Dump the Dems


The New Oxymoron: Progressive Democrats

March 10, 2008

I can’t write posts with anything like the regularity I used to, so when I do I try to concentrate on the issue with the highest priority. At this point, that issue is the morphing of the Democratic party into a corporate-friendly copy of the GOP, only slightly less lethal than the original. It seems to me that with very few reliable liberals and no reliable progressives anywhere near the centers of power, our voices are being threatened with wholesale political extinction. Virtually no one is representing us even though we are a majority of the population according to the polls.Last week I wrote such a post at Comments From Left Field, where I used to be one of the contributors. Entitled “Getting Suckered By Our Own Guys”, it argued that by becoming involved with a phony election, a sham of a meaningless kabuki, progressives are contributing to their own demise.

Our political system has devolved into a cross between a bad Don Rickles joke and a high school fire drill during freshman orientation. Obama is at best a hypocrite and at worst Hillary in drag, only with less heavy eye-liner. Hillary seems to be going for Nixon Redux, and McCain is Fright Nightwith the Kewl Kids at the National Review Dorm, surrounded by an army somebody gave them for Xmas to play Dungeons ‘n’ Dragons with.


I’ve given up the idea of getting anybody to pay attention to this because all the so-called “progressives” are all caught up in the Hillary v. Obama farce and will continue to track that ill-begotten game until it’s as stale as last week’s bread, pretending all the while that the primaries are “significant”. That they “matter”. That each candidate is “different” from the other.

Balderdash. We’ve been suckered into caring about this meaningless circus no less than conservatives have been suckered into believing there are radical Islamic terrorists hiding in their hydrangea bushes. I am ashamed of all of us. We have fallen for some of the oldest tricks in the book.

The upshot of writing that post was that self-styled “Executive Editor” Kyle Moore, after writing 3 nasty comments to it, emailed me to tell me I was no longer welcome to write there, apparently because a) he didn’t agree with what I wrote, especially about Obama, him being an Obama devotee, and b) I had the unmitigated gall to respond to his attack, giving him the excuse that “it’s for the best” that I go in order to prevent our exchanges from “escalating”.

Now, Kyle would be the first to tell you he’s not a progressive, per se. This response to my being “fired” from CFLF isn’t so much about the obtuse closed-mindedness of it so much as because it’s an example of what the future holds for anybody who contradicts the Donkey Party Line or suggests that the heir apparent, whoever that turns out to be, is less than they appear to be and/or would like us to believe they are: suppression.

What we have to look forward to, those of us who no longer believe the Democrats are significantly different from the Republicans, is vilification from both sides and a chorus of raised, angry voices telling us to shut up.

Already, this self-censorship is at work. Critics of the Democrats have been excoriated by powerful A-List bloggers like Markos and Duncan Black, and the response has been a gradual but unmistakable falling-into-line. Criticism of Obama is acceptable only to the Billary Camp, and criticism of Billary is acceptable only to Obama stalwarts like Moore (who writes – at the very least – 2 posts a day attacking Hillary). We’re splitting ourselves right down the middle, neither side able to see the justice of the other side’s critiques.

The fact of the matter is simple: everybody is right. Hillary and Obama are both lousy candidates, both moderate right-wing conservatives (especially when it comes to kowtowing to Big Business), both hawks, both anti-labor in practice if not oratory, and both fairly standard examples of 2-faced political hypocrites. It may be an Ugly Truth, but it’s a truth all the same.

The purpose of my pounding away at this is equally simple. We need to start thinking about what happens after election day when a Democrat is president and we find out – as we found out so painfully last year after working for and achieving a Democratic victory in both houses of Congress only to watch that victory turn to ashes as the Democratic Congress gave Bush and the Pubs everything they wanted – that NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE.

When it finally dawns on us that we’ve been suckered by our own guys, what do we do then?

I’ll be giving you my answers over the next several weeks and hoping for some feedback. Mr Moore’s answer – suppress the dissent, eliminate the voice – is the same as the GOP answer to the Left for 25 years. I don’t plan to go that easily.

1: Can the Democratic Party Be Rescued?

March 13, 2008

Glenn Greenwald is seeing “signs of life” in the House Democrats.

Fully recognizing it may not last any longer than a couple of weeks, it’s actually necessary to give some credit where it’s due — to the House Democratic leadership. Nobody expected that they would ever allow the Protect America Act to expire, yet they did. And nobody expected, especially after the meek and incoherent appearance of Silvestre Reyes on CNN last weekend, that they would ignore the barrage of Terrorist-Lover accusations from the President and unveil yet another bill that is actually decent and refuses to bestow lawbreaking telecoms with amnesty, but they now have.

Add to that the fact that they actually seem serious about pursuing a court battle to force Josh Bolton and Harriet Miers to comply with their Subpoenas, and one detects a possible change in their approach. There is perhaps a stirring of recognition among House Democrats that there is no political cost to standing against this President on vital matters — even ones involving the magic Terrorism word — and there might even be real political benefit.

(emphasis added)

His skepticism about the abbreviated length, not to mention depth, of Democratic political courage is of course justified. Time and again in the past year-and-a-half we have seen this same scenario played out: House Dems take a tough stand; Senate Dems revolt, demanding concessions identical to the ones Bush and the Republicans want; House makes a lot of noise, threatens to stall negotiations and/or hold firm; Dem leadership has meeting after which Speaker Pelosi forces House Dems to concede.

It’s important to note two things here with regard to my thesis that the Dems are no longer worth supporting – that they aren’t on our side and won’t be again any time soon.

The first is that I think the House Democrats who consistently defy the White House and the Senate are sincere. It isn’t a dumbshow or a trick or mere kabuki. They mean it, by and large, and they fight pretty hard to get their point across.

The second is that IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THEY DO as long as they’re unwilling to defy their own DLC-sponsored leadership with the same fervor which characterizes their defiance of the President. The Democratic Kabuki we’ve all come to know and loathe is the result of a tussle between the House Dems and the Senate Blue Dog/DLC Cabal in which the House tries to fight for justice and the Senate BD’s fight for the GOP. The DLC leadership, clearly in the GOP camp, has to keep its renegade House in the fold so they pretend to back them and blame the Senate Pubs when nothing happens.

I explained some time ago that this is an old tactic used with great effect in Massachusetts by long-time Mass Senate Pres Billy Bulger.

I don’t know if the technique was developed here is Massachusetts (wouldn’t surprise me if it was) but I’ve watched it play out for a couple of decades now, and for the last few years I’ve seen it taking hold in the national party. It’s a concept of “party discipline” that allows individual pols to vote in ways that will make their constituencies happy on issues important to them as long as those votes don’t harm or deviate from the overall strategies and goals of the dominant party mechanism. When there are too many votes in favor of something the party leadership is against, they twist just enough arms to ensure that the issue/bill/amendment/whatever will be defeated.

So it didn’t surprise me that the House Dems stood their ground for a while. The question is, what will happen when the Senate BD’s press hard for immunity and dropping the contempt charges in the name of “bi-partisanship”, as Obama calls it. (Others of us call it “surrendering to the GOP”.) At this point it seems safe to say the House will most likely give in when Nancy explains to them, once again, that they don’t have the votes in the Senate to avoid another make-believe Republican filibuster.

