Saturday, July 14, 2018

Wondering What's Wrong With The DCCC? Matt Taibbi Gets It Right... 100%


How about better congressional leadership?

In the new issue of the Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi takes issue with Frank Bruni's NY Times column-- another sour centrist reaction to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's dsiplacement of centrist standard bearer (and avatar of personal and systemic corruption), Joe Crowley. Democratic socialism frightens the establishment. It's fine with me, but... the framing scares the shit out of liberals. One leftwing member of Congress wrote to me this morning: "Do you think better way to frame progressive policy is restricting unfettered capitalism that privileges the connected and having true free enterprise where all Americans can participate. Off record I’m not for the dem socialism framing." If he's not, no one will be-- other than the ones who will get elected in November. "I'd frame the distinction as between public service and self-service," says Mike Siegel, the Democratic nominee in TX-10 who, endorsed by Progressive Democrats of America and Our Revolution Texas, won his primary and is now being ignored by the DCCC. "My district was gerrymandered to be 60% Republican, but the incumbent, Rep. McCaul, doesn't even try to serve that 60%. He gives tax breaks to mega-millionaires like himself while seeking cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He supports $25 billion for a Border Wall but won't even get adequate funding to protect Harris County and other areas from hurricane flooding. Rural hospitals are closing while he holds fundraisers at Trump's DC hotel and accepts millions in PAC donations. In this part of Texas, the distinction between the Democrats and DSA is lost on many voters, but they understand when a corrupt politician is failing to offer even the most basic representation."

Taibbi's essay could be called Part II of Paul Glastris' "Winning Is Not Enough" article we looked at yesterday in this time slot. "Ocasio-Cortez is a Democratic Socialist," wrote Taibbi, "who worked on the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders. She espouses several political views-- like abolishing ICE, favoring a government jobs program and free college education-- that make D.C. thinkfluencers nervous." So, so nervous... especially the elderly who were in the 30s and 40s when McGovern had the election stolen by Nixon's little escapade.

Since she ousted ossifying Democratic Party lifer Joe Crowley in the New York primary, pundits have been scrambling to explain her win as something other than a symbolic rejection of insider politics.

They’re saying she won because of identity politics, because of clever marketing and because she’s a working-class local. We’ve seen the Washington Post argue there was no anti-insider meaning in her victory, because “the argument that there is a Democratic establishment resisting the progressive tide is a straw man.”

If the existence of an obstructionist Democratic Party is one fairy tale, Bruni now adds another: that the rise of “Democratic Socialists” and “Justice Democrats” is a sexy story.

Actually, Bruni insists, it’s centrism that’s really “dreamy.”

His argument is that you need centrist positions to win swing districts, and winning with an incremental agenda is more exciting than losing on a platform of sweeping change. Citing the special election victory of centrist wonder boy Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania, Bruni writes:

“When Lamb, a Pennsylvania Democrat, triumphed in a special election there last March, snatching a seat that had been in Republican hands, he did so with a moderate aura and an opposition to single-payer health care.” Lamb, whose aw-shucks handsomeness recalls a Band of Brothers extra, is the wet dream of new establishment Democrats. He’s ex-military, a father, flexible on guns, without a ton of political experience and with a working class background (without the working class politics).

America’s high mullah of conventional wisdom, Jonathan Chait, even breathlessly suggested Democrats “run the Conor Lamb strategy over and over.” Noting there were plenty of “ridiculously wholesome” types to choose from, Chait suggested (as if it were a new idea) that Democrats steal the Republican electoral strategy:

“[The Republicans’] strategy can be hacked. The most powerful Republican theme is that Democrats are not ‘one of us’: They aren’t tough, and they don’t love their country. A candidate with a compelling biography-- especially those with a military background-- can disarm these attacks pretty easily.”

This, ultimately is the message: In order to win, Democrats need to pull a fake-out by pushing squeaky-clean ex-vets without political histories, and hope that right-leaning voters will project their backwards-ass dreams onto these walking blank canvases.

