Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 12, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

NYET....A friend of mine emailed this morning to ask a question:

So, let me get this straight: When the Democrats are the minority in the Senate, the Republicans get their way, and when the Democrats are the majority in the Senate, the Republicans get their way.

That's about the size of it. Today's New York Times explains Mitch McConnell's "nyet" strategy for making sure that nothing gets done:

Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense, blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority that they are increasingly able to dictate what they want, much to the dismay of the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and frustrated Democrats in the House.

In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

Italics mine. It's hard to say anything about this other than the obvious: the Democrats have a very slim majority; the rules of the Senate work against them; and the Republican Party, even as it prepares to shuffle into what may well be a decade of irrelevance, continues to display a genuinely remarkable ancien régime ability to stick together and insist that nothing is wrong until its collective face turns blue. Even the fact that the entire country may well turn blue next November as a result doesn't dissuade them.

What bugs me about this is not the fact that the modern Republican Party doesn't really care about actual governance. This is hardly news. At this point, it's an exhausted organization so bereft of ideas that it really doesn't have much choice except to follow a policy of obstruction to its logical, nihilistic conclusion.

But why does the media have to play along? It's nice that the Times ran this story, but it would be nicer if the media simply reported what was happening on a regular basis. I'm not asking for special treatment, just headlines that tell us what's really going on. If Republicans have adopted a strategy of simply blocking every piece of legislation that makes it to the floor of the Senate — and everyone agrees that they have — then we should be regularly seeing headlines that say "Republicans Block ______ " There's nothing partisan about this, it's just a description of what's happening. If Democrats block things, they can say that too. But unless the press reports this stuff accurately on a regular basis, the public simply has no idea why nothing is getting done.

Which, of course, is exactly what congressional Republicans are counting on. So why help them out so transparently?

Kevin Drum 1:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (69)

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Comments

Liberal media bias?

Oh wait...

Posted by: Xanthippas on December 12, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure your question(s) about the media are rhetorical in this post, but since you often seem oblivious to the MSM's unquestioning (and perhaps, in some cases, unconscious) adoption of Republican/conservative framing (and its vapid disdain for all things Democratic), I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage you to continue thinking and writing along these lines.

Posted by: mary on December 12, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

The "gentleman's agreement" that allows the minority to stage a filibuster simply by mustering 41 votes is intended to allow the Senate to continue with other work.

If the minority is going to block every single thing that comes down the pike, why continue to honor that agreement?

Make them stage an actual filibuster and when they can't sustain it, run them over.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 12, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well, of course, the press could report this. But then they'd have to say why it was good for Republicans.

On a less throwaway note, it's conventional wisdom (or, if you prefer, part of the Narrative) that Congress is Ineffective. Not hard work to report this: harder work to report why this is without the appearance of taking sides. If you're Fox News (or, to be fair, Air America), you don't mind the appearance of taking sides: many news organizations do. So we just learn that C = I.

Posted by: Andrew on December 12, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The papers and TV stations have been "helping them out" since Al Gore took the Democratic nomination. The mainstream media are thoroughly corrupt.

They wouldn't know a fact from an opinion if facts were gold-plated and opinions were nuggets of scat.

Posted by: Scorpio on December 12, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

It's nice that the Times ran this story, but it would be nicer if the media simply reported what was happening on a regular basis. I'm not asking for special treatment, just headlines that tell us what's really going on.

The job of the mass media ultimately isn't to inform, it's to sell advertising.

Posted by: Old Hat on December 12, 2007 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Mary: There's more than one way to skin a cat. Best not to assume that I'm oblivious just because I don't adopt the Atrios/Somerby rhetorical style.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on December 12, 2007 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

When the Democrats are the minority in the Senate, the Republicans get their way

Actuallty, that's not exactly always true. Consider the centerpiece of the Republican agenda - tax cuts. Because the Republicans never had a large majority, the tax cuts that were passed had to be done via the filibuster-proof Budget Reconciliation process, which meant that any tax cuts that were passed *have* to be temporary. And in the 6 years that the Republicans controlled Congress, they never were able to command a majority large enough to make them permanent. The biggest Republican legislative goal, and they were unable to do what they wanted, even when they seemed to have total control in Washington. Although you NEVER hear it framed that way.

