies don't like her. She arouses strong feelings of apathy in young voters. If we nominate her, we're basically looking at a 50% plus one strategy for victory. Expect the malaise you see on the Republican side to evaporate overnight. Expect their campaign contributions to pour in. How will Hillary respond? She has to go to the center. Even now she refuses to say her Iraq vote was a mistake. IF she wins against McCain or Huckabee, a considerable IF considering A: they are two likable candidates who will coop Obama's role as outsider alternatives to Bush/Clinton and B: Iraq is likely to continue to stabilize over the next 8 months, if she wins what happens then? Will we see another Republican backlash in two or four or eight years as people grow tired of Bush/Clinton round four? Given the ingrained dislike of her it seems inevitable to me. I think if we nominate Obama we have a chance to usher in a new Democratic era, not just get our temporary payback for Bush.

Posted by matt | January 10, 2008 2:28 PM


So basically if we nominate Hillary we're looking at the same old 50%+1, triangulation, hope the voters don't notice how liberal you are strategy that has been losing the Democrats elections for the last 30 years.

Posted by matt | January 10, 2008 2:33 PM

@ 32, but my argument for voting for Clinton has to do with her policies that I like better. You're argument for Obama is he's a good salesman. I personally think both of them will have an uphill battle with Republicans. So given that it's going to be tough, if not impossible, for either to make the sale, shouldn't we be looking at their policies?

Posted by arduous | January 10, 2008 2:43 PM

“Democrats were aligned with and driven by the liberal causes of the 1960s and early ’70s, most notably the civil rights movement”

Josh… Nice attempt at perpetuating a revisionist view of history. The Republicans were much stronger supporters of civil rights than the Democrats in the 60s as evidenced by the passage of the Voter Rights Act of 1965. Here is how the votes went:

Senate Democrats 73% for 27% against
Senate Republicans 94% for 6% against

House Democrats 78% for 22% against
House Republicans 82% for 18% against

Conference Report:

Senate Democrats 74% for 26% against
Senate Republicans 97% for 3% against

House Democrats 80% for 20% against
House Republicans 85% for 15% against

This “alignment” and “drive” are a contemporary revisionist myth.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 10, 2008 2:51 PM


So given that it's going to be tough, if not impossible, for either to make the sale, shouldn't we be looking at their policies?

I think this highlights a problem with Hillary and others in the Democratic party. The "Republican Era" from Reagan to Gingrich to Bush has convinced many liberals that the American people aren't with them, and that liberal policies won't sell. You are wrong on this. The health care crisis, Iraq, and economic concerns have left the American people doubting conservatism. The right politician can convince people that liberal policies are in their best interest, rather than convince them that they aren't really a liberal.

Posted by matt | January 10, 2008 2:56 PM

Interesting as far as it goes, but the biggest single scar festering on the reptilian brains of the GOP thugs such as Gingrich is the Nixon resignation. They are all basically crooks who believe that it is their inalienable right to manipulate the Federal government to steal unimaginable billions in tax dollars, and when their chief crook got caught and was forced out in disgrace, they NEVER forgot it.

Posted by MarkyMark | January 10, 2008 3:05 PM


Posted by Mr. Poe | January 10, 2008 3:10 PM

@29: arduous, I completely respect your desire for concrete policy proposals, but Clinton has the exact same clean-coal policy as Obama ("Supports coal-to-liquid fuels if they emit 20% less carbon over their lifecycle than conventional fuels"), and Obama has been more specific than Edwards in specifying that cellulosic ethanol should be preferred over corn-based ethanol:

Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol: Obama will invest federal resources, including tax incentives, cash prizes and government contracts into developing the most promising technologies with the goal of getting the first two billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol into the system by 2013.

And from his published energy policy:

Corn ethanol is the most successful alternative fuel commercially available in the U.S. today, and we should fight the efforts of big oil and big agri-business to undermine this emerging industry. But it represents only a drop in the bucket of our energy demands and making ethanol from corn has some significant limitations. Today we produce about 5 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol per year while we use about 140 billion gallons of gasoline. Even if we are able to double—or even triple—production of ethanol from corn this will still offset only about 10 percent of our gasoline demand. There are also real concerns about bringing set aside lands into corn production as well as concerns about an increase in the use of pesticides, water use and upward pressure on the cost of food for people and livestock alike.

That doesn't quite sound like pandering to the corn lobby to me, though of course all the candidates had to make motions in that direction because Iowa is so important.

