Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 13, 2009

MOTIVATION.... Post-election governing tends to feature a familiar pattern. Presidents take office with high hopes, governing proves difficult, the policymaking process gets bogged down, and supporters get discouraged and start to walk away. It can be pretty disheartening.

Invariably, the new president gets blamed for failing to deliver. Matt Yglesias offers a helpful reminder about the nature of institutional responsibilities.

The implicit theory of political change here, that pivotal members of Congress undermine reform proposals because of "the White House's refusal to push for real reform" is just wrong. That's not how things work. [...]

The problem here, to be clear, isn't that lefties are being too mean to poor Barack Obama. The problem is that to accomplish the things I want to see accomplished, people who want change need to correctly identify the obstacles to change. If members of Congress are replaced by less-liberal members in the midterms, then the prospects for changing the status quo will be diminished. By contrast, if members are replaced by more-liberal members (either via primaries or general elections) the prospects for changing the status will be improved. Back before the 2008 election, it would frequently happen that good bills passed Congress and got vetoed by the president. Since Obama got elected, that doesn't happen anymore. Now instead Obama proposes things that get watered down or killed in Congress. That means focus needs to shift.

Over the last several months, the right has come to believe that the president is a fascist/communist, intent on destroying the country, while at the same time, many on the left have come to believe the president is a conservative sell-out. The enraged right can't wait to vote and push the progressive agenda out of reach. The dejected left is feeling inclined to stay home, which as it turns out, also pushes the progressive agenda out of reach.

There's something wrong with this picture.

It'd be great to see the governing majority give Democratic voters a reason to feel excited. It's not like there's a secret agenda needed to make the base happy: finish health care; pass a jobs bill; finish the climate bill; bring some accountability to the financial industry; finish the education bill; pick up immigration reform; repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Demonstrate that a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president have the wherewithal to tackle the issues that matter and know how to get things done.

But Matt's call for a shift in focus is important here. Remember: nothing becomes law in this Congress unless Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman approve. Literally, nothing. That's not an encouraging legislative dynamic, and it's not within the power of the White House to change it.

It is within the power of voters to change it.

Obama has asked Congress to deliver on a pretty large-scale agenda. For all the talk about the president's liberalism or lack thereof, the wish-list he's presented to lawmakers is fairly progressive, and it's not as if Obama is going to start vetoing bills for being too liberal.

But Congress isn't delivering. The two obvious explanations happen to be the right ones: 1) for the first time in American history, every Senate bill needs 60 votes, which makes ambitious/progressive policymaking all but impossible; and 2) there are a whole lot of center-right Democratic lawmakers, which, again, makes ambitious/progressive policymaking that much more difficult.

The country can either go forward or backward.

Steve Benen 12:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (107)

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Rules reform! It is the only way to break the logjam. Go the nuclear route and make a frontal attack. Start talking seriously about eliminating the filibuster. Every progressive senator should be focused on it. If they REALLY threatened the debilitating rules, the people who used it most might be frightened of losing them altogether.

Posted by: candideinnc on December 13, 2009 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Best breakdown of this conundrum I've seen yet; well done, Steve.

Get off your fat, lazy, faithless, fair-weather, prima-donna arses my fellow progressives/Democrats, or face the next wave of institutionalized Cheney evil, knowing that it will be YOUR FAULT next time.

And if you CHOOSE to let that happen, I will turn a deaf ear to all of your future moaning and whining, as you will richly the deserve the vile, metastatic evil you allowed -- no, make that enabled -- by sitting on your oh-so-'principled' thumbs.

Posted by: I Me Mine on December 13, 2009 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

This is what I've been saying for months now. The problem isn't Obama, the problem is the "Democratic" Congress. When I see my fellow lefties complaining about how Obama hasn't accomplished what he promised, I have to wonder if these people remember anything about how our government works.

**Of course** the problem is Congress. Obama can't pass laws by fiat, after all. That power is firmly forbidden by the Constitution.

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 13, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Backwards, and far, far backwards.

The Rs may not have any appeal outside the South, but they know how to win the power game.

Posted by: Dems lose huge in 2010 on December 13, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK
The country can either go forward or backward.
You left out whine and go around in circles
Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 13, 2009 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

..ambitious/progressive policy making = socialism

That's the crux of the matter.

I've heard the wingnuts claim that Obama wants to destroy our country with his leftist agenda.

DC is at a standstill right now, almost, shall we say in a political purgatory.

Intelligence versus stupidity.

Tax-cuts for the rich versus help for us all.

War for Peace.

etc.

There ain't no way to go furwurd or beckward!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 13, 2009 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Bogus arguement.
This administration has only shown up to push for republican agenda items and has sat on its hands for the D's.

Remember the first War supplemental where to get the Progressives to pass it they came out guns blazing and stated that failure to support further conquest meant that party funds and support for the incumbents would be equally absent in the next election.

Haven't seen that about Health Care Reform.

Or How about the disgraceful brief filed to defend the undefensible Protection of marriage act.

Don't forget that the Justice department has been tripping over itself to drop cases against R's but is still defending the bogus persecution of Siegelman.

Hard at work hiding pictures and proof of torture by us thugs in Iraq but can't lift a finger on DADT.

This administration is a "Manchurian Candinate" but for the right as it carry's out a neocon wet dream of killing off the progressives.

Posted by: Ken on December 13, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has asked Congress to deliver on a pretty large-scale agenda. For all the talk about the president's liberalism or lack thereof, the wish-list he's presented to lawmakers is fairly progressive, and it's not as if Obama is going to start vetoing bills for being too liberal.

I agree with almost all of this, although Obama has done a poor job of helping the public redirect its focus in the manner suggested by Yglesias. Too often Obama has passively treated his agenda precisely as a "wish-list" rather than a "get-it-done list" mandated by the last elections.

I know he's done some to support his agenda through speeches, etc., but if he really wants, say, HCR, he's going to have to break from his style and lead Congress by the nose. He's going to have to have someone shaping the narrative on the news shows every freaking day, quoting polls about how the public supports the President's agenda and scalding the "do nothing" congress and its "obstructionist" members. He has to be all over Nebraska, Louisiana, Indiana and other home states of blue dogs and "centrists," pitching his plans and citing examples of how Senator Centrist's positions are screwing his constituents.

I'm not talking about making noise for the sake of making noise, this is a matter of the squeaky wheel with the 365 Electoral votes getting some grease. And I'm not particularly receptive to the notion that he can't get it done. He's a superb intellect with an excellent capacity for persuasive oratory. He's an African-American, two-year Senator who knocked off the prohibitive favorite for his party's nomination, and then beat a long-serving, war-hero White Guy by winning a bunch of states that should have been beyond his grasp. And while it's still pretty early in his administration, he's going to be this generation's Jimmy Carter if he can't get something done that really excites his base.

Posted by: dr. bloor on December 13, 2009 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I think this "the President is simply a passive player and it's all the fault of conservative Democrats in the Senate" argument lets Obama off the hook too easily. He was elected with a fairly sizable majority of fairly motivated supporters -- what if he had taken an aggressive stance to his agenda from day one? What if he had stepped up the pressure on Nelson, Lieberman, Reid, etc.? How different would health care look? Would Guantanamo be closed? Would we be out of Iraq? I realized when he flipped on telecom immunity that Obama was never going to be a liberal's dream of a president, but I did not realize the extent to which he would simply pander to corporate interests and some middle-of-the-road, split-the-difference, construct that exists mostly in his own head. I am sure I will get off my "lazy, prima donna arse" before 2010, but right now I am feeling a bit disheartened. And when I do get off my lazy arse, it will be to support primary challenges to certain conservative Democrats who look vulnerable -- I will not waste another dollar or hour on the Democratic Party or Obama.

Posted by: pereubu77 on December 13, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

So by all means, Ken, let's have 8 more years of Dick Cheney. That'll make you feel better, right? *RIGHT*? What's your alternative?

You want perfection? Good luck. Want to cut the best deal you can for the country? Then quit whining, punch in and DO THE JOB!

GOP = fear, ignorance and death. Pick a lane.

Posted by: I Me Mine on December 13, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

ken, i've been a leftist for a very long time now, and it's astonishing how many people like you one meets there. grow up.

obama is not now, never has been, and never will be an ardent leftist: he is a modestly progressive centrist.

if you're waiting for an ardent leftist to become president, you're going to have a very, very, very long time to wait. maybe you enjoy sitting around watching paint dry as well.

but in the real world, there hasn't been a president with a truly progressive agenda since 1965, and that was a fluke.

and i notice that despite your fantastical insistence that really, the purpose of the obama administration is to kill off progressivism, you spent exactly zero words responding to the heart of the argument: we do not have a parliamentary system. we do not have a dictatorship. we have a need for 60 votes in the senate to get things done, and ben nelson and joe lieberman and evan bayh and mary landrieu could give a rat's ass about advancing progressive causes, and yet we need their votes. solve that problem first and then we can worry about just how far to the left we can push the president himself.

Posted by: howard on December 13, 2009 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

Shade Tail said:
**Of course** the problem is Congress. Obama can't pass laws by fiat, after all. That power is firmly forbidden by the Constitution.

Okay, then Obama needs to quit pretending that he is happy about how the "progressive" agenda of health care reform, financial reform and job growth has been watered down or hijacked and turned into yet another giveaway for big business.

