The year before an election year, it is perhaps appropriate to start talking about Democrat hopefuls, party goals, and what the base of the party – liberals – will do when the Third Way Masters decree yet another Republican-lite candidate. If we’re going to have an impact on the process, we’ve got to figure out how to make an elite that believes in coddling corporations for the sake of donations understand that there’s more to democracy than raising $$$ to get elected with.
This will not be easy. (more…)
Even the brightest of left-wing commentators can’t seem to see the forest for the trees even while they’re explaining what a forest is. Apparently our vaunted “reality-based community” just can’t get its head around the reality of the Dem sell-out to Wall Street.
Take Glenn Greenwald, a very smart guy who’s come closer than most to admitting the obvious. Here he has little difficulty figuring out the reasons for Republican pro-corporate policies.
There are few more bitter ironies than watching the Republican Party — controlled at its core by the very business interests responsible for the country’s vast and growing inequality; responsible for massive transfers of wealth to the richest; and which presided over and enabled the economic collapse — now become the beneficiaries of middle-class and lower-middle-class economic insecurity.
Yet when it comes to the Dems, he just can’t bring himself to admit what it is so easy to see in the Pubs.
That crisis presented a huge opportunity for Obama and the Democrats to bring about real change in Washington — the central promise of his campaign — by capitalizing on (and becoming the voice of) populist anger and using it to wrestle away control from Wall Street and other financial and corporate elites who control Washington. Had they done so, they would have been champions of populist rage rather than its prime targets. But, as John Judis argues in his excellent New Republic piece, they completely squandered that opportunity. Rather than emphatically stand up to the bankers and other oligarchical thieves, they coddled and served them, and thus became the face of the elite interests oppressing ordinary Americans rather than their foes. How can an administration represented by Tim Geithner and Larry Summers — and which specializes in an endless stream of secret deals with corporate lobbyists and sustains itself with Wall Street funding — possibly maintain any pretense of populist support or changing how Washington works? It can’t.
My dear Glenn, it isn’t supposed to. OK, it “maintained a pretense” for a number of years and still does play the kabuki you see through like glass when Republicans do it, a sort of pretense-dance that doesn’t fool anyone. So why can’t you see through it when the Dems do it and understand that the reason is identical: the New Democrat is owned and controlled by the exact same interests who own and control the GOP. Otherwise, nothing Obama and the New Dems have done makes any sense whatever, as you said yourself.
But the Democratic Party’s failure/refusal/inability to be anything other than the Party of Tim Geithner — continuing America’s endless, draining Wars while plotting to cut Social Security, one of the few remaining guarantors of a humane standard of living — renders them unable to offer answers to angry, anxious, resentful Americans.
“Failure/refusal/inability”? Just can’t bring yourself to say it out loud, eh? That’s too bad because your and other progressives’ failure/refusal/inability to face the Awful Truth about the New Right-wing Dems is simply going to prolong the agony.
If the Healthcare “Reform” Kabuki has done nothing else, it has laid bare the truth of what I’ve been saying for several years now: The Democrat Party is nothing But the GOP in drag. Jon Walker at FDL lays it all out and, as he says, there can no longer be any doubt that voting Democrat is pretty much the same as voting Republican. Same policies, same intense dislike of the “public”, same indifference to what the “public” actually wants, same chickenshit toadying to corporations and the rich, even the same bullying tactics and lying strategies.
After a full year of debate and dozens of excuses, the Democratic leadership now stands naked in their opposition to the public option. President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid all claimed they that wanted one. They are the three most powerful people in Washington and have huge margins in both chambers. It is ridiculous to believe that the public option could not have become law if the leadership really wanted it. Yet, for months, people were lied to so the Democratic leadership could maintain the insane myth that the public option’s death was not their fault, but the fault of some insurmountable obstacle. What this mythic “insurmountable obstacle” actually was has shifted so many times it is hard to keep track.
It is foolish to believe that a President, Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker of the House with historically large majorities couldn’t get a public option–which roughly 65% of the country supported–if they really wanted one. Clearly, if they all really wanted to include a public option, they could have done it using reconciliation. To accept their many different excuses of powerlessness requires one to completely suspend reality.