And for what it's worth, Obama is not talking about bombing Islamabad. He's talking very specifically about the tribal areas that have proven impermeable to government influence.

Posted by annie | January 10, 2008 3:43 PM


The reason Rs outweigh Ds on those particular votes is because Southern Ds were not with the rest of their party on this. And that's why the Ds, who once had a lock on the South, have lost the South. Where'd those Southern D voters go? ... to the more conservative REPUBLICANS...who sold themselves as the antidote to the meddling big gov Ds.

The rest of the country was with the civil rights bills at that point, in a large part because of the great media coverage (images) from Birmingham and Selma. The voting act of '65 was in fact passed in the wake of the Pettus Bridge police riot against civil rights marchers. It was also, a D president, LBJ, who signed the bill and gave the famous speech on TV in the run up to the bill, where he culled MLK's "We Shall Overcome" phrase.... pissing off his former Southern D allies. LBJ was from Texas.

But you take me too literally when I say the Dems are associated with the civil rights cause. I'm saying, the Dems are associated with the cultural revolution of the sixties that grew out of the civil rights movement. While the GOP was nominating law and order Nixon in '68, the Dems were splintering as the left tried for an insurgency. Next came McGovern, Chisolm etc..

If you're attempting to argue that the Democrats are not associated with being the conduit for the counter culture into the political agenda, you need to go read your 60s and 70s history. Dems FM. GOP AM.

Posted by Josh Feit | January 10, 2008 3:45 PM

I'm arguing that the counterculture does not have its roots in the civil rights movement, but in the antiwar movement (and hippies generally). The counterculture played very little role in civil rights, though they have ceaselessly taken credit for it since then.

Posted by Fnarf | January 10, 2008 4:12 PM


Way off base. The overlap between SNCC (civil rights) into Berkley Free Speech Movement and SDS kids, and on into anti-war is well documented.

Additionally, the initial tactics of the anti-war student left was culled from civil rights movement (particularly the youth-oriented SNCC).

And the early civil rights movement leaders? Those black kids were kooky precursor hippies. Taylor Branch's write ups of the early Diane Nash, John Lewis days are a snap shot of burgeoning counterculture.

Freedom Summer '64, when white kids headed down to Mississippi. Those kids were the beginnings of the hippie movement...and were radicalized by that experience and took it back to the burgeoning anti-war movement.

Yes, the anti-war left is a big factor in its own right when it comes to impacting the Democratic Party, but the civil rights movement is the starting point.

Posted by Josh Feit | January 10, 2008 4:34 PM

"(Obama) actually seems capable of redefining the Democratic Party"

are you fucking kidding me? LOL

Posted by stu | January 10, 2008 4:36 PM

Lets all concede for a moment that politics is neither fair nor logical.

When the average American listens to Obama they hear a man who they believe passionately loves his country. Obama's engaging rhetoric can do what the years of desperate appeal to reason have been unable to do: demolish that evil lie created by the Roves, Limbaughs, O'Reillys, and Bushes of this country that the Democratic Party is the anti-American party.

Posted by matt | January 10, 2008 4:52 PM

Yeah, it's like totally awesome when the rapidly dwindling middle class says "we hate hippies and negroes and homos, so we're gonna slit our own economic throats and vote Republican! That'll show 'em!"

Good times.

Posted by Original Andrew | January 10, 2008 4:55 PM

Oh wow, great post. I read it a couple times just to make sure I soaked it all up

Posted by Travis | January 10, 2008 5:45 PM

Oh, those long haired hippies and their pro sodomy lifestyles, when white girls had the same morals of the fags on Capital Hill! Good thing the Republican Revolution came along and put an end to that.

Posted by . . . . | January 10, 2008 5:46 PM

The hippie precursors were the Beats, not the civil rights people, and had no politics. The hippie movement was as white as punk was, whiter, maybe. Sure, there was overlap, but by the time of Chicago '68 there was no trace of civil rights left in the counterculture. Sex, drugs, underground rock, anti-war, and radical left politics. The war is what broke the left off of LBJ -- civil rights hero, Vietnam goat. After King was assassinated, white suburban hippies never gave black civil rights another thought, except in the most trivial, symbolic way -- and from a distance.

Posted by Fnarf | January 10, 2008 6:17 PM

Argh, trying my very best not to sucked into just the kind of debate lamented by Fnarf @ 28, but I can't stop myself...

I think half of what Fnarf said there was more or less accurate, which means that about half was more or less inaccurate.

