Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 2, 2010

WHAT 'A GREAT DEAL OF WORK' MIGHT INCLUDE.... Kevin Drum notes what the rest of the year on Capitol Hill could look like, "if Democrats had their act together a little better."

In general, the idea here would be for Obama to submit a raft of popular, highly targeted jobs bills to Capitol Hill and insist that Congress vote on them. One by one, either Republicans would defect and Dems would get a series of wins, or else, one by one, we'd get a series of 59-41 votes that would showcase Republican intransigence on the economy.

But would it work if, instead, each bill were the source of intra-party bickering that turned off the voters, long delays that made Washington seem impotent, and votes that ended up 53-47 because a handful of centrist Democrats insisted on breaking ranks? Probably not. And unfortunately, that's probably what we'd get.

Agreed. I love the vision -- lining up a series of votes on what could be labeled the "Democratic Jobs Agenda," launching a genuine debate over addressing the economy over the deficit, forcing Republicans to repeatedly vote against meaningful jobs measures shortly before the election, etc. -- but I have no reason to hope this is realistic.

The first problem is the one Kevin mentioned -- there are just too many hand-wringing conservative Dems who've bought into the rhetoric of those who created this mess in the first place. It starts with Ben Nelson, but it continues with a large Blue Dog caucus in the House. The party can't seriously pursue the "Democratic Jobs Agenda" when sizable numbers in the caucuses say they want to cut spending and focus on deficit reduction because some poll said it was a good idea.

But I think there's another problem, and it was evident in President Obama's remarks this morning responding to the jobs report. The president, not surprisingly, emphasized the positives and assured the country that we're "headed in the right direction." This rhetoric is to be expected -- Obama wants not only to try to bolster public confidence, but also to position his administration to receive credit for having rescued the economy from a catastrophic collapse.

And while the evidence clearly points to Obama deserving that credit, the rhetorical problem is probably obvious -- the White House can't tout the stimulus successes and generate a sense of urgency for additional stimulus at the same time. Or put another way, it's tough to say "we solved the problem" and "the problem is getting worse" simultaneously.

But the result is discouraging, to put it mildly. As the economy slows, and the risk of a downturn becomes more acute, it's incumbent on the president to call on Congress to act -- lawmakers sure as hell won't do this on their own -- and to sell the public on an ambitious response.

It's rhetorically challenging, but almost certainly necessary. My recommended pitch: Republican started this devastating fire, and the Democrats' Recovery Act put it out. The next step is rebuilding on the ashes, not waiting for simmering embers to start burning again.

Or maybe: Republicans drove our car into a ditch, and the Dems' Recovery Act pulled it out. It's time to get the car moving again, not let it slide backwards.

The president said this morning, "[W]e still have a great deal of work to do to repair the economy and get the American people back to work." I couldn't agree more. But what might that "great deal of work" include?

Steve Benen 2:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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Or, to rephrase your simmering (although 'smoldering' would be more accurate) embers metaphor a bit, the next step is to rebuild on the ashes, rather than pour gasoline on them and then apply a match as the GOP wants to do.


Posted by: Zorro on July 2, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

What might also work is leveling criticism in a non-partisan way, which migh appeal to independents: rather than Republicans defeated a jobs bill (with a Sen. Nelson's help); say: conservatives, Democratic and Republican alike, don't get it. Pimp out Nelson and others. Make it about ideology. Corporations or people.

Posted by: Charles on July 2, 2010 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

It'd be great to hear talk of Democrats making a push to end the filibuster at the start of the next Congress.

But I haven't heard much from people who might actually be in a position to change the rule, and nobody seems to be laying the groundwork for an end to the filibuster. My guess is that Democrats have given up on the idea, if they ever really entertained it at all. This bodes ill for the Democratic majority, regardless of how well they do in November.

Posted by: Jinchi on July 2, 2010 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

@Charles: Say what? we are heading into midterms and you want Obama to call out Democrats? No, no no. All attacks should be on Republicans - period.

Steve you bring up some really good points. Maybe he should go with a "lets not stop now" rhetoric? We are making gains, but we can go harder and faster if we get rid of the obstructionists.

Posted by: Alli on July 2, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

The Rs rightly realize that the more they destroy the country, the more voters will turn on Dems in Nov.

And too many Dems are willing to let them get away with it.

Posted by: Dems Blind on July 2, 2010 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

"And too many Dems are willing to let them get away with it." Yep. Deeply frustrating. I tell my unhappy liberal friends who are busy throwing bombs at Obama that they are helping republicans by doing so, and that no policy position they care about is made more likely to be enacted by empowering repubs. They will not, will never, win by weakening Dems.

Posted by: wvng on July 2, 2010 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

report yields governments

Posted by: jodellepho on July 2, 2010 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

the White House can't tout the stimulus successes and generate a sense of urgency for additional stimulus at the same time

Why the heck not? "It worked, and now we need to do more of it." Or: "It worked, and now we have to make sure we don't slip backward." Was that so hard?

