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Stagecraft: Our Presidential Contest Has Devolved Into Little More Than A Fake Wrestling Match

11:46 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

For those on the Left, one of the most frustrating aspects of this Presidential election has been following the narratives of both establishment parties, each aligned with the other in their complimentary fictions, as they deceive the American voters into believing there is an actual choice to be made here.

Beyond the rhetorical divide, the actual differences between Obama and Romney are minor, if not downright trivial. Each candidate, regardless of how he has actually governed in the past, uses the talking points from his party’s platform to tap into the ideological preferences of his base. The contest is little more than a theater of deception.

Romney, who governed like a Clintonian Democrat, now speaks in ways that appeal to his base, which continues to drift rightwards a la Tea Party.

As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney implemented what would become the blueprints for Obamacare, and offered generous subsidies for those in his state who couldn’t afford it. He embraced a pro-choice position, favored gun control, was pro-gay-rights. He opposed the flat tax, was critical of Bush tax cuts. He believes in global warming, and has supported ‘cap and trade’ policies.

Whereas Romney has been forced to move rhetorically to the right, Barack Obama, who himself has governed from right-of-center, needs to reestablish his own cred with his liberal base, and is thus, only too happy to accommodate Romney in aligning their fictions.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that both candidates have had to overcome with regards to their respective bases is in trying to convince them that there actually are fundamental differences between their visions for America’s economic model.

The Obama campaign was the first to seize on a distinction when it released a video showing Mitt Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser expressing disdain for Obama voters, suggesting they are “dependent upon government” and feel entitled to handouts.

But this video revelation actually enhanced the far-Right cred that the Governor had been so desperate for. You might think his own campaign planted the video. In fact, he proudly wore the video revelation around like a medalThe Tea Party won’t see me as a RINO anymore, he likely surmised.

Seeing this as the perfect red meat issue needed to re-energize his base, Romney pivoted to the hot-button ‘Socialism’ charge. He charged Obama with being another Socialist-minded liberal who wants to take money from those who work hard and succeed, to then redistribute it to those who don’t.

After unearthing a 1998 video showing a young Obama expressing that he believed in “redistribution at a certain level,” Romney pounced:

“He [Obama] really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America,” Romney said Wednesday at an Atlanta fundraiser. “There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seconded that description of Obama, and now all GOP surrogates are on message, making the ‘redistribution’ buzzword the central theme in Romney’s campaign.

But of course this depiction of Obama couldn’t be further from the truth. Obama has actually governed like a starry-eyed Milton Friedman disciple. Bloomberg News decided to investigate Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge, and here is what they found:

If President Barack Obama is trying to spread the wealth, he doesn’t have much to show for it. [...]

[S]ince Obama took office in January 2009, wealthy Americans have continued to pull away from the rest of society. In the aftermath of the recession, income inequality in the U.S. reached a new high in 2011, Census Bureau data show.

Even as the president has decried the hollowing out of the middle class, the fortunes of labor and capital have diverged on his watch. Quarterly corporate profits of $1.9 trillion have almost doubled since the end of 2008, while workers’ inflation- adjusted average hourly earnings have declined.

“At the very high end, people got a whole lot wealthier whereas income stagnated at other levels,” said Anne Mathias, director of Washington research for Guggenheim Securities LLC. “Fifty years ago, people talked about the other half, how the other half lived, and now we’re talking about the other 1 percent.”

But, forget reality — back to the fantasyland that is our Presidential Election.

Knowing his progressive base sees the U.S. economy through the 1% vs 99% prism and views his last 3 1/2 years as a monumental sellout to the 1%, Obama likely sees an opening in Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge. This Republican accusation may be exactly what he needs to energize his own base. Perhaps it can help him to get his populist mojo back.

And the theater just continues on and on …

But make no mistake about it, whichever candidate wins — be it Obama or Romney — things will continue right along this Neoliberal road we are on, and the firmly-entrenched 1% will have their man.

UPDATE:

Author edit: In response to commenter who questioned the validity of my statement re: Mitt Romney’s alleged support of gay-marriage when Governor of Massachusetts, and after further review myself, I have decided to remove the following statement: (he implemented same-sex marriage by executive fiat).

