Welcome Thomas Frank (TCFrank.com) and Host Charles Pierce (Esquire.com)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Pity The Billionaire: The Hard Times Swindle And The Unlikely Comeback of the Right

I look upon Tom Frank as a political behaviorist with a healthy sense of the humor and an even healthier sense of the absurd, the latter of which works with the former the way an afterburner works on a fighter jet. His great gift is to look at us first, before getting around to looking at how we come to order ourselves in our society and govern ourselves in our politics, if it can even be said that we govern ourselves in our politics any more, which I would contend is a matter of some debate. Anyway, to me, Tom’s great gift always has been to look at the influences behind millions of individual decisions that add up to the collective experience of at least the appearance of political self-government. Reading Tom’s work, and reading his assessment of the political malpractice we sometimes inflict on ourselves, I am reminded of an entry in the voluminous diary of Ignatius Donnelly, great American crank, former Minnesota congressman, virtual inventor of modern pseudo-science, creator of everything we think we know about Atlantis, and intellectual amanuensis of my own book, Idiot America. Once, while defending his own work, he wrote in his journal — “I believe I am right. Or, if not right, at least plausible.”

(In this, Donnelly is echoing the words of Tertullian, an early Father of the Christian Church, and a prominent apologist for the Christian faith in the days before Constantine. Tertullian once famously wrote: “It is by all means to be believed because it is absurd.”)

Tom Frank works the shadows between what is true and what is plausible, between what should be believed and what is absurd, in America in the first years of the 21st century. In Idiot America, I tried to place the American crank in the American crank’s proper place. I tried to illustrate precisely the crank’s place in American culture and in American politics — proudly outside the mainstream, asking nothing of anyone, expecting no validation from mainstream thought, a resident of the wild places in the American imagination, a creature of what Greil Marcus has called, “the old, weird America.” For his part, Tom is the past master of showing us what happens when we give the crank the place in the mainstream that he should not be granted, the pride of intellectual place that he does not deserve, and what happens when we hijack the crank from the old, weird America and put him in Congress, or on Meet The Press, or on the op-ed pages of The Washington Post. We start to believe the crank. We start to think the crank is a legitimate part of the national dialogue. We do this at our peril.

In his latest work, Pity The Billionaire, Tom Frank limns one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of American politics. In 2008, every single premise of the conservative economic philosophy that had governed the country, in one for or another, since Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976, was proven to be what Woody Allen in Bananas would call a travesty of a mockery of a sham. Deregulated Wall Street stole most of the nation’s economy and wrecked what was left for the rest of us. Absolutely nobody doubts this simple fact. And the collapse came only two years after the Democratic party had scored a whopping victory in the 2006 midterm elections, and just as the country was preparing to elect a Democratic president in Barack Obama. And, amazingly, within two years, the country had turned completely back to the party most complicit in the economic disaster under which the country was still laboring. The country determined to believe (again!) in the free-market hokum and in the conjuring words of the deregulated state. It was not right, the country reasoned, but it sounded plausible.

And Tom Frank was there, working in the shadows, trying to figure out his fellow citizens, and parsing the distance between suicide and suckerdom. And he’s here today to talk about it with us. Ladies and gentlemen, and everyone in between, Mr. Thomas Frank…

301 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Thomas Frank, Pity the Billionaire: The Hard Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right”

BevW February 19th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Thomas,Charlie, Welcome back to the Lake.

Charlie, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Charles Pierce, thank you for that awesome introduction.

dakine01 February 19th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Good afternoon Tom and Charles and welcome back to FDL this afternoon.

Tom, I have not read your book so please forgive me if you answer this in it but is there any group of people that whines more than billionaires? Especially billionaires of the bankster persuasion who can’t seem to grasp why most of the world might think they should be at least put into the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit if not perp walked and locked away in a Super Max for a few decades…

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

No problem at all, Tom. Glad to have you aboard. (Of course, on this kind of thing, I’m Robert Hays in Airplane!, so I’d buckle in if I were you.

Anyway, to kick things off, I’d like you to connect, in brief, the central theme of What’s The Matter With Kansas? to that of the latest book. Are we all Kansas now?

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

I myself believe we gave up on the pillory much too soon.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:05 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 3

Not only do they not get why the public hates them–and, yes, they whine constantly, worrying about “class warfare” just as soon as they’ve managed to push the global economy off a cliff–but they also managed (or helped to manage) to build a political response to the disaster that they made. A political response, as you can see every time you turn on your TV set, that worships “free markets” and calls for cutting the “red tape” that obstructs our billionaires’ freedom of movement.

eCAHNomics February 19th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

USG bought, lock stock & barrel. That’s all there is to it.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 4

I use that phrase all the time: We are all Kansans now.
There’s one big difference, though. The tea party and allied conservative movements worship the market; the social conservatives in “Kansas” didn’t really care about markets.

dakine01 February 19th, 2012 at 2:08 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 5

We got rid of some of the Puritan’s ideas a little too quickly

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:08 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 4

Both the culture war conservatives and the tea party types, though, are caught up in fake populist movements that seem extremely convincing to the rank and file.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 8

Is the dichotomy really that clear-cut? I’m watching the GOP primary race right now, and the social conservatives seem to be the same people who want the relatively toothless Dodd-Frank repealed, and who believe that the ACA is coming to take their liberty? Haven’t they just transferred their “enthusiasm” into what they perceive to be economic liberty?

eCAHNomics February 19th, 2012 at 2:09 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 6

They don’t really believe any of that do they.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Welcome, both Mr. Frank & Mr. Pierce. So great to have BOTH of you here!

GlenJo February 19th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 7

This sure seems like the most reasonable explanation.

Watching Obama continue to bail out Wall St was a sure sign to me that everyone (except those guilty of MAKING the mess) were going to get screwed by the guy ELECTED to end this BS.

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Tom, great but infuriating book. I have been fascinated by the phenomenon of all the corporatists on the right railing against “corrupt crony capitalism” and their amazing ability to complain about big corporations’ takeover of big government while simultaneously lauding them as “job creators”.

I can understand how the right can convince themselves of this contradictory nonsense, but how did they convince so many others? You point out that Obama and the Democrats never pushed back against it and, worse yet, even reinforced it in word and deed – but is that enough? Or is there some deep flaw in the American psyche that is so eager to believe this myth of entrepreneurship and scrappy “ordinary people” billionaires against the corrupt “ruling class”?

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 9

And kept all the rest far too long.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Tom — There’s a good liberal case to make against the bank bailout, but it seems all to be rooted in the past (Glass-Steagall never should have been repealed, Too Big To Fail is Too Big To Exist etc. etc.) Why was that such a loser in public compared to The Bailouts Are Socialism Come To Eat Our Kids?

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Speaking of primaries, my home state of Michigan will hold its primary on the 28th. In recent election cycles, only 10 to 20 percent of registered voters take part, giving the far right disproportionate influence over who winds up on the Republican ticket. In fact, one local pundit said that two-thirds of those voting next week belong to the Tea Party faction of the GOP.

Scarecrow February 19th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Welcome to Thomas and Charles. Is there a reason we haven’t elected the CEO of our largest bank as president yet? He seems to be the chief object of self pity and the person most anxious to look forward and stop picking on his class.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 12

Do they believe it? Oh, they surely do. What’s wonderful about the cult of the market is that it seems like Science with a capital S. A form of Science that is reaffirmed in your everyday life all the time. Especially when you tune out consensus reality and get your news from approved ideological sources.

hpschd February 19th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I’m about halfway through the book and I must say it is a great read. I am still astonished by the behavour of the Tea Party as you dredge up all the gross absurdities and fantasies of that group and its patron saint, Glenn Beck.

To wit: the government caused the crash by forcing the banks to hand out mortgages to undeserving people, and then forced the banks to take bailouts. The only solution being to remove all government regulation from the financial institutions and trust to God’s appointed natural and sacred ‘free market’. Which of course expresses the true free will of the people.

Have I got that right?

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Eli @ 15

Eli: How did they convince so many others? That’s the question. My short answer is that they got there first with the most money. “There” meaning, they threw up a full-throated opposition to the bailouts less than a month into Obama’s administration. And they had a huge megaphone to trumpet it with. The fact that it doesn’t make any sense if you dig down into it doesn’t really matter; they’re out there in the park with their stupid bullhorns and from the Democrats you heard nothing.

Scarecrow February 19th, 2012 at 2:15 pm

So, what’s the matter with America? Or is this willingness to be bamboozled by the market manipulators and looters a more universal, human trait?

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 9

Their biggest mistake was letting John Calvin convince them to give up any efforts to control, much less ban, usury.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to hpschd @ 21

HP: That’s it exactly. It’s a whole alternative reality, in which the class language of the last big downturn–the 1930s–can be applied to government. And, of course, to lib’rals.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Tom –
One of the more compelling passages in your book is the debunking of the notion that “small business” is the great engine of the economy, something into which both parties have bought whole hog? Isn’t that myth a durable one, though, hearkening back as it does to the nostalgic view of Main Street America?

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 2:18 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 20

Ah, so they choose to call Ayn Rand’s warmed-over Calvinism (complete with Elect and Preterite) “Science”?

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 17

Charles: You ask about a liberal line on bank bailouts. That’s what I wondered, too. As I researched this book, I constantly heard “bailouts” being played as a sort of trump card by the right. They were opposed to bailouts, and libs weren’t! So I researched the history of bailouts. Of course (as you know), lots of free-market conservatives both bailed out banks and (as bank officers) book bailouts.

Scarecrow February 19th, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Following up on Charlie Pierce questions, is the common link between Tea Party, Santorum/religionists, free market zealots simply an inability to engage in critical thinking? Or is there a alternate, parallel universe in which it all makes sense to “them” but can’t ever for “us”?

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

And, at the same time, they deny the scientific case for evolution and tell us there’s no proof of man-made global warming. Incredible.

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:20 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 22

And it’s hard for us progressives to push back effectively when the party we are nominally aligned with is guilty of exactly the corporate corruption the Tea Party accuses them of.

Of course, one of the other features of the “anti-corruption” crusaders on the right is that none of them will hear of any kind of campaign finance reform, what with it being a government takeover of our freedom of speech and all.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 27

Phoenix: Ayn Rand is one of the people I was most interested in for the book. As you know, she built an entire philosophical system organized around the defense of capitalism. Sort of like Nietzsche meets the Chamber of Commerce. It’s massively convincing to some people. We’ll go into it in detail below, hopefully.

GlenJo February 19th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to Scarecrow @ 23

Tom -

So what is the matter with America? How did the right and Wall St make this miraculous recovery?

(apologies if this is answered in your book. I have not read it.)

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 30

Yes, survival of the fittest only applies to economics and inequality.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:23 pm

One of the most curious points of connection between the free market set and the trad values set is the idea that they are both attuned to God’s Holy Order, meaning not only (say) creationism but also the theory of self-correcting, self-regulating markets. Markets that speak with the voice of the people; markets that are built by God’s invisible hand; markets that are a force of nature.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 33

GlenJo: One of the things that made possible all the disasters you see around you is that the right are very canny political players. They learned from last time around (meaning the 30s), and meanwhile the Washington Democrats are afraid or unwilling to say and do the kind of things they need to do to put themselves out in front of public outrage. The right is very comfortable “organizing discontent”; the Dems, not so much.

Scarecrow February 19th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 35

I’m trying to recall the books of the Old or New Testament that extoll the virtues of a Mitt Romney. I thought some Guy threw him out of the Temple in Jerusalem.

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 36

Well, that does require leadership, no?

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

OK, so let’s do it now.
I read Ayn Rand in college for the same reason a lot of my liberal pals did — to get busy with conservative women in the business school. (As Susan Sarandon says in Bull Durham, guys’ll do anything if they think it’s foreplay.) My god, that’s a terrible book. The characters are cardboard and it’s apparently written with a paint roller. Ms. Rand certainly learned her lessons about ideological fiction from the Stalinists she deplored. I ever since have believed that it was primarily a pep talk for misfit adolescents who believed themselves misunderstood by the fools around them. (I feel the same way about Catcher In The Rye, BTW, which I also hate.) How in the name of god did it get transferred into an actual political program in the real world? It’s like we’re refashioning the actual military to battle the oncoming army of Mordor.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 28

More on bailouts. So as I did my research on the history of bailouts, I eventually discovered that there were massive bailouts in the 1930s, possibly even bigger than those of 08-09. But when FDR did bailouts, he didn’t just hand out money to bankers. Often, his bailout agency would fire the bank’s officers. They would cap salaries. They would set up new banks if they didn’t like the existing ones in a city. They tried to rebuild the economy from the bottom up. All totally different from what we did today.

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Ah yes, markets. In the debates over global warming and energy policy, the right wing pretends that burning fossil fuels entails external costs that are currently not reflected in the price we pay at the pump. Someone, somewhere will wind up bearing those costs.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 36

OK, is that still the hangover from the McGovern debacle, or the residue of Al from DLC liberalism, or both?

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Atlas Shrugged is like beer pong. Most people outgrow it by the age of 25.

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 39

A narrative — even a wrong one — trumps no narrative, IMO.