All we on the left hear is that the stimulus was just right and that health care reform will be fantastic. At least the facts prevent Obama from saying how wonderful the country's employment situation is. . . .

The first step in solving a problem is acknowledging that there is a problem. If Obama wants more than my tepid support, then he his going to have to tell me that he really meant it when he talked making ambitious changes during the campaign. He needs to acknowledge that what has come out of Congress isn't really adequate, but it's the best that he can get the number of unreliable conservatives who call themselves Democrats to vote for.

Oh, and he needs to fire Gaithner and Summers.


Posted by: SteveT on December 13, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

pereubu77, it's a shame to see you use one of my favorite band's names in vain.

please explain to us exactly what pressure obama has to exert on joe liberman? on ben nelson? one would really like to know.

Posted by: howard on December 13, 2009 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

"But Congress isn't delivering. The two obvious explanations happen to be the right ones: 1) for the first time in American history, every Senate bill needs 60 votes, which makes ambitious/progressive policymaking all but impossible; and 2) there are a whole lot of center-right Democratic lawmakers, which, again, makes ambitious/progressive policymaking that much more difficult."

Sounds like California. sigh.

Posted by: IntelVet on December 13, 2009 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Back in 2007 or so I had a conservative co-worker ask me why I did not "support" (paraphrase for "do as I was told") the President - I told him he didn't understand how our government worked. For fourteen years I had served in the US Navy, and the President was my Commander in Chief and I did was I was told (within the restrictions of the law - even the President's orders have limits). Now, I'm a citizen and the President WORKS FOR ME.

As for how I think Obama's doing? I think David Bromwich says it better than I can here:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n20/david-bromwich/obamas-delusion

I like Obama, and I realize he's been given a tough, tough situation, but our country needs his leadership NOW. If he's got a big pair of brass ones, it's time to start clanking them. It's time to start telling the blow hard Republicans and Blue Dogs that screwed our country up to STFU and get out of his way.

Posted by: Glen on December 13, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Howard:

And it's a shame to see you taking the name of one of my favorite ducks in vain.

It is difficult to believe that the President has no leverage over a Senator. As Dr. Bloor mentioned above, he could be all over Connecticut drumming up support for his agenda. He could be pressuring the other Democrats in the Senate to remove Lieberman from his chairmanship. He could critize him on TV. He could be more aggressive in pushing his agenda. More broadly, I think if one assumes I can get off my lazy ass and make a difference, then one must also assume that the President could do likewise.

Posted by: pereubu77 on December 13, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK
If Obama wants more than my tepid support, then he his going to have to tell me that he really meant it when he talked making ambitious changes during the campaign. He needs to acknowledge that what has come out of Congress isn't really adequate, but it's the best that he can get the number of unreliable conservatives who call themselves Democrats to vote for.

Oh, and he needs to fire Gaithner and Summers.

And if he doesn't satisfy you, then what? You'll be one of the nearly 50% of democrats who've already said they are either going to stay home on election day 2010 or are leaning toward it?

And if that's not what you're saying, then what exactly is your point? The message here is that, regardless of how you feel about Obama, the main problem is the Congress. Obama can blather all he wants about how those mean ol' right-wing Dems are obstructing his agenda, but they're far more likely to listen to their constituents than to him.

Keeping Obama's feet to the fire is all fine and well, but the lion's share of your attention needs to go to Congress. That's where the real traffic jam is. Getting pissy at Obama for what Congress is doing doesn't help.

Posted by: Shade Tail on December 13, 2009 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Shade Tail said:
Keeping Obama's feet to the fire is all fine and well, but the lion's share of your attention needs to go to Congress.

I live in Maryland. One of my Senators is retiring and the other is pretty okay but won't be up for reelection for four years. My congressman in Van Hollen, who is firmly entrenched in the Democratic "leadership" and it will take dynamite to get him out of his seat (No, Secret Service, I was being rhetorical, not literal).

I do send what I can to progressive primary challengers and let the sitting DINO know what I did and why.


Posted by: SteveT on December 13, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Oh how the Teabaggers just *love* watching so many weak-kneed, hand-wringing, whiny, spineless Dems/progressives curl up in the fetal position, sucking their thumbs, because in 10 short months their "messiah" hasn't given them everything they want!

There's jubilation throughout Wingnuttia and FReeptardia! The Teabaggers win without firing a shot! Cletus and Clem are doing cartwheels across the trailer park! Jethro is spotting them! Grandpa Cornpants, with his "keep yer gubmint paws off'n ma Soshial Sikurity an' Med-ee-care" sign, looks on in amused satisfaction. They're actually going to stop the darkie Muslim Kenyan Hitlerian fascist socialist communist terrorist (and also a lousy bowler) from destroying *their* Ahmurika, because dainty, feckless, wimpy Dems are "disappointed" in Obama!

You make Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol very happy men indeed.

Concern trolling is so unattractive. If you can't cope with the Herculean difficulties of actually governing, perhaps you need to disengage from the political blogosphere and head over to "realitee teevee." It never lets you down, and it's so much cheaper than Ambien.

Posted by: I Me Mine on December 13, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

The important thing to remember is that whatever goes wrong, it's the liberals what's to blame.

Poor Obama. Poor Senate. A victim of their own rules. About which, of course, they can do nothing. Because... liberals!

Wasn't it awful when Obama submitted his single-payer health care plan, for instance, and it was all watered down and stuff by that evil Congress?

Or when he asked Congress to pass a law setting a maximum size for banks? Or when he asked them to reinstate Glass-Seagall?

And remember when he proposed his $1.2 trillion dollar stimulus package and they whittled it down to nothing? You could tell by his face, that really hurt.

Just awful. Those liberals!

Posted by: tatere on December 13, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

" Remember: nothing becomes law in this Congress unless Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman approve. Literally, nothing. That's not an encouraging legislative dynamic, and it's not within the power of the White House to change it.

It is within the power of voters to change it."


Uh, Steve, it's also within the power of Reid and the Senate leadership, along with the 50+ Dems in the Senate who are more than willing to pass a more progressive agenda.
Or have we given up on majority rule and swallowed the Repub/Media "everything needs 60 votes" bullsquat?
Obama also needs to be much more vocal about promoting such an agenda, if he does really believe in it, and yes, we still need to get out and vote for better candidates(I'm supporting Sestak here in Pa.)--but I reject the notion that the only option is to wait another one, two, or three election cycles in the hopes of getting an even more progressive majority.
We've got a progressive majority in both houses of Congress, and they give the minority all the damn power by allowing an anti-democratic process to persist.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 13, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

God, these kinds of threads are wearying. They so quickly devolve into temper tantrums from people who are idiotic, unperceptive and self-absorbed enough to believe that letting us lose the majority will "show" the Dems and magically produce the result we want. Some world-class dumbfuck commented the other day that putting the GOP back into power will cause America to finally "snap" and elect good progressives.

Then every other participant in this conversation feels compelled to counter this foolishness at length, and the dialogue takes place wholly on the edges without any nuance whatsoever.

There never seems to be any room for people like me who recognize that the problem lies mostly with Congress (and what to do about it is a real dilemma, given that Senate rules changes require a 2/3 vote and red/purple states will not elect real liberals) but nevertheless believe that Obama could certainly have shown stronger leadership (particularly in messaging) on several issues, healthcare reform chief among them.

Posted by: shortstop on December 13, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Wasn't it awful when Obama submitted his single-payer health care plan, for instance, and it was all watered down and stuff by that evil Congress?"

It's fairly amazing how the right comes to believe its own fantasies. But that's the magic of repetition.

Obama never submitted a health-care bill. He left it to Congress. He let Congress know what he would like, but he didn't write ANY legislative proposals.

This canard the right uses - Obamacare - is mostly a ruse to get idiots like tatere riled up.

Posted by: walt on December 13, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

tatere was being sarcastic, walt.

Posted by: shortstop on December 13, 2009 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

God, these kinds of threads are wearying. They so quickly devolve into temper tantrums from people who are idiotic, unperceptive and self-absorbed enough to believe that letting us lose the majority will "show" the Dems and magically produce the result we want.


Umm. Bush did it for the right when he had only 55 seats.

What's the problem.

Posted by: sharksbreath on December 13, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

My understanding of the fifty state strategy, was not only electing Democrats in all fifty states (with the attendant grassroots organizations); areas that hadn't had Democratic attention in decades, but also STARTING to rebuild a seriously decimated party and party platform.

I knew the Blue Dogs would be trouble in 2006, but now we have a chance to get more progressive congresspeople elected in those states. We've got to get the grassroots, well, 'fluffed' in all fifty again. Being a Democrat in a red state was really difficult and depressing for the eight years of Bush, not to mention how the rest of us felt. Now, those Dems have some hope that the party or rather progressives are paying attention to them.

Incrementalism.

It's like turning Bush's Mission Accomplished' aircraft carrier around. That's the image I like best: carriers don't do 180's on a dime.

Plus, it's the Long View. The 10, 20, 30 year plan.

And yes, election finance reform AND Senate reform, but those are snowflakes in h*-l right now.

Posted by: jean on December 13, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Temper tantrums? You mean a lack of enthusiasm for a center-right Party that cannot implement its own alleged agenda is a "temper tantrum"? I've heard some very constructive suggestions that people support progressive challengers to non-progressive incumbents of both parties rather than the center-right party itself. Why isn't that reasonable? I don't care whether the Dems lose the majority because Ben Nelson or Lieberman are replaced by Republicans. And I won't donate money to prevent that. I will support actual progressive candidates, though.