The notion that Democrats need to look and act more like Republicans to win elections has been practically a religious tenet in Washington for more than 30 years. From the embrace of NAFTA to welfare reform to triangulation to repealing the Glass-Steagall Act to slobbering over Wesley Clark (instead of opposing the Iraq war) to hiring infamous Republican media hitman David Brock, this soul-sucking drift has been sold to voters as an electorally necessary compromise. Now we’re supposed to understand that it’s sexy, too?

This is the Democratic Party that lost the presidency in 2016 to a crypto-fascist game-show host with near-record negatives-- only ex-Klansman David Duke in 1992 was a more roundly-despised candidate than Trump-- and legislatively has for a decade now suffered mass losses on the national and state levels.

Why? Because, as noted here previously, “centrists” don’t really exist. There may be individuals who self-identify that way, but the demographic is mostly a fiction. There’s donor money to be had there, but not many votes.

When the Democrats abandoned their reliance on labor in the Eighties, and began to be funded by the same big companies that backed Republicans, our politics devolved into a contest between two employer-supported factions. Neither really cared about the numerical majority of poor or working-class voters, so they had to get creative with their politics.

The Republican pitch was an open con: the CEO sect hoovering Middle American votes by trotting out xenophobic Bible-thumpers who waved the flag and pretended to love beer, chainsaws, snowmobiles and shooting foreigners, while mostly just deregulating the economy.

The Democratic pitch revolved around social issues like choice and was far less transparently fraudulent. But the party’s proponents had one bad habit that kept putting them in a hole. Repeatedly, when asked to make policy changes favored by sizable majorities of Democratic voters (and often by majorities of all voters), party leaders said: We can’t do that: we need to win!

Remember when a majority of Democrats were against the Iraq war, but 29 Democratic Senators still ended up voting to give Bush the power to invade? Remember when, five years later, a war-weary 82 percent of Democrats wanted out of Iraq, but Nancy Pelosi said it was necessary to keep authorizing funds for the war to “support the troops” and “not leave them in harm’s way”?

Votes like this were always explained in terms of expediency, i.e., what was necessary to conquer the middle and win elections. On war issues especially, it was like Bill Clinton said: Scared people would “rather have someone strong and wrong than weak and right.” If Dems wanted to get back in power, they had to shelve conscience, at least temporarily, and embrace pragmatism.

But Iraq turned out to be a disaster, morally and politically. The party would have been better off listening to its voters. Party support of the invasion was based on fictitious pragmatic concerns, as were many positions it would take in defiance of constituents.

What actual people are against importing cheap Canadian generic pharmaceuticals? Where’s the group of people intent on protecting our thousand-headed hydra of insurers, so that doctors and hospitals can waste time and money on paperwork? What individual human being is out there who just can’t stand the thought of allowing Medicare to negotiate lower bulk prices?

Goal ThermometerFor that matter, where’s that sexy vote-rich crowd of people who are hell-bent on making sure banks have easier stress tests, and don't have to increase their capital reserves? Where’s the mob that really wants to preserve the payroll-tax cutoff for high-income earners? That wants desperately to remove Malaysia from a list of human traffickers so it can join a free-trade pact?

There are no such people. These are not human positions. These are the positions of health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, job-exporting manufacturers, defense contractors and other high-dollar donors.

Nobody sits around the dinner table demanding that we keep derivative exchanges opaque, or retain the carried-interest tax break. You’re not winning independents with those positions. You’re just stroking a few lobbyists and their clients.

This is what we’re really talking about, when we talk about the “center” in America. The interests behind these positions are only the “center” in the sense that they’re a numerically tiny group of fat cats sitting between two increasingly enormous populations of pissed-off human voters.

It’s no Scooby-Doo mystery what most Democratic voters want: Stricter gun laws, stronger support of unions, reduced defense spending, a raise in the minimum wage, single-payer health care, tougher enforcement of white collar crime, an end to pointless wars and countless other relatively obvious demands.