Scarecrow February 19th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 36

I’m not sure we have a “plausible” theory on why the right is so abysmally stupid on all matters of public policy, to the point of self destruction, and yet we assume they are amazingly brilliant at political strategy, especially compared to the left. How do our guests account for this?

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Thank you, Thomas and Charles, for joining us, today.

DW

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 40

This would be the jesse Jones approach, no?

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 39

“Ms. Rand certainly learned her lessons about ideological fiction from the Stalinists she deplored.”: Totally exactly true. That is the secret to understanding Ayn Rand, I figured out. It’s the cardboard “social realist” fiction of the 1930s stood on its head. Atlas Shrugged, after all, is the story of a BIG STRIKE. It’s a strike of the PRODUCER CLASS against the PARASITES. It just happens to be that she reverses the standard Thirties content of these ideas, turns them on their heads. But the emotion is exactly the same.

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 39

The appeal of Ayn Rand and the far right is that it not only says that it’s okay to be a cruel, selfish shit, but that being a cruel, selfish shit is actually the most noble and patriotic thing you can do.

So if you’re already inclined to be a cruel, selfish shit, you’re naturally going to think it’s the most brilliant philosophy you’ve ever seen.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 43

Jesus, at least beer pong is fun. Reading Rand is like shovelling sand.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 22

I’ve always believed that if OBAMA had come in and spoken out about the bailouts, the criminal behavior, etc., he could have taken the energy out of what became the Tea Party and harnessed it for “good.”

Instead he kissed up to the “Evil Doers” and invited them in to his cabinet.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 44

“A narrative — even a wrong one — trumps no narrative, IMO.” Boom. That’s exactly right.

hpschd February 19th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Yukio Mishima wrote that thinking is what we do to rationalize what we have done without thinking.

It is clear that presenting facts and ‘reality’ to some will only strengthen their convictions. In an effort to understand how one can hold many contradictory beliefs, I’ve been reading developmental psychology and cognitive science (Lakoff, Pinter, Haidt, and others).

There is no “blank slate” at birth. We are born self-righteous hypocrites. Some of us get over it and some don’t. A moral agenda is to some degree pre-programmed.

Logic does not seem to enter in.

So how do we talk to them?

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 47

Yes! You would be the first one to ID him correctly in all my book touring and constant radio talking.

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Thomas. Long time fan, first time questioner.

As a veteran of many book salons I will as the question often asked. “What is to be done?”

Then when you answer that. I will ask. “Why is no body doing what you suggest?”

Then I will ask. “Why, when someone actually tries to do what you suggest, it is not supported or funded by anyone?”

dakine01 February 19th, 2012 at 2:32 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 48

I find the worship of Ayn Rand to be both fascinating and unfathomable. Whenever I see where some politician has declared Rand as his/her hero, I want to point out that while a lot of people like to read novels, they usually outgrow the hero worship of the novelist and protagonist in oh about the tenth grade.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 51

“Instead he kissed up to the “Evil Doers” and invited them in to his cabinet.” That’s pretty much exactly what happened with Obama. It’s a tragic story, in lots of ways. He came to WAshington on clouds of glory, everyone thought here’s a second FDR. Turned out, though, that all his inspiring language came down to this sad misperception: He sincerely thought that the biggest problem facing us in America was . . . partisanship!

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Eli @ 49

Nuts in a nutshell, Eli, precisely.

DW

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 32

The embrace of Ayn Rand by the Cons is one of the things that made it possible for the GOP to ditch being the Party of Lincoln and adopt the corporate-bigot alliance known as “the Southern Strategy”, where Big Business gets poor and middle-class whites to vote against their own economic best interests in exchange for hurting non-whites, and allowing bigots to cloak their bigotry in the language of fiscal prudence and deficit hawkery.

Or as Lee Atwater put it, way back in 1981:

”You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Ni–er, ni–er, ni–er.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘ni–er’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

”And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Ni–er, ni–er.”’

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

To me the “trouble with Kansas” continues largely because of two factors:

In part because:

a) “Grandfather Republicans”–Up until the Civil Rights Era, the Democrats could largely count on the votes of the “Solid South” irrespective of the ideology of the Democratic national candidates. The Civil Rights Era destroyed that. But Republicans continue to benefit from analogous “grandfather Republicans” (I vote Republican ’cause my granddaddy always voted Republican”) in the Midwest and West.

But mostly because:

b) “Me too! Democrats”–For the past 30 years, and possibly up to the last 40 years, the message of the national Democratic party has run away from the message of FDR. Instead it has carried a Republican-Lite message of “Me too! Only not so much as they”. Democrats have thus served as an echo chamber for conservative ideology, validating everything from huge military budgets to welfare “reform” to tax cuts instead of offering a starkly different vision on how America should be. Worse, they don’t even manage (or earnestly try) to keep what modest promises they do make once in power.

The *kindest* representation you can paint on this phenomena is that it is a case of short-term tactics overruling strategy; that to win over the perceived “middle” one saddles to the right. But as the Republican leadership responds by moving to the right itself, what has resulted is a situation where the Washington punditry “middle” doesn’t even represent the middle of most everyday Republicans, let alone the middle of the country, as measured by opinion polls. The recent bruhaha over contraception is just another of many examples of this; in last year’s budget showdowns *Obama’s position* was to the right of the average Republican voter, as measured by opinion polling.

By this view, short-term tactical decision-making has a counterproductive effect on strategy. The conservative movement, by contrast, fielded candidates that lost repeatedly (Goldwater, Reagan) yet its response was not to move to the left, but to keep plugging Ronald Reagan each and every year for President and not allow defeats from diverting them from their goal of hegemony. Also, while the Democrats underreach when in power, the Republicans always overreach, apparently figuring that even if Democratic regimes overturn some of their acts they won’t be able to overturn all of them. The Democrats for their part *never* repeal Republican excesses and outrages but make them the new “normal” (Clinton, Obama)–that is, until the Republican push the envelope further right the next time they’re in power.

Of course, this is the kindest interpretation. A less kind one is that the Democrats are complicit in the country’s movement to the right, that they are paid with the same money and their powerlessness to reverse the conservative agenda is feigned more than real. Increasingly, as we watch Democrats seemingly unable to do what Republicans always do when Republicans hold power (with smaller majorities, mind you!) I’d say that many of us here at FDL hold this latter interpretation.

-stewartm

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to spocko @ 55

Superb, spocko!!!

DW

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Tom — Do you buy the notion that the Obama people discovered, once they got into office, how much worse the situation was than they’d been told, or than they’d believed it to be? As the months go by, I find that more and more plausible. Not that there weren’t other things they could have done, or other directions they could have taken, but the first couple of months, they just looked gobsmacked.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:35 pm
In response to spocko @ 55

What is to be done: It might be too late, but O and the D’s should have spoken for public outrage rather than reaching for some kind of centrist utopia. Since that’s never going to happen, we need to organize movements independent of the Democratic Party, like in the 1930s.
Why is nobody doing this? Because it’s really bloody hard. Social movements have to speak to people in terms of their everyday lives. Organized labor is the classic example. Francis Townsend’s old-age pension movement is another.
The reason these things aren’t supported or funded by anyone is b/c the people who might support these sorts of things aren’t interested. They believe, like O, that the real problem in America is “partisanship.”

hpschd February 19th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 27

Came across an Ayn Rand title the other day,
“The Virtue of Selfishness”

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 57

Obama is capable of “sincere” thought?

Most astounding, Thomas.

On edit: I consider Obama a pusillanimous fabulist of the first order.

DW

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 2:36 pm

One of the many disturbing things I’ve noticed about evangelical Christianity is the “God wants you to be rich” mentality, which sounds like a dumbed-down version of Calvinism. At least the Calvinists expected people to work hard and mind their P’s and Q’s on their way up the ladder.

yellowsnapdragon February 19th, 2012 at 2:37 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 57

..and that the solution was, therefore, bi-partisanship. What a tragedy for us.

June Carbone February 19th, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Hi Tom, So what are you predicting will happen with the social conservative movement now that Santorum is on the rise? It looks like he is calling for the restoration of the caliphate — oops, I mean the Bible as the source of legitimacy for American government.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 57

I have actually read [and finished] your book. I must say I was a bit disappointed that you didn’t ramp up your criticism of Obama until the latter part, and I don’t think you were quite hard enough on him.

It’s now been nearly 4 years, and he’s evidenced no outrage over the criminal acts of the bankers, hedge fund folks, et al. who brought down the economy. He says their acts “weren’t illegal.” He counsels “looking forward, not back.” And now he’s pushing this ridiculous “get out of jail free — i.e., before you even have to GO to jail” settlement deal.

At some point, even if he hasn’t DONE the crimes, by failing to investigate and prosecute, he becomes a part of them.

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Bipartisanship being of course: “Democrats helping Republicans enact yet another piece of the conservative agenda”.

-stewartm

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to stewartm @ 60

Of course, this is the kindest interpretation. A less kind one is that the Democrats are complicit in the country’s movement to the right, that they are paid with the same money and their powerlessness to reverse the conservative agenda is feigned more than real. Increasingly, as we watch Democrats seemingly unable to do what Republicans always do when Republicans hold power (with smaller majorities, mind you!) I’d say that many of us here at FDL hold this latter interpretation.

Yep. Just like reality has a liberal bias, money has a conservative bias. And politicians in both parties are a lot more responsive to money than reality, ergo the politicians in both parties continuously move to the right.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to stewartm @ 60

“The conservative movement, by contrast, fielded candidates that lost repeatedly (Goldwater, Reagan) yet its response was not to move to the left, but to keep plugging Ronald Reagan each and every year for President and not allow defeats from diverting them from their goal of hegemony.”

This is one of the most interesting things about Am. politics. The right is in the grip of a kind of ideological authenticity-craze, in the same way that certain parts of the left were in the 1930s, and again in the 1960s. It’s a sort of utopianism, in which the only answer to your problems is to double down and purify yourself, purge guys like David Frum, and get to that free market utopia. This is also what “Pity” is about.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

“Buy-partisanship”, I suspect you actually mean, ysd?

Truth to tell.

DW

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 2:40 pm
In response to stewartm @ 60

A less kind one is that the Democrats are complicit in the country’s movement to the right, that they are paid with the same money and their powerlessness to reverse the conservative agenda is feigned more than real.

x2

June Carbone February 19th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I’ve been reading a paper on the “meltdown” of microfinance in Bosnia. The author found that just as Bill (The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One) predicted, the corrupt loan officers saw government regulation as intruding on their greatness and resented the efforts to constrain their practices. Sounded a lot like John Galt to me.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 68

To enlarge on June Carone’s point, Tom, early in your book you say that the Right Wingers have “put aside” the culture wars in order to focus on economic issues. In light of the most recent war on women’s reproductive rights, do you still believe that?

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 2:42 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 51

That’s one of the things that makes me laugh when the Cons screech about Obama being a True Son of Alinsky: Alinsky never, ever pre-caved. He knew the fine art of haggling, which is to start out with a crazy-high opening demand and “compromise” down from that to get what you actually want. Obama doesn’t do that because it’ll piss off the rich people whose monetary backing he craves and needs post-Citizens United.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I’m going to stick my neck out here and defend the incumbent. I do not believe he was FDR. I do not believe he ever was FDR. I don’t think he campaigned as FDR. And remember, the meltdown came a month before the election, so it wasn’t as though he had any time to prepare for it as an issue. I remember it being a case where, one morning in the fall, somebody on TV told me that the entire world economy was going down the crapper. And I was more informed than most of my fellow citizens.

FDR got elected when the Depression was already an accomplished fact in the lives of most Americans. He could seize the moment because the moment already had been ongoing for a few years. The president had to improvise in the middle of a sudden catastrophe during his campaign, and then as a newly elected president. Should he immediately have turned to Rubin, Summers, et. al.? No. And, while this was an FDR moment, I don’t think anybody realized it for quite a while.

My two cents.

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

So Tom, what are your thoughts on the Occupy movement? Do you think it has any potential to become a counterweight and counternarrative to the populism of the right?

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 68

Hi June. Santorum fascinates me, all the really in-your-face working-class language that he uses, in service of (of course!) an agenda where extreme inequality is no problem and public education is really questionable. I still can’t believe that the GOP would actually nominate him, or even let him get into the lead. But again: the authenticity problem! Romney can’t attack him from the left, since that would expose Romney as inauthentic. Authenticity is the only legitimate critique!

These guys are fascinating.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 77

Whose money he craves and intends to receive, post-politics, PW.

DW

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 63

It is a very disturbing thing to see: the president selling his soul and the party to bi partisanship.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 63

Thank you, Tom, for this response. I’m so glad not to hear a “well, we need to support Obama because look at how awful the Republicans are” answer.

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

And that crowd won’t take “no” for an answer. Last fall, voters in the beet-red state of Mississippi defeated a personhood amendment. That didn’t stop Virginia lawmakers from pursuing the same thing this year.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 76

Mauimom: I’ve always viewed the suspension of the culture wars as a temporary expedient during the Big Recession. I’m sure they’ll be back with us soon. However, I didn’t count on it being so soon!

yellowsnapdragon February 19th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to stewartm @ 70

Actually, I think bipartisanship is less about finding agreement between the parties and more about enacting the policies dictated by the ruling elite.

