Don’t Know What We’ve Got Till It’s Gone

The Dem base has the blahs.  Voters, including Dem voters, are getting some hare-brained, mentally-incompetent idea that Cons would do better on the economy, and plan on throwing Dems out if they can’t instantly make the disaster left behind by the fucking Cons magically disappear.  This is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard in my life, and I am a blogger who specializes in stupidity, for fuck’s sake.

So listen up, ladies and gentlemen.  Wake up and smell the reality.  Stop your bitching, moaning and complaining.  Look at where we are:

Polls show the Democratic base is unmotivated to turnout in 2010— and it’s no wonder given all the rhetoric that Obama hasn’t done much with his 2008 victory.  Those attacks from the rightwing are understandable from a partisan position, but many progressives seem to oddly be aping similar rhetoric– wallowing in glass half-empty complaints of what Obama and Congress haven’t delivered while failing to actually educate the public on the successes they have.  We should be able to demand more while publicly praising what we do achieve — basic political walking and chewing gum at the same time — but a lot of progressives seem not to have mastered the skill.

Maybe it helps that I had such low expectations of Obama’s administration to begin with– but then I thought significant federal reforms would fail due to the filibuster. So the progress actually made is a pleasant surprise.  And those successes are large and profound.   This post will summarize those gains, and even in summary form will be quite long, reflecting  the incredible victories involved.    Yes, we all wish for more, but the best way to get there is to educate the public — and especially the progressive base — about what we got in the last year and how replacing moderates and conservatives with more real progressives could deliver even more in the future. 

Quick Summary of 2009 Progressive Victories (more explanation below)
  • Three major health bills (SCHIP, tobacco regulation, and stimulus funds for Medicaid, COBRA subsidies, health information technology and the National Institutes of Health) enacted even before comprehensive reform

  • Stimulus contained myriad other individual policy victories, not only preventing a far worse depression but also:
    • Delivered key new funds for education

    • Expanded state energy conservation programs and new transit programs

    • Added new smart grid investments

    • Funded high-speed Internet broadband programs

    • Extended unemployment insurance for up to 99 weeks for the unemployed and  modernizing state UI programs to cover more of the unemployed

    • Made large new investments in the safety net, from food stamps (SNAP) to affordable housing to child care

  • Clean cars victory to take gas mileage requirements to 35mpg

  • Protection of 2 million acres of land against oil and gas drilling and other development 

  • Executive orders protecting labor rights, from project labor agreements to protecting rights of contractor employees on federal jobs

  • Stopping pay discrimination through Lilly Ledbetter and Equal Pay laws

  • Making it easier for airline and railway workers to unionize, while appointing NLRB and other labor officials who will strengthen freedom to form unions

  • Reversing Bush ban on funding overseas family planning clinics

  • Passing hate crimes protections for gays and lesbians

  • Protecting stem cell research research

  • Strengthening state authority and restricting federal preemption to protect state consumer, environmental and labor laws

  • Financial reforms to protect homeowners and credit card holders

  • Bailing out the auto industry and protecting unionized retirees and workers

Go to the link for further detail.

Now, you may dislike some of the items on that list.  You may not think the list is long enough, or strong enough, or progressive.  But seriously, people, are you really upset enough you’d rather return to the good ol’ days of right-wing rule?  What, exactly, was so good about the Bush years that you care for a repeat?

And are a few progressive disappointments really enough to make you forget just who, exactly, left the economy in shambles?

Get the fuck over your disappointment.  Push for more progress, yes.  Demand more, yes.  But do not fuck yourselves out of all chance of progress by giving up and letting the Cons win.

Perhaps most importantly, do not make me take the Smack-o-Matic to your very own asses.  Because trust me, I will.  And I’ve added a special spike attachment for despondent Dems who can’t be bothered to get off their arses and fight the good fight just because they didn’t get every little thing they wanted.