DNC Platform Change Vote Was Predetermined On Teleprompter, Delegate Voting Was Merely For Show

11:15 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Editor’s Note: David Dayen reported on the shady vote Wednesday.

Controversy erupted at the DNC this week when Democratic party leaders forced a party platform change to reinstate language proclaiming Jerusalem as “Israel’s undivided capital,” and to reinstate references to God in the text.

The motion had to be voted on by a two-thirds majority of the delegates for passage, and it became clear, after several vote calls by LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a major majority did NOT want the platform changed.

Confused on how to proceed, the Mayor looked to a woman who came out and advised him, “Just keep going, they’re going to do what they are going to do.”

The mayor then pronounced, “in the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative,” provoking boos from the large crowd.

Well, now Fox News is showing footage of the DNC teleprompter the Mayor was reading from. It shows that the two-thirds majority needed for the passage of the motion had been predetermined by party leaders, with complete disregard for how the delegates actually voted. Apparently, they forgot to tell the Mayor in advance that the vote was merely for show; that the only results that mattered were written on the teleprompter.

DNC Teleprompter - Party Platform Change

What this so clearly highlights is the contempt that political power elites hold for the democratic process and the will of the majority — even within their own party.

VIDEO: Green Party Pres. Candidate Jill Stein Discusses Iran And The State Of The Democratic Party

10:01 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

The Green Party Presidential Candidate, Jill Stein, appeared yesterday on The Real News Network, where she explained to Senior Editor Paul Jay why she chose NOT to run as a Democrat.

In addition, she revealed how her position on Iran differs from President Obama’s, and then she delved into the details of her Green New Deal, revealing why it would be so much more effective than Obama’s stimulus plan, despite costing roughly the same amount.

Video follows the partial transcript:

JAY:

So when you run a campaign with a party that’s essentially within the realm of progressive politics, you need to kind of explain to people, I’m sure, over and over again why you aren’t doing this in the Democratic Party. President Obama recently did describe himself as a progressive candidate or president—presidency. So, first of all, why a new party? Why—I shouldn’t say new. Green Party’s been around. But why not working in the Democratic Party?

STEIN:

You know, people are hurting. We’re in crisis in so many ways. You know, let me count the ways. You know, people are hurting for jobs, they’re losing their homes by the millions. They cannot afford their health care. The students are coming out of college up to their eyeballs in debt. Our civil liberties are under attack. And our climate is in great peril. You know, really, across the board we’re facing crisis.

Yet the wealthy few who got us here, who crashed the economy, are making out like bandits, rolling in more dough than ever. And meanwhile we have a political establishment which is making things worse—not only failing to fix it, but actually making it worse, imposing austerity on people while they squander trillions on wars, Wall Street bailouts, and tax breaks for the wealthy.

So, in short, people are clamoring for something different, and there’s a movement out there for democracy and justice that’s alive and well out in the streets and in our communities. It deserves to have a voice in this election and choice come November that’s not bought and paid for by Wall Street or K Street.

And we’ve seen about as far as we can go with the Democratic Party. You know, we just had—we elected a president who claimed to be that progressive. He had both houses of Congress for two years. And people were so bitterly disappointed, they didn’t show up to the polls in 2010. And, you know, we got where we’re going.

We really need real change, not just the change of the corporate representative. We need a party fundamentally about people.

JAY:

So before we get into some of the big domestic economic questions, which certainly are going to be the overriding issues in the election, let’s take on a bit on the issue of foreign policy. Where do you differentiate, for example, with President Obama when it comes to Iran?

STEIN:

President Obama is waving the flag, you know, for keeping all options on the table, including a preemptive attack on Iran. Yet 16 security agencies for this country and other international agencies agree that there is no evidence that Iran is currently building a bomb or intending to build a bomb. It’s very clear the case needs to be made to Congress and to the American people that there’s reason for war. That’s why we have a congress empowered to declare war. And that case hasn’t begun to be made.