One reason, I think is the Republican legislative discipline - many issues just were never ever brought to a vote unless they could be sure that there were enough votes to pass - otherwise, you just never heard of it, so it gave the illusion that Republicans were more successful (or Democrats more inept) than they were. The one big time where this actually became an issue was judicial appointments - which HAD to be brought to a vote, and which lead to the much-publicized threats of the "Nuclear Option". There is a reason why Democratic filibustering became an issue over judicial appointments and not other issues - because those other issues never made it to a floor vote.

If anybody wants to point the finger at ineffective control of Congress, the Republicans had their six years and really accomplished very little of their agenda (what other big GOP agenda items besides the bankruptcy bill got passed?) on non-security issues in that time, considering.

But, again, it's all in the framing.

Posted by: Ethel-to-Tilly on December 12, 2007 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry--the media will get religion once the Dems are in the minority!

It doesn't help that even accurate reporting gets spun as "negative". Here's how the Project for Excellence in Journalism judges the "tone" of an article:

"To evaluate tone, the study examined every assertion that offered some assessment of a candidate’s chances at winning or their potential effectiveness in office if they were elected and tallied them by story. For a story to be considered positive or negative, two thirds of all the assertions had to be explicitly positive or negative in tone or the story would be considered balanced."

So, of course, reporting bad news about poll results for a candidate means you're writing a "negative" story, and are therefore not "neutral", therefore biased!

See how easy?

Posted by: Peter on December 12, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Two words: Nuclear option. I bet the press would pay attention then.

Posted by: waka waka on December 12, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

The bottom line is that the Republican Party is more homogeneous (politically, as well as ethnically, religiously, morally, economically, etc) than the Democrats which not only span the political spectrum, with the exception of the far right, but also represent districts whose voters put more contraints on their ability to move leftward than Republican constituencies prevent them from moving rightward.

Live with it and quit blaming the Democratic leadership, whom you might as well as to change the law of gravity as to ask them to change the nature of Democratic constituencies in moderate and red-leaning districts.

If you want to blame someone, blame the constituencies that force such political compromises.

In other words, grow up and dive into the real world, you self-styled "reality-based" citizens.

Posted by: anonymous on December 12, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Make them stage an actual filibuster and when they can't sustain it, run them over.

As a matter of fact, a military spending bill would be a great place to start. Bring it to the floor--timeline for withdrawal included--and make the GOP filibuster it.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 12, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Parts of the media do seem to believe that "a fact is not a fact if Republicans say it is not a fact." So, unless all Republicans say they are planning to block everything, its not what they're doing.

The rule doesn't work the other way---Time magazine was told the truth about the FISA fix bill by Democrats, but chose to go with the Republican version as though it were objectively true.

Some fault has to be placed on the Democrats, though. If the Rs say they'll filibuster, make them do it.

Posted by: JoshA on December 12, 2007 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with the "make them filibuster" strategy is that it very well might not work. Procedurally, the 49 Republicans could hold the floor in shifts, making Quorum calls and dragging the majority out of bed - while the other 49 Republican senators got plenty of sleep. If a Quorum isn't summoned, then the Senate will go out of session.

Of course, if the D's stuck with it they might actually get some media attention, which would be the real goal. But it would be extremely risky, and hard to hold the caucus together.

Posted by: arbistrista on December 12, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "But unless the press reports this stuff accurately on a regular basis, the public simply has no idea why nothing is getting done. Which, of course, is exactly what congressional Republicans are counting on. So why help them out so transparently?"

Because "the press", a.k.a. the mainstream media, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. -- the same people who own the Republican Party.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 12, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "There's more than one way to skin a cat."