But one of the key contentions of people like Bruni is that actually asking for these things is an electoral non-starter. He quotes a Third Way think-tanker as saying the next Democratic House majority should “primarily be focused on their oversight role and stopping Trump.”

Which isn’t bad, but conditioning people to expect less is also an old political bogeyman tactic. This sad-sack “wait til’ next year” routine is just a way to scare people away from voting their own interests. It’s not sexy. It doesn’t even work. It’s time to try something new.
I was talking about Taibbi's essay with Alan Grayson yesterday. He laughed ironically and reminded me that "We already ran that experiment once, and the resulting Blue Dog Coalition went from 54 members before the 2010 election to 14 after the 2012 election (despite a quarter of a billion dollars wasted to try to protect their seats). Nominating Democrats-in-name-only simply doesn’t work."

J.D. Scholten, the progressive going up against Steve King in western Iowa isn't a very ideological guy. Instead he's spent the last year driving an RV around his massive, sparsely populated district and asking voters what they want from a Representative in Washington. He's more interested in what they have to say than DC consultants and political pros. "People tell me all of the time that you have to be for this or for that if you want to beat Steve King. How has that worked so far? I’m running on being myself and for fighting for things that will improve my district: Medicare-for-All, raising the minimum wage, breaking the system that’s reliant of mega donors and special interests, etc..."

Blue America is in the final stages of vetting the congressional candidates for the bluest congressional seat in America held by a Republican, Miami's FL-27. Matt Haggman sure looks like the best bet so far. Yesterday, he told us that "Why I’m running, and what’s required in Congress today, is dramatic overhaul. Not incremental tweaks but deep and widespread change. The notion that we need cookie cutter candidates who will run to the center as a means to win is absurd and begs the question, what do we actually stand for? This election needs to be more than simply retaking the House but a moment of renewal in our politics in which we chart an entirely new path and practice our politics in new ways. That’s why we are running a campaign where we are not accepting contributions from PACs or federal lobbyists. Why I’ve declared that I would vote for new people to lead the party in the next Congress. That’s why I am for Medicare for All, comprehensive immigration reform that includes abolishing ICE, free college, quickly transitioning our economy to one powered by renewables. And why now, more than ever, we need new people in Congress."

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At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate that Taibbi validates exactly what I've been saying for nearly 4 decades.
I appreciate that he also validates my diagnoses about why (money).

Wait, did he project that the democraps are immune to change? I wish he had done so for it is painfully obviously true.

If he HAD done so, would DWT still be immune to their epiphany? prolly.

"Democratic socialism frightens the establishment. ... the framing scares the shit out of liberals."

The defining characteristic of American (elected) leftys, besides being profoundly corrupt, dishonest (about being leftys) and inept, is, of course, cowardice. Not cowardice of losing voters so much as losing DONORS.

Is there any way to get a count of all the times that the great Jon Stewart called democraps "pussies"??

OK. another nail in the rhetorical coffin that the 'craps live in. Yet still no light bulb (the LED variety of course) being lit?

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That last poster... would that not be a nice way to start a TRULY left party to displace the other money party?

Would Elizabeth Warren and maybe Stache look good on that as well.

Could we count on Jayapal and a few others too?

see where I'm going with this, DWT and BA???

At 2:34 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

I think the DCCC should change their name to Donate Corporate Controlled Candidates because that's who Ben Ray Lujan & the rest of the folks who work there really truly are.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If one were to visualize the Overton Window as a 12-inch ruler, the center would be at 6. In the case of the current political corpse, the "center" is much closer to 9, meaning at best that the left-most "democrats" would be the real centrists. The right-most Republicans are about to step off the edge of the scale and drag the "democrats" with them.

Corporatism is just fine with that outcome, for they seek to eliminate this "voice of the people" stuff anyway. No corporation is a democracy, and no corporatist nation will be either.


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