But it’s important to remember that there is a third element to the Kabuki: it throws us off-balance by fostering the impression that the Democrats are going to do things they aren’t actually going to do. That keeps us hanging on with hope, clinging to a belief that One Day the Dems will be Democrats again. And that in turn keeps us working for them when, in truth, we get almost nothing from our support.

It’s a savage strategy, but it’s working. We get behind them, tell ourselves we’ll take what we can get, that they’re better than the GOP. We fight for what we believe is right and in the end are disappointed time and again when, after the dust from the Kabuki clears, the GOP has once more gotten exactly what it wanted.

So let’s dispel the fog and cut to the chase. For those of you who insist on believing the Democratic party can be rescued from the BD/DLC Alliance, here’s what you have to do:

Break the power of the DLC.


2: Are 3rd Parties Really Hopeless?

Credit where credit is due: Ralph Nader was right.

There isn’t much difference any more between the Democrats and the Republicans. When, in 2000, Ralph coined the term “Republicrats”, he was roundly criticized for supposedly missing or at least minimizing the significant dissimularities between George Bush and Al Gore. But his critics, afraid of his being a spoiler, were the ones who, in retrospect, missed the point.

That point has been driven home with brutal regularity since Nov ’06 when the Democrats were elected to stop the war, the torture, and the wholesale spying of the Bush Administration and then handed Bush everything he wanted on a plate with salad dressing and parsley. It is winding up with two corporate-friendly Dem candidates in the ’08 election, one who says the Iraq war isn’t a mistake and she won’t end it, and the other who says he’ll withdraw troops but leave a “residual force”; one who’s a backer of NAFTA and similar corporate rip-offs, and the other who has supported horrendous trade deals, including the deal turning Panama into a corporate tax haven and legal limbo where Big Business can’t be held accountable for any crime it chooses to commit.

But for all their chummy protect-the-corporations votes, it means something that both have stolen a good deal of John Edwards’ populist approach during his run at the White House. They’ve adopted his policies, his initiatives, and some of his rhetoric (though they’re careful to play down the anti-corporate and class warfare stuff for fear of alienating corporate money). In fact, it may be fair to say that Edwards’ platform is enjoying far greater success since he quit than it did when he was an active candidate.

This means something because it’s a carbon copy of the effect third parties often have, especially populist parties: even when they lose elections, they may still control the discussion and the issues around which those elections are fought. Look at the populist parties of the 1920’s and 30’s. They rarely won seats but in the end FDR had to absorb most of their issues and solutions in order to win the ’32 election, and it was their issues and solutions around which he built the Democratic coalition that governed effectively for most of the next 40 yrs.

The fact is that without the pressure on the Democrats brought by the populists, we wouldn’t have had Social Security, economic stability, food stamps, HUD, Medicare, or any of dozens of programs that have fed and housed the hungry, brought medical care to sick kids, or made the middle class of the post-WW II generation the strongest, healthiest in history. The fear of seeing the Democrats splinter into a dozen ineffective little parties with no power or influence forced FDR and a reluctant Dem party hierarchy to dump Republican solutions and fight for their own.

So, contrary to the conventional wisdom that third parties are poison pills and don’t work because they can’t win, history says quite the opposite. If you look beyond the lost elections to the larger picture of political accomplishments, third parties have a pretty fair history of success. In that case, what’s the problem?

eRobin of Fact-esque as usual sums it up in a couple of pithy sentences.

One [a third party] may be able to get traction in the coming ruins of the U.S. economy. Of course, it may look more like the Minute Men and the less totally awesome aspects of Ron Paul than anything you’d probably want to see come along. Devil you know??

IOW, isn’t it more likely, given the temper of the American people – and their distaste for complex problems and even more complex solutions – that even if we managed to form a successful third party it would be worse than what it replaced?

Not necessarily. While the example of John Edwards is two-edged certainly, there’s nevertheless a fairly vibrant lesson or two to be learned from his campaign and from the way his issues so smoothly and seamlessly became immediately central to his opponents’ campaigns.

  1. The corporate media will try to drown you in minutiae if you bring it up.
  2. There are several issues hitting home hard that many – if not most – of us have in common, threads that will draw us together.

A third party that can solve the first and build on the second has a real chance of success.

3a: The Conundrum

March 24, 2008

I’m going to take a short breather from attacking the Democratic leadership in order to steer you toward a post at Thomas Nephew’s excellent newsrack blog wherein he recounts a recent and somewhat disappointing encounter with Eric Alterman. I do this because between the encounter itself and a few readers’ responses to it, the post pretty much lays out in a nutshell the conundrum facing liberals and progressives when trying to deal with the Dems or trying to decide if they’ve really sold out to corporations, or if it’s all some sort of “strategy” to roll over to the Bush Gang and yelp, “Please, sir, may I have another?” to the man with the whip in the apparent hope that people will feel sorry enough for them to vote Blue in ‘08.
The post is titled “Why We’re Liberals” because that’s the name of Alterman’s new book, but it’s also the central question Nephew finds himself asking after a question about impeachment draws this response from Eric.

In the question and answer session, Alterman was asked about impeachment — and he kind of went off on the guy, comparing impeachment advocates to Nader supporters in 2000, allegedly blind to the consequences of their actions, indirectly complicit in the disasters that followed.

So I joined the short line of questioners, and wound up being the last one. I asked where he saw the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution in his definition of liberalism; in the tension between adhering to principles and focusing on winning the next election, where were the bright lines Alterman was willing to draw to say “this far and no further”, regardless of the cost?

Alterman, as Thomas pointed out later in response to a comment, is “an ally who is great at skewering the right” and has “earned a lot of respect over the years.” The fact that he has accepted the wholesale Democratic surrender of the last few years and defends it despite its manifest abandonment of core liberal values is precisely the dilemma that faces us. How can liberals continue, as Alterman does, to support a political party that no longer seems at all interested in liberal values?

Thomas put the question on himself.

Because, I told him, his answer to the first questioner had me thinking, ‘maybe I’m not a liberal after all.’

But Eric’s answer makes it perfectly plain that Thomas has the question backwards: it isn’t he who isn’t the liberal, it’s the Democratic Party.

So…he sort of squared up and said that to him principles were a form of moral vanity….

(emphasis added)

Principles are a form of vanity?? Really, Eric?

That is precisely the kind of so-called “pragmatic” sophistry that’s been running the Dems since Carter lost to Reagan. Whether he knows it or not, Alterman is aligning himself with the very people who have dumped overboard everything he claims to believe in, and that’s OK with him if it means winning. Anything else is “vanity”.

This actually supports my notion that the Democrats have been so infected by the GOP’s conservative propaganda that they actually believe most of it, making them, as I’ve said many times, little better than Republicans-Lite. If someone as “acute an observer” as him can be buffaloed into abandoning all his principles in favor of a conservative-skewed New Dem “pragmatism”, what can be left of the party we used to know?

Thomas puts it beautifully:

That’s funny, though, because to me that particular principle — rule of law, or “playing by the rules” in 90s Democratic vernacular – is a core liberal value and is not some kind of luxury item we can do without in tough times. Without it, the little guy has no recourse against the high and mighty, whether they’re government officials or CEOs. To me liberalism, plainly put, is saying the little guy should always have a chance to get his grievance heard and to be made whole, and that there’s a public sphere where the big guy with lawyers, guns and money can’t expect to win.

