Saturday, June 21, 2008

PUMA power

"The problem is the party itself. 2008 was the year that the party abandoned its principles. It is no longer the party of FDR and shared responsibility. Now, it is the party of wannabe rich libertarian Democrats. It is the party of the Ariana Huffingtons who, dissatisfied with their own party, have decided to steal someone else’s."


Unknown said...

I find it interesting that neither the “new” Dems or the Bushite GOP resembles those parties 60 or so years ago.

Anonymous said...

It's the "Southern Strategy". The current Republican Party is the Democratic Party of Strom Thurman, while the Dems are Eisenhower/Rockefeller Republicans.

august said...

I'm sorry, but I think that PUMA is kind of idiotic, even though I sort of agree. Remember welfare reform? NAFTA? The so-called "wannabe rich libertarian democrats" have run the party since '92. The idea that 2008 is some kind of special watershed is crazy. Do I like it? No, I don't. But I didn't like losing either. I don't like the recent run of supreme court appointments, and I especially don't like the war.

PUMA amounts to a temper-tantrum. It's stupid (it's argument is basically that if you feel really, really strongly about something, it must be true!) and dishonest (both because it pretends that skewing right is a recent trend, and because it implies that leaning left is some kind of winning formula).

I don't like the party either, but it's long since become apparent to me that my ideal candidate cannot get elected. Which indeed sucks. It is, however, politics. If you can't win, you aren't proving anything.

In other words, there are lots of ways to be an activist without worrying about presidential politics at all. If, however, you care about the presidency, surely it makes sense to choose candidates (like Clinton and Obama) who actually have a shot at becoming president rather than, say, Walter Mondale.

hipparchia said...

y'all made me go look it up: the eisenhower program ca 1953-4. huge portion of the budget went to military spending.

that's sort of how it has looked to me too, bryan, which is why i've mainained that the republican party actually used to have grownups in it.

hipparchia said...

heya, august! good to see you!

agree with you entirely about the origination of the rich libertarian democrats. obama is out-clintoning bill clinton here.

2008 is something of a watershed year [or could be] mostly because for the first time in maybe 30-ish years, the republican party is in a fair amount of disarray and it's assailable. the democratic party could have gone well left of where it did this time and still won handily.

back in 1992: ross perot siphoned off 20% of the popular vote, but some relatively unknown dude from out in the sticks, i think his name was clinton, beat the incumbent who was running for re-election, i think his name mighta been bush. beat him by 10 points [i forget the exact margin] in the popular vote and won 2/3 of the electoral college, give or take.

so yeah, a hillary-led puma party, or hillary-as-independent with pumapac fundraising, could siphon off maybe 10-20% of the popular vote, obama would still beat mccain with a comfortable margin, and either a third party [preferably leftier than the dems] gets a head start, or at least more left-leaning downticket candidates get a boost. it's less about getting an actual lefty president, and more about getting leftiness back into the government overall. win-win-win, imnsho.

heh. temper tantrums can be useful, but really, you're seeing a good deal of righteous anger here, even if on the face of things, it's not easily distinguishble from a tantrum.

and if you feel really, really strongly about something, maybe it is true. barack obama and hillary clinton each got almost exactly the same number of popular votes, it's not like the supporters of either candidate make up some radical fringe group.

as for what's true, the two incontrovertible truths here seem to be [a] john and jane q public will be equally happy with either the black man or the white woman, and [b] the party leadership would really rather have the black man. i don't see a single damned thing wrong with the voters presuming to tell the party leaders what it is that the voters want.

as for skewing right, no it's not a recent trend at all, and if your politics are left, at what point do you finally stop letting them drag you off into right field? why not stop right here? or at least put up a fight as you're getting dragged off.

i'll agree with you that in the present political climate the odds are long, but i'm not buying [not entirely] your a leftist can't win argument.

as for the war, i'm not buying obama's shtick that he's the antiwar candidate. he gave that one speech in 2002, has since said that if he'd actually been in congress at the time and privy to the same information that he might have voted for the aumf. he wants to expand the military by 100,000 troops. he has said he wouldn't rule out a strike on iran. his war plans so far entail pulling out of iraq but hanging around in the region to take on any violence that spills over out of iraq into neighboring countries. as senator, he voted to keep funding the war. he voted against the kyl-lieberman amendment, but proposed his own with almost the exact same wording.

he's not crazy enough to come right out and say we'll be there for 100 years, but with a platform like that, we could easily get bogged down in another vietnam.

to be fair, he and hillary are two peas in a pod on the war, she wouldn't have been all that much better.

If you can't win, you aren't proving anything.

hard to argue with that, though i still maintain that just making a credible run really does influence the next generation. shoves the overton window over a little bit more, one direction or another, preferably in the direction *i* want it to go. ;)

bill clinton's got a lot to answer for on welfare reform, if you ask me. a whole hell of a lot.

august said...

