Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 2, 2010

'A RARE BUT CLEAR AND UNOBSTRUCTED VIEW OF WHAT THAT PARTY STANDS FOR'.... My friend Rachel Maddow has been on quite a roll lately, with some tremendous pre-election segments related to the campaign cycle, the candidates, the parties, and what's at stake. Last night's recap of the legislative record of the last 21 months was especially noteworthy.

Rachel noted what we all assume to be true -- "Republican will pick a lot of seats" today, and we "will likely be entering into a period of divided power" -- but she took stock of what Democrats delivered. Indeed, she noted that when one party controls the levers of power, Americans get "a rare but clear and unobstructed view of what that party stands for, what that party's made of, what that party values."

And at that point, Rachel began a stroll down memory lane, noting the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as the first Democratic accomplishment of 2009. It was soon followed by new consumer safeguards related to credit card companies, long-awaited regulation of the tobacco industry, a hate-crimes bill, expansion of children's health care, and a national service bill.

Then there's the bigger-ticket, better-known items: sweeping student-loan reforms, the successful cash-for-clunkers program and the rescue of the American automotive industry, the economy-saving Recovery Act, the Affordable Care Act, and Wall Street reform.

Rachel also took note of the words of the national commander of the American Legion, who explained that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress did more for veterans in these last 21 months than has been done in a very long time.

"The Democratic Party has had control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives for the last 21 months," she concluded. "Forget the individual fights over the individual provisions of the individual bills. Forget the lost amendment fights and the process complaints.

"Democrats had a choice when they became the governing party. When they won those last two elections and they took control of the two branches of government that are subject to partisan control in our country, they could have governed in a way that was about accumulating political capital with the primary goal of winning the next election. They could have governed in constant campaign mode. Or they could have governed in a way that was about using their political capital, not accumulating more of it, about spending the political capital they had to get a legislative agenda done, to tackle big, complex, longstanding problems that had languished.

"The record of legislative achievement of the last 21 months was not designed to win the midterm elections and it will not win the midterm elections. The pendulum will swing back toward the Republicans and we'll go back to divided government again. The legislative agenda of the last 21 months was policy, not politics. It was designed to get stuff done for the country. And in that sense, it's an investment in long-term political reward, not short-term political reward, as Democrats expect after a list of accomplishments like this to be judged as the party that took on problems when it had the chance, even if they had to pay a short-term political price.

"The political capital that Democrats accumulated over the last two elections was spent in these last 21 months. And it was spent on policy, hard votes with long-time horizons that don't translate into killing the other party in the next election.

"If you listen to the criticism, particularly from the left, heading into these elections, what you often hear is that Democrats are going to lose in these elections because they didn't get enough done. You know, big picture, if that were true, that would be depressing. It's not actually the true big picture, though. The fact is, that Democrats got a lot done, a lot of hard stuff done on hard problems in a short amount of time. The price they may end up paying for that is losing a midterm election. Democrats' choice is whether or not it's worth it."

Steve Benen 11:20 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

Sadly, the voters will go the polls today, complaining, "But what have you done for ME?"

Posted by: DAY on November 2, 2010 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, stupid voters facing 10% unemployment and massive foreclosures that national Democrats have promised not to do anything about.

Posted by: Tom Allen on November 2, 2010 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

I hate those stupid MSNBC videos. They never work for me, whether embedded or on the home site. Those guys really need to get a competent coder.

Posted by: Shade Tail on November 2, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Too Late! The Democrats let the Repubs control the narrative. Obamacare, failed stimulas plan, Huge deficits etc. Obama wasted a lot of time trying the non-partisan route.

Posted by: EDR on November 2, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, stupid voters facing 10% unemployment and massive foreclosures that national Democrats have promised not to do anything about.

Yeh Tom? And what exactly will the Republicans do about unemployment? Lower taxes? Cut government spending so that more state and local government employees will get laid off?

And I suppose that the Republicans will do something about forelosures too. Most likely they will make it easier for investors to foreclose and salvage what they can, home owners be damned. Probably pass a law so that affidavits no longer have to actually be signed, let alone verified. They'll call it the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief Act of 2011.

Posted by: majun on November 2, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

+ Federal stem cell funding

Posted by: RolloTomasi on November 2, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I think what voters are angry about is not that the Democratic congress did nothing -- it's that they made incremental adjustments to a now fundamentally flawed system. Voters want revolutionary change. They're not going to get it via the ballot box, but that's what they want.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on November 2, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The Fighting 111th

And this aptly named site:

http://whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com/

Posted by: koreyel on November 2, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Remus, voters don't know what they want, revolutionary or otherwise. They know they aren't happy -- but that is about the extent of it.

