Thursday, November 04, 2010

Which Way To Point The Finger?


I hope it doesn't come as a shock to anyone who reads DWT for me to mention that the American masses are clearly less likely to guillotine the very people who outsource their jobs, foreclose on their homes and drive their families into penury than they are to elect them senator from Ohio and Wisconsin or governor of Ohio and Florida. Which they did; but you know that by now. There are plenty of reasons that motivate voters and even in relatively sane California, where Barbara Boxer was reelected to the Senate with 3,789,777 votes, her incredibly ill-suited and failed opponent, Carly Fiorina, wound up with 3,091,426 poor deluded California souls voting for her. And in New York, almost a third of the voters wanted Carl Paladino to be their governor! And more than a third of the voters in Colorado pulled the lever or touched the screen for infamous, or-- depending in which circles you move--celebrated racist Tom Tancredo.

The Democratic Party-- the corporate entity headquartered in Washington, DC-- has hardly offered voters a clear or compelling narrative in opposition to the very clear right-wing message carried by the Republican Party. The Republicans are uniformly conservatives and reactionaries whose vision of governance is authoritarian and excessively, even cravenly, deferential to the wealthy. The Democrats have some vague organizing principles and values but in the quest for the biggest tent ever pitched, the party has room for lots and lots of polar opposites-- those who would protect a woman's right to choice and those who would imprison doctors for performing abortions; those who sincerely believe in equality for all Americans and those who adamantly oppose it, particularly for the LGBT community and for ethnic minorities; those who believe it is their job to represent the interests of ordinary American families and those whose motivation is getting on board the corporate gravy train that will entitle them to whatever they personally aspire to in the material world...

The silver lining last night, as I predicted a week ago, was the political demise of the Blue Dogs. Over half the caucus was defeated, including the most reactionary members-- those who voted most frequently with the GOP against working families: Bobby Bright (AL-19.83% with Democrats), Gene Taylor (MS- 22.50), Travis Childers (MS- 22.95), Walt Minnick (ID- 27.64), Harry Mitchell (AZ- 28.46), Glenn Nye (VA- 30.08), Charles Melancon (LA- 32.17), Jim Marshall (GA-32.52). In fact all the Blue Dogs who voted less than a third of the time with the Democrats except for arch-reactionary Dan Boren (OK- 26.50), were defeated, as were so many of the ones who voted against the Hate Crimes bill, for the Stupak Amendment, against the health care bill, against the Wall Street reform legislation. And in the Senate, reactionary Arkansas bootlick to the Walton family, Blanche Lincoln wound up with a stunning 37.2% of the vote.

Blue America started the ball rolling against Blanche over a year ago by letting loyal Democrats in Democratic parts of the state know what she was up to. And we just did the same thing-- with equal success-- to Bobby Bright in Alabama. With 217,777 votes cast yesterday, Bright won 106,455 (48.9%) to Martha Roby's 111,322 (51.1%). We were able to depress his vote in 4 counties crucial to Democratic candidates, Lowndes, Barbour, Bullock and Butler. Below is a comparison of the votes Bright got in each of these candidates when he won in 2008 and when he lost last night:
Lowndes- 5,667 (79%) in '08 and 3,874 (74%) Tuesday
Barbour- 6,889 (61%) in '08 and 4,822 (59%) Tuesday
Bullock- 4,203 (79%) in '08 and 2,980 (77%) Tuesday
Butler- 5,601 (59%) and 3,878 (55%) Tuesday

We hope right-wing Democrats willing to shill themselves out to Big Business will know there's a price to pay for their perfidy. We'll be thinking carefully about Ben Nelson's race in 2012-- as well as Jim Cooper's, Joe Donnelly's, Mike Ross' and John Barrow's. And then there's our fearless leader.

With Boehner already claiming a mandate from the voters to overturn the healthcare "monstrosity," and Miss McConnell hissing from his closet that the lesson of Tuesday was that Democrats should not side with Obama-- irrespective of the fact that the vast majority of the losers were Democrats who did not side with Obama but who crossed the aisle habitually and voted most often with the GOP-- Obama was making Clinton-like gestures that he would like to go along to get along with an energized mob of nihilists and extremists who basically don't even recognize him as the legitimate president and whose self-imposed task number one is to make sure to make things as miserable as possible for the country so they blame him and defeat him in 2012. Obama wants to compromise. But how do you compromise with that?
He said he supported second-ranking GOP Rep. Eric Cantor's (Va.) proposed earmark moratorium, and suggested he was open to modify IRS reporting requirements for small businesses contained within his signature healthcare bill.

But Obama also exhorted Republicans to negotiate in good faith and put aside politics to the best of their ability. He suggested one message from voters was for the two parties to work together instead of taking shots at one another.

"What Americans don't want from us is spending the next two years re-fighting the battles of the last two," he said.

But Obama added: "I'm not so naive to think everybody will put politics aside until then."

