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With Friends Like Democratic Congresspeople

2009 December 24
by Ian Welsh

Well, well, well.  It turns out that Acorn broke no laws.  None.  In the last five years.

But the Democratic Congress still threw them under the bus, with an illegal bill of attainder, banning them from receiving any government money.  Very similar to how they censured MoveOn for daring to challenge Petraeus.

Can you imagine the Republicans doing the same?  When the Swift Boat Vets lied repeatedly about John Kerry, did the Republicans vote to censure them?

And for that matter, did Dems try and censure the Swift Boat Vets?

Democrats constantly throw their own supporters to the wolves.  It’s one of the reasons there is little real loyalty on the left.  On the right, someone may occasionally have to take a bullet for the team, but afterwards they’re well taken care of and even rehabilitated if possible.  And major conservative organizations aren’t repudiated, nor do Republican leaders generally speak of “conservatives” with the sort of contempt that Democratic leaders reserve for liberals and progressives.

Democratic Congresspeople, as a group are weak people without strategic sense or the ability to bargain.  The exceptions, the strong ones, are unfortunately mostly conservadems – Republicans in drag like Ben Nelson.

If 40% of Dems are thinking of not voting in 2010 it’s exactly because Democrats won’t stand up for their own base.  For their own people and what those people believe in and need.  They only stand up for Pharma, banks, insurance companies and other entrenched powers.

Loyalty.  It’s a two way street.  And neither the White House, nor Congress, have shown any.

21 Responses
  1. Chris V permalink
    December 24, 2009

    Actually, you really can’t compare Acorn to the Swift Boat Veterans. Why? Acorn wasn’t pushing lies, while the Swift Boaters were. For some reason, Democratic groups are held to a much higher standard than Republican groups.

  2. December 24, 2009

    The natural hard-bargainers of the Democrats are the progressives, and they’ve been shutting us out for years.

  3. December 24, 2009

    In some ways, this ACORN thing may be an even better example of how corrupt and useless Congress has become than the health care bill. In this case, nothing of any real value was going to happen. At best, the Republicans might enjoy some temporary GOTV advantage, but ACORN would have been replaced eventually.

    The Democrats should have called out this hypocrisy. Yet they didn’t. They abetted it, instead.

  4. anonymous permalink
    December 24, 2009

    If you’re a Democrat you have to appease those people who would never vote for you not even if you held a gun to their heads (AS IF a Dem would know what to do with a gun), otherwise you are being partisan.

    Or to paraprhase FDR, the elected Dems agree with the Republicans, bipartisanship is their cover for being forced to do what they wanted to do anyway.

  5. par4 permalink
    December 24, 2009

    The DLC and a majority the elected Representatives and Senators are center right corporate friendly hacks.No different than Republicans of a few years ago. They’ve been running on FDR’s legacy for 70+ years and no longer merit it.

  6. December 24, 2009

    If 40% of Dems are thinking of not voting in 2010 it’s exactly because Democrats won’t stand up for their own base. For their own people and what those people believe in and need. They only stand up for Pharma, banks, insurance companies and other entrenched powers.

    Loyalty. It’s a two way street. And neither the White House, nor Congress, have shown any.

    Almost all of the Democratic congresscritters throw their supporters to the wolves, as it were, because they don’t really share the ideology of their base or their motives and interests. I can’t think of very many Democratic congresscritters I’d really class as “progressives” as in left-of-liberal political agitator type. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders. In the House, Kucinich, and a handful of others, who aren’t even always reliable on all issues.

    Is there a list of Democratic congressbeings that were close to the base, and then “betrayed” it (depending on what you mean by betrayal)?

    Who was supposed to have been politically loyal, that you accuse them of disloyalty?

    I’d say: not very many, in actual fact.

  7. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 24, 2009

    The progressive caucus is the largest caucus in the house. Cowards/betrayers, but progressives.

  8. December 24, 2009

    Here’s the Wikipedia entry on the House Progressive Caucus:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congressional_Progressive_Caucus

    The list is…interesting…and includes people *I* certainly doubt I’d put there. Anyone can call themselves a progressive. In Ye Olde Canada, you may remember we had/have an aggregator called ProgressiveBloggers.ca. Been a long time since I’ve looked at it. The leadership somehow got co-opted by Liberal hacks and in typical Liberal hacktackular style, started including all kinds of bizarre blogs that I’d never call progressive and excluding some that were.

    So the next question is, how should we define a progressive, and how do we exclude poseurs and impostors? Or is there even a good way to do this?

    For me, “progressive” means, roughly, someone living in a capitalist society who questions capitalist dogma but chooses to accept working/living within the system to make incremental improvements towards the better, while undermining capitalist ideology outside the system. A both/and proposition.