As for disappointment with Obama, sure, this post is correct about Congress' role in all this. I'm not excited about the Dem Congress as a result. And I'm also not excited about a President who escalates in Afghanistan (yes, he said he would do that in the campaign), fails to hold torturers to account, supports Bushian views of executive and state secrets privileges, doesn't seem to care about cleaning up the Justice Department or correcting some of its egregious excesses, supports surveillance over civil liberties, and has a Treasury Department that is, as much as ever, a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs.

Those things aren't Congress' fault. They do contribute to a lack of enthusiasm, though. I'll probably drag myself to the polls in 2012 to vote for a center-right guy I don't so much agree with to avert electing an insane clown from the opposition. That'll be another least-worst vote, not enthusiasm.

Posted by: Don SinFalta on December 13, 2009 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

God, these kinds of threads are wearying. They so quickly devolve into temper tantrums from people who are idiotic, unperceptive and self-absorbed enough to believe that letting us lose the majority will "show" the Dems and magically produce the result we want.

If these people really believed loosing the Democratic majority was for the best, then they would have no need to complain. But they're worried, and they're complaining.

Come November 2010 and 2012, if unemployment is high, people are losing their homes, and cannot get jobs, then they are going to vote ONCE AGAIN for change. If they voted for change in 2006 and 2008 and didn't get it, then they're going to vote for the next guy.

I don't think anybody here is under the illusion that voting Dems out of office will do anything good, but they're also not laboring under the illusion that the Dems have done enough to get the vote for change that showed up in 2006 and 2008. And they're not laboring under the illusion that the economy will be anywhere near the road to recovery by 2010 and 2012. What they worry about is a massive disconnect between what the Dems in DC are doing and what the middle class in America need to survive. What they worry about is that by 2010 and 2012 the comparisons between Obama and Hoover are going to start to stick.


Posted by: Glen on December 13, 2009 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

When the Thugs talked about using the Nuclear option on eliminating the filibuster, they didn't have 60 votes in the Senate. How is it that they were able to make that threat and the Dems are not? If, as one writer pointed out, it takes a two-thirds vote in the Senate to change the rules, what was all the Kabuki about the Lieberman clique and their ability to derail the change?

Posted by: candideinnc on December 13, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

The key is buried at the state level: elect more progressive Congressmen. As it is, the blue dogs would probably prefer a republican dominated Congress because the legislation proposed by the conservative majority would not require any leadership or backbone on their part. They would just go with the conservative flow and win reelection hassle free.

Posted by: CDW on December 13, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Straw man arguements to defend the indefensible.

I never expected perfectition and always saw Obama as a Rockefeller republican. Don't forget that he supported Lierman against the Democratic nominee LaMont in the Conn. Senate race in '06.

The betrayal of civil liberties before the election when he voted to pass the enhanced FISA bill and give the Telecoms, and the bush administration, retroactive immunity for thier criminial behavior was an obvious tip off.

Remember how he spoke on how it was a flawed bill and lied saying he would try to improve it after the election. The only thing he has done is try to further destroy the Constitution by adding more flaws to already dangerous bill.

How about DADT he could kill that with a stroke of the pen but can't be bothered.

There are any number of issues from Health care, to the continued wars of conquest to failure to replace the christianist AUSA's that bush appointed that are still on the job that are all too depressing to list.

Where has he spent his political capital? On War Funding not health care

Continueing bail outs for the fraudulent banks not for main street.

Further promoting a theocracy with his continued support and funding of religions in Government board that bush started.

His economic team drawn from those who created the crisis and still defend the structure that created the problem.

No I never expected perfection but why doesn't he actually engage in an act honest political courage and declare that he is a "liberal" R in the tradition of Rockefeller and Lindsay and give up the pretense of being a a D.


Posted by: Ken on December 13, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Entered office with, "High Hopes." Really? Obama entered office with empty promises that he had no intention of fulfilling. Blaming the Democratic Congress is fine. They're a bunch of losers. But where is the leadership from the White House?

Obama has done nothing to promote anything that would have a meaningful impact on Americans.

With the banks and insurance companies he's extended what Bush did. Iraq, he's sitting on the sidelines letting the policy that Bush worked out with the Iraqis play out. Afghanistan, this surge is right out of the Bush playbook. Gay issues, nada. Gitmo, zip. Healthcare reform, Obama has done everything he can to keep his name off of anything that has to do with Healthcare reform.

The problem isn't that Democrats, liberals, and progressives need to get to work. Obama needs to get to work. Stand for something other than photo ops and Corporate America.

Posted by: johnny on December 13, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK
When the Thugs talked about using the Nuclear option on eliminating the filibuster, they didn't have 60 votes in the Senate.

They didn't need sixty votes. They had 55 Republican votes, and five to seven "Republican" votes.

A majority of Democrats doesn’t deliver a Democratic majority, and a Republican majority doesn't depend on a majority of Republicans.

This country is backwards from Europe. In Europe you fight the election, then form the coalition. Here you form the coalition, then fight the election. Two labels, at least five parties.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 13, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

You mean a lack of enthusiasm for a center-right Party that cannot implement its own alleged agenda is a "temper tantrum"?

Here we go. No, Don, a lack of enthusiasm isn't a temper tantrum, and I'm pretty sure you know that. But if you're having trouble telling the difference, and you think you've never seen a full-blown hissy fit born of wholly magical thinking and untethered to any version of the possible, then I'm presuming you've never been on this or any other center-left or left blog before.

I've heard some very constructive suggestions that people support progressive challengers to non-progressive incumbents of both parties rather than the center-right party itself. Why isn't that reasonable?

It's perfectly reasonable -- in places where it has a chance in hell of happening. When people screech that Blanche Lincoln and Ben Nelson are going down to true progressives in the next primary -- and apparently believe that, should that happen, the bluer Dems will then win in the general -- that outs these posters as people who haven't a fucking clue what Arkansas and Nebraska are like.

Posted by: shortstop on December 13, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's Obama's fault, it's not Obama's fault, blah, blah, blah, blah........ sad just sad.


Of course, a quick look at reality shows the obvious. The current choke point for getting reform done is a legislative body, designed from the outset, to give greater power to sparsely populated states than their population would otherwise merit. And now that leglislative body has entered into a pact to reduce large state influence further by requiring a super majority. It is now possible for states representing 90 million Americans to subvert the will of states representing 214 million Americans.

Think about that. 29.6% or represented America can stop legislation of 70.4% of represented America.

Posted by: oh my on December 13, 2009 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK
Think about that. 29.6% or represented America can stop legislation of 70.4% of represented America.

With a commentariat convinced that that 29.6% is the 'real' America, and the 70.4% is something different, or less, it works just fine. It is even more representative than representative government, because of whom it represents.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 13, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I am sick of watching Steve's unseemly motion towards hackery, but with every post on this subject Mr. Bennen is sounding more and more like a paid spokesman and apologist for Obama's shortcomings as a strong leader.

I know that I have no constructive suggestions on how Obama can turn around the non-compliant Democrats and the oppose-no-matter-what Republicans, but it is a sign of his weakness that he himself cannot find a way.

Of course I don't say that a Republican would be better, or that sitting out the elections would be a good alternative, but I am better than what McCain would have been is somewhat less than inspiring.

Posted by: gregor on December 13, 2009 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK
No, Don, a lack of enthusiasm isn't a temper tantrum, and I'm pretty sure you know that.

@shortstop: Right, I do know that. I also know that the hissy fitters are not a measurable part of the electorate. The unenthusiastic, though, not so much. And their position isn't at all unreasonable. In that context, I think the hissy fitters are doing more of a service to the electorate by providing vocal pushback than the "reasonable" folks advocating that everybody go along to get along.

As for Lincoln and Nelson, of course they aren't going to be unseated by a challenge from the left. The rationale isn't that simplistic. If more Dems from less regressive areas were actual supporters of a progressive agenda, we'd be better off and Lincoln and Nelson (and Lieberman) would become less relevant. Better to devote limited resources to liberal challenges in those areas than supporting the party as a whole. I've lived in Texas for decades, I do have a pretty good idea what the voters in Nebraska and Arkansas are like, and I gladly tell progressives there to spend their money on better people elsewhere.

Posted by: Don SinFalta on December 13, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

The fault, dear commenters, lies more with the Democratic party than Obama. They could have lined up behind Ned Lamont and prevented Lieberman from being re-elected. But no, clubby Senators decided they couldn't play hardball with their good buddy, poor old Joe. Harry Reid is living in the past, where that kind of collegiality paid off in passing legislation. He doesn't seem to notice that Congress is a much colder place now and the nicer he is to Conservadems like Joe, the harder they kick him in his wussy ass when he needs their votes. When the Democrats have the party discipline the Republicans have, they might start getting things done.

Posted by: dalloway on December 13, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

pereubu77, let's see: joe lieberman is next up for election in 2012. i'm sure that if obama spent weeks on end in CT in 2009, that would make a helluva difference to liberman's outlook.

it's amazing, really, to see the wishful thinking: that's obama's leverage on lieberman, huh? to take a big chunk of his time and spend it on retail politics in CT when lieberman doesn't face the voters again for 3 years. really clever.

