The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Category: Democratic Party Page 1 of 6

The Squad and Kabuki Votes

Back on May 20th, a bill passed to increase funding for the Capitol police. The idea is that the events of January 6th mean they need more funding. They’re already VERY well-funded, and the failure was not due to lack of funding, but lack of preparation for a forseeable event (as it was announced and organized on social media), and failure to call in help. The capitol will become even more locked down, and access of ordinary citizens to it and to their representatives and senators will be more restricted.

This bill passed by ONE vote.

Whenever you see this, you should suspect absolute and complete bullshit.

The progressive defectors have all called to “defund” the police in the past: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) voted present, while Reps. Cori Bush (D-MO), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) voted against the bill, which includes funds for the Capitol Police.

This is an arranged vote. House members who need to be seen to oppose the bill were given “walks.” Because they needed the Squad to note vote against it, three didn’t, and the three who wanted/needed to keep their cred were allowed to vote against.

I am thinking back, and I can’t remember a time that the Squad, when they had the margin of victory, has ever cast the deciding vote against a bill that Democratic House leadership wanted passed. It may be that they have, and that I missed it; I don’t follow legislative matters super-closely.

But this vote was Kabuki, and unfortunately (I really did want to believe) I’m coming around to the view that the Squad is now basically onside. At a guess, I’d say a combination of co-option and punishment/threats have made clear to them their position, as when AOC didn’t get the committee assignment she wanted.

This is a genuinely difficult problem. People who go to Congress and want