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xcurmudgeon

Fantasy Sweepstakes, Democratic Whiners, and Massachusetts

by: Teddy Goodson

Fri Jan 22, 2010 at 21:44:11 PM EST


It is reality check time in the postmortem on the recent election in Massachusetts, where a hard right Republican State Senator handily won the US Senate seat held for 58 years by Democrats, most recently by Ted Kennedy. Good grief! How come such a staggering event? Here is a grabbag of some current analyses in the running for becoming the new Accepted Wisdom:

* Republicans and their pundit stable are riding the race horse called Rejection: the great American populace is conservative, Obama is a flaming liberal, and said populace is rejecting his entire big government agenda out of hand, especially the socialist health care bill, therefore Obama and Democrats must now follow the Republican lead on everything (Mona Charen, Townhall.com, 21 Jan 2010).

* Blue Dogs and Senators Bayh (D, IN) and Lieberman (I-CT) have saddled up the gelding called Fake Centrist: Democrats are losing because they overreached, veered too far to the left, and now must over-correct to the right.

* They are joined by Senator Webb (D-VA) and Representative Barney Frank D-MA) and DLC types betting on the tough little pony named Realism: The election was a referendum on health care, Democrats need to pause, reassess their position, and "respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results" in Webb's words, meaning accept the chastisement by Massachusetts voters and try even harder to work with Republicans.

Teddy Goodson :: Fantasy Sweepstakes, Democratic Whiners, and Massachusetts
* Disillusioned  independents and libertarians epitomized by former Congressman Bob Bauman admire the gallant but ancient nag Independent Patriot: Obama betrayed his own promises of Hope and Reform when he pursued big government and huge deficits, ignoring Constitutional federalism (i.e., states' rights) and the ordinary unemployed and desperate working American; now he must abandon his "ultra-liberal" agenda and "shift towards the center where most Americans stand." (Bauman, "Sovereign Society A-Letter" 22 January 2010).

* Denizens of Inside the White House Bubble, including Rahm Emanuel, are whipping the stallion Ram Ahead: The electoral loss is all lousy Coakley's fault; now we must do whatever it takes to give birth to a health care bill, including forcing the House to approve the existing Senate bill, preferably before the new Senator Brown is seated, and then use the reconciliation process to fix it later.

* Angry local Democrats back the worn yet serviceable mule Blame Media: dishonest Republican-oriented media combined with corporate big money to demonize Obama, creating a phony backlash, frightening the average voter into turning against the very things they voted for in 2009; Obama now must show political leadership by returning to his original progressive agenda, despite Republican obstructionism, re-selling that agenda across the country against the Republican corporotists, and also do a lot more to punish Wall Street and help Main Street.

* Befuddled Democratic grass roots Deaniacs and original Obama supporters are dismayed and disillusioned, and, as always, have a split decision, some choosing the feisty pinto Fighter, while others have reluctantly saddled the raw-boned work horse Betrayal; both agree that Obama in some measure sold out to The Establishment; the question now is, can he grow a backbone, fight back and force the Congressional Democrats to pull together; the loss in Massachusetts was due to the failure of Obama and Congress to deliver on the progressive-populist agenda despite having been given a mandate.

Like the group of blind men touching the elephant, each one of these analyses, in my opinion, has some truth but not the whole truth, It would be a tragedy of historical proportions for Rejection or even Fake Centrist to become the winner of the Accepted Wisdom Sweepstakes, and thus the operating theory for future Democratic politics.... yet that is exactly where we are heading. Here are some different truths, based on an immediate post-election poll by TheAdvocates.org for MoveOn.org  (http://act.boldprogressives.org/cms/sign/mapollresults/) As discussed by Richard Eskow
(http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2010010320/will-dont-blame-me-democrats-take-responsibility-and-fix-health-reform)

* By a 3 to 2 margin, Obama voters who voted for Brown thought Obama's health care reform bill doesn't go far enough
* By a 6 to 1 margin, Obama voters who didn't bother to vote thought Obama's health care reform bill doesn't go far enough
* 82 percent of Obama voters who voted for Brown support a public option
* 86 percent of Obama voters who didn't bother to vote support a public option
* 57 percent of all Brown voters said that Obama is "not delivering enough on change"