Occam’s razor teaches us the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Here, the simplest explanation is that, months ago, Obama promised to kill the public option as part of a secret deal with the for-profit hospital lobby, and that for months he lied to the American people about supporting the public option while working behind the scenes to stop it.
The same can be said for phony banking “reform”, the phony “jobs” bill, and the upcoming phony Social Security and Medicare “reforms”. As impossible as it may have been for most people to picture 2 years ago, it is equally impossible now to dismiss the reality that Obama is just a black Bush with a smoother rap and a better suit, and the Dems just another corporate-owned conservative “party” and could now fit comfortably as Fellows of the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation (after all, the healthcare “reform” bill they just passed was originally proposed at AEI in ’94). Here’s Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report (via Avedon)
The fifteen month running battle between Obama Democrats and tea party Republicans was never much more real than televised professional wrestling. Like the opposing wrestlers, both sides work for the same bosses, for Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and the biggest medical providers. The real health care fight waged by the Obama administration has not been against Republicans, who never had the votes to stop, let alone dictate or pass anything.
The administration’s effort all along has been to pass the worst bill possible, with the greatest amounts of corporate welfare and loopholes, and the fewest protections for patients, while silencing, neutering and coercing the voices of most Democrats, who have favored some form of single payer, or Medicare For All from the beginning.
So comes the question that’s been hanging fire all this time while the people who backed Obama became increasingly disillusioned as his Bushie agenda became more consistent and more open: if both major political parties are really the same party with a slightly different emphasis and marginally different tactics aimed at the exact same goals – keeping the rich happy and fucking over the rest of us – where do we go from here? How do we get a voice in what’s happening, short of outright revolution or getting so rich ourselves we can buy a new party?
There are several options. I discussed the most obvious of them in “Dump the Dems 9“.
The traditional Democrats are there, busting their humps and ready to take the party back to the center-Left, which is where most of the country is at this point. They’re standing up to Obama, they’re defending the Constitution, and they’re doing it without notice from the press when hardly anybody knows they’re doing it…..What if we do it? What if we support them, take over their issues and play them up? What if we work to defeat conservative Democrats who stymie them?
The majority of elected officials in the Democratic party are liberals or populist progressives, yet the party is run by a few conservative Blue Dog obstructionists who pool resources – and votes – with their GOP counterparts. In fact, about the only thing they don’t do with the GOP is caucus with them even if it seems like they do because they always come up with the same TP’s as the Pubs. Yet despite their minority status, these BD’s rule the Democrat party with an iron fist. The leadership are all BDs and they control committee assignments. They determine policy, staff assignments, tactics and floor strategy, and which arguments will be spun to the media.
Bluntly, us liberals, progressives, and populists really don’t have much to lose, especially since the polls are with us, not the conservative Democrats. We could make a HUGE point of backing FDR Dems in primaries against conDems and make sure the Blue Dog is defeated. If we do that in enough places – and it won’t have to be that many – we can return the Democratic party to its traditional, non-corporate roots. You remember? When it used to be on our side?
I wrote that a little over a year ago, and at that time it seemed a viable option. Since then, the Obama/Emanuel Hammer has beaten most of the lib/progs into compliant toadies by making it perfectly clear that anybody who doesn’t go along will be crushed. Even Colorado’s Michael Bennet, a reliable liberal vote up to now, is backing away from his promise to bring a public option bill to the Senate floor after intense pressure from Rahm and the Dem leadership. It has become an open question now whether or not there’s any spine left in the Democrat party, and the idea of a possible internal rebellion seems pretty far-fetched at this point.
What other alternatives do we have if the libs locked inside a conservative party organization aren’t going to stand up for their beliefs (assuming they still have any besides opportunism and expediency)?
Next: Third Parties and What They’re Good For
The arrogance and desperation of the conservative Democrat leadership has reached such an advanced stage that that leadership is openly disavowing its own members. Yesterday the slavish NYT ran a neat little article about how Obama’s willingness to dump the public option, thereby dumping as well the majority in his own party that want it and the large contingent of liberals and progressives who have said they won’t vote for a healthcare bill that doesn’t have it, thereby splitting the party in two, is actually called “uniting the party”.