I shudder to think of what this Friday's cat-blogging photos will be.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 12, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

What Secular Animist said.

Posted by: Trypticon on December 12, 2007 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Agree with the upthread poster - it all stems from the "gentlemen's agreement' of allowing a filibuster without actually having to do it. Reid should end the gentlemen's agreement and force them to really do it every time they want to filibuster something. It was created as a dramatic, high-stakes option -- not just a higher vote threshold, which is what it is now.

Posted by: MJ on December 12, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

As a matter of fact, a military spending bill would be a great place to start. Bring it to the floor--timeline for withdrawal included--and make the GOP filibuster it. Posted by: Quaker in a Basement

I second this! Have them do it two days before the holiday break.

Posted by: JeffII on December 12, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you are almost there. Admit it, Bob Somerby is right. Unless big guns like you start screaming bloody murder about the media's bias they will help the Republicans bash Dems forever.

Posted by: Roger Antaya on December 12, 2007 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Gentlemen's agreement is with Gentlemen, not with torture enabling wireless tapping supporting habeas corpus dismantling Republican shitheads.

Posted by: gregor on December 12, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, make 'em filibuster. Catheters all 'round. Maybe all of their pee tubes will get tangled, prompting howls of "Aye! Aye!," at which point Reid can pop in and do voice votes on everything:

"Mandatory waterboarding of all those supporting waterboarding?"

"Aye! Aye!..."

"The 'Ayes' have it."

Posted by: Trypticon on December 12, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

The biggest Republican legislative goal, and they were unable to do what they wanted, even when they seemed to have total control in Washington. Although you NEVER hear it framed that way.

You also never hear it framed that when the Bush tax cuts expire -- what the Republicans dishonestly claim would be a "tax inxcrease" to be blamed on the Democrats -- it'll be due to legislation that Republicans voted for and Bush himself signed. If anything, they're the Bush tax increases.

Posted by: Gregory on December 12, 2007 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

>"...So why help them out so transparently"

Follow the money.

Posted by: Buford on December 12, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Which, of course, is exactly what congressional Republicans are counting on. So why help them out so transparently?

Bob Somerby must be rolling in his grave.

Posted by: PapaJijo on December 12, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK
Mr. McConnell and his fellow Republicans are playing such tight defense, blocking nearly every bill proposed by the slim Democratic majority that they are increasingly able to dictate what they want, much to the dismay of the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and frustrated Democrats in the House.

It seems to me that if the just-barely-minority Republicans can block everything they don't want, then the just-barely-majority Democrats should be able to be even more effective at doing the same thing.

So I don't see this as letting Harry Reid and the Senate Dems off the hook for giving the Republicans everything they want.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 12, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: the modern Republican Party doesn't really care about actual governance.

That's true, if by "governance" one means more programs, more spending, more regulation and more taxation. Republicans think we have too much governance, with dozens or hundreds of duplicative programs, many of them ineffective. We have too much governance in terms of zillions of pages of regulations that nobody fully understands. We have too many earmarks putting taxpayer money in the hands of politicians' friends and contributors.

Republicans support a reasonable amount of control, taxation and spending by the federal, state and local governments, but basically we would like to govern our own lives, thank you.

Posted by: ex-liberal on December 12, 2007 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

The dems in the senate did threaten to filibuster a lot in the last session. They hampered congress quite well.

Maybe they should have rolled over on the nuclear option that the republicants tried to shove through? Things might be somewhat different today.

The key difference is that before, the preznit would sign stuff congress passed - so it wasn't important that the republicants have a veto-proof majority for everything they wanted to push thru. Today, preznit vetoes and dems don't have veto-proof majority.

Simple numbers.

However it would behoove the Dems, in both house and senate, and even if they don't all agree on every bill, to at least get their act together and start hollering about how the republicants are gumming up the works. I just don't hear them screaming about this, and the long winded explainations we hear from Nancy and Harry just don't cut the mustard with the public as well as a shortsentence would.