This is the famous Obama gap, noticed in Virginia and New Jersey, where the Obama voters simply failed to show up at the polls. Even after allowing for possible leftward bias by MoveOn.org and for the known liberal tilt of Massachusetts, these figures seem to make the point that the apparent voter anger boiling up across the country is a populist anger. They voted for Obama in 2009 because of his promise to change things to the benefit of workers and the middle class. They voted for Brown in 2010 because they were frustrated by Obama's failure to deliver, and Brown ran a populist campaign (maybe a phoney one, but nonetheless he punched the right buttons). In other words, the voters did not reject the Obama agenda, so the Rejection horse is a false choice.

When Scott Brown said he would vote against what Republicans call "Obamacare," that was fine with Massachusetts voters because they did not like what the Democratic Senate had cobbled together. Massachusetts already has a highly popular state health care system (79 percent of Massachusetts voters want to keep their plan according to a poll last September), but  no one could explain to them how "Obamacare" was going to impact their state plan, and half of them thought their own plan was turning out to be too expensive to continue---- it did not control rising costs, and there was no evidence that the Democratic Senate plan would control costs either, especially since Emanuel had forced Senator Reid to give away the public option to garner the votes of Lieberman and Snowe. It did not help when, in response to demands for more cost containment, the White House emphasized the tax on "Cadillac" health plans, most of which belong to middle class workers, instead of taxing the wealthy.

Then, there is the fact that health care was not the most important issue, the economy was: 36 percent called health care very important, whereas 45 percent said jobs and the economy were very important (when you add in the category of "somewhat important," the figures become 74 and 89 percent). Even more revealing, to me, was how the voters viewed the Washington Democrats. When asked if the Democrats in Washington were more on "my side" (of people like me) or the side of lobbyists and special interests, 44 percent said national Democrats were on the side of lobbyists and special interests; independents said lobbyists by 52 percent, and it is the independents who nowadays decide elections.  It would seem that after watching the Democratic Senate in action, ditzing around with health care, voters have become cynical, and no longer believe that the Democrats are the Party of the People and the workers, and have abandoned their historical place as defenders of the average citizen.

Whatever else can be wrung out by political forensics, I believe it is clear that Obama's original agenda as such has not been rejected, and that includes real health care reform.  What has been rejected is the faulty execution of that agenda. This message will never get out if we let the Republicans write the narrative, especially if those riding the Fake Centrist, Realism, and Ram Ahead horses prevail among the Democrats. The other point is, of course, the unfortunate fact that Obama and Congress became so wrapped around the axle on saving the banking system and pursuing health care that they failed to attend to the economic fears and problems of Main Street. Suddenly coming up with a half-baked plan to tax big banks and partially re-regulate them (through the Federal Reserve, which enabled the meltdown in the first place) comes under the category of "better late than never." It does nothing to solve banks' refusal to lend to small businesses, nor to solve foreclosures and mortgage distress, nor does it create jobs immediately, like now.

Obama lost his way, according to Robert Parry, writing in consortiumnews.com on 20 January 2010, because he spent his first year trying to reassure the Washington/New York Establishments he "was not going to upset their apple carts....that he would.... be more about continuity than change." What he actually did was to associate himself and the Democratic Party with the "widely despised establishments.... as protector-in-chief of a corrupt financial elite." I agree with Mr. Parry when he says

"Simply put, Obama failed to persuade the American people that he would deploy a reenergized federal government to fight their battles against well-entrenched financial interests."

There were a number of tactical errors as well, such things as failing to follow through on pushing health care legislation through Congress to meet the original August deadline, and the useless pursuit of Republican votes which allowed Republicans to slow-walk the legislation, giving the obstructionist party time to organize opposition and put the messy making of legislative sausage on full public view.  Parry says that unified Republican opposition put the Democrats at the mercy of their most conservative members, including Lieberman, of whom Reid said at the end, "he double-crossed me." As a result, Republicans and their Tea Party allies, citing Wall Street bailouts and health care machinations, "swooped in to claim the banner of populism" with the ready help of Fox News demagogues.