So where we stand is basically with a foreign policy that’s guided by international law, by national law, by human rights, not by the drive for oil. We need a foreign policy that we can stand up and defend. And currently there is no discernible threat to the United States from the actions of Iran.

We do need to watch carefully. We should be pursuing nuclear disarmament, starting in the Middle East. There are many countries who already possess bombs whose governments are extremely unstable and not necessarily friendly to the United States. So the region would benefit enormously from pursuing a very vigorous and active policy of nuclear disarmament. But attacking Iran is only going to get us into very deep trouble.

JAY:

So let me go back to my first question, then. Some people are raising the issue that, then, why aren’t people like you fighting this out within the Democratic Party, where there’s, in a sense, some access to power? And not that you can—just by joining the Democratic Party you’re going to get power, but could have primaried Obama and forced him to have this debate in some kind of primary campaign. Why not that, versus, you know, a separate-party campaign?

STEIN:

You know, I think people have been there and done it. You know. And it’s fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I think people considered Obama really the Hail Mary for the Democratic Party. It was—people went all out, and then double that and triple that, and people really went to the wall to try to move progressive politics through a corporate-sponsored political party, and discovered that it just wasn’t [incompr.]

There were people, you know, who really tried to get someone to primary Obama, and nobody would, and to my mind that also speaks volumes about the condition of the Democratic Party. It just is a creature of its corporate funding. That’s not where we’re going to make change.

If you look through the history of progressive politics, independent political parties have played an enormous role in driving forward key issues—abolition, women’s right to vote, 40 hour workweek, the right to organize in our workplaces and form unions. These have all been pushed forward by independent political parties, and we clearly need that in droves.

[...]

Read the Full Transcript for segment pertaining to the details of her Green New Deal.

WATCH:

Learn more about Jill Stein at her website, and by following her on Twitter.

Originally published at AlterPolitics

If U.S. Liberals Share Same Values As Israel, Why Do You Applaud Pat Buchanan’s Ouster From MSNBC?

11:01 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

On Thursday, February 16th, MSNBC effectively dropped its go-to conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, after having suspended him four months earlier, due to the uproar caused by his latest book, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?.

The controversy stemmed from one of the book’s premises that America’s identity will cease to exist as it loses its white Christian majority. Buchanan wrote, “America is being transformed into a multiracial, multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic stew of a nation that has no successful precedent in the history of the world.”

Take a look at the names of his chapters to get an idea of just why this book has so inflamed liberal American sensibilities:

1. The Passing of a Superpower
2. The Death of Christian America
3. The Crisis of Catholicism
4. The End of White America
5. Demographic Winter
6. Equality or Freedom?
7. The Diversity Cult
8. The Triumph of Tribalism
9. “The White Party”
10. The Long Retreat
11. The Last Chance

To sell his book, Buchanan appeared on a white-nationalist radio program called The Political Cesspool, which describes itself as representing “a philosophy that is pro-White and … against political centralization.” It says, “We wish to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races.

Buchanan’s attempt to peddle his white Christian-supremacy message to the American public would not stand uncontested. Liberals coalesced around the controversy, arguing that a network that claims to “lean forward” has a responsibility to shun this sort of polarizing and destructive bigotry; not to continue to empower its advocates with a mainstream media platform.

Progressive groups CREDO Action and ColorOfChange.org quickly gathered 275,000 signatures on a petition, demanding that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC News President Steve Capus fire Buchanan at once.

Last month Griffen consented that he didn’t believe Buchanan’s book “should be part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC.” And so last Thursday, he fired Buchanan.

After his ouster, Buchanan was invited to appear on right-winger Sean Hannity’s TV program (on Fox News) to defend himself. Attempting to rationalize his beliefs, Buchanan said:

“The year 2042, people had talked about where the European majority in the country, the white majority, would be a minority. Now, there was a cover story in The Atlantic titled ‘The End of White America,’ and this fella who was a professor celebrated it. Bill Clinton went out to Portland State and said by 2050, there’s going to be no racial majority in the country, and everybody applauded.

