This is How Dems Do It

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama and his family and Vice President Joe Biden and his family celebrate their nominations as the confetti falls at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The third and final night of this week’s Democratic Convention may have lacked the fireworks we saw on the first two. Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton were eloquent in different ways, and weren’t matched by Barack Obama or Joe Biden on the convention’s closing night. That’s not to say that the closing night wasn’t effective, however. By focusing above all on two of Obama’s decisions—to save General Motors and Chrysler and to send in the Seals to take out Osama bin Laden—Obama and Biden emphasized the two most politically potent contrasts, especially on the latter point, they could draw with Mitt Romney and used those contrasts to make their most telling attacks on Romney yet.

They also did more than that: They set up the election as a choice between a nation run on market principles and a nation subject to the dictates of fairness and inclusivity. Combine Obama and Biden’s speeches with Clinton’s the night before, and the party almost arrived at a governing credo: fairness and inclusiveness are not only right in themselves, they produce a more prosperous nation than a nation run on the narrow calculus that has shaped Bain Capital’s—and much of corporate America’s—priorities.

“Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive” is a pretty good campaign slogan, not just because it touts Obama’s most obvious successes but also because it enables Democrats to talk about the cramped, market-driven worldview of Mitt Romney, the Republican Party and (though Democrats pursue this delicately) American business. Here’s Biden contrasting Romney’s response to Detroit’s crisis to Obama’s:

When I look back on the president's decision, I think of another son of an automobile man — Mitt Romney. Mitt Romney grew up in Detroit....His dad ran an entire automobile company, American Motors. In spite of that, he was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt. I don’t think he's a bad guy. I’m sure he grew up loving cars as much as I did. I don’t think he understood that saving the automobile worker — saving the industry — what it meant to all of America. I think he saw it the Bain way. I think he saw it in terms of balance sheets and write-offs. Folks, the Bain way may bring your firm the highest profits. But it’s not the way to lead our country from the highest office.

When things hung in the balance, the president understood this was about a lot more than the automobile industry. This was about restoring America’s pride. He understood in his gut what it would mean to leave a million people without hope or work if he didn’t act.

Biden’s was precisely the kind of contrast that convention speakers returned to repeatedly.  They did it most obviously when laid-off workers from businesses Bain had taken over told their stories on Wednesday night. They did it subtly when Michelle Obama evoked the image of her husband poring over letters from ordinary Americans every night, something that I think many Americans have trouble envisioning Romney doing even as they know he methodically pores over the numbers behind his decisions to keep a plant open or close it down.

As a contrast to Romney and Bain, the convention highlighted high-road businesses, companies that take a view of success that’s broader than the immediate payoff to investors. That’s why Jim Sinegal of Costco, the anti-Walmart, the discount store that invests in training its workers and pays them well, spoke Wednesday night. It’s why Obama, in the closing passages of his address, extolled, “the family business in Warroad, Minnesota that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay – because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business.”

Last night, Obama contrasted Romney’s neo-Dickensian form of capitalism with the more stakeholder-oriented, Fordist capitalism that dominated the American economy in the three decades of broadly shared prosperity following World War II.  “We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build,” Obama said, “the whole company does better.” 

Put all this together and what the Democrats offered was an accurate and devastating critique of current corporate capitalism—its elevation of stock value over all other measures of success. Obama won’t say that and I have no reason to believe he thinks it in these terms. But, if the Democrats won’t go quite so far as to say that the very model of American capitalism over the past 30 years has been bad for the country, they routinely criticize that model’s outcomes: the rise and fall of unchecked finance, the explosion of economic inequality, the stagnation of American workers’ incomes.  

What both Biden and Obama did Thursday night was to raise the specter of this model coming to dominate government, too, should Romney be elected. Obama began this discussion by affirming the vitality and legitimacy of the market:  “We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative,” he said.  “We’re not entitled to success.  We have to earn it.  We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.”

