Saturday, June 06, 2009

Who Picks The Candidates-- The Corporately Financed Bosses or Grassroots Primaries?


Primaries-- normally the grassroots like 'em and the Inside-the-Beltway Establishment hates 'em. They cost a lot of money that can go to attacking the other party, cause friction in your own party, can... well when the damn base gets involved, anything can happen. Yes, it can; it's called democracy. And right now we have party hacks like John Cornyn (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at the NRSC trying to prop up Charlie Crist-- popular with Florida's general public but distrusted by the right-wing Republican Party base-- against a radical right fanatic who is more in sync with the extremism of characters like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Dick Cheney and Ann Coulter which dominates the intraparty debate.

Similarly we are watching with dismay as Democratic Beltway Insiders are attempting to anoint favored candidates and cut out grassroots voters in the states. Pennsylvania Democrats are displeased that Joe Biden and Ed Rendell, who is rumored to want a sick, elderly seat-warmer like semi-Democrat Arlen Specter to keep the seat open for himself eventually, are trying to shove someone they don't trust down their throats. [UPDATE: Sunday's NY Times has a what's the matter with Pennsylvania column, highlighting the stupidity of the Democratic leadership in rescuing the treacherous and self-serving Specter.]

In New York state, you have a similar situation. Biden who's made a career of being a corporatist shill isn't only trying to make sure Republican Arlen Specter has no Democratic primary to contend with, but is also trying to clear the field for Blue Dog Kirsten Gillibrand. The Insiders were able to bribe Long Island moderate Steve Israel into dropping out (and something or someone changed implacable Gillibrand foe Carolyn McCarthy's mind) and now Biden is working on progressive icon Carolyn Maloney.

Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist, warns that Maloney "has been a good fundraiser over the course of her career, but the institutional powers who want to keep her from running are going to try to block that money." He's talking about Biden and Schumer. The other Democrat in the race-- progressive activist Jonathan Tasini-- is beyond the reach of the Beltway creatures because he's all about progressive values and policies, not their partisan games. "Progressives," he told me on the phone yesterday, "should be 100 percent in favor of primaries and against attempts to shut down the democratic process and the ability of voters to have choices."

The most establishment and conservative forces within the Democratic Party are working for the most establishment and conservative candidates. And it isn't only in Pennsylvania and New York. They already managed to clear the field for a disastrous loser in Florida, a corrupt and untested backbencher, Kendrick Meek, who couldn't beat Charlie Crist if Crist campaigned in the latest Jason Wu gown, high heels and a diamond tiara. We can think corporatist fundraiser William Jefferson Clinton for that. And Meek isn't the only less progressive Democrat for whom Clinton is doing fundraisers. Wherever a Democratic primary pits a progressive against a corporate shill, you can be sure Bill Clinton will show up to help the shill raise money against the progressive.

A few weeks ago we talked with Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the progressive candidate for the open Senate seat. She's a much stronger candidate against the Big Business candidate the GOP is putting up, George Bush's Rob Portman, but the Establishment prefers Lee Fischer-- and yesterday we found this item in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Clinton will host a private fund-raiser June 20th at a Cleveland-area home for Fisher, who is trying to knock out Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who trails Fisher in fund-raising and insists she is not getting out of the Democratic primary. The event will likely give Fisher a boost in the second quarter of fund-raising, which closes June 30th.

Fisher is hoping to keep financial pressure on Brunner by widening his money lead. At the close of the first quarter, Fisher reported raising just over $1 million, though not all the money can be used in the primary. (The figure also was propped up a bit by loans Fisher made to the campaign. Cash on hand looked good because he left some bills unpaid.) Still, it was far more than Brunner, who reported raising just a bit more than $200,000.

So the man who pushed through NAFTA, which devastated Ohio's economy, who signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which was just about as Republican as anything George Bush ever did to the economy, and who made an exception for Rupert Murdoch so he could buy Fox and launch the worst right-wing propaganda network since the launch of the Völkischer Beobachter, is supposed to be a good thing? People have short memories.

But I can understand why a corporate shill like Clinton-- look, he was one before he became president; he was one while he was president and now... I wouldn't be shocked to see him dressed up in a Ronald McDonald outfit someday soon-- would prefer a candidate less committed to ordinary working families than Jennifer Brunner. I wouldn't be surprised if he brings Harold Ford along for the ride. After all, Ford is chairman of the conservative DLC, just like Clinton (as well as Lieberman and super-lobbyist John Breaux used to be). The folks who bankroll Clinton-- and the DLC-- these days might not like Brunner's vision:
“Creating regulatory oversight specifically for the benefit of consumers is overdue. Economic recovery measures that strengthen the middle class are the fastest and most enduring method to return our country to prosperity; financial institutions that have contributed to middle class turbulence, yet benefited from tax dollars and government support, must be made to account for their future actions to ensure a lasting economic recovery and real change... The truth is consumer protections have not been pursued or adequately monitored by the government agencies that are in place now. It is time to rethink old practices and move in a direction that helps Americans who are trying to act responsibly, to change old spending habits and to take care of their families."

