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“Typical, Nameless, Racist Teabagger”

By: Knoxville Monday January 4, 2010 7:52 pm

Two headlines at Daily Kos today were dedicated to a single racist moron.

After seeing Steaming Pile’s OMFG! Teabag leader carries sign with "N" word in the recommended-diary list at Daily Kos today, I decided to leave a brief comment and write this diary.

At first, when I saw BarbinMD’s front-page post titled The Face of a Teabagger earlier today, I left a comment, titled "Typical," "nameless," "racist"?, and got attacked for it.

Obviously, I was responding to BarbinMD’s characterization of this single moron as a “typical, nameless, racist teabagger.”

I wrote, in part:

I’ve come to understand that "teabaggers" are people who can’t be thrown into such a stupid set of labels.

They’re not even part of a single movement or group.

The fact is that the American people are angry, many with good reason. There’s a populist undercurrent to what we’re seeing that the Democratic Party is shitting all over.

Bad move.

The Democratic Party has made a strategic decision to use "teabaggers" as an "other" in order to pass bad legislation that works against the people’s interests and to fundraise.

This observation is “near-offensive,” declared one commenter, who got high marks from other Daily Kos readers for his rant.

In response, I wrote Offensive?:

First, I’m not defending all tea partiers. I’m saying that there’s a reason why so many Americans identify more with them than to the Democratic or Republican Parties.

But if you want to see offensive. How about the email John Kerry sent out to on behalf of the DSCC a couple of weeks ago in an effort to fundraise?

I wrote out it in a diary titled John Kerry Fears People Who Hang Tea Bags from Their Rearview Mirrors (Dec 15, 2009).

Then there was the DCCC email I got in late Oct. Wrote about it in The Democratic leadership thinks we’re stupid (Oct 29, 2009).

At a time when the American people have been demanding populist leadership and change, the Democratic Party has decided to go with more of the same old corporatist bullshit.

You people can shout me out all you like.

The fact is I care more about Democrats in office advancing core Democratic values and principles as laid out in the 2008 Democratic Party platform than you apparently do.

And if the Democrats would have just acted like Democrats in 2009, they’d be reaping electoral victory in 2010 instead of having to spin their way out of their bullshit 2009 record of failure.

So, rather than write another lengthy comment at the second headline today at Daily Kos, the recommend-listed diary dedicated to this one moron with a stupid sign, I’m writing this diary.

Indeed, rather than point out the stupidity of this individual and using him to create an “enemy” – an “other” – for Democrats to rally against, maybe Democrats need to start asking themselves why we’re seeing headlines like this one in the LA Times a couple of weeks ago:

Tea party outpolls Democratic, Republican parties – will anger fuel 2010 elections? (Dec 17, 2009):

"According to the poll, 41% of likely voters now have a favorable opinion of the tea party disciples, compared with 35% for Democrats and 28% for Republicans."

We need to start asking serious questions about what the Democratic Party in power has done so wrong in 2009 to have merited so much disappointment after the impressive 2008 electoral victory.

Seriously, the Democratic Party was in the political wilderness for the better part of the last decade as Republicans secured tax cuts for the rich in 2001 (by means of reconciliation in the Senate, btw) and went on to reveal their corporatist colors for all to see.

Americans were so angry about it in ’06 and ’08 that they either didn’t vote or were highly motivated to vote for Democrats, who promised to stop the corporatist bullshit, who promised “change.”

Now that Democrats have the White House, a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate, rather than respond to the American people’s anger and demand for change, they’ve decided to do the same old corporatist bullshit?

Seriously?

The result is not funny.

According to the most recent Daily Kos "State of the Nation" tracking poll, 45% of Democrats identify themselves as either unlikely to vote or certain not to vote.

That’s the base saying that they are not happy.

What Steve Singiser (Daily Kos Front Pager) wrote regarding that not good statistic is a good example of what far too many at Daily Kos are saying:

For the Democrats to avoid a major defeat in 2010, this above all other things needs to be rectified.

With all due respect to Steve, he’s essentially saying that – despite the fact that Obama and congressional Democrats fucked over the base and the American people in 2009 – activists are now supposed to work even harder to help them stay in office.

Yes, let’s all help them spin their way out of betraying us and out of screwing over the American people.

Not.

But I digress.

Putting up a photo of a moron and of morons like him and saying things like “typical, nameless, racist teabagger” isn’t really addressing the real problem that many in the base of the Democratic Party – indeed, many Americans – have with their leaders, whom they are not all that enthusiastic about supporting in Nov 2010.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

 

Obama’s First Year: Failure

By: Knoxville Sunday January 3, 2010 12:33 pm

President Obama Sworn In, Jan 20, 2009

While listening this afternoon to the panel on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria – GPS review President Obama’s first year in office, discuss whether he has met the challenges we faced when he took office, and ask what kind of a president he really is, I decided to reread the inaugural address that Obama delivered on Jan 20, 2009.

