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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Friday, December 26, 2003


optimistic about the pessimistic ploy

posted by Aziz P. at Friday, December 26, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
This NYT piece details the emerging Bush reelection strategy which is centered on Dean as the nominee. I agree with Kos that trying to de-personalize the race makes little sense:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 25 — President Bush's campaign has settled on a plan to run against Howard Dean that would portray him as reckless, angry and pessimistic, while framing the 2004 election as a referendum on the direction of the nation more than on the president himself, Mr. Bush's aides say.

Some advisers to Mr. Bush, increasingly convinced that Dr. Dean will become their opponent next fall, are pushing to begin a drive to undercut him even before a Democratic nominee becomes clear. But others said the more likely plan would be to hold back until after the Democratic contest had effectively ended, probably no later than March.

well, okay, we Dean supporters certainly would welcome an issues-driven campaign! But what is notable is the attempt to link Dean to pessimism - in fact the word is repeated three times on the first page of the story. Atrios comments on how the media will enable the meme:

Look for it to be coming out of every Republican's mouth soon, and then it will increasingly creep into "objective" reporting. The process will go something like this. First, they'll quote Bush campaign sources describing Dean as "pessimistic." Next, they'll move onto Democratic campaign sources, often anonymous, describing Dean as "pessimistic." Next, they'll stop bothering getting the quote and just write things like, "Some have criticized Dean for his unappealing pessimism..." And, then, finally, process complete, campaign analysis pieces in print and the "objective journalists" on the roundtable shows, will just write/say things like "Dean's pessimistic rhetoric..." By the end no discussion or news story about Dean will see the light of day without the word "pessimism."

The Bush campaign strategy then is to try and make the campaign an issue of Bush's policies vs Dean's character - and offer a sunny and optimistic vision of the future. This includes the standard trick of couching pro-elite fiscal policies in obfuscating language designed to make the middle class think it's to their benefit:

The president's political team, led by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, is working on policy initiatives that would help build support among specific blocs of voters. For the so-called investor class, the team is planning a push for private investment accounts in Social Security and expanded tax-free savings accounts.

This is part of the "ownership society" meme that the GOP is pushing for to help sell the idea - but as the Boston Globe points out, the idea is a massive scam:

IN PRESIDENT Bush's upcoming State of the Union address, we will hear a lot about something called an "ownership society." The idea is that American workers aspire to be owners -- of stock for their retirement, homes, businesses, good health insurance, and skills they need to navigate multiple changes of jobs and careers. It sounds just great.
How does Bush propose to create this "ownership society?" Mainly through more tax credits. If people lack reliable health care, there are tax-favored savings accounts to buy health insurance. If corporations are abandoning good pensions, there are new tax incentives to set aside retirement savings. If jobs are precarious, there are tax credits to purchase retraining when your job moves to China.

What's wrong with the entire approach? For starters, the very people who lack the decent health insurance, the money for retraining, and the secure nest eggs are short of adequate earnings from which to take out savings. So most of the tax breaks, like the rest of the Bush tax program, will go to people who don't really need them, while those who rely on genuine help will come up short.
Decent wages and benefits and real government help are what Bush's ownership society leaves out. To Bush, ownership means that the lone individual is made the sole owner of the problem. Lost your job? Better get yourself some new skills. Corporation cancelled your pension? Better sock away more savings. Company health insurance plan raising premiums and copays? Congratulations! You're an owner! This ownership society walks away from the social investments of the past six decades that actually made the United States a society in which most people could reasonably aspire to be owners. It leaves people on their own with a fistful of tax credits that most people can't afford to use.

The bottom line is that the "ownership society" talk is a fig leaf for a scheme that, much like Bush's landamrk dividend tax cut, will serve as a massive boon to the wealthy while actually hurting the middle class. And as Paul Krugman pointed out, upward mobility is already severely threatened. The basic goal is to create a society that rewards wealth, not work - the negation of the American Dream.

If the case can be made in these terms, then it's not Dean who looks pessimistic - and I think the word optimistic needs to be inserted into our liberal dialouge.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.