Politics is rough, tough and full of disappointments, my darlings.  Toughen up, get the fuck used to it, get out there, and get better Dems elected.

Progressive Caucus Fires Shots Across the Bow


It’s not all gloom-and-doom on the health care reform front. Obama and the Blue Dogs may be ready to “bargain” all meaningful reform away, but Progressives have other ideas. Very much so.

Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) would like a word with the President:

“We look forward to meeting with you regarding retaining a robust public option in any final health reform bill and request that that meeting take place as soon as possible,” they wrote in a letter to Obama today. “Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, a public option built on the Medicare provider system and with reimbursement based on Medicare rates–not negotiated rates–is unacceptable.”

A health reform bill without a robust public option will not achieve the health reform this country so desperately needs. We cannot vote for anything less.

We look forward to meeting with you to discuss the importance of your support for a robust public plan, which we encourage you to reiterate in your address to the Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday.

You can read the entire letter here.

No mealy-mouthed weasel words here, my darlings. I see two lovely Smack-o-Matic 3000s clutched in those hands, and they aren’t afraid to use them. And Lynn Woolsey’s interview with Marc Ambinder’s even more definite. If Obama thinks he can placate everyone with a trigger, he’d best think again:

If it ends up being between a trigger and nothing, would you say nothing?

Rep. Woolsey: Yes, I would. I’m for health care reform, I’m not for tweaking around the edges.

So much for triggers.

As for noises from the White House about giving away the public option entirely, Sen. Sherrod Brown would like the President to remember Congress, not him, is writing the bill, thank you so very much. Additionally, “We’re not going through this to write some namby pamby bill so we can check a box and say we did health care reform.” We can translate this roughly as, “Put up or shut up, Mr. President.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler would like to know, “What is the point of passing a bill that mandates people to buy insurance that is going to be unaffordable?” And he warns of a split in the Democratic Party if a piece-of-shit bill is presented, which tells me Progressives aren’t prepared to fall quietly into line.

Lest there is any doubt, the Speaker of the House would like the President to understand that “A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House.”

It looks like the Blue Dogs aren’t the only ones with teeth. And it may surprise all involved to realize that Progressives have finished observing the barking and whining and general ruckus, and decided that now is the moment to do this:

You can find two petitions here where you can show Obama you’ve got the Progressives’ backs.

*edited to add Lynn Woolsey’s interview, which is worth reading in its entirety.

We’re Coming for You

That’s right.

No more free lunch for incumbents. No more job security. No more helpless handwringing as you Blue Dogs and spineless gits and corporate bitches get drunk on your own power. There will now be consequences for your actions:

Some of the most prominent names in progressive politics launched a major new organization on Thursday dedicated to pinpointing and aiding primary challenges against incumbent Democrats who are viewed as acting against their constituents’ interests.

Accountability Now PAC will officially be based in Washington D.C., though its influence is designed to be felt in congressional districts across the country. The group will adopt an aggressive approach to pushing the Democratic Party in a progressive direction; it will actively target, raise funds, poll and campaign for primary challengers to members who are either ethically or politically out-of-touch with their voters. The goal, officials with the organization say, is to start with 25 potential races and dwindle it down to eight or 10; ultimately spending hundreds of thousands on elections that usually wouldn’t be touched.

[snip]

It is a concept bound — indeed, designed — to ruffle the feathers of powerful figures in Washington, in part because the names behind it are now institutions themselves. With $500,000 currently in the bank, Accountability Now will be aided, in varying forms, by groups such as MoveOn, SEIU, Color of Change, Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC. FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald will serve in advisory roles, while Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos will conduct polling, with analytical help from 538.com’s Nate Silver.

This has been in the works since that FISA fuckery in June. Remember that time? Our vaunted political rulers lined up with Bush and voted an appreciable chunk of our Constitution away. Strange Bedfellows arose out of our anger and disgust, and morphed into Accountability Now PAC. While we weren’t able to defeat Blue Dogs Chris Carney and John Burrows, we surely gave them the shock of their young political lives. And you may have noticed that Steny Hoyer has all of a sudden discovered that it may be a good idea to sound like a Democrat again. All that, before the PAC was even fully functional.