Posted by: howard on December 13, 2009 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

To the Obama defenders please spare us the condescension. The perfect as enemey of the good examples you're searching for are Gene McCarthy, 1968, who told supporters to stay home rather vote for Humphrey, and Nader 2000. Of course, we rarely remember that the "centrists" stiffed McGovern in 1972, with Meany's AFL/CIO refusing to endorse, nor do we bitch much about the DLC changing the primary schedule so as to give the Republican-general election voting South the decisive say in picking the nominee from 1988 to 2004. For the most part we've forgiven Clintonistas like Carville and Begala for publicly undermining Howard Dean when he took over the DNC, nor have we said much since Obama removed Dean in favor of loyalist Kaine and didn't even have the grace to invite Dean to the transition ceremony. It's as if the centrists have been so bent on being "right" that they have intentionally undermined the strength of the party. That's enough to make you disgusted at their childishness, but I digress.

How soon we forget about Obama's leverage over Congress. Steve's post and the other pushback by the liberal blogs against Matt Taibbi piece in particular and the left's frustration with Obama in general overlook concrete moments when Obama's administration let the conservative Dems of the hook.

Obama intervened to keep Lieberman in the party and keep him a major committee chair. It's Lierberman right now who is standing in the way of HCR. That's gratitude for you.

It was Obama who wanted Tom Daschle, the healthcare industry's favorite Dem, to be HHS secretary and Obama who replaced him with centrist Kathleen Sebelius, and by doing so removed the most viable Dem for the open-seat 2010 senate race.

And to act as if the grassroots progressives have more influence over Red State Dems like Nelson, Landrieu and Lincoln than does the White House, well again it's as if a toddler were trying to figure out how the government works. Obama could act like Lyndon Johnson and tell the roadblockers in the Dem Senate to vote for HCR now, no more stalling, or they can look forward to zero federal patronage in all forms from earmarks to appointments. Lets see if that moves Nelson's conscience on insisting that the Senate bill attach a Stupak amendment on abortion funding. It might even work better than a grassroots letter campaign and Act Blue donations to a primary challenger for Nelson in 2012.

Landrieu, Lincoln, and Nelson come from states that voted for McCain, so Obama's not alienating a player with pull in the Electoral College sweepstakes. Meanwhile those senators pride themselves on bringing home the bacon and having influence with the party in power when they make their case to the right-leaning electorate. Given the cravenness of Lincoln, Nelson, and Landrieu to the medical industries, they might have the same willingness to bend to influence from another direction.

Getting the White House to use the power it has is a more realistic--more grown up even--strategy for getting something done in Congress right now than is telling Obama's left flank to STFU.

Posted by: angler on December 13, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

You know, it's all a big game. No matter who's in the majority its pretty much the same story. Nothing ever gets done. That's the point. Maitain the stays quo in DC so our govermnent remains the cash cow for politicians and the corporations. This healthcare reform process? Just vaudeville.

Meanshile, more layoffs where I work last week. The place has been hemmoraging jogs for a year and a half. We lost two designers, and were told a poertion of our work is being outsourced to china...they're farming advertising out to china. Of course we were told not to worry the advertising department isn't being outsourced...do you think I believe it? I say withing two years the advertising and print production departments will have been oputsourced to china. Forget healthcare, global warming DADT...the outsourcing of jobs is a cancer that's killing this country. It should be the only the number one issue, but no one talks about it. This country is dying and that's why.

Posted by: Saint Zak on December 13, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

angler, i'm all for the left keeping pressure on obama.

what i'm sick to death of is lefty holier-than-thouism and magical thinking.

Posted by: howard on December 13, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

There is no such organization as the democratic party. Its leadership today consists of blue dogs, and those who have been exiled from the GOP and subsequently embraced by the democratic shot callers.

It's one thing to win the presidency.

It's quite another to gratefully, happily combat monied powers as a matter of policy; to intentionally tangle with a corrupt status quo. More is the pity that, unlike FDR, Obama simply lacks the will to fight that good fight.

He is an establishment man, in the worst sense of the term.

Posted by: JW on December 13, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

The fault, dear commenters, lies more with the Democratic party than Obama. They could have lined up behind Ned Lamont and prevented Lieberman from being re-elected. But no, clubby Senators decided they couldn't play hardball with their good buddy, poor old Joe. Harry Reid is living in the past, where that kind of collegiality paid off in passing legislation. He doesn't seem to notice that Congress is a much colder place now and the nicer he is to Conservadems like Joe, the harder they kick him in his wussy ass when he needs their votes. When the Democrats have the party discipline the Republicans have, they might start getting things done.

You do recall, of course, that Senator Obama was one of those clubby guys who went to Connecticut to back Holy Joe over Lamont in the primary? And that he only offered a token gesture of half-assed support to Lamont in the general after Lieberman had built up a healthy lead?

Posted by: dr. bloor on December 13, 2009 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Don't forget that he supported Lierman against the Democratic nominee LaMont in the Conn. Senate race in '06."

The leftwing lie that apparently will never die. With every one of these threads, the distance between the Obama-bashing "progressives" and the Teabaagers becomes harder to distinguish.

Posted by: brewmn on December 13, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Howard, I appreciate the agreement that the president has some power over Congress. Your point about the left and magical thinking is as much of a cliche as is the left pounding elected Dems for not being more to the left. but there's an important difference.

Articulating and, of course, acting on the shortcomings of elected Dems for not advancing a progressive agenda tends to make for more progressive action. Telling the critics they are babies who need to grow up only works if the "maturity" chorus gets off its butt and advocates the same pressure on elected Dems that the progressive critics demand when they say Obama ain't delivering. One is a straight line to progressive reform, the other not so much.

Dean and the DNC is good example of where the maturity commenters are missing the point. Some thought that Dean would pout and fold his tent after losing the 04 primaries. Instead he and his supporters went to work in the winter of 2005 to push the party to the left. They had their critics then who accused them of driving the party off a cliff and committing fratricide. Those critics included Rahm Emanuel and many higher ups in the current administration. It's been a long fight inside the party to defeat the DLC and what now looks to be its reincarnation in the Blue Dog/Obama triangulation against the progressive caucus. This debate is part of that longer battle, not a temper tantrum by the leftwing of the party.

On Lieberman, remind us again what Obama got in exchange for stopping the effort to purge him, not in 2006, but after the 2008 elections.

Posted by: angler on December 13, 2009 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

The leftwing lie that apparently will never die. With every one of these threads, the distance between the Obama-bashing "progressives" and the Teabaagers becomes harder to distinguish.

Barack Obama, 3/31/06:

"I know that some in the party have differences with Joe," Senator Obama said, all but silencing the crowd. "I'm going to go ahead and say it. It's the elephant in the room. And Joe and I don't agree on everything. But what I know is, Joe Lieberman's a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America."
Then, with applause beginning to build, he finished the thought: "I am absolutely certain that Connecticut's going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the United States Senate." That time, people cheered loudly."

As I noted above, Obama did subsequently endorse Lamont over Lieberman in the general, but several days--er, weeks, too late, and several thousand dollars short. Obama never set foot in the state during the general election cycle, even while he managed to get to Rhode Island.

It's not a left wing lie. Get your facts straight, or at least complete, before you start accusing the progressive wing of the party as being akin to "teabaggers."

Posted by: dr. bloor on December 13, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

As for who gets elected to start with: those of you who say you'll stay home or vote Naderish are not helping. Yes, you have things to complain about, but you as the rest of us, should put in your best efforts into getting better candidates. Do it then, because by Election Day it's either pick the lesser of two evils, or help elect the worst. And we cannot afford for the Republican/Christianist/worst-corporatist/right-rabble axis to get in ever again.

Posted by: neil b on December 13, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

There is enough blame to go around. It would be nice if Obama fought more (although he has an impossible task and I have been pleased with some of what he has got done). The democrats in the Senate certainly deserve a lot more opprobium, as they really are incapable of getting their act together. The Republicans deserve even more outrage for creating such an impossible and noxious political climate and spreading so much disinformation. Beyond that, however, during the campaign Obama noted that a lot of the work toward progress had to be done by us, i.e. concerned citizens. Obama is not oriented to partisan warfare and highly progressive politics, but he never promised that. Some of the lack of progress is extremely frustrating, and the influence of Lieberman, Nelson, and others of that ilk is infuriating. Nonetheless, concerned voters can either (a) bitch and moan and disconnect and leave the field for the republicans, or (b) turn up the pressure and build even broader and stronger support for the things that more Americans would support if they understood them properly, like single-payer and gay marriage.

We are better off with a bigger tent than a smaller and more ideologically pure tent, for all its attendant frustrations. Nelson is annoying, but the only plausible alternative in Nebraska is a more conservative republican, so the solution is keep him but dilute his influence by electing better democrats somewhere else. Lieberman hurts, because he should have been replaced by a genuine democrat, and we are stuck with him for a few more years. We need to replace Specter with a bluer democrat in Pennsylvania. Voinovich is retiring in Ohio, and that should be an all-out battlefront for democrats: it is far from an impossible fight (Sherrod Brown is our other senator; Howard Metzenbaum was a senator from Ohio for many years, and they've both been very good). That alone could make Lieberman completely irrelevant, and each additional democrat makes the job that much easier. Pick battles, and keep long-term strategy in mind.

Posted by: N.Wells on December 13, 2009 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

And, Steve, thank you very much for the post.