Yet, the market, he continued, was not all.  “But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.” What the Republicans threaten to do is to subordinate this credo too. While voucherizing Medicare will presumably save the government money (at least up front) and balance its books, it’ll do so on the backs of most American seniors. Obama’s value of citizenship won’t permit that, and it’s on this battlefield that the Democrats will fight this fall. “Our road is longer,” Obama said in his peroration, “but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up.” That, Obama has calculated, is what Americans want in their president – at least when the alternative is a slide rule with hair.

Comments

False dichotomy. There is MILES of intermediate positions between Obama's statism and "social darwinism" (which nobody has even come close to suggesting_)

Of course, the political idiots will lap that idea up.

Does "Reaganomics" - what Democrats call "trickle down" and most call the free market - work or does "Obamanomics" - crony socialism or "trickle up poverty" - work better. Reaganomics gave us 25 years of almost uninterrupted growth and Obamanomics has given us "the most Americans EVER in poverty and on food stamps.
Regardless, WE will determine our future not the pundits or polls.

gee, nothing left for me to say, as the first poster has said it all. the choice as presented is a false one.

a lot of us believe in helping our neighbors and we not only don't mind but advocate for a social safety net.

on the other hand, we have limits. go ahead, make my day, ask any modern liberal to state a coherent paradigm for (a) the limits of governmental authority and (b) the limits of taxation to pay for (a) and you won't get an answer. there is no answer, because modern liberalism is entirely an ad hoc contruction; one knows a "problem" or "crisis" and the "solution" when one sees it, the president proposes it, and the congress passes it--end of story.

the president's speech last night was a seemingly endless list of things to move money from one pocket to the other. i especially liked the one about how backward it is to suggest that mitt romney is an idiot because his advice might be if you want to go to college, ""borrow money from your parents." yes, no one will even be responsible for his or her own college costs any more once we elect the pied piper.

well, my wife and i paid for 3 entirely, including grad schoool, precisely because we were their parents.

mr. president, where's my refund check? and i want it from your and michelle's pocket, personally, please.

keevan d. morgan, esq., chicago

I applaud the fact you put your kids through school yourself. My parents died when I was 12&13 years old. My dad was not a lawyer such as yourself so I was not left w/a boatload of cash. So to some of us it is not an option to lean on the parents.

I worked and borrowed my way through college as well!! Who says your parents have to pay for you?

Modern liberal here with the easy and obvious answers to your teaser.
a. The United States Constitution
b. See Above

Extra Credit
Where might a Chicago Esq. find a coherent paradigm for defining his or her "limits"?
hint: a, b or all of the above
Have you applied for your refund? Don't forget to include receipts for monies paid equal to all educational benefits, recieved by you, your wife, your children and any direct ancestors from arrival. If any of your direct ancestors perished in service, see appropriate schedule of credits.

The first two posters have nailed it. The author's thesis is false. If he knows it, he's disingenuous - to be polite. If he doesn't, his ignorance is not only dangerous from a civic standpoint, but the value of his opinions is zero.

The choice we have is between a collectivist model of government in which the self-righteous, busy-bodies among us – some 536 elected officials and thousands of unaccountable bureaucrats – define what 320 million people should do, how much they should earn, and how dependent upon the governing class their inferiors should be, and a model of government in which the individual is responsible for his own life.

The massive increase in standard of living this country has experienced in the last 100-120 years is not a product of government. It is a product of the private sector operating within a system that did not overburden it. Those most responsible for that increased standard of living benefited hugely, but not at the expense of anybody. Rather, tens of millions benefited from the genius and industry of a few, with having done little more than exist when the improvements occurred.

Shared responsibility. Again, the statement is born of ignorance, disingenuousness, or the deceit that collectivists employ as SOP. When some members of society pay 40% or more of their earnings into the common pot and 40% of the income-earners pay nothing, that is neither shared responsibility, nor certainly, fair.

Our shared responsibility should be for the GENERAL welfare; that which is for ALL of us, not us individually. Common defense, roads, damns, administration of justice, these are the government structures for which we should share responsibility. On a graduated basis to account for differences in income, sure, but loading the burden on some to be the pack mules for millions of free-riders? THAT is unfair, and THAT is what conservatives oppose.