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 66

But it sells houses, they tell me.

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 62

IMO, the kindest interpretation is that they came in to office with a grand conceit: that they could strike a deal with the Rs and the PTB, let them have what they wanted, and they, in turn, would let the rest of us at least wet our beak. They didn’t realize that the Rs just couldn’t let Obama succeed — at anything. They knew he held the power to render them irrelevant. Once they learned he wouldn’t use it, game over.

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 2:46 pm
In response to spocko @ 55

en I will ask. “Why, when someone actually tries to do what you suggest, it is not supported or funded by anyone?”

On the old OpenLeft site, Paul Rosenberg delved into the problem of rich liberal donors vs. rich conservative donors, using the case of Air America as an example.

It boils down to this:

a) Rich liberal donors expect progressive infosites like Air America to be make business sense and to be profitable in and of themselves. Rich conservatives expect their “profits” to come from the enactment of favorable policies, and hence fund conservative propaganda sites and conservative movements at a loss.

b) While rich liberals might be in favor of such things as gay rights or for environmental-friendly policy, they are little more than rich conservatives in favor of economic policies that help the 99 % at the expense of the 1 %. Oh, some might be in favor of a return to Clinton-era tax rates, but a return to the Eisenhower rates that would help prevent the rich from buying politics? No way.

-stewartm

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 63

The reason these things aren’t supported or funded by anyone is b/c the people who might support these sorts of things aren’t interested. They believe, like O, that the real problem in America is “partisanship.”

Translation: They are Richie Rich types who don’t like the Frothing Fundies but who don’t want to go back to paying Eisenhower-era tax rates — and figure that their wealth (and ability to hide in gated communities) insulates them and their kin from the Fundies’ worst Republic-of-Gilead excesses.

(On edit: Great minds think alike, stewart!)

HotFlash February 19th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

At some point, even if he hasn’t DONE the crimes, by failing to investigate and prosecute, he becomes a part of them.

I believe that the term is ‘accessory after the fact’

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Can’t we argue that the basis of the Tea Party Movement — “Don’t bail out the moochers!” — essentially was the culture war moved into the area of economics? There’s a lot of Calvinist guilt-tripping out there about unemployment, and foreclosures, and a lot of the semi-defenses of what happened in Wall Street sound very much like a theology of the Elect.

oldgold February 19th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

I agree with your 2 cents.

Scarecrow February 19th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

that assessment works for the first few months before/after innauguration, but once they were in, and they realized it was much worse than they thought — and everyone told them, “this is now your FDR moment, so act accordingly” — they instead started the pivot to deficit reduction; and when they were reminded, “this is the same mistake FDR made in 1936-37″ they made it anyway. No excuses: just really bad advice and bad judgment. And the culprits are still running the campaign.

HotFlash February 19th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Eli @ 71

ust like reality has a liberal bias, money has a conservative bias.

Ding!

June Carbone February 19th, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Have you been following the Massachusetts Senate race and the latest polls showing Elizabeth Warren behind? I couldn’t tell whether the particular poll was flaky or a real change from a few weeks ago when she was ahead.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 2:48 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

Hmmm.

“I don’t think anybody realized it for quite a while.”

Might you define “quite a while”, Charles?

Many of us, here, and elsewhere, were speaking of the desperate economic “need” of such “leadership” even while the housing bubble was full-blown, or do you consider that still to be somewhat late to the “issue”?

DW

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 57

Do you think the clouds of glory were ever real/authentic, so that he sold out once he was in? Or, were the clouds deceptive from the beginning and just a part of the plan for getting in? (I think there is a tension about this here on the Lake)

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

“Should he immediately have turned to Rubin, Summers, et. al.” It’s true that O didn’t have a lot of time to really fashion a thought-through alternative to Bushism, but like you, I think he didn’t have to go Rubin, Summers, Geithner. He could have talked to Jamie Galbraith. Or our own Bill Black. There were plenty of people out there who knew what was going on, and who could have steered him away from the disastrous road he went down. One of my other critiques of the Washington Dems is that they totally lack imagination and creativity, and O has been a real disappointment in this regard. Just reappoint people from the Clinton years, and call it statesmanship!

hpschd February 19th, 2012 at 2:49 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 57

I like your comment re. the right’s mythological purely Market-made ‘small business person’on p.92,

“Unlike the bureaucrat or the college professor – or that unholy cross between the two, President Obama – …”

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

But Charles, I think Tom has pointed out, both in the book and here, that even TARP could have been done in a way that exercised some control over and revision on the “Evil Doers.” To just welcome Paulson’s three page “give me all the money and I’ll give it to them” approach was criminal.

And being greeted with the “hair on fire” approach ["the economy's headed for the crapper"], articulated by Paulson et al., only a few short years after the same tactic was utilized re going into Iraq — I mean, really, doesn’t Obama have more smarts than that?

So I’d fault him on a) stupidity, or at least gullibility in believing the arm-wavers; and b) lack of creativity [in fashioning a solution].

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Which would explain the effort to make applicants for welfare or unemployment benefits pass a drug test. Supporters argue that testing saves taxpayers money, but the real motivation is to humiliate people who have to ask the government for aid. (There’s also some not-so-subtle racism involved as well; Reagan’s “welfare queen” stereotype is very much with us today.)

GlenJo February 19th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 51

I’ve got to raise my hand and agree with that too.

Lesson learned:

If you have the Republican party’s neck underneath your foot – step down hard – this will benefit America and the Republican party.

Obama blew it.

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 63

Thank you! Excellent answers!

Your answer to number three I’ll follow up on specifically.

I also know that lots of people bemoan the lack of good journalism in the moment during the massive fraud of the financial crisis but we have had some good journalism after this crisis. But what happens then? People seem to think, “Well NOW that this has been exposed, something will be DONE by the powers that be!” But it doesn’t.

There aren’t enough journalists acting like prosecutors. They think the prosecutors will pick up the ball from there. THEY WON’T!

And, when you suggest to journalists that they go after a group of companies acting in concert to swindle the public (ALEC) they get all nervous that they aren’t covering “both sides.” They are sooooo careful to make sure they are “fair and balanced” that they aren’t willing to go for the jugular. Why? Because they now see their job is to develop “both sides” of the story. I see them tiptoeing around capitalism and corporate malfeasance That is why I might deliver a story to a journalist, but I also need to know that he will quickly run to the corporation and say, “But you really didn’t mean this, right?” Because of that I also need to provide them with the understandings of how the corporations are going to BS and make up excuses for their behavior.

Too few journalists have the kind of knowledge that someone like David Cay Johnson or William Black have that can cut through the spin that the corporations throw at them.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 85

I wonder if that’s a sign that they think the economic issues — or at least the way they try to frame the economic issues – are failing them, and they’ve got to move back to the culture wars.

You have to admit that the culture wars get their people to the polls, at least in the primaries.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Agree, Tom. But putting together a radically different economic team — and I was arguing for a ruthless prosecutorial asst SecTreas whose brief would be to throw the rascals in the can — of that sort takes a lot of time and thought. If the collapse had come even in June, they would have had time. I think they went for what they thought was the safe play.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:52 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 92

Charles: This is exactly right. We discuss economics as a moral issue, a culture-war issue. Instead of our precious values and traditions being besieged, it’s our precious free market economy. And the harsh calvinism is indeed remarkable. Lots of the people I write about actually ROOT for some kind of end-of-the-world economic scenario, which would wreck gummint for good and teach all those liberals about the ways of the Lord.

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

Ok but we are now three and a half years into this and he continues to talk like we all just need to get along. When in hell does he understand the 25 million unemployed and 50 million in poverty don’t give a flying fuck about your sensibilities. Just sayin.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 108

I’m not sure he’s still saying that. I, too, wish he’d say “Republicans” instead of “Congress” or “Washington.” But don’t underestimate the power of what happens when a politician sees only one road to survival. He knows where the wind behind his back is coming from. I’ll rely on that.,

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to spocko @ 104

“And, when you suggest to journalists that they go after a group of companies acting in concert to swindle the public (ALEC) they get all nervous that they aren’t covering “both sides.”
Oh, Spocko, this is the story of my life. I like to think that by approaching things from my admittedly idiosyncratic position, I can come up with different and innovative ways of looking at things. (Like “Pity.”) What I discovered instead is that I am “outside the consensus” and that my opinions need not be paid any attention. That is the stupid weakness of our journalistic system: It literally punishes originality.

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

True, that. As with the 1929 crash, it took a few years for the badness to really sink in. The ’29 crash happened just long enough after Hoover took office for it not to be blamed on anyone but him (though the Farm Depression of the ’20s could have warned those who’d cared to heed its lessons). Obama, on the other hand, took over just as the crash of ’08 was unfolding. Though I will say that if he’d fought as hard for a $2T stimulus as he did for his industry-written health care bill (a deeply unpopular bill that sunk the Dems in 2010), we’d be down to 5% unemployment by now, the Democrats would still control both Houses, and things would be looking a lot rosier overall.

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 2:57 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

And, while this was an FDR moment, I don’t think anybody realized it for quite a while.

I realized it at the time. I had previously thought “America won’t change until the bottom drops out and people get scared”.

Then in 2008 something close to that happened! And everyone got scared, from top to bottom, that they were witnessing an economic train wreck of catastrophic proportions.

What has followed in 2009-2010 has made me respect FDR more. Like many I thought “this is America, when push comes to shove we do the right things”. 2009-2010 sadly relieved me of that delusion. Obama and the Dems have been more interested in re-inflating Reaganomics than in rebuilding the country the right way, from the bottom up, the way FDR tried (admittedly, he had failures too, but his failures at least have the excuse that his problem was at that time unprecedented).

And–as the fundamental problems have not been fixed, we are certain to have another crash, the next one worse, under a political system thanks to Citizens United even more bought-and-paid for and less likely to put forth the proper response. A betting man would not be encouraged.

-stewartm

perris February 19th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Pity The Billionaire: The Hard Times Swindle And The Unlikely Comeback of the Right

wishful thinking

they don’t need to “come back”, they’ve co-opted the other party so it doesn’t matter which party gets elected, they win

case in point, obama

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I’ve been doing this, in one place or another, and from sports to politics and back again, and I can tell you that the deadweight of “objectivity” is the worst fcking thing that ever happened to journalism.

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 110

And the media does that to conservative commentators too, right?

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 99

Not only did he not do anything like that but he continues to behave like a high school sophomore in his approach to the economy. He surrounds himself with fools when it comes to the economy. What can he expect?

William Black February 19th, 2012 at 2:59 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 32

Ayn Rand essentially defined away the looters who cause our recurrent, intensifying financial crises. She defines fraud as a physical assault that the law must prohibit and she says the role of government is to punish crime, but she doesn’t offer anyway of preventing elites from gaining wealth and dominant political power through fraud. She simply claims that these billionaires do not gain a true psychological triumph.

“The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made,”
Philosophy: Who Needs It, 32
link to this entry

If some men attempt to survive by means of brute force or fraud, by looting, robbing, cheating or enslaving the men who produce, it still remains true that their survival is made possible only by their victims, only by the men who choose to think and to produce the goods which they, the looters, are seizing. Such looters are parasites incapable of survival, who exist by destroying those who are capable, those who are pursuing a course of action proper to man.
The men who attempt to survive, not by means of reason, but by means of force, are attempting to survive by the method of animals. But just as animals would not be able to survive by attempting the method of plants, by rejecting locomotion and waiting for the soil to feed them—so men cannot survive by attempting the method of animals, by rejecting reason and counting on productive men to serve as their prey. Such looters may achieve their goals for the range of a moment, at the price of destruction: the destruction of their victims and their own. As evidence, I offer you any criminal or any dictatorship.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to stewartm @ 112

“An FDR moment”: The funny thing is, the right figured this out right away. They knew we were living through a kind of slightly milder 1930s and started reacting to it immediately. think of Glenn Beck coming to Fox News, for example, and immediately starting his Orson Welles / Martian invasion act. Or the immediate effort by the usual DC suspects to build up a protest movement of their own. They were going to harness the outrage this time around!

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Speaking of “the wind behind his back,” there was broad public support for virtually everything the so-called “professional left” was asking for. Let’s take as a given that his political opposition was strong, still, how do you account for the outrageous anti-progressive message he spouted?

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 111

Absolutely do not agree. If he’d gotten a gigantic stimulus package through, unemployment (maybe) is in the 7′s and the Republicans still control the House, because their margins were a bunch of D’s in R districts who got elected in 2006 and 2008, and who wouldn’t have run on the stimulus anyway.

HotFlash February 19th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 99

Excuse me, but I knew what was going down with the economy, and I build musical instruments for a living. Many actual economists knew what was going down, and for pity’s sake, surely if someone is running for President of the United States, they should lave a clue about who they wanted in their cabinet. It’s not like anyone would have turned him down. So, why all the Bush re-treads? My conclusion is that they (Bernanke, Summers, Paulson, etc) were the ones in charge all along. And I have come to think of Rahm Emmanual as Obama`s agent. “Kid, I can get you this fantastic role…“

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:01 pm

He still wants to cut the budget. What sort of idiot does that In this time. Europe is trying it. Ask Spain or Greece how that is working out for them.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

The “safe play”?