2010’s gonna be interesting, especially for Dems who don’t serve their constituents’ interests.

And, lest you think this is just a far-left witch hunt borrowing a page from the Cons, keep this in mind:

In a conversation with the Huffington Post, Hauser, Hamsher and Greenwald said that the process by which targeted incumbents were chosen would not constitute an ideological litmus test. The goal, they noted, was simply to follow the numbers: figure out which Members were casting votes that were out of tune, philosophically speaking, with their constituent’s public opinion readings.

Granted, we’d love more progressives. But following the numbers means that it’s truly the will of the people that decides. If that means we don’t end up with an ultra-progressive challenger, so be it. Incumbents who aren’t incurring their constituents’ wrath likely have nothing to fear – much. Unless, of course, they pull another stunt like trying to immunize corporations for illegal spying, in which case I wouldn’t count on polling data to save their hides.

And if they were planning to stand in the way of broadly popular initiatives, they’re fucked:

By empowering the grassroots, Accountability Now will help create the political space needed to enable President Obama to make good on the many progressive policies he campaigned on – such as getting out of Iraq, ensuring access to affordable health care for every man, woman and child, restoring our constitutional liberties and ending torture.
In 2007, grassroots activists banded together to oust Al Wynn out of office, and it shook House Democrats to their core. Similarly, we learned in 2006 how even a primary challenge that does not win could change behavior, as Jane Harman has been more accountable to the concerns of her constituents after a tough primary race against Marcy Winograd.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this impacts the Washington old-incumbents’ club. As Accountability Now notes, “nothing focuses the mind of a politician on listening to citizens better than a primary.”

Change is coming. About damned time.

Cons Are Afraid. I Am Well Pleased.

If anyone’s wondering if Obama’s administration is too conservative, moseying over to the other side of the aisle for a look at the sturm und drang should lay your fears to rest:

The Washington Post has an item today highlighting the fact that some conservative activists are concerned because the Obama transition team includes plenty of liberals. Imagine that.

To some staunch conservatives watching President Bush relinquish the reins of power to President-elect Barack Obama, a few too many ardent liberals are now crashing the gates.

Some well-known Democratic activists are advising Obama on how to steer federal agencies, including a few whom conservative Republicans fought hard to keep out of power in the Clinton administration. They include Roberta Achtenberg, a gay activist whose confirmation as an assistant housing secretary was famously held up by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (N.C.), and Bill Lann Lee, who was hotly opposed by foes of affirmative action and temporarily blocked from the government’s top civil rights job.

Conservatives fear that some of these Obama transition advisers are too far left on the political spectrum and are a sign of radical policies to come.

“It is disturbing,” said Roger Clegg, a conservative opponent of Lee’s appointment who is now watching the Obama advisers at the Justice Department. “The transition team as described to me was made up of nothing but people on the far left. Though Obama is more moderate, that makes you wonder what kind of advice the president is given, and what range of choices he’ll be given when it comes time to make appointments.”

That probably shouldn’t make me as happy as it does. But watching them quake in fear as liberals pour in to fix the damage they’ve done just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Another Progressive Voice

More signs progressives have nothing much to worry about when it comes to Obama’s administration:

To people worried about the seeming centrist tilt (um, wait, can you tilt to the center?) of many of president-elect Barack Obama’s appointees, this morning’s announcement that FDL Book Salon guest and progressive economist Jared Bernstein had been named VP Joe Biden’s top economic adviser should be good news.

Yes, I know that folks like Atrios, Matt Yglesias, and others have raised questions about just how much clout Bernstein will have as the vice president’s economic adviser, rather than one of the familiar posts formulating policy for the top guy, but I think that in some ways, this may be more of a feature than a bug.