"It is the Republicans who are obstructing the passage of this (tax cut, bill, budget, etc.)"

Fugget trying to explain parliamentary procedure, most folks don't care to know.

Posted by: optical weenie on December 12, 2007 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Bob Somerby must be rolling in his grave.

Somerby popped off and has been interred? Since this morning?

Posted by: shortstop on December 12, 2007 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Dude, you may not like the rhetorical style of Somerby or Atrios, but I don't think you can refute the substance of their consistent argument, which is that the MSM has a narrative for the parties: the GOP is the land of Strong Daddys who smell good and may sometimes go too far, while the Dems are a bunch of limp-wristed prevaricating pantywaists. Since the MSM are wholly owned by gentlemen who prefer this narrative because it favors the GOP, the people who work there have no incentive or apparent interest in challenging it.

You ask the rhetorical question now, but it could have been asked at any time over the last 15 years. Why did the MSM relay a barrage of thinly sourced stories courtesy of Scaife's Arkansas project and Flowers/Willey/Lewis about murder, drugs, fraud, and rape that turned out to be crap? Why did they trumpet claims Gore never made about inventing the Internet, Love Story, or uncovering Love Canal? Why did they roll over for a series of Swift Boat lies about Kerry w/o, you know, saying they were lies?

I say this with a lot of respect, but what country have you been living in the last 15 years? Why don't they get into this stuff and tell the truth? Because they don't care about the truth and find it way more entertaining to be fed a juicy, bitchy, gossipy narrative by people like Matthews, Russert, Dowd, and company about how incompetent those Dems are. The MSM is not our friend, dude, and has spent a lot of its effort trying to undermine every significant national liberal or Dem who's come the pike the last 15 years. Don't ask a question like this again, man, because it's way too obliviously innocent for a smart guy to put out there. Cheers!

Posted by: scott on December 12, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding the skinning of the cat.

Kevin, I certainly hope that you don't do this to Inkblot. It is an almost certainty that pictures of him naked will get out in the open. That will ruin his Inkblot for President in '08 campaign.

Posted by: optical weenie on December 12, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

The problem with the "make them filibuster" strategy is that it very well might not work. Procedurally, the 49 Republicans could hold the floor in shifts, making Quorum calls and dragging the majority out of bed - while the other 49 Republican senators got plenty of sleep.

Of course they could do that - and pretty quickly as they did it to bill after bill they'd look like the pack of loonies and cretins they really are. Which is why the Dems have to hold the Repugs' feet to the fire over this instead of running around like little girls with the vapors like they're doing now.

Posted by: Susan on December 12, 2007 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

That's true, if by "governance" one means more programs, more spending, more regulation and more taxation.

It's also true if by "governance" one means competent and honest administration of existing programs, spending, regulation and taxation.

basically we would like to govern our own lives, except in the bedroom

Fixed.

"ex-liberal" is really phoning it in these days. Asserting that the Republicans are the part of small government and personal freedom? That dog won't hunt.

P. J. O'Rourke had the GOP's number back in the Reagan years -- the GOP campaigns on the platform that government doesn't work, then gets elected and proves it.

Posted by: Gregory on December 12, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

but basically we would like to govern our own lives, thank you.

And your lives includes shoving your crap down everyone elses throat. You talk of choice, then spend every waking minute denying any choice that doesn't coincide with your rotten world view.

An example of this is national health care. If you guys love HMOs so much, then just stay enrolled in one while the rest of us enroll in expanded medicare.

But no, can't take the chance that that might(read will) be as successful as SS has been. So every effort must be expended in making sure I don't have that choice.

Need I go into all the other religious inspired bullshit?

Republicans support a dictatorship run by Rush and his handpicked minions approved by the corporatist and neocons, nothing less.

Posted by: SnarkyShark on December 12, 2007 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

We have too many earmarks putting taxpayer money in the hands of politicians' friends and contributors

Jeeze - ex-Lib - do you really believe your own talking points? Exactly who is responsible for those earmarks that you're bitchin' about?