Social safety net? Surely. But for those who are so physically or mentally handicapped as to be incapable of helping themselves, and who are without family to share that burden first. Charitable organizations should fill the gap next. Then the community through government.

But generally, individuals - not government - should be responsible for housing, feeding, clothing and equipping themselves and their families with the necessities of life. Able-bodied men and women should NOT be on the public dole. For ANY but the most dire of reasons. Being on the dole is demoralizing, degrading, and corrosive to society.

We want a society of personal responsibility, turning to the collective as a very last resort. The author and his fellow-travelers are dangerously ignorant if they do not see the effects of their ideology played out around the world and throughout history. They are dishonest in their representation of the two approaches. It is collectivism - whether of the Marxist or other variety - versus individual liberty and responsibility.

The former is an invitation to dependence and subservience. The latter, an invitation to excel. Conservatives opt for the latter. That, sir, is the real choice.

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Grin at the promised change that's not yet found me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again
Don't get fooled again!

That was the best political speech I’ve ever heard. Every Dem had something in it for him or her.

But Obama made essentially the same promises in his 2008 campaign, and then followed through on only a teensy handful of them. He makes skyscraper sized promises but delivers molehill sized results.

The man spent his youth as a community organizer, supposedly inspiring other people to get things done, but leaving the heavy lifting to them. So, he doesn’t really have any experience in (and apparently little knowledge about) getting things done. Additionally, he brought friends, cronies, & academics into his administration that didn’t know how to get the job done either. So, even though he inspires us, lifts our hopes & dreams to great heights, & promises us the sun & the moon, those are basically empty words--mere dreams of a dreamer.

So, now we have a choice. We can join that crowd of people that can be fooled all the time. Or we can stand among the crowd that won’t get fooled again.

In all my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems

Then I wake myself and see
The person falling here is me
Getting myself twice deceived

Never more

Wait a minute... does this dichotomy suggest that "progressives" are closet creationists? Who knew they denied the mechanism behind evolutionary theory?

You mentioned Detroit in the column, and Romney's op-ed piece, where the NY Times supplied the misleading headline - "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt". Did anyone who bought into the false premise that Romney would have liquidated GM and Chrysler actually READ his op-ed? He laid out all sorts of suggestions on how the companies needed to be restructured to compete better against Toyota and others. He talked about how his dad saved AMC in the 1950's/60's - with shared sacrifice, and eliminating the "perks" of executive positions. Sort of like when Romney took over the Olympic games and found that - despite a huge budget deficit, the current staff was having expensive catered lunches brought in. Romney swapped those lunches for stacks of Dominos pizza, which he bought for $5 each, cut into 8 slices, and had the staff pay $1 per slice. He has LIVED the very kinds of sacrifices that his father used, and which Mitt Romney was suggesting would really save Detroit.
Meanwhile, in the "other" Detroit - the city run by liberal Democrats for 40+ years - How are things going?
- Half of babies born in Michigan last year were to welfare mothers
- 43% of babies born in Michigan last year to single mothers
- 18% of babies born in Michigan last year to teen mother who already had at least 1 child
- 1 in 5 babies born in Michigan last year to mother without a high school diploma
- 45,000 babies born in Michigan last year onto the welfare rolls
- 47% of Detroit residents are functionally illiterate
The economy in Michigan has been awful for a decade. Any rational person would expect social program spending to be way up. But a bad economy doesn't cause teen pregnancy, doesn't cause all the other self destructive behavior. A lifestyle based on dependency on government does cause those things, because these things (multi-generational single parent teen pregnancies, dropping out of school, etc.) become the "norm".
This isn’t a “black vs. white” thing – I’m pretty certain there are more white people on welfare in Michigan than blacks. What this is about are programs that “push” that life of dependency. It’s about pushing a philosophy that de-values education (why improve yourself if your plight is because someone else has your money, or won’t pay more in taxes), one that de-values personal achievement (“you didn’t build that”). The results above are what happens when you get too many people to accept an “I can’t make it on my own, I need government to give me things” philosophy.
Obama is the biggest pusher of dependency in history. He measures "success" in entitlement programs by how many people he can sign up. He runs Food Stamp ads on radio where two women joke about "Looking Amazing" and how this can happen if you just sign up - as if they were trading the latest diet fad or recipe.
http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120212/OPINION03/202120303
http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2011/05/04/report-nearly-half-of-detroiters-cant-read/
http://www.mrctv.org/node/114346