Parry makes a good case that, during this year's brawl, the American Left "remained the marginal force" it has always been, acting like a spectator instead of helping their supposed champion. The Left has never developed the think tanks and other organizations that the right has used so well. "Obama is in a political war---- and he is losing."  Parry suggests a number of things Obama needs to do, such as becoming much tougher, using his rhetorical skills to convince the public he really is on their side, showing them Republicans are the ones on the side of the wealthy elite. He must prove that only the Democrats can use the federal government to protect the people from the depredations of that elite, because weakening the government, as the Tea Party wants to do, will leave the average citizen to the tender mercies of the greedy corporations.  He must introduce the Democratic Party to greater discipline, and punish those who step out of line.

WE ARE WHERE WE ARE

All this sounds great, but I do not see it happening.  Nor do I see that which the Blame Media, Fighter, and Betrayal horses' riders want from Obama coming to pass, at least not in any coherent form. All such demands/hopes for a character change from Obama and for discipline among Congressional Democrats is pretty much a fantasy.

What I can see is the grassroots undertaking the messaging, bringing pressure to bear on Obama, and engaging in guerrilla warfare with Republicans. The grass roots, as always, will have to save the populist message of the Democrats. Obama's stab at bank reform is a good starting point. Somehow, through resolutions from local Party Committees, a more populist rhetoric can be impressed upon the White House---- maybe we can even get rid of Rahm, who has already told the progressives of his own Party to shut up.

Obama's advisors are making gestures toward populism because they've been scared; they will do only so much as they feel necessary, and they will continue to insulate their boss from the real world. Volker finally got through, and Obama is now going for some banking reform. Volker did this through relentless public speeches and pressure. So can the grass roots. We need to find some similar mighty advocates to bring pressure.  Now is not the time to play nice.

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re: Obama is now going
for some banking reform:

I'll believe it, when I see it. As far as I'm concerned, Obama is now talking about going for some banking reform. As he had talked about "robust public option to keep the insurance companies honest" (remember that one?). As he had talked about transparency (Ackerman, on Washington Independent, has a "nice" catch about Holder's DoJ quietly acquitting FBI of any responsibility for the "irregular" info-gathering the NYTimes wrote about a couple of days ago). As he had talked about closing Gitmo. Etc, etc, et bloody cetera...

As soon as Obama is done talking and shifts into doing mode, I'll reengage.


No Savior
I think I'll drop my mantra of "Yes, Virginia, elections do have consequences" and take up "President Obama wasn't elected savior!"

Is he supposed to magically change the corrupt, purchased environment in Washington...while we all are supposed to sit home and get angry?

If we had sat at home in 2008, we could now have "President McCain." Now, would that have solved anything? I don't think so.


[ Parent ]
Even a Savior needs help
Robert Parry in Consortiumnews.com (see my article here "Fantasy Sweepstakes...") pointed out that the American Left offered Obama no help, but indulged in abundant criticism and endless demands during his travail. Where were the think tanks, the studies, the surveys espousing the Democratic progressive agenda? Such a contrast to the endless yackity-yak supporting Republicans. Obama had to do all the heavy lifting by himself, and even then his supposed friends sniped at him.  

[ Parent ]
if real Democrats are liberal progressives demanding change now,
then I hate to break it to you but you're only 15% of the population. Independents are 40%. That said, Teddy, the President made an executive order closing Gitmo, he signed into law making GLBT and the disabled community protected in the Civil Right Act of 1964, under hate crimes.  He has appointed Sonya Sotomayer to the Supreme Court. He has put Global Warming on the front burner. What more progressiveness do you want? I'm not sure I want Rahm to go, he helped bring about the congressional takeover of 2006. He knows where the skeletons are buried in Washington. People call him Rahmbo, the second coming of Lyndon Johnson. You don't throw away someone like that and say time to work on our idealism.

Also, Senator Brown is going to be a New England Republican, which is effectively a liberal. Wingnut,and well respected on the wingnut side Mike Huckabee, has said Republican's win in Massachusetts is setting up Obama's reelected. It takes three elections for people to become lifer Democrats 2006 and 2008, were the first two, Senator McConnell is more worried about the Republican bank accounts. Normally in every president's midterm, there is a loss of seats. Its easier though to knock off a House seat than a Senate seat.