"The Congressional Research Service (CRS) identified some 3,000 earmarks
worth $19.5 billion that were enacted in 1996. By 2006, the number of earmarks had
grown to more than 15,500, valued at $64 billion -- and that is only for appropriations
bills."

Who controlled Congress from 1996 to 2006, ex-Lib? Funny to hear you extoll the virtues of "reasonable" Republican governance - their actions sure don't match your rhetoric.

Posted by: Ethel-to-Tilly on December 12, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think very few people would have understood what the media has been doing for the last fifteen years if Atrios and Somerby did not exist.

Understated snark and derision have no affect on these people. You have to call them directly, clearly, stridently, and explicitly for what they are

Posted by: gregor on December 12, 2007 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, look forward to the catskinning.

Posted by: CatsAreYummy on December 12, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK
…and when the Democrats are the majority in the Senate, the Republicans get their way. That's about the size of it.

Kevin, I share you frustration with the Media, but allow me a relevant mathematical point. The Democrats do not have a majority in the Senate. There are 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans. The fact that the two independents caucus with the Dems only helps the Dems control the committees and the agenda.

It does not help the Dems win votes related Iraq or national security. Remember Joe I-love-George-Bush Lieberman? Votes the Republicans on these issues.

It's hard to say anything about this other than the obvious: the Democrats have a very slim majority…

Well, no they don’t. Do they?

Posted by: jackohearts on December 12, 2007 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, the Republicans in Washington DC have found their obstructionism late in the day. If they had behaved this way for the previous 7 years, they might not have lost nominal control in 2007.

As others have noted, the Democrats don't really have working majority in the Senate- and, in addition, how often are Biden, Dodd, Clinton, and Obama actually in town at the same time?

Posted by: Yancey Ward on December 12, 2007 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

What Quaker in a Basement said: Make them stage an actual filibuster and when they can't sustain it, run them over.

And even if they can sustain it, the media will have no excuse for not reporting that the GOP had filibustered the bill.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on December 12, 2007 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Is this "gentleman's agreement" stuff accurate? My impression was that it is a Senate rule.

Posted by: Austin on December 12, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

"So why help them out so transparently?"

Uh, maybe because the media are owned by Republicans?

Posted by: The Fool on December 12, 2007 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"It seems to me that if the just-barely-minority Republicans can block everything they don't want, then the just-barely-majority Democrats should be able to be even more effective at doing the same thing." - cmdicely

Unfortunately the just-barely-minority Republicans vote en masse whereas the just-barely-majority Dems include at least twenty, probably more, wavering, middle of the road, Republican-lite senators. For the Repubs to block a Dem bill is easy. All the Repubs need to do is to flip twelve Dems to their side to get 60 votes. No way can the Dems do the same thing in reverse. The whole DLC concept of getting moderate Dems elected is fine on election day. It doesn't work out so well in actual governing.

Posted by: nepeta on December 12, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Christ, Kevin, play the flip-side of this record, will you? It's old.

Every few weeks we have one of these threads here where commenters who obviously consider themselves much smarter than Democratic Senators who have served there for decades (including Senators like Robert C. Byrd, who, like him or not, is arguably the one Senator in the history of the chamber who knows the most about its rules and precedents) come out and complain about how "Reid just needs to make the Republicans carry out the filibuster."

Of course Arbistrista has it exactly right. The reason there are not "Mr. Smith goes to Washington" filibusters anymore is because THEY ARE HARDER ON THE MAJORITY THAN THEY ARE ON THE MINORITY. OK? It's not an accident they don't do them anymore. Trust me: The Senators know more about the rules than you do. One minority Senator can hold the floor for 24 hours and unless the majority can keep 50 of their members there the whole time, the Senate must adjourn and the minority wins. OK?

The answer is not more partisanship and message politics. It's less.

