Monday, July 08, 2019

Washington Politics-- Hopelessly Broken?


In his State of the Union interview Sunday with Jake Tapper, Justin Amash (I-MI), Amash was steadfast in his position that it isn't Trump-- who he obviously detests-- that caused him to leaved the GOP but Congress itself. He told Tapper he had made the decision to leave the party before he called for Congress to begin the impeachment process and before Mueller issued his report. While Tapper kept trying to get him to say something negative about Trump, Amash wanted to make the point that he "had concerns with the Republican Party for several years. I have had concerns with the party system generally. When I first got to Congress, I thought I could change things from the inside. But, as I have spent time there, I have seen that, not only me-- I don't think there's anyone in there who can change the system. It's pretty rigid. It's top-down. It comes down from leadership to the bottom. And, over the years, it's gotten more rigid. So it's more difficult now to actually change the process than it was even a few years ago... I think this term in Congress has really shown how bad it can get. When I started the House Freedom Caucus-- I was one of the founding members-- what we were fighting for was better process. We were fighting for a more open government, a more accountable government. We wanted members to have a voice in the process, so that we'd have a deliberative body and we'd be able to represent people back home, whatever the outcome. Sometimes, the outcomes would be more conservative. Sometimes, the outcomes would be more progressive. But whatever the outcome, we wanted to open it up. But, over the years, I have seen that people are just falling in line behind the leaders, including people in my own caucus, you know, which I left. So it's gotten worse and worse. And I think this was the term that really broke it for me."
AMASH: I have worked within the Republican Party. I have tried to make changes from within. My colleagues have tried to make changes from within. It hasn't worked. It's not working for anyone.

And I'm not the only one trying. I have colleagues who are trying every day, and who are frustrated. But they are not speaking out the same way.

I hope they will speak out.

But it's time to try something different. It's time to be a committed independent representative for my district, so that everyone back home knows where I stand, because, right now, when you go back home, you hear Republicans who don't trust you because you're not aligned with the president. You hear Democrats who don't trust you because you're a Republican.

And most of the people in my district do trust me, they respect me, they support me. And I want those people to know that I'm there for them. I'm there to represent every single person in the community.

TAPPER: But not having any power on a committee, doesn't that hurt your ability to serve your constituents?

AMASH: In today's politics, the committees have almost no power.

And I want people at home to understand that. Everything is really run top-down. When I say that, I mean it very literally. The speaker of the House very much controls the entire process. The speaker decides what comes out of committee.

When Speaker Ryan, our Republican speaker, was there, the-- I was on several committees, and nothing ever came out of the committees that wasn't approved by Speaker Ryan.

TAPPER: So, let me ask you about that, because I talked to Brendan Buck, who was a senior adviser to both Speaker Paul Ryan and to Speaker Boehner.

And he says one of the reasons why Congress isn't functioning as it should is because of the Freedom Caucus. That's the perspective of a lot of people in Republican leadership, as I'm sure you know.

Specifically, Buck said: "You can't have an honest conversation about partisanship and polarization in the last five years without acknowledging the role the Freedom Caucus played. They insisted on loyalty to their own tribe above all else, and drove this toxic notion that compromise is treason."

As you mentioned, you're a founding member of the Freedom Caucus. What's your response to that? Do you-- do you think that the Freedom Caucus deserves any blame for how things are going in Congress right now?

AMASH: So I don't want to speak for the Freedom Caucus today, since I'm no longer a member.

But I will say, when the Freedom Caucus was founded, the purpose was to open up the process. And the speaker of the House and his spokespeople have it totally backward. They were closing down the entire system. And members of the Freedom Caucus said, well, we need to band together to ensure that we open this up. We want to be able to offer amendments on the House floor.

Under Speaker Ryan, for example, for the first time in congressional history, we had a whole Congress where not a single member of Congress was able to go to the House floor and offer an amendment. It was the first time in history. It was the most closed Congress in history.

And now, under Speaker Pelosi, we have the same problem, where we're not allowed to go to the House floor and offer amendments.

So, the thing is closed down. We need to open it up. And, sometimes, you have to form a group like the Freedom Caucus to stand up to the establishment in Washington.

...TAPPER: You have said that people turn to-- into-- quote-- "zombies" when they come to Washington, because they're telling you things privately that are different than what they say publicly.

What are you hearing from fellow Republicans privately-- obviously, you don't have to mention their names-- about your decision and about being a Republican member of Congress in the Trump era?

