Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What Will Progressives Who Get Elected To Congress This Time Do Differently


For most candidates for Congress-- and incumbents-- the economics of politics is about how to access money to keep their careers moving ahead. For the new breed of Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the economics of politics has more to do with how to finance the Bernie policies they're espousing and that their supporters are clamoring for. Getting the new breed Dems all on-message with that kind of economics would be huge. If you don’t know what you’re capable of achieving, you can’t advocate for it. A bold, progressive agenda demands a complementary economic framework. Yesterday Ocasio sent this message to her supporters in the Bronx and Queens and across the country:
When we want to spend trillions of dollars on a foreign war, Republicans find money for it.

When we want to subsidize oil and fossil fuel companies with billions of dollars, Republicans find money for it.

When we want to give a 1.5 trillion dollar tax break that disproportionately helps the wealthy elite, Republicans find money for it.


Medicare for All can’t happen because we can’t find the money to pay for it. We can’t have tuition-free college because it’s too expensive. A federal jobs guarantee could never happen because it just costs too much.

Time to dispel that narrative, because here’s the reality-- we can afford to give working people the quality of life they deserve. It’s not about cost, it’s about what we choose to prioritize.

...You know what’s even more absurd? The implication that these programs don’t create far more value than their cost anyway. Investing in our working and middle class communities has incredible returns.

Helping everyone access higher education gets us the workforce we need to compete in the 21st century. By almost every measure, Medicare for All would reduce the total amount our country spends on it’s privatized alternative. A Green New Deal would create hundreds of thousands of new, high-paying jobs too!

The real formula for economic growth has been known for decades-- we get it by investing in everyone, not by giving more money to the top 1% and big corporations, which only exacerbates economic inequality nationwide.

It’s not about cost-- it was never about cost. It’s always been about protecting the status of the wealthy elite in our nation.

It’s time that the rest of us got our fair share.
This has been the message of MMT, a message that Bernie's chief economics advisor Stephanie Kelton has been explaining for years, to a largely confused and uncomprehending Democratic Party establishment. Perhaps that new breed of Democrats-- once they get into Congress-- can help them understand it. As Ryan Grim wrote Monday morning, Ocasio-Cortez "is exploring forming a 'sub-caucus' of progressives in the House that would be willing to vote as a bloc to leverage their power, she said in a recent podcast interview. Progressives in Congress have been watching Ocasio-Cortez closely for clues as to how she’ll navigate the unwieldy chamber that is the House of Representatives, where she is expected to arrive after the November election. The interest in her includes the personal-- Will she endorse a primary challenge against me?-- as well as the institutional. Progressive Democrats are excited to have a telegenic spokesperson carrying their message, but some have expressed private concerns that she may look to organize a bloc of Democrats who could eclipse the Congressional Progressive Caucus in prominence."

The co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Mark Pocan, whipped-- aggressively and sometimes quite dishonestly-- against Ocasio during the election. He's moved the CPC in a very, very New Dem direction, even endorsing middle of the road New Dem politicians against progressives in primary battles. Most of the members of the CPC are the best members of Congress, but the caucus itself has become... less than it was. Maybe Ocasio and other new hard-fighting progressives can counter the slide. That said, Grim points out that "Ocasio-Cortez has been insistent that she has no intention of burning the party to the ground or stoking needless internal rifts, preferring instead to persuade her colleagues to move in a more aggressively populist direction.“'As unapologetic and strong as I am in my messaging and my beliefs, my style is that I’m a consensus-builder,' she said on the podcast. But she is at bottom an organizer, and if persuasion doesn’t work, and the caucus isn’t maximizing its influence, she has made clear that she is aware of the tools at her disposal."
In a recent interview on Jacobin’s podcast, recorded after the election, Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of a bloc of progressives who would stick together to demand stronger legislation.

The current CPC, made up of 78 members, is too amorphous to act as a united bloc, which saps it of its strength, Ocasio-Cortez argued. It’s the same rationale that conservatives who built the powerful Freedom Caucus three years ago used when they broke away from the larger Republican Study Committee, the GOP equivalent of the progressive caucus.

“The thing that gives the caucus power is that you can operate as a bloc vote in order to get things done,” Ocasio-Cortez told Daniel Denvir, host of Jacobin’s “The Dig.” “Even if you can carve out a sub-portion, a sub-caucus of the progressive caucus, even if you could carve out that, even a smaller bloc, but one that operates as a bloc, then you could generate real power.”

  If Democrats wind up holding a slim majority in future Congresses, a progressive sub-caucus wouldn’t need many members to tip the balance, since leadership would need all of them on board to move forward. “If you can even carve out a caucus of 10, 30 people it does not take a lot, if you operate as a bloc vote, to really make strong demands on things,” she said.

What Ocasio-Cortez is floating-- a progressive mirroring of the Freedom Caucus-- has been flirted with in the past in Congress. Congressional Black Caucus members have at times voted as a bloc and extracted concessions, but the CPC has been much quicker to blink.