    A lot of the people on the official list of House Progressives, well, do you consider them to be people who question capitalist (these days, neoliberal) dogma?

  9. December 24, 2009

    From this article:

    Right now, there are 81 representatives in the House Progressive Caucus. These are the people who are unashamed to wear the label “progressive”. There are probably more people in the House who deserve that title, but not many. This is far too small a number to enact legislation that goes against the status quo. In order to do that, the Progressive Caucus, along with any other members of Congress who might go along with a particular piece of legislation for their own reasons, has to be able to form a majority for or against a bill. To be reasonably sure of being able to do this, that caucus should be at least as large as the 108-member Republican Study Committee, the conservatives who speak for most Republicans. It should probably be double the size it is now, given how resistant the other movement-oriented Democratic caucuses, the Blue Dogs and New Democratic Coalition, are to change. According to this article, they number 52 and 68 members, respectively.

    See the article for supporting links.

    While they are the second largest caucus in the House, they are outnumbered even in their own party. DLCers will always support the money people, and on social issues they can safely be counted on to run and hide after saying they wished things could be the way progressives want them to be. In short, the best we can hope for is that they’re not in the way. The Blue Dogs mostly support the same positions the Republicans do.

    Plus, as Mandos notes, there a number of people on that progressive caucus that one would find, shall we say, surprising.

  10. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 24, 2009

    Umm, the Blue Dogs are smaller than them, and they get their way very often. The Progressive caucus is the largest Democratic caucus and they have more than enough members to block any legislation they don’t want to pass if the Republicans are also voting against. And since the Republicans are voting against virtually everything right now, that means they can block virtually everything. That’s bargaining leverage. I refuse to explain how bargaining works for the 101st bloody time.

  11. December 24, 2009

    Well, either {litany}it is not a negotiation{/litany}, or the Progressive caucus is not actually Progressive, or both. But it can’t be the case that it *is* a negotiation, *and* the Progressive caucus was Progressive in this Congress. It can’t be the case because the evidence militates against it.

    I think that the sooner we all let go of the notion that electing Magic Number n will achieve progressive outcome p, the better.

  12. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 24, 2009

    Nope, as I’ve said before, beliefs without courage of convictions = wimpitude.

  13. December 24, 2009

    The problem is the conditional, if the Republicans continue to vote as they have. While they would almost certainly continue to do that in the case of the health care bill, in other areas that aren’t so visible that can’t be counted on. I understand this aspect of negotiating. The other part I understand is that alliances often change overnight, as can political strategies.

    As I’ve explained before, I’m not saying this to excuse the progressives’ actions. I’m writing this to explain that it’s not enough to say that they are the biggest group there. When the other guys can form a majority, that won’t matter. And, I suspect that’s what’s at the back of congressional progressives’ minds, whether that makes sense today or not.

  14. December 25, 2009

    So, what you’re positing, Ian, is a large group in Congress that in some way really, truly agrees in their innermost hearts with your position (on whatever, health care in this instance) but is simply too timid to act. Is that right? I’m pretty sure you’ve said literally this, but I don’t want you again to think I’m trying to put words in your mouth.

    Leaving aside the question of how you would know this group exists if they never act they way you want them to on anything major…um, what exactly are they afraid of, and are they right to fear it?

    (As you probably know, I suggest that if this group exists, they would have been foolish to try to act the way you wanted them to, at least on health care, perhaps not necessarily on other things, we’ll see. But then I consider that “if” to be a pretty big one…)

  15. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 25, 2009

    Have you been living in a cave Mandos? The House tried to pass Medicare +5 for a public option a couple times and got large numbers of people to agree with it and vote for it, for example. They aren’t willing to chance torpedoing the entire health care bill for it, however. Same with various other issues.

    Why did they even try if they don’t believe in it? Your thesis is “it’s all Kabuki”, mine is “some of it’s Kabuki, but a lot of it is lack of balls”. This is a matter of opinion, you cannot prove your view and I cannot prove my view, because we don’t know what they’re thinking internally. But your insistence of “it’s all hopeless, none of them are progressive, waaaaah” strikes me as the very epitome of “there’s nothing we can do, so don’t even try.”

    You live in a very odd world. In the world I live in, people often don’t have the balls to follow their convictions, especially when there are strong institutional forces which will punish them for doing so.

    In any case, we’ve been having this argument over and over again for months, and I’m extremely tired of it. I don’t agree with you. I understand your argument, and I don’t agree, and you don’t have the necessary evidence to prove your case, since you don’t have access to the internal experience of congresspeople. We both know what they do, we don’t know why.