Posted by: N.Wells on December 13, 2009 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Obama failed by sending more troops to Afghanistan. The only thing our (and their) country didn't need was yet another nice big shot in the arm to the Military Industrial Con-plex. Is there also a habitual lie about bi-partisanship? I don't like to be cynical but facts are facts, they might not make your case but they will never be ignored. We can't even get bipartisanship within our own party! WTF is Obama smoking because I want some? I'm talking honesty not teabaggery, those people all have balls in their mouths. Hopey/Changey is not reality.

Posted by: Trollopoly on December 13, 2009 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

i eat up the political ontology crap of these kinds of threads (and the bad progressive whiner accusations, too -- i'm one, i'm one, whine whine whine)...

the problem as i see it is the "monied interests" (great euphemism) have a game show running in Washington called the Dims v. the Repugnants (or something similar) and it is 50% bright shiny distraction from theft, thuggery and corruption, and 50% protection and power-mongering for the corporations that own everything in this country including most people's souls...

they own Obama
they own the Dims
they own the Repugnants

Until the citizens of this country are desperate enough to hit the streets with protests, boycotts, strikes, and a general breaking of the system in the name of the common good and justice for people, the "good guy" Obama, those "good guys and gals" in the Dim party, and for sure the other riff-raff who run government with their strings all attached to Wall Street and corporate America aint gonna do a damn thing to make this country a decent place with anything near a promising future.

Perhaps there is something to learn from Jewish pograms, the Soviet Union's self-sufficient populaces, and other such societies living in the face of oppression and corruption: If we take care of each other locally and build connections throughout society, then "united, the people will never be defeated..."

but being a dirty fucking hippie for a long long time now, i am sure only other dirty fucking hippies will believe what i say here...

Posted by: neill on December 13, 2009 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

I also know that the hissy fitters are not a measurable part of the electorate.

Good. Do you also know how to respond to what someone's actually written? My original comment was all about how these threads devolve, not about what "a measurable part of the electorate" thinks.

I've lived in Texas for decades, I do have a pretty good idea what the voters in Nebraska and Arkansas are like

It's not all about you, Don, though you keep trying to make it that way. Do you look at every post in wholly personal terms, or did mine just rub you the wrong way?

I think the hissy fitters are doing more of a service to the electorate by providing vocal pushback than "reasonable" folks advocating that everybody go along to get along.

I don't think anyone who hopes to be taken seriously creates such a binary "choice." As I began by saying: too much of this dialogue takes place entirely on the edges without any nuance whatsoever.

Posted by: shortstop on December 13, 2009 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well, perhaps if Obama and Emanuel didn't play "punch a hippy" with quite so much *relish* I might be more inclined to take Steve's (and MY's) line of argument more seriously.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 13, 2009 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

To the Obama defenders please spare us the condescension. The perfect as enemey of the good examples you're searching for are Gene McCarthy, 1968, who told supporters to stay home rather vote for Humphrey, and Nader 2000.

And those examples were so successful for the progressive agenda that you're advising people to follow them in 2010?

Liberals have been claiming since 19-fucking-68 that if people just don't vote, it will force the establishment Democrats to pay attention to our agenda. And you know what happened? The Democrats went out and found people who would vote for them consistently instead, which meant the liberal agenda got left behind.

Please explain why we should continue a 40-year-old policy of not voting when that policy has been a complete and utter failure. At this point, "don't vote" is the lefty equivalent of tax cuts: an irrational belief that has never worked in the real world, and yet the person touting it is completely convinced that the reason it hasn't worked is that we haven't taken it far enough.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 13, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Umm. Bush did it for the right when he had only 55 seats.
What's the problem.
Posted by: sharksbreath

Bush had the Democrats cowed into a corner, arms covering their heads, whimpering "Please don't hurt us! Please don't hurt us!"

That's the difference. Please try to pay attention next time, so you won't make such silly comments in the future.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on December 13, 2009 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

To a lot of us, Obama isn't going forward. He's just going backwards more slowly. No thanks.

If Obama and the Democrats want people to vote for them, then do something that people think is worth voting for. Democrats hold all the cards here. If they want people to stay home, let them keep selling out to big business and attempt to brow-beat us with these scare-tactics.

Posted by: soullite on December 13, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

On Lieberman, remind us again what Obama got in exchange for stopping the effort to purge him, not in 2006, but after the 2008 elections.

I'm still wondering about that myself. I don't see what difference there is in having a 60 seat majority as opposed to 56 or 57 when neither the majority leader or the president ever holds the handful of conservadems accountable.
Could it be that they don't really want to stop their obstructionism? Nah.

Posted by: Allen Snyder on December 13, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's really that simple: IF you want votes, DO SOMETHING.

Posted by: soullite on December 13, 2009 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

What am I? Going not to vote for Russ Feingold, any Democrat opposing Jim Sensenbrenner, and Tom Barrett for Governor here in Wisconsin next Fall?

Of course I'll show up at the polls and vote next November. Until Democrats deliver better results though, I'm likely to tell a pollster that I'm not excited about the election.

And I'll continue to register my disapproval of Obama's leadership. His failures to replace Gates at defense, his renomination of Bernanke to the Fed, his appointment of Geithner and retention of Summers as the leaders of his economic team, his snubs of gay concerns, and his idiotic focus on bipartisanship during the first crucial year of his presidency have all earned him the fail he's getting from progressive voters.

But unless a better, more progressive candidate appears to challenge Obama in 2012, of course I'll be showing up to vote for him.

I'm angry, but I'll get over it.

Posted by: NealB on December 13, 2009 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

And I think Obama really blew it on HCR by not issuing at least some concrete guidelines and demanding that the legislation stick to them--whatever plan he had was so blurry and subject to compromise that it was meaningless. Like with a public option, sure he said he thought that was best for cost control, but as with everything else, he made it abundantly clear that he was willing to compromise it away, and lo and behold that's just what congress is doing.
He just went too far in his attempt to avoid Clinton's mistakes. You give congress 100% control and you wind up with a big pile of shit.

Next we'll be hearing that he's willing to walk away from cap and trade, if he hasn't already, as long as congress has some sort of similar "alternative". Yeah, I'm sure that'll work out well.
I guess I feel that there's been a failure from the executive and the Senate leadership, and saying "just wait til the next election, and the next, etc." isn't acceptable to me, because we don't have that much time.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 13, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

N.Wells said it best for me. History shows us that any meaningful political change doesn't happen overnight. It generally takes years of careful, persistent organizing.

If we do not now have the votes to comfortably pass progressive legislation then the question should be: How to we get there? I'm of the big tent persuasion from the standpoint that I think, in the long run, it is a net advantage for the Democrats to not have a rigid policy litmus test like the Republicans.

Am I agreeing with how Obama and the Democratic leadership has dealt with the like of Joe Lieberman? It smells bad, but you know what? We don't know what's going on behind the scenes. Many calculations need to be made.

Why are folks so surprised that Obama has DLC tendencies? We need get over that and push him to the left by out-organizing the center-right Democrats. That means winning elections rather than withdrawing from the field, as more than one commentator has threatened to do of late.

Posted by: Dr Lemming on December 13, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

The problem isn't with most folks here, who aren't excited but will likely vote anyway, it's with voters who don't follow politics on a daily basis. They just see HCR "reform" being watered down to nothing in congress, continuing job losses, continuing war, the same scumbags in charge of economic policy, etc.
I know that some progress has indeed been made, but it doesn't do much good to say that other voters are idiots because they simply don't see anything to vote for and stay home instead.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on December 13, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

Another illustration of why crazed Republicans can kick democrats asses time after time. What a stupid, foolish post.

Ken at 2:01, dalloway at 3:03, angler and others were polite about it. Not me.

First, only a fucking idiot explains ten months of actual choices by explaining the Inevitably Of It All Because of How The System Works. If you fools really believe this, why didn't you tell us back in January exacttly how it was going to play out? You didn't because it is a shit heads argument typical of those proud of their "nuance." Choices were made. This is reality denying with a smug pretense of intellectuality that is why the word "liberal" has come to be despised.

55 votes passed the civil rights bill but for which Obama would not be president.

Obama is responsible for his standing in the polls land his legislative and military and staff choices. He has made shitty choices. LIeberman proved himself a traitor to decency during the presidential campaign. Because of Obama's choices Lieberman paid no price. No on on the right pays a price for telling Obama to fuck off. But the lefties are at fault.

The "left" will not be the reason the Democrats get their asses kicked in 2010 and may well lose the WH in 2012. As is pointed out here by the fucking idiot shills, the "left" doesn't have the infleunce. The ass kicking will result from the fucking stupidity of posts like this one when anyone who bothers to know which way the wind blows knows Obama is getting his ass kicked by tea baggers. Right wing insanity is now an accepted choice in AMerican civics and it happened on Obamas watch and it is being facilitated by this psudeo intellectual, reality denying, chicken shit about what the Grown Ups know. Grown Ups who Know The Real World don't get ass whippings from Glenn Beck. But heh, the rich are richer, good job Rahm. Good job Obama. It is all inevitable.

Hem haw, then blame the lefties for the incompetence of the administration. It is powerless. Hem Haw, then blame the lefties. Life is good.

