Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 5, 2009

WEAK KNEES KEEP SHAKING.... In Tuesday's congressional races, voters sent two more House Democrats to Congress, expanding an already-large Democratic majority on the Hill. In 2008, the electorate made a House Democratic majority bigger, and in 2009, Dems went five for five in special elections, making that majority bigger still.

And looking over today's headlines, the moral of the story is that congressional Democrats should be panicked about recent events.

McClatchy reports "already-skittish moderate Democrats" now have "fresh reasons ... to worry." The Washington Post reports that Democrats are "nervous" and "moderate and conservative Democrats took a clear signal from Tuesday's voting, warning that the results prove that independent voters are wary of Obama's far-reaching proposals and mounting spending, as well as the growing federal debt." Politico reports that Democratic incumbents "from red states and Republican-leaning districts" are "worried." The LA Times reports that Dems on the Hill are "anxious," and will now resist the White House's ambitious policy agenda.

Because nothing impresses voters more than timid lawmakers who aren't building a record of accomplishments.

Now, it's possible that some of this is just media hype -- the "resurgent Republican" meme seems to have been decided on well in advance of the actual election results -- but all of these articles included plenty of quotes from hand-wringing Democratic lawmakers, some named and some anonymous, nearly all of whom seem to be looking for an excuse not to do any heavy lifting.

The New York Times' report struck a slightly different tone.

Blaming election setbacks on a drop in voter enthusiasm, Congressional Democrats said Wednesday that losses in governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey -- and a striking House win in New York -- should give new urgency to their legislative agenda, including a sweeping health care overhaul.

As they assessed the results, Democratic lawmakers and party strategists said their judgment was that voters remained very uneasy about the economy and did not see Democrats producing on the health, energy and national security changes they promised when voters swept them to power only a year ago.

"Most of us ran on that," said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia and president of the party's freshman class. "We must deliver. I need to give Democrats something to be excited about."

Every one of the articles this morning highlighted the motivated, active Republican base. And yet, most of the panicky center-right Dems who want to slam on the brakes seemed to have no interest at all in generating any excitement within the Democratic base.

This doesn't seem especially complicated. Voters handed Democrats a huge majority, not to sit on their hands, but to deliver on their agenda. A year from now, lawmakers will have to tell their constituents something about how (and whether) they took advantage of the opportunity. Do any of these vulnerable incumbents seriously think they're better off with a depressed, unmotivated base and a short list of legislative accomplishments? Dems fared well in 2008 when young, minority, urban, and suburban Democrats and independents turned out in droves. Does the party think they'll thrive if these folks stay home?

If Dems had lost the special elections, the weak knees would be easier to understand. But this year, given a choice, voters sent more Democrats to the Hill, giving the party a better chance at passing its agenda.

The party should take "yes" for an answer.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

And they wonder why they won't get a dime from me, to protect their asses while doing nothing for anyone but the rich.

Posted by: Right Wing Always Right on November 5, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Chicken-hearted Democrats in Congress may want to remember these words from Ben Franklin:

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." -- at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

Posted by: David W. on November 5, 2009 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

the "resurgent Republican" meme seems to have been decided on well in advance of the actual election results ..........

Yep, the Repiglcian/Corporate Media doing it's finest job to manipulate public perception .. The corporate media is operating as one ... The Corporate Masters dictate a 'story line' and then all the puppets that their hire, called 'journalists', do their bidding on command. Remember the words of Scott McClellan: 'the media is actively complicit' ..... it sure the fuck is .......

Posted by: stormskies on November 5, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Too many Democratic politicians are wary not because of any supposedly 'big wins' by Republicans in completely irrelevant (from a law-making standpoint) gubernatorial races, but from the fact that they did indeed run on a 'change' mantra.

That is, many politicians are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place--do they think they should actually realize change to keep voters happy, or do they shuffle their feet and navel gaze against change to keep the corporations and oligarchs--who sadly 'own' many of them--happy? I think there are too many of the latter and not nearly enough of the former.

This is, I think, the real problem with our system, and it all starts with campaign finance reform. Without it or something very similar to it, the best interests of the people will never be represented faithfully, and our system will continue with the corporations' best interests represented instead. And our society will continue to devolve back to serfdom.