    So kindly stop making every thread into an argument over it.

  16. December 25, 2009

    I haven’t made every thread into an argument over it, especially not most of the recent few, and I don’t think you’ve ever answered a number of questions that are crucial to your argument on politics, which is deeply, frustratingly incoherent, if apparently very satisfying to hold. So I’ll say one last thing (really, truly this time) and bid you adieu until some other new topic more conducive to productive discussion comes up:

    You live in a very odd world. In the world I live in, people often don’t have the balls to follow their convictions, especially when there are strong institutional forces which will punish them for doing so.

    In the world I live in, people often notice that some fights against the institutions are actually counterproductive, and the remainder are probably corrupt. That’s today’s politics in DC, in London, in Ottawa, in Brussels… So what do you do in the face of institutional consequences that are going to set you back even further if you make the Grand Heroic Stand that you seem to want?

    This does not imply that there’s nothing we can do. I won’t expound at length since I’ve already done so.

    And, my argument does not in fact rely on the internal experience of congresscritters—yours does. Mine comes from a simple deduction:

    1. If they have convictions and refuse to act, then it must be the case that the price is too steep (and their choice is likely rational).

    2. Otherwise, they actually belong to the other side for whatever reason.

    No internal knowledge necessary! No imputation of cowardice or other moral character required!

    You may be good at policy (I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever disagreed with you on best policy) but it’s not clear that you’re any good at politics. And since no argument or tactic or example will convince you that you haven’t been failed by cowards, I can hardly stop you from continuing to bask in the admiration of dead-enders and hypocrites for your principled, Pyrrhic stand.

    Have fun, and a happy holiday of course.

  17. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 25, 2009

    “And since no argument or tactic or example will convince you that you haven’t been failed by cowards, I can hardly stop you from continuing to bask in the admiration of dead-enders and hypocrites for your principled, Pyrrhic stand.”

    Oh how sweet of you Mandos. Nor can any argument, or tactic or example convince you. Sometimes two people disagree, but you just won’t let it go. I don’t keep trying to convince you, but you keep trying to convince me even after I’ve said I don’t agree. If I’m going to get there, I’ll get there on my own. Something you don’t seem to understand.

    The problem is I see no evidence your proposed tactics would work either, and they’re all long term tactics. Your proposal is “let’s just not even try right now, do a bunch of little things, and maybe in a generation after the US economy has already collapsed, it’ll all work out”. Well yes, after things collapse, there’ll be another chance. I’m suggesting ideas to stop the collapse, you, otoh, aren’t. I know the odds are against me, but you won’t even try.

    And as usual, your own argument contradicts itself, if the cost is too high, that’s a question of courage, isn’t it. Courage is doing things when there is potential that it will cost you. Is it rational? It’s rational from the inside, of course. They personally risk losing a lot, or at least they think they do. Is it rational for the best interests of the US? No, it’s not.

    We’re going to ride this bucket all the way down, because the people who are in a position to stop it, who believe (according to their own words) that it should be stopped, won’t do so. And they are enabled by people like you who tell them how rational their actions are.

    Perhaps I’m making a Pyrrhic stand. At least I’m making a stand. You’re running around telling everyone there’s nothing they can do which will work in less than a generation, so don’t even bother.

    Bravo to you. I’m sure you’ll find another blog, filled with rational people who agree with you on everything.

    Well, it’s at least as likely as a Senator making a principled stand, anyway.

  18. Bobby the Lip permalink
    December 25, 2009

    Actually, the Dems, both in Congress and the White House, are models of loyalty. They are loyal to their major donors–Wall St., Pharma, big banking, the military-industrial complex, the medico-insurance complex, the rest of the corporatists. As for the interests of the rest of us, our representatives–with a few exceptions–couldn’t care less. They are confident we will vote for the lesser of two evils like the good little incrementalists we’ve always been. What other choice do we have? they figure.

  19. Bobby the Lip permalink
    December 25, 2009

    And while I’m thinking of it, what’s the difference between the Republicans running as the heirs of Lincoln and the Dems calling themselves the party of Roosevelt? Like the old man said, history is bunk.

  20. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 25, 2009

    I believe the phrase is “honest crook”. As in, “an honest crook is one who stays bought”.

  21. December 26, 2009

    The general rule – especially in D.C. — is that fear is a prime motivator. The power of fear exceeds fidelity to principals when it comes to representing the voters and taxpayers.

    Democrats are afraid of their own shadows while the Republicans are afraid of almost everyone in the world, except the Democrats.

    The same is true of ideas. Democrats are notorious for being afraid of defending their ideas and Republicans run in terror at the sound of anyone else’s ideas.

    cl

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