Darwinism is frequently very hard on the living, but it is always better for future generations. I would think twice about calling Republicans Darwinists.

Meyerson's piece was not a false dichotomy. If you don't understand the difference in Libertarian-Randian Objectivism and the practical consequences for the past 30 years, which Meyerson lays out very well you need to do some more analysis.
I do have problems with Obama's follow through and his pandering and protection of Wall Strret and the financial sector. Moreover he needed to have ben saying these things and attacking the know-nothing, do-nothing GOP for the last 3 years, as being un-patriotic, and anti-community and anti-future, not to mention misanthropic and misogynistic and worshipers of greed and willfull ignorance.
It is up to him to stand up to these people who would destroy ou;r democracy,and I hope he will do so with another 4 years in office.

rhrandall, you are talking about me and I'm none of which you claim. What does that make you; wrong. Please don't believe everything they tell you. This country depends on it; we must think clearly and dispassionately to know how to vote. It is not about Dems v. Repubs, it's about the Bosses and those we elect.

rhrandall, you are talking about me and I'm none of which you claim. What does that make you; wrong. Please don't believe everything they tell you. This country depends on it; we must think clearly and dispassionately to know how to vote. It is not about Dems v. Repubs, it's about the Bosses and those we elect.

A party that booos God must believe in the big bang and evolution. Shouldn't they support social and economic Darwinism. But hey, who needs to be consistent, when we can just pander and plead for a second chance. I know I messed up the first time, but it's not all that bad, and you still like me don't you.

"They set up the election as a choice between a nation run on market principles and a nation subject to the dictates of fairness and inclusivity.... "

....and the Obama minions are more than happy to decide every issue of 'fairness'. They alone have the concentrated arrogance to think they can design incentives that will outperform the market incentives.

Every aspect of this thinking had been tried and has failed. A thing cannot be priced at a level other than what the people will freely pay.

"...a nation subject to the dictates of fairness and inclusiveness...".
Exactly.
A nation subject to their dictates.
That's what they mean by "citizenship."

Obama brought hope and helped America through disaster. Hope is still there. Just because things happen slowly, or others oppose change; does not mean it is time to give up and go back to the Bush years. Hope requires work and persistence in the face of set-backs.

Hope doesn't put food on the table. Hope is why we go to Church and play the lottery.

"They set up the election as a choice between a nation run on market principles and a nation subject to the dictates of fairness and inclusivity."

You left a couple of important words out of the above sentence, Mr. Myerson. Those words are "free" and "government". Other than that you pretty much nailed it. Indeed, this election is a choice between a nation committed to free market principles and a nation subject to what the government dictates is fair and inclusive. If the 20th century taught us anything it's that a totalitarian regime is necessary in order for government to effectively impose the dictates of fairness and inclusivity upon its "subjects". I say thanks but no thanks. Fairness and inclusivity are goals we must to continue to strive for as individuals and as a nation, but not at the cost of our freedom. The ends simply do not justify the means. Given this choice, I'll take the nation run on free market principles -- warts and all -- every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Nice spin, but the reality is it's a choice between America and Europe.

I really fail to understand why so many of you want America to become Europe when you already have a perfectly good Europe right across the ocean. Why not just move there? Utopia AWAITS!