Charles, “they” went for the money, as in “of the money, by the money, and for the money”.

The “crash” was a godsend for Obama, as it allowed him to immediately worm in closer to the heart$ of the 1%.

You are left only with saying, “Well, Obama was just not sophisticated enough to understand.”

I suggest that Obama NEVER had any intention of “understanding”, else we would not be seeing all of the concerted assaults on the Rule of Law, the economic “capitulation” to money, being merely one; his immediate “bowing” to FISA and embracing ALL of the Bush rhetoric via “looking forward”, suggests, not a moment of weakness, but a ready willingness to extend the unitary executive, just as Bush, and Clinton, before Bush, had done.

As well as selling the government to the 1%, this “pattern” suggests clear intent.

That is my two cents.

YMMV

DW

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to William Black @ 117

“She simply claims that these billionaires do not gain a true psychological triumph.”
Hi Bill. It’s funny how many of those billionaires are drawn to looting and fraud even though it’s a hollow victory for them!

perris February 19th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 78

already an accomplished fact in the lives of most Americans. He could seize the moment because the moment already had been ongoing for a few years. The president had to improvise in the middle of a sudden catastrophe during his campaign, and then as a newly elected president. Should he immediately have turned to Rubin, Summers, et. al.? No. And, while this was an FDR moment, I don’t think anybody realized it for quite a while.

EVERYONE realized it, that’s the reason we elected obama, we THOUGHT he got it, he fooled us, he dressed up in sheep’s clothing, he occupied the trojan horse and he served to us eggs (benedict for those who don’t get the allusion) for our trouble

Mod Note: Let’s please try to get back to the topic of Mr Frank’s book rather than discoursing on all the ways President Obama disappointed people

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 119

I don’t think he was “outrageously anti-progressive.” Lily Ledbetter is not outrageously anti-progressive. The auto bailout is not outrageously anti-progressive. Even the health-care bill, while flawed, is not outrageously anti-progressive. (We love our ObamaRomneycare here in very blue Massachusetts.) I think, and I wrote this in Esquire in 2008, he mistook the country’s hunger for justice for a desire for healing. He may never recover from that. But an awful lot of D’s got pissed and sat out 2010. He didn’t deserve that, either.

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to William Black @ 117

And still none of the looters are in jail. Wanna bet they do it again, soon?

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 3:05 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 118

“An FDR moment”: The funny thing is, the right figured this out right away. They knew we were living through a kind of slightly milder 1930s and started reacting to it immediately.

It goes back to the Grover Norquist quote that the Republican goal is not just to prevent Democrats from winning elections (an impossible task in a two-party system) but to prevent them from governing like traditional FDR Democrats if they ever do.

And, because of Democratic hesitation, naivety, and complicity (all are at work) the Rs have succeeded wildly.

-stewartm

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 124

Kinda like Woody Allen’s response when Diane Keaton tells him that sex without love is an empty experience:

“Yeah, but as empty experiences go, it’s one of the best.”

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 123

Well said. I think the ambivalence that you describe still runs thru FDL…Will certainly be discussed more during the election as he tries to explain himself.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 122

“He still wants to cut the budget. What sort of idiot does that In this time.” True that, but consider how fantastically worse it would be were we to adopt the gold standard, God’s Own Currency. That would REALLY crush the economy, and teach you liberals how to behave.

A pale second-best (and you read it here first): The right should promise to put the US on the Euro, so our economy could be run by German bankers! They’d get us back into line.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 3:06 pm
In response to stewartm @ 112

And–as the fundamental problems have not been fixed, we are certain to have another crash, the next one worse, under a political system thanks to Citizens United even more bought-and-paid for and less likely to put forth the proper response. A betting man would not be encouraged.

That’s one reason I think it’s important for Tom, Charles and others to focus attention on two issues:

1) what really would have happened if we hadn’t rushed into Bailout Mode in 2008; and

2) how any relief should have been structured, to address the problems so they don’t come back in a few years.

We need this sort of analysis, to remove the fear from the howlings by the “hair on fire” folks and provide a model of a REAL solution.

Because you’re right: this catastrophe will be back.

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Fair enough. But the “government is just like a family” bullshit is as anti-progressive as anything I can imagine. Taking that seriously, all progressive goals are off the table. I think I’ve read you write as much. Great blog, btw.

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 110

That is the stupid weakness of our journalistic system: It literally punishes originality.

It’s not so much originality, but actual journalism, that’s being punished here.

We are now two generations deep into an establishment-media journalist class that, because of the active discouragement of actual let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may journalism by the powers responsible for their paychecks, not only does not know how to do such journalism, but is proud of that fact — and where people in charge of fact-checking (like for instance the NYT’s Arthur Brisbane) deeply resent being asked to actually do their effing jobs.

How did this come to pass? In large part, because very rich conservatives like the Olin Foundation’s Bill Simon spent lots of money, starting in the 1970s, to take control of the public discourse.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

In 1932, in Columbus, FDR said the following at a campaign stop:

“It was the heyday of promoters, sloganeers, mushroom millionaires, opportunists, adventurers of all kinds. In this mad whirl was launched Mr. Hoover’s campaign. Perhaps foreseeing it, a shrewd man from New England, while in the cool detachment of the Dakota hills, on a narrow slip of paper wrote the historic words, “I do not choose to run.”

I’m sorry, but you simply can’t find anything like this in the speeches the president gave in 2008. (More’s the pity.) This notion that he promised you an FDR and then faked you out simply doesn’t hold up.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 132

“1) what really would have happened if we hadn’t rushed into Bailout Mode in 2008″
Well, my thinking is that some version of the bailouts were necessary, but not in the way they were actually done, where all the fools were left in charge. Bill Black can tell you why this is a VERY BAD way to do things.

Many of the big banks should have been wound down, also, and the political price of the gov’t bailing out the banks should have been re-regulation.

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 131

Be careful what you wish for. Timmy may like.

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Charles, I would take issue with that. If this admin had approached the disaster as it really was and not a let’s just get along moment, unemployment would have been much lower.lets start with puttin a handful of the asses in jail.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:11 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 131

Now Thomas, a sense of humor like that will get you tremendous appreciation, here, at FDL … beyond general delight in the pithy soundness of your superb writing,

;~DW

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Getting back to your book, I loved your description of the Farmers Holiday Association. Can you describe that here for folks, tell us if there were similar groups/activities that sprung up during the Depression, and offer suggestions as to how we might take similar actions today.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to econobuzz @ 133

I wouldn’t call that “anti-progressive,” per se. Both FDR and LBJ flirted with similar notions. The idea that the government has to balance its books like a family, which the president does say too much, is simpleminded and wrong.

HotFlash February 19th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Obama announced his campaign in Feb 2007. Presumably, he had been thinking about it for a while beforehand. He had *tons* of advisors, some of whom had been in the game for several campaigns. Being aware of the state of the country would seem to be, I would think, part of the gig. So, how much time did he need?

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:12 pm

“It was the heyday of promoters, sloganeers, mushroom millionaires, opportunists, adventurers of all kinds. In this mad whirl was launched Mr. Hoover’s campaign. Perhaps foreseeing it, a shrewd man from New England, while in the cool detachment of the Dakota hills, on a narrow slip of paper wrote the historic words, “I do not choose to run.”

Damn, they don’t make guys like that anymore! The idea of doing social criticism during a run for the presidency. !

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:13 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 131

Don’t say that . It’s bad enough they want a balanced budget amendment and want to fight over the debt and deficit. Idiots.

William Black February 19th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 107

I listened to the Tea Party co-authors of the book released on Valentine’s Day. Both of them emphasized that it was Rick Santelli’s rant against the bailout that prompted their involvement in the Tea Party. That’s revealing. Bush proposed and passed TARP, the bailout of the banks and bankers that caused the crisis. TARP has very little good that can be said about it. The stimulus bill was designed and passed by Obama and is the reason why the U.S. has a mild recovery while the Eurozone is going into recession. TARP largely aided the perpetrators. Stimulus largely aided the victims. Yet, it was stimulus that enraged Santelli and the Tea Party.

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

If he’d gotten a gigantic stimulus package through, unemployment (maybe) is in the 7′s

It’s a fairly simple calculation to determine how much money was lost in the great crash, and economists like Paul Krugman have done it. So I’m included to think that Phoenix Woman is largely correct.

However, I have caveats with Krugman. Their are two reasons why simply stimulating the economy via badly-needed stimulus spending (we need about $2.2 trillion just to maintain what we have–talk about high speed rails, robust power grids, high-speed internet? You’ll need more) won’t cut it.

a) Energy dependence. Revive the world economy, the 800-lb gorilla (oil prices) comes out of the closet. Part and parcel of any stimulus plan *must* address reducing the US energy dependence;

b) Oligopolies: the fact that we’ve not really enforced anti-trust legislation in the Era of Reagan means that many markets today are controlled by oligopolies that effectively collude on pricing. Ergo, any increase in US purchasing power will be eaten up by price increases that these oligopolies will simply roll out in the absence of regulation or breakups. I tell younger people that in the heyday of America we didn’t have Microsofts and we didn’t have Walmarts or Exxon-Mobils.

-stewartm

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Tom –
Is the Tea Party out of gas as a movement now? Beck has virtually disappeared as a presence. (He’s saying “We’re all Catholics now.” That’s just what we Papists need.) Their pols have sort of folded themselves into the establishment. The wildness seems to be gone. Catching their breath, or genuinely tapped out?

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 110

Okay, now you are my new best friend. When I call you up to talk next week remember this conversation…

At least you have figured out a way to a least fund what you do. I haven’t figured out how to “monetize” my work. (Such as corporate mind set, I know but I’m out here in Silicon Valley)

One idea I had was get people who make money from Qui tam awards via the SEC, DoJ or IRS to fund what I call “prosecutial investigative journalism.” Then a group could work to de-fund right-wing organizations, get people fired for actual lawbreaking within them, expose to their shareholders their non-moneymaking political activities and go after organizations that are actively attacking the safety-net and the social contract. Who is going after the Right wing Think Tanks, Right wing media and Right wing companies funding them? On the right they have 24/7 attacks on the left from the media and folks like James O’Keefe destroying ACORN using lies.

You might have seen some of my work developing the model for getting right wing radio and TV hosts off the air (Here in SF got two host defunded and fired, cost Michael Savage a million in revenue and pushed Murdoch to stop subsidizing Glenn Beck). I’ve devoted years of my life doing it and have been successful, but I can’t afford to keep doing it. I think I’m going to have to go back to helping corporate techies try and become 1%ers.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 143

Yes, we are, now, all way too “cool” for such hot truth as FDR occasionally was inclined to speak out loud.

Television would not stand for it.

And the media would not report it.

DW

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 140

” I loved your description of the Farmers Holiday Association.”
This was a group of destitute farmers in Iowa and Nebraska (and elsewhere on the great plains) who had had enough, and they decided to pull off a kind of farm strike, where they would limit production until farm prices recovered. Of course, that never happened (it can’t happen absent federal farm programs), and so they took it to the streets, dumping out the contents of trucks hauling farm goods. When journalists would interview them, they would compare themselves to . . . the Boston Tea Party!!!

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to stewartm @ 146

Point B gets you the basket +1, Stewart,

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 136

I of course completely agree with you [and Bill Black -- hat tip].

I’d just like to see this scenario written about and repeated so that it’s right at hand as an alternative when the next crisis strikes.

I’m old enough to have been around during the S&L crisis, and the contrast between the response then vs. 2008 is shameful.

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 3:17 pm

The Tea Party did its job. There is no more use for the Tea Party.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 110

Yes, we are all “outside” of the permitted conversation, Thomas.

DW

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 143

“Mushroom millionaires.” I’m filing that one away for future use!!

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
In response to William Black @ 145

I heard that fools rant. Obama or someone else should have had a rant as well.

William Black February 19th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 124

Billionaires don’t even need psychologists to boost their self-esteem — the financial press will write hagiography as SOP.

Hi Tom! Great book.

Best,
Bill

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 150

Another irony: The Farm Holiday Association, like just about all other farm groups in those days, was organized to try to rescue neighbors and friends from foreclosure. The tea party movement of our own day was founded out of outrage that people were going to be able to ESCAPE foreclosure by some gov’t program! That was what Santelli’s rant was all about — guys on the floor of the CBOT enraged that poor people might evade the wrath of the market-god.

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

It seems to me that the Pres. and his guys either wanted to put in with the Rs and support the banks or the Pres was too naive/uninformed to know what he wanted to do….So, he should be re-elected Why?

otchmoson February 19th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Late to the party . . . thanks for coming.

I’ve read all the comments and would agree that Obama blew his FDR moment; but I’ve read, and actually agree, that WE (the progressives) set ourselves up for disappointment. Several great bloggers have convinced me that I saw what I wanted to see rather than what was really before me. But of all the comments above, I think the most compelling is this:

he mistook the country’s hunger for justice for a desire for healing.