Among other things, President Obama said the following when he took office:

“The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.”

Barack Obama became president having campaigned on slogans like “change we can believe in,” “the change we need,” “fierce urgency of now,” and “yes, we can!”

As we approach the end of his first year in office, Americans can ask what President Obama has done to restore “the vital trust” between the American people and our government.

Obama’s The Change We Need?

Has he done what he promised to do?

Indeed, has he done what he said is necessary to do?

I believe that his presidency has not been the change he promised.

I believe that rather than break the corporate-government collusion that has worked against the American people and has done so much to harm the trust between us and our government, President Obama has in fact enhanced corporate-government collusion time and again during his first year. Moreover, he shows no sign of changing course going forward into in what will be — if he does not acknowledge his errors thus far and become the change we need — his remaining few years in office.

In this and so many other ways, President Obama has failed to address properly the challenges that we face.

In fairness, Obama hasn’t been the only disappointment.

The Democratic majority in the House and the supermajority in the Senate have been great disappointments, too.

On a whole array of issues — war, jobs and the economy, DADT, DOMA, among others — President Obama, the Democratic majority in the House, and the supermajority in the Senate this year have disappointed a lot of people who believed in them.

For me, the revelation that President Obama wants more corporate-government collusion, though this corporatist system works against the American people and has done so much to harm the trust between us and our government has been the greatest disappointment.

How have they disappointed you the most?

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

Timothy P. Carney’s Obamanomics and Progressive Activism

By: Knoxville Saturday January 2, 2010 7:45 am

Timothy P. Carney's Obamanomics @ Amazon

Progressive activists are all that stand between what President Obama is actually doing and what self-identified liberals incorrectly assume to be his agenda. If they are to move Obama to the left, they must not stop speaking out publicly as they break through the noise and spin of groups like Organizing for America (OFA), the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and of Obama himself.

Fortunately for progressive activists, they are not alone in recognizing that the mainstream rhetoric of both the Democratic and Republican Parties deliberately provides cover for what far too many politicians are actually doing.

Rather than join in the chorus of Republicans who call Obama a socialist and decry his supposed hatred for corporate America, for example, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) wants conservatives also to look beyond the right-wing rhetoric to see the truth about what President Obama is really doing.

To that end, Paul calls attention to Timothy P. Carney’s Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses (2009). Paul recommends the book not only to conservatives, in fact, but liberals as well, writing:

“Every libertarian and free-market conservative who still believes that large corporations are trusted allies in the battle for economic liberty needs to read Obamanomics, as does every well-meaning liberal who believes that expansions of the welfare-regulatory state are done to benefit the common people.”

Calling Obama a socialist is nonsense, of course. Self-identified liberals and progressive activists can certainly agree on that. But what most self-identified liberals have yet to recognize is that Obama is actually bending “over backwards to cooperate with industry and the Republicans,” as Marc Ambinder put it a couple of weeks ago.

Indeed, Carney argues that Obama’s brand of corporatism – a “Big Business-Big Government agenda” and a “robust corporate-government collusion” – has gone far beyond anything ever previously attempted.

But there is a reason why it is difficult to many to see.

Of candidate Obama’s campaign rhetoric, Carney recalls the promises "to defend the little guy against the evils of corporate America.” Candidate Obama, for example, said things like this:

“The reason that we’re not getting things done is not because we don’t have good plans or good policy prescriptions. The reason is because it’s not our agenda that’s being moved forward in Washington – it’s the agenda of the oil companies, the insurance companies, the drug companies, the special interests who dominate on a day-to-day basis in terms of legislative activity.”

Indeed, as a candidate, Obama promised his supporters “change you can believe in.”

But the evidence is already clear that liberals and progressives were wrong to believe in him.

Carney wastes no time presenting examples of Obama’s duplicity and his willingness to make deals that are not good for the American people.

For example, Obama railed against the tobacco industry, but the bill he signed into law, which was supposedly going to be a legislative death sentence for the industry, had the fingerprints of Philip Morris’s lobbyists all over it, as Greg Allen of National Public Radio reported. Indeed, the industry giant’s smaller competitors believe that it was deliberately designed to harm them. Allen points out that Philip Morris pushed for passage of the bill, while Reynolds and Lorillard opposed it “because they believe it will prevent them from ever challenging the dominance of Philip Morris and its Marlboro brand.”

Just one of many examples of Obama’s brand of corporatism. “Obamanomics” indeed.

Also early on, Carney provides the example of candidate Obama, who eloquently derided the pharmaceutical industry, turning into President Obama, a corporatist politician who strikes deals with the pharmaceutical industry, a corporatist politician who jumps headlong into bed with that same industry and strikes deals that are so good that PhRMA forked over $150 million in August 2009 to advertise in favor of passing what is still sometimes called health care “reform,” though it is not.

