Kilgore v Stoller

In Salon, Ed Kilgore responds to Matt Stoller’s piece on Obama’s destruction of the Democratic Party. Kilgore basically says that a primary of Obama isn’t likely because Obama still has strong support among base voters, though he looks at personal approval ratings, not the 32% of Democrats who want a primary. Kilgore also dismisses Stoller’s historic examples of past primaries of incumbents, essentially on the grounds that these happened a long time ago.

But what stood out to me in Kilgore’s piece was his explanation for why he thinks elite leaders of progressive institutions aren’t really unhappy with Obama. He writes:

While there has been plenty of angry grumbling about the administration’s performance in labor circles, there are no signs of “dump Obama” sentiment. Indeed, far from launching a big, dangerous foray into presidential nominating politics, many labor leaders are talking about a strategic shift into state elections where GOP governors and legislators are presenting a more visible existential threat to their constituencies and their influence.

The meaning of this shift towards local races is that labor leaders are choosing to take money that could be spent supporting Obama’s reelection and spending it elsewhere. It is a sign of base discontent and one that makes the chances of Obama’s reelection smaller. Given that one of Stoller’s main points that Kilgore is actually attempting to respond directly to is that Obama remains electable, this is not an effective example for Kilgore.

Like Stoller, I think the odds of there being one primary or many favorite son candidates is negligible. But Kilgore’s piece really doesn’t get at the reasons for that. If Kilgore really wanted to rebut Stoller from a fact-based place, he would cite the near-total capture of progressive interest groups by the Democratic Party. Absent an analysis focused on that, Kilgore really is just being dismissive out of hand towards a thoughtful and original analysis of the 2012 election and what Democrats could be doing to express their displeasure with Obama.

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