I think many, many progressives and liberal long for JUSTICE . . . and it does NOT appear to be coming our way any time soon.

William Black February 19th, 2012 at 3:21 pm
In response to Eli @ 129

Eli,

The perfect movie allusion. Well done.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
In response to RevBev @ 159

Simply? Because the opposition party is obviously demented.

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 136

Well, my thinking is that some version of the bailouts were necessary, but not in the way they were actually done, where all the fools were left in charge. Bill Black can tell you why this is a VERY BAD way to do things.

Agreed that if the banks went under, a huge hole would have been blown in the economy.

But–from a purely technical and political perspective, it would have been far cheaper just to reimburse everyone up to $100,000 and let those with more invested go lose their shirts. The political advantage from doing this would have been that some very rich people who are now buying our political system (with de facto taxpayer money, mind you) would suddenly be very broke. That in turn leads to the possibility of (gasp) honest government for a change.

Sure, we’d still have to spend LOTS of money, but the money could then go into rebuilding the country from the bottom up, doing long-overdue maintenance and long-overdue improvements instead of keeping zombie banks alive and banker bonuses intact.

-stewartm

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

“Is the Tea Party out of gas as a movement now?”
I don’t know if we’ll ever see big demonstrations again like the one in Sept. 2009. Even the ones I attended in 09 and 10 were pretty small by left-wing standards. I mean, at biggest, they would draw like 2000 people.

The TP people have definitely become part of the GOP establishment. They’re all over the place in the 4 still-viable campaigns — including Romney, by the way.

And I suspect that we’ll have fond re-creations of tea party rage for years to come. They’ll probably start selling TP nostalgia souvenirs any day now. And, of course, people will start to claim, “I was there, man.”

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I was never sure whether TARP was the right thing to do, but giving those people 29 trillion was definitely not right.

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Ahh, the lesser of 2 evils…we are sick of that one;)

econobuzz February 19th, 2012 at 3:24 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 164

The TP people have definitely become part of the GOP establishment.

Per Digby, they were always there.

William Black February 19th, 2012 at 3:24 pm
In response to bluedot12 @ 127

You know I bet in your direction. They have some time to find their token Wall Street felon who actually played a material role in causing the crisis.

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 3:25 pm

The public option was the most popular part of the health care proposal, and once Obama junked that and drug-price sanity to get industry-lobby money for the 2010 elections, that sunk the swing-district Democrats quite efficiently.

Scott Brown was the bellwether. He won in January 2010 when the pro-choice Martha Coakley went from being nineteen points up to losing in large part because she was ordered, in finest Paths of Glory fashion, to suicidally embrace the anti-choice Ben Nelson amendment to the already-unpopular health care bill. That’s not me saying this, that’s then-DCCC-Chair Chris Van Hollen saying this:

Because of provisions like the Nebraska deal, the Senate bill has been branded in a way that understandably makes it unacceptable in its current form to many voters, especially independents,” Van Hollen told me, adding that Senator Ben Nelson has acknowledged this provision is problematic and must be changed.
He said this was a lesson of Tuesday’s loss: “The Massachusetts election turned on lots of factors. One factor was health care reform,” he said, referring to the Senate bill.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 158

As I watch news footage of houses being bulldozed because they’ve been foreclosed upon, not kept up, vandalized and now destroyed — at the same time we have people without homes — it just makes me insane.

Aren’t there any creative groups out there who can somehow buy up these houses, relieve the prior owners of their mortgage obligation, and transform them into livable dwellings?

All I see now are proposals to sell them to hedge funds, who will then profit from people’s misery — the very misery the hedge funds have created.

Just trying to think if there’s any equivalent of the Farm Holiday Association — helping one’s neighbors and protecting them from the vultures — out there.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 164

It’s Woodstock!

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to RevBev @ 166

OK, so I wish you luck with President Santorum.

HotFlash February 19th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 143

And, perhaps more to the point, they don`t make audiences like that anymore.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 160

“he mistook the country’s hunger for justice for a desire for healing.”

This is very important. I spend a lot of time in “Pity” describing how the right is in the grip of a reality-distorting utopia, a free-market fantasy very similar in some ways to the old fantasies of the Communists.

But the Washington Ds have their own utopian fantasy. Not as systematic as Ayn Rand’s, but close. Everything has to take its place in the grand calculation of “where the center is.” Partisanship / extremism is the problem, and centrism is the solution, in every aspect of human enterprise.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 169

You have to have lived through the Coakley non-campaign to know how wrong that is.

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I respectfully decline….I just hope a program/agenda soon gets some energy in spite of the candidates….

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to RevBev @ 166

“Ahh, the lesser of 2 evils…we are sick of that one”
OK, it’s 6:30 here in Washington, so time for me to drop my most depressing idea.
Given the failure of O and the Dems to take advantage of their obvious moment in 09, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the New Deal, and the social order it ushered in, was a one-of-a-kind sort of thing. When I was growing up in the 70s, we thought the New Deal order was permanent, was just the Way Things Were. Now, though, it looks more and more like a kind of interlude or interregnum between the American norms: extreme inequality, deregulation, financial booms and panics, every-every-everything for the poor billionaire.

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

In my town, the Tea Party definitely isn’t out of gas. They elected two members of our local school board last November, and one of the two defeated Tea Party candidates tied the board, school officials, and the community in knots over his effort to have the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved” taken out of the AP English curriculum because–wait for this–it is pornographic.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Tom — Most misused/misunderstood word today — “socialism” or “populism”?
Discuss.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

in other words, back to the 19th century. The era of the middle class was a passing fad.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Aha! Then the “lesser weevil” meme is now officially retired?

Let’s see “they” are stark starring bonkers.

And Obama is ??????

(A continuing question mark).

Frankly, Charles, might I suggest that neither the Republicans NOR the Democrats are good for what ails America?

Our “choice”, with the two-party “system” is to go to hell, immediately, in a cheap hand-basket, piloted by someone who speaks to Gawd … or to be bled slowly to death, by the astute wisdoms of gravitas?

Heaven help us, the elephants and jackasses certainly will not.

What earthly good do YOU suggest will come from re-electing Obama?

Other than it won’t be a Rethuglican?

A simple answer will suffice.

DW

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 3:33 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 174

Partisanship / extremism is the problem, and centrism is the solution, in every aspect of human enterprise.

Here in very Republican East Tennessee I chanced to run into a local politico who (obviously thinking that I was was likewise an R) asked me “Who’d you think would have the best chance of beating Obama?”

By the end of our little political discussion, he was agreeing with me that we needed to:

a) cut the military (he was astounded to find out we were within WWII spending levels with little corresponding to show for it;

b) invest in infrastructure–maintain what we have and to be competitive with new technology;

c) a permanent WPA and permanent full employment.

d) free college education for all.

You see, even in 2011, FDR’s policies still resonates. There is no “center” the way the establishment depicts (half D and half R) just people who want by and large the best thing done for the country.

(I’d also say that he’d support what I call “market socialism” (employee-owned and operated companies vs stockholder-owned corporations) if it were explained to him. Many would).

-stewartm

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 123

I strongly second these perceptions, and ask that the guests explain with some explicitness why they seem so inclined to be more forgiving in their perceptions. Because, to me, even though I voted for Obama, I now find it impossible to regard him as ever having had any intent to do anything but serve the corporate oligarchy, and all the data supports that view and none of the data contradicts it, as far as I can see.

Mod Note: Again we ask that the discussion stay on the topic of Mr Frank’s book and not a discourse on the failings of President Obama

gavbrown01 February 19th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 177

My fear exactly. I am mystified by the failure of O and the Ds to pick up on the popular progressive sentiment in 09. They could have done anything. Instead, they handed the reins back to the Rs and stood on the sidelines as the roof caved in.

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 174

But the Washington D’s have their own utopian fantasy. . . centrism is the solution, in every aspect of human enterprise

The stupid, stupid D’s. On the Right, it’s the “partisan extremists” who come out to vote. On the Left, in the “good old days,” there were equivalents [esp. unions, gays, women who felt threatened] — all those that Rahm thought were extremists and you-know-what-else.

Centerists don’t have the energy to come roaring out to vote, to volunteer, to donate, to make calls. Didn’t the Dems learn this from the Coakley experience?

And how’s that “volunteer – donate” experience going for Obama in 2012? I’ve got two recent college grad kids who were energized for Obama in 2008 [as were all of their friends]. This year: crickets from all.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:35 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 180

I’d say further back, to neo-feudalism, with the Divine Right of Money replacing that earlier Divine Right …

G
o
i
n
g

D
o
w
n

DW

Tammany Tiger February 19th, 2012 at 3:35 pm

The Democrats’ response to every Republican idea, no matter how bat***t crazy, is to split the difference. If, say, Lindsay Graham proposed to abolish the Bill of Rights, Democratic strategists would propose a compromise: only the odd-numbered amendments will get killed off.

frmrirprsn February 19th, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Mr. Frank, Ayn Rand was the most prominent atheist of her age. She especially despised Christianity. She made some of these comments on film. Her own sexual behavior made Gingrich look pure as a lamb.

Paul Ryan is openly selling a budget based on the beliefs of a sexually promiscuous atheist to fundamentalist Christians.

I have yet to hear a Democrat call out the Ryan budget as anti Christian. Can you help me understand why?

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

“Most misused/misunderstood word today — “socialism” or “populism”?”
Most would say “socialism,” given the quite insane way it is applied to Obama and Co.
But I wonder: “populism” is a term that really gets the Washington Dems in a twist. They hate hate hate it! It’s the scariest, worst thing ever! We need to learn the lessons of the Bryan campaign in 1896 and NEVER inconvenience the billionaires! The cons, on the other hand, seem to have no problem with it. Just watch Newt bash the “elites,” or Santorum doing the same. They talk populism constantly.

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 177

It is the most depressing and the one that should get us energized….for us of the 60s, that energy and activism (The New Frontier, I guess) should not be lost/betrayed, all that stuff. Maybe this is just the preview of seeing how bad things could get…and necessary to get us going NOW.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 181

If you can honestly look at the GOP primary performance and ask that question, I can’t help you.

William Black February 19th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to spocko @ 148

FYI, we all “know” that ACORN caused the financial crisis by extorting the oh-so-reluctant-to-make-bad-loans banks to make bad loans. Except, as I read last night, a Federal Reserve hearing on HOEPA in 2000, ACORN’s actual testimony was:

I’m Linnie Cobb, and I am a member of Oakland

ACORN. And I’m here today on behalf of the California

ACORN. We are a community organization of low- and

moderate-income people, and we are coming together to make

changes in our neighborhoods in Oakland, San Jose,

Sacramento and Los Angeles.

We have been working hard to keep our

neighborhoods safe from predatory lenders, or subprime

mortgage lenders who prey on our communities by convincing

234

residents to sign up for bad loans, which result in our

neighbors losing their homes.

We call on the Federal Reserve to take action

against predatory lenders that are destroying our dreams

of home ownership. At ACORN, our knowledge of predatory

lending comes directly from the community. We organize our

neighborhoods house by house, and block by block.

Unfortunately, we have found far too many of our neighbors

who have become victims of predatory lending practices.

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 158

One thing I noticed, is the ability of the right to take local resentment of a neighbor and turn it ON in people.

The resentment of the people “above them” is NOT turned on. “You want to BE like a 1%er, but those goddamn neighbors of yours who got a pension? Screw them! And those neighbors who brought “too much house”? Screw them! You didn’t “buy too much house” they deserve the pain! Why not look “Up” at the developers of Credit Default Swaps? Because they don’t know them. They do know their neighbor who was acting all high and mighty with his new boat he got from his home equity Loan.

You know I always hoped that someone would create a group of “Untouchables” who would go after folks like Jamie Dimon, Goldman Sachs and their ilk. It would consist of people like William Black, David Cay Johnston, retired prosecutors, Lehman Brother’s people who lost their jobs because of Goldman Sachs games, Private investigators, private Tax experts and Securities lawyers, whistleblowers and some Occupy Wall Streeters. They could not only do the work, but figure out a way (Qui tam laws?) to make money doing it because it would need to be private. Then they would liaise with the DoJ to make cases.

But too many people see what Obama does to Whistle blowers and what Wall Street Did to Elliott Spitzer. You do NOT get in between the 1% and their money stream.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 189

That’s what I think, too. Tom. Democrats are terrified to have “populism” attached to them because, in their historical context, it means “radical” economic policies– Oh, noes! — whereas the R’s just take the racism and hatred of The Other from it and run away with it.

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 177

We certainly do not have anything like FDR around us now and no leaders to carry the day. And there likely won’t be for years to come. It may be necessary to rebuild from the ground up. We are now into voting for the lesser of evils. The only light I see is the Occupy movement but that may not be focused enough.

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 185

It was like 5-6 years ago on my dinky little blog that I said Democrats don’t (or won’t) understand that turnout is a force multiplier. You’ll get a lot more votes appealing to 100 motivated progressives than to 100 indifferent moderates.

The progressives are also a lot more likely to urge other people to vote for you, too.

