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The Democrats’ Dilemma

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Paul Krugman has a column in today’s NY Times about how Washington is ignoring unemployment, the issue that is most important to U.S. voters:

Jobs do get mentioned now and then — and a few political figures, notably Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, are still trying to get some kind of action. But no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts.

Recent polling also shows that voters in the U.S. are adamant that Social Security benefits not be cut. Digby today wrote about Representative paul Ryan’s response to Harry Reid’s statement that there will be no cuts to Social Security as long as harry Reid has anything to say about it. Ryan is quoted thusly:

I’m boggled. That just boggles my mind…I would argue, even though, it’s not really a driver of our debt, it’s not a significant part of our debt problems, it would build great confidence, fixing Social Security on a bipartisan basis, because it would tell not only the credit markets that Americans are getting their act together, it would buy us more time and space with them, it would show that our government’s not broken.

Digby then notes how Ryan and the White House may be drifting toward common ground, a common position, on Social Security cuts:

Now it’s possible that the Democrats will successfully use this to discredit Ryan on this subject and inform the American people that even the most strident safety net destroyers know that SS is not a deficit issue. And maybe the public is jaundiced enough about the “markets” that they will see this for the silly reasoning it is. Let’s hope so.

But the audience Ryan was trying to reach with that statement has just a little bit more power than all the rest of us put together on this. His name is Barack Obama and he has long signaled that he really, really, really wants to make a deal (aka the Grand Bargain).

And Ryan just backed Tim Geithner in what’s been reported as the battle for Obama’s soul within the White House:
Geithner and his lieutenants argue that benefits reform will give the markets confidence that Obama and Congress have the will to address the problem of long-term national debt…
I suspect Geithner is just blathering nonsensical CW and that Ryan is just lying outright, but if you don’t care about the reasoning, this sure looks like bipartisan agreement to me. And everyone knows we’ve got a president who loves bipartisanship.

I think I detect a disturbing pattern here (and I am far from alone in doing so). A majority of American voters, and a super majority of Democrats, liberals progressives and other assorted malcontents, want their government to be proactive about creating jobs It’s their top priority. At the same time they are unalterably opposed to ny reduction in Social Security benefits. In response – or more accurately, in non-response – the Obama administration ignores unemployment and plays footsie with the Randian wing nuts who want to privatize Social Security.

Anthony Weiner and other House progressives are not satisfied with Obama’s leadership on these and other vital issues:

“We’ve spent a lot of time waiting for Godot when it comes to the Obama White House, and we kind of — to some degree — have to internalize the idea that, you know what? That’s probably not the way to go,” Weiner said. “We have to start initiating some of this.”

In regards to Obama’s approach to budget battles and the labor strife instigated by right wing Republicans and the budget , Dennis Kucinich has this to day:

The only regret I have is that the White House isn’t fighting back against this. It’s one thing to say, ‘Well, I stand behind the workers — how far behind, I don’t know.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘I stand with them and in front of them to protect their rights.’ And I’m waiting for that to happen.

Here’s the problem for the Democratic party: They nominated a Democrat in Senator Obama and elected a Republican President. Of course, not every action of President Obama has aided the conservative cause, but a lot of the big decisions he has made have done just that. The wars continue while millionaires and billionaires keep their tax cuts.

Can the Democratic party afford to renominate a small c conservative Republican enabler for President in 2012? Can they afford no to renominate a sitting President who still claims to be a Democrat? Scylla and Charybdis. A rock and a hard place.

The Republicans are split right now between a few moderates and a relatively pragmatic establishment on one hand and the certifiable right on the other. Will Barack Obama eventually precipitate a split in the Democratic party between aforementioned small c conservatives and a GOP enabling right wing versus a progressive, liberal wing?

Written by slothropia

March 17th, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Ich Bin Ein Cheesehead

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The title of this post, when translated from Low German, means roughly, “I am a Wisconsinite.” I joke but in strong sympathy to the Wisconsin protesters. And I seem to have a lot of company. Good Old Ed Schultz for one.

I must confess I am only an occasional Ed Show viewer. I rarely disagree with Ed but he doesn’t know how to move the dial down form 11. When he started broadcasting from Madison at the beginning of the week, I was grateful but didn’t know if he would get much of an audience, talking to real working people, along with the usual cast of pundits and insiders. I still have no idea of Ed’s ratings this week, but it feels like his show has made a measurable contribution to the still growing support for Wisconsin labor.

