Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Future blogging from Febuary 1, 2013

I don't know how these wormholes and time warps and things work. But one of my physicist friends assures me that the following text is 99.999% certainly a blog post from the year 2013. Presumably by me. Anyway, I thought I would pass it along.

02/01/2013

I've spent most of my spare time in the last three years studying existential philosophy and reading Albert Camus novels multiple times, not trying to analyze political events on a regular basis. But I thought I would post my thoughts on the state of affairs in politics right now. I'm particularly focusing on the remarkable developments within the Democratic Party.

I'm convinced that the political scientists and historians are correct when they say the last three years have seen a qualitatively unprecedented shift in the Democratic Party base voters. When the Republicans came very close to capturing both the House and Senate in the 2010 midterm elections, our Pod Pundits blabbered on about historic shifts and such. They quickly settled on the group script they still use, that the "hard left" lurch of the Obama administration in proposing health care reform in 2009 drove voters away.


Not many active Democrats were fooled by that script. It was obvious on the funding for the Afghanistan War and on health care reform even in 2009 that Obama was willing to bring major pressure on opponents of his positions on key issues. While most Democrats still can't mention Joe Lieberman's name with sputtering or attaching cuss words, Obama's public surrender to Lieberman on gutting health care reform in December of 2009 to make it a strict guaranteed-market bill for insurance companies was reflective of Obama's own preferences.

The pattern continued after 2009 with the comprehensive immigration reform bill. Despite the intense opposition of nativist groups and the expected howling from Republicans, by September the Democratic House had passed a solid bill. Suddenly panicked by the polls predicting a shockingly low turnout among Democratic-leaning voters, Nancy Pelosi jammed through a bill including a reasonable path to citizenship for current undocumented workers, significant provisions to roll back the extended imprisonment of immigrants pending deportation and the shameful imprisonment of immigrant children, and a workable framework to target employers rather than workers in enforcement. Equally-panicky Democratic Senators hoping to win Latino voters and motivate Democratic voters generally were about to pass a similar bill. But then with the obvious encouragement of the White House, the same Blue Dog/Joe Lieberman scenario played out that we saw on health care reform.

Harry Reid whined that he had to have 60 votes instead of "only" 57. And they passed a bill that eliminated or emasculated all the humane provision and was pretty less with only increased funding to expand the Southern Border Wall and broader discretion for law enforcement in dealing with suspected immigration violators. Despite the revelations of several cases of serious injury and death to detained immigrants from detention-facility guards using Tasers on them while in custody, the Senate bill even specifically legalized the use of Tasers at the discretion of guards and stripped federal courts of the option of reviewing legal challenges to Taser usage. As we know, immigration reform died before the midterm elections.

Democratic turnout was astonishingly low in those 2010 midterms, though the Democrats did hold on to slim majorities in the House and Senate. Democratic base voters weren't sorry to see Harry Reid lose to a Republican. But selecting Ben Nelson as the new Senate Majority Leader didn't inspire much joy in Mudville.

The last two years have been a dreary story for progressives and Democrats. With new restrictions placed on labor organizing and anti-union measures forced on the auto companies, the idea that seemed so close in 2008-9 of the Employee Free Choice Act being adopted looked like a strange delusion. The revelations that torture was still widespread in Special Forces and CIA "black sites" further depressed partisan Democratic voters, who were pretty much left saying that, well, at least Obama and the Democrats haven't taken to explicitly calling it "torture" as the Republicans have.

Then there was the catastrophe following the coup in Kabul in early 2011. Obama rushed to grant the Pentagon's request for nearly 100,000 additional troops. With all NATO combat forces except a few thousand Brits pulled out, American troops strength stood at 275,000 by Election Day 2012, with at least 250,000 mercenaries of various capacities in addition. With Pakistan and India on the verge of going to full-scale conventional war with each other, Pakistan is now more-or-less openly supporting the Taliban rebels. Despite having supported Obama's escalations, the Republicans still trashed him in 2012 for "losing the war" and promising to escalate even more to "let our troops win".

Although our celebrity pundits can't figure it out, the historically unprecedented apathy and non-participation of Democratic voters has pretty obvious causes. Despite continuing signs of serious anger among Democrats - the short but intense challenge to Obama's re-nomination, the increasing incidents of serious street-fights with Tea Party mobs - even many voters who tell pollsters they strongly favor the Democrats were gripped in the fall of 2012 with something like militant apathy. There not much evidence that MoveOn.org's campaign to urge voters to boycott the election actually had much effect on the historically low turnout. Though the boycott may well have affected the unusually large number of blank ballots turned in.

So here we are, with both Houses of Congress run by Republicans, and Jeb Bush in the White House with Liz Cheney as his Vice President. True to his "jobs-and-business" platform aimed at capitalizing on persistently high unemployment, Bush has already submitted a huge tax cut proposal to Congress aimed at (of course) the top brackets. And he is pushing ahead with his proposal to phase out Social Security. Obama's attempt to do so in 2011 happily failed, though only because Republicans voted unanimously against it with those sanctimonious speeches about "saving our seniors."

Senate Majority Leader Nelson did say on Meet the Press that the Democrats would mount a filibuster to save Social Security this time. When a reporter asked Vice President Cheney about Nelson's threat, she snarled, "We know how to deal with terrorists, whether they're in Congress or anywhere else."

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