Posted by: terraformer on November 5, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

As so frequently, Jon Stewart last night provided the evidence: Ari Fleischer from 2001 saying Virginia gubernatorial election local, and Campbell Brown saying the media is going to be saying what it is saying whether it is true or not.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on November 5, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

-you mention the 'republican meme' (an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, esp. imitation.)

How about the Main Stream Media meme: Let's all march in lock step, playing the same tune- first heard on Fox News, and picked up by the NY Times. (the "Paper of Record")

So much easier than doing some original reporting. Or thinking. . .

Posted by: DAY on November 5, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

I'm used to the MSM marching in lock step and sharing one damaged brain, but the blatant ignoring of reality just seems more stunning than usual.
The Dems gained seats in the House, won every special election this year, and Obama is rebuked?

And how many times do the Dems need to learn, if you run as a Repub-lite candidate and run from your party's base, you're going to lose to the real Repub? See Virginia.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on November 5, 2009 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Healthcare reform is going to pass in the House day after tomorrow. Don't waste time worrying about what the corporate media is trying to push. We won the only races thast mattered this week. Either they are stupid enough to fall for republican spin or they could give a shit about America like the republicans. We will have a bill soon.

Posted by: Patrick on November 5, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

And yet, most of the panicky center-right Dems who want to slam on the brakes seemed to have no interest at all in generating any excitement within the Democratic base.

That's because the conventional wisdom holds that the Democratic base is a teeny-tiny minority of ultra-extreme far-left communo-marxist fascists who want to force all Americans to have gay abortions. At least, that's how the base is portrayed in the media. So doing anything the Democratic base might like simply labels the Democrats as leftists who hate America.

Any wonder why the "centrists" have no interest in exciting the Deomcratic base?

Posted by: Domage on November 5, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

I caught a little bit of Morning Joe this morning while eating my bagel. Joe was nowhere to be found, but Mika and friends were having a good ol' time laughing at Dems and their efforts to "spin" Tuesday's election results in their favor. Mika and her panel unanimously agreed that the only races that mattered were the two that the Dems lost, and that both gubernatorial races were messages to the national Democrats.

MSNBC. The liberal news channel?

Posted by: Chris on November 5, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

In the past, I've been reluctant to blame too much on the influence of lobbyists and campaign money but how else do you explain large blocks of lawmakers energetically avoiding pleasing their own constituents?

Posted by: Paul Dirks on November 5, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Let's get some terminology straight.

"Centrist" Democrats are not centrist in the sense that - say - they represent labor union districts and are not terribly in favor of gay rights.

Rather they are centrist in that they are pro-corporation and use "bipartisanship" as an excuse for everything. They answer to their corporate contributors and to K St. and not to their consituents.

And the time has come to give such "centrists" the push. I don't mean a wimpy primary challenge. Get rid of them. If that means an outright Republican instead, so what?

They should fear for their jobs - from us.

Posted by: Maximillian on November 5, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

0 increased news models

Posted by: garrdupui on November 5, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Obama gets accused sometimes of being timid and not acting on his mandate, etc., but when I read articles like this I really think he's being about as bold as possible with such chicken-shit congressional Dems backing him.

Posted by: YDV on November 5, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

In the past, I've been reluctant to blame too much on the influence of lobbyists and campaign money but how else do you explain large blocks of lawmakers energetically avoiding pleasing their own constituents?

This is the only explanation that I can see, these guys see more influence from corporations and their lobbyists as that is who actually pays for their campaigns.

The largest problem in America today is the First Amendment protection that is afforded to corporations and their lobbyists to "influence" legislation. In every other country in the world it is called by its rightful name, bribery. The sad thing is that with the composition of the Roberts court that problem will not be solved in my lifetime.

Posted by: DBaker on November 5, 2009 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

"The tragedy of life is what dies within a man while he lives." Albert Swetzer. Not that these aretruly men, but ....

Posted by: Greg Worley on November 5, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

A continuation of the "everything is always good news for Republicans" narrative.

"Republicans given absolute power from 2001-2006 to implement everything they've been advocating for a generation, leading to total catastrophe and meltdown on all fronts, thereby absolutely disproving their models, discrediting everything they stand for and destroying their credibility. This is good for the Republican party. Because ..."

The rest of that paragraph is just marginally creative, shameless bullshittery, as it always is.

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

I've been a loyal Dem all of my life.

They are losing not only my enthusiasm but also my $$ until I see some results.