Consider this snippet from The Nation’s John Nichols (shamelessly lifted from Crooks and Liars):

Nichols: Governor Walker is clearly cornered at this point. I can tell you as somebody who’s covered him for a long time. This man doesn’t want to be where he’s at. He would love to have a way out. That’s one of the reasons why the tea party is coming to town tomorrow. They’re going to rally here. They’re going to do that for a reason. And that is because they’re trying to shore the governor up.

They’re trying to scare him from backing down. The fact of the matter is these people are winning. On Thursday, these people are winning. On Thursday, they connected with the state Senate in such a powerful way that 14 Senators made the ultimate sacrifice for Wisconsinites. They went for a weekend in Illinois.

Now today, today they connected with the Assembly sufficiently that the Assembly adjourned action. These are victories each day and there’s simply no question. The power here right now is in the streets, not in the capital.

There are plenty of others of course.

Here’s Peter at Crooks and Liars:

Marginalization and dismissal are the two chief weapons of the GOP when it comes to workers and unions. But it’s kind of hard to ignore bagpipes playing in the capitol’s rotunda to the cheers of hundreds or thousands of protesters.

Imagine a small business owner talking about his or her employees in public in the manner in which the GOP speaks of government workers: “My employees are rude, pushy, demanding, overpaid, and lazy. Some of them are incompetent, but I can’t get rid of them. . . . Say, it’s almost lunchtime. I’ve got a great restaurant here — why don’t you all come by for a meal?”

Yeah, that’ll work. The employees will really respond well to a boss like that, the customers will flock in, and business will go through the roof.

Or, you know, not.

At Daily Kos, Chris Bowers has been on fire.

For those who still trust it, Huffpo has been all over the story.

I recommend this post by Digby:

Joshua Holland at Alternet has compiled all the information necessary for liberals to make the arguments about Wisconsin. (Please click the link for all the background and linkage)

And here are Naomi Klein and Chris Hayes discussing the link between Wisconsin and Klein’s Shock Doctrine:

Even people without high profile blogs are tweeting and facebooking their support. One of my facebook friends found this photo at Hullabaloo.

Egyptian Protester with Support for Wisconsin

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that people in the Middle East are rising up just as the Teabaggers are provoking some resistance in the U.S. Or maybe something big is happening.

Written by slothropia

February 19th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

U.S. Midterm Elections: Voters Poke Selves in Eye

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Never mind the predictions I made the night before Election Day. Some of them were right and some were not so accurate. Good thing I don’t make a living as a psychic.

The consensus prediction was that the Republicans would win way more than enough seats in the U.S. House to take charge, and they did. They also added six new Senators to their caucus and enjoyed a net gain of 7 or 8 governors (some of those races are still open). The GOP even won 55 out of 99 state legislature chambers and increased the number of stares where they control both houses.

The focus now becomes what happens next. Senior Republicans at all levels and in all jurisdictions are saying there is no room for compromise with Obama and the Democrats. The president today, however, told a White House press conference that he is ready and willing to sit down with Republicans and try to find common ground to solve the nation’s problems (I am paraphrasing).

Of course for two years, the Teapublicans have been yelling about out of control spending and federal budget deficits. It turns out to have been a shrewd tactic in that the GOPers won the House and made gains in the Senate. During the campaign the GOP said very little about what they would do about jobs and the economy, the number one issue on voters minds per exit polling conducted on Election Day. The Democrats during he campaign seemed to have not much to offer either except to say “We’ve done our best and we’re on the right track.” No comfort there for the jobless, the homeless and the soon to be foreclosed upon.

In fact, most economists will tell you that there is very little hope for the employment picture to brighten unless there is some stimulus from the federal government. But the Republicans are pretending that the voters care more about the deficit than unemployment. They have no stated plans to do anything about unemployment except maybe transfer even more wealth upward in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Here’s Krugman reacting to Obama’s press conference today:

Nobody cares about this stuff — they care about results. Nobody really cares about earmarks; they’re just code for spending less (less on somebody else, of course, not me). Nobody cares about civility and bipartisanship, which in practice are code for Democrats giving in to Republican demands. Nobody cares about parliamentary maneuvers: we can argue about the role of health reform in the election, but I bet not one voter in 50 knows or cares that it was passed using reconciliation (as were the sacred Bush tax cuts we must, must retain).