Posted by: Pat on December 12, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK
… we would like to govern our own lives, thank you. ex-lax at 3:07 PM
Actually, by your deeds not your words, you want to control and spy on everyone, grow government, burden Americans with a crushing debt and give corporations a free hand to pollute the environment, poison Americans, and, along with the richest, avoid just taxation.

Life is so good to Republicans one can't help but wonder why the number of Americans who are now self-identifying with that party is decreasing. Really, no Republican pays a price.

Posted by: Mike on December 12, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal, current-mentiroso: . . .but basically we [conservatives] would like to govern our own lives[, as well as the lives of anyone whose belief systems, economic values, or sexual preferences we conservatives disagree with], [so as to keep the government from disturbing our amoral and immoral schemes of economic fraud and deceipt, personal destruction of those whom we consider of a lesser class, and raping of the natural beauty and treasure of the planet for our generation of elites and us alone,] thank you.

There - fixed your post so that it relects the whole truth.

Posted by: anonymous on December 12, 2007 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

I am not all that convinced that the Democratic leadership really wants to distinguish itself from the Republicans. But, if they want to resolve the filibuster problem, I have a solution to offer.

The THREE STRIKES rule. Any bill that gets 51+ votes for cloture would be considered a strike. When the minority party gets its third strike, the Senate is automatically brought to a halt by the majority party leader.

This is NOT a rule change! It is the prerogative of the majority to set the agenda, and likewise for all committee chairmen to schedule sessions. So, once the third strike occurs, all Democratic leaders know their role is to halt all other activities until the minority agrees to let one of the three measures move forward to a vote. This is a defacto equivalent to the old-time sermonizing form of filibuster. It acknowledges that nothing is really going to get done if the minority insists on stopping everything, and it forces them to take the heat in the MSM as they should.

Posted by: DigitalDave on December 12, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kevin is right on the money about the (metaphorical, I pray) cat-skinning. I find it interesting that most of the same people on boards like this who are most strident in their criticism of the media's treatment of the Clinton Administration are also the same people who actually disagreed the most with the centrist-to-corporatist/conservative policies of that crowd.

Somerby, quite frankly, makes me a little sick sometimes. God forbid a Frank Rich -- a sharp, outspoken liberal whether you like him or not -- should have anything less than 100% flattering to say about Al Gore circa-2000, when he showed the same lack of backbone that we now excoriate in congress. That Al Gore was a very different dude from the one we know now, but Somerby has no memory of that. By the way, my information sources were not mainstream media then. Al Gore was just as derided in the L.A. Weekly and the Village Voice and Harper's as anywhere else.

Now, If I'd known that today's Al Gore lurked inside THAT Al Gore, nothing could have stopped me from voted for him and working for him. But all that was visible was the doofus who pimped for aid to the terrorist Contras in Nicaragua and otherwise ignored the very real atrocities of the Reagan administration in favor of important issues like f-words in song lyric, or the man whose idea of strong progresssive politics was "lockboxes." I'm not one bit ashamed of my vote for Nader in 2000 -- though perhaps it helps that I live in California. The point is, it was not a simple, binary situation back then. Bush looked less crazy; Gore looked like his reelection campaign song was going to be "You Haven't Done Nothing."

As for the media -- it's corporate controlled, but staffed mostly by Democrats, if not actual liberals. Simply saying that every single member of the mass media not named Moyers or Olbermann are nothing but corporate far-right shills gets us absolutely nowhere. It's more complicated than that and you should all know it. There is a pro- corporate bias in the media, to be sure, but it's not as simple as you guys make out to be -- sometimes it even leans our way a little.

Media Matters and other watchdogs do great work, but let's not demand to have our butts kissed. Ain't gonna happen in and we'll look awfully silly with our fannies out.

Posted by: Bob on December 12, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

What bugs me is that the Democrats don't have either the balls, the talent, or the desire to do the same thing to the Republicans when the Reps are in power. They did it one time, one social security. Except for that, they might as well be lying on their backs hoping to get their bellies scratched.

