Friday, November 23, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio Has A Mission For America And For Humanity-- Frank Pallone Is Just Some Hack Politician Who Needs To Get Out Of The Way


Alexandria is fierce; Pallone... kind of light

I remember the evening of June 26 when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came charging out of the vote-counting gate in the lead and never lost the it once. It wasn't even like the pundits and pollsters, the politicians in DC and NYC and the media elite were proven wrong. They weren't proven anything because the primary was so off everyone's radar that the earthquake just left them all speechless and scratching their heads. Alexandria who? No one knew how to spell her name or anything about her. She had just unseated the "next speaker of the House," one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, the boss of the Queens Democratic Machine and one of the top conduits for Wall Street bribes into the House Democratic Party-- along with Steny Hoyer, Jim Himes, Sean Patrick Maloney and Seth Moulton-- but no one ever heard of her.

Crowley, an absentee congressman who had completely lost touch with a district that didn't even know who he was, never even understood he was in trouble until it was too late. He thought he would float to reelection with his eyes closed again... with every labor union, every elected official-- even NARAL, the Working Families Party, Planned Parenthood, Gabby Giffords and the Sierra Club backing him. Ro Khanna endorsed Alexandria, calling her "a trailblazer." The pissed off a lot of his colleagues, even top, top, top liberals. Most Democrats in Congress still don't understand what Khanna was talking about.

Washingtonians are starting to learn who she is... and it's making them nervous. It should. Yesterday, writing for The Atlantic, Elaine Godfrey noted their confusion. "Staffers and aides to party leadership say they love her enthusiasm. But they’re worried her approach will threaten caucus unity," she wrote, and called her a "wrecking ball," an "agitator" and not a typical legislator. Yeah. "According to interviews with a dozen House staffers and aides to members of party leadership, veteran Democrats are happy about the youth and enthusiasm Ocasio-Cortez and her progressive cohort bring to the caucus. But at the same time, these Democrats are worried that their approach might sometimes prove counterproductive." Counterproductive to special interests that finance the mean careers of the status quo politicos? Absolutely!
It’s “incredibly energizing to have such a new and diverse group of members coming in,” one Democratic staffer told me, but “we’ve been back a week and we’re already bickering.”

Much of that bickering stems from a debate over Democrats’ strategy around climate change: what their approach should look like and how aggressive it should be. Ocasio-Cortez and many other incoming freshmen made climate change a centerpiece of their campaigns, and they want to come out of the gate pushing for progress-- protocol be damned. Ocasio-Cortez is urging her fellow Democrats to establish a “Green New Deal” committee, a 15-member operation that would be tasked with drafting a 10-year plan to neutralize the United States’ output of greenhouse-gas emissions and adopt 100 percent renewable electricity. The protest she attended in Pelosi’s office last week, organized by the environmental group Sunrise Movement, was focused on pushing for such a committee.
Call me crazy but in 2006 when the last anti-red wave struck and gave the Democrats the House-- and Pelosi the speaker's gavel-- one of her first big moves was to create the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. 225 Democrats and 44 Republicans voted yes to create it. The only Democrats opposed was right-wing Blue Dog Jim Matheson who was eventually forced to retire rather than face the certainty of defeat. And it wasn't just more moderate Republicans who backed it. Even hard core conservatives like Mac Thornberry (TX), Greg Walden (OR), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Jeff Fortenberry (NE) and Don Young (AK) voted for it. So did Frank Pallone (D-NJ). Today Pallone is fighting a vicious turf war against the re-creation of the committee. (I forgot to mention-- as soon as the GOP came back into power in 2011, Big Gas and Oil immediately got them to kill the committee.)
So far, 10 members of Congress have signed on to the plan, but several senior Democrats, including Frank Pallone, who is expected to take over as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, have criticized it. A new select committee, they argue, would take power away from existing committees and from experienced legislators who’ve been working on policies related to climate and energy for years. “We have very strong champions for addressing climate change-- not only on my committee, but the other committees of jurisdiction-- that are going to move very aggressively on the issue of climate change,” Pallone, who represents New Jersey, told reporters last week. “So I don’t think it’s necessary to have a special committee.”
The sector that fought the hardest to prevent the creation of the committee, was-- and is-- not surprisingly the Energy and National Resources sector. The 3 biggest companies in the sector paying out bribes to members of Congress this year were Koch Industries ($10,324,703), Marathon Petroleum ($6,010,268) and Chevron ($4,425,448), And virtually all the big bribes went to Republicans. Of the 40 top bribe recipients from this sector, only 4 are Democrats-- Steny Hoyer ($250,650), Blue Dog Henry Cuellar ($202,400), Blue Dog Jim Costa ($181,755) and... Frank Pallone ($178,199). The other top 2018 bribe-takers from the sector are 36 Republicans. Over the course of his career in Congress, Pallone has gobbled up $862,516 from the sector. So you can guess why he so adamantly-- hysterically-- opposes the creation of the committee. And why he hates Alexandria so much already. Pallone and his underlings pretend that there never was a House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and pretend this is some radical new idea meant to overthrow America.
Saikat Chakrabarti, Ocasio-Cortez’s incoming chief of staff and a co-founder of the progressive political-action committee Justice Democrats, denied that incoming progressives want to take power from anyone. “We think climate change is important enough to get its own select committee,” he told me. “It would be in addition to the Energy and Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction.”