If Obama had used fancy footwork and 2 AM sessions to pass a big public works program, and this program had brought unemployment down, Republicans would be screaming about the process — and Democrats would have comfortably held control of Congress. Remember the voter backlash against the way Medicare drug benefits were passed? Neither do I.

Oh, by the way — nobody cares about the deficit, either.

Anyone who pays attention to government and politics in the U.S. should know that Republicans are not interested in solving unemployment. Maybe that’s why Republican favorability is even lower than Democrats’, already measured in opinion surveys but confirmed in Election Day exit polling. How many of those informed voters voted Republican anyway? How many low information voters voted Republican to punish the Democrats for failing to lower unemployment?

At this point it looks as though the short term impact of the election results will be a stalemate in Washington, with the Republican Tea Bag coalition passing unacceptable spending cuts and other mischievous legislation, which the Senate will refuse to pass and the White House forced to veto whatever right wing crap does manage to slither through the process.

The Republican posture at the moment is aggressive and uncompromising. Too Democrats in Washington are ready as ever to apologize for having any principles, although it is important to note that the 99% of the Progressive Caucus was reelected while about half of the Blue Dogs were sent packing. The problem is that the president’s weak approach to both policy and messaging means that Republicans win arguments by yelling louder (usually but not always figuratively).

So in the short term, if everybody follows the script the Right and the corporate media have written, there will be no federal action to stimulate the economy. The Republicans keep saying they want to reduce spending but have cleverly avoided saying what they would cut to balance the budget. Any cuts that are made will depress the economy further and delay full recovery that much further.

This is not the policy result people wanted but that is what they voted for. They bought a pig in a poke and poked themselves in the eye doing it.

The other plank in the Republicans stripped down p[platform was a promise to repeal “Obama Care”. On this, they do have some backing in public opinion, but the corporate media rarely notes that some something like a third of those who oppose health care reform do so because they don’t think it goes far enough. There is still a lot of support for a public option or even single payer, but shush, don’t let the rubes know that.

At least part of the credit for the GOP victory goes to the big, secret bucks that bought all those negative ads. And the corporate media (not just Fox NOT News Channel) reinforces the memes that the Right needs to be reinforced. And the 24 hour information vacuum still deprives people of the knowledge they need to make basic political decisions, like who to vote for to get the policy results they want.

Maybe, after the Right has completely destroyed the middle class and made living conditions intolerable for almost everybody, maybe then the poor and the middle class will gang up on the rich. Maybe when state and federal governments stop functioning because the nation’s wealth was squandered in foreign wars, then maybe people will begin demand real democracy and equality.

In the meantime, I couldn’t put it any better than good ole Digby:

So, here we are. People keep asking me what this means for the progressive movement and I reply — nothing. Progressives are in this for the long haul. And anyone with any experience knows that the country is polarized between the right and the left, with a bunch of people in between who don’t know what to think. All we can do is keep trying out different ways to persuade them that their best bet is to go with the progressive philosophy and require our elected politicians to figure out how to turn that philosophy into governance. It’s a long term battle that has periods of intense confrontation and calm conciliation, but it never really ends.

As you go about your business today, feeling like hell, keep in mind that it was just two years ago that many of the same pundits and gasbags were assuring us all that the conservative movement was dead. We are doing a lot of lurching about right now because the country is under stress and our political system is dividing strongly along partisan lines. Get used to it. I suspect we’re going to be in for turbulent politics like this for some time. And if we play our cards right, and the Democrats don’t completely implode, it’s probable that at the end of the day we (or those who come behind us) will look back and see that human rights, economic justice and peace came out the winners more often than not.

Written by slothropia

November 3rd, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Progressives on Election Day: Digby Says it Better

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In my last post I tried to anticipate how U.S. Progressives are feeling these days and what they might do in the coming election. Turns out I’m not the only one thinking about this. Some have in fact done it better.

Digby grabs this presidential quote from Glenn Greenwald:

Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. If you get the financial reform bill passed — then, well, I don’t know about this particular derivatives rule, I’m not sure that I’m satisfied with that. And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and — (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.) You know who you are. (Laughter.) We have had the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.

Digby then comments:
Well, I think at least one thing is clear. Robert Gibbs wasn’t freelancing with his similar comments.

