Blue Dogs Strike A Pose-- A Republican One
There were a few good Republicans after him, but not really that many
I spent most of the summer in Indonesia and Thailand. In between scaling Mount Batur, white water rafting down the Mighty Ayung River, sleeping ten hours a day and going to a plantation with my friends who wanted to drink coffee made of mongoose poop, I inspired myself by reading Mike Lux's powerful new book The Progressive Revolution, the best and most thorough contrast I've ever seen explaining the difference between progressives and conservatives. I'm back in L.A. now and I see Democrats are in the midst of an internal struggle between it's better nature, progressivism and the Dark Side, conservatism.
It isn't as though conservatives, by nature the defenders of the status quo and of the wealthy and powerful, don't have adequate representation. It's called the Republican Party and soon after the demise of Abraham Lincoln it sold its progressive soul to the industrialist robber barons and southern racists and transformed itself into a bulwark against change. Among the changes conservatives have opposed-- usually hysterically, warning about the end of civilization and the family and religion, were:
• The American Revolution
• The Bill of Rights and the forging of a democracy
• Universal white male suffrage
• Public education
• The emancipation of the slaves
• The national park system
• Food safety
• The breakup of monopolies
• The Homestead Act
• Land grant universities
• Rural electrification
• Women’s suffrage
• The abolition of child labor
• The eight hour workday
• The minimum wage
• Social Security
• Civil rights for minorities and women
• Voting rights for minorities and the poor
• Cleaning up our air, our water, and toxic dump sites
• Consumer product safety
• Medicare and Medicaid
"Every single one of those reforms," explains Lux, "which are literally the reforms that made this country what it is today, was accomplished by the progressive movement standing up to the fierce opposition of conservative reactionaries who were trying to preserve their own power. American history is one long argument between progressivism and conservatism."
Ken and I have been endeavoring to make sure DWT readers are aware that this is part of the historical context in which the battle over health care reform is being waged. Conservative warriors on the corporate payroll-- both Republican politicians like Jim DeMint, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Virginia Foxx, Richard Burr, Mike Pence, John Boehner, Miss McConnell, John McCain, Evan Bayh, Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, etc and their media echo chamber (Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, etc)-- will stoop as low as they need to, regardless how much they damage the country or the fabric of society, to hold up progress. They always have. Remember, it was conservatives who predicted the end of the world if Jefferson was allowed to publish the Declaration of Independence, if the slaves were freed, if consumers were protected from businessmen selling poisonous meat, if the minimum wage were enacted, if labor unions were allowed to exist, if women were given the right to vote, if child labor were abolished, if Social Security were passed, etc. It never ends; it never will-- not even after the political right went on a rampage in the 30's, not content with destroying the world's economy, plunging the world into a global war of annihilation. And even in the midst of the pan-partisan conservatives' battle against expanding health care, they have a whole package of agenda items they are determined to shove down American's throats.
Earlier today, my friend Cliff Schecter, posted Blue Dogs, Birthers and Bullet Fetishes at the Huffington Post, which analyzes the uncomfortably narrow progressive victory over one of the latest right-wing distractions, John Thune's misguided legislation to override state laws trying to prevent criminals from carrying concealed weapons.
Thankfully, the NRA lost a gun battle for the first time in five years, but no thanks to squeamish Blue-Dog Democrats. Take Colorado Democratic Senators Udall and Bennet, for example. They waited to the end to vote, as if calculating which way to go right up until the vote, and then voted with the gun nuts. Interestingly, two Republicans from generally pro-gun states, Senators George Voinovich of Ohio and Dick Lugar of Indiana, didn't feel a need to cave to the Bonkers Wing of the GOP. Nor did Democrats from pro-gun states, like Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bill Nelson of Florida and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
In any case, a Columbine dad, a man who suffered what is a nightmare for all of us with children in school, decided to remind these two men [the 2 conservative Democrats from Colorado] about what is and is not leadership in today's Denver Post. It says everything that needs to be said on this issue, as well as a host of others.
Sadly, the biggest threat to rational legislating right now is not from Republicans, who are and should be irrelevant, but from Blue Dogs. These people need to be taught not to fear their big contributors, but We The People.
Blue Dogs in the House, the DLC in the Senate... Democrats who feed at the same corporate troughs as Republicans-- legally-protected bribery, guaranteeing that the status quo will pretty much remain unchallenged and that progressive ideas will rarely be enacted. Even with Lindsey Graham voting to support Sonia Sotomayor, two reactionary Democrats, Mark Begich and Ben Nelson have announced that they are undecided about confirmation. Makes perfect sense to me. It's a battle between progressives and conservatives, not really between the bought out Inside the Beltway political establishments and the careerists who use them as vehicles. Is there a way to solve this roadblock against democracy short of violence? Most experts think that there is one way and one way only: real campaign finance reform, the kind that gives ordinary American families a shot against the corrupting influence of Big Money.
It takes a lot of money to run a modern Senate or House campaign, and lawmakers now have to compromise themselves by personally pleading for contributions from big-money interests. Also, the massive amount of time members must devote to fundraising makes them less effective.
One way to get cleaner elections and better government is for Congress to adopt a Connecticut-style reform being pushed by Democratic U.S. Rep. John B. Larson of East Hartford and Rep. Walter Jones Jr., Republican of North Carolina. Senate sponsors are Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
A hearing on the "Fair Elections Now Act" will be held by the House Administration Committee today. We heartily support Mr. Larson's initiative.
The bill would create a voluntary program and would work like this: Participating candidates for the House and Senate would have to raise a large number of contributions, not to exceed $100 each, in order to qualify for public funding. Qualified House candidates would receive $900,000 in Fair Elections funding split 40 percent for the primary and 60 percent for the general election. Qualified Senate candidates would receive $1.25 million plus another $250,000 per congressional district in their states to take into account population differences. That funding, too, would be split 40-60. Qualified candidates would also be eligible to receive additional public funds if they continued to raise small donations from their home states.
The Senate campaign money would come from a small fee on government contractors, and the money for the House races from 10 percent of revenues generated through the auction of unused broadcast spectrum. The reform could cost between $700 million and $850 million a year, but it would remove much of the influence of special interests on elections. That's money well spent.