(Oh, that's right, Europe has run out of other-people's-money so you now need to plunder America's)

I must admit the single line is a good one, and I am sure it will be used to highlight the the 'evil' right. Might work even. My dilemma is this country was founded on indidual responsibility, hard work, and no government. As Obama continues to try and make us look like the UK, France and even Greece, we are losing sight that in those countries, big government has now been proven to NOT work, Unless we want to pay 70% taxes for all the things that Government would need to do to actually carry out Obamas vision. Obama cannot control 100,000 new teachers or policemen or fireman, those are state and local items that the Fed actually doesn't put that much money into. So the only way for Obama to do this is to find federal money to give to the state and local School Boards, totalling about 10,000,000,000 for quality Teachers as an example (Yeah, thats 10 Billion a year). Additionally, noone wants the disadvantaged to be taken for granted, or "Darwined" as the author is trying to point out, but who is paying the bill? I have worked my butt off for 32 years to get what I have today. I am a middle class guy. Obama is signalling, to me anyway, that if I want to be Middle class in his vision, I have to sell my house, ride the bus and reduce my income. He actually wants me to not be in the Middle class. He wants me in the Rich catgory. I make under 200K annually, and over my 32 year career that including getting my butt shot at for 26 years in every other country but this one, building a quality of life for my family, sending my kids to school on my dime, paying taxes and doing everything that is exepcted of a true citizen of this great country. But now I'll be shifted to a Rich category and pay taxes just as Warren Buffet does (same Tax bracket!!) Thats not America. Its UNamerican. Its OK if local charityies and churches have to assist local populations. That is the spirit of America. Its OK if not everyone gets to go to college... While I really like the single line as a way to separate the difference, this country has to CUT Spending (period) until it does, anyones vision is simply an halucination.

The last poster is right. America finds itself at a crossroad between moving closer toward a European model or trying to reinvent its own American way, which quite frankly none of us can really comprehend.

If you look at the USA in a global sense, one inevitably comes to wonder whether the American way, as practiced for the last 30 years, really works at all. The majority of wealth in this country today is not created by true value creating ideas, but by complex speculative markets or, in simple terms, a constant reshuffling of money.

Another crazy notion in the USA is that America has sole ownership of the American dream, when prosperity, equality, fraternity and liberty are universal ideas, practiced to much greater effect in developing countries than in the developed world.

Particularly for the developed economies, capitalism bears one problem. Growth. Growth is the ultima ratio of the capitalist economy. But growth is harder and harder to come by as a country matures. And more importantly, growth does not come without a huge cost, mostly environmental, but also the pressure for faster-paced innovation. That is why Europe (shall we say northern Europe) is what it is today: a heavily export-oriented and indeed flourishing economy with a broad, government-subsidized middle class and a much more pronounced environmental sensibility.

The USA, in contrast, still believes in the libertarian mythology, that self-regulating markets are better than markets regulated for the common good. Self-regulating markets (although they don't actually exist) are what lead to the financial melt-down, in which individual corporations were able to manipulate the markets to such an extreme, where they in effect, become more powerful than the government itself. The problem with that, well...while we can elect our government, we cannot elect the Bernie Madoffs, Jamie Dimons and so on. Therefore, one wonders if it is smart to be solely at their mercy...regardless of how brilliant they maybe.

Wolfgang Schäuble (CSU), the finance minister of Germany, recently said something to the effect of governments needing to adapt to the reality of globalization. We don't need government for the sake of employing people, we need government for the sake of effective global governance. This and the increasing burden on the environment are the challenges of the 21st century.

At the end of the day, it won't make much of a difference whether the US electorate choses Obama or Romney. They are in effect quite similar. The grand plus about Obama is his vision and his intellect, and thus the potential for moving this country into a new age, an age of greater global awareness, where Americans don't view themselves as this island of greatness, but an integral part of the world.

Leadership is an intangible quality, and it requires an electorate that possesses the sensibility and the education to recognize his leadership.

Education is ultimately, the biggest problem in this country. As much as one can sympathize with conservative values, and there is A LOT to sympathize with, the Republican party of today is quite frankly not an institution of conservative values, but a sad freak show supported by a well-meaning, but largely ignorant electorate that cannot see the forest for the trees.