Add up all the deals within its pages, and this legislation amounts to Obama’s brand of corporatism: “Obamanomics”

Carney goes on to provide example after example not only of the ways in which Obama’s actions are unacceptable to conservatives, but example after example of what for progressives can only be seen as a great betrayal, as Obama embraces energy companies, automakers, Wall Street banks, and the Chamber of Commerce, among others, turning them into the great beneficiaries of Big Government.

These are not only examples of corporate welfare and regulatory robbery being marketed to the base of the Democratic Party as progressivism and populism. They are far worse. They are examples of Orwellian doublespeak. They are examples of how to tell the people of your base – the people who trusted you – what they want to hear while you’re doing exactly what they would never want you to do and while you’re doing exactly what you know to be not in their interests.

As Carney puts it, corporations get “more taxpayer-funded subsidies, regulation that crowds out competition, and government mandates that drive more business to them,” while politicians gain more power and lobbyists gain more influence. It’s a win-win-win for the corporations and the DC/K Street insiders.

As Obama cuts deal after deal after deal with Big Business and K Street lobbyists, deals that he knows are against the American people’s interests, that the American people don’t win seems unimportant to him.

The reality of Obama’s presidency is so bad that Cenk Uygur has called it Barack Obama, Inc. (Dec 16, 2009) in a post where he lists many reasons for his disappointment in Obama. Why has Obama chosen the status quo and embraced corporatism? Part of the reason is that he mistakenly takes the left for granted. Uygur, therefore, has called on progressives to shake Obama out of pursuing this corporatist agenda and force him to the left by means of a strategy now called the Uygur Doctrine.

But what efforts there have been thus far haven’t been enough.

Marc Ambinder put it succinctly when he wrote:

“Activist liberals may be angry, but their anger hasn’t gotten them squat just yet.”

Among other things, progressive activists must embrace a left-right populist tactical convergence, and efforts that are being led by Jane Hamsher here, here, and here to do just that are well underway.

Forward!

As John Odum observes:

“The beltway seems to respond to a definition of political force that mirrors Newton’s own definition of physical force in his second law: f=ma (force equals mass times acceleration). The Uygur/Hamsher activist faction may divorce itself of some mass through its approach, but through an even greater increase in its acceleration (by being more focused and nimble), it could end up a far more potent political force when all is said and done.”

Progressive activists must speak out constantly, relentlessly.

They must do what Obama’s nature has forced them to do.

They must draw political blood in order to force Obama to the left.

And they must do so without concern for the efforts of groups like Organizing for America, a group that appears to be determined to label Firedoglake and other progressive activists “teabaggers” as, ironically, it tries to shout progressive activists out, tries to confuse discussion among progressives and self-identified liberals, tries “to make up in volume what it lacked in message,” in other words, as it acts like a bunch of “teabaggers” in order to drown out the voices of progressive activists, disrupt civil discourse, and conceal the truth.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

On HCR, Corporatist Dems Aren’t Done Screwing Us Yet

By: Knoxville Wednesday December 30, 2009 10:03 pm

House H. R. 3962

On Monday, Jon Walker of Firedoglake asserted that state-based exchanges as formulated in the Democratic Senate’s health care bill, which divides state-based exchanges into two and provides states with the option of further dividing them, are designed in such a way that they would not effectively control costs and thus, Jon says, are “clearly doomed to fail.”

Because of the undemocratic nature of the United States Senate and because the current Democratic supermajority Senate is occupied by wannabe emperors and presidents like Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu, efforts to reform our health care system have been reduced to this, a provision for the creation of piecemeal exchanges that won’t control costs.

Well, there is also the House’s bill. On Nov 7, 2009, the House passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, which called for the creation of a public health insurance option. Even though the version of the public option that the House finally settled on is weaker than others that were proposed, when combined with the national exchanges that are also in the House bill, it would have done far more to bend the cost curve than what is in the Senate Democrats’ bill. Put simply, the public option is foundational to real health care reform.

And so now attention turns to the conference between House Democrats, Senate Democrats, and the Obama administration, where a final bill will be forged. As everyone believes that the public option is off the table, Sam Stein at HuffPost reports that, for House Democrats,

“the main issue on the radar is to try and ensure that newly created health insurance exchanges are national (the House version) and not state-based (the Senate version).”

(Of course, many on the right, left, and center, including Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake and Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos think that the focus should be on removing the individual mandate, which turns American citizens into customers of private insurers, requiring us by law to buy insurance companies’ low-quality products, but…)

Because the Obama administration has to be able to say that 30 million Americans will experience the joy of having quality health insurance new customers will be forced by law to buy low-quality products in order to sell the Democrats’ bad joke to the American people, House Democrats appear to be gearing up to wage instead an epic battle in order to ensure that the type of exchanges that will work best worst for the American people will win the day.