AMASH: Well, I get people sending me text messages, people calling me, saying, "Thank you for what you're doing, great op-ed."

When I was discussing impeachment, I had fellow colleagues and other Republicans, high-level officials, contacting me, saying, "Thank you for what you're doing."

So there are lots of Republicans out there who are saying these things privately. But they're not saying it publicly. And I think that's a problem for our-- for our country. It's a problem for the Republican Party. It's a problem for the Democratic Party, when people aren't allowed to speak out.

So I-- I think we really need the American people to stand up and say, hey, enough is enough. We have had it with these two parties trying to ram their partisan nonsense down our throats week after week. We want a person to go represent us and be open and represent the entire community.

TAPPER: Are you running for reelection as an independent to Congress?

AMASH: Yes, I am.

TAPPER: You are? And you think you can win as an independent?

AMASH: Yes. I'm very confident about that... I feel confident about running in my district. I feel a close tie to my community. I feel-- I care a lot about my community. I want to represent them in Congress.

...TAPPER: So you have come out in support of impeaching or at least beginning the proceedings of impeaching President Trump.

You said there's no point in formally bringing articles of impeachment right now because Speaker Pelosi doesn't support it. Is she making a mistake? Do you think that the Democrats should be starting impeachment proceedings, based on the Mueller report, what's in there about potential obstruction of justice, which is the case you laid out?

AMASH: Yes, from a principled, moral position, she's making a mistake.

From a strategic position, she's making a mistake. If she believes, as I do, that there's impeachable conduct in there, then she should say so. She should tell the American people, we're going to move forward with impeachment hearings and potentially articles of impeachment.

When she says things like, "Oh, I think that we need to have the strongest case before we go forward," what she's telling the American people is, she doesn't think there's a strong case. If she doesn't think that, then she shouldn't open her mouth in the first place and say she thinks there's impeachable conduct. I do believe there's a strong case. I believe she believes there's a strong case. And, if so, she should move forward and make sure that the American people understand what's going on, because people at home aren't reading the Mueller report. Most people don't have time to read a 448-page report.

They expect their members of Congress to do the work for them. They want Speaker Pelosi to do the work. They want other members to do the work. And if she doesn't want to go forward, then we're going to have a big problem.

TAPPER: Last question.

How many of your Republican colleagues do you think have actually read the Mueller report?

AMASH: I think it's probably less than 15 percent.

And I would say that's probably the case on both sides of the aisle.

TAPPER: Do you think it's -- that, once anyone reads it, they would reach the same conclusion as you?

AMASH: I think a large number of them would reach the same conclusion.

There are some who would reach different conclusions. But when you look at the conduct in there, when you look at the evidence that's presented, I think basically anyone would be indicted for that conduct, anyone who is not the president of the United States.
I want to make a very sharp left turn now-- so hold onto your hat. While Amash was on the air with Tapper, Politico published a piece by Laura Barrón-López and Sally Goldenberg about anomie inside the House Democratic caucus over this cycle's primaries. Marie Newman, the progressive Democrat running against lousy Blue Dog incumbent Dan Lipinski in Chicagoland, read it as well and I got the feeling from something she said that she and Amash might see their respective parties similarly. It's not about careerism; it's about service. "For me," she said, "alignment with your district is everything. If current incumbents are not in alignment, yes they should be primaried for sure. However, if an incumbent is still in strong alignment and producing proactive ideas, we should not be primarying just to do it. As a party, we need to work with focus and clarity."

Newman has been a particular target of another venal Blue Dog working to turn the Democratic Party sharply to the right-- vicious careerist and Rahm Emanuel protégée, Cheri Bustos, now chair of the DCCC and the person who started the current anti-democracy movement inside the Democratic Party by decreeing a ban on primaries against incumbents, in effect, against Blue Dog and New Dem incumbents from her own Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Somehow, Barrón-López and Goldenberg managed to write this without once mentioning Bustos' name. Politico is so incredibly in the bag for the establishment it's barely worth repeating-- or always worth repeating.

Shahid Buttar is the progressive Democrat, an attorney and activist, taking on Pelosi in San Francisco this cycle. If he wins in 2020, it will be the second most important news after Trump losing. "The grassroots base of the Democratic Party," he told me yesterday, "has been misrepresented by career politicians for entirely too long. It was one thing to subject the country to a supposed bipartisan consensus on corporate rule that helped facilitate climate change, mass incarceration, and continuing human rights abuses. But the complicity of Democratic leaders with our criminal president is too much to bear. They've had their time, and either failed to stop Trump, or succeeded in creating him. Either way, We the People have had enough. I'm looking forward to replacing Nancy Pelosi in November 2020 and to pursuing our country's visionary future, starting with the progressive interests that Pelosi has impeded: universal healthcare, a robust response to the mounting global climate crisis, executive accountability, and human rights."

