Saturday, October 23, 2010

one reality, many interpretations?

The progressive drumbeat that the Dems are in trouble because Obama was too conservative continues.

Mark Thoma gives a clear articulation of the view:

"I don't know if the centrist, bipartisan seeking, compromising Obama we have seen to date can actually embrace an encompassing vision. He seems afraid to be a Democrat.."

It's hard for me to understand this sentence coming from a person (i.e. Mark) who I like and respect. From my perspective, Obama is pretty far left and uncompromising.

So let me invoke Robin Hanson and try to list things Obama has done that qualify as evidence for Mark's view.

I would say on economic policy the closest thing to centrist & compromising that he's done is appoint Summers and Geithner.

Can you count not pushing for single payer as bipartisan seeking or compromising?

Then there's Guantanamo, renditions, wiretaps, and the like. I view the continuation of these policies as wrong, but are they being continued as a compromise? Or out of bipartisanship?

Oh and then there are the wars. Do they count?

Oh my, there's also no action on immigration reform and the monstrosity that is DADT.

Holy Crap! Maybe Mark has a point.

I see Obama as the worst possible policy mix. Wrong on economic issues, wrong on foreign policy and wrong on social issues too. A Dem should at least get the social issues right!

That Robin H. sure is a smart fellow.


Noah said...

Could we have some examples as to why Obama is "far left and uncompromising"?

devin said...

I'm with Noah. I hear that criticism from the TP set often, but I don't know what it's based on. What are the examples of "far left" policies that Obama has enacted or aggressively pushed?

Angus said...

You tell me what the "TP set" is and I'll try and list some lefty Obama-isms. But let me tell you up front that your probably not going to like them!

Noah said...

Angus, I am assuming Devin means "Tea Party", though I don't really know (the only "TP" I usually interact with is what kids are going to come throw all over my trees this Halloween weekend).

Still, though, I would like to know what examples you have for Obama being "far left and uncompromising". You title your post "one reality, many interpretations" and then list evidence in support of only one of the interpretations, while stating that you favor the opposite interpretation! To someone who doesn't show up to your blog already believing that Obama is an uncompromising far-leftist, this post just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

Noah said...


Unable to restrain myself from writing down my thoughts after I finished reading this post, I wrote a blog post of my own that offers a fairly harsh reading of the conclusions reached herein.

Probably too harsh (most initial readings and initial reactions are). If I get some evidence that might lead a reasonable person of any political leaning to conclude that Obama is an uncompromising far-leftist, I will update and amend my thoughts.

But so far I'm racking my brains and can't think of a single far-left policy Obama has pursued, or a single issue on which he has failed to make substantial compromises...enlighten me!

vmounts0820 said...

I can think of a few more regarding the economy. While the far right might not agree with stimulative policy in general he certainly compromised on the size and shape of the stimulus. All commentators of the left variety called for larger stimulus that wasn't 50% tax cuts, but rather mostly direct spending.

I think the "far" left and "far" right probably agreed that the banks needed to go under instead of being bailed out. Of course the details would differ from each group but Obama instead chose the centrist route of propping up the status quo.

One can also take a look at the people on the deficit commission Obama agreed to. I don't think one has to be unconcerned with the deficit to be a lefty but certainly packing the commission with people who have hard-ons for cutting Social Security doesn't seem very left to me.

There are probably more but those came to mind immediately.

Matt said...

Angus is a libertarian. This blog isn't so much punditry (the persuasive arguments you expected) as random comments on various things.

Anonymous said...

Angus assumed that Obama's bad policy was because they had different ideology. The point of the post though was that his initial opinion was caused by bias, and upon further review he has realized that Obama has produced bad policy with no real ideological grounding. Thats what all that talk about robin hansen and "overcoming" his "bias" was about. He rejected far left and uncompromising in favor of bad.

Noah said...

@Matt: Not sure of the significance of this.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Anonymous above (not the same as me) is right. Angus is actually convinced by the end of the post that Obama isn't really far-left, he's just bad at his job in other ways.

Angus said...

Wow, Matt. No reasoned arguments just random crap eh? Thanks for reading bro!

Noah, you are very much misinterpreting the spirit and points of the post and also my overall views. That is probably my fault for being a poor writer. Let me just say you are way off base in your characterizations of me, and that I think most people reading this post understand more or less what I was going for.

Send in a SASE and you'll get a full refund.

Noah said...

@Angus: Can I get my refund in the form of cheese?

As for me misinterpreting, perhaps it is my fault for being a poor reader. But, you know, you did say: "From my perspective, Obama is pretty far left and uncompromising." And you still haven't given a shred of evidence to explain why you think this interpretation of reality is reasonable.

We're still waiting!

Angus said...

I will try this one more time.

The post is meant to show an evolution of my perspective given the exercise of putting myself in Mark's shoes and trying to see what he sees as recommended by Robin H.

That's why the title has a question mark.

I hope this helps, but if it doesn't let me just say that, at these prices, readers are not entitled to demand specific posts from the authors.

Noah said...

Well, if you can't think of any concrete reason why Obama is an uncompromising far-leftist, I'd say my point about epistemic closure has been supported.


Angus said...

Noah, I am pretty sure that anyone who is nuts enough to read through all the relevant material here would be far more likely to think that it's you, not me, who only hears what he wants to hear.

Matt said...


I didn't mean that you never provide reasoned arguments and that all you post is random crap, but that often you skip steps in explanation and refrain from a particular theme. You're writing (as I see it) for an audience that doesn't need those intermediary steps because they somewhat understand the source (and have a foundational background that means they know everything that you assume they already know).

Basically, Noah was expecting a post written NYT op-ed style (for 2nd graders) and received intelligent opinion written for a specific audience that can follow intelligent opinion. I can see where he was confused.


There should be, most of the time, two entirely different interpretations for the same sentence depending on whether the person is a libertarian or not. You approached on the basis that Angus was an "open-minded conservative," and with that basis, it's no wonder you missed multiple levels of analysis.