Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sherrod Brown, The Only Progressive To Have Endorsed Bush's Torture Bill, Endorsed A Couple Of Transactional Politicians


Strictly a coincidence, but Tuesday afternoon we happened to mention that when Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio progressive, was in the House, he was serving alongside Republican Rob Portman and conservaDem Ted Strickland. We just happened to be looking at some key votes where Strickland voted along with Portman for the right-wing positions and against the positions being advocated by progressives-- and even by mainstream Republicans!. I found it mildly off-putting that Brown-- an excellent advocate for working families on many issues, especially trade issues and some Wall Street issues-- had endorsed Strickland, well-aware of what a political coward he's always been and what a shill for conservative interests. P.G. Sittenfeld would have made a lot more sense. But the political game isn't always about sense-- sometimes it's about dollars and cents, and sometimes people don't agree on what makes sense.

Soon after the post had been written Brown sent out an e-mail to his supporters asking them to contribute money to Strickland's campaign. "Ted Strickland and I have a lot in common," he wrote. "We were both born and raised in Ohio. We served together in the House of Representatives. And, we were both endorsed by Council for a Livable World for our progressive positions on national security." Brown often shills for the Council for a Livable World, which is a hack organization that generally backs candidates-- even the worst garbage candidates imaginable-- as part of the corrupt DC Establishment circus.

Brown continued that he wants Strickland "by my side in the Senate because I know he will work tirelessly for the progressive values we share with Council for a Livable World." Strickland is an opportunist career politician and he has no progressive values. "I've known Ted for a long time. In the House of Representatives, he and I championed principled policies on national security." LOL-- one of Brown's weakest points, since he was the only progressive in Congress to back Bush's torture bill. And we all remember when Brown teamed up with Portman to vote against GMO labeling, right? Bernie voted right on that one, of course. I can't imagine why anyone would have expected Sherrod Brown to endorse Bernie Sanders. Sorry, but Hillary and Strickland are garden variety transactional politicians and Sherrod Brown is just fine with that. You can contribute to P.G.'s grassroots campaign here.

The smartest explanation of the value of politician to politician endorsements came from Pennsylvania Congressman Matt Cartwright: "What matters is your message, and making sure you have the means to get it out there. Those kinds of endorsements worked 40 or 50 or 100 years ago; I think we are at a point now where a candidate's collecting endorsements of other politicians at best is a waste of time, and at worst is actually counterproductive. It's definitely a waste of time, because nowadays in high-profile races information on candidates is so readily and directly available that voters don't depend on party bosses and ward-heelers to tell them who to vote for. It can even be counterproductive, because the politicians bestowing their endorsements may in fact be individually or collectively despised. In my own experience with a hotly contested primary contest, I was a complete political neophyte in my first election; my opponent was a 20-year incumbent congressman. You could count my endorsements from elected officials and local party committees on one hand; my opponent's list of endorsements was gargantuan. I just focused on raising enough money to get my message out. Since I was able to do that, I did get my message out. Since the voters liked my message more than the other guy's, nobody paid any attention to all those other politicians' endorsements, and I won... by a lot."

Tuesday Brown also endorsed Hillary Clinton. Bill de Blasio-- another marginally progressive-- and very opportunistic-- politician is expected to do the same. Conventional wisdom types were all over Twitter shrieking about what a blow this is to Bernie. It isn't. No one gives a shit that one transactional hack endorses another transactional hack. It makes it all the more valuable to see actual principled leaders like Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison backing Bernie. In fact... here's a page with all the congressional candidates who have endorsed Bernie so far, despite immense pressure from the Clinton Machine.

My old friend Emorej a Hong Kong took a swing at this as well. An important, if somewhat different, perspective. If you like how he puts it and what he has to say... please think about what you can do to strengthen and expand the narrative on this ActBlue page.

On Sherrod, Hillary, Bernie and us; Tough Cops making Nice Cops; etc.

How can we Bernie-supporters reconcile the recent endorsement of Hillary, by swing-state blue collar Progressive Senator Sherrod Brown, with our hopes that (to re-coin an old expression):

government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
  A useful way to think about this is to combine two memes, as follows:  President Roosevelt’s (and later President Obama’s) appeal to

“Make me do it”
...can be understood as shorthand for an appeal to
“Please act as the Tough Cop so that I, acting as the Nice Cop, can persuade recalcitrant people to accept my relatively nice proposals, in order to avoid being confronted with your tough demands.”
Many political deals are reached by a Nice Cop relying partly on pressure from a Tough Cop. It is convenient for politicians to fabricate a Tough Cop, even if only to get credit for being the Nice Cop.