Yes, as House Democrats lightly draw their latest line in the sand, which they will yet again move, we can rest assured that the confrontation between these weak failures in the House and the sellouts in the Obama administration and the Democratic Senate will end with great success with yet another – their final – failure.

According to Stein, among our champions will be Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), who said:

“I’m going to give you my own view, which is the House view, which is that I think we need a federal insurance exchange…. I think we’ve got to look closely at this. I think that it’s much easier… to keep insurance companies in check — it is simpler to administer. We’re going to have a checkerboard here [with the Senate bill]. And also I think you have to take a look at the political reality. Implementing reform is going to be much more difficult in some states than in others.”

Now, how reassuring is that! This is indeed the same Rep. Rosa DeLauro who has done such a great job slapping lipstick on Nelson’s anti-abortion pig.

And this is what far too many on the left want to put their faith in, right?

Well, Stein quotes one unnamed health care reform activist as saying:

“It’s hard to imagine how Ben Nelson would get on board with national exchanges.”

Indeed.

Translation: we won’t even get national exchanges.

If Nelson doesn’t abuse Senate procedures to single-handedly screw us all over yet again, Blanche Lincoln, or Mary Landrieu, or Emperor Joe Lieberman will.

So suck it up, America.

And be sure to whip out your wallets when the DCCC, the DSCC, and the OFA come calling to ask you for campaign contributions so you can help elect even more ineffective and/or sellout corporatist Democrats.

Here’s a thought: by the time Obama and congressional Democrats are done screwing up what was supposed to have been health care reform and condemning millions of Americans to become the customers of unprincipled and untrustworthy private insurers, we’re all going to regret that we ever empowered these failures to screw us all over in the first place.

This isn’t what I voted for in ’06 and ’08.

Happy New Year, btw.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

Health Care Reform, The “Obama” Brand, and Liberal/Conservative Opinion

By: Knoxville Tuesday December 29, 2009 8:11 pm

Earlier today, I wrote that we must work hard

“to bring Obama down from his lofty heights, where he sits far too comfortable in the incorrect belief that, because he has such a nice smile, he is a political immortal, and therefore can screw over the American people while patting them on their heads and getting their campaign contributions and their votes.”

This assertion requires further explanation.

Allow me to provide some of the evidence upon which it is based.

In a recent Quinnipiac poll, respondents were categorized according to the following criteria: age, gender, race, income, political party affiliation and political philosophy [this last criterion – political philosophy – being broken down into three: liberal (left), moderate (center), and conservative (right)].

When asked "Do you support or oppose allowing Americans ages 55 to 64 to purchase Medicare coverage?" here is how respondents who said “support” broke down in terms of political philosophy:

Liberals (82%); Moderates (68%); Conservatives (52%)

Medicare is so popular today that even Republicans tell their supporters that they want to protect it. And so we see high marks all around.

When asked "Do you support or oppose giving people the option of being covered by a government health insurance plan that would compete with private plans?" here is how the political philosophies of respondents who said “support” broke down:

Liberals (85%); Moderates (66%); Conservatives (33%)

Over the past few months, the public option has been tied to Obama and Democrats. And the "support" answers shift accordingly, with more liberals liking it and fewer conservatives liking.

And when asked "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling – health care?" here’s how the “approve” answers broke down:

Liberals (88%); Moderates (44%); Conservatives (17%)

Forget specific proposals like Medicare buy-in or public option.

Simply throw out the "Obama" brand (i.e. drop Obama’s name into the question) in reference to handling health care, and even more liberals and even fewer conservatives think they like it.

Liberals think they love whatever it is being done by “Obama” (“it” not being defined) and conservatives think they hate whatever it is being done by “Obama” (“it” not being defined).

Our problem is not that Americans don’t like the public option or the Medicare buy-in proposal.

They do.

Our problem is that the “Obama” brand is still going way too strong among Americans who identify themselves as liberals, as it also is among far too many progressives, despite all the evidence that he’s not at all what he appears to be and that he isn’t doing what most Americans want him to do.

We have to do our part to return Obama to earth, where he can be held accountable for what he does and does not do.

We have to do it not because we hate Obama.

We have to do it because Obama won’t do what the American people want him to do on a wide variety of issues until he has to do more than flash his smile in order to collect contributions and get votes that he doesn’t deserve.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

Old Fault Lines, New Alliances, and the Lessons of Failure

By: Knoxville Tuesday December 29, 2009 10:55 am

Well before Senate Democrats passed their health care bill on Christmas Eve, the debate over health care reform was dividing progressives. Now there is an even larger division among progressives, as some will support any candidate running as a Democrat in 2010, while others will not.