“So I took up that issue and I said, ‘Wait a minute. This… it’s not known for sure that this is going to be beneficial because I don’t know a country in this day and age where there’s no ethnic majority that is not in danger of coming apart. And my question is, why can everybody else celebrate this and say it’s wonderful, and I can’t even write about it without being blacklisted?”

The Left’s reaction to Buchanan’s beliefs just exemplify how prominent the virtues of inclusiveness and equality are to liberal values. Any Buchanan-like ideology predicated on the belief that demographic shifts (in race, religion, or ethnicity) represents a ‘threat’ to the country, is considered so bigoted, so immoral, so un-American, that all responsible gatekeepers must denounced it, and expunged it from mainstream American discourse.

So why wasn’t there a similar display of outrage by these ‘principled’ liberals, including groups CREDO Action and ColorOfChange.org, when nearly every Democratic member of the U.S. House and Senate gave 29 exuberant standing ovations during Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last year to a joint session of Congress? This adoration trumped the reception they displayed for our own Democratic U.S. President, who received 25 standing ovations at his State of the Union Address, earlier that year.

And Netanyahu’s and Buchanan’s bigoted views are virtually indistinguishable from one another’s. They each regularly cite potential demographic shifts away from their own religious/ethnic majorities as existential threats to their respective countries.

In fact, Netanyahu likens anything short of a lopsided Jewish-majority in Israel as the literal destruction of Israel. He considers Arab-Israelis to be an existential threat to Israel, in much the same way that Buchanan sees Mexican Americans, African Americans, and other minorities as existential threats to America.

As an example, while speaking at the Herzliya Conference on security, Netanyahu said:

“If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens,” he said. The Declaration of Independence said Israel should be a Jewish and democratic state, but to ensure the Jewish character was not engulfed by demography, it was necessary to ensure a Jewish majority, he said.

If Israel’s Arabs become well integrated and reach 35-40 percent of the population, there will no longer be a Jewish state but a bi-national one, he said. If Arabs remain at 20 percent but relations are tense and violent, this will also harm the state’s democratic fabric. “Therefore a policy is needed that will balance the two.”

[...]

Netanyahu said that the “separation fence” would … help to prevent a “demographic spillover” of Palestinians from the territories.

And yet this obscenely bigoted policy statement — built upon the same rationale used throughout history to incite ethnic cleansing and genocide — does not cause a stir in American liberal circles. In fact, liberal leaders line up enthusiastically to shake Netanyahu’s hand, to pledge their allegiance to Israel, and to repeat (almost mechanically) that Israel and the United States share common values, and that our countries’ interests are identical.

Our Democratic President, our Democratic Congresspeople, and some of our most popular ‘liberal’ political journalists and pundits either refuse to acknowledge or discuss Netanyahu’s bigoted beliefs and policies, or more often than not, subordinate their own progressive values on equality to his bigoted ones.

Take, for instance, President Obama speaking to the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial conference:

“We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know Israel was born of values that we share. America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakable.”

“Israel was born of values that we share” might be true, if you are Pat Buchanan. Think about it, Buchanan’s cardinal sin, which got him tarred/feathered, and ultimately fired, was for insinuating that the U.S. should remain a state with a white Christian majority.

Obama’s commitment above, to Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state, could lead one to reasonably conclude that our President and Buchanan share identical anti-progressive values when it comes to racial, religious, and ethnic equality.

And Netanyahu is far more dangerous than political pundit Pat Buchanan ever was, or ever could be. Buchanan merely whines aloud, or on paper, about losing his idealistic ‘white Christian’ America. Netanyahu actually implements this line of bigotry as Israeli policy, and then states unapologetically that Israel’s very existence depends upon it.

And this bigotry didn’t just begin with Netanyahu. As he stated in his speech above, it goes back to the founding of Israel. It is the central tenet of Zionism, as a political ideology. The country was founded on this very goal of creating and then solidifying a Jewish majority in a country that was predominately inhabited by Arab non-Jews.

We see this Buchanan brand of bigotry implemented on the ground today in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, as Palestinian homes continue to be demolished — entire families made homeless, for having had the audacity of being born as non-Jews. Their lands and their homes wiped clean from the map, and quickly supplanted by Jewish-only settlements, interconnected by Jewish-only roads.