It seems noteworthy that the Obama-Biden team created this position for Bernstein, apart from the established organizational chart. The strategy might be to keep Bernstein free of administrative responsibilities and turf battles, able to survey the whole range of economic policymaking and express his views as he sees fit.

Given that he’ll be able to do so not only directly in group sessions but via Biden as the latter meets individually with Obama, that could be a fairly influential role.

I hope it is, cuz I likes him a lot:

In May, Bernstein wrote on Huffington Post that it’s now time for progressives to govern after years of conservative failures:

Regarding the variables that matter most to working families, the neocon experiment was a particularly dramatic failure. Employment grew one third as fast as the average over the 2000s business cycle and the unemployment rate, though low on average, was higher at the end of the cycle than at the beginning. Perhaps the most damning indictment is this: for the first time on record, going back to the mid-1940s, the income of the typical, middle-income family was slightly lower last year than at the prior peak in 2000 (see their figure A). […]

The defenders of the status quo will howl in protest: the Democrats blocked us, the terrorist attacks and the war changed everything, we must stay the course to victory! But such rhetoric should be dismissed as what it is: the last, desperate gasps of a dying movement.

They’ve had their turn and they’ve failed. It is our turn now.

Hell to the yes!

Something tells me that I’m going to pretty thoroughly enjoy the next four years, despite the occasional annoyance.

Psst… Hey, Cons. We’re Coming For You

I think America started a little something. First, we have Canada’s left flexing its muscles and getting ready to pop Stephen Harper in the face. Even Stéphane Dion, whom I’d heard had all the vim and vigor of a piece of wet paper, is breathing some fire. And they’re not the only ones:

In England the political news is equally remarkable. This summer Gordon Brown was watching as safe Labor seats were being taken by opposition parties by huge majorities. He watched as the popular mayor of London was trounced by a loose lipped Tory new comer. His own standing in the polls, if put through in an election, would have left only a few dozen Labor MPs, and he would lose his own seat. Now the Brown Bounce as it is called, has him within the statistical margin of error of the Tories, with Labor voters “coming home” to their party. The unifying thread, in both cases, is the promise of massive Keynesian fiscal stimulus, and active response to the crisis. The Tories both in the Dominion of Canada, and the United Kingdom, have promised cuts and question marks, being dragged to admitting the need for action little and late. Dion, elected as a care taker leader, has managed to pull off one of the most spectacular negotiations in Canadian Parliamentary history, and Brown has come back from the political dead on the back of aggressive response, fiscal stimulus, and promising a direction which is avowedly rooted liberal and social democratic ideas. It’s something for American politicians to heed.

Seems right wings the world over are about to get clipped.

Good.

P.S. If you’re wondering if Canada’s conservative party is full of the same lying sacks of shit that infest the Cons here, the answer is yes.

Progress on the Progressive Front

There’s been a lot of bitching on the left about the dearth of progressives in Obama’s cabinet choices. I haven’t any sympathy. Obama didn’t promise us a progressive rose garden. He flat-out told us he’s going to go post-partisan on our asses. And when he has chosen progressives to help him transition and govern – John Podesta comes to mind – there’s been, at most, a smattering of applause before people are right back to the whining, moaning and complaining.

Maybe it’s because I came late to the game, but I’ve been quite satisfied in most of his choices. He’s picking intelligent, qualified people who will extract the maximum of milk with the minimum of moo (h/t Terry Pratchett). If he packed his administration with far left progressives, the Con roadblocks thrown up in his way would become Berlin Walls. He knows that. I’d rather see him pick people that will help him govern – especially since most of what he’s said about the economy and the environment and even a few things on national security have been in accord with what we’ve been wanting.