The Progressives’ Political Predicament

Two months before President Obama delivered his speech outlining his new strategy for Afghanistan, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX14) was asked what he thought of Obama’s approach to America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He answered that what Obama was doing was just as bad as what Bush had done and was even

“a little more dangerous because he has neutralized the anti-war left. The antiwar left has just left. At least Bush was honest, I mean he was upfront. He believed in pre-emptive preventive war; but everybody was hopeful that Obama would do differently, but he hasn’t. So he has quieted down the left and there is a very weak anti-war movement in this country now. And that obviously is something I hope to participate in reviving and it has to be coming from the old right as well as true progressives who believe that all this warmongering and killing makes no sense whatsoever.”

Rep. Paul’s point – that the election of Barack Obama has been a serious blow to the anti-war movement – extends well beyond the silencing of opposition to America’s wars; it encompasses the progressive movement as a whole.

In the waning years of the presidency of George W. Bush and after more than a decade of Republican control of Congress, the American people were more than ready to abandon tough talk and bad policies. The 2006 and 2008 elections were victories for progressives, but progressives have not been able to reap the rewards. The tough talk is gone, but the bad policies remain. And the result is that progressives find themselves at odds with each other, trapped in a difficult predicament that they must work their way out of without delay.

Nearly two weeks ago, about a week before Senate Democrats passed a health care bill that included nothing upon which Americans could build toward a single-payer system, Jake McIntyre highlighted in An Observation on the Split in the Progressive Blogosphere (Dec 16, 2009) that there has emerged a policy wonk/activist division among progressives over health care that is strikingly similar to the 2003 division over the invasion of Iraq: on the wonky side,

“a resigned sense that this isn’t an ideal action, but that we don’t live in an ideal world, and that consequently we should suck it up and support an imperfect initiative;”

while on the other side,

“a resistance born of an awareness that Congressional Democrats will more often than not – and often unintentionally – screw themselves and the country, out of a misguided belief that powerful forces with agendas very different from that of the Democratic Party can be managed and trusted.”

As McIntyre put it:

“When all is said and done, the wonks trust Democratic politicians to protect our interests. The activists don’t. That doesn’t mean that we don’t like certain Democratic politicians, or that we don’t cherish our wonky brethren. It just means that we’re not willing to get fooled again.”

I would add that the problem for progressives now is even more difficult because Democrats are in power, whereas in 2003 they were not. Tensions are higher because there are those who will accept anything so long as Democrats keep their hold on power, while others want to fight those Democrats who fail to do what’s right for the American people.

And, sure enough, two days after McIntyre made his observation, Jane Hamsher published The Left-Right Populist Wrap-Around Vs. the Beltway Insiders (Dec 18), which gave rise to reprehensible attacks like this one and weak attacks this one, attacks that must be cited, though they aren’t worth remembering.

Here’s what Hamsher said that landed her in the center of the storm:

“There is an enormous, rising tide of populism that crosses party lines in objection to the Senate bill. We opposed the bank bailouts, the AIG bonuses, the lack of transparency about the Federal Reserve, “bailout” Ben Bernanke, and the way the Democrats have used their power to sell the country’s resources to secure their own personal advantage, just as the libertarians have. . . What we agree on: both parties are working against the interests of the public, the only difference is in the messaging.”

Because Hamsher recognized the need to work with anyone if it will help progressives advance their goals, she was perceived as a threat. And the attacks were meant as a warning to all progressives who want to fight the sellouts and shills among the Democrats to stfu. Fortunately, Hamsher can’t be penned up or intimidated, and the fight goes on.

After that weekend, Hamsher explained why she went on MSNBC and Fox News on the Monday and Tuesday following the uproar against her:

“I went on Ed Shultz last night, and Fox deliberately today after yesterday’s hubub. It scares the bejesus out of the DC establishment of both parties to think that the left and right might align against the corporate interests that dominate the massive giveaways that keep happening no matter who’s in power.

Good. They should be scared.”

Good, indeed.

Health Care Reform Fails; Corporatist Republicans Score Big Time

With Democrats in power, health care reform has met with an inglorious end as corporatist politicians – who infest both the Republican and Democratic Parties – successfully used Congress’s lengthy deliberative process under Democratic control to do an end-run around the will of the American people (when Republicans run the show, they do it the other way around, cutting Congress’s deliberative process short in order to do an end-run around the will of the American people).

On the surface, the Republican Party in the minority appears to be led by blabbering morons in the House and Senate and especially at the RNC, but time and again they have totally outmaneuvered Democrats of all stripes; every politician with a “D” after his or her name will have a tough time in upcoming election cycles.

Throughout the health care debate, for the most obvious example, Republicans made a great show of opposing anything proposed by Democrats, calling it “ObamaCare” and, my favorite, “socialism.” Obama most certainly does have to own it, but whatever it is, it most certainly is not socialist. Quite the opposite.

