We’ll call it: “What the Heck is Matthew Yglesias Babbling About?” For today’s episode, read this
The default state of things in the world is for the levers of state to be dominated by the people who already possess social and economic power in order to protect and expand their sphere of privilege.
Conceding the point for sake of argument.
The contention of progressive political reform is that it’s possible to organize, educate, and mobilize sufficient quantities of people to overcome the power of the few and instead implement policies that benefit the many.
This is an excellent insight into how idealistic (and historically disabled) progressive political reformers are. Despite the aforementioned (and justified!) skepticism about the nature of politicians, there is a categorical fascination with how the government might somehow come up with the best possible solution to the problems of the many. Yet what do we know about governments? They are inherently noncompetitive. The larger they get, the less responsive and precise they can be. These are all qualities that run against the grain of anything we know about good decision-making.
Further, if we understand that those who are in power are only trying to protect and expand their sphere of privilege, then why would we cede to them more control of our lives, particularly the poor?
…Which is to say that of course effective progressive political leaders need to be – and, historically, have been – good at “playing the game” but they’ve also been good at cutting through the smokescreen and refocusing attention. That’s how Bill Clinton managed to survive and even thrive during impeachment.
If there was one thing Bill Clinton was not good at, it was cutting through the smokescreen, primarily because he drew the smokescreen so often (Wag the Dog, anyone?). He was a disaster for progressives because of this. He sold them out every time he used his power recklessly. The reason that the Democrats cannot attest to a strong leader in the White House for the past 20 years is because of the man’s failure to advance the goals of his party. In this regard, Barack Obama is entirely right.
I think his point was that the right tends to employ more deceit than the left. If that’s true, I wonder why most liberals don’t just refer to themselves as out and out socialists?