Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Democratic blues

Markos Moulitsis in Idiocy 12/09/09 expresses his outrage over the Senate Democrats' and the President's sorry performance on health care reform by reacting to a fund-raising e-mail he got from the Signed by President Obama, it asked for help against "big insurance company lobbyists and their partisan allies." Markos comments:

This is so freakin' obnoxious I can hardly stand it. We are about to get a turd of a "reform" package, potentially worse than the status quo. We have the insurance industry declaring victory, Republicans cackling with glee, and the administration is using that piece of s**t to raise money?

Obama spent all year enabling Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe, and he thinks we're supposed to get excited about whatever end result we're about to get, so much so that we're going to fork over money? Well, it might work with some of you guys, but I'm certainly not biting. In fact, this is insulting, betraying a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform. The administration may be happy to declare victory with a mandate that enriches insurance companies, yet creates little incentive to control costs or change the very business practices that have screwed so many people. But I'll pass.

Democrats are demoralized, and have little incentive to turn out next year. The teabaggers will turn out. If this is how the Obama camp thinks we can energize the base -- by promising them a health care pony for $5 to the same Democratic Party that is home to the likes of Baucus, Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman, and the rest of the obstructionist gang -- then we're in for a world of hurt in 2010.
Jane Hamsher weighs in with a response to those who are resistant to recognizing that Obama's team has been pushing all along for a public option "trigger", which in practice nullifies the public option (Obama Fought Hard For Triggers, Why Won’t He Own Them? FDL Action 12/09/09):

It’s time that people took off the rose colored glasses and faced the fact that Obama’s “leadership” on health care was empty and passive. He went for the corporate-friendly “win” that enriches the insurance and drug companies, just as he has enriched the banks and failed to hold them to account. Those who look first to others as scapegoats for his actions have apparently not come to grips with the fact that as President of the United States, he’s a very powerful man who is not using that power to advance the progressive agenda they attribute to him. [my emphasis]
We have a sad national political situation in the United States. In a two-party system, we have one conservative Party, the Democrats, and a reactionary-authoritarian Party, the Republicans. It's not that the Democratic base or even a majority of Democrats in Congress are conservative. They're not, they are liberal (in American terms) or progressive. But the awful spectacle we're seeing in the Senate this week shows how a really small number of corporate-conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Joe Lieberman (who was re-elected in 2006 in opposition to the Democratic Party candidate) can dominate the entire Congressional Party.

So here we have a form of bipartisanship that makes a major strategic difference: the Blue Dog Dems can make a coalition with obstructionist Republicans that blocks meaningful reform. Two weakness I see that could be easily removed that would make an immediate difference in the chances for progressive legislation are (1) the filibuster rule, which the Democrats should just abolish; and, (2) Harry Reid, who the Democrats should kick out of all leadership roles and maybe the Party, too.

And is there an appropriate metaphor to use for the role of our national press that doesn't sound completely melodramatic? Because only something like "the poison dagger sticking in the staggering, dying body of American democracy" seems description enough. That's not nearly so easily fixed. But boy-hidey, they've got the Tiger Woods sex story covered! I'm thinking about claiming to have had an affair with Tiger Woods myself just so I could get national coverage for about two seconds to say "we've got to have a public option!"

Seriously, when a reform as popular, as widely demanded and as practical for American business and the American economy generally as health care reform along the lines of that of Switzerland (itself more conservative than the successful ones most western European countries use) can't make it through Congress with a huge majority of the pro-reform Democratic Party in the House and a popular President who came into office claiming the reform mantle and making health care reform with a public option a major issue in his campaign - then American democracy is continuing to break down, to the point of practical paralysis when it comes to innovations needed by the general public.

Prospects for a major third party remain practically non-existent. If the progressive movement can't make the Democratic Party deliver on health care reform or dump Harry Reid from the Senate leadership, it certainly can't create a left Labor Party that can replace the Democrats. There's always the option of swearing off any real pretence of trying to influence policy decisions that matter to the lives of working families while declaring doctrinal purity. Chris Hedges gives an example of how to do that in Liberals Are Useless TruthDig 12/07/09. It's nice to be pure. And easy when you just wash your hands of the political battles that affect people's lives in a major way. Ironically, one of the accusations he makes against Democratic Party liberals he delivers with no hint of self-reflection at his own purist rant: "This sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America’s liberal class an object of public derision."

A line like that is not something you would be surprised to hear at a Tea Party rally. And it also doesn't reflect the realities of this political moment. With the Republicans in pure Wrecker Party mode and just saying "no" to health care reform with a purity equal that that assumed by Chris Hedges, the real real fight over health care has been within the Democratic Party. And it has come down a few Blue Dog Senators operating with the ridiculous Senate filibuster rule and a feckles, conservative-leaning Senate Majority Leader being able with the support of the President to defend the insurance industry positions.

But progressives do very much need to distance themselves from the institutional Democratic Party. An obvious way to do that is to direct any political contributions and direct activism toward progressive candidates, especially including primary challengers to corporate Blue Dog conservaDems. And to organizations that actively assert progressive causes against conservative Democrats as well as against Republican. The Stupak Amendment incident in the House brought new negative attention to NARAL, for instance, a high-visibility anti-abortion group that shows signs of reflexively supporting Democrats like Joe Lieberman and using things like the Stupak Amendment to raise funds after the fact - but wasn't there raising a stink before Stupak passed.

Certainly there are groups like the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) that are actively pushing for a return to the rule of law on torture and war crimes that are fighting the efforts of Congress and the Obama administration to protect perpetrators from prosecution and to preserve and expand the government secrecy on which they depend.

There are ways to support practical progressive reform without directly supporting keeping Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, in other words.

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