It should be noted the late Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts, together with Senator Rudman of New Hampshire and Secretary of Commerce Peter George Peterson, founded the Concord Coalition to focus on bringing down the deficit. I suspect there are a lot of people in Massachusetts that wanted to reign in deficit spending, and were worried about the cost of health care reform. I also suspect that health care is a personal matter betwen you and your doctor, just like getting an apple martini is a decision between you and your bartender. Just like prohibition was unpopular , because people want to make their leisure time their own, people want to know where there money is going.  


[ Parent ]
Mass Worried about Health Care Cost
When Massachusetts passed their state version of universal health care, they did not address the cost to the state. (That may be why so many voters are in favor of a public option, including those who voted for Scott Brown. It's one  way to control costs.)

Massachusetts is, socially, a very liberal state. It also is a conservative state in some ways, including - as you point out - having what we would term a liberal senator, Paul Tsongas, help found the Concord Coalition.

If there is any place in the nation that most closely reflects my political philosophy, it New England. I lived there for four years long ago...and I can't wait to return there in three years or so.

Learning fiscal discipline, tempered with liberal treatment of social conditions, is - to me - the way we can meet the needs of our people and protect out democracy.

The simple answer to health care reform is universal Medicare (single-payer). We are a long way from getting that. We have work to do as the grassroots.


[ Parent ]
and that is why apparently Scott Brown's pro-choice
according to the WP. So, I'm wondering,if he's for women's health rights, as we have seen with Joe Liebreman, and Senators Snowe and Collins, its more about whose side you're on at the moment? And if Dems hold on to the Senate, that means Brown might vote for Democratic bills some of the time and Dems can claim bipartisanship, which will get Independents back to Obama. It remains to be seen.  

[ Parent ]
The fact that Brown is pro-choice does not
make him a liberal.  He isn't.  The tip-off is his extreme tax-cutting ideology and his obstrucionism.  You seem to think that the only liberal progressive issues are choice and LGBT.  That's far from the truth.  BTW, the latter does matter to you even if you don't think it does.  Any government which can subtract rights from people and intrude on their personal relationships has set the groundwork for messing with yours.  So, if caring about your fellow men and women isn't enough motivation for you, then, be self serving, if you must.  Look out for yourself.  As long as some of us are not free none of us is.

One more thing, I care about fiscal policy and deficits.  But deficits are being used right now as the fear de jour to scare people into eliminating programs and the safety net.  We (and I include myself because I fell for it too for a time) have been manipulated more than a few times by the Concord Coalition/Americans for Prosperity crowd.  And they are back and after Social Security at a time when more people than ever need it because pensions have been flat lined by reckless Wall Streeters and greedy corporations who underfunded them.  You may not think you need these.  But you never know.  One day, it may mean your ability to put food on the table, or a matter of your being homeless or not.  You may think the issues of seniors are not your issues either.  But they affect family members now and will affect you later on.  It's an intergenerational pact that we look out for all of us. Don't buy into that?  Think every person for himself is a winning strategy? We've seen how that works these past eight years (and during Reagan and Bush I years. We saw it to a lesser extent under Clinton.)

I fell for the deficit hawk (extreme version) for a (brief) time.  Until I learned what was really going on --and it is corporate greed to give employees squarely nothing, no pension, no social security, no health care, no living wage (only offshored and outsourced jobs and unemployment far greater than the numbers suggest).

One more thing.  The same people calling for deficit reduction to trump economic recovery are the same ones who helped create the problems we have.  So, you may want to balance your interests with a broader view of relevant issues.  Liberals do that.  We are not a two -issue segment of the population.  Nuff said.  