Posted by: anandine on December 12, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is not more partisanship and message politics, but doing what the DLC recommends.

Posted by: Bob G on December 12, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

I would like to second Scott's 3:16 post above. Well done.

Posted by: ckelly on December 12, 2007 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, the Republicans in Washington DC have found their obstructionism late in the day. If they had behaved this way for the previous 7 years, they might not have lost nominal control in 2007.
Posted by: Yancey Ward

Then there was the wee problem of so many being indicted for this or that just prior to the 2006 mid-terms.

Posted by: JeffII on December 12, 2007 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bob,

Put up or shut up about Somerby. Either dissect him as painstakingly as he has done with empty vessels like Dowd and Rich, or peddle your claptrap about no difference between Bush and Gore elsewhere. Oh, and the lockbox? That was about taking the surpluses we had way back then and committing it to Social Security so that they wouldn't be spent on extravagant tax cuts for the rich that the "less crazy" Bush put into place, along with the wars that have killed hundreds of thousands. Yeah, that Gore sure was a loser, all right.

Ass kissing? The only thing I'm interested in is ass kicking when the MSM runs down liberals and guys like you counsel us to somehow rise above it all because we're too pure or dainty to get our hands dirty defending ourselves.

Posted by: scott on December 12, 2007 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

scott did nail it at 3:16 p.m. The MSM is NOT liberal and they are NOT our friends. They are in place to protect the status quo - which is the world of the privileged white male. They consistently promote false narratives (e.g. Reagan defeated the Soviet Union) and fail to challenge the powers that be when they tell blatant lies (e.g. how many times has Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein kicked out the UN weapons inspectors? A bald-faced lie!). The Internet is the only hope of the progressive movement taking back government and the media. It sure ain't gonna happen any other way....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 12, 2007 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

The real reality-based folks know where the pie-in-the-sky progressives are coming from, scott:

Bush = Gore = Clinton = Clinton = Reid = Pelosi

But I have one for them, though not as literal as their comparison, but more allegorical:

Obama = Jim Jones = God's Voice on Earth

And progressives are drinking the kool aid.

Posted by: anonymous on December 12, 2007 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

There's no doubt that the traditional media are for the most part ignorant or heedless of fact, disinclined to dig beyond the surface, and prefer easy stories involving haircuts and veils to anything more substantial. None of this is to the Democrat's advantage.

However, there could hardly be a more ineffectual and feckless bunch of politicians around than today's Democrats, from Reid to Pelosi to yes, Edwards, Hillary, and Barack. Reid and Pelosi have neither the will nor the ability to play the game effectively from a political standpoint, and so are consistently outmaneuvered and outhustled by the GOP. And Edwards, Hillary, and Barack are more interested in beating each other over the head and trolling for cash than in actually being, you know, United States Senators in a closely divided chamber.

As a lifelong resident of southeastern Michigan, they remind me all too much of the Detroit Lions. Incompetence, thy name is legion.

Posted by: bluestatedon on December 12, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Obama = Jim Jones = God's Voice on Earth

Congratulations, Anonymous, you've posted something every bit as puerile and witless as anything you'll ever read on a college sports posting board.

Posted by: bluestatedon on December 12, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

If Democrats don't want their balls cut off then stop handing Republicans the knives! They can't even win the PR war on this.

Posted by: JerseyMissouri on December 12, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Rich, . . . Posted by: scott

Why are you putting Rich in the same boat as Dowd? He's been pissing on Shrub since day one.

Posted by: JeffII on December 12, 2007 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

It's time for an 'up or down' vote on these bills and if the republicans aren't willing to allow that then the democrats will have to exercise the 'nuclear option' (aka the constitutional option in bill Frist's world). Fat chance, but at least the dems could stop rolling over and MAKE the repubs conduct a real filibuster instead of just threatening to have one. That'll get things on the front page and the nightly news.