"Voters" want the revolutionary change of Washington being more about 'everyday Americans' than about Wall Street or Big Business -- but "Voters" also sent tens of thousands of dollars to the freaking US Chamber of Commerce because Glenn Beck told them to.

One reason Washington doesn't change is because of the extraordinarily mixed messages "voters" send, and because of how often they mix them.

Posted by: zeitgeist on November 2, 2010 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with Maddow; Democrats have done a lot in policy matters. What they should also been doing is controlling the narrative. Dr. Krugman pointed out a long time ago, this is the time for a partisan president. Republicans are the abusive element in this marriage. As long as we let them get away with it, they will beat on US until we bleed. And then they will tell us to like it.

Posted by: Darsan54 on November 2, 2010 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

The Fighting Firebaggers

I noticed Jon Stewart's march convinced Olbermann to tone down.
Well done Jon!
Quite the victory there...

And Jame Hamster and her pack of liberal rats?
What have they done?
And Glenn Greenwald?
What has he done?

Nothing but cripple this Congress and this Administration.
Bah...

Posted by: koreyel on November 2, 2010 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

We have nothing to fear but fear itself?

Posted by: Trollop on November 2, 2010 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Look, Republican policies will obviously (IMHO) make things much worse. But for national Democrats to defend the status quo in the midst of such a huge economic crisis is, to me, mind-boggling.

Posted by: Tom Allen on November 2, 2010 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

A little late, but well done, Maddow.

Posted by: June on November 2, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

June - this piece by Maddow last night was done previously, it is not the first time we have seen the list of Democratic accomplishments but sadly nothing sticks..the only voice heard is the tea party because they yell the loudest and have the immense capital thrown at them via Rove & his minions. Democrats can't seem to get their act together via a consistent message

Posted by: lib2core on November 2, 2010 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

June - this piece by Maddow last night was done previously, it is not the first time we have seen the list of Democratic accomplishments but sadly nothing sticks..the only voice heard is the tea party because they yell the loudest and have the immense capital thrown at them via Rove & his minions. Democrats can't seem to get their act together via a consistent message

Posted by: lib2core on November 2, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

"long-awaited regulation of the tobacco industry"

...based on nicotine, the one facet of tobacco that isn't particularly problematic and may well have some health benefits...

"economy-saving Recovery Act"

...hasn't saved the economy and as the money is running out this will become absolutely blatant shortly...

"Wall Street reform"

...no jail time for anyone but Bernie Madoff....

Posted by: Forrest on November 2, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

@lib2core - Yes, I'm aware Maddow has done these types of segments from time to time, sandwiched in between what came to feel like a constant stream of Democratically-agnostic or outright Democratically-hostile guests complaining or railing against the Democratic Party for not adopting their particular policy approaches exactly when and how they thought they should be adopted. That's why I said, a little late.

Posted by: June on November 2, 2010 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

QE2, coupled with the end of Recovery Act funds, could harm the economy enough to factor negatively for Obama's re-election. Obama needs to learn, as other posters have stated, that controlling the narrative is everything. Get in front of the economy now before it becomes the issue that costs Democrats the White House.

Posted by: Badlands on November 2, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

"long-awaited regulation of the tobacco industry"

...based on nicotine, the one facet of tobacco that isn't particularly problematic and may well have some health benefits...

Forest are you serious!? Please raise the pistol, fire again and shoot yourself in the ass!

Posted by: robert on November 2, 2010 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

["I think what voters are angry about is not that the Democratic congress did nothing -- it's that they made incremental adjustments to a now fundamentally flawed system. Voters want revolutionary change. They're not going to get it via the ballot box, but that's what they want."]

Are you serious? The voters don't want "revolutionary" anything. They want *jobs*. And yes that is a pretty big problem, but it was the GOP fighting tooth and nail against any real job creation efforts. The Democratic failure isn't on job creation, it's on not bothering to shout at the top of their lungs regarding who really deserves the blame.

Posted by: Shade Tail on November 2, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

@lib2core - I agree with your premise re: the teabaggers vs. Dems on message control (should have added that to my original reply!).

Posted by: June on November 2, 2010 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with June. Given that over $3 Billion has gone to TV ads this summer it has been in the interests of all the cable news to keep up criticisms -- a mode they necessarily had to get into with the previous administration. And they never gave Obama's administration much credit for anything.