President Obama’s speech on health care failed to bridge the gulf with Republicans, but Democrats said on Thursday that the president had largely succeeded in unifying his own party by making a cogent, persuasive pitch to the American public and by casting his plan to overhaul the health care system as a political and moral imperative.
The day after the nationally televised address, in which Mr. Obama signaled that he could accept an alternative to a government-run insurance plan, influential Democrats who previously seemed wedded to the public insurance option hinted that they, too, might be flexible. They included the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Representative Henry A. Waxman, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, both from California, and who both, like Mr. Obama, say they still prefer the public option, and view it as crucial to passing a bill in the House.
Pelosi has been amenable for a long time, whatever she said publicly, but Waxman’s willingness to be “flexible” is a big disappointment. It may be that he has just gotten the message Reid/Pelosi have been sending for months: “Fuck the lib/progs and fuck what the country needs & what the voters want. We’re not going to piss off our conservative corporate contributors, especially insurance companies, by passing a bill they don’t want. Period.”
Way back in April of last year I wrote that there are some things that are above political loyalty and that the Constitution is one of them. In July I wrote in a post titled “The Constitution Doesn’t Poll Very Well” that noted how busily the Obama Admin and Congressional Blue Dogs were gutting the Bill of Rights. This past February I listed a number of Bush’s illegal powers that Obama was protecting despite his promises for “transparency, accountability and openness”. Now I have to report that Obama has decided to protect the people who retroactively wrote legal justifications for this illegal and immoral policy, defend the policy itself, and worst of all, accept torture as legitimate behaviour once he puts a Yoo-style legal framework around it so we can all pretend it isn’t inhuman.
As the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., debates whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate the interrogations of terrorism suspects after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he is at the brink of a career-defining decision that risks the anger of the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency, one of the Justice Department’s main partners in combating terrorism.
There is no surprise then that Mr. Holder is said by officials to have been resistant at first to the idea of appointing a prosecutor, particularly since the Obama administration has made it clear that it wants to put the issue of interrogation practices during the Bush administration behind it.
Mr. Holder has told associates he is weighing a narrow investigation, focusing only on C.I.A. interrogators and contract employees who clearly crossed the line and violated the Bush administration’s guidelines and engaged in flagrantly abusive acts.
But in taking that route, Mr. Holder would run two risks. One is the political fallout if only a handful of low-level agents are prosecuted for what many critics see as a pattern of excess condoned at the top of the government. The other is that an aggressive prosecutor would not stop at the bottom, but would work up the chain of command, and end up with a full-blown criminal inquiry into the intelligence agencies — just the kind of broad, open-ended criminal investigation the Obama administration says it wants to avoid.
AG Holder is caught between a rock and a hard place. He’s under pressure both ethically and legally to prosecute torturers yet his boss doesn’t want him to prosecute any of the people who devised and ordered the torture to occur. Glenn Greenwald put what this means succinctly.
[T]he Newsweek reporter who first printed what DOJ officials told him about Holder’s intentions, Daniel Klaidman, confirmed in an interview on The Young Turks that Holder intends to confine any investigations only to “rogue” interrogators who exceeded John Yoo’s torture permission slips while shielding high-level Bush officials who acted in accordance with Yoo’s decrees. Proving yet again that there is nothing more difficult than satirizing our rotted political culture, here is what I wrote about Holder’s intentions last week:
Holder’s plan, at least at the moment, is — from the start — to confine the prosecutors’ authority to investigate to CIA agents who went beyond what John Yoo and George Bush decreed could be done (“he used more water than Yoo said he could”; “he tied him up for longer than Yoo authorized”; “the room was colder and the freezing water icier than Yoo allowed”). At least if these reports are accurate (and, for several reasons, that’s unclear), anyone who “merely” did what John Yoo said was legal — meaning everyone who matters — will be shielded and immunized.
