Glenn Greenwald v. Lawrence O’Donnell On Why Democrats Lost

The final half hour of today’s Morning Joe included this intense debate between Glenn Greenwald and Lawrence O’Donnell over why the Democrats lost on Tuesday:

In the end, I think O’Donnell clearly had the better side of the argument here. Greenwald couldn’t seem to accept the fact that without the Blue Dog Democrats, there would not have been any Democratic majority in Congress and thus no health care reform, no stimulus, no financial industry reform. Greenwald strikes me as the liberal version of something that you see on the right as well. It’s the same mentality that led people to support Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, for example, even though it was clear that there was no possibility that she could win the election. Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is, it seems, a common mistake in politics regardless of one’s political beliefs.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. mantis says:

    Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is, it seems, a common mistake in politics regardless of one’s political beliefs.


  2. James says:

    Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is, it seems, a common mistake in politics regardless of one’s political beliefs.

    I think we agree 🙂

    James Think I will HYJACK that line 🙂

  3. Brett says:

    If I remember right, part of Greenwald`s view is that because the Blue Dogs opposed all manner of more leftward policies, Democrats didn`t bother to show up and vote for them. Which is partially true, but if the votes aren`t there (even with hypothetical 100% liberal voter turnout), there`s no way around the >lue dogs.

    But I agree with the broader point – Greenwald has always tended towards absolutism and revulsion at “lesser of two evils” type of politics. He can be downright Nader-istic at times, willing to forgo practical gains in a fit of pique over the fact that the political support for his agenda doesn`t exist.

  4. Franklin says:

    Agreed with the assessment. I think Greenwald’s writing is intelligent and thought-provoking even when I don’t agree, but he is completely impractical when it comes to politics.

  5. Grewgills says:

    So Christine O’Donnell was the perfect that was the enemy of the good?

  6. Bill Schee says:

    Can anyone here name one single piece of liberal legislation which the Blue Dogs helped enact into law intact and not so watered down as to be pretty much a waste of time?

    Can someone here name one single Blue Dog who opposed both Bush and Obama administrations attack on our civil liberties? (FISA, torture, Guantanamo)

    Just one.

  7. Bill,

    The “Blue Dogs” were elected to represent their constituents, not the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

  8. Aidan says:

    I’m no fan of the Blue Dogs, but I think Greenwald has it completely wrong here. Blue Dogs were wiped out because they largely exist in Republican-friendly districts, districts that the Democrats were lucky to win in 2006 and 2008, that they won through a combination of widespread distrust of the Republican Party and choosing to run candidates who fit their districts. These seats were never going to remain Democrat, while most of the House progressives won because they represent liberal districts. Greenwald pretty consistently cherry picks facts when they fit his ideology.

  9. jb says:

    Aidan – I think Greenwald would absolutely agree with your reasons why Blue Dogs lost (that they were from swing or traditionally conservative districts). But his point was that people weren’t voting based on ideology (O’Donnell’s main argument), but rather as a response to the Dems lack of results on the economy (or other policy). Not a vote for conservatives (or against liberals), but simply a vote against incumbents!!! Same as in ’06 and ’08 – not votes for liberals (against conservatives), but simply against Bush and GOP policies (the Wars, etc..).

    Greenwald’s point is that people aren’t as easy to peg as the cable types (O’Donnell) would like everyone to think.

  10. TG Chicago says:

    I wasn’t terribly impressed with O’Donnell here. Clearly he’s a more polished TV presence, but his main rhetorical tactic was to repeat something over and over while Greenwald was trying to talk. If O’Donnell has a substantive point, he shouldn’t feel the need to keep repeating “20% Liberal” when Greenwald is trying to make a deeper point.

    Greenwald wanted to talk about policy. He was on cable news, though, so he had little chance to get beyond the most shallow political discourse – is America “conservative” or “liberal”?

  11. Bob says:

    I think the point is that an ideology did not win, a lack of accomplishment lost. The Blue Dogs caved to Republicans on essentially every major piece of legislation that went through, causing bills to be 1) no more palatable to conservatives, 2) disappointing to liberals and 3) substantially less effective (i.e. unimpressive to independents).

    I would add that there was a huge problem with voter mis-information courtesy of conservative organizations and Fox News and, a pathetically unfocused Democratic response to those hideous mis-information campaigns.

  12. TG Chicago says:

    “[Mataconis] should learn to read a little better” — Glenn Greenwald

    Mataconis and O’Donnell haven’t managed to fully grasp Greenwald’s point, as their arguments against it have made clear. You may be able to rebut his point, but first it’s good to understand it.

  13. TG

    I based my comments on what Greenwald said on the air when I watched it live (and then again twice more before I posted this). If he meant something else, it’s not my fault for listening to what he actually said.

  14. TG Chicago says:

    Let’s say that you’re right. You now have an opportunity to view his fuller point, completely fleshed out and without Lawrence O’Donnell screaming at him every two seconds. What do you think now that you’ve read it?

  15. TG Chicago says:

    Read Greenwald’s piece then read the below. Who do you think is enaging in a substantive debate, Greenwald or O’Donnell?,-then-impugns-his-loyalty

  16. Oh good lord.

    O’Donnell was obviously making a joke and the link you posted just confirms that nobody at Daily Kos has a sense of humor

  17. Fred Garvin says:

    Bob said it all. Lawrence was being a dick (I like Lawrence, he’s funny) and Glenn was rephrasing Larry’s questions/posits (although I agree with his assessment to a point).

    the dem’s did a HORRIBLE JOB of getting their message out and let the right-wing nut fringe teabag the whole system.