Posted by: razor on December 13, 2009 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

I've been a progressive Democrat all my life, but I've come to believe that the dysfunctional government we are saddled with is due not so much to the need for a 60 vote Democratic majority or the fact that Obama came out of the gate with weak presidential leadership. Both are true, but the dynamics between Congressional action and presidential leadership have changed dramatically, too, in comparison with 1965, 1933, 1906, and 1868 -- the last four indisputably progressive periods in our history. (Teddy Roosevelt's administration being a close call.)

The principal reason is that the chief party in opposition -- today, the Republicans -- has become a monolithic anti-progressive force. This leaves the president with fewer choices. As with almost any president, he can't count on every single congressman or senator in his own party to vote as he would like. But unlike most other presidents, he also cannot count on getting one single vote from the opposition party for anything on his agenda.

Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman -- yes, they are big, big problems, but name any other period in our history (after Andrew Jackson left office) when NOT ONE vote could be expected from the opposition party.

Here's the reality: if progressive Democrats cannot elect better candidates to unseat the Ben Nelsons and Joe Liebermans in their own party, either Obama has to step in vigorously and FORCE the Blue Dogs and Lieberman to vote for his intiatives, or he will have to break new ground, work against the shittiest Democratic incumbents, and spend time and money trying to elect as many independently-minded progressive Republicans as possible.

I doubt Obama is ready to do either. If so, and if progressivism matters, then party loyalty should not. It's all about electing effective progressives, whatever the party.

Will Obama have the stuff to do what it takes? I doubt it. I no longer believe he is as liberal as he let on. But if he sends the right signals to the Ben Nelson's and Mary Landrieu's of Congress that he will do it, they might have second thoughts.

Posted by: John B. on December 13, 2009 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

I guess this thread is heading to the point where we just call each other idiots who can't read. To wit: Mnemosyne.

McCarthy 68 and Nader 00 are the examples that get trotted out every so often by those with your outlook. My point is that doing so repeats a one-sided, hackneyed argument that in no way fits the current situation. Had you read on, you might think of the examples of the centrist Dems screwing the party in the name of purity as often, more often than the the left.

Second, this isn't Nader or McCarthy saying stay home or vote 3rd party, and no one is saying we should do that. Instead there's a growing dissent from the Democratic leadership on its failures to deliver after almost a year with control of White House and the Congress. Calling Obama out on his failures to push a progressive agenda is not the same as saying stay home and don't vote.

You might like there to be such a strawman because that's easier to knock down than is the case for pushing Obama from the left.

As for your insight that "The Democrats went out and found people who would vote for them consistently instead." Really? Clinton/Gore built the New Democratic majority that came into office with control of Congress and managed to enact only one major reform in their first term, the tax hike that balanced the budget. For that savvy centrism they were rewarded with the end of forty years of Democratic control of House in the next midterm. Clinton managed to finesse re-election but he could not translate peace and prosperity into a win for his successor in 2000 (win by 55% and you put it out reach of Rove's dirty tricks).

Looking ahead to 2010, have a great time with Nelson and Lieberman mobilizing the vital center. The voters who Dems need to turn out in 2010 aren't the ones with stock options in managed care companies. Instead they're the people who voted for the first time in 2008, many under age 30, and who told pollsters they thought the election was too important to ignore. They are not coming back to the polls in 2010 to endorse a legislative record that comforts Nelson, Lieberman, and business lobby benefactees in the Senate.

The Democrats are halfway to the midterms and they have yet to pass anything on the pocketbook issues that Obama claimed for his mandate. Campaigning for re-election on "things would have been worse without the stimulus" is a long way from cheaper and better healthcare, an end to foreclosures, and an unemployment rate below 5%. Reid and to a lesser extent Pelosi bear responsibility for failure thus far but the president has enormous power to lobby Congress and he shares the blame. What do we do? Tell our friends to vote for the Congress critters who passed a healthcare bill that they won't even see the effects of until 2013?

But never mind, much easier when the going gets rough to repeat the tired talking point about how the party's base needs to shut up and clap louder.

Posted by: angler on December 13, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Where the young knight,
the broken squadron rallies...

Nice post Steve.
The troops needed to hear it.

Bottom line:

We have an ideal president in an insanely unideal situation. We can all find various decisions of his to carp about. But the Palin ghouls and Beck zombies are on the march. This is no time to retreat from Obama or the fight. That's suicide. Like bludgeoning yourself to death in a hairshirt coated with salt to spite your enemy's nose.

Time to suck it up boys and girls.
Midterms are nigh..
And 2012 will be here in a blink.

So try your best to hold your friendly fire.
It's the ghouls and the zombies that deserve all our attention now.
More red laser dots on their foreheads please...

Posted by: koreyel on December 13, 2009 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

I just read a chilling report about the chamber of commerce and the huge budget they have to stop health care reform banking reform and climate change legislation. The people who are fighting against the chamber have had numerous death threats from the right (inspired by Fox, Limbaugh & others) the corporations have been allowed to get so powerful they are ruling the country and the stronger they get, the greedier they get, more jobs will go overseas and we will be a country of the super rich and the impoverished.

Posted by: JS on December 13, 2009 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

We are possibly misguided to think that our votes actually do anything.

Last time I checked, DC wasn't functioning very well
on anything of substance except bailing out bankers.

What's the point of that water-downed healthcare snake-oil of a bill? Did we really gain anything of substance?

What's the point of protesting war when our leaders say killing is okay?

I hate to be cynical, but I am.

The way forward folks is a complete, wholesale exodus of all players out of DC, and start from scratch with web-based polls.

The monied interests run this country, believing otherwise is, quite simply, a pipe dream.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 13, 2009 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, "forward." Ha ha!

The nation has never once moved forward except as a response to a huge conflagration. No conflagration, no "forward."

Do you see a conflagration? I don't.

There outcome isn't in doubt: the comfortable will be comforted, the afflicted will be afflicted.

Posted by: jim Pharo on December 13, 2009 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

In listing the progressive demands, one should realize that the policy plans contradict each other. Passing open borders and supporting unlimited immigration while increasing the costs of energy in the U.S. decreases the employment prospects for Americans. Yet, progressives want to pass a jobs programs. I guess the jobs programs are really make work jobs meant to increase the number of government employees.

Posted by: superdestroyer on December 13, 2009 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Simple question to those who think that Obama is doing just fine and are whining about the big bad Congressmen (dems or Repubs):

Would you have really been that supportive of Obama in Fall 08 if he had said that:

1. He wants health care reform but his main priority will be getting Snowe and Joe to vote for it, and to get their vote he will accept any compromises,

2. He will not under any circumstances support any prosecutions of war criminals,

3. His DOJ will never seriously pursue any wrongdoing by Bush officials in the US Attorney scandal, but on the contrary support GWB's position on the Siegelman case,

4. His DOJ will never pursue any Bush DOJ officials involved in the torture scandal.

The list can go on but you get the point.

Bait and Sitch, thy name is Obama.

Posted by: gregor on December 13, 2009 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

The frustrating thing about these discussions is that progressives insist on waiting for the President and Congress to do things that they have no intention of doing in their present makeup. Like your daddy told you, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Stop waiting on the politicians. For example, work with local progressive organizations, take a leadership position in your union, work in local political campaigns, even run for office yourself. If we really want a more progressive America, we have to build it.

At least nobody here has yet tried to assert that things would have been much better had Hillary Clinton been nominated, unlike many other places where such conversations have been held in the past year.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on December 13, 2009 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

2 things.
-------
"I'm still wondering about that myself. I don't see what difference there is in having a 60 seat majority as opposed to 56 or 57 when neither the majority leader or the president ever holds the handful of conservadems accountable."

At least if it was 57 or 58 the D's wouldn't look as inept as they do now. The meme is that the D's have a 60 vote filibuster proof majority and still are incapable of pursueing the stated agenda of the party during the last election. This obviously does not take into account false flag D's such as Nelson, Lieberman et.al.

The same is true with the house majority. Enough of the philosphical descents of Dixiecrats in the D's caucaus to block anything program or idea newer then from the 1930's.

------------------
Obama choosing Gates as Sec. of defense showed a serious flaw in his judgement.

At issue is how Gates developed the illusion of competence and Principles.

Gates while at the CIA ,or as the National Security Advisor (NSA), missed the Indian Nuke test, helped Saddam during Iraq/Iran War, missed the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, and missed the collapse of the Soviet empire and Country. In fact he was testifying in Congress to promote a greater military budget to counter the strength of the Soviet empire even while it crumbled under its own weight.

This was man, as the NSA and then as the head of the CIA, politized "intelligence" to promote a domestic political agenda during the Reagan/ Bush years.

How is it with such a record of failure and shady dealings ( Iran/Contra) he is considered the indepensable man at defense by the Obama team

Not judgement I would have made.

Not a sign of Good Judgement by Obama and his team.

Posted by: Ken on December 13, 2009 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

The country can either go forward or backward.

wrong. there is a third option - a country can completely fall apart and swirl down the shitter. and that is the direction that this once proud nation is headed.

Posted by: third option on December 13, 2009 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

It is not fair to blame Obama for the Blue Dogs, but it is fair to blame him for his administrative team. When he picked the cream of the insider crowd, he sent a message loud and clear that progressives should shut up and smile. (And the support of Arlen Specter, the now-fake Democrat, is not very comforting either.)

Of course, I am not nearly as angry at Obama as I am at the voters in Connecticut who voted for Lieberman. Anyone with half a brain could see that he would be just as awful as he has proven to be. It is too late now for buyer's remorse.