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Eli @ 196

Exactly.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

My reasonable answer is that I choose to live under Barack Obama, and his dishwatery Democratic policies, than under a theocrat like Santorum, or a pliable cyborg like Romney. Jesus, these people are out there seriously talking about nullification. There is a difference.
I’m with Tom on the passing moment of the middle class.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to spocko @ 193

Go spocko!!!

Superb!

DW

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to frmrirprsn @ 188

I’ve wondered about Rand’s atheism for a long time. How does it get overlooked so easily? Could it be that her followers think that part of her philosophy can just be ignored? Or that they don’t really read the books they say they do? Or that they just can’t imagine that someone so righteous might also be a ferocious opponent of their religion?

Either way, it’s all moot until someone with a big enough megaphone lets the wingers know that this is the case. One thing I learned writing “Pity” is that the silliest narrative beats no narrative at all. (as someone rightly said up above.)

Mauimom February 19th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 189

“populism” is a term that really gets the Washington Dems in a twist. They hate hate hate it! It’s the scariest, worst thing ever!

Fascinating, isn’t it. Maybe it’s a legacy from Kennedy. Dems have never been able to take an honest look at all those [Harvard] brainiacs who ran Vietnam & the Bay of Pigs. Then there’s the whole “smartest guys in the room” of Enron fame.

There’s really an elitism in-bred into the Washington Dems. The only “wisdom” or “judgment” they recognize is measured by that college sticker on the back window of your Volvo.

Scarecrow February 19th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 177

You may be right that the progressive aspects of the New Deal were an aberration — but the ideas were so powerful, and so broadly supported, they drove America politics for decades. It took thirty years of misrepresentations and corruption to undermine them. And when the great crash of 2008 happened, many of us recognized it as a moment when all of the reactionary ideas had clearly failed and anyone with an ounce of sense and a modicum of political skill could reinstate the progressive values and hammer home the logic behind them.

The hostility you read here is about the sense of disappointment, even betrayal, fair or not (we heard what we wanted to hear from the campaign), that many feel that this unexpected opportunity came along and was mostly blown, perhaps indefinitely.

Bottom line, the interregnum could have reappeared, it need not have been a one off event, but we didn’t have the the champion many thought, “hoped” we had. Obama’s popularitiy rises as he embraces those values (and they also happen to boost the economy, despite all the regressive measures).

eCAHNomics February 19th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Hopping back in after friends visited.

Bailouts in 1930s. Recently read 7/31 of FDR’s fireside chats. The ones about the economy were tear producing in the sense of the lip service he gave to the 99ers. The war ones, not so much.

Zinn’s FDR is the one who did the bare minimum he needed to do to same the ‘system’ for the 1%ers.

O doesn’t even do that.

Implications?

gavbrown01 February 19th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 200

I actually think that a good narrative would be enough to turn the tide. Look at how OWS turned the talk from deficits to inequality.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

“Dishwatery” is far too mild, Charles … Obama is deliberately helping to destroy this nation.

We shall simply have to agree to disagree.

DW

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Marcy Kaptur once told me that what happened was that people in my business became “overprofessionalized” and lost touch with the middle class. I think that applies to Democratic politicians, too. Which is a long way around to agreeing with Mauimom.

Eli February 19th, 2012 at 3:44 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 200

As long as you worship wealth you don’t *have* to worship Jesus?

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 205

To what purpose is he “deliberately trying to destroy this nation”? What’s he gonna get out of it? I mean, this is the stuff I hear from the Birchers. Yoicks.

eCAHNomics February 19th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 200

They also say that halitosis is better than no breath at all.

These days, I wonder. I’ve already lived my 3 score and 7 and I’m thinking I DO NOT WANT TO EXPERIENCE what O will do in his second term.

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

But O does have the skills to be the educator in Chief, such as FDR or JKF, at their best. Why doesn’t he take on that role?

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 177

Given the failure of O and the Dems to take advantage of their obvious moment in 09, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the New Deal, and the social order it ushered in, was a one-of-a-kind sort of thing. When I was growing up in the 70s, we thought the New Deal order was permanent, was just the Way Things Were. Now, though, it looks more and more like a kind of interlude or interregnum between the American norms: extreme inequality, deregulation, financial booms and panics, every-every-everything for the poor billionaire.

Though then you’d have to explain Western Europe as well (who likewise devised social democratic institutions) came to develop a middle class. True, they’re under attack as well, largely because in the Era of Reagan they aped our policies, slashing upper tax rates and privatizing and deregulating, just not to the same degree.

I do think that, in a capitalist system given our historical pedigree that, left to its own natural drift, we will head back to a situation of “lords” and “serfs” (or, as Rachel Maddow says, “Feudalism with cable”). The problem as I see it with FDR’s legacy is that, despite its success, capitalism stayed intact, and capitalists fought a long protracted war to pry off finger-by-finger high tax rates and bothersome regulations. In short, left to its own nature, a capitalist system will always return to its own vomit unless restrained from doing so.

Reaganomics has been a great political success as it institutionally rewards powerful segments of society and thus guarantees their opposition to change. Conservatives always argue against public assistance by throwing up the spectacle of welfare queens voting en masse to preserve their meager benefits (which never happened) while ignoring the fact that those who benefit from the largesse of Reaganomics–Big Finance, and Big Military in particular–ARE powerful institutions who WILL try everything in their power to make sure their gravy trains are maintained. That institutional obstacle is what must be overcome, but for a more permanent fix we have to create strong institutional safeguards into our own policies.

So—while I’d like to get back FDR’s policies if I could, now I want *more* than that, now that it’s clear from history that any New Deal “patches” won’t hold over the long run. We have to erect institutional safeguards that will keep them in place.

-stewartm

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 158

The irony of the Tea Party is that it had its origins in secularist moderate-Republicanism (aka “Libertarianism”) and was on the verge of becoming an actual (and major) third party that in 2010 would have done to the Republicans what they paid Nader and the Greens to do to Al Gore in 2000 (that is, leach off enough of their base voters to cost them in the elections). But the Kochs and Dick Armey moved to re-assimilate them back into the GOP, as David Dayen describes here.

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Tom –Since we’re heading for home here, can you expand a little on your notion that the “middle class” may have been a transitory period in our history and our politics? Is it because politicians abandoned the concept or because we’ve decided, in a hundred ways, that we don’t need/deserve to have one?

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Tell that to Chris Van Hollen and Celinda Lake (Coakley’s pollster).

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to William Black @ 192

But, but, but Sex slaves! Pimps! Prostitutes! Their is LIVE video!
And Obama USED TO Be an community organizer!

BTW, Fox Nation reporter Jana Winter pushed a story that zombie ACORN (New York Communities for Change) was behind Occupy Wall Street. She said they were paying homeless and others 100 dollars a day to go to protests. She had “anonymous sources” tell her that NYCC was gathering money for one thing and using it on OWS. This was picked up by Daryll Issa who asked the NY AG to investigate this fraud. All based on anonymous data that is wrong. Now, why shouldn’t there be someone who could do that to organizations that happen to groups like the funders of Heritage? Corps that are actually perpetrating fraud for real?
Why isn’t anyone looking into the illegality of Fox “journalism”? How much to you want to bet that they are using some of the same illegal phone taping techniques here in the US?

frmrirprsn February 19th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to Eli @ 207

Jesus WANTS you to be wealthy. Some early scribe left the snark tag off the Sermon on the Mount.

eCAHNomics February 19th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Trying to destroy the nation has a long & venerable history in the U.S.

They destroyed the continent from sea-to-shining-sea in a mere 100 years. Killed every beaver, cut down every tree, killed every bison (not to mention mere subhumans like native Americans).

So what would be new about destroying the nation.

After all, the rest of us dubes worked really hard to bring it back. We can be conned into doing it again & again.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Charles, he “gets” to join the legacy class. He “gets” to become wealthy.

He “gets” to follow in Bill Clinton’s footsteps.

The main and principle purpose for becoming a politician, today, is to make those important “connections”.

Consider the “revolving door”.

Obama, Charles, will never be in need, ever in his life … but millions of Americans are in grave need now.

Do you perceive a “disconnect”?

DW

bluedot12 February 19th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

My guess,Charle, is you are seeing a deep sense of betrayal here. And it is on going and something that’ started from the beginning. Anyway, it fits into the decline of the middle class and FDR policies we are witnessing.

BevW February 19th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Tom, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book.

Charlie, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Tom’s website and book (Pity The Billionaire)

Charlie’s website and book (Idiot America)

Thanks all, Have a great week.

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:53 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 214

Van Hollen said it was “a factor,” Celinda Lake is simply doing a CYA for future business. Coakley could have come out for single-payer, Finland-style health-care and nobody would have known it because she…didn’t…campaign.

kspopulist February 19th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

digby and David Atkins have articles up this afternoon along the same lines as the discussion today!
The lines are coming together!

Charles Pierce February 19th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Bye all. It’s bee a lot of fun. I love my trips to the ‘Lake. Stay well.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

” your notion that the “middle class” may have been a transitory period”

Charles: It’s because the politics that made the middle class nation were based on a particular reaction to hard times. Not on the authority of experts, but on the particular way we reacted to the Depression. This time around, after conservatives who put Calvin Coolidge to shame ran the economy off a cliff AGAIN, those politics didn’t reappear. Maybe Obama’s failure, maybe the right’s genius–a little of both, as i say in “Pity.” But maybe also time to acknowledge that the politics that made us a middle-class nation were a specific response to a particular historical situation.

But that’s too depressing a note to end on. I want to work for a better response, I just don’t know where to begin anymore. I did my best with this book.

jimbowski February 19th, 2012 at 3:55 pm
In response to William Black @ 192

Awesome! Thank you! More ammo! I found a link to it: https://federalreserve.gov/events/publichearings/20000907/20000907pm.htm

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

That is a very disappointing answer, and I have heard it from so many who plan to vote for Obama despite his abysmal record. Query: Do people with that viewpoint ever think beyond the next election cycle, like, for example, to the possibility that maybe another Republican Administration might be just exactly what the people need to get angry enough to finally get up on their hind legs and DEMAND change, or else? Why is your strategic thinking limited to only one move ahead? Do you ever even bother to quantify the real-life differential betw another 4 years of Obama vs. 4 years of a Romney? I would submit that the difference would not be great enough to negate the value of pushing the people closer to the point of demanding real systemic change.

Thomas Frank February 19th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Well, I did it. I ended on the worst possible note. At any rate, I’m proud of the book, and I hope you all enjoy it. And thanks for joining me. It was fun!

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to Eli @ 207

Check out my post.

Jesus has his yearly performance review

“We are also concerned about your politics. We want you to keep a low profile with your whole, “love your enemies” stuff and healing the sick. We can’t really make much money on loving the enemies stuff, but we like that angry thing you did in the Temple, our target follower loves the anger.

We have a few notes on that incident, again, love the anger, but we don’t like your targets. Money changers and the livestock industry are two of our biggest donors and if you drive them out of the temple you hurt their feelings and especially hurt our donations. One big money changer donor told me he didn’t appreciate being called a thief and you naming poor widows as his victims. If we want his contributions to continue, stop pointing out that as a percentage of wealth the poor widows give more than rich guys like him. When you do that it makes him look cheap in front of other donors. And next time? Focus your anger on the smaller unaffiliated merchants selling doves and independent money changers, okay?

Next, could you stop giving away health care? For example, that leper that you cured now has to find a job and his only skill was as a beggar. He was a vital part of the economy by giving wealthy merchants someone they could give alms to so they could feel better. So if you are going to cure someone be sure to make it a cure that keeps him in the system. Maybe a partial cure where his face stops falling off and doesn’t look terrible but his fingers still keep falling off.

Overall Jesus we were really disappointed with your progress this year. Would it kill you to change your sermons to fit in more with the community? I mean Jesus Christ, remember those good Samaritans aren’t your bosses, we are. Who died and left you God?

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thank you, Thomas, a wonderful conversation.

Thank you, Charles, as well.

And profound thanks to you, Bev, as always.

DW

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 224

We look forward to the next Chapter of Where do we Go from here? Thank you for coming and for the discussion.

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to Thomas Frank @ 200

I’ve wondered about Rand’s atheism for a long time. How does it get overlooked so easily? Could it be that her followers think that part of her philosophy can just be ignored?

Ah. I was just reading Corey Robin’s “Garbage and Gravitas” about Ayn Rand just this very day, and stumbled on the fact that while the Right uses religion, deep down many of them are suspicious of its deeper message (sorry for the long quote, but I thought it’s a good ‘un):

But Nietzsche’s influence saturated Rand’s writing in a deeper way, one emblematic of the overall trajectory of the conservative right since its birth in the crucible of the French Revolution. Rand was a lifelong atheist with a special animus for Christianity, which she called the “best kindergarten of communism possible.” Far from representing a heretical tendency within conservatism, Rand’s statement channels a tradition of right-wing suspicion about the insidious effects of religion, particularly Christianity, on the modern world. Where many conservatives since 1789 have rallied to Christianity and religion as an antidote to the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the more farsighted among them have seen religion, or at least some aspect of it, as the adjutant of revolution.