In consequence, the GOP (and this does not include Romney) has morphed into a body of ridiculously outdated ideas and values, that not only make large swaths of the GOP unelectable, but to some degree even a danger to democracy.

PS: Last I checked the countries of northern Europe (mainly Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries) as well as Canada were the only western economies that were largely unaffected by the global financial crisis... I wonder why. Perhaps the US can learn a lesson or two...

"Free to die" is the Romney/Ryan way. The little girl at the Dem convention who would have died because she had hit the health care cartel system of limits to amount of use is alive because of Obama care. The GOP convention was full of false platitudes that contradicted their Platform that requires code in public due to the nastiness. Obama said we are responsible for the "hope and change" and our being good citizens. This may be a right-wing laughing point, but there is nothing funny about the robber barons Romney/Ryan.

Since government power is based on force, and Obama's vision is an ever expanding entitlement state, who is the real "robber baron"? You are buying into the false dichotomy of the author of this article. We must either have huge and oppressive state or give into "social darwinism".

Generally speaking, launching your argument with a nakedly false premise is a bad idea. The notion that our government's power is derived soley from its citizens, is pretty much what put the exception in American Exceptionalism. Our vote would be meaningless if our government didn't maintain its monopoly on force. One man's idea of a hugely oppressive state is another man's idea of moving toward a more perfect union. I'll respect the outcome either way provided everyone's right to vote is respected. How about you?

“But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy;"

This means that the real person to blame for the condition of our government is you and me, the voter. Like Clint said, we are the boss.

We elected a person to be president that doesn't even have a work ethic. He's been playing and campaigning the whole time he's been in office while having the Axelroders run the show. Responsible bosses have to let the slackers go, so let's take care of business.

Micky Mouse would be better than Obama, at least he shows up for work. the man is an embarrassment. Speaking of embarrassment, there's a whole lot of fools writing articles these days.

Fellow citizens we're 16 T in debt, we must start squaring the books are we're going to lose our country, wake-up.

The founding fathers of this country wrote the constitution in
order to provide for a successful and orderly nation and successful free
people. We are NOT being successful. I don't understand why no one
seems to point at the Government Workforce (THEM) as contributing to
the Financial MESS. "Government" largely is not Political appointees or
Elected politicians, they are transients, and are frequently ridiculed
by the career employees. I think few of THEM suffer from the current
national economic dilemma. I believe that the success of this country
should be the measure of government goodness. The Government workforce
should be measured by the success of American people and firms working
in the fields of government activity. They need to be led by leaders
who ask "How did we/you help?" "Do the helped agree?"
Government Federal Employees, "People" Cost. "People" Spend, or Cause to be Spent, Money, Our Tax Money, Or Borrowed Money. We need to get rid of the "People" who under perform. Send them out to be Americans, unemployed. If they are so profoundly smart and know what's good for all, Maybe, just Maybe, they'll start a business and hire some others...

When is Obama going to start treating cannabis users as his fellow citizens? No fair-minded person would ever treat their fellow citizens the way cannabis users are being treated. All because we're choosing to use a substance that is indisputably far, far safer to life and limb than America's drug, alcohol. Shame on the alcohol supremacist war on marijuana users.

Who is the arbiter of this " fairness and inclusion " that the author suggests must be safeguarded? If it is, in fact, the current administration, then to paraphrase James Dean, "include me out".

I'm not sure what Obama's "statism" is. If it's coming to the rescue of major automobile industries or investment banks, whose failure would be a catastrophe for our economy, I'm for it, whatever you call it. The same for setting up a national group plan -- called the insurance exchange -- where millions of Americans will be able to buy health insurance for the first time, from private insurers, for care from private health care providers. The government will also pay part or all of the premiums for people who cannot afford them. If that is statism, again, I'm for it. I don't think anyone should go without medical care because they don't have enough money.
Are there other forms of "statism" that Obama has instituted? I'm eager to hear what they are.

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