I am so damn sick of Washington.

Posted by: Trinity on November 5, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Governing for reelection is like teaching for standardized test scores. It does nothing but pull you away from the reason you got into it for in the first place. And insures an utterly mediocre society.

Posted by: Chrenson on November 5, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

So conservative Democrats thing they can beat a Republican challenger by opposing Obama? That's idiotic. A Republican can do that much better than a Democrat can.

They think they can win over the Teabagger vote? Even mildly conservative Republicans won't get that vote. And FOX News and wingnut radio will keep feeding the crazies with motivational lies.

If they want a chance to win, they need to head into the election fighting, not hiding.

Posted by: Gene Ha on November 5, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

People should read up on the Bourbon Democrats. Democrats have hated their base all the way back to Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, and Walter Lippmann. Read "Profiles in Courage": a courageous leader is one who defies the people who voted for him. The DLC and the counterintuitive saboteurs of the 90s were nothing new.

Posted by: John Emerson on November 5, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Two more Democrats?

CA-10 was already held by a Democrat. The new Democrat may be slightly more willing to vote for Pelosi's lunatic agenda, but that's not guaranteed. No real change there.

As for NY-23, better an honest Democrat than a "Republican" traitor who would have been a token vote for more "bipartisan" spending boondoggles. But don't count Owens as a rubber stamp; if he wants to keep his new job, he might be less willing to sign up to support Pelosicare &c. than you think. As a freshman, he has little to lose.

Independents are already fleeing from the Democratic party, as was demonstrated by the results in NJ and VA. Blue Dogs are not idiots, and those who retain their survival instincts will stay as far away from Pelosi's agenda as possible.

Posted by: mwl on November 5, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Ok, I'll bite:

What is "Pelosi's lunatic agenda? pray, tell?

Posted by: DBaker on November 5, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

They are losing not only my enthusiasm but also my $$ until I see some results.

This is an understandable reaction. But is the passive bank shot an effective strategy against active opposition?

There should be some kind of escrow campaign contibution mechanism. Promised real money available but contingent on specific results.

Posted by: apm on November 5, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and Mr./Ms. mwl, fellow conservative traveler Rick Moran has something to you:

http://rightwingnuthouse.com/archives/2009/11/02/the-anti-reason-conservatives

Posted by: DBaker on November 5, 2009 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

@DBaker

Don't you know that Republicans have decided that Pelosi is the evil mastermind behind socialism? She's a woman in a position of power! What could be worse!!!

Posted by: RickD on November 5, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter DBaker: "Gosh that Rick Moran was such a douche bag, but that was before he wrote something I agree with. Now he's the bees knees!"

Fuck Rick Moran and the horse he rode in on no matter what drivel he produces.

Posted by: Grimm on November 5, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

There should be some kind of escrow campaign contibution mechanism. Promised real money available but contingent on specific results.

Best idea I've heard all week.

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

If the chicken-shit feckless Democrats continue to veer rightward, any 2010 rebuke will be richly and rightly deserved.

Posted by: Bobo Teh Clown on November 5, 2009 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

@DBaker: Pelosi's lunatic agenda is the complete legislative redesign of 16% of the U.S. economy. I live in Massachusetts; I have already seen this system in action. All it will do is to drive up costs even further.

@RickD: Women or minorities in power don't scare me. Crazed ideologues with a scanty grasp of reality in power DO scare me.

Posted by: mwl on November 5, 2009 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Women or minorities in power don't scare me. Crazed ideologues with a scanty grasp of reality in power DO scare me.

I agree. Bachmann and Inhofe scare me too.

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

And yet, most of the panicky center-right Dems who want to slam on the brakes seemed to have no interest at all in generating any excitement within the Democratic base.

Of course not. The "Democratic base" didn't elect these scum - the special interests that line their pockets and their family members' pockets did. And they know which side their bread is buttered on.

Time to take a lesson from the teabaggers and primary these scum.

Posted by: TCinLA on November 5, 2009 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

The current problem with progressivism today is that its relationship with the federal government, the judiciary, and the Democratic Party is that - too often - it is not one of utility but of dependency.

Take health care reform. Let us suppose reform fails ( or is unduly watered down. ) What's the Plan B?

Of course, given today's context, the federal government, the courts, and the Dems are important tools for progressives to use - or at least to consider - in order to accomplish their objectives. To deny that would simply be to deny reality.