Now that the Republicans got a bill with which they can be more than comfortable (while opposing it publicly every step of the way and voting against it unanimously in the Senate), they are pivoting to hanging this legislation, which they know is not good for the American people, on Obama and Democrats.

Speaking Sunday morning on ABC’s This Week (transcript here), Sen Mitch McConnell said:

“Well, certainly, politically, it’s a big problem for them. They all kind of joined hands and went off the cliff together. Every single Democrat provided the vote that passed it in the Senate.”

Republicans get to use this legislation politically to energize their base. All they have to do is say how much they hate it. Their corporatist Democratic allies, who were fooled into creating this mess, on the other hand, will have to face a base – indeed a majority of American people (CNN/Opinion Research Poll pdf) – that is demoralized by the impotence of the Democrats, who failed to deliver on the real reform that so many wanted.

Masterful, indeed.

Appearing a little later on the same program Sunday morning (transcript here), even Paul Krugman – who tries to dismiss critics of the Senate’s health care bill, presumably because he thinks it’s so great – said about the upcoming 2010 midterm races that Democrats will have to run on jobs, on the economy, and on just not being Republicans.

That’s pathetic.

Obama says on Christmas Eve that this legislation is “the most important piece of social legislation since the Social Security Act passed in the 1930s, and the most important reform of our health care system since Medicare passed in the 1960s,” and all Krugman can say is that Democrats will have to run on “not being Republicans”?

What a joke.

It was supposed to have been their great achievement, and all Krugman can say is “I don’t think health care is going to be a big sell for the Democrats” in 2010. Rather than run on a great achievement, Krugman thinks that they’re going to have to change the subject to “not being Republicans.”

And yet, in spite of it all, many calling themselves progressives want to praise Obama anyway and support Democrats next year, whether they deserve progressives’ support or not.

Two Political Parties, Two Movements

Bush’s failures ultimately disappointed many among the Republican base and left many unhappy with the Republican Party; for many who consider themselves members of the Democratic base, the failures of Obama and congressional Democrats are just as disappointing and have left just as many unhappy with the Democratic Party.

This situation has brought into high relief for a growing number of Americans what has been obvious to far too few until now: the leadership of neither party really cares about the will of the American people, about doing what’s in the best interests of the people, or about advancing the common good.

The rift between the politics of our leaders and the political interests of the rest of society is so great, in fact, that populist conservatives are fighting to move the Republican Party to where they believe it should be, while many progressives believe they too must fight to move the Democratic Party.

Among progressives, ideas to accomplish this goal have not been lacking. On December 16, Ed Kilgore posted Left-Right Convergence? at The Democratic Strategist (cross-posted at The New Republic with the title Taking Ideological Differences Seriously), and two days later, on the same day that Jane Hamsher posted The Left-Right Populist Wrap-Around Vs. the Beltway Insiders, Glenn Greenwald posted The underlying divisions in the healthcare debate at Salon, all of which have been followed much more recently by Jeffrey Feldman’s Corporatism (Dec 26, 2009).

Kilgore set sail by pointing out that there is an ideological distinction without a difference between A) the “the so-called Clintonian, ‘New Democrat’ movement, and the broader international movement sometimes referred to as ‘the Third Way,’ which often defended the use of private means for public ends,” and B) the “conservative ‘privatization’ strategy, which simply devolves public responsibilities to private entities without much in the way of regulation.”

Kilgore observes that “on a widening range of issues, Obama’s critics to the right say he’s engineering a government takeover of the private sector, while his critics to the left accuse him of promoting a corporate takeover of the public sector.” Whichever one is correct, Kilgore argues, is irrelevant. What is relevant, he says, is that the opportunity for a “tactical convergence is there if [activists on the left and right] choose to pursue it.”

Then Greenwald called for a course correction, arguing that what Kilgore was talking about is “corporatism” (defined by Greenwald as “the virtually complete dominance of government by large corporations, even a merger between the two”), which is all “about affirmatively harnessing government power in order to benefit and strengthen those corporate interests and even merging government and the private sector.” Greenwald concludes that:

“whether you call it ‘a government takeover of the private sector’ or a ‘private sector takeover of government,’ it’s the same thing: a merger of government power and corporate interests which benefits both of the merged entities (the party in power and the corporations) at everyone else’s expense.”

And so he calls for an end to old fault lines. Left-right is too ’90s, he says, and the old conservative/liberal ideological fault line has been erased, as Americans’ anger is now

“rooted far more in an insider/outsider dichotomy over who controls Washington than it is in the standard conservative/liberal ideological splits from the 1990s.”

And Jeffrey Feldman recently took the helm with Corporatism (Dec 26, 2009), and steered the ship to uncharted waters, drawing a new consciousness/false consciousness fault line, people with consciousness being those who can see that the battle against "corporatism" is the true political landscape, while those who support the Democratic Party are living in a state of false consciousness. What is needed, Feldman argues, is the formulation of an “alternative vision” that breaks the old fault lines to pieces.