And it seems self-evident to me that that credo starts at the top; the measure of a country isn’t just how it treats its weakest members, but the standards it applies to its most powerful ones. We are plainly failing both tests; I think it’s a single test, and that those failures go hand in hand.


[The Democratic Party] has to all appearances been running a two year stall, a political “four corners” drill running out the clock to an anticipated win in 2008 — a strategy that may not be as clever as its authors thought. Late feints notwithstanding, it has effectively stood by — both before and after 2006 — and let the corruption of the Justice Department go unpunished; it has allowed the Bush administration to play semantic games about the meaning of torture and whether waterboarding fits the definition; it’s doing its level best to find as much as possible about warrantless surveillance to be legal after all — and it’s done nothing meaningful whatsoever to get out of a war built on lies that a majority of us (and a vast majority of self-described liberals) considers to be a disastrous mistake. If that’s liberalism, I want off.

(emphasis added)

So wouldn’t we all. But it isn’t liberalism, that’s the point I’ve been trying to make for months. Thomas is making it for me through classic liberal Alterman: THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS NOT LIBERAL. It doesn’t support liberal beliefs or fight for liberal causes, so how can liberals support it?

3b: Conviction v. Pragmatism

March 26, 2008

The other thing that Thomas Nephew’s post about his encounter with Eric Alterman throws into sharp relief comes from his commenters. It is the old tension between pragmatic compromise and ideological purity.
Put another way, when does the need to be elected in order to pursue your agenda cross the line into cowardice and/or philosophical emptiness? When does pragmatism turn into win-at-any-cost vapidness? IOW, where exactly is the dividing line between a Paul Wellstone and a Mitt Romney? And is there any room at all for principles? Alterman – and a great many other so-called liberals in the Democratic party – think not.

You know I have a lot of trouble thinking of any principles that I hold more dearly than defeating George Bush in 2000 (2008?) , in the election … [audience laughter] seriously! I think that principles are a form of vanity. Of moral vanity. I think principles are a very useful teaching method for children. I think… but… I have two problems with principles. One is that whatever principle you have I have a competing principle for the same situation. So when you say I’m doing this on principle I can tell you “but there’s another principle that’s at work in the same situation and you’re violating that principle.” So I think principles are what people do instead of making difficult decisions.

(emphasis in the original)

Maybe. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe pragmatism is a way to avoid the certain pain of sticking to difficult principles, principles you believe in but which may make being elected problematic.

I’m not going to discount the nerve, even the courage it takes for a committed believer to compromise his/her beliefs in order to affect a world which will leave him/her out if s/he doesn’t. But otoh, we’re now looking at a situation in the Democratic party where compromise – some say “surrender” – has gone so far that it’s hard to say what the Donkeys stand for any more or even if – like Romney – they can be said to stand for anything at all.

That isn’t a question Alterman or those like him want to discuss. Here’s Paul from Nephew’s comments section:

Thomas, I think you’ve happened upon the tension that occurs between the idealist and the pragmatist.

Alterman is a political opportunist. He’s more concerned with helping his Party obtain more power and influence than achieving goals based on ideals or principles. You may find he and his kind distasteful (as do I on more than a few occasions), but they are a necessary component of the system.

You are an idealist, who believes that the Party should use its power to push through social justice programs for the betterment of the country.

Nell disagrees.

Paul, you’re oversimplifying to the point of condescension about idealists and pragmatists. And you’re also underestimating Thomas’ pragmatism, which his response and many past posts demonstrate.

Exactly. Mr Nephew has been far more willing to compromise than I have been and I’m nothing if not a pragmatist. The difference between the Alterman/Paul school and the Nephew/Nell school is the difference between a group for whom, just as Eric said, defeating George Bush is more important than anything else, and a group that believes it’s just as and perhaps far more important to prosecute accountability in order to prevent a repitition of the Bush/Cheney lawlessness.

But it goes beyond that, even. Defeating Bush is all very well and certainly important for the country. Yet as critical as that victory is, its importance does not allow us to duck the prime question:

And replace him with…what?

Even if we accept the connected propositions that a) defeating Bush is the Prime Directive and b) defeating Bush requires adopting GOP initiatives – which I hasten to say I don’t accept and neither does Thomas or Glenn Greenwald or any number of other lefties who’ve spoken up since the ‘06 election who think exactly the opposite – even if you accept that duality, you’re forced to ask what difference it really makes if his replacement is just going to go on pursuing the Bush Agenda or, at a maximum, refuse to undo the damage that has been done so far.

Democrats and liberals have all too plainly been counting on a win in 2008, and have dealt away much of their honor and self-respect in the process of waiting for that blessed event — which may not come. But even if there is a President Obama or a President Clinton next January 10, the value of that victory has already been tarnished by their party’s — and its apologists — craven refusal to hold the most powerful lawbreaker and political criminal in the land to account.

Mr Nephew is convinced – he and Paul have at least this in common – that the Democratic refusal to stop the war, the spying, the torture, and the destruction of the economy that have been hallmarks of the Bush Regime is some sort of campaign strategy that they will jettison once the election is over and the White House is theirs. Far from being too idealistic, Mr Nephew is arguing that the Democrats are chasing the wrong strategy, that unprincipled surrender is a losing strategy.

In point of fact, it’s much more likely that the Democratic refusal to oppiose George Bush has much less to do with winning the election (as Greenwald pointed out months ago, the numbers suggest their willingness to roll over for the Bushies has badly hurt them in opinion polls, thus actually making it harder for them to win the longer they are seen as Bush enablers) than it has with the strong and demonstrable possibility that the Democratic party has been so focused on its need to WIN that it has become poisoned by its own obsession, infected by Republican success with the They’re Right/We’re Wrong Virus. If that’s the case, then they have chosen deflect a base uncomfortable with their new “principles” by using the win-at-any-cost excuse.

And much of the base is buying it.

There’s a legitimate argument here but those of us willing to have it must be just as willing to go all the way to the ultimate questions:

What has the Democratic party become since it was taken over by the neo-liberal New Democrats in the late 80’s?


Do they deserve to win? Are we really going to be any better off with a party that has grown used to making excuses for torture, supporting govt spying, prosecuting an illegal war, and abetting the growth of imperial powers in the presidency as if they aren’t worth worrying about?

4: What Would It Take to Rescue the Democratic Party?

April 2, 2008

Alright, we’ve laid the groundwork, examined the dilemma, and heard the two main sides of the argument. The time has come to ask practical questions about what can, if anything, be done.

Whichever side of this debate they come down on, I think everyone agrees that the core of the problem is $$$.

The stranglehold maintained by the relative minority of Democrats in the Democratic Leadership Council and the Blue Dog Alliance is made possible primarily by the overwhelming superiority of the GOP $$$campaign donor$$$ advantage over the past 25 years. The GOP, which represents and is employed by Corporate America, has enjoyed a 3 or 4-1 advantage in fund-raising for national and state-wide campaigns. A LOT of that money has gone into Rovian attack ads against Democratic candidates, as well as into outright efforts to sabotage likely Democratic voters and to steal close elections. For example, the paid Republican mob in Florida that intimidated Dade County election officials into cutting short their vote count were bought and brought there with RNC funds donated by corporations.