The problem-- if it can be called one-- is that progressives, even those at the edge of the party’s spectrum, are much less willing to shoot the hostage than ultra-conservatives, a point made by multiple members of the CPC who The Intercept spoke to about the Ocasio-Cortez idea. Ideologically, conservatives who broadly oppose government spending, or the government in general-- it is, according to Ronald Reagan, “the problem”-- have less of an issue with shutting down the government or rejecting legislation. Republicans tend to look to roll things back, while Democrats, in the ideal, are trying to build things up. And very few Democrats are willing to reject a small amount of progress because it isn’t enough.

...The number of Democrats who might be willing to take a firm stand and credibly threaten to oppose legislation if it’s not strong enough is small, likely fewer than 10 at the moment, including progressives such as Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, or Jamie Raskin. But more Democrats will be arriving next year who may take a more aggressive tact.

Rashida Tlaib, who is running to replace Rep. John Conyers Jr. in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, could be one of those. “What’s clear is that a label, like ‘Democrat’ or ‘progressive,’ doesn’t speak nearly as loudly as actions, and that we cannot give folks a pass when they have the right label but aren’t taking action to make the lives of working families better,” said Andy Goddeeris, a spokesperson for Tlaib, when asked about the Ocasio-Cortez plan. “When we send Rashida to Congress, she’s not going to be afraid to tell the folks in her own caucuses when they’re selling out the people. But I think she would ideally like to see a consensus built among progressive legislators. Standing together in support of bold, unapologetic policy in service of working-class people is what’s necessary to fight back against the right wing.”
So I'm guessing, based on policy agendas, that the bloc Ocasio is hoping to help put together would include more than just her and Rashida Tlaib and include men and women who have already won primaries, like Kara Eastman, J.D. Scholten (IA), Randy Bryce (WI) and Jess King (PA), as well as progressives still fighting to win primaries, like Kaniela Ing (HI), James Thompson (KS), Brent Wilder (KS), and Matt Haggman (FL). I might as well mention at this point, that no matter how many progressives get elected, the DCCC has fixed the primaries so severely-- with no push-back from the Progressive Caucus-- that, overall, the new Democratic conference will be much more conservative than the current one. The DCCC has made sure that there will be lots more Blue Dogs and New Dems-- from Jeff Van Drew (NJ), Max Rose and Anthony Brindisi in New York to Cathy Manning and Dan McCready in North Carolina, from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, working furiously to counter anything progressives like Ocasio and Tlaib try to do.

Bernie and Alexandria are doing a United For America rally in Wichita for James Thompson on Friday. Wonder why? I was talking with him the other day. There's little chance you'll something like this from a garden variety congressional Democrat: "One thing is clear," said Thompson: "we must revamp our broken immigration system to reflect our country's values. ICE is currently operating under the guidelines and policies of the Trump administration. Congress has failed to provide proper guidance in handling immigration in the United States, which allowed President Trump to step in and fill that void with his own racist and inhumane policy interpretations. Here in my district in Wichita, Kansas, ICE is allowed to operate without any apparent oversight because they lease privately owned property. Public officials are not allowed in and protesters are prevented by the police from protesting at the sight because of the lessor’s ownership interests. The government will not even admit that ICE uses the facility as a detention center despite people being released from there once their ICE bond is paid and released. Unless those within ICE find the political courage to say enough is enough and we will no longer follow immoral and inhumane orders, ICE will need to be disbanded in favor of a completely new immigration system. Otherwise we run the risk of renaming an organization with the same organizational culture that does nothing to prevent the atrocities we are seeing. We, as a society, are in danger of losing fundamental virtues that made us quintessentially American such as compassion, empathy and dignity. WE CAN DO BETTER. WE MUST DO BETTER."

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At 2:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What they need to do is advocate for a return to the values of FDR and the New Deal. With the current Party leadership (such as it is), I don't expect many gains in that direction. But to win public support, Progressive Democrats need to show which side they are on in the battle against corporatist rule.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they are sincere (I question whether Bernie is since his entire political life has been spent being the fascist democrap apologist... and he turtled in 2016), and they DO advocate strongly for what they say and/or simply a return to the values that turned FDR into our greatest ever president... they still can't do shit because Pelosi and hoyer rule the caucus with a gold boot (provided by wall street et al) and they alone determine what gets done and what gets buried.

As long as Pelosi and hoyer (and ideological twin heirs) rule the caucus, and that will be forever, nothing the pretty latina, stache, nor anyone else matters for dick.

just remember that when in 2020 or 2021 it just seems like nothing at all is being done.

or you can remember 2006-2009. same shit different year.

At 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

progressives who get elected this time will "DO" nothing differently. Pelosi, hoyer and scummer are there to make sure nothing changes and they continue to get billions in donations from corporations and billionaires.


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