Regardless of whether you agree with Obama’s characterization there, I think most people would agree that it’s an odd way to fire up the troops. There seems to be some misapprehension on the part of the DC Dems that trying to browbeat people into appreciating you is smart politics. I’m thinking maybe a little ass kissing at this point might be a little bit more effective.

More importantly, it’s a complete misreading of what ails the base. It’s not about a bunch of liberal bloggers being pissed about the health care bill or the wars. Sadly, there just aren’t enough of us to make a difference. And it’s not about a bunch of liberal pundits in DC fretting about “tidal waves.”

Digby goes on to quote Susie Madrak:

[T]hose of us left living on a wing and prayer thanks to your “half full”, half-assed economic policies just don’t have a sense of humor about our continuing plight. I know it’s been a long time since your mom got food stamps, but you might want to give that empathy thing some thought.

Finally, Digby drives the point home:

Unfortunately, midterms are almost always partisan elections, driven by the hardcore base of both parties. Behaving as if your voters are petulant and unappreciative may be therapeutic, and it may even be true, but it doesn’t get the job done.

As I noted in my previous post, there are some faint hopeful signs that the White House political operation is beginning to understand that an alienated base is a problem, however Gibbs, Emmanuel and BHO himself feel about those idiots and troublemakers who put them in office. On the other hand, remarks like those of the President quoted above do not help matters.

Strategically, it makes more sense to attack Republicans right now rather than progressives and other members of Obama’s coalition. It would also make more sense for the Democrats to stress that they are fighting for those who are struggling and stop apologizing by constantly repeating that the economy is improving. I still get nightmares about previous Presidents who saw light at the end of the tunnel and claimed that prosperity is right around the corner.

Written by slothropia

September 18th, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Shirley Sherrod Affair: Weak White House v Racist Right

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Like Duncan said, what Digby said:

Shirley Sherrod is the former (and future?) USDA official who was fired because she allegedly, according to Andrew Breitbart and Fox News, confessed to not helping a poor white farmer in 1986 when it was within her means to do so.

Trouble is, the more facts about Sherrod and her speech are revealed, the better she looks. And the more it becomes apparent that the crazy right is actively race baiting. Hey, is there an election this year or something?

Then, as Digby said, the Obama Administration “panicked like a bunch of frightened little children” and made sure that Agriculture Vilsack fired Sherrod. The White house says it was Vilsack’s call and he back them, up but in the absence of any corroborating evidence I don’t believe it.

Once more, as Digby said:

Breitbart had edited the video, of course, and he refuses to release the whole thing, naturally. But that didn’t matter in this case any more than it mattered in the ACORN case. It’s nothing but a play to America’s racist lizard brain.

And today the wife of the farmer went on CNN to say that this woman had been instrumental in helping them keep their farm and that she considered her a good friend. I suppose it would have been too much to ask that the administration at least checked that much out before they hung this woman out to dry.

After ACORN and now this, I really have to wonder if the Democrats and Brietbart aren’t actually working together on a whole Sistah Soljah campaign. It’s a little bit hard to see why anyone over 10 years old would fall for the same ruse over and over again. (Hey, maybe their focus groups show that simply alienating liberals isn’t going to impress those swing voters so they need to alienate the black vote too…)

But I also have to wonder if they know what the optics of this are. If two-bit sociopathic wingnuts can scare them to this extent with obviously doctored videos, what happens when they see a real threat? Are they going to flap their arms like penguins and run around in circles screaming “they’re coming to get us, run for your lives!!?” At this point, that doesn’t seem entirely ridiculous.

Seriously, this shows tremendous weakness. Andrew Brietbart is a con artist and and right wing entertainer whose antics should always be met with a cynical laugh and a shake of the head. To fall for his schtick more than once is political malpractice.

I agree that this is yet another occasion on which the Obama Administration demonstrates a near complete lack of conviction and disdain for its own supporters. But I have a feeling that this story is about to run away from both the racist right wing media and the White House. The race baiting will no doubt work on those predisposed to respond to it positively, but if there are any fair minded Americans of whatever dermal hue, they must be or will become disgusted with this latest high tech lynching. But this latest flurry of right wingers stalking supposed black racism has a whiff of desperation to it. It’s almost as if the right senses that it will take more than just attacks on Democrats to win the elections this fall.

Maybe Fox and Breitbart have gone just a little too far for their own and the GOP’s good. Fingers crossed anyway.

Written by slothropia

July 20th, 2010 at 7:12 pm