"One person, one vote" died at the hands of SCOTUS, January 21, 2010


[ Parent ]
Please see
http://theragblog.blogspot.com... about the mythical center in politics since Krl Rove arrived, as well as my other comment posted below on 15 percent

[ Parent ]
Only 15 percent of the population?
The way polling questions are designed, as well as the universe which is asked the question, I am not surprised at the small percentage considered "Progressive." What, however, is a "progressive?" The Great Wrench by the Reagan Republicans which dragged the entire political spectrum of our country off to the right turned what had been the historical center into "left," making what had been considered "conservative" into the new center, and wingnut fringe into a semi-respectable "right of center." I object to this new semantics beloved of the pundits.
All that aside, there are two other factors I would like to introduce:

1) When various so-called progressive policies or programs are fairly described (i.e., no generalizations about "leftist" or "progressive") a majority of the public across the country approves of them... at least they do until the mass media demonizes the policy, and often even then the public clings to their original approval. Example: a majority of Brown voters liked public option. Another poll showed that most of those who voted for Obama and then for Brown were disgusted that Obama had not produced on his progressive campaign promises---- and they wanted Brown to "cooperate" with Democrats in Congress. Ha.

2) The incessant characterization that America is a "conservative nation" or at least a "center right nation" is totally dependent on a continuation of the same ol' same ol' voting pattern which sees a high percentage turnout of right wingers and traditionally Republican voters, and little or nothing from other types. When Obama energized minority voters and young voters a vast, heretofore invisible pool of citizens suddenly became visible because they turned up to vote, horrifying the tight little Republican constiuency, which claimed these new voters were "illegal," because they were so different from themselves. Republicans sought to invalidate their votes (remember the hullabloo about Acorn?) and nasty white countryclub women whined they wanted "their" country back, and that Obama wasn't legally elected.

When you take into consideration the heretofore invisible Americans, and that most of them as a demographic are left of center then Americans are more progressive as a nation than that 15 percent.... reconsider the November turnout in Virginia, for example.

The problem is getting these voters energized to vote, and to vote Democratic, their natural home.


What's a progressive?
This is a reply to number 2).

I'm an ""invisible American", and I can't say I keep up with the latest issue orientated politics in the progressive sense. Don't get me wrong, I was right there volunteering on Jim Webb's campaign, I've been an election officer for a good part of the last decade, but since I was 18, you know in that high school idealist era that we can change the world stances on the latest culture war issues, abortion.a female issue, GBLT, a GLBT issue, it always alluded me because its really not my problem.  Yet I came of age in 92-93 and the national debt was the most important thing. I think I would fight for that. Bringing down the debt. I think also I care about my diet coke, my triple decker and my Sunday Post, now whether that's conservative, I do think people are like me.

I'm still searching through the rubble of what new issues I should care about, but I don't know.  I also think minority voters, hispanics. a lot of Hispanics were until recently, Republican, though there are a good many that are Democrat. I also think women that are moms want someone who will keep them safe, but each constituency is different, lots are divided and parsed many times over. I also think America likes to do big moral things like the Civil Rights Movement, but Americans also don't want to be told how to run their lives and part of the Health Care backlash is the fine that when people choose not to take the Government's plan. Why not instead, a tax credit? That's what people are responding to;also see Prohibition.

Also, you cite young voters, as the new liberal Americans, that are "invisible". They're invisible because they threaten to shoot their plans for America in the foot, by "not voting in protest." Which goes back into the notion that actually America is a nation of conservatives or libertarians or at the very least, property owners, because young people are in college drinking alcohol, busy holding down a job, renting. When people settle down-and this is why banking reform is the one that's really needed because of loans for home mortgage, they buy property and pay it off so they become wealthy. They get old and look towards health care reform, social security. The issues that matter. Young people are healthy as a horse,why would they need to be in those debates? And the damn thing about young people, a 30 year old will know more about how government works than the 18 year old who has at best, had one class in civics. Young, Strong, and Stupid. So I think the young voter argument is one full of holes. Just ask the young voters who voted en mass to make Creigh Deeds our current Governor?  


[ Parent ]
What's a progressive?
Be d...d if I know. I consider myself a "moderate" and a "pragmatist". But, back in Poland, I was often accused of being a "reactionary". While, here, my (yellow-dog Dem) husband will sometimes accuse me of being a "flaming commie". It seems to me that it's not what/who I am that matters but how others see me.

[ Parent ]
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