The DLC/BD Alliance has successfully made the argument to recalcitrant Dems that if they don’t want to go back to losing election after election, they have to be able to compete with the GOP monetarily. To do that, they have to present an agenda that is not unfriendly to potential corporate donors, and to do that, they have to dump their traditional concerns over labor rights, environmental issues, worker safety, and a host of other issues that had alienated corporate donors in the past.

The result of the Clinton success in the 90’s was to cement the power of the DLC/BDA in the party, pushing it further and further to the right until we now have a party that is, a majority of the time, philosophiocally indistinguishable from the GOP. It pushes the same agenda, it just doesn’t go as far as the Pubs are willing to go. The GOP is willing to dive off the cliff blindfolded; the Dems are only willing to push to the edge of the cliff, hoping it won’t collapse beneath them but otherwise doing nothing to move away from it or shore it up.

To rescue the Donkey party, therefore, first requires an all-out assault on the corporate-owned campaign financing system. In order for the Dems to return to who they used to be, there has to be a level campaign playing field, and as long as the rich own the Pubs, there won’t be…unless…we can manage to force public financing of campaigns on an unwilling and reluctant pair of political parties.

The most intensive of these efforts so far came in the 90’s with McCain-Feingold, but through compromise, tricks, and lengthy negotiation, the legislation was riddled with so many loopholes, exceptions, ifs, ands, and buts that by the time the vote came it was all but worthless. In the ensuing years, both parties, especially the GOP, simply ignored it or used one of its multiple loopholes to get around it.

If the Dems are ever to be Dems again, public financing of campaigns must become a reality and a strict limit placed on the raising of outside money by either party. I’m not going to go into the manifest benefits of forcing the parties to work with equal amounts of money, they’ve been repeated often enough that most of us know them by rote. Nor am I going to play devil’s advocate and repeat the myriad problems with enforcing such a law should we ever get one passed. Those are also too well known to need repetition.

What I am suggesting is that if we can’t pass and enforce a tough campaign finance reform law, there is ZERO chance that either party will EVER be anything other than a corporate subsidiary. With corporate $$$ dominating the campaigns and therefore the candidates and their campaign agendas, both will have to bow to corporate demands. To claim anything else is either hopelessly naive, naively impractical, or the result of blind denial of modern political reality.

The DLC/BD Alliance

When our liberal/progressive movement has succeeded in breaking the hold of corporate money on the election system, we’ll still be faced with breaking the hold of the DLC/BDA on the party. They aren’t going to go quietly. They have determined the course of the party for almost 2 decades from positions of power. They’re not going to let loose of that kind of power just because we don’t need them any more.

It will be necessary for us to work against the worst offenders – the Clintons, Rahm Emanuel, Harry Reid, Silvestre Reyes, Jay Rockefeller, et al – possibly to the extent of supporting Republican challengers if Democratic challengers lose in the primaries. We MUST be prepared to take it that far and they must KNOW we will take it that far. Otherwise the DLC/BDA will simply undercut the efforts by insisting, as they have in the past and are doing right this minute, that we can be taken for granted because, you know, we have nowhere else to go.

This is a powerful argument. It tells lazy, cowardly politicians (and most who aren’t one are the other; many are both at once) that they don’t actually have to change anything they’re doing because there’s no real threat to their incumbency; that we are so anti-GOP that we won’t vote for a Pub against a Dem no matter how often that Dem votes with Pubs. Joe Lieberman is the Poster-Boy for that snake oil even as we speak. As long as that is what the Dems believe, it is the corporationsn they rush to placate, not us.


In order for any of this to happen, we will first have to forge a coherent strategy and an alliance of our own wherein liberal and progressive activists agree to put aside their differences and – most importantly – agree to concentrate, for the good of the country, on recognizing and supporting priorities that may result in the sidelining of their pet projects.

The Democrats simply will not respond to a demand for change from the left unless a formidable organization is behind it, ready to work against and vote against any Democrat who doesn’t support the Main Principles of the New Movement.

5: The Lieberman Vote and What It Means for FDR Dems

Glenn Greenwald takes a shot at one of Rob’s and my personal bugaboos – the cry from Obama and the DLC/BD Caucus of conservative Dems that there’s been too much hyperpartisanship in Washington. Glenn wants to know “What partisanship?”

Where is the evidence of the supposed partisan wrangling that we hear so much about?  Just examine the question dispassionately.  Look at every major Bush initiative, every controversial signature Bush policy over the last eight years, and one finds virtually nothing but massive bipartisan support for them — the Patriot Act (original enactment and its renewal); the invasion of Afghanistan; the attack on, and ongoing occupation of, Iraq; the Military Commissions Act (authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques, abolishing habeas corpus, and immunizing war criminals); expansions of warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity; declaring part of Iran’s government to be “terrorists”; our one-sided policy toward Israel; the $700 billion bailout; The No Child Left Behind Act, “bankruptcy reform,” and on and on. 

Most of those were all enacted with virtually unanimous GOP support and substantial, sometimes overwhelming, Democratic support:  the very definition of “bipartisanship.”  That’s just a fact.


As The Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin observed at the end of last year:  ”Historians looking back on the Bush presidency may well wonder if Congress actually existed.”  How much more harmonious — “bipartisan” — can the two parties get?

He’s right, of course, and regular readers will know how worried we’ve been around here about BO’s naive insistence on what he calls “bipartisanship”, which almost always turns out to mean “doing what the the GOP/DLC/BD Conservative Cabal wants done because they refuse to compromise.” There has been hyperpartisanship, alright, but not on a Pub-Dem split. It’s been coming almost exclusively from the Right along a Conservative-Liberal split – the conservatives in both parties scream about how ANYBODY who doesn’t go along is hyperpartisan. Mention a liberal policy like SCHIP or note how the Medicare Advantage program is little more than a give-away to Big Pharma and suddenly you’re a hysterical partisan who refuses to face reality and compromise [translation: surrender].

It’s a very dangerous game and as we’ve pointed out time and again it is nothing less than a way for repudiated conservative doctrinaires to stay in power and continue to serve their corporate masters at our expense. Though I could cite example after example – and have – you need look no further than Obama’s insistence that the DLC/BD leadership in the Senate return Holy Joe Lieberman to his chairmanship. The vote, as Glenn points out, wasn’t even close: 42-13.

This is very bad news for those who still harbor hopes that BO will turn out to be less conservative than his record thus far and it all but destroys any legitimate reason for FDR Democrats to support the Congressional Dems, or Obama for that matter.

I am not a Democrat anymore. As soon as possible I’m switching my party registration to Independent. If party loyalty means absofuckinglutely nothing to the leadership of the Democratic party, then it means absofuckinglutely nothing to me.

It’s not a party anymore, it’s a competition to see who the oligarchy will use as their preferred tool for transferring wealth to the wealthy.

I despair of Obama fixing any of this, but I will put my hope in him, not the party

Fuck the Democratic party leadership. Fuck them to hell and back. The Left should now be at war with the Democratic party and if that sounds like a joke, it won’t be come 2010.