Posted by: mcc on July 2, 2010 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

They will not, will never, win by weakening Dems. wvng

True, but the point that even teabaggers get is that Washington (both Republicans and Dems) is controlled by moneyed interests. The difference is that Dems want to fix things by spending more money, while Reps promise to eliminate government. Dems MUST prove government works. Republicans do NOT.

What we need to be arguing is that government is necessary and we need better Dems, not fewer ones. And the defense of Obama should be that he is actually taking on insurance, bankers, oil, etc. - not as much or as fast as we would like, but he isn't a dictator and he needs every Dem plus more to overcome the monied interests.

Posted by: Danp on July 2, 2010 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

wars repair economies - - its painfully obvious we need two wars - - no. thats wrong. we need three. huh. seems we pretty much have that to. okay four wa.. hmmm. the global war on terror. forget that one. we need five wars to invigorate the economy. or six. yeh six wars. and a draft. an adventure not just a job.

then again....

maybe its time to stop some of these wars. increase revenue streams to wall street. you know austerity programs. punish the gubbermint for investing in and losing money in far off exceptional enterprise operations.

Posted by: Kill Bill on July 2, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

It could work, but Harry Reid has to be willing to grab Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson by their...um, arms and twist really hard.

"Joe, it's like this: Vote for this bill or you are chairman of nothing more important than the third stall from the left."

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on July 2, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats need to:
1) Badger Republicans for specifics on the budget cuts they demand, and
2) Make sure there are consequences for Democrats who vote with Republicans on cloture motions for bills that are core Democratic priorities. OK if they vote against the bill but never be allowed to support a filibuster without consequences on key measures.

Posted by: jb on July 2, 2010 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

"the White House can't tout the stimulus successes and generate a sense of urgency for additional stimulus at the same time"

Sure they can. If Obama wasn't subservient to right-wing ideology he could strongly make the case that:

'The first stimulus dug US out of the Republican Great Depression and a second stimulus that isn't watered down by right-wingers will dig US out of the Republican's lingering Great Recession.'

But that would require Obama to repudiate the right-wing ideology he subscribes to and repudiate the right-wing ideologues that he promotes (see: Republican Bernanke, right-wingers Geithner, Summers, Blanche Lincoln, et. al.).

Obama's right-wing ideology is so rigid it's almost cultish.

(queue Obama apologists fraudulent attempt to claim that Obama's right-wing policies and support of right-wing ideologues is the "New" Dem progressivism.)

Posted by: Annoyed on July 2, 2010 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Reagan was good at slogans. In '82, facing a similar situation, his was "Stay the course." It's a good one.

Posted by: T-Rex on July 2, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

How about "take the second dose of chemotherapy rather than going back to smoking five packs a day" !

Posted by: H-Bob on July 2, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Ain't the fringes fun? To the far right, the Tea Baggers; to the far left, the Tea Smokers.

Posted by: cr on July 2, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

this is a great idea that should have started after scott brown was sworn in.

Posted by: me on July 2, 2010 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

Just two things, Annoyed:
1. President Obama isn't "right-wing" so much as "centrist". Obviously, when one starts from the center and has to give something away to gain votes from those on the right, legislation tends to move towards the right. I am mainly referring mainly to the Blue Dog Representatives and ConservaDem Senators, but it also applies to trying to gain any Republican votes.
2. Votes. If there were enough votes in the House and Senate for the various progressive policies not in the various bills that have been passed, THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN INCLUDED! That they weren't included means they didn't have enough support in one or both Chambers.
I have never understood why anyone would assume that if the Administration doesn't push some legislation, it won't pass. If that is truly the case then what are the House and Senate for? Some form of indoor relief, perhaps?
I do fault the Administration for mishandling some of Democratic legislative efforts, particularly the inclusion of a strong public option, but I also recognize that a strong public option could have been included at any time if enough House and Senate Democrats wanted it. Since it WASN'T included, I have to presume that enough Democrats in one, or both, chambers DIDN'T want a strong public option, and nothing the President could have done would have gotten it included.
Now, if you wish to complain about the number of Blue Dog Representatives and ConservaDem Semators, I will be most happy to listen to your plans for replacing them with liberal/progressive Democrats, while holding onto ALL other seats currently held by the Democrats, of course...

Posted by: Doug on July 2, 2010 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps, in a rare by required move, the Congress could complete a budget and the appropriations bills on time as required by the 1974 Congressional Budget Act.
I know asking Congress to actually do their job is a lot to ask and doing so is so long and boring endeavour, but we could have Michael Jackson's doctor come in and pass out enough Ritalin so even the late Robert Byrd could still vote.

Posted by: Neo on July 2, 2010 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK
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