The problem is that both the Republican and Democratic leadership are very happy with the status quo. We really only get to vote for candidates who will not give the system the severe shaking it needs. The system is thoroughly broken, and I am no longer convinced that there is any way to fix it. I am tired of giving money and voting for a set of people who just use a slightly less sharp stick when beating us away from their carriages.

Exactly where am I supposed to find my enthusiasm? Progressives do not have a majority, and as long as we must rely on a voting population suffering from self-imposed ignorance, we never will.

Posted by: Outis on December 13, 2009 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

The responses to this post (a post I generally agree with) confirm a theory I've had for a while that in American politics, conservatives draw strength from attacking liberals and liberals draw strength from attacking each other.

It's a depressing dynamic, but I'm not sure what to do about it.

Posted by: sweaty guy on December 13, 2009 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

> The responses to this post (a post I generally
> agree with) confirm a theory I've had for a while
> that in American politics, conservatives draw
> strength from attacking liberals and liberals
> draw strength from attacking each other
>
> It's a depressing dynamic, but I'm not sure what
> to do about it.

I dunno - if you ever get a chance to talk to Obama and Emanuel perhaps you could have a teaching moment with them about not attacking fellow liberals? That might help.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 13, 2009 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Next time you're looking for a leader, don't elect someone who habitually voted "present." It may be an indicator that he has difficulty taking a stand. He may disappoint when you want him to, like, LEAD.

As for being upset at the blue dogs for not being progressive enough, the reason they were elected is because they were as close to moderate Rebublicans as they could be ... and not actually be Republicans. Those regions will NEVER vote progressive, and it surprises me that you think they ever would (again, they're just not "enlightened.") In the US, even states full of "hayseeds and hicks" get two Senators. Even tho you hate it, there's some wisdom with that; it does cut both ways.

See, a lot of the country (stupid as you think or not) really doesn't WANT a progressive agenda. Period. What you hate about this Congress is what you hate about where most Americans are politically. Obama didn't get elected because he ran as a progressive.

The Democrat party has such a big tent that it even contains quite a few, dare I say, DINO's.

Posted by: marybel on December 13, 2009 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

marybel, it isn't always clear what "progressive" should mean - but I wish more Americans understood what was really in their own best overall interests and that of the nation's long term future.

Posted by: neil b on December 13, 2009 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

As for your insight that "The Democrats went out and found people who would vote for them consistently instead." Really? Clinton/Gore built the New Democratic majority that came into office with control of Congress and managed to enact only one major reform in their first term, the tax hike that balanced the budget.

Uh, Clinton/Gore is part of the problem I pointed out with Democrats on the left instantly deserting the party as soon as the going gets rough. Clinton did a lot of things that pissed off the left -- total failure of healthcare reform and DADT to name only two -- so they didn't go to the polls in 1994 to show Clinton how pissed off they were.

Result? As you pointed out, the end of 40 years of Democratic dominance. And it didn't happen because Republicans were just so much smarter. It happened because left Democrats abdicated their responsibility to get up off their asses and actually DO SOMETHING TO GET THE CHANGE THEY WANT instead of sitting back and expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter.

Conservatives have taken over the Republican Party because they worked their asses off for 40 years to get their people elected from school boards on up until they took over completely. We can't even stay organized long enough to hold onto power for more than two years.

Oh, but it's all Obama's fault that liberals can't stay organized and desert the Democrats the instant things get a little tough. Funny how it's all his fault that the left has been doing the same damn thing over and over again since 1968 with the exact same result every time. Where does he get that time machine that he changes history with, anyway?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 13, 2009 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK
See, a lot of the country (stupid as you think or not) really doesn't WANT a progressive agenda. Period. What you hate about this Congress is what you hate about where most Americans are politically.

Except that on a policy-by-policy basis, polls consistently show that this is completely untrue. In fact, ordinary voters are going to punish the Democrats for NOT adopting more progressive policies because this precisely equates to not delivering the help those voters want and need.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 13, 2009 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

When Obama wanted to bail out AIG, C, BofA and enrich Goldman Sachs through the AIG bailout, he went ahead and did it despite public disapproval.

Why can't he charge ahead and give us Universal Health care, something the public wants (i.e. make Medicare open to all) by bypassing the congress? He did it when he wanted to save banks from their own mistakes, didn't he?

Hiding behind "congress is an obstacle" excuse shows that he doesn't believe in true healthcare reform with the same passion he believed in bailing out rogue banks. Same with the stimulus package and jobs package. Why can't a President, who bailed out banks with hundreds of billions of dollars in smoke filled back rooms, do the same when the public's interests such as health care and jobs are concerned?

How can Obama find a way to expediently bail out rich bankers, but hide behind "congress is the obstacle" when it comes to bailing out the public? All the rules and congressional procedures are followed when the public's interests are in question, but none of that mattered when bankers wanted to be bailed out of their reckless behavior. No wonder the people are mad. They contributed to Obama's campaign war chest when he campaigned for change, but now are finding out that the bankers' contributions are held in higher esteem than the public's!

Posted by: rational on December 13, 2009 at 10:26 PM | PERMALINK

The equation is fundamentally out of balance. It is relatively easy to get ardent conservatives to step forward, and to follow through with their agenda, because they are motivated by greed and personal benefit, and not saddled with something as pesky as conscience. Getting actual Progressives into office is a much, much harder task. Instead, we tend to get Democrats who are also chiefly following their own personal benefit, and too many of them will only do the right thing when they don't think they have any other choice (example: Arlen Specter, at least as long as he is fearing a primary challenge).

Posted by: outis on December 13, 2009 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

There's an old saying that we get the government that we deserve. I have thought for nearly forty years (since Ray-Gun) that was wrong, and that we'd been conned by the vicious loons of the right into the hellish state this nation is in. Reading these comments, I realize that I was wrong.

Not only DID we get the government that we deserved, but we're about to get it back again.

Four years of Jimmy Carter being stymied by an overwhelmingly Democratic congress only drives home the truth of Will Rogers' famous statement on his party affiliation ... in spades.

Posted by: Hart Williams on December 13, 2009 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

This false dichotomy is pathetic.

It is not about liberals vs. liberals or a big tent.

It is about reality and competent governing given the available choices.

Most of us understand the basic realities of action in the real world. The art of the possibility is something most know by high school.

To use an analogy I know that 107 is not one of the numbers between 1 and 10. But there are an infinite number of numbers between 1 and 10. There are always choices.

What I am fed up with is the decree that we must all agree that there is not an infinite number of choices even between 1 and 10, and that the only number, the only choice, the choice to which we must submit, as the only way to advance the common good, is whatever the current establishment power is doing, even when, as with the current administration, they are fucking up and getting their asses kicked by their republican opponents. They are screwing the possible pooch.

Since the election Republicans have framed the debate. They are winning the framing. The WH dares not take them on. Rumor is it regrets even saying Fox was perhaps not quite a straight up new organization.

My country is worse than it was when Obama was elected. It is in great danger as the evil nonsense popular with about one third of the population becomes the acceptable. It just takes a forseeable storm and the evil nonsense will rule America's federal State and those people know no limits. They will do whatever they want.

And in the name of liberalism fucking idiots hammer on this fucking stupid false dischotomy about the perfect vs the good and all of its variations while my country is getting worse by the day because of a crazed and unchallanged right while the Obama administration has better things to do than defend the common good. Has some angle. Without a peep from blogs like this one. The same hem hawing equivocating seen here when the war on false pretenses with Iraq was under way.Read the polls fools. The Republicans have a real chance and they will not yield any more than a pit bull will let go.

So those liberal deniers addicted to hem hawing over the truth and the common good, hem haw on. You are the englightened. You are also one of the major reasons Republicans have power.

Posted by: razor on December 13, 2009 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

angler's comment is right on the money. Obama is a fool, his chance at greatness is going rapidly, and a tool. Check who gave him the ca$h during the rigged primaries. Yeah, rigged the 'Democrat' Party had to change their rules, kinda like some African 'democracy', to 'select' O'Bomber.

It's not stupidity nor an accident that Liarman and Nelson are allowed to 'sabotage' the HCR package it's...

...just simpler that way.

It allowed O'Bomber to continue to bamboozle the dumb white liberals out their who think that being black makes you progressive. Huh...

Din't work for Rice nor Powell did it?

Get real about politics folks or your children will be asking you the following question:

'Daddy, what's Habeas Corpus?'

And you won't have an answer. Will you, Mr. Jones.

Posted by: A.Citizen on December 13, 2009 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

Why does it prove that you're "left" if you just act like a fucking smug dickface 110% of the time? I don't get that. But judging by comment threads at formerly sane places like this one, it seems to be the primary credential. You prove that you're leftier than Obama by being a sullen emo douchebag. It's fucking embarrassing.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on December 13, 2009 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

All you supposed mature people, explain the treatment of Lieberman.

Lieberman is a committee chairman after selling out the party at every turn. There is no excuse. LBJ would have personally eaten Lieberman by now and have fed the leftovers to the dogs.

How convenient to pretend the issue is something other the competent governance. That it is the VOTERS fault according to the latest at TPM.

Mature is defined as repeating WH excuses for incompetence.

Posted by: razor on December 13, 2009 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone notice how these threads become just crazier and crazier as they go. Anyone left-of-center person who thinks things are worse now than under Bush is so far out that I don't even know what to say. It's so hard to resist throwing out ad hominem attacks when people are showing evidence of apparent complete stupidity.