Barrón-López and Goldenberg seem to want to help create a narrative that blames the primaries-- all of which have been in the planning stages for many months at the least-- on the backlash against Pelosi's decision to help Trump fund his concentration camps. "Tensions inside the House Democratic Caucus," they wrote dramatically, "are running high after an ugly debate last month over legislation to provide emergency aid for the humanitarian crisis at the border. Progressives lambasted leadership and some centrists who backed the measure as 'child abusers' because it lacked money to improve hygiene and nutrition standards for detained children migrants. That Democratic firefight and others have inflamed liberals looking ahead to 2020, including the group that was behind now-Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset win last year. The raw emotions have many in the party wary of an all-out battle for the party’s soul in primaries from the presidential race all the way down to the congressional level." Isn't that what primaries are all about? And isn't in healthy? Go back to what Newman said: "alignment with your district is everything. If current incumbents are not in alignment, yes they should be primaried for sure. However, if an incumbent is still in strong alignment and producing proactive ideas, we should not be primarying just to do it. As a party, we need to work with focus and clarity." No one could expect Politico to explain what's wrong with that. But I would love to hear Bustos, Pelosi and Hoyer try.

Barrón-López and Goldenberg seem unaware that candidates around the country are mounting primaries against incumbents gone bad-- from Mark Gamba's fight to replace Kurt Schrader in Oregon and over a dozen looming in California to challenges to Pelosi East Coast allies like Steny Hoyer (MD), Dutch Ruppersberger (MD), Nita Lowey (NY), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Richard Neal (MA)... In fact, there are 88 incumbents facing primaries-- so far. Barrón-López and Goldenberg mentioned that super-corrupt Queens County machine boss, New Dem Gregory Meeks told them that he's preparing "and if somebody decides to run, we're ready. But you're not going to catch us by surprise." The reporters should have been prepared to ask them about former legislative aide and international rugby star, Shaniyat Chowdhury, who already is running a strong grassroots campaign against Meeks. He reminded us that in 2016 and 2018 just 10% of eligible voters even bothered to come out and vote, disdain for Meeks running so high. "He’s so corrupt that when he’s driving down the streets, he thinks home foreclosures are promotional ads for his real estate friends. He’s so out of touch, most people say 'who?' when asked who their representative is. If who was a person, they’d get more votes than my opponent and win." 
“Members are looking over their shoulders,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the chairman of the House budget committee. [Barrón-López and Goldenberg didn't bother to mention he's likely to be primaried by progressive state Rep. Attica Scott.]

...There are still questions about how far-reaching and organized the effort to remake the Democratic caucus in the House will be-- and whether it could jeopardize the party’s control of the chamber. But the uptick of actual and threatened primary challenges presents an additional headache for the party as it seeks to hang on to its majority next year. An Associated Press analysis found that 40 percent of currently declared Democratic challengers were in districts with sitting Democrats.

Immediately following the 2018 election, the progressive group Justice Democrats put incumbents on notice, vowing to focus on sitting Democrats. Six months later, they’ve only announced two recruits. The targets: seven-term Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and 16-term Rep. Eliot Engel of New York.

...In an effort to hamstring primary challengers, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fired a warning shot to the party’s consultants in March, telling them that they risked losing the party committee’s business if they worked for anyone primarying a sitting member of Congress.

“The question that comes up all the time is: Is there anybody internally assisting and abetting, encouraging people to run against incumbents?” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who has faced Democratic opponents in previous cycles, said of members and their staff. [Barrón-López and Goldenberg didn't bother to mention Pascrell already has 2 primary challengers, progressive activist Zina Spezakis and a guy named Alp Basaran.]

But the DCCC’s so-called blacklist has only inflamed tensions more. The left is trying to build an alternative consulting infrastructure to support these insurgent candidates. Two alums of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign rolled out plans for a new firm last week, reported the Daily Beast.

...The 2020 election would hardly be the first cycle in which rebels in either party took aim at the establishment. Typically, they have little success: In 2018, just four House incumbents were defeated in primaries, two Democrats and two Republicans.

Justice Democrats hopes to be a galvanizing force to change that. The group plans to back opponents to sitting Democrats who don’t support progressive ideals, or who failed to use their position as lawmakers in more aggressive forms, they say.