This is ethnic cleansing.

And any so called ‘liberal’ who subscribes to, defends, or even acquiesces to an ideology that incites or rationalizes ethnic cleansing, has absolutely no ground to stand on when it comes to criticizing Pat Buchanan for merely writing similar extremist opinions down on paper.

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Is The Coffee Party Shilling For The DNC?

3:08 pm in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

I was intrigued by the news that a counter-Tea Party movement was formulating on the Left, calling itself the Coffee Party. I envisioned a group perhaps better educated than the misguided Tea Partiers, though driven by a comparable populist angst. After all, many on the Left feel royally duped by their supposed change-agent, President Barack Obama.

He has broken A LOT of promises — ones which were VERY IMPORTANT to his once energized supporters, leaving them thoroughly demoralized. Here are just a few of Obama’s broken promises:

  • He would not come to Washington and cut back door deals with entrenched interests — there would be complete transparency during health care negotiations (on C-SPAN), and everyone would get a seat at the table. Nope.
  • He would not allow lobbyists and those with conflicts of interests to serve in his administration.
  • A public option would be a key component of any health care bill, and he promised not to mandate that Americans purchase health insurance from ‘for profit’ health insurance companies. He then did the very opposite once elected.
  • Americans would be able to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and priced lower outside the U.S., and to allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drug prices. Nope, instead he cut a back door deal with the Pharmaceutical Industry agreeing to ban it.
  • As President, he would recognize the Armenian Genocide (he used very strong language on this matter). However, once elected he refused to acknowledge it as genocide (when asked by reporters) in Turkey, and he then proceeded to lobby Congress this week to deny a vote on Resolution 252 that would have made such an acknowledgment.
  • He would close Guantanamo Bay immediately, and to restore habeas corpus. Nope, he plans to keep suspects imprisoned indefinitely without trial, and Guantanamo Bay remains open for business.
  • He would reject the Military Commissions Act, which allowed the U.S. to circumvent Geneva Conventions in the handling of detainees. Nope.
  • In the spirit of transparency he would amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public. Nope.

So naturally, I would have expected to see some of this mentioned on the site of this new ‘grass routes movement’ calling itself the Coffee Party. On the contrary, they don’t seem to advocate for a single issue or policy proposal; the group seems completely void of substance.

Take the Coffee Party’s Mission Statement:

The Coffee Party Movement gives voice to Americans who want to see cooperation in government. We recognize that the federal government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and that we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges that we face as Americans. As voters and grassroots volunteers, we will support leaders who work toward positive solutions, and hold accountable those who obstruct them.

“Cooperation”?! That sounds A LOT like “BI-PARTISANSHIP” to me. You know, the term Obama uses as a means to promote corporatist (anti-populist) policies under the cover of “a need to compromise with Republicans or ‘Centrists’.” Let’s face it, President Obama has rhetorically opted for bi-partisanship as a means to crush meaningful change since the very first day he took office. And yet this Coffee Party is ironically parroting Obama’s key talking point in their ‘grass routes’ mission statement? Could this group be shilling for Obama’s political arm — the now crumbling Organizing For America?

There’s nothing in that Coffee Party’s mission statement that suggests a move towards populism or an effort to pull Obama further to the Left (back towards the promises he ran on). Wouldn’t that be the equivalent to what the Tea Party is trying to accomplish from their end? Aren’t Tea Partiers, as delusional as they may be, trying to pull Republican politicians towards populist policies important to them?

Whereas Tea Partiers seem disenchanted with both the Republican party and the government, Coffee Partiers seem contented with the Democratic Party and the government. The only issue that seems to resonate with the Coffee Party is Republican obstructionism. In fact, I couldn’t find a single criticism of the President, nor a mention of Democratic betrayals on their entire site. Some ‘grass routes’ movement!

The group asks every Coffee Party member to sign the following Civility Pledge:

As a member or supporter of the Coffee Party, I pledge to conduct myself in a way that is civil, honest, and respectful toward people with whom I disagree. I value people from different cultures, I value people with different ideas, and I value and cherish the democratic process.