I totally disagree with you that a left-leaning candidate would win. A left-leaning candidate couldn't even get out of the Democratic primary. I was pretty indifferent on the Clinton/Obama question and let it be settled by others. But to

1. claim it's the Republicans who are in disarray while at the same time
2. advocating a third party that would draw from Democrats

seems contradictory to me.

You're dreaming if you think that Obama can handle a 10-20% hit in votes. Maybe if a Democrat were already president that would be a reasonable assumption. No, not even then. It's just crazy. McCain's personal popularity remains considerable despite people's issues with this administration. And even Bush's approval ratings have a baseline. Obama would lose not only Ohio and Florida (which he may lose anyway), but places like Michigan, Virginia. He'd even be in trouble in California.

I don't get your Perot example at all. He drew votes from Republicans and as a result the Republicans lost badly. Nader drew votes from Dems and the Dems lost. Anderson drew votes from moderates and the result was a Reagan landslide. None of them had any discernible effect on the major parties. The opposite. If the liberal base is unreliable, the party is forced to move farther right to make up the votes.

And, just an aside, as mentioned I had no particular preference in the Obama/Clinton thing. But Clinton is my Senator, and I have been barraging her with e-mail for some time. She didn't just vote for the war, she was highly pro-war. In general, if you were looking for a liberal candidate, she wasn't it. She's not going to move the party to the left. She helped recruit Wesley Clark, for god's sake.

I'm not going to try to convince you that Obama is awesome; I find him pretty aggravating. But don't tell me he's invincible. And surely you understand the consequences of losing even one more Supreme Court appointee. Or giving veto power to McCain. I shudder to think about how he'd use pardons, or signing statements, or whatever else. But the Supreme Court is the big one for me. Liberals imagine that the risk is just 4 years of a republican president, but the real risk is at least 30 years of a young, activist, highly conservative court majority. That's why this particular election is not the time for poetic gestures.

hipparchia said...

not the time for poetic gestures

there is never a safe time for either poetic gestures or revolutionary moves.

yes, the supreme court is a valid worry, though a sufficiently liberal/democratic senate would/could/should assert their advise and consent powers to block the worst nominees. i know, going on their past record, the senate we're likely to end up with is unlikely to be a good offset for mccain here.

otoh, i can easily see obama nominating a very corporatist-leaning judge, and a dem congress wholeheartedly following their leader. not as bad as the radical rightist that mccain would be likely to appoint, but not a rosy scenario.

i agree, clinton is not liberal. but she would galvanize women voters, and not only are we half the population, we're a tad left of you men, in general. add to that the fact that men who support feminist causes also tend to be left of center, and you've got the makings of a liberal group. no guarantees that it would happen that way, of course.

republicans in disarray... obama is going after the moderates, the centrists, the libertarians, the pro-business, and the religious-but-not-wingnutty from the republican party, which pretty much covers the contingent that voted for perot, iirc. what i see is that it's the party that's been the unreliable one, for some time now, moving right and leaving the liberal base behind.

i don't think obama can count on a landslide, but he's got a good chance at it. axelrod and plouffe have so far proven themselves to be absolute masters at marketing their candidate.

one very safe thing you can count on, hillary clinton is not going to leave the democratic party, or work against it. the more rabid among her fan base however, are both loud enough and numerous enough that they're in a position to make some demands of the candidate who's counting on their votes.

Anonymous said...

as you said, Hillary Clinton is not going to leave the Democratic party, so the idea of a "Hillary-led PUMA party" ("Party Unity My Ass") is as fanciful as it is unhelpful.

This is not to say that there aren't real good reasons to be unhappy with the Democratic party. And if this FISA bill passes the Senate with retroactive immunity, I'd have a hard time saying they deserve any defense.

Anonymous said...

So the guy who started this PUMA nonsense was Will Bower. According to, he's met with John McCain, and also attended the Larry Sinclair "press conference". This is a Republican front group.

Anonymous said...

Here's Ben Smith from (via

After his public conference call with Clinton supporters (covered extensively by Jonathan Martin) Saturday, John McCain met privately with some 75 of those supporters at his Virginia headquarters, two people who were there said.

McCain's staff extended the last-minute invitation to Clinton die-hards, including a founder of a group called "Party Unity, My Ass" (PUMA), and substantial numbers came from Washington and New York. They represented passionate campaign volunteers and supporters, but they're essentially a marginal group in Clinton's orbit, including no one with a prominent campaign role, public office or close relationship with the candidate.

"He stayed for a good almost half hour afterwards shaking hands, listening to our concerns, talking to us," said PUMA founder Will Bower, who said he thought many of the people there would vote for McCain.

hipparchia said...