And, at minimum, it remains important to demonstrate that these tools are ineffective before turning to other alternatives.

But it is vital that these alternatives exist - because far too often progressives are written off as dependents with nowhere to go.

Furthermore, given globalization and other new developments, the New Deal / Great Society type formulas no longer fit the current situation.

Posted by: Erasmus on November 5, 2009 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

NY-23 is nothing to brag about. In a district Obama carried 52-47, the Democratic candidate managed only a 4% margin of victory against a candidate who a) did not even live in the district and b) knew demonstrably nothing about local issues. That Owens didn't win this one in a blowout against a man who can only be described as a cipher is serious cause for concern.

Posted by: jxb23 on November 5, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

As for NY-23, better an honest Democrat than a "Republican" traitor who would have been a token vote for more "bipartisan" spending boondoggles. But don't count Owens as a rubber stamp; if he wants to keep his new job, he might be less willing to sign up to support Pelosicare &c. than you think. As a freshman, he has little to lose.

Always nice to have the Village Idiot from RepublicanWhackadoodleWorld show up and provide a little levity in the morning.

But thank you so much, MWL, for demonstrating that homo sap - the biped that lacks both opposable thumbs and a neocortex - can use a computer just like a real person.

Posted by: TCinLA on November 5, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, time to say outright that the corporate Media owners (even if not the J-school pawns) prefer Republican rule and will press to spin it on their behalf. Yeah, Faux Noise is worse but the big story should be: they are all whores except maybe outfits like Huff-Po etc. (and see how The Atlantic went bad, etc.)

Posted by: N e i l B ♠ on November 5, 2009 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

That Owens didn't win this one in a blowout against a man who can only be described as a cipher is serious cause for concern.

Why pretend that the last-minute timing of Scozzafava's resignation had nothing to do with the outcome? You're judging the outcome as though there was a normal-length campaign between only Owens and Hoffman, and that's, frankly, horseshit.

I know you're just repeating Glenn Beck's opinion, but still - just because someone's head appears in the magic box, that doesn't mean they know what they're talking about. Just FYI.

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

DH, repeating Glenn Beck? You obviously have no idea what you're talking about, and apparently lack basic reading comprehension skills. I referred to Hoffman as a "cipher." If you're unfamiliar with that word - let me just tell you it's not a flattering description. I hardly think Beck would describe his acolyte as a cipher.

The length of the campaign is irrelevant to the point I made, which you never really addressed, except to call it "horseshit." Again, I will ask: How is it not problematic that a man who knows nothing about local issues and who does not live in the district could hold Owens to such a thin margin of victory?

Keep on foaming at the mouth there, buddy.

Posted by: jxb23 on November 5, 2009 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

The length of the campaign is irrelevant to the point I made

Incorrect. Much of the dynamic during the election had to do with Scozzafava and Hoffman. It was exactly Hoffman's bona-fides as a conservative that were supposed to make up for his being a clueless carpetbagger - an entire set of issues that wouldn't have come up in a Hoffman-vs-Owens campaign. And among the right-wing faithful, all that matters is that he's one of them, cipher or no, so your claim in that regard is nonsensical.

Your main point is that because Owens didn't win in a blow-out, this is bad for Democrats. This is exactly Beck's opinion (complete with Yankees reference). I don't buy for a second that you're unaware of it.

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

MWL - A Baltimore/San Francisco lifelong party machine politician is a "crazed idealogue?" The Speaker of the House SCARES you? What are you a mouse? Why are conservatives so terrified of everything and everybody that they disagree with? Gays marriage - oooooooh, scary. Saddamm Hussein is under my bed! National healthcare INSURANCE - Daddy Cheney, help me!

Try this approach - "the opposing parties policy is bad because..." You can do it mwl! Now, wildly claiming without support that expanded national healthcare INSURANCE will be more expensive doesn't do it. The Mass system has nothing to do with the public option. Mass does NOT have a public option. Nor does Mass have to deal with trimming medicare. Mass has employer mandates which are a Republican idea which is a sop to the Republicans and insurance industry.

Now, peak out over the covers and come on out. It's safe out here.

Posted by: Wally on November 5, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

And yet, taking "yes" for an answer is not a hallmark of the modern Democratic Party.