But several Democratic staffers I talked with, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak frankly, expressed their agreement with Pallone. Experimenting with committee structure just as the Democrats are reclaiming the House majority is “not the most informed choice,” said one House leadership aide. Of course, the aide added, the new members’ excitement is understandable-- they just “haven’t learned how everything works yet.”

“While I think it’s fun she’s shaking things up,” said another Democratic staffer, “there are reasons there are committees and jurisdiction.” The move, he added, could “actually weaken [Pallone’s] committee.”

The discussion surrounding the select committee is just a small squabble, one that is hardly acrimonious and that involves an issue most Democrats seem dedicated to. And the focus on the few more outspoken progressive freshmen, such as Ocasio-Cortez, is disproportionate to the amount of power they’ll actually have in the House.

But the debate has nevertheless provided a preview of what will likely become a familiar dynamic in the early months of the 116th Congress: Ocasio-Cortez and her progressive colleagues will demand bold reforms; other Democratic lawmakers will praise their zeal, but encourage them to rein it in a little. It’s an important dynamic to understand. The Democrats don’t have a huge majority, so just a few votes could make or break party unity on legislation.

...While some of the Democrats I spoke with praised her “transparent” and “refreshing” approach, other staffers were worried about the potential downsides to being that present on social media. “She’s so focused on truly Instagramming every single thing that, aside from the obvious suspects in her friendship circle, she’s not taking the time to capitalize on building relationships with members as much as she should,” said one staffer for a representative on the Congressional Progressive Committee.

Chakrabarti’s response to this strain of criticism is that Ocasio-Cortez is doing what she was elected to do. “The job of an elected official is to communicate, to talk with constituents, to talk with the people of America, and I think Alexandria is excellent at doing that,” he said. Other progressives I spoke with told me they hope she keeps it up. “I see a lot of members who are idealistic and starry-eyed and [then] they get beaten down by the system,” said Dan Riffle, the communications director for Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison. “My hope is that doesn’t happen to her-- that she keeps being the outsider radical that she is, finding new ways to do things, rather than trying to work within the system.”

Nothing, though, puts the unity of the Democratic caucus at risk as much as a recent pledge from Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib to primary other members of Congress. Less than two weeks after Election Day, Ocasio-Cortez announced in a press call, on Saturday, that the two will be joining with Justice Democrats to help recruit working-class challengers to take on more conservative Democrats. Justice Democrats calls the campaign #OurTime, and it’s asking its activists across the country to suggest possible challengers for House incumbents who are “demographically and ideologically out-of-touch with their districts.” “We need new leaders, period,” Chakrabarti said on the press call. “We gotta primary folks.”

The move has earned some praise from progressives. “I think it’s super courageous,” said the Congressional Progressive Committee staffer. But it’s highly unusual for a member of Congress to support initiatives targeting his or her own colleagues. The initiative is likely to be perceived among some Democrats as nothing less than a threat to the House majority. “Ultimately, for the Democrats to retain control over anything, the House or the Senate, you have to be a big-tent party,” said Kristen Hawn, a consultant for moderate Democrats. “Taking an approach where it’s your way or the highway isn’t good for the party and isn’t good for the long-term control.”
By the way, Kristen Hawn has nothing to do with anyone remotely "moderate." She works as p.r. person for the extremely corrupt, extremely right-of-center Blue Dogs. Elaine Godfrey must be mixing her up with someone else. And Hawn must have been fast asleep when the pup tent party known as the GOP took control of the House in 2011 and still rules the roost there (for another month and a half), whipping their members into shape whenever they step out of line.

Heroes of the revolution: Rashida and Alexandria, each by Nancy Ohanian

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At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like AOC is bucking for a massively-funded primary opponent in 2020.

Won't be easy for Pelosi. AOC is getting a lot of ink and is awakening the true left reflex in an awful lot of dormant leftys. Plus she's a total muffin.


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