With all due respect to this heavy intellectual lifting, progressives need to be careful not to reason so far away from perceived reality that they are no longer speaking the same language as the vast majority of Americans. In other words, the left-right divergence not only exists ideologically (it does, btw), it is also fully embedded in the consciousness of nearly all Americans. If progressives were to abandon it or to look for clever ways to convince Americans that it no longer exists, they will only run off course and may very well sink their ship.

To the extent that an “alternative vision” can be useful, I present the following:

The Populist-Conservative Libertarian Movement
The Corporatist Republican Party
The Corporatist Democratic Party
The Progressive Movement

Now please recall McIntyre’s An Observation on the Split in the Progressive Blogosphere (Dec 16, 2009), which I discussed earlier. In that article, McIntyre was being far too polite. I shall now say far more bluntly what he was only willing to imply: progressives have to shake off their cherished wonky brethren and get to work, forcing corporatist Democrats out and helping progressive Democrats win.

Anyone who is willing to validate what corporatist Democrats are doing or enable it by demanding that progressives support the sellouts and shills among the Democratic Party simply doesn’t get the harm they are doing to the progressive movement, to the Democratic Party, and to the American people.

If progressives’ cherished wonky brethren don’t care about whether Democrats do what’s right, then they are best left ignored by those progressives who are ready to fight the sellouts and corporate shills among the Democratic Party.

Thus, Kilgore’s original call for a left-right “tactical convergence” remains the best approach. Behind the scenes, progressive and libertarian leaders should find ways to work together in order to bring Obama down from his lofty heights, where he sits far too comfortable in the incorrect belief that, because he has such a nice smile, he is a political immortal, and therefore can screw over the American people while patting them on their heads and getting their campaign contributions and their votes.

Anything more than a “tactical convergence” would be ill-advised. As Howard Fineman pointed out in Is There a Doctor in the House? Ron Paul, the GOP’s unlikely savior (Dec 4, 2009), if the Republican Party is to be saved, it will be saved by “a candidate who embodies the spirit of Ron Paul. Just so long as it isn’t Ron Paul.”

A broader alliance between progressives and libertarians as an outsider movement fighting the DC/K Street insiders would end with the libertarians and other populist-conservatives walking away with a handful of politicians that progressives would have helped them get elected. Unless someone can present an argument for how libertarians can help progressive candidates get elected by campaigning with them and an argument for how libertarians and progressives would be forced to work together in office, such a broader alliance just isn’t a good idea. Ideological differences remain, would resurface, and would divide any such alliance.

I would like to conclude by pointing out Cenk Uygur’s powerful How Progressives Can Move Obama to the Left (Dec 24, 2009), in which he calls for progressives to force the center to the left in order to get Obama to take heed and do what right:

“If you don’t move the island, the rest is futile. You have to shift the ground underneath them. And the only way to do that is to create such a strong and aggressive progressive movement that they cannot help but notice it – and respond to it. Move the center and you’ll move Obama. And he’ll move the country. There is no other choice.”

Right on.

My only disagreement with Uygur is that he thinks progressives need to move from health care reform to the next battle: financial reform.

I believe instead that progressives must shift away from trying to influence corrupt policymakers and begin to speak out publicly and loudly against the policies of Obama and this Democratic Congress in order to have an impact on the upcoming 2010 and 2012 primary, midterm and general elections. Obama has angered the right, and has been a huge disappointment to the left. The best way for progressives’ ideological opponents on the right to be helpful to progressives is to do the same, to speak out publicly and loudly (which they’re already doing).

Everyone else is supporting a broken system that favors increasing the powers of government and of corporations – a system that goes back and forth between corporatist Republicans and corporatist Democrats, while corporate executives always win –, a broken system that leaves the American people powerless to oppose them.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

Obama’s Illusory “Uptick” in the Polls

By: Knoxville Saturday December 26, 2009 8:26 am

Reading through comments to the dkos diary entitled Clapping Harder will not make Jane Hamsher right. No matter who says. (Dec 25, 2009), which is still in the recommended dairies list as I write this, though it shouldn’t have ever gotten there in the first place, I saw this exchange:

Eposter:

“WH fought for PO is baloney rewriting history

“nice try but no sale here – you might keep a few kool-aid drinkers, but he ain’t gaining votes – they’re hemorrhaging and this argument no matter how much repeated is not going to stop the bleeding.”

LTMidnight:

“He’s hemorrhaging you say?…

“…then explain why according to the DKos poll, his approval just went up.”

Eposter:

“Explain a DK poll? Above my pay grade, nt”

Answers were provided, including the weak nonsense about needing 60% approval in the United States Sentate, that being the only poll that matters, i.e. the 60% myth.