Posted by: sparky on December 12, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

The answer, Jeff, is that Scott is of the political mindset that transcends all categories and demands 100% agreement on all matters. I didn't mention Dowd in my post above because, yeah, she is part of the problem a lot of the time. I'm not a big fan. Rich, however, is guilty of the crime of not always agreeing with Scott and Somerby's extravagantly positive view of Gore through time immemorial in the way they would like, therefore. No difference at all, in Scott's view, and therein lies the problem. (Somerby I'll give a lot more credit to. I'm sure he might see at least some difference.)

I'm all for fighting. I know there is a huge gigantic, yawning, enormous difference between history's worst president and a man who just might be saving most of humanity -- and, yes, I mean Al Gore, who I genuinely admire and like as he is today. But not, I guess, to a guy like Scott.

That inability to see any distinctions in the world around him is actually Bush's gravest fault and is one of the many things the media should be discussing more. But, I think Scott would rather I just call Bush an evildoer and be done with it.

Posted by: Bob on December 12, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

To an outsider, it seems to me that the biggest problem is that the Republicans are much better at imposing party discipline on their Senators than the Democrats are.

You might think this is an inherent characteristic of left-of-center parties, but it's not. The Australian Labor Party has perhaps the most rigid party discipline rules in Western democracies - unless a conscience vote is explicitly allowed (which happens once in a blue moon) you either vote with what the caucus decides, or you're expelled.

While I'm not saying that this model is one to directly copy, playing as a more united team, and being prepared to play just as hardball as the Republicans, might achieve better results.

Posted by: Robert Merkel on December 13, 2007 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

In fact, the Senate Republicans are so accustomed to blocking measures that when the Democrats finally agreed last week to their demands on a bill to repair the alternative minimum tax, the Republicans still objected, briefly blocking the version of the bill that they wanted before scrambling to approve it later.

The Senate Republicans agreed when they realized that it created a rift between the Senate Democrats and the House Democrats. You appear to have missed the stories about the disarray among the Democrats.

Posted by: MatthewRmarler on December 13, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

The argument that almost everyone seems to be missing here is that this is asymmetric warfare. The Republicans don't care if the business of government gets done (in fact, they prefer that outcome, according to Yancey Ward above). The Democrats do care that the government functions, so for the latter to be obstructionist at the same level as the Republicans is not possible. The best that the Dems can do is (1) play defense (e.g. don't let them gut Social Security) and (2) occasionally force compromise by holding hostage something the Repubs **really** want (such as the Iraq supplemental or earmarks in exchange for actually getting a vote on the non-discretionary spending bills). Unfortunately, there is not that much that the Repubs want that badly, combined with a President who, as a petulant child with veto power, is not inclined to compromise, even when many of the members of his own party want to make a deal.

Posted by: divF on December 13, 2007 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Replace "non-discretionary" with "discretionary" in my previous comment.

Posted by: divF on December 13, 2007 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

I think what the Democrats need to do is hype the importance of passing a budget based on compromise between the two parties and the president, force the Republicans to fillibuster (even on Christmas and New Years if necessary - point out the budget is that important) and make sure they've been more than willing to negotiate the details. If it shuts the government down, so be it. Keep pointing out the GOP obstruction and Bush's stubborn refusal to negotiate. It's time to take a gamble on it.

Posted by: Jeff on December 13, 2007 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your blog is becoming completely irrelevant. At the time when economic issues that had been simmering below the surface are finally coming to a head, you keep writing about a political circus that matters little in the face of the generation-defining event, the great housing collapse and economic debacle. I know this isn't an economic blog, but the absurdly little attention you pay to the biggest event of the decade leads me to believe you are one of many providing bread and circus to the crowd and leading their eyes away from the very real economic problems at hand. I have liked your blog since the calpundit days, and sincerely hope that is not the case.

Posted by: ille_vir on December 13, 2007 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what you're talking about. From where I sit, Kev has been hammering on about the housing bubble more than any other primarily political blogger.

Posted by: Disputo on December 13, 2007 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Nmjusrss on June 28, 2009 at 4:31 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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