Though promising to dedicate more attention to Democrats, the group is also open to getting involved in a small number districts that could be turned from red to blue, according to their executive director Alexandra Rojas.

Justice Democrats is potentially eyeing challenges to Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Don Beyer (D-VA), according to a source close to the group.

Rojas didn’t deny or confirm any of the names, instead saying “anywhere we haven't announced yet means that we may or may not have someone.”

Though members have expressed frustration and concern about primary challenges, there appears to be less fear among members about the power of Justice Democrats, which has struggled to fundraise and provide a clear picture about where they plan to invest their time.

The recent district attorney race in Queens highlighted the growing party divide, as New York lawmakers Gregory Meeks and House Democratic Chairman Hakeem Jeffries threw their weight behind the establishment candidate, Melinda Katz, the borough president. In a statement, days away from the primary, Meeks blasted Sanders and Warren for getting involved in the local race on behalf of the insurgent candidate.

The episode rankled progressive activists like Shaun King, a loyal Sanders supporter, who backed the outsider candidate, Tiffany Cabán.

"Meeks should absolutely be challenged and defeated for his seat in Congress,” said King, co-founder of the Real Justice PAC.

King then directed his ire toward Jeffries, who he said is “out of step” with the progressive base. King took issue with Jeffries’ support of Katz, the establishment-aligned candidate who is currently ahead by only 20 votes, with the count still ongoing.

“Jeffries continues to duck and dodge on impeachment, continues to fail to support Medicare For All, and seems more interested in rising up the ranks of power than actually taking bold stands for his constituents,” King said, adding that he thinks the caucus chairman, who is on a leadership fast-track, should be primaried “without hesitation.”

“The leadership of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries on criminal justice reform issues, including the dismantling of ‘stop-and-frisk’ in NYC, ending inmate-based gerrymandering in the state, electing former District Attorney Ken Thompson in Brooklyn and the recent passage of the Historic FIRST STEP act speaks for itself,” said Jeffries’ spokesperson Michael Hardaway. “If you don’t know, now you know.”

Asked if she agreed with King’s call for a primary challenge against Meeks and Jeffries, Rojas of the Justice Democrats dodged. “Every politician needs to be on notice,” she said.

But six months after Politico reported that Justice Democrats was weighing a potential challenge to Jeffries according to two sources with direct knowledge, the group has not produced a candidate against him or Meeks or any other New York lawmaker aside from Engel.

“[King] came into my district and tried to hold a rally and only eight people showed up,” said Meeks. “Come on after me. You think you can get me, come on.”

“I'm preparing; I know Hakeem is,” Meeks continued. “And if somebody decides to run, we're ready. But you're not going to catch us by surprise.”

Goal ThermometerJustice Democrats was doing God's work when they helped AOC win her "impossible" race to replace "the next Speaker," Joe Crowley. Hopefully they'll find other candidates as good and help bring them into Congress. But elections aren't about Justice Democrats, as much as Politico likes that narrative. Elections are about candidates... and if Justice Democrats have two so far, that's great... although that doesn't say much about the 86 others (and counting). You can help some of the candidates who have stepped forward far by contributing what you can to their campaigns. Just click on the Primarying a Blue Dog 2020 thermometer on the right, where you'll find carefully vetted progressive candidates Marie Newman (IL), Shaniyat Chowdhury (NY), Eva Putzova AZ) and Michael Owens (GA). 

Before he decided to take on Blue Dog David Scott in the suburbs south and southwest of Atlanta, David Owens had served as Cobb County Democratic Party chairman. He knows a lot about how the party works and he knows how tough primaries are for challengers. "This isn't a narrative about people primarying Democrat incumbents because it something cool to do. It is rooted in the awaking of people across the country who are demanding more of their elected officials and demanding that their voices count more than corporations and industry lobbyists. Many incumbents are finding themselves having to now look over their shoulder for challengers because they didn't bother to extend their hand  to the community in the past. The party has shifted towards values that are more progressive. And it isn't just the Democratic Party; millions of people in this country have shifted to more progressive stances on issues around health care, education, jobs, economic and environmental justice. These are platform issues that voters are demanding solutions to. Representatives who are unwilling to listen to what their constituents are asking for and instead continue to do the bidding of corporations will find themselves will a lot of free time on their hands next summer."

And now a few words from a former primary winner who helps explain what this mess in the Democratic Party really is all about.

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At 1:19 PM, Blogger edmondo said...

Two years from now, NO ONE will know who Justin Amash is, nor will they care.

