Perfect Storm

From the publisher:

Last night’s primaries went well for Obama Democrats. The narrative of 2010 is changing for the better (from a liberal-progressive point of view) with each passing week as primaries roll in, and tea party candidates each turn out to be baggage for a party with no money and no future.

Meanwhile, kabuki: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is usually iron-lipped; while he has apologized, another White House official has “explained” the “gaffe” as a reference to the cable news commentariat.

I got to thinking about this last night as I waited for Bob Kincaid to put me on the air. One thing that a fight with the left accomplishes: a center-left conversation in the media taking up air time while the Tea Party Era continues to unravel. Brad Friedman called attention to Obama’s Netroots speech; I think it’s a good example of communication, myself:

So I’m glad Gibbs said what he said — and I’m glad he retracted it. The White House can make nice with “the professional left” while still bringing its centrist position into stark relief. Yes, that’s right. The new narrative is that Obama is forced to re-approach his own base. That “hippie punch?” It’s a play to the center; Obama is a centrist. He will always stake a position at the center.

I actually think the president will surprise us this month, making the most powerful moves at his constitutional disposal and continuing to make speeches. More importantly, it will come amid a general atmosphere of Democratic resurgence. Colorado is hosting a “unity party” for Democrats; the hopey-changey stuff is still working, it seems, because it contrasts so well to “no” and loud noises from the right.

It is a truism of elections that candidates must appeal to a base in the primaries and the middle in the general election. The tea party phenomenon consistently proves too fringe-y for the middle, but the last group of people on Earth to figure it out will be the tea party faithful. The Tea Party Era will soon be over, but its damage to the Republican Party may be horrendous. A PPP poll says the president’s blame-Bush strategy resonates with the mighty middle:

I am somewhat skeptical of the Democratic strategy of using George W. Bush as a punching bag this fall but when you look at who the undecided voters on the generic ballot for the national poll we’ll release later this week it starts to become more clear why it could be an effective strategy…

[...]

These folks aren’t happy with how things are going. But they were even unhappier with how things were going a couple years ago. Playing the Bush card may just convince them it’s better to stay the current course, even if they don’t love it, than to go back to the old one.

I repeat my assertion that November can be a perfect progressive storm. But it will take Brad Friedman, Bob Kincaid, and myself — as well as the rest of the blogging world — to go ahead and have this conversation while the tea party dissipates. I further assert that both Brad and Bob are correct: giving up on climate was a mistake, especially when temperatures are at record highs in the District of Columbia.

Democrats say they’ll go to a jobs bill before the election. The tie between climate bill and jobs is plain to anyone who follows these matters; what’s missing is the green jobs advocate standing side by side with the president. Van Jones, Beck’s first victim, was (I suspect) chosen for this very reason.

So it’s time the president stood under the wind turbines on I-40 and talked about how the Recovery Act is repaving that road. He should talk about how the turbines are so successful, they have shifted America away from coal. He should talk about the need to clean up coal instead of trying to talk about “clean coal.” He should talk up electric cars built in Detroit, talk about jobs, point a way forward, and then challenge America to pay for it.

Then he should make another trip to the Senate…and take a visual aid:

Instead of letting the right-wing noise machine dominate the debate, the president has chosen to have a conversation with the left. He can have one with Senate Republicans (including simple charts of how the carbon tax would work). He can remind the Senate of America’s commitments to climate change mitigation.

But he won’t do those things with this Congress.

I reassert: the White House Chief of Staff is paid to take our heat. The Press Secretary is paid to advance too far and retreat. More importantly, there is nothing anyone can do about this president until 2012 anyway. The White House gets criticized for over-reliance on polling, but polls are one way a presidency can stay in touch. The presidency of the United States has existed in a bubble since the first Jackson administration; it is made all the more remote by assassinations and scandals. Today’s president kept his BlackBerry, but his contact list is too small and nervous to send him anything good. The bubble is an institution. The White House staff do what they can to avoid Bush II syndrome.

The rest is up to the liberalatti, who actually do have the power to help tip the right-wing apparatus — party, noise machine, and all — into the dustbin of history by making them lose. This election comes down to whether the people I met at Netroots Nation respond by focusing their energy on the offices at hand, in the  one branch of government about which they can affect change: Congress.

About Matt Osborne

Veteran blogging the culture wars from Alabama. Video journalist, mash-up artist, aspiring novelist, and metalhead. Expect bunnies, geekery, dark humor, and snarky empirical analysis to annoy idealists of all stripes. You can follow me on Twitter, but be ready 'cause it might get loud.
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