9/6/11

Regarding Jonathan Chait's What the Left Doesn’t Understand About Obama


Regarding Jonathan Chait's What the Left Doesn’t Understand About Obama
By JONATHAN CHAIT, NYT, Published: September 2, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/magazine/what-the-left-doesnt-understand-about-obama.html

The author's disdain for the left is clear when he writes: "The most common hallmark of the left’s magical thinking is a failure to recognize that Congress is a separate, coequal branch of government consisting of members whose goals may differ from the president’s." That's downright patronizing. I think many on the left are smart enough to understand politics as the art of the possible (duh), but we also understand that negotiating involves the creation of a "reality bubble," if you will. I.e., if you don't push for something, you don't get it. Why push for something you can't get? Two reasons: (a) you stand a better chance of pushing the ball further down the field, while (b) you define what you stand for to everyone. (Read Marshall Ganz's Feb. 2, 2011 account in The Nation of how the Obama administration intentionally abandoned the youth vote which helped elect them. Then, the disastrous 2010 election happens. Hmm.)

For me, Obama's primary failure as President has been to define what it means to be a Democrat, i.e., to advance a public and persuasive rhetorical account of what the Democratic Party stands for. By missing the opportunity to define what Democrats stand for, Obama has failed as the party's leader. The long-term damage includes (a) public cynicism, an increased sense among the public that "all politicians are alike (in the pocket of the powerful)" and (b) further destruction of the Democrat's identity, i.e., the public (and liberal's) perception that Democrat's don't really stand for anything truly different. They're a too-faint variation of the GOP: corporation-friendly, Wall Street-beholden, opponent of the middle and working classes. As far as I can tell, Obama has done nothing to show that what the Democrats stand for, at least, is a principled opposition to a return to the Gilded Age.

9/2/11

Did John Dewey attend William James' Pragmatism Lectures at Columbia in 1907?


For those interested in James' book/lecture series *Pragmatism*, it turns out that Dewey was in the audience for the third lecture at Columbia (at Teacher's College). From a letter (1907.02.01): William James to Alice Howe Gibbens James:


Wm. James: "Yesterday [31 January], my third lecture was read to an audience hardly diminished.1  Certainly well over 900, & sounded well--to me.  We, i.e. Cattell, Dewey, Miller, Woodbridge, Strong, Marshall, and others beside myself adjourned to the Faculty Club and had a hot & heavy and (I think) in-||structive pragmatism discussion with dinner at 8, until ½ nine, when I left & came to bed."
NOTE: 1. Possibly at Harvard Club, 27 W. 44th St., New York.


Richardson has some nice details on this, too: here.


Thanks to Larry Hickman of the Dewey center for pointing this out.