This is not putting productive pressure on Obama, it's pointless, enervating, productivity killing kvetching, that and not a fucking thing more.

Posted by: Bob on December 13, 2009 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

"I dunno - if you ever get a chance to talk to Obama and Emanuel perhaps you could have a teaching moment with them about not attacking fellow liberals? That might help."

I doubt it will help one little bit. Neither has made an appearance on this thread and it epitomizes the kind of infighting I'm talking about.

Posted by: sweaty guy on December 13, 2009 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'd be more understanding of the stumbling along of Congress if Obama made more public statements indicating whose side he was on: he needs to call out some right-wingers and insult them for fun. He needs to help organize a bunch of liberal mobs and have them harass Lieberman. Maybe invite Grayson for a public meeting and indicate that he's on his side.

Look, Americans are a pretty accommodating bunch. The pro-lifers will vote Republican year after year, even though abortion is still legal and always will be. Why do they keep it up? Because the Republican politicians pay attention to them and throw them some red meat every now and then. Obama doesn't seem willing to go that extra mile for his liberal base, and that could cost him in 2010.

Posted by: Tyro on December 13, 2009 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

Why is it that when the Repubs are in power, with fewer than 60 Senators, they can ram all sorts of crap through?

Posted by: Mauimom on December 14, 2009 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

@Mauimom:

Because they had passion and believed in their ideas.

We know Obama can do it too, as he demonstrated with his second round of critical bank bailouts. When there is passion, Presidents can find a way to get the job done.

Posted by: rational on December 14, 2009 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

"As I noted above, Obama did subsequently endorse Lamont over Lieberman in the general..."

What you said is that Obama endorsed Lieberman over the Democratic nominee. That is a lie.

Posted by: brewmn on December 14, 2009 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

There should be consequences for caucus members who do not even allow a vote on party issues. Right now there is no downside. Loss of chairmanships would be a start. But that would make some Senators unhappy.
Even more important would be to get rid of the filibuster -- that 19th century anachronism now so misused. The filibuster is a Senate rule. SENATE RULES CAN BE CHANGED BY MAJORITY VOTE (50 plus Biden) OF THE SENATE. Changing that Senate rule to allow a majority vote to pass any bill would make many members of the Senate Club VERY unhappy. Senators hate to make their fellow prima donna's unhappy (see above).

I am well aware of Senate Rule 22. I am also well aware of the way around it, well designed by Bill Frist when he was Majority leader in 2005 WITHOUT 60 Republicans The series of steps designed to bypass the two-thirds vote requirement to change rules woulfd go as follows: 
The Senate moves to vote on a controversial bill or nominee.
At least 41 Senators call for filibuster.
The Senate Majority Leader raises a point of order, saying debate has gone on long enough and that a vote must be taken within a certain time frame. (Current Senate rules require a cloture vote at this point.)
The Vice President -- acting as Presiding Officer - has the cajones to sustain the point of order.
 (Do you doubt that Cheney would have?? Would Biden??] A Republican Senator appeals the decision. .
A Democratic Senator moves to table the motion on the floor (the appeal).
This vote - to table the appeal - is procedural and cannot be subjected to a filibuster; it requires only a majority vote (in case of a tie, the Vice President casts the tie-breaking vote. Again cajones needed of 50 Democratic Senators.).
With debate ended, the Senate would vote on the issue at hand; this vote requires only a majority of those voting. The filibuster has effectively been closed with a majority vote instead of a three-fifths vote. Do 50 Democratic Senators have the cajones to do so?? If not, forget this Senate and Congress. They, like Obama, talk a good talk but ain’t got a good walk.
This was the basis for the nuclear option in 2005. To invoke it, takes a willingness by the Vice President and at least 50 Senators to make the Senate less of a Club... and stand up to BS cries of "you're creating a dictatorship" rather than finally invoking majority rule. You think the Republicans would not have used the nuclear option if what they wanted wasn't handed to them by an earlier "Gang of 14?? [ They wanted a set of right-wing judges approved for Federal bench positions.]

Posted by: gdb on December 14, 2009 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the compliment A.Citizen but Obama's still my president and I'd like to think his supporters are less naive nor as racially minded as you say.

As for Mnemosyne, yeesh. For someone with a pseudonym invoking memory this individual is a pretty lousy historian. Quoting M. on 1994, "It happened because left Democrats abdicated their responsibility to get up off their asses and actually DO SOMETHING TO GET THE CHANGE THEY WANT instead of sitting back and expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter."

This zombie lie on liberals not voting and thereby costing Dems critical elections seems to get more filled with invective and emptier of facts every time it's repeated. In 1994 total turnout (39%) was the highest for a midterm since 1982 and hasn't been matched again. The biggest increase was in self-identified conservative Republicans. The biggest shift from 1992 to 1994 came from Perot voters who moved to the GOP (arguably they moved back to it). Democratic turnout was down somewhat from 1992, and the largest drop off was among low income, low education voters, i.e. the working-class. Self-identified liberals made up 18% of the voters. In 1992 they made up 19%. The 1% drop in liberal turnout was not enough to make the difference for Gingrich and company.

Liberal activists were active as always in 1994. Organized labor got reamed by NAFTA but they still ponied up $49 million for Dems in 1994. Other liberal PACs, like NARAL and People for the American Way put their money and volunteers on the line.

They had tough sale to make, however. The Democratic Congress managed to to pass the budget bill that contributed to the late 1990s boom, but its impact on wages, which were dropping, and jobs wasn't evident in 1994. What had not happened was a jobs stimulus bill that Clinton wanted but the Congress cut. Thank Oklahoma Senator Dave Boren and fellow southern Dems for that and for the healthcare debacle. Many of those southern Dems who did not switch parties lost their seats anyway. Meanwhile Clinton postponed a promise to ask Congress to raise the minimum wage. And then there was NAFTA. It made Perot the face of the opposition, and he argued against it on a jobs basis. The "giant sucking sound" was what Perot called the transfer of jobs to Mexico. The main achievement for "working families" was an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, not exactly a show stopper.

As some have pointed out on this thread, the main culprits here are the Republicans. They are the worst, worse than that even. Still, what is to be done? Based on the 1993-94 experience, failing to get a big progressive legislative victory looks like a bad strategy.

Cursing out your fellow Democrats and sounding like an anger-challenged doofus won't help, although it may feel good on this blog thread. But seriously, is that the campaign theme for 2010 that Obama's defenders have planned? "Vote for the Democrat to prove your loyalty."

Ironically a version of that argument will probably work for the partisan liberals who show up year in and year out (the percentage of liberals in the 2006 midterm electorate was identical to 1994) and who do their bit with donations and door knocking. The loyalty scold/trust the president argument will fail miserably with the voters who carried Obama over the top in 2008. They were first time voting youth, independents (they don't care about party loyalty!), Hispanics, African Americans who don't always vote, and low-income voters of all backgrounds who don't always vote.

Start crafting the 30-second ad on a healthcare bill that goes into effect in 2013. Practice the door-knock rap about how 10% unemployment is not nearly as bad as what it would have been without the stimulus. Finesse the fund-raising pitch that ignores record high foreclosures and record high bonuses for bankers. And above all, remind everyone you contact about how in the real world, where there are tough choices to be made, and where no one gets to have it their way, that Goldman Sachs posted its all-time record profit in July 2010.

Ok that's clearly not going to work, but if we don't say anything about it that's what we've got to campaign on in eleven short months. Better to put the pressure on Obama and on Congress to get HCR right, pass a jobs bill, provide mortgage relief that works, and show some spine by standing up to Wall Street.

Posted by: angler on December 14, 2009 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, I'd be more understanding of the stumbling along of Congress if Obama made more public statements indicating whose side he was on: .....

Precisely.

However, methinks that he is not doing that precisely because he wants to lay the blame on Congress.

Posted by: gregor on December 14, 2009 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

You apologists can't have it both ways. One minute you are claiming that Obama is a centrist and campaigned as such, so quit whining. The next minute, you are whining about the system and avoiding fights you might win. How do you reconcile that?

Progressives are getting the same treatment from the Democrats that pro-lifers get from the Republicans. We are being played.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on December 14, 2009 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

And the day looms when progressive reform will require 90 votes to pass in the Senate.

Posted by: SteinL on December 14, 2009 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

security near lime start imposed

Posted by: darlinemea on December 14, 2009 at 5:04 AM | PERMALINK

I think that MF Rahmie has way, way, way, too much 'influence' on O-bought-ma. I think that most of what we hate abt. O-bought-ma the Oreo cookie is that MF Rahmie 'makes' him do. Afganistan, (GAG) Iraq, Iran, BLOODYISRAEL, Healthcare that Joe the LIEberman can vote for GAG, Snow-job, etc.

Posted by: Rose Hunter on December 14, 2009 at 7:07 AM | PERMALINK

However, methinks that he is not doing that precisely because he wants to lay the blame on Congress.

Troll

Posted by: MissMudd on December 14, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

I have a simple solution, guaranteed to work, for the filibuster problem: require that they senate truly filisbuster! To allow cloture votes to replace the filibuster enables the minority to hide from the public. If they were required to stand before cameras, day in and day out, filibustering for 24 hours each day, as in olden times, I assure you that our 24 hour news cycle would be highly gratified and the filibuster would die a quiet death.

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