So it would seem that TMiss is now where I’ve been for months. I begged him and everyone else to make their demands clear and strong before the election to make certain BO knew what he was being elected to do and who his supporters were, but no. That would be “disloyal”. I warned that loyalty wasn’t of interest to the DLC/BD-ruled Dems, that their response – and it was quite naked and open – was “we don’t have to listen to you because you’ve got nowhere else to go”.

Now it’s too late. Now we’ll have to attack every single conservative move Obama tries to make. We can’t give him any leeway because he’s listening to people who say we don’t count. That means we have to do what I’ve been saying all along we’d have to be prepared to do: defeat BD Democrats at the polls. There is no other way short of a third party or having FDR Democrats split off from the Blue Dogs and form a splinter party, which would be preferable but is extremely unlikely as things stand now. (If the Lieberman vote had been close, we might have had a chance to convince the FDR Dems -who are numerousn – to take a hike and go it on their own; that it wasn’t tells us exactly what we’re now dealing with.)

Nobody wanted to talk about it before the election. OK, wanna talk about it now? Or are you waiting for some further sign from Gawd or Harry Reid that the current crop of conservatives running the party are a lost cause? Are you ready to consider dumping Dems at the polls? Including BO in ‘12 if he doesn’t get the message? Because that’s what it’s going to take.


To Mark’s credit it seems that’s what he’s now prepared for.

Fuck the Democratic party leadership. Fuck them to hell and back. The Left should now be at war with the Democratic party and if that sounds like a joke, it won’t be come 2010.


Quarter should be given only to those senators who denounce this vote TODAY. Tomorrow is too late, it was a secret vote and I only trust those who demonstrate their anger with it in real time.

This is not me being radical, something I’m quite prone to. This is me being a rank and file Democrat being turned out of my own party. For this there can be no forgiveness because today the Harry Reid led Democrats showed that there is no party, only a confluence of special interests and establishment financiers. 

Crush all incumbents in 2010 and 2012. Purge the party of those who represent money, not people.

(emphasis added)

indeed. Dump the BD Dems, and if that means dumping the party itself – and it probably does – DUMP EM. There’s no other way to prevent an only slightly saner govt than Bush’s from arranging to keep the corporations in power for decades more with every awful result for our society, citizenry, economy, and even our democracy that that implies. A plutocracy run by conservative Democrats instead of Republicans is still a plutocracy, not a democracy, not even a republic. If the that beast eats you alive used to be your make it OK to eat you alive? Does it make him less dangerous?

Of course not, and only somebody in deep denial would think so. Are you?

6: The Main Democratic Principles

Two short statements before we begin:

  1. This is not intended to be anything like an exhaustive list, only a beginning for a list I hope will grow like a tree with the addition of many branches connected but spreading in all directions.
  2. My primary purpose is to set down, as clearly as possible, some of the Principles which I believe trump all and every convenient political excuse for doing nothing or worse, doing the opposite because we can convince ourselves it’s expedient. There are such principles and it’s time we acknowledged them. (All Hail Chris Dodd!)
  3. My secondary purpose is to help foster the apparently near-lost notion that politics is about something greater than re-election. In a democracy, it is the ultimate expression of justice, mercy, and community. It is about organizing and then manifesting the common good. It is about resisting abuses of power, whether from corporations, the military, foreign enemies, or the government itself. What it is NOT about is its own perpetuation at the expense of democratic principles and/or social comity.

Principle 1: The Law and the Constitution

While one can certainly argue about various interpretations of parts of the Constitution, the one Truth which must be considered incontrovertible is that the Constitution is the foundation of the nation’s legal structure. Two hundred years+ of precedent and legal opinion rest on that foundation, and while it is neither desirable nor practical to cleave literally to everything in it – it is a document written by fallible men, after all – it is dangerous and potentially destructive to ignore it altogether.

Far worse is the idea that a single politician – the president – has either the authority or the power to re-write portions of it without the consent of the governed (that’s us, people). That contentious, not to say arrogant, belief is contrary to the very meaning and purpose of the document. To insist that the president can do such a thing is to insist that the president is a monarch, not a subject of the people but a dictator who can make his own laws – the very condition against which the Founding Fathers rebelled and which caused them to write the Constitution in the first place.

The Constitution is and was from the very beginning an attempt to enshrine in law the concept that “the just powers of the executive derive from the consent of the governed” – not from the material and possibly accidental acquisition of power, whether military, financial, or political, but from the active consent of the community and its people. To maintain (much less act) otherwise is a violation of American law so breathtaking in its extremity and its contempt for the source of American society that it MUST define such a one as totally and utterly un-American. In other words, a Traitor.

There can be no compromise here. One CANNOT be at once a believer in democracy and at the same time award – or even be willing to tolerate – the assumption of monarchic powers by the executive branch (the president) and the concomitant loss of power by the legislative and judicial branches. There is room for interpretation and compromise with regard to exactly where the lines of power are drawn, but there is NO room for unilateral assumption of such power, especially by an executive so classically ignorant of democratic principles that he doesn’t even know what they are.

There can be no compromise here because to compromise about fundamental precepts is tantamount to declaring them non-operational. That in turn is tantamount to declaring that our democracy is no longer democratic because it is no longer governed by core democratic principles. It is now an autocracy with a monachic or dictatorial leader who may conduct himself by acknowledging the will of the people or in complete defiance of it, as he wishes.

In other words, that we have denounced our 230-yr-old “experiment in democracy” and gone back to empowering a functional monarchy – that we have willfully and deliberately traded our president for a king.

It may be said that the lines between one and the other are blurred, not easily defined. In many cases that may be true, but not in all. The Bush “signing statements” in which he added, like a king, codas that said he acknowledged the law but had no duty to obey it, should have sent up Red Flags all over the country. There is no ambiguity about what he was declaring, nor any confusion about what he meant: they were bald, flat-out rejections of the legislature’s power over the executive, direct and unarguable repudiations of fundamental Constitutional law. He should have been impeached for the very first one.

And even if they had been less obvious and incontrovertible than they were, they should still have occasioned an argument in the Congress – and in the press and public – over what they meant and whether they’d gone too far. There was no such argument (except in progressive blogs).

Why not? Because the so-called “opposition party” decided it wasn’t politically expedient. Despite our hopes, now that they’re in power they continue not to think so. This is simply NOT ACCEPTABLE. As pre-Nazi Germany eventually learned to its sorrow, it isn’t possible to sell out some of your core beliefs and still survive as the society you once were. You have fundamentally altered its nature with your gutting of centuries-old law in order to placate a power-hungry dictator you’re afraid of, and fear doesn’t excuse disemboweling your civilized principles simply because it’s “expedient” and “practical”.

At some point, if you don’t draw a line in the sand and declare “this far but no further” you become a dictator-enabler, an anti-democrat. A Traitor. You may hem and haw and delay until the question is no longer debatable, but when that moment is reached you MUST stand and fight or be accounted a coward, a sell-out, a Traitor to democracy. If you do not, then you and your party – the party that goes along with you – MUST be rejected by democrats because you have betrayed everything they stand for and allied yourself with monarchists who want to return kings to their thrones and send the people packing back to the fetid serfdom from which they emerged 250 years ago.

One CANNOT be a democrat – or a Democrat – if one believes in or supports or aids the reinstitution of monarchy. That ought to be self-explanatory. That it isn’t any more is one of the great sadnesses of Bush’s sad reign.