Joseph de Maistre, the most visionary of France’s early counterrevolutionaries, was one of the first to speak of this. An arch-Catholic, he traced the French Revolution to the acrid solvents of the Reformation. With its celebration of “private interpretation” of the Scriptures, Protestantism paved the way for century upon century of regicide and revolt originating in the lower classes.

It is from the shadow of a cloister that there emerges one of mankind’s very greatest scourges. Luther appears; Calvin follows him. The Peasants’ Revolt; the Thirty Years’ War; the civil war in France…the murders of Henry II, Henry IV, Mary Stuart, and Charles I; and finally, in our day, from the same source, the French Revolution.

Nietzsche, the child of a Lutheran pastor, radicalized this argument, painting all of Christianity—indeed all of Western religion, going back to Judaism—as a slave morality, the psychic revolt of the lower orders against their betters. Before there was religion or even morality, there was the sense and sensibility of the master class. The master looked upon his body—its strength and beauty, its demonstrated excellence and reserves of power—and saw and said that it was good. As an afterthought he looked upon the slave, and saw and said that it was bad. The slave never looked upon himself: he was consumed by envy of and resentment toward his master. Too weak to act upon his rage and take revenge, he launched a quiet but lethal revolt of the mind. He called all the master’s attributes—power, indifference to suffering, thoughtless cruelty—evil. He spoke of his own attributes—meekness, humility, forbearance—as good. He devised a religion that made selfishness and self-concern a sin, and compassion and concern for others the path to salvation. He envisioned a universal brotherhood of believers, equal before God, and damned the master’s order of unevenly distributed excellence. The modern residue of that slave revolt, Nietzsche makes clear, is found not in Christianity, or even religion, but in the nineteenth-century movements for democracy and socialism:

Another Christian concept, no less crazy, has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the “equality of souls before God.” This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights: mankind was first taught to stammer the proposition of equality in a religious context, and only later was it made into morality: no wonder that man ended by taking it seriously, taking it practically!—that is to say, politically, democratically, socialistically.

When Rand inveighs against Christianity as the forebear of socialism, when she rails against altruism and sacrifice as inversions of the true hierarchy of values, she is cultivating the strain within conservatism that sees religion as not a remedy to but a helpmate of the left. And when she looks, however ineptly, to Aristotle for an alternative morality, she is recapitulating Nietzsche’s journey back to antiquity, where he hoped to find a master-class morality untainted by the egalitarian values of the lower orders.

Though Rand’s antireligious defense of capitalism might seem out of place in today’s political firmament, we would do well to recall the recent revival of interest in her books. More than 800,000 copies of her novels were sold in 2008 alone; as Burns rightly notes, “Rand is a more active presence in American culture now than she was during her lifetime.” Indeed, Rand is regularly cited as a formative influence upon an entire new generation of Republican leaders; Burns calls her “the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right.” Whether or not she is invoked by name, Rand’s presence is palpable in the concern, heard increasingly on the right, that there is something sinister afoot in the institutions and teachings of Christianity.

I beg you, look for the words “social justice” or “economic justice” on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.

That was Glenn Beck on his March 2 radio show, taking a stand against, well, pretty much every church in the Christian faith: Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist—even his very own Church of Latter-day Saints.

-stewartm

speakingupnow February 19th, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Thank you Mr. Frank. I’ve really enjoyed reading your various books.

hpschd February 19th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Your last words in “Pity ..”

“…America will go, chasing a dream that is more vivid than life itself, on into the seething Arcadia of all against all.”

So sad, is there really so little hope?

jimbowski February 19th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Will definitely buy the book. Keep up the good writing, comrade!!!

stewartm February 19th, 2012 at 4:02 pm
In response to spocko @ 228

Jesus has his yearly performance review

Man, I missed that one. And it’s rich.

Mind if I repost it and give you attribution?

-stewartm

otchmoson February 19th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I’ve had thoughts along these same lines. Maybe a “second helping” of austerity, budget-balancing, deficit-reducing, safety-net cutting would inspire the butt-sitting complainers to recognize the dire straits facing the nation. I fear that re-electing Obama will just give us four more years of extend-and-pretend. But . . . could I actually vote for a Santorum?

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

This was quite a workout….There must be a source of optimism.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

At least, rc, you are still allowed to comment.

DW

tongorad February 19th, 2012 at 4:05 pm
In response to stewartm @ 112

“”The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.” – Barack Obama

There you have it. We serve the markets, the markets don’t serve us. This is Obama’s neoliberal “greater purpose.”

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 4:06 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 236

I think one change in the dynamics is that the country has had it/sick to death of being at war….Not sure how that plays out, but families, the country are exhausted with the expense/tragedy, etc. A definite change, it seems to me.

gavbrown01 February 19th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I have not given up. America has a resilience and ability to respond to tough times that I think is underestimated.

oldgold February 19th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Excellent answer.

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 4:08 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 236

Hmmm. Maybe if you have a motto like, “I’m done voting for the lesser of two evils and am going to start voting for the greater of two evils to make things so bad there is nowhere to go but up.”

So, Sauron for President it is! Then again there are only 47 fans of Sauron for President on his Facebook page.

Oh I’m sorry you said vote for Santorum not Sauron never mind, wait, what I said still applies!

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 4:09 pm
In response to stewartm @ 235

Oh, Please do! The whole post also has links to actual scholarly research behind it. It didn’t get on the Front Page because actual news was happening that day.

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Oh, indeed. We saw that movie in 2000, and I have no desire for a rerun.

The problem is: How do we get Obama to see that he has to actually act like a Democrat in order to motivate his base, instead of constantly attacking them in the name of “bipartisanship” (aka “appealing to rich white libertarian types who hate paying taxes but whose campaign cash Obama needs”)? You never see Republicans shitting on their base the way DLC-type Dems do on theirs.

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 4:14 pm

That strikes me as being a particularly unworthy response. It implies that you believe we are indeed owned by the Democratic Party. I am not owned by anybody that lies to me and betrays me as Obama and the Dems have done. One might just as well say, “I wish you luck with another term of President Obama.” Both will suck, guaranteed. The real question is, where will the prospects for real change be after both options have played out? What if Rethugs are seen as a shoo-in after another sucky four years of Obama?

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 4:19 pm

The problem is this: Who will “the people” listen to — us, or Rupert Murdoch? He has a bigger megaphone than we do.

We were very, very lucky in 1932. We could have gone the way Germany did — and in fact the very way the German Communists, with their “Nach Hitler, Uns!” (After Hitler, Us!) game plan hoped.

Just as Nader wanted Bush to win in 2000, the Communists wanted Hitler to win in 1933-4: They thought that he’d screw the pooch so badly that the masses would immediately see the light and run into the arms of the far left. It didn’t work in 1934, and it didn’t work in 2000.

Gitcheegumee February 19th, 2012 at 4:20 pm
In response to stewartm @ 235

WHAT would Jesus steal??

frmrirprsn February 19th, 2012 at 4:21 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 245

Oh he knows. He’s been acting much more like a Democrat since the collapse of the Grand Bargain.

Mr. Frank’s statement that O’s problem was that he thought the fundamental problem with the country was partisanship is the most charitable explanation of his behavior possible. I’m more cynical.

Gitcheegumee February 19th, 2012 at 4:24 pm
In response to RevBev @ 210

Why doesn’t he take on that role?

For the same reason that educating slaves was forbidden ??

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 4:28 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 250

Or his words would ring hollow? Not fit with the PTB? Im not at all sure what his message would be, really.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 4:28 pm
In response to spocko @ 244

A superb and wonderfully powerful post, spocko.

Much appreciated.

DW

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 4:30 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 250

Great to “see” you Githcheegumee.

I’ve missed ya …

DW

HotFlash February 19th, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Sorry, voting for bad-but-sane is not enough better than bad-and-crazy to get my vote. Are we talking about electing our government or playing chicken?

Ludwig February 19th, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Comrade RC. You see, the comprador must not appear to be bitter. He will stay in line and not rage against the machine because that is his modus operandi. If he were as truly logical as he poses, he would have much better understanding of the situation.

So the question is: is he “logical” out of compliance or is he playing you?

The comprador is both.

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 5:07 pm
In response to otchmoson @ 236

Vote third party, any third party. Also, I doubt Santorum or any extreme social conservative will be the actual Rethug nominee, more likely a guy like Romney that is about business and money. It’s not necessary to vote R, it is just necessary to NOT vote for Obama.

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 5:11 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 238

;-) I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever see a black person or a comfortable public person make the leap to withholding their vote from Obama. (There was a very funny skit on SNL last night re the former.)

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 5:13 pm
In response to oldgold @ 242

No it’s not. DW asked a specific question, and it was dodged rather than answered.

Gitcheegumee February 19th, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Dear folks, I am SO sorry that I missed this salon..and Dee Dub, back atcha,darlin’!

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 5:20 pm
In response to spocko @ 243

Maybe you should familiarize yourself with some basic revolutionary theory, and ease up a bit on the smug self-satisfaction. I am not nearly as impressed with you as you obviously are with yourself. Your response to me the other day, when anybody paying attention should have known I was snarking you, might be a tipoff that you could use a small measure of humble added in to your certainty. I’m just sayin’ . . .

HotFlash February 19th, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Well, that`s your choice. Being screwed by Republicans is rape. Being screwed by Democrats is incest. I`ll take neither, thank you.

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 5:25 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 247

That is a slander of Nader that I completely reject. I also reject your analogy to Germany. You got any evidence, or are you just pulling this stuff out of your ass?

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Dear Realitychecker:

First off, I’m sorry I didn’t get the snark in that post. I really should have figured it out. For that I sincerely apologize. I had spent part of the day talking with a group of people who are in the “guns should be everywhere” mode and are very, very serious about it.

And as for smug self satisfaction? Well, I suppose that might be somehow coming across, but I fell like I’m so far away from self-satisfied I would be in the Delta Quadrant of another galaxy.

I’m very un-self satisfied, and if I came across as smug then it’s a failure in my ability to communicate. I think it might be my frustration with my own inability to figure out “the system” and then have an impact. I just saw the movie Tinker, Tailor Solider Spy and there is a scene in it where Smiley talks about how he and the Russians spend their lives trying to find the weaknesses in the others system.

Most days after I think I figured something out, a weakness in the system, I later come to the conclusion that it is only part of a bigger puzzle and that my insight is actually rather pedestrian and was made by others a long time ago.

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 5:48 pm
In response to spocko @ 263

Well, now I have to respond with equal grace. I am glad you are out there doing what you do, and I respect all your stuff that I have read. I am just getting a little touchy (major understatement lol) as I see how few are willing to consider options other than doing what the sellout Dems expect us to do. But we both agree there is no easy way forward from here. My spirit guide tells me that we are allies in the same big battle, bottom line, so I embrace you and declare myself to be at peace with you. ((spocko))

Ludwig February 19th, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Look Thomas Frank, what does the inevitability of the death of the middle class mean? If you had come to your realization of the immense and abusive class power at a more inconvenient time, perhaps you’d be a little angrier.

Why do people waste their time on this shite?

spocko February 19th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Thank you! LLAP, Spocko

RevBev February 19th, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Thanks that you both were so gracious…we are so often inundated with snark and cynicism….Thanks to both of you for serious and kind exchange.

Ludwig February 19th, 2012 at 6:29 pm
In response to Ludwig @ 265
DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 6:41 pm
In response to RevBev @ 267

RC and spocko got class, RevBev, real class.

;~DW

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 6:43 pm

An Hispanic group declared that they survived eights years of Bush and they’ll survive another Republican administration, but they won’t support Obama. I think Obama’s a sociopath, but at the very least, and the best you can say of him, a betrayer.

The idea that we have to wrest the Democratic Party away from the fools and knaves who own it and run it is ignorant and naive: there’s nothing left of the party worth the effort. Both parties are gangrenous. Third party all the way, and at some point 10 or so years from now, voters will coalesce around two or several third parties and Democrats and Republicans will be politically, officially dead–as opposed to still walking dead and infecting the Republic with carrion diseases.

Bluetoe2 February 19th, 2012 at 6:45 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 247

So where are your links/proofs of the Communists wanting a Nazi victory in 1933? The communists were the only ones standing up to the thugs in the Nazi Party. The other “legitimate” opposition parties were trying to placate the Nazi’s. Kind of like Obama wanting to placate the wing nuts, all in the name of bipartisanship of course.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 6:58 pm
In response to stewartm @ 60

Try stopmebeforeivoteagain.org: http://stopmebeforeivoteagain.org/stopme/

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:00 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 65

Sociopath did you say? I do.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:01 pm
In response to June Carbone @ 68

Christendom, literally.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:04 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 77

And post presidency. Obama will not be outdone by Clinton.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:09 pm
In response to Charles Pierce @ 92

On the right hand of God. Or is it Right Hand of God?

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:12 pm
In response to RevBev @ 98

I’m for the latter. His history before the presidential campaign clearly shows it. I knew he wasn’t all that, I did some backgrounding and that much was obvious, but I never thought he’d be this bad. Then. Now, of course, I know he’s this bad.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:17 pm
In response to Mauimom @ 101

Obama is a mediocre conventionalist, which tells you how intellectually deficient the political class is that he’s considered an intellectual.