Posted by: Algernon on November 5, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah .. everything is just fine .. at this rate the Democrats will have enough House seats to ignore the "Blue Dogs" by 2010.

Nothing to worry about here.

Posted by: John Q Public on November 5, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Again, a good take on how Deeds lost in VA by running away from progressives, not from being too liberal (which he clearly isn't):
http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/12875

Posted by: Neil B ♠ on November 5, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

@TCinLA: It's always nice to see a progressive descend to ad hominem insults, it demonstrates that you're incapable of refuting my arguments.

Posted by: mwl on November 5, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

it demonstrates that you're incapable of refuting my arguments.

You have arguments?

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

DH, as you acknowledge, all Hoffman had going for him was his alleged conservative bona-fides. That was it. In a direct contest between Hoffman and Owens, there's no reason to believe he wouldn't have run the same type of campaign. What else *could* he have done? How else could he - a man who, as you put it, is a "clueless carpetbagger" - have styled his campaign? He would've emphasized his ideological purity and hoped he could've drawn out enough conservatives to eke out a victory.

Moreover, do you not think Dede's last minute endorsement helped Owens? It probably made all the difference in the end. With so many factors in his favor - a polarizing opponent, an endorsement from a Republican, a fractured Republican base, a district relatively friendly for Democrats - he still barely pulled himself over the finish line.

Posted by: jxb23 on November 5, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

jxb23 - you're entirely missing the point. With a more time spent in a one-on-one matchup between Hoffman and Owens, nowhere near as much time would have been spent on Hoffman's conservative credentials (which would have been stipulated to, obviously, by any Democratic opponent). This would have given the Owens campaign, and the public, far more time and scrutiny to, you know, everything else about Hoffman.

How else would Owens have ran his campaign? You have to be kidding me. If Owens had run an anti-Hoffman campaign against Hoffman, he would have done really well. If he ran an anti-Hoffman campaign against Hoffman and Scozzafava, then that would have been a giant windfall for Scozzafava, and he would have lost handily.

Can you really not understand any of this?

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hoffman, um, to point out the obvious, had already been exposed for what he was, and yet STILL came pretty damn close to winning that race. Whether people had months or days to figure that out is beside the point, as a large number of people in that district - knowingly - voted for someone who did not understand local issues, evidently just because of his ideology.

And yes, Hoffman would've run to the base, and would have run as a movement conservative, because that's all he could've done. That was his entire raison d'etre.

My point was about Hoffman, not about Owens (you need to brush up on your reading comp skills), but obviously Owens would've focused all his fire on Hoffman from the beginning in a two-person race (duh). One has to wonder, though, given the fact that Hoffman made himself (through no help from his opponents) look like a fool who didn't understand local issues, how much that would have mattered. That's where we disagree - you think significantly, I think minimally.

Posted by: jxb23 on November 5, 2009 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

jxb23: First off, in the paragraph I was responding to, the "he" pronoun is expected to refer to the nearest antecedent ("Owens" in this case). Any English grammar textbook will tell you that.

Second, I think you're discounting party loyalty, in this case among moderate Republicans. Spending less time thinking about "what kind of Republican should we have" in the somewhat absract, and more time thinking "what, THIS moron?" would have appealed to their better senses. But you're right - we just think differently about it.

The idea that the Dems are "in trouble" because Hoffman "barely" won is still horeshit, though. How is a Democrat winning NY23, by any margin, not itself a blowout?

Posted by: DH Walker on November 5, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

I have received a number of Democratic fund raising calls, and I have told each of them to call me once a health care bill has been signed into law. If a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress can't address the country's largest domestic issue, then they don't deserve to hold power.

Posted by: Magic Dog on November 5, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

p.s.: I should point out that my political donations to Democrats and liberals in the past five years have been about $30,000. So I am on all the lists.

Posted by: Magic Dog on November 5, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yesterday on NPR they did not report the results of NY-23 on any of the morning half-hour news updates. On the Talk of the Nation Political Junkie segment they made no mention of it either. Anyone else notice this?

Posted by: Chris on November 5, 2009 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK
It's always nice to see a progressive descend to ad hominem insults, it demonstrates that you're incapable of refuting my arguments.

LOL.... Dear heart, you didn't *make* any arguments; you simply spewed partisan drivel. Maybe that sort of thing goes over well in your usual forums; here, not so much.

Posted by: PaulB on November 6, 2009 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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