It appears this group is more interested in making a statement about the ugliness they see at Tea Party gatherings than they are in actually promoting policies that might improve Americans’ lives. Their elected Democratic representatives (who control all branches of government) have been selling them out for one year now by putting entrenched interests above their own, and Coffee Partiers don’t have a single thing to complain about with regards to their own party?

Watch this video (off their home page) which the Coffee Party is using to sell themselves, and then tell me if you believe these people are issue-driven:

If this were a Tea Party video, you’d hear a lot of passionate — admittedly crazy-sounding — angst about how their party and government is disappointing them. Tea Partiers joined together as a ‘grass routes movement’, because they feel very strongly about specific issues. The Coffee Party doesn’t seem to stand for anything, beyond getting together to sip lattes.

Surely they must have a strong feeling about some issue of importance to Americans (in the midst of two wars, a horrific recession, and a government that is no longer responsive to the people)? Issues drive movements, not Kumbaya coffee gathering. It’s as if the DNC itself has choreographed a “grass routes movement” void of the populist fervor that once drove Organizing For America.

Bill Moyers Journal: Why Robert Kuttner’s ‘Party Line’ Mindset Ensures The Status Quo

9:23 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

Friday night Bill Moyers hosted a fascinating debate on the Senate’s health care bill between Matt Taibbi, contributing editor for Rolling Stone, and Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect. (The video can be viewed here: Bill Moyers Journal). Taibbi and Kuttner both describe the just-passed health care bill as disastrous. They outline how it is a complete giveaway to the health insurance industry, how it will do nothing to lower costs, and how it will be extremely unpopular to the American public once it’s implemented.

The following highlights some key points in their discussion:

BILL MOYERS: So are you saying that this, what some call a sweetheart deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the White House, done many months ago before this fight really began, was because the drug company money in the Democratic Party?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, it’s two things. Part of it was we need to do whatever it takes to get a bill. Never mind whether it’s a really good bill, let’s get a bill passed so we can claim that we solved health insurance. Secondly, let’s get the drug industry and the insurance industry either supporting us or not actively opposing us. So that there was some skirmishing around the details, but the deal going in was that the administration, drug companies, insurance companies are on the same team. Now, that’s one way to get legislation, it’s not a way to transform the health system. Once the White House made this deal with the insurance companies, the public option was never going to be anything more than a fig leaf. And over the summer and the fall, it got whittled down, whittled down, whittled down to almost nothing and now it’s really nothing.

MATT TAIBBI: Yeah, and this was Howard Dean’s point this week was that this individual mandate that’s going to force people to become customers of private health insurance companies, the Democrats are going to end up owning that policy and it’s going to be extremely unpopular and it’s going to be theirs for a generation. It’s going to be an albatross around the neck of this party.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Think about it, the difference between social insurance and an individual mandate is this. Social insurance everybody pays for it through their taxes, so you don’t think of Social Security as a compulsory individual mandate. You think of it as a benefit, as a protection that your government provides. But an individual mandate is an order to you to go out and buy some product from some private profit-making company, that in the case of a lot of moderate income people, you can’t afford to buy. And the shell game here is that the affordable policies are either very high deductibles and co-pays, so you can afford the monthly premiums but then when you get sick, you have to pay a small fortune out of pocket before the coverage kicks in. Or if the coverage is decent, the premiums are unaffordable. And so here’s the government doing the bidding of the private industry coercing people to buy profit-making products that maybe they can’t afford and they call it health reform.

As you can see, everyone is on the same page here — they both HATE this horrible insurance industry giveaway — to be awarded off the backs of struggling Americans. Both believe the bill does more harm than good.

And then Moyers asks them this simple question, and you quickly see where the real debate here will lie:

BILL MOYERS: Yes or no. If you were a senator, would you vote for this Senate health care bill?

MATT TAIBBI: No.

BILL MOYERS: Bob?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Yes.

Did you get that? Robert Kuttner would vote for this Senate health care bill that he had just described as disastrous. An astounded Moyers confronts Kuttner:

BILL MOYERS: Why? You just said it’s designed to enhance the fortunes of the industry.