If low-level CIA interrogators — and only them — end up as the targets of investigations because they used m0re water than John Yoo allowed, or turned the thermostat lower than the hypothermic levels which the DOJ permitted, or waterboarded with more frequency than Jay Bybee approved, I wouldn’t blame the CIA for being furious. It was the regime itself, implemented at the highest levels of our government, that was criminal. Prosecuting only low-level interrogators who followed the torturing spirit of those policies but transgressed some bureaucratic guidelines would be a travesty on par with what happened with the Abu Ghraib “investigations.”
(emphasis in original)
Worse, by putting the legal emphasis on whether or not the interrogators had exceeded the authority given them by Yoo and Bybee and the other apologists, Obama is tacitly accepting the Yoo/Bybee/Addington/Cheney assertion that a) torture is legal in the US and b) the president can legally order an illegal procedure as long as it is kept within whatever bounds are set by the president. Which in turn means that torture is now legal and that US presidents have the power to ignore treaty law, international law, and domestic law – the Constitution – just as Bush/Cheney claimed they did. It is a de facto rather than de jure assumption of power, quiet, even stealthy. Without facing the issue squarely, discussing it openly, or explaining it clearly, the Obama Admin is simply going to act as if it’s true, thus creating precedent and making it true.
I’m getting a bit confused. On hand #1 Obama says he thinks we need a “public health option” if for no other reason than to take care of the people the insurance companies don’t want. On hand #2, his HHS Sec, Kathleen Sibelius, told NPR yesterday that all public health options are “off the table”, that they ought to be because single payer is “a bad direction to go” and, furthermore (just in case the insurance companies Rahm wants donating to the Democrats next year had any doubts or fears) that the president – the president elected by the people who are the 60+% percent who want single payer – has no plans at all to create one. None. (Via DCblogger at corrente)
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that a single-payer option is not on the table.
“This is not a trick. This is not single-payer,” Sebelius told Steve Inskeep. She added: “That’s not what anyone is talking about — mostly because the president feels strongly, as I do, that dismantling private health coverage for the 180 million Americans that have it, discouraging more employers from coming into the marketplace, is really the bad, you know, is a bad direction to go.”
Asked if the administration’s program will be drafted specifically to prevent it from evolving into a single-payer plan, Sebelius says: “I think that’s very much the case, and again, if you want anybody to convince people of that, talk to the single-payer proponents who are furious that the single-payer idea is not part of the discussion.”
The single payer option exists primarily as a threat (which is what we said it was), a stalking horse to scare the health insurance companies into line, Sibelius confirmed, even though she admitted that Medicare shows a real public option is demonstrably cheaper. (more…)
OK, so you can’t generalize too much nationally from the fucked up politics of NY state but otoh this is such a shining example of the state of the Democratic party that it’s howling for attention. Two NY Blue Dog Dems just voted with their GOP colleagues to turn the leadership of the Democrat-controlled Senate over to the Pubs. To quote Rosalind Russell, “Ain’t it perfect?”
Republicans regained control of the New York State Senate on Monday afternoon, winning support from two dissident Democrats in a surprise power-sharing deal. The sudden coup effectively ended Democratic control of Albany after five months and allowed Dean G. Skelos of Long Island to reclaim the title of majority leader, replacing Malcolm A. Smith of Queens.
The raucous leadership fight erupted on the floor of the Senate around 3 p.m., with two Democrats, Mr. Espada and Hiram Monserrate of Queens, joining the 30 Senate Republicans in a series of parliamentary maneuvers. Democrats tried to stall, storming from the chamber and even turning off the lights, but Republicans continued the session and elected new leadership.
Both Mr. Espada and Mr. Monserrate said they still considered themselves Democrats.
“Why?” is the question. Not “Why did they do it?” That question is easily answered, at least in the case of Mr Espada.
The shakeup also left Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat, as president of the Senate….
Tom Golisano, the Rochester billionaire who recently announced he was moving to Florida because of New York’s high taxes, played a major role in brokering the deal.
Nothing like a little bribery to liven up your day. Or some pressure from a pissed off billionaire who thinks his taxes are too high. Never mind that he thinks the fact that he has to pay any taxes at all is a shame and a disgrace because he’s so special.