7: The FISA Betrayal

This has been a week of disappointment for those who still believe Democrats are substantially different from Republicans and Obama is the most different of all. The passage in the House, by a Democratic majority, of the abominable FISA Act gutting the Fourth Amendment right to privacy while pretending to protect it, followed by Barack Obama’s unprincipled acceptance of such a bill for political purposes, has sent shock waves through the progressive community. They’re still reeling from it in a sense, so maybe it isn’t fair to expect them to come to terms with the betrayal so soon. OTOH, given a little time to get used to it, they’ll probably start finding excuses to justify it and that’s not good. It will simply postpone the day of reckoning and we can’t afford any more blindness.

I have to wonder how much more it’s going to take for people to make the final leap from the earnestness of rationalization to the realization that there’s nothing to rationalize. Glenn Greenwald and dKos’ Hunter are both skirting the edge of that realization but can’t yet bring themselves to accept it, probably because they don’t want to know how bad our position as citizens really is after two Bush terms and two years of a Democratic Congress acting like Republicans in everything but name. Greenwald:

What the Democratic leadership is saying is quite clear: we will continue to trample on the Constitution and support endless expansions of the surveillance state because that is how we’ll win in swing districts and expand our Congressional majority…. The only objective of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer is to have a 50-seat majority rather than a 35-seat majority, and if enabling the Bush administration’s lawbreaking and demolishing core constitutional protections can assist somewhat with that goal, then that it what they will do. That’s what they are saying all but explicitly here.

 This is the standard rap and it comes from GOP TP’s as old as Reagan: the Democrats are opportunists who revere polls, believe in nothing and will do anything to win. The other usual memes have to do with Democratic incompetence and/or cowardice, but Hunter comes as close to dispensing with these excuses as any prog I’ve read yet.

 [T]his one was an absolute no-brainer, the one thing that the Democrats, no matter how stunningly incompetent, humiliatingly ineffective or bafflingly capitulating they may be, could manage to win simply by sitting on their damn hands. But no; it took serious work to lose on this one. Serious, burning-the-midnight-oil work to manage to quite so cravenly negate their own oversight duties.

And that is why this will not be forgotten anytime soon. A caucus willing to go to these lengths to satisfy the illegalities of the Bush administration is not one that can easily be defended. It is understandable that it would take a great deal of courage to enforce Congressional subpoenas. We can understand that voting against funding for the war could be risky, if we were to presume that Bush would simply keep the troops in the Iraqi desert to rot regardless of funding.

But this one? This petty, stinking issue of granting retroactive immunity to companies that violated the law, such that they need not even say how they violated the law, or when they violated the law, or how often, or against who, and the whole thing started before 9/11 so it is clear that terrorism wasn’t even a prime factor for doing it — that whole mess is now absolved, no lawsuits, no discovery, no evidence allowed to be presented?

No, that one is indefensible. It is indefensible because it requires not just passive acceptance of a corrupt administration performing illegal acts, but legislators actively condoning those acts with the stroke of a pen. The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes, then absolving them; there should be nothing but contempt for such acts.

(emphasis added)

 Hunter realizes that they worked at it, realizes the lengths the Dem leadership went to suborn its own party’s representatives, and dismisses the whole idea of “passive acceptance”, yet he focuses on the indefensible nature of the betrayal rather than the reason for it. Maybe he’ll get to that later.

Indeed, it is indefensible on its face, a decision for which there is and can be no excuse or acceptable rationalization. The Democrats openly and shamelessly sold us down the river. The question is, as always, why? Is it cowardice? opportunism? mere election strategy?

I should think if that’s all it was it would be bad enough but Hunter has his finger on what I’ve been saying for some time when he writes, “The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes.” Yes, Hunter. I know. They are. Two months ago I wrote in “Dump the Dems 5“:

At some point, if you don’t draw a line in the sand and declare “this far but no further” you become a dictator-enabler, an anti-democrat. A Traitor. You may hem and haw and delay until the question is no longer debatable, but when that moment is reached you MUST stand and fight or be accounted a coward, a sell-out, a Traitor to democracy. If you do not, then you and your party – the party that goes along with you – MUST be rejected by democrats because you have betrayed everything they stand for and allied yourself with monarchists who want to return kings to their thrones and send the people packing back to the fetid serfdom from which they emerged 250 years ago.

One CANNOT be a democrat – or a Democrat – if one believes in or supports or aids the reinstitution of monarchy. That ought to be self-explanatory. That it isn’t any more is one of the great sadnesses of Bush’s sad reign.

Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America. As Hunter clearly now understands, this was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.

The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.

And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands. Whether you take Greenwald’s position or mine, the antidote to this poison is the same: either defeat the BD’s or treat the whole party as if they were Pubs and fight them.

8: Are You Ready Yet?

There is no reason whatever to back the Democrats.

That’s the lesson we learned the past couple of weeks as Barack Obama forever soiled his undies when ordered to by the DLC, and the 4th Amendment was sent packing in a secret midnight meeting the Dem Leaders (Steny Hoyer, Jay Rockefeller, and Sylvestre Reyes) had with the Pubs and didn’t even bother to tell the membership about. The DLC/BD contingent is a minority with a very Pub-like disgust for democracy because it’s so hard to get anything done when you have to convince people to go against their best interests and the best interests of the country. They keep crabbing about the Constitution and stuff (as if that meant anything any more – “9/11 changed everything! 9/11 changed everything!!“), and how can you talk sense to people like that?

Here’s what the Democrats just did:

The new statute permits the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda — indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.

As I’ve previously explained, the NSA’s objective here is not simply to surveil foreigners who it already suspects as being part of al Qaeda — it can easily obtain a FISA order as to those folks. Nor is the purpose of the new law to allow warrantless surveillance of international-to-international calls — that’s already legal, too. As is the warrantless overseas interception of calls between foreigners and U.S. persons.

What the agency is seeking, instead, is to be able to intercept foreign communications (i) coming across domestic wires where (ii) NSA does not have probable cause to believe that any of the parties is a terrorist or agent of a foreign power; and (iii) there is a chance that some of the intercepted communications will be with persons in the U.S.

The new law allows the NSA to do this, by permitting what David Kris has called a form of “vacuum-cleaner” surveillance that (in the words of the new law) “target[s] . . . persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.”

Under this new standard, there’s no need that the surveillance have any connection to al Qaeda, or terrorism, or even to national security. The only substantial requirements are that someone overseas be a “target” and that one “significant purpose” of the surveillance be to acquire “foreign intelligence information” — which is very broadly defined to include most anything that occurs overseas and in which the federal government might have an interest (including information necessary to protect against the full range of foreign threats to national security, and information with respect to a foreign power that is necessary to the national defense or foreign affairs).

That’s what Democrats have done. Not Republicans, not Stalinist Commies. Democrats. Specifically, the DLC-run leadership. The message is clear: as far as the DLC/Blue Dogs are concerned, FDR Democrats – liberals –  are a thing of the past and from this point on the New Democrats – conservative DLC Democrats – are running things to suit themselves and if you don’t like it, wha’d’ya plan to do about it? Vote for a Republican? By gawd, they’re even worse! Hah! You’re stuck.