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 7:19 pm
In response to Bluetoe2 @ 271

You could have just googled “nach hitler uns” and answered your own question, rather than gone to such efforts to try to imply that I was fibbing. But just for you:

From http://weimar.facinghistory.org/node/150

1929 – Ruth Fisher Loses Leadership Position in German Communist Party

Ruth Fischer lost her struggle to keep the German Communist Party from becoming totally subservient to Joseph Stalin. The Communists went on to aid Hitler and the Nazis in their efforts to destroy the Weimar Republic. The Communist Party leadership believed that Hitler could not possibly be successful in ruling Germany and that they would be the beneficiaries of his failure. Their slogan became “Nach Hitler Uns” (After Hitler Us).

Didn’t work in Germany in 1933-34, didn’t work in America in 2000, won’t work in America in 2012. As I said already, we were very, very lucky in 1932 — for one thing, the GOP hadn’t figured out the Southern Strategy, or met Eddie Bernays or Rupert Murdoch, so they didn’t control the terms of debate the way they increasingly have since 1980. (Look up William Simon and the Olin Foundation to see how that was accomplished.)

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Disagree and in any case, speculation all around.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I got the impression Coakley was a very poor campaigner and pretty much shot her campaign thru the head. Maybe she didn’t want it when she was told, and somebody must have tried to tell her, what she needed to do.

Phoenix Woman February 19th, 2012 at 7:51 pm

You’re either ignorant or a liar — and since my experience of certain Greenie/Nader types is that they’re not averse to lying or dirty politics, I won’t be shocked if it’s the latter that’s the case.

I’ve already provided a “Nach Hitler, Uns!” link here (though as I told bluedot, if you were really interested in the answer rather than attacking me for daring not to worship your hero Nader, you could have Googled it yourself). As for Nader wanting Bush to win in 2000, there’s ample documentation of that:

From “Ralph the Leninist”, Slate, October 31, 2000:

This depraved indifference to Republican rule has made Nader’s old liberal friends even more furious. A bunch of intellectuals organized by Sean Wilentz and Todd Gitlin are circulating a much nastier open letter, denouncing Nader’s “wrecking-ball campaign–one that betrays the very liberal and progressive values it claims to uphold.” But really, the question shouldn’t be the one liberals seem to be asking about why Nader is doing what he’s doing. The question should be why anyone is surprised. For some time now, Nader has made it perfectly clear that his campaign isn’t about trying to pull the Democrats back to the left. Rather, his strategy is the Leninist one of “heightening the contradictions.” It’s not just that Nader is willing to take a chance of being personally responsible for electing Bush. It’s that he’s actively trying to elect Bush because he thinks that social conditions in American need to get worse before they can better.

Nader often makes this “the worse, the better” point on the stump in relation to Republicans and the environment. He says that Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt was useful because he was a “provocateur” for change, noting that Watt spurred a massive boost in the Sierra Club’s membership. More recently, Nader applied the same logic to Bush himself. Here’s the Los Angeles Times‘ account of a speech Nader gave at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., last week: “After lambasting Gore as part of a do-nothing Clinton administration, Nader said, ‘If it were a choice between a provocateur and an anesthetizer, I’d rather have a provocateur. It would mobilize us.’ “

Lest this remark be considered an aberration, Nader has said similar things before. “When [the Democrats] lose, they say it’s because they are not appealing to the Republican voters,” Nader told an audience in Madison, Wis., a few months ago, according to a story in The Nation. “We want them to say they lost because a progressive movement took away votes.” That might make it sound like Nader’s goal is to defeat Gore in order to shift the Democratic Party to the left. But in a more recent interview with David Moberg in the socialist paper In These Times, Nader made it clear that his real mission is to destroy and then replace the Democratic Party altogether. According to Moberg, Nader talked “about leading the Greens into a ‘death struggle’ with the Democratic Party to determine which will be the majority party.” Nader further and shockingly explained that he hopes in the future to run Green Party candidates around the country, including against such progressive Democrats as Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, Sen. Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, and Rep. Henry Waxman of California. “I hate to use military analogies,” Nader said, “but this is war on the two parties.”

From Outside magazine, August 2000:

If California tips Green enough, Bush could win the state and the whole damn election. Which, Nader confided to Outside in June, wouldn’t be so bad. When asked if someone put a gun to his head and told him to vote for either Gore or Bush, which he would choose, Nader answered without hesitation: “Bush.” Not that he actually thinks the man he calls “Bush Inc.” deserves to be elected: “He’ll do whatever industry wants
done.” The rumpled crusader clearly prefers to sink his righteous teeth
into Al Gore, … [and] concludes with the sotto voce realpolitik of a ward heeler: “If you want the parties to diverge from one another, have Bush win.”

If you’re really interested in reality, you’ll admit it when it stares you in the face.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 8:22 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 282

I carry no briefs for the Greens but Nader’s campaign against the Democratic Parties is right on by me. My experience of the Greens is that they’ve made themselves irrelevant. Lazy, factionalized beyond repair, and laboring under an upside down view of election politics: they have the odd idea that you start a party from the top, the presidency, and everything flows from that. Don’t want to pay their dues is my take. They don’t have what it takes to replace so much as a local organization, let alone the national apparatus.

liberalarts February 19th, 2012 at 8:23 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 282

And while we’re on the Greens subject, does anyone have the skinny on why Marcy Winograd departed the Dems and set herself up with the Greens? Bad move, I say.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 9:10 pm
In response to liberalarts @ 273

I would not be much inclined to disagree, liberalarts.

With, perhaps a sadistic streak tossed in for “good” measure, but then, I drone on …

DW

Kelly Canfield February 19th, 2012 at 9:20 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 285

“drone” is a good word.

The fact that you and others here pushed the author and host into a discussion about your and others political purity values instead of the actual frikking book that Thomas Frank wrote was – yep – drone-ish.

Good Job! /s

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Kelly you are, of course, entitled to your opinion, as I am entitled to mine.

If that is not acceptable to you, then so it shall have to be.

However, until “policy” here at FDL precludes such difference of opinion, hopefully civil, we shall both have to gracefully accept our differences and enjoy those things which we share.

DW

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 9:31 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 282

“You’re either ignorant or a liar — and since my experience of certain Greenie/Nader types is that they’re not averse to lying or dirty politics, I won’t be shocked if it’s the latter that’s the case.” Oh, I see. You erroneously label me as a “Greenie/Nader” type, and then use that to conclude I am a “liar.” Oh, I’m real impressed with you. My experience of certain Obamabots is that they like to suck TBogg’s dick on a Saturday night while watching SNL. So, I guess I’ll have to conclude that that must be what you are doing right now. Thank you for teaching me how logic works. I won’t bother to deal with your historical reasoning, which sucks also and is weak on a number of points, because, frankly, your opinion will never again mean more to me than a diarrhea smear across my screen. You put the “anal” in both analysis and analogy. That’s the kindest thing I can say to you.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 9:39 pm

My greetings to your spirit guide, rc.

DW

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 9:49 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 289

;-) Well, he does not advise me to be gracious to the truly offensive. Sweet dreams, DW. (IMO, use of analogies should be limited to those who can distinguish a tight one from a sloppy one.)

realitychecker February 19th, 2012 at 9:50 pm
In response to spocko @ 266

;-) LLAP, friend.

Kelly Canfield February 19th, 2012 at 9:58 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 287

What you fail to see, is that by sidetracking the host and author on your purity pillories, the actual substance of the book and the smarts and snark of the author and host which illuminate the damnable billionaires were never fully illuminated.

What could have been a very fine romp for many was turned into a slog by the few.

Congratulations.

DWBartoo February 19th, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Kelly, despite what you imagine or “believe”, I asked those questions which I consider to matter, I made comments that reflect my understanding of what Thomas Frank was saying AND what he has written.

I am responsible for my own actions, as you are responsible for yours.

I am not a “purity values” being, I am a human being, as are you, we both live in the same world, how we view it might be different, but I suspect that we are both, equally, concerned with its current direction.

I shall continue to ask such questions as I feel are necessary to our world and time.

You may continue to take me to task.

You may NOT, however, honestly take me to task for the behaviors of others, as I do not now say nor have ever said to you, “People, such as yourself ….”.

In my opinion, and I suspect Thomas Frank’s, as well, the Book Salon was fun, informative, and very valuable.

If you found it to be less than you hoped, then that is what you have found.

DW

shekissesfrogs February 19th, 2012 at 10:25 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 279

This comment is EPU’d but communists didn’t put the Nazi’s into power.
President Hindenburg appointed him.

There is history that we Americans are little acquainted with: palace intrigues.
If it wasn’t for Kurt von Schleicher weakening the congress, Hitler would never have gotten in. He got beat at his own game.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_von_Schleicher

Kelly Canfield February 19th, 2012 at 10:29 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 293

You put words in my mouth that I never said – a technique you and others excel at, btw.

What I am saying is that if we had Herman Melville on Book Salon, I would ask “why exactly did you open with ‘Call me Ishmael’?”

And you as well as others would insist on asking “Whig or Tory?” Coupled with “you’re part of the problem!” instead of ever talking about the damn book.

You can’t point to one question of yours or the alleged checker of reality ABOUT THE BOOK.

So that’s fine if you want to be a political purity gate keeper, bravo to you for saving humanity, – I just think it’s beyond rude to never talk about the topic at hand – the Book!

RevBev February 20th, 2012 at 4:07 am

It is not clear to me who appointed you monitor of the thread; DW does quite well on his own. Good Morning.

realitychecker February 20th, 2012 at 4:37 am

And I do quite well on my own as well, thank you very much. It is of interest to me to explore the parameters of acceptance of Obama’s performance and that of the Dem Party by those who are openly critical of them but, having achieved a degree of personal comfort and acceptance under those policies, intend nonetheless to vote for more of the same. There are never only two options in any situation, and I have seen enough to know that those who can see only two are going to be a major part of the problem for those of us who truly want to see systemic change in our lifetimes. So, you can expect to see me pursue that line of investigation for the rest of the year, and if that gives you agita, that is your problem and not mine. It’s ironic to me that someone in your posiion would take it upon himself to try and limit the free expression of others.

realitychecker February 20th, 2012 at 4:43 am

For some reason, PW seems to have blinded herself to the fact that American industrialists were also supporting Hitler during those years, seeing him as a block to Communism and unionism. In any case, argung by analogy is a weak form of argument, and those who don’t do it with precision are really just wasting everybody’s time. The situation of America in 2012 is very different from that of the 1930s or 2000. 2012 deserves to be analyzed as its own case. Obamabots can’t do that without looking foolish, so they piss and moan and name-call instead. And they never honestly address or defend the fact that their lesser-evil strategy is exactly how we got to this miserable place that we find ourselves in now.

realitychecker February 20th, 2012 at 4:52 am
In response to RevBev @ 267

Your gentle, unfailing grace is a good example for us all, and I thank you for it. I got called a “liar” at #282 by Phoenix Woman, based on a blatantly incorrect factual premise, though, and that is the ultimate insult IMO and required a harsh response. No offense to you was intended.

Ludwig February 20th, 2012 at 5:46 am

Fool me once shame on you. Fool me … you can’t get fooled again. YaaaH. Bump bump.

Eh, RC?

juliania February 20th, 2012 at 10:35 am

I’m very late on here, and have admittedly skipped through many insightful comments, but the conversation such as I gleaned has been a creative one. I would take exception to the moderation note and Kelly’s late thread comment as to the advisability of having positions describing Obama’s role enter into the conversation – the subtitle of Mr. Frank’s book is “The Hard Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback by the Right.”

It certainly pertains to this subject to discuss how and why that ‘unlikely comeback’ happened, and I am of the camp which believes that Obama has opened the barnhouse door on that one, and he did so (being possessed of some intellect) wellknowing what he was doing. Now, Mr. Frank clearly is of the opinion that Obama ‘sincerely thought that the biggest problem… was…partisanship” and much of the following conversation focussed on that premise, with arguments needed from both sides on this critical issue. For, if indeed it was a ‘sincere thought’ many of us think it was a ‘wrong thought’ – if sincere, it can be remedied one way; if not sincere, another remedy is necessary. So the argument pertains and is of consequence.

The question comes up with respect to Book Salon, as to whether or not polite disagreement with the premises espoused by the guest author should be pursued. I find that such encounters have the quality of the erstwhile Bill Buckley Firing Line shows – and that is what makes this forum interesting. It is important to home in on the axioms or premises on which books are founded, have the author defend those – it really helps those of us who have not read to decide whether the reading will be good, and it is a way of ‘selling’ the book when said author defends those premises in creative manner, as has the author on this particular forum.

So, thank you very much all participants and Mr. Frank for coming here to interact. I myself, had I been here, would have taken up the aspect of ‘victim bashing’ which whilst creatively and entertainingly done as no doubt the book accomplishes, nevertheless doesn’t focus on what we can and must do, which is to return to FDR solutions for the terrible state the country is in. And I have no hope that Obama will do this, though he will make all the right noises. I heartily endorse the comment by HotFlash that the Republican platform is rape and the Democratic one incest. Yes indeed. And I love “Buypartisanship” also, DW; bravo.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post