On another website I simply posted a list of the Democrats' legislative accomplishments. Several people wrote and THANKED me saying they were showing the list to their families and friends who had believed that Obama and the Democrats had accomplished nothing.

They yell and scream that it's Obama's fault no one knows. But: they've blocked the view very, very effectively. Just to profit from the ad revenue, I guess.

Posted by: jjm on November 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

My spouse and I watched Rachel's segment on this and were furious. Why the heck didn't Obama's team get this message out?

Posted by: g on November 2, 2010 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

Face it people, the American dream is over. We've had our time in the sun, the 20th century, the American century. We are not a representative democracy. We have been completely and utterly sold out to an element that cares only for profit at the expense of the entire global population.

And the very people whose dreams and lives have been destroyed by this group of multinational plutocrats are set to vote their representatives (see GOP) back into power.

It makes me sick to my stomach that the grandest experiment in democracy, America, and all those who fought and died for the ideals of our once great country, have been sold out to the highest bidder.

The only way America could recover I think is another civil war. I see no other remedy.

Posted by: citizen_pain on November 2, 2010 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

More Rachel, less Jon Stewart. More Rachel, less NPR. More Washington Monthly, less Weekly Standard.

Posted by: MuddyLee on November 2, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Just to profit from the ad revenue, I guess."
Posted by: jjm on November 2, 2010 at 1:55 PM

As valuable as that is, that's an ancillary benefit. It's very clear that at least some reichwing media outfits are demonstrably not so much about earning revenue (or even profit -- not the same thing, of course) as about controlling all the narratives, and access to the media megaphones, with the end of keeping governmental control in hands friendly to the corporate interests involved.
(It's not a coincidence that Obama and Hillary were the leading contenders before the '08 campaigns began; they're DLC, and thus palatable to the corporate interests, who hedged their bets supporting them. McCain, Hillary, BO -- all of them at least acceptable to the powers-that-be.)
Remember how long the Moonie Times and the Weekly Standard were kept running, despite both doing so in rivers of red?
The primary benefits to the corporate owners of all the most important media are the massive reductions in taxes paid by both the firms and their ownership; the insane runs of deregulation that were crucial to the financial collapse -- but also provided unprecedented returns to investment (with little to no risk, since Jane and Joe Sixpak's tax dollars covered the losses when they came, and predictably so); and the complete disempowerment and reduction-to-serfdom of nearly every American not already in the rentier class.
That's what it's all about -- not the hokey-pokey, and not the ratings / ad revenues, which are just fringe benefits.

Posted by: smartalek on November 2, 2010 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

And Where Have You Gone Joe Dimaggio (redux)?

Well, while some of are lamenting the lack of recognition and appreciation for Obama's policy agenda, maybe a recap of a few decisions and actions from Team Obama might help explain why the public isn't wallowing in Policy Love today.
But, hey, he's all we got for now.

Waffled on torture
Double downed in Afghanistan
Loosened the rules for off shore drilling
Appointed economic leaders whose prior actions and policies and beliefs directly led to the financial systems crises
Bailed out Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and passed regulations far short of what is needed to ensure no firm is too big to fail
Passed healthcare reform that Mitt Romney would love and called it wonderful
Let republicans demonize and marginalize his program and policy efforts
Let the Bushies get a free pass on being brought to justice for war crimes
Let China dictate a predatory monetary/currency policy to the detriment of the economy here and in Europe

WAFJ BM

Posted by: gone_west on November 2, 2010 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

At some point the Dems are going to realize they need to hire the writers for Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. They are the sharpest and most articulate in the liberal wing.

As Will Rogers said about a century ago,"Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

Posted by: Seould on November 2, 2010 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

RM (and Benen) continually miss the boat here. It doesn't matter what Obama and the Democrats accomplished. What matters is, *it wasn't enough to get the country moving again,* and now even the inadequate start we've made is at dire risk.

U6 unemployment is around 15%. We are teetering on the edge of a depression. The economy isn't recovering because no one has enough cash or the inclination to spend it. People are starting to panic. They are losing their minds. Don't talk to them about reforms that can't be noticed. Don't talk to them about a health care bill that takes until 2014 (which now looks like "never") to take effect. Don't talk to them about "long-term." *They haven't got one.*

Spare me the moralizing about governing versus politics. You have to do both.

Posted by: FreakyBeaky on November 3, 2010 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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