No, we’re not. We have options. The best one is to defeat the damn GOP conservatives who have infiltrated the party and grabbed hold of all the leadership positions. The Blue Dogs MUST go down to defeat if we are to replace the New Democrat party of autocrats and corporate stooges with Old Democrats who believe in stuff like universal health care, worker and consumer protections, the Constitution, community, and generosity to those less fortunate. (The Blue Dogs would run the less fortunate over in a truck if they were lying dying on the road because, after all, the BD’s are really Republicans and to a Pub anybody lying in the road deserves to be run over with a truck as a lesson not to lie in roads.) “Compassionate conservatives” my heiny. As we know know, that’s an oxymoron. Conservatives are never compassionate, and anyone who is compassionate isn’t a conservative.

The second possibility – don’t laugh – is to build a Third Party. And yes, it’s possible. Difficult – very difficult – but possible. And you know what? To be effective, it doesn’t even have to win, only scare the New Democrats into thinking they might lose.

The important thing is that we must be ready to Dump the Dems. If we’re not, neither of these options will work because they’ll have no reason to pay any attention to us.

Are you ready yet? What’s it going to take before you’ll be ready to risk a Pub win in order to get your party back? I really want to know. It’s fish or cut bait time.

9: “The Constitution Doesn’t Poll Very Well”

[T]his is exactly what we are now hearing from the likes of Harold Ford, Chuck Schumer, Cass Sunstein, David Broder, Tim Rutten, and on and on and on — criminal prosecutions for government lawbreakers are far too disruptive and politically untenable and unfair. The only fair reaction is just to vote them out of office or wait until they leave on their own accord. All of the Beltway platitudes are trotted out — we can’t look backwards, or “criminalize policy disputes,” or get caught up in unpleasant battles over prosecutions when we have too many other important problems too solve — all in order to argue that, no matter what happens, our glorious political leaders should never be held accountable in a court of law, like everyone else is, when they break the law.
Why would we expect political officials to do anything other than break the law if we continuously tell them — as we’ve been doing — that they are exempt from consequences? And how can Bush — or Nixon — be criticized for conceiving of the Presidency as being above the law when that’s how our political establishment, including many Democrats, explicitly conceive of it as well?
(emphasis added)
Indeed. And those arguments, absurd and anti-democratic as they are, are being accepted out here far more often than they should be. Too many of us seem willing to hold our noses and allow them to pass even though we’re uncomfortable with the whole idea of an all-powerful president, more like a king than anything a genuine democracy would dream up. Maybe that’s because we’re constantly being told – by Republicans, Democrats, and news commentators at every level and on every medium – that that’s the way it’s supposed to be. David Sirota wrote in this week’s column:
A calculated Jedi mind trick is at work here….
When regular folks talk to friends and neighbors, we sure feel like our desire for privacy, disgust with NAFTA and opposition to the Iraq war are mainstream majority positions – and they are. But then comes the barrage.
Day after day, smiling anchormen, blow-dried correspondents and silver-tongued congressmen follow the Big Lie theory of indoctrination, taking to our televisions, radios and newspapers insisting that crazy is normal, the majority is the minority and – most importantly – the fringe is the “center.” This is no accident.
These voices of the status quo do not want the status quo challenged. They deliberately broadcast messages crafted to get us – the mainstream – to question our mainstream-ness, while convincing politicians that the Establishment’s extremism represents a responsible middle ground.
And, confused, we fall for it. It sounds good – authentic, authoritative. We have little or no ability to read between the lines or hear beyond the words, we’re generally too ignorant to work out the real options in any situation, an ignorance that’s not totally our fault because the opportunistic media doesn’t see fit to tell us much that we need to know convinced as they are that we don’t want to know it. Still, there are a sizable number of people who are seeing through the Republicrat/corporate game to the underlying truth. Here’s Anonymous (his/her email is a cover coming through something called “Gishpuppy”, a site that lets you hide your real email address) on the SenatorObama-PleaseVoteAgainstFISA website answering an Obama defender who thought everyone should vote for Obama because his Supreme Court nominees wouldn’t be as extreme-Right as McCain’s would be:
This single issue is the Bill of Rights. With a politician willing to run roughshod over the Bill or Rights, what’s the point? Who cares who they nominate to the Supreme Court if there’s no Constitutional rights to protect? Without your freedoms from the Bill of Rights, what is it you are defending from terrorists? The Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the foundation upon which everything else in American politics is built. So, yes, when it comes to the Constitution I am a single-issue voter and so should every American.
Compromise is not an option.
The sad, sad truth is that it doesn’t. While we sit back arguing over who will make the better SCOTUS nominations (which the GOP will block anyway if they’re Obama’s), both parties – or, as Ralph Nader says, the single party known as the Republicrats – are working their little fannies off gutting the Bill of Rights, which is more than what Anonymous calls ”the foundation upon which everything else in American politics is built”, it is the foundation on which all American law is built. Without it we are no different from the dictatorship of Slobovia or the Kingdom of Heineken.
The Republicrats want power. That’s what it’s all about. When DLC Chair Harold Ford spoke at the netroots conference, he basically defended the FISA vote and its destruction of the accountability principle by echoing his hero, George W Bush, “I think that accountability was brought in 2006 when [the GOP] lost in the House and the Senate,” Ford responded said. “And we have only eight more months of George W. Bush…” Or as a Hullaballoo commenter put it, “The Constitution doesn’t poll very well.” Which is the exact same argument the media uses whenever it’s criticized for swallowing the Bush/Cheney manipulations whole and continually parroting the govt line without even bothering to check to see if anything in it is true. Glenn quotes the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.
[L]et me tell you about a conversation I had with..[NY Sen]..Chuck Schumer. When I asked him why, given his safe seat, and ostensible concern for civil liberties, he didn’t speak out more against the Bush Administration’s detention and interrogation programs, he said in essence that voters don’t care about these issues. So, he said, he wasn’t going to talk about them.
(emphasis in the original)
I’ve said this before and I will undoubtedly say it again: if we want to save our democracy from full-bore corporate authoritarianism; if we don’t want to see it become a home for autocratic despots and tinpot dictators like some Central American banana republic, we’re going to have to save it ourselves. If you’re expecting Obama or the Democrats to do it, that’s like expecting a thief to break into your house and leave his money on your dresser – unrealistic.
10: Obama Won’t Give Up Bush’s Illegal Powers

For the last year or so I’ve been saying, to much abuse (when I could get anybody to listen at all) that there was nothing accidental about the Democrats’ giving in to Bush, that it had nothing to do with cowardice or political expediency or appeasement. Back last June, late in the process, I wrote this after the FISA betrayal:

Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America…. [T]his was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.

The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.

And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands.

That prediction has been borne out as well. We have just seen that trick played out over the stim pack, and the proof of the Democrat party’s monarchic tendencies came yesterday when, given an opportunity to return to the rule of law, Obama refused to rescind one of Bush’s primary “unitary president” moves toward giving presidents the power of kings. 

The Obama administration failed — miserably — the first test of its commitment to ditching the extravagant legal claims used by the Bush administration to try to impose blanket secrecy on anti-terrorism policies and avoid accountability for serial abuses of the law.

On Monday, a Justice Department lawyer dispatched by the new attorney general, Eric Holder, appeared before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The case before them involves serious allegations of torture by five victims of President Bush’s extraordinary rendition program. The five were seized and transported to American facilities abroad or to countries known for torturing prisoners.