Steve Benen has a nice piece up about why he’s not concerned about Obama’s cabinet choices. And today, there comes word that Obama’s economic team will include a dyed-in-the-wool progressive:

…Obama announced his selection of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury; Lawrence Summers as the Director of our National Economic Council; Christina Romer as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; and Melody Barnes as Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

[snip]

But it’s Barnes, moving to the White House by way of the Center for American Progress, who’s of particular interest. Yglesias had a good post on Barnes and the Domestic Policy Council.

[snip]

Barnes has some of the liberal credentials that people have seen lacking in some other Obama appointments. She served as Chief Counsel to Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2003, was CAP’s Executive Vice President for Policy, and then left to join Obama’s campaign as policy director.

That’s the second person he’s tapped from CAP that I know of. So yes, he’s bringing progressives on board, and yes, the next four years are likely to see advancement on the progressive front.

A line from Alias keeps coming to mind every time I consider progressives’ efforts to shift the country left: “It’s not about cutting off the head off the monster. It’s about killing the monster. The work is complicated, it’s political, and it is long term.”

It is going to take time and a herculean effort to wean this country off of it’s conservative dependency and get them used to progressive ideas. We can’t just elect a progressive president and have him appoint a progressive cabinet and call victory. The Cons did that with their neocon agenda. It didn’t last. I don’t want us to suffer the same fate.

Our work is going to be complicated, political and long term. We have to build a progressive country from the ground up. We have to elect progressive politicians, encourage progressive policies, and bust our asses to make sure those politicians and policies make a real, positive difference in American lives. We have to show that the progressive agenda, unlike the conservative one, actually works. It’s the only way a progressive agenda can succeed, and it’s the only way it deserves to.

We have to rid ourselves of the reactionary elements in our own party by voting them out in favor of progressives. Until we can put the Blue Dogs down, we’re going to have to work with what we’ve got. What we have is Obama, and he’s proving that while he’s more centrist than we may have wished, he’s sympathetic to our ideas. He’s also pragmatic enough to realize you don’t merely steamroll your enemies – you make it impossible for them to resist you. Progressive ideas coming from a centrist, bipartisan administration will be far harder for the Cons to obstruct. Selling those progressive ideas to the American people as a moderate, post-partisan package means they’re more likely to buy. Once they’ve tried it, they’ll like it and they’ll keep buying, even if we later change the packaging to read “Now With More Progressive!”

Even the Cons know that. It’s why they’ll fight like grim death to keep things like universal healthcare off the table – they know that once Americans get a hit of the pure progressive, they’ll never go back to that conservative trash they’ve been mainlining.

Obama’s not the magic man who will sweep progressives into power with a wave of his wand. He’s simply a president we can work with, one who’s not afraid to bring progressives on board. We’ve been given a gift. Instead of whining that it’s not quite the progressive gift we wanted, let’s get the work done. Let’s do it right, so that the country may go left.

Waxing Progressive

You can shoot me for the pun later. But it’s true: the progressive moon is on the rise. Here’s the latest great good news:

In a stinging rebuke of the Blue Dog caucus, Henry Waxman has defeated John Dingell for Chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Why, it seems like only yesterday the Blue Dogs were sniffing that the Steering Committee who recommended Waxman were a bunch of unrepentant hippies who didn’t reflect the overall makeup of the Democratic caucus. (In fact, it was.)

This is a huge defeat for the Blue Dogs, who were hoping to use Dingell as a roadblock to keep any meaningful change from happening with regard to issues under the Committee’s jurisdiction — telecommunications and health care, energy and environmental protection, interstate commerce and consumer protection.

Dday adds:

This, more than anything, could be the biggest change in the federal government in 2009 and beyond. Waxman’s Safe Climate Act sets the targets needed to mitigate the worst effects of global warming. It now becomes the working document in the House for anti-global warming legislation. And his constituency doesn’t include a major polluting industry.

From a policy standpoint, it’s a major progressive victory.

Indeed it is. And this, with Daschle’s helming DHHS, tells me that we are, at long last, going to see some actual progress.

I feel like I can breathe again after nearly a decade of drowning. Anyone else experiencing the same?