Josh @ 42 is largely correct. Virtually all of the folks who became identified as leaders of the very early anti-war movement did tours of duty in the south working in the civil rights movement.

The meeting at Port Huron where the old Student League for Industrial Democracy renamed itself Students for a Democratic Society was attended by folks fresh from the south and served as a recruiting place for folks to go there. If memory serves,Bob Dylan was also there.

The overlap between the early political and cultural countercultures was huge. Tons of things were all happening at the same time in many different parts of the country. Trying to separate them into discrete strands is virtually impossible.

Posted by gnossos | January 10, 2008 6:23 PM

Fnarf @48. Yes, you are right that hippies were born out of the Beats. And yes, you are correct that after '68 the driving force for the left was the war (that, in turn, driven by the fear of being drafted). But what you overlook is the internal diversity up to that point. The common joke back then was are you San Fran or Berkeley? Are you east coast or west coast? To a large extent the left (Berkeley/east coast) got swallowed up or overrun by the counterculture (San Fran/west coast).

Posted by gnossos | January 10, 2008 6:32 PM

I'm five years younger than Obama, but here's why I'm not tired of the Boomer battles:

some folks want to roll it all back. They are still angry about civil rights, Vietnam, and Watergate. A great many of them are just livid that we didn't _win_ in Vietnam, and that certain people and/or the little people meddled in that process.

If you're not seeing any parallels with foreign misadventures or executive branch lawlessness today... yeesh.

If you're wiling to give up everything that was fought for (or, what shards are left), sure, pretend it's all ancient history. It sure doesn't seem to be ancient for Dick Cheney and his flying monkeys, and they're not all going to retire or die next year, and they've whipped up younger generations of flying Freeper monkeys into a froth over it.

As for the spitting on the returning vets, the original commenter here did preface it with the adjective "bullshit." It's an article of faith now that there were thousands of hippies at every airport and even somehow on military installation gobbing on returning troops.

Last I heard, though, no contemporary news report documenting such an event has been found in the archives. (Liberal librarian bias!) There's a professor who has done a lot of work on this, who is also a VN vet. He can't find it.

Lots of returning vets did face some rude treatment, however. Alas, what today's younger Republicans (or older, now-angry-Repulican boomers) are forgetting is that a lot of the rude treatment did _not_ come from angry leftists who were upset about American imperialism but more mainstream folks who were mad at the boys because they weren't _winning_, and because they _took the dope._ A lot of these mainstream folks may have even been the Greatest Generation. Esp. re. the virulent reaction to the taking of the dope.

A lot of folks, then and now, get fixated on the winning, not the merits or the reasons for. Be prepared for another 40 years of dolschstoss wailing if we "lose" Iraq. I'll be in a nursing home when I hear a younger generation gripe that they're tired of hearing about the battles of the'00's and about Iraq, and what does that have to do with the war in Indonesia anyway?

Posted by CP | January 10, 2008 7:40 PM

Josh @40:

To differentiate the Liberal Democrats of 65 from the Southern (Christianist) Democrats of 65 while tarring the Republicans of 08 (Conservative and Christianist) with the same brush is intellectually dishonest. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say the Democrats then “really meant well” but a significant number of bad apples “weren’t toeing the line” and deny the possibility of the same dynamic in today’s Republican Party (though be it in an inverse proportion).

As a Conservative I see civil rights as a core plank in any truly conservative platform. I identify with the Republican Party as it was in 65, before it was invaded by the Christianists who were felling less at home in the Democratic Party of that day (and let’s be clear, though they may have been “not with the rest of their party” in 65, they were the BASE of the Democratic Party when Lincoln was the face of the Republican Party).

Either the Democrats were one party that after 35 years of nearly absolute rule (Democrats controlled the Presidency for 26 of those years, the Senate for 30 of those years and the House for 32 of those years (where was the Democratic passion for civil liberty then?)) reluctantly followed the Republican lead on civil rights. Or you have it your way, and the Democrats of 65 had two distinct wings (Liberal and Christianist) but in doing so, you must acknowledge the Republicans of 08 have two distinct wings (Conservative and Chritianist) and allow for separate treatment of both instead of smearing all with the sins of one.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | January 10, 2008 7:51 PM

Having lost their revolution, the boomers seek to squash ours out of spite. Idealism is naive they say, you can't change things, the best you can hope for is a president the Republicans hate.

Posted by matt | January 11, 2008 3:17 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).