Oh, whew. I kind of wish he would have called for the extension of the middle class tax cuts at the press conference and left the onus on the Republicans to stomp their feet and just say no. Instead he probably read retiring ConservaDem Evan Bayh's excruciating OpEd in the NY Times yesterday calling on the Democrats to be more like the Republicans and adopt their platform and ideas-- in other words to do exactly what sent 27 Blue Dogs hurtling to their political graves.

Bob Scheer had a very different way of looking at what happened Tuesday and a very different perspective on what conclusions the president and the Democratic Party should draw from it. If you've been following his writing and his radio appearances, it won't surprise you to hear that he thinks Obama and the Democrats got what they deserved "for a failed economic policy that consisted of throwing trillions at Wall Street but getting nothing in return."
At a time when, as a Washington Post poll reported last week, 53 percent of Americans fear they can’t make next month’s mortgage or rent payment, the president chirped inanely to Jon Stewart that his top economics adviser, Lawrence Summers, who was paid $8 million by Wall Street firms while advising candidate Obama, had done a “heckuva job” in helping avoid another Great Depression. What kind of consolation is that for the 50 million Americans who have lost their homes or are struggling to pay off mortgages that are “underwater”? The banks have been made whole by the Fed, providing virtually interest-free money while purchasing trillions of dollars of the banks’ toxic assets. Yet the financial industry response has been what Paul Volcker has called a “liquidity trap”-- denying loans for business investment or the refinancing necessary to keep people in their homes.

Instead of meeting that crisis head-on with a temporary moratorium on housing foreclosures, as more than half of those surveyed by the Post wanted, the president summarily turned down that sensible proposal. Instead he attempted to shift the focus to his tepid health care reform and was surprised that many voters didn’t think he did them a favor by locking them into insurance programs not governed by cost controls. Health care reform was viewed by many voters with the same disdain with which they reacted to the underfunded and unfocused stimulus program. Neither seems relevant to turning around an economy that a huge majority feels is getting worse, according to Election Day exit polls.

That is a problem that is not obvious to the power elites whom the leaders of both political parties serve or to the high-paid media pundits who cheer them on. The tea party revolt, ragged as it is, fed on a massive populist outrage that so-called progressives had failed to respond to because of their allegiance to Obama. As a result the Democrats squandered the hopes of their base, which rewarded the party with a paltry turnout at polling stations.

Marshall Ganz put it a bit more deferentially in an OpEd, How Obama Los His Voice, And How He Can get It Back, in yesterday's Los Angeles Times. "Obama," he writes, "went from being a transformational leader in the campaign to a transactional one as president. It didn't work, and he must reverse course." He glosses over-- or never got-- the point that Obama was a transactional career politician before he repackaged himself for the campaign.
President Obama entered office wrapped in a mantle of moral leadership. His call for change was rooted in values that had long been eclipsed in our public life: a sense of mutual responsibility, commitment to equality and belief in inclusive diversity. Those values inspired a new generation of voters, restored faith to the cynical and created a national movement.

Now, 18 months and an "enthusiasm gap" later, the nation's major challenges remain largely unmet, and a discredited conservative movement has reinvented itself in a more virulent form.

This dramatic reversal is not the result of bad policy as such; the president made some real policy gains. It is not a consequence of a president who is too liberal, too conservative or too centrist. And it is not the doing of an administration ignorant of Washington's ways. Nor can we honestly blame the system, the media or the public-- the ground on which presidential politics is always played.

...In his transactional leadership mode, the president chose compromise rather than advocacy. Instead of speaking on behalf of a deeply distressed public, articulating clear positions to lead opinion and inspire public support, Obama seemed to think that by acting as a mediator, he could translate Washington dysfunction into legislative accomplishment. Confusing bipartisanship in the electorate with bipartisanship in Congress, he lost the former by his feckless pursuit of the latter, empowering the very people most committed to bringing down his presidency.

Seeking reform from inside a system structured to resist change, Obama turned aside some of the most well-organized reform coalitions ever assembled-- on the environment, workers' rights, immigration and healthcare. He ignored the leverage that a radical flank robustly pursuing its goals could give a reform president-- as organized labor empowered FDR's New Deal or the civil rights movement empowered LBJ's Voting Rights Act. His base was told that aggressive action targeting, for example, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee-- where healthcare reform languished for many months-- would reflect poorly on the president and make his job harder. Threatened with losing access, and confusing access with power, the coalitions for the most part went along.

The Democratic Party is bereft ideas & bereft of backbone. Obama's going to have a tough time figuring out a path to victory in 2012.

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At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand your goal, but it strikes me as shameful to see a so-called "progressive" blog brag about its "success" in helping elect a Republican to Congress while simultaneously boasting about depressing African American votes in rural Alabama. Neither the end nor the means are justified by your shortsighted and ignorant hopes of progressive purification.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Political party dedicated to protecting incumbency is not worth supporting.

The game is not to elect democrats, it is to implement the party's platform.

Those who undermine the organization should defend themselves and their actions.

Knocking off the outliers, the extreme, least democratic members should be applauded.

I call it a darwinism.


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