That's the kind of stuff corporatists-- whether Republicans or Democrats (like Bill Clinton) just hate. And Brunner goes much further. After passage of the very tepid Credit Cardholder Bill of Rights a couple weeks ago Brunner was urging Congress to pass an anti-usury law: "[W]e need to quickly impose a cap on [credit card] interest rates so that the bill has some teeth and actually protects everyday Americans when it finally becomes law.
“As middle-class Americans have been trying to pay down their credit balances and spend responsibly, financial institutions are pushing off on consumers the effects of poor decisions and the excesses of executives whose extravagances are not enjoyed by everyday Americans. Now, instead of doing what ordinary consumers are forced to do-- tighten their belts and make it on what they have-- it is expected that some of these institutions will be leveraging their superior financial position to gouge the very lifeblood of their businesses until the law takes effect and they are forced to treat their customers with respect. All of us, citizens and corporate citizens alike, should share in the sacrifices needed for economic recovery... Any corporation that receives the benefit from the government of shielding its shareholders, officers and directors from personal liability for their actions should step up and be responsible to the customers they serve, and they should do it now. For those corporate citizens unable or unwilling to make the sacrifices, Congress should quickly stop them from the anticipatory moves they can make to shield themselves from the impact of the law when it takes effect."

It must have freaked Clinton out to hear her say that she plans to seek passage of a rate cap, like the one Bernie Sanders introduced, if elected to the Senate. Just one Republican joined 32 Democrats in voting for a credit card interest rate cap, an anti-usury bill. Brunner would have been #34.

Labels: , , , ,


At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My question is:

Why does anyone opposed to the existing corporate control of our federal government continue to participate in, or support, the national "Democratic Party" in any way?

[Meaning, and let's face facts here, the "national Democratic Party" that is (because of the corporate and foreign lobby money that is exclusively available to Party organizations amenable to corrupt influence) completely controlled by, and used to pursue the corporate-sanctioned agenda of, a very small group of individuals holding high public office in Congress and the White House.]

Echoing and expanding on your (and Jane Hamsher's) perceptive and principled perspectives, Howie, is William Greider yesterday in a wise commentary that builds on the (missing) usury debate. Greider doesn't exactly explicitly repudiate the national Democratic Party as such, but he in fact as much as does just that:

"The galaxy of mediating organizations, including organized labor, that surrounds and supports the [Democratic] Party may stomp and holler, but they do not attempt any retribution that might alter their relationship with power. Reform organizations will not withdraw their support, either money or rank-and-file voters. Nor will they seek to punish any of the wayward Democrats who regularly vote against them with opposition at the next election. The "white hat" reformers are Washington insiders themselves, with a seat at the table and influence on the substance of the party's agenda. They do not want to put their status at risk. Politicians know this from long experience. So do the reformers.

The warped dynamics of the Democratic Party may have sufficed when the GOP was ascendant and the goal was restoring a Democratic majority. But now the majority party resembles a dysfunctional family, badly in need of outside intervention. I say this with sympathy, having known and admired many of the reform activists for many years. Some of them are suffering from a political version of the Stockholm syndrome. Their good intentions are brutally compromised by identifying with the limited imagination and nerve of the Democratic Party.

In some ways, the politicians are prisoners too--captives of the money politics and the expensive mass-marketing that requires them to raise so much money and thus rely on the moneyed interests. Representatives and senators know how the system works and what they need to do to survive. Now and then, they may try to win one for the folks, but mostly they are resigned to the confinements of the status quo. So long as activist groups will make no attempt to break out of this pattern or penalize incumbents for disloyalty, the party will continue to stiff the faithful.

Given all the adversities facing the country, I conclude that meaningful "intervention" is plausible only if it originates with people at large who are more distant from power. I envision the intrusion coming from many "independent formations" free to ignore Washington's insider routines and mobilized by citizens on behalf of their own convictions, their common-sense ideas of what needs to be accomplished.


These groups could function, not as a third party nor as standard "issue" advocates, but as a mixture of these capabilities. They could act like free-roaming guerillas who educate and agitate; like a political party that selectively destabilizes safe-seat incumbents by entering party primaries or running independent challengers; like a representative organization that can demand political relations through direct confrontations or even civil disobedience. This development sounds implausible, I know, especially in Washington. But our crisis demands a more aggressive response from citizens--something that threatens the power of both parties and makes them insecure." - William Greider

-pow wow

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Jack Jodell said...

I recently completed a comprehensive six-part series on my blog which identified the occupations every single person in Congress held before they were elected. The astoundingly overwhelming majority came from occupations which pay far above this country's median income. It would be safe to say that only a tiny fraction, if any, of our Congresspersons were ever faced at ANY time in their lives with a choice between buying either food or prescriptions with that week's paycheck. These people have no clue as to the struggles the average everyday citizen faces, and most have far more in common with the corporations we pay them to supposedly regulate on our behalf. This goes for Democrats as well as Republicans, and that, as well as the influence coroporate lobbyist money has, explains why little legislation truly beneficial for the poor or struggling working class (i.e. the majority of the country) ever gets passed. Visit my blog and scroll back a few posts and you'll see what I mean. For every Dennis Kucinich, we are loaded down with at least 60 John Boehners or Mitch McConnells. It's absolutely disgusting.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Dameocrat said...

I concur that it would be easier to start over with a new party than to try and fix the Democrats. I voted for Obama, and I knew he was a moderate, but the bailout really threw me. I don't' think that business interests and the people's interest can be represented by one party. Sorry! I will vote 3rd party or writein someone in before I will vote for another lessor evil dlc member. I will still try to influence them in the primaries but it seems I am not going to be given a choice anymore. The fact that independent social dem Bernie Sanders is the only one pushing toward single payer is good evidence of the hopelessness of the Democrats, and the need for a progressive populist party.

I hope a populist alternative to the democrats emerges, and we try to encourage the progressive dems in congress to join it.


Post a Comment

<< Home