Incredibly, the federal lawyer advanced the same expansive state-secrets argument that was pressed by Mr. Bush’s lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. It was as if last month’s inauguration had never occurred.

(emphasis added)

As the NYT editors point out, this is the same argument Obama once found dangerous in a democracy.

Voters have good reason to feel betrayed if they took Mr. Obama seriously on the campaign trail when he criticized the Bush administration’s tactic of stretching the state-secrets privilege to get lawsuits tossed out of court. Even judges on the panel seemed surprised by the administration’s decision to go forward instead of requesting a delay to reconsider the government’s position and, perhaps, file new briefs.

But that was when he was a candidate. Now he’s president and he’s giving up NO powers, no matter how shabbily or illegally he got them. He never intended to. Neither did the Democrat party.

I hate being right about shit like this but we have to stop thinking that this political system – owned and operated by the rich – is going to afford us any protection from predators or even consider our needs. As the stim pack/bail-outs prove, we’re on the bottom of the list if we’re on it at all.

It was once a point of pride being a Democrat. I was proud of FDR, proud of Truman, proud of Jack. They weren’t perfect but they were moving in the right direction mostly and fighting some powerfully entrenched forces to do it. Kennedy was murdered for his sins, as were Bobby and Martin, all Democrats. Once it was the party of the future, the party that led the way to better times, more fairness and more peace.

Those days are gone. The Democrats are only slightly less the corporate whores and closet monarchists the GOP is, and if Rahm & Co have their way, what little difference there is will be wiped out before Obama’s first term is over.

What they did under Bush starting in ‘06 (and before) WASN’T INCOMPETENCE OR SPINELESSNESS. It was AGREEMENT. They actually think he was right, basically, but that he went too far.

They don’t get it. They never will.

We have two choices: get the Blue Dogs unelected and more progressives elected as Democrats, taking our party back again, or build up a third party to challenge the conservative-run Dems.

11: Dump ‘Em or Take the Party Back?

I hinted before that in the coming discussion about what to do now that the Democrat party is waving its true conservative colors around like a tattered battle flag that’s seen more defeats than Oprah has seen stretch marks, I was going to note before we rushed into deciding which Third Party to support that there was a case to be made for taking it back from the conservative minority that is currently strangling it. This is what I was talking about.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the State Secrets Protection Act of 2008, which was co-sponsored by numerous key Senators [including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Chair (Pat Leahy) and ranking member (Arlen Specter)], and which was approved by the Judiciary Committee last year with all Democrats voting in favor.  That bill, in essence, sought to ban the exact abuse of the State Secrets privilege which the Bush administration repeatedly invoked and which, now, the Obama administration has embraced:  namely, as a weapon to conceal and immunize government lawbreaking (by compelling the dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance) rather than a limited, document-by-document evidentiary privilege.

Yesterday — as an obvious response to the Obama DOJ’s support for the Bush view of the privilege — Leahy and Specter, along with Russ Feingold, Claire McCaskill, Sheldon Whitehouse and Ted Kennedy, re-introduced that bill in the Senate.  When doing so, Leahy made clear that the bill was more needed than ever in light of the actions of the Obama administration.


Sen. Feingold explicitly criticized the Obama administration earlier this week for its endorsement of exactly these abusive theories.  Several hours before the Senate bill was introduced, several key House Democrats introduced a similar bill in the House.  The ACLU promptly endorsed the bill.

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. (Check the links in Greenwald’s story: NONE of them goes to a newspaper report about this bill, and I couldn’t find a single news story about it in any major news venue – not the Times, the Post, or the AP.) 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.

I have seen this play out somewhere before: in Massachusetts under Senate Pres Billy Bulger. Bulger, a master power player and a conservative Dem, kept the liberal and progressive Dem reps under his thumb by carefully controlling the access to power of the individual majority members, allowing him to align himself and his conDem cohorts with the GOP minority to pass GOP-conceived bills.

Now, I need to qualify this so we’re clear: the GOP in Mass were (are) split into two parties: the extremist crackpot Pubs who would have fit right in with Coburn, Sensebrenner, Inhofe, Cornyn, McConnell, and the rest of the radcon whackos; and the moderate Pubs who ran as conDems because the official GOP was so discredited they couldn’t get votes anywhere but the enclaves of the New Rich in the east (the Old Rich wouldn’t touch their sorry asses with a 10-foot glove) and the backwaters of central and western Mass where the hicks live. The first were labeled GOP, the second were called ”Democrats” and masqueraded as if they were.

What ended up happening was predictable. Conservative control of the Democratic party meant fiscal and electoral alliances with the GOP that helped keep Mass under the thumb of one Republican Gov after another, with some exceptions (Mike Dukakis, as a libDem Gov, was a rarity), for several decades.

Yes, I said “decades”. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. How do you think conservative bimbo GOP Govs like Ed King got elected twice in a Democratic state? Couldn’t be because the conDems went out and campaigned for him, could it? Or were you unaware that we had near 30 years of worthless GOP Govs, including the likes of Mitt Romney?

Well, we did. A liberal, Democratic state has been ruled for nearly 4 decades by a minority of conservatives who ought to be in the GOP but couldn’t get elected if they were so they crossed over and joined Billy, who recruited a lot of them (shades of Rahm Emanuel only this goes back to the 50’s). They held just enough votes to keep the fiscal policies pro-corporate and pro-rich with a consequent loss in tax revenues and corresponding cuts in the budget in areas like education, infrastructure, and state aid to towns and cities. You wouldn’t know it from the press coverage but since the 80’s there have been schools in Mass where parents have to buy their kids’ uniforms and equipment, where the textbooks are 20 years old, and the buildings are crumbling because there’s no maintenance money in the budget.

That’s not how liberals do things, but liberals weren’t running the show.

In the fullness of time, Bulger retired but his place was taken by his hand-picked successor and things went on for years along pretty much the same lines as if he was still there. Occasionally there were eruptions that looked a little like revolts on the part of libDems but they were soon put down and the conDems were back in charge before you knew it (with a little help from their corporate friends).

I left just as Deval Patrick was taking over as the first libDem Gov since the Duke, the result of a long-time fucked-up state budget situation fostered by all those years of conservative economic policies. A pile of libDems were elected with him, maybe enough to make a difference.

We have a similar situation nationally now, and what we are now in a position to do is what Patrick did in Mass: take back the Democratic party from the conservatives. It’s a legitimate strategy. As the item above shows, there are quite a few genuine FDR Dems, populist Dems, and Progressive Dems willing to get up front if we back them, and there are even more waiting in the wings because Rahm Emanuel doesn’t think they’re conservative enough or pliant enough.

We need to stop worrying about the Nader Effect. It’s a shibboleth anyway, a false mythology of blame and denial. It should be clear by now that our politics, as one commenter put it, is “subdivided into two imaginary parties, Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats are slightly more popular than the Republicans because the Democratic winners are not as openly hostile to the losers as the Republican winners.”

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?

2 responses to “Dump the Dems

  1. Pingback: Why Won’t Pelosi Impeach Bush? « The Bush/Cheney Impeachment Papers

  2. Pingback: What Lieberman’s Victory Means to FDR Dems « Mick Arran

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