... essentially a marginal group in clinton's orbit.

heh. marginalizing people who have an opposing viewpont and try to voice it, common tactic that.


yes, there are now, have long been, and possibly always will be only a small number of people who are comfortable working outside of our present 2-party system. does not mean a determined small group can't effect the changes it's after.

in the comments at fivethirtyeight and further comments in another forum will bower explains that larry sinclair is only of passing significance, and that his puma activism is about pushing back against the dnc. in that second link, he explains clearly and succinctly what he feels went wrong with the nomination process, an analysis with which i basically agree.

bower's own preferred remedy at this point is to signal his displeasure with the dnc by voting for mccain, but he's been very careful to point out that puma as a whole is not necessarily advocating this tactic. yes, a number of other people who are self-identifying as pumas at this point have said they will vote for mccain, but pumas are by no means united on this one point.

voting for mccain not a tactic i endorse, because it's obvious that losing to republicans over and over again hasn't fixed the things that i, and many pumas, think are wrong with the democratic party, further, i certainly won't be voting for mccain, just because i can't bring myself to do that.

if whatever i end up doing with my vote helps mccain more than it helps obama, well then damn it, if the democratic party wanted me to vote for them they could have run a candidate and a platform that more closely matches my values.

hipparchia said...

yeah, with ya 100% on the fisa thing.

hipparchia said...

addendum: if the puma rebellion later falls under full republican control, as opposed to merely being a collection of anti-dnc-ers, some of whom are plannning to vote for mccain over obama, then i'll have to renounce them. until then, i approve of the ultimate goal they're trying to accomplish.

Anonymous said...

hipparchia, Will Bower is still talking up the Sinclair ratfuck in the thread. This PUMA thing is under full Republican control.

Steve Bates said...

When I was in college, we used the term "pooma" (pronounced the same as "puma") when a lecturing professor came up with a fact or derivation or formula seemingly out of nowhere. It was actually an acronym for something like "pull out of my hat." Enough said...

hipparchia said...

michael: still? i didn't find anything later than 6/20. you got links?

steve: :)

to whom it may concern: whether or not puma has been co-opted by republicans, it would behoove y'all to understand why there are people -- democrats, and former democrats -- who are justly angry at the democratic party as it now stands.

Steve Bates said...

"... it would behoove y'all to understand why there are people -- democrats, and former democrats -- who are justly angry at the democratic party as it now stands." - hipparchia

That describes a lot of us who will probably vote for Obama anyway as a vote against McCain, even if we think Obama is a flawed candidate and the Democratic Party is largely broken. I can't think of anything that would dissuade me from voting strategically as best I can, even if I'm furious with the DP and disappointed in its candidate's recent collapse on the FISA law.

hipparchia said...

i can't blame you for that, steve, it's not like we have a lot of good choices left. or good left choices.

august said...


To be clear, I'm angry at the Democratic party as it now stands. I'm angry at the United States as it now stands. But I also think that my ideal candidate can't win the the presidency, and I'm unconvinced that Clinton (H.) is anything other than a sign of the wider disease.

So while I agree in principle that things are messed up, I have two objections.

1. I think a third party candidate would be a disaster.

2. Even if I were to grant that a leftist third party made sense and do the things you say a leftist third party would do, Clinton is in no way a leftist.

I'll add that I'm raising these issues with you because I find your arguments more interesting/compelling than anybody else I've encountered on this topic. I think that regardless of how I feel about PUMA, my sense of the political situation differs from yours in that

A. I'm not nearly as confident as you are that progressive/left politics is a winning formula. It makes me sad, but that's how I read the 2006 returns.

B. I think that mobilizing left-leaning votes for Obama will help pull him left, particularly if that comes in tandem with progressive Congressional candidates.

august said...

the more rabid among her fan base however, are both loud enough and numerous enough that they're in a position to make some demands of the candidate who's counting on their votes.

This makes sense to me, and not just among "the more rabid of her fan base" I think that a lot of people who wind up voting for Obama, myself included, would like to see him switch to Clinton's health care plan. It seems to me an attainable goal, one that I don't think would cost much in the general election. So let's start writing some letters. Clinton and Obama are appearing together in Unity, New Hampshire. He wants unity, let him unite. That's the kind of politicing I can sign up for.

Anonymous said...

hipparchia, there are justifiable reasons to be angry with the Democratic party for its complicity, though it now appears they will postpone the FISA monstrosity which shows they may be responsive to us. Your favored candidate did not win the party nomination, if she had you would not be as angry at the Democratic party, I suspect.

Someone had to win the nomination, and it was close, so a lot of people were going to be angry no matter who won. I've said so before and I'll still say so, if it had gone the other way I would be making no endorsement in November, though I would have continued to work to end the Republican party.

So what I'm saying is, I would have helped Hillary Clinton to win, without giving her direct support or a vote, unless she did something unexpected to earn that vote. I can well believe that Barack Obama has not yet won your vote, perhaps he will not but I hope you will not work against his election.

America and the world are at stake here. We aren't going to fix all the problems in 2008 but we can authorize the creation of an administration that will work to make things better instead of worse, or at least let it be authorized.