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, it’s so far from what I think is necessary that I don’t think it’s a good bill. But I think if it goes down, just because of the optics of the situation and the way the Republicans have framed this as a make or break moment for President Obama, it will make it easier for the Republicans to take control of Congress in 2010. It will make Obama even more gun-shy about promoting reform. It will create even more political paralysis. It will embolden the republicans to block what this President is trying to do, some of which is good, at every turn. So I would hold my nose and vote for it. [...]

BILL MOYERS: Aren’t you saying that in order to save the Democratic President and the Democratic Party in 2010 and 2012 you have to have a really rotten health insurance bill?

ROBERT KUTTNER: Well, when you come down to one pivotal moment where a bill is before Congress and the administration has staked the entire presidency on this bill and you’re a progressive Democrat are you going to vote for it or not? Let me put it this way, if I were literally in the position that Joe Lieberman is in and it was up to me to determine whether this bill live or die, I would hold my nose and vote for it even though I have been a fierce critic of the path this administration has taken. [...]

Matt Taibbi gets it absolutely right in this exchange with Kuttner:

ROBERT KUTTNER: I mean, I was making the same criticisms that you were at the time. But now we’re down to a moment of final passage. And maybe my views are very ambivalent. But I would still vote for it because I think the defeat would be absolutely crushing in terms of the way the press played it, in terms of the way it would give encouragement to the far right in this country that we can block this guy if we just fight hard enough, if we just demagogue it.

MATT TAIBBI: But couldn’t that defeat turn into- that crushing defeat, couldn’t that be good for the Democrats? Couldn’t it teach them a lesson that, you know, maybe they have to pursue a different course in the future?

Kuttner’s mindset is precisely why politicians continue to undermine their constituents at every turn. Politicians believe that their party members and constituents — even those further to the Left (like Kuttner) who routinely criticize their actions — will ultimately hold their noses and walk the party line. It is exactly why Rahm Emanuel confidently asserted to the Wall Street Journal they need not worry about the Left. It is why real meaningful change will never occur in Washington, because politicians — a crafty bunch — are banking that Kuttner’s mentality is prevalent amongst their constituency.

Politicians respond to one very simple and primal motivator: FEAR.

  1. FEAR that entrenched interests will stop funding their campaigns, and instead will begin to fund their opponents.
  2. FEAR that their constituency will suddenly turn on them, and vote them out of office.

In a legislative initiative such as health care reform, entrenched interests would have to take a serious hit to their profits in order to stop the needless suffering of the American public. These companies reap incredible profit from their government-protected monopoly/oligopoly status (no competition), and by denying claims and coverage. There is no way around this. Either Obama protects their profits at the expense of the public, or he pushes legislation that harms their profits.

Emanuel and Obama very astutely calculated that entrenched interests would be unforgiving — mercenary, in fact — if their profits were in any way threatened. But they suspected Kuttner’s ‘party line’ mindset would ultimately prevail amongst their liberal colleagues in the House and in the electorate; that they would ultimately walk the party line, given a two party system where choosing between the lesser of two evils is the name of the game.

This ‘party line’ mindset — exemplified perfectly by Kuttner — is one that not only enables the status quo, it guarantees its perpetuity. The entrenched interests’ stranglehold over our government will continue as long as people mechanically support whatever policies their party leaders have decided to push, even if it’s something they themselves believe to be disastrous, a giveaway to interest groups, and harmful to Americans. Kuttner is essentially saying he would support a terrible, harmful policy only for the sake of denying a political victory to the opposition. That’s the entire crux of his explanation.

Kuttner’s message is exactly the wrong one to be sending to our political representatives. It plays right into the strategic calculations these politicians make whenever they must choose between pursuing something exceedingly difficult — like meaningful change — or pursuing something far easier, and more predictable — like status quo. Observing Kuttner’s quick capitulation should help us to better understand why Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama have chosen to serve special interests at the expense of the public interest. They really only FEAR the special interests, because special interests are the only ones certain to hold them to account. After all, the Left — as Kuttner demonstrated — would never do anything that might inadvertently help to put a Republican back in power. Right?