 At a high level of political artistry, we can imagine a politician named, say,  
“Big Dog”, who can persuade bank chiefs Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon that he is their Nice Cop, protecting them from the Tough Cop of bank-hating Progressive voters, while simultaneously persuading Progressive voters that he is their Nice Cop, protecting them from the Tough Cop of bank chiefs threat to spend billions electing extremely anti-Progressive Republicans.
But that's for magicians. For normal politicians, like a Sherrod Brown trying to persuade a Hillary Clinton to oppose the TPP, and then seeing Hillary evolve in that direction, Sherrod must periodically re-evaluate whether to switch to Nice Cop mode. Thus, on the issue of TPP, endorsing Hillary does not prevent Sherrod from, as a Nice Cop in comparison with Bernie Sanders' Tough Cop, continuing to pressure Hillary to evolve further, and to honor related promises.

Of course Sherrod has other reasons to endorse or not endorse Hillary or Bernie, and some of them may involve the types of political pressures and favors that give politics a bad name, but merely switching to Nice Cop mode, and highlighting the importance of the TPP in his decision, does not necessarily make Sherrod an idiot or a sell-out. Moreover, Bernie and Progressives are going to need many future votes and endorsements from Sherrod, so it would be logical not to vilify him, and better for our health if we are not simply biting back a desire to rage at him.

What does Sherrod's endorsement of Hillary mean, and not mean, for what Bernie and his supporters can and do next?

  A.            Understand basic reasons for and implications of Sherrod's decision:
Sherrod Brown calculated the following values-- DISCOUNTED FOR PROBABILITY-- to Sherrod’s interests:

  1.            Nomination and election of Hillary, owing a debt to Sherrod for his endorsement issued at this time,   has higher value than

  2.            Nomination and election of Bernie, owing a debt to Sherrod for any other Sherrod course of action.
  B.            What this means:  
Key Probabilities:

  1.            Have been shown, at least in Sherrod’s perception, to favor Hillary, more than had been shown by previously public data points; and

  2.            Have been moved, by Sherrod’s endorsement, in the direction of favoring Hillary;
  C.            What this does NOT mean:  
Sherrod changing his posture, towards Hillary, from Tough Cop to Nice Cop, does NOT mean that, now or perhaps ever, any of the following changes are necessary:

  1.            Bernie should not stop, now or ever, winning the Democratic nomination or (as an important side effect of his campaign) acting as Tough Cop towards Hillary on TPP and numerous other policy issues;

  2.            Individual Progressives should not stop, now or perhaps ever, acting as  Tough Cop towards candidates Hillary and Bernie;

  3.            Individual Progressives should not stop, now or perhaps ever, acting as  Tough Cop towards past endorsers like Sherrod, or towards potential future endorsers and non-endorsers (like Elizabeth Warren and Jesse Jackson);

  4.            Individual Progressives, directly and indirectly through public figures like Bernie, Sherrod and Hillary, should ABSOLUTELY not stop, now or ever, acting as Tough Cop towards big donors’ buying of excessive political influence, and using that influence to excessively protect their interests against the interests of the 99%;   5.            Bernie, and Individual Progressives, should ABSOLUTELY not stop, now or ever, acting as Nice Cop towards low-turnout, low-registration and/or high-reprogrammable members of the 99%, in order to encourage them to increase their participation in politics.

  6.            Bernie, and Individual Progressives, should mainly continue to do what they have been doing, mainly for the same reasons as before, with one additional reason: this is the best way to strengthen the power of all the above roles, including Sherrod’s new Nice Cop role.
  D.            Two things that are even more true now than before:

  (a)          When criticizing Hillary, it is most effective (and avoids pie fights with Hillary-lovers who may agree with us on many policy questions) to:  
be specific along lines of
“I need her to make more granular commitments to bigger protections of the 99% and bigger reversals of big-donor influence”;

             not lazily invoke vague memes (like “untrustworthy”) that overlap with Right Wing talking points that help to elect Republican Presidents.
  (b)          When Hillary repositions to the Left on more issues, the most useful response is along the following lines:
thank you for responding productively to our having made you promise this;
             we’re gonna keep on making you make even more promises,
             we’re gonna keep on making you keep even more promises;
             No, we will never be satisfied;
             We have seen how there is never an end to big-donor greed’s ability to drive ratchets in policy and in the range of acceptable discussion
             We have seen how there is never an end to Right-Wing doubling-down denials of reality;
             We will always be here pushing to reverse these ratchets, during your political career and of those who come after you.

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At 8:50 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

This is a good read from Salon.


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