Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Larry Summers and the Democrat’s Brand

Obama's public abandonment of Larry Summers as his choice as next Chair of the US Federal Reserve will not significantly alter Obama’s biography. He was able to lose compromising friends on his rise to power. He’s merely reminded us this week that he can do the same to big shots now that he’s in.

When Great Britain ruled the waves, Lord Palmerston boasted that his England had permanent interests, but no permanent friends. Democratic Party strategists, along with Obama and Summers apologists, have been trying out a variety of arguments to dignify Obama’s treatment of his closest advisor during his closest call with catastrophe: the financial collapse of 2008-09.  

Summers isn’t just unlovable—as Winston Churchill and his team discovered they were in the first election after World War II. Rather, Summers gave bad advice to Clinton and Obama—two great liberal presidents—and, thereby, blemished their party’s brand and the populist economic message they want to offer America in 2016. Conversely, Summers had been too willing to throw around government resources during the 2008-09 crisis to enjoy compensating support now from Republican ideologues in the Senate.

The most lethal force, however, was the explicit intention of the ideological left wing of the Democrat Party to dissociate their party from Wall Street plutocrats and their alleged spear-carrier, Larry Summers.

Noam Scheiber in The New Republic nicely lays out the politics of this campaign.

“All of which is to say that the senators and liberals who spent the last five years quietly seething at Team Obama’s solicitousness toward Wall Street weren’t wrong to channel their resentments at Larry Summers. The world, and certainly the Democratic Party, has changed quite a bit since Bill Clinton was president. Overwhelmingly, Democrats now see their economic interests as opposed to Wall Street’s rather than aligned with it. Summers is a product of an era when the Democratic mindset was largely the reverse.”

It will be interesting to see how the old center of the Democratic Party and their coastal strongholds respond to this.

Will they stand back while the left wing of their party takes on big capitalism and the Republicans? Except when interviewed on CNBC, do they truly believe that the Republicans have surrendered the center and care more about abstractions than they do?

Swearing to punish bankers and, for starters, humbling an eminent public servant might be fun. However, other than as a last resort, are Americans ready to invite the public sector’s regulators, visionaries, and $billions to direct the economy? To keep America number one, with a Scandinavian economy? 

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