As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”

Obama’s Betrayal Of The Left Spells Problems For The Democratic Party

8:09 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Originally published at my blog, AlterPolitics by Stan (AKA TheCallUp)

Back when Candidate Obama was working the campaign trail across the country, his message of hope — of overcoming entrenched interests in pursuit of meaningful and necessary change — inspired and stirred a nation. He marketed his message in an ingenious mantra, “Yes we can,” that conjured up the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.; one who by sheer will, determination, and inspiration had overcome monumental — institutionalized — adversity.

Obama’s message, his symbolism, and his command of issues awoke a sleeping giant in this country: a grass-routes movement high on populism, and deeply suspicious of beltway elites and special interests. He’d effectively tapped into this spirit across people of all ethnicities, races, religions, and economic backgrounds. He resonated with them in a way that helped to distinguish himself from his opponent Hillary Clinton, a centrist, whose brand had long been associated with special interest influence.

What Obama effectively stirred up in this country has turned out to be a mixed blessing for the Democratic Party, a party which had strategically repositioned itself to the center as far back as the 1990s, by embracing many of the same corporate interests that had historically backed Republicans. Since the Clinton years, Democrats successfully placated the Left by throwing them a few bones here and there, while doing the bidding of entrenched interests on more significant and complex issues (like trade, health care, credit card legislation, bankruptcy laws, etc).

Obama made the mistake of believing he could run as ‘Obama the populist,’ to then transform into and govern as ‘Obama the centrist’. Perhaps he’d merely allowed himself to get sucked into championing populist positions he wasn’t sincerely passionate about during the long and contentious campaign. Let’s face it, of the three major contenders in the Democratic Primaries, John Edwards started out as the quintessential ‘populist candidate.’ Obama moved more and more in that direction as the primaries continued, and Obama’s delivery of these populist messages became so well received, that I sometimes wonder if at some point he and his campaign just made a strategic decision to ride out the populist wave. You can see how he might have gotten caught up in it all — the exhilaration of “moving” and “inspiring” the masses; seeing tens of thousands of people queued-up enthusiastically in the rain for hours, to hear how you’re going to finally take them to the promised land, and deliver meaningful change. I admittedly was one of those waiting in line, in the rain, for five hours, in Chapel Hill (ruined my shoes, btw). :)

President Obama and the Democratic Party have a big problem on their hands. They awakened something of a populist giant, only to betray their hopes, and to leave them feeling more cynical about their government than ever before. Thomas Jefferson astutely said, “An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.” I can think of no better expression that more accurately captures the feeling on the Left towards the Democratic Party at this very moment.

Few on the Left blame Republican obstructionism for Washington’s inability to pass a robust public option, or for any of Obama’s other broken campaign promises. We expect nothing more from the Republicans — our lying, propagandizing, obstructive foes. We have watched the President and the White House very closely since his election, and are perplexed by his lack of conviction, fortitude, and leadership; his refusal to advocate strongly for his own — supposed — legislative priorities; his nonexistent efforts in getting his campaign promises pushed through two Democratic houses. Obama had been awarded an overwhelming mandate to implement the change HE PROMISED, and he’s clearly not up to the task. No, the Left lays the blame squarely at Obama’s feet.

And that may prove to be calamitous for the Democratic Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections — a party whom the Left resented for eight long years, as they signed their names to some of the most catastrophic — often illegal — Bush initiatives imaginable. Obama and the Democratic Party are still actively covering up Bush’s war crimes — immunizing these neo-cons from ever being held accountable; most likely to cover up Democratic complicity.

The grass-routes enthusiasm for Democrats in 2008 was mostly wrapped up in a hatred for Bush/Cheney and a love of Obama — what he represented; and more importantly, what he advocated for: CHANGE. Obama, for a moment in time, had reinstated the electorate’s enthusiasm for what had been a complicit, impotent, subservient Democratic Party. Now that Obama and the Democrats have taken the easy route — tossed meaningful change on several fronts over board in order to accommodate entrenched interests — I suspect Left-leaning populists will abandon voting Democratic across all candidates, something they were all too happy to do in 2008.

Just a hunch …