And the Justice Democrats will still be soliciting money, which seems to be the only real reason for their existence.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

another two-in-one piece, the two parts unrelated. Should have been distinct pieces.

WRT Amash:
"When I started the House Freedom Caucus-- I was one of the founding members-- what we were fighting for was better process. We were fighting for a more open government, a more accountable government."

Total horse shit. If he sincerely thinks this is the reason, he's a bigger imbecile than the democrap voters. If YOU believe this, YOU are dumber than the democrap voters.

"In today's politics, the committees have almost no power.

And I want people at home to understand that. Everything is really run top-down. When I say that, I mean it very literally. The speaker of the House very much controls the entire process. The speaker decides what comes out of committee."

THIS is absolute truth, though, ironically, only since boner quit. Boner, acting on his own as tyrant of the house, actually welcomed a modicum of dissent and independence in committees (under threat of rebellion by the freedom caucus... get the picture yet?), which is more than have ryan or Pelosi. Ryan allowed not even a pretense of discussion. Pelosi allows ONLY pretense... very occasionally.

And that is what I warned you all about as you giddily voted in all those new worthless and pointless democraps. I told you that when Pelosi got the gavel back, she'd disallow everything that your BA slate was running on. But you didn't listen. And now you're fucked... again... still. I hope you're all happy about that.

Congress is dysfunctional, permanently, because of corruption and partisanship.
Corruption means that each chambers' tyrant will have total fidelity to the money that owns it. And the same money owns both potential tyrants in each chamber. The "respective" potential tyrants will still act in pretense of resisting each other's caucus. The money allows most of it (see: mcturtle and judges nom'd by obamanation). But if the money really cares, it will get it from whichever tyrant is currently empowered. If the money is averse (see: MFA, GND...), then their tyrant will forbid action on it... no matter the denomination of that tyrant.

This ain't getting fixed by electing more and more democraps. It's systemic. It's baked into the cake. All flows from the top down, as Amash said. But what he failed to say is the tippy top is actually the money... not the speaker or the senate leader. money.


You want congress to function again? commit genocide on the democrap party and coalesce a truly left progressive movement. Then elect them to a majority.

tall order I know. But if that never happens, nothing will ever change. And you can elect 535 democraps and ZERO Nazis... and nothing will change... because the money is still at the tippy top.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maria Bartiromo carries her journalistic qualifications on her chest.

Apologies to women with intelligence who don't need to rely upon their physical attributes to get ahead.

I had no idea that Ro Khanna is a "progressive capitalist". That aside, his handling of the gotcha questions was stellar.

At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT: Eric Swalwell has dropped out of the presidential race.

At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

somebody around here oughtta spend less time writing long posts about the "democraps" and more time actually DOING SOMETHING. the revolution's gotta start sometime, chief. get to work already!

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Nancy is next.

At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon at 3:47 PM - you are so right! Thanks for telling it to the moron who constantly rants about how bad "democraps" are but never seems to be able to do anything about it. What a waste of time and words for someone who offends everyone else on this blog. Wish they would find another blog to bitch and moan so we wouldn't have to waste our time reading this crap.

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey 5:56 - Kos wants you back ASAP. He's afraid you'll get corrupted by staying here too long! He knows what a snowflake you are.

We'd be SO sorry to see you go since you never have anything to add to the conversation except complaints about those of us who aren't good little democraps who only thing thoughts the Party allows.

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Richard Langly said...

So 6:38, we keep waiting for your big announcement that you're going to run for office and set out to make a difference. Maybe you'll even announce that you've started that new party you're always on about. Or. are you just going to continue being a monkey with a typewriter?

At 11:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Langly! How is the Party ape with a keyboard? We've missed your mistaken expressions of pretended intellect! Just go back to the Party and let them give you a banana. All it will cost you is a Trump victory.

At 6:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And this is why this shithole is a total loss. Those who can identify the problem are ridiculed by those who cannot understand. Stasis is maintained. Nothing ever changes.

Any moron would realize that only someone of great wealth or surpassing charm or both could catalyze any kind of new movement.

My contribution is to ID the problem and suggest one strategy (never voting for another democrap -- looking to Green or Socialist). Bernie shat his chance to be the guy. AOC could be the catalyst if she wanted to be. So far, Pelosi and her money seem to own AOC.

Does not invalidate my premise.

Rich and 5:56 have only the premise that I annoy them. jeepers snowflakes... I'm sorry. If I annoy you and Pelosi does not... I cannot help you.


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