Let’s take a look at the Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos (Dec 20-24, 2009; last weeks results in parentheses):

Dec 20-24, 09

This morning in Weekly Tracking Poll: The Holiday Spirit, Part II? (Dec 26, 2009), we see that Steve Singiser at Daily Kos isn’t buying the weak analysis of Obama sockpuppets like LTMidnight, either:

“One intriguing thing in this week’s tracking, despite the contentious nature of the health care deliberations in the Senate, was that the gains tend to be generated across the board.

“While the biggest gains for President Obama this week was a three-point jump from Democrats, he also received a bump across the board, including even a net gain of one point among Republicans.

“The same outcome is observed with the GOP, where the Republican Party (at large) gets identical two-point bumps among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

“There are only two conclusions that can be drawn here. Either the movement this week was just the result of a random float of a point or two, or the holiday season has put people in a slightly better mood, and opened their hearts to the possibility of loathing politicians a little bit less.”

There’s a storm coming, thanks to leaders like Jane. So arm yourselves. Just be sure to use this and all similar data well, i.e. don’t become a super-smart, logic-bending, twist-and-spin-doctor like Nate Silver.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” Moment

By: Knoxville Thursday December 24, 2009 10:21 am

Obama’s “Mission Accomplished”

This morning, I watched the spectacle of the United States Senate passing legislation that is still sometimes called health care reform, though it is not, and thought about how the Obama administration will now work far harder to push House Democrats to accept this bad joke on the American people than Obama or Rahm Emanuel ever pushed a single Senator who caucuses with Democrats to allow cloture on debate so that the United States Senate could have voted up-or-down on real health care reform with a public health insurance option.

Now Obama is saying that the government is delivering on “the promise of real, meaningful reform.” Yes, according to Obama, the country is near the end of the health care reform battle. BarbinMD at Daily Kos takes issue with this characterization: “This bill won’t be the end all, it will be the first step. Let’s not let them forget that.” I’m not sure what BarbinMD thinks this bill is a first step toward, but she’s right to say it isn’t the end.

We’re seeing Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” moment.

Jon Walker at Firedoglake argues in Senate Health Bill Passes; US Senate Fails that the big winners here are PhRMA, health insurance companies, Obama, Reid, Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman, and, of course, the lobbyists, “who just saw their profits jump thanks to this great opportunity to show their clients just how powerful their hold on Washington really is.” Please allow me to add that it also is a win for Landrieu, but to take issue with the assertion that it’s a win for Obama, Reid, Nelson, or Lincoln. They’re celebrating now, but they’ve shot themselves in both feet politically. I’ll give Reid, Nelson, and Lincoln enough credit to say that they are intelligent enough to feel the pain. Obama, apparently, not so much. He still wants to smile big, sell the American people a lemon, and act like he feels no pain at all. Well, the damage is being done. And the pain will be felt.

SouthernDragon at Firedoglake argues that Progressives aren’t done yet and that the legislation can still be improved. True. But, with all due respect to SouthernDragon and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), there’s no excuse for accepting this monstrosity, this bad joke on the American people, even if there are a few improvements here and there.

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake aptly put it this way:

“If you’re fighting those who want a better bill in defense of this bill, you own this bill, not the bill you’d like to see but are doing nothing to advance.”

The fact is that this bill, this monstrosity that is still oddly called health care reform, though it is not, creates a huge liability for Obama, who has, in fact, made all the bad actors in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries his political partners. The private health insurers aren’t in the business of caring about people. They’re in business to make profit. And Wall Street types are certainly counting on them to profit big time. Progressives will spend the next few years highlighting examples of private insurance companies’ significant abuse and waste, and they will pin all of it on Obama, on this alliance which he has formed with all the bad actors in the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and on his failure to fight for real health care reform on behalf of the American people.

Obama can’t even claim that he’s all that sure that this bad joke will accomplish “the oft-stated goal of health reform: reducing the growth rate in health care costs and expenditures – often referred to as ‘bending the cost curve,’” as Jeanne Sahadi at CNN has put it. “That growth rate is what drives federal spending on Medicare and other federal health programs,” in case you’re wondering why anyone should care about ‘bending the cost curve.’

The few improvements to our health care system, Jon Walker says,

“come at a huge cost. There is a poorly designed tax that will cause many people’s insurance to get worse, a rollback of women’s reproductive rights, and a mandate forcing people to buy low quality, expensive insurance for unregulated private insurance companies.”

“Mission Accomplished,” Mr. President. Not.

Thanks for selling us out.

President Obama is going to spend 2010, 2011, 2012, and every year of his post-presidency learning that he can’t sell empty promises to his base the way he did as Candidate Obama in 2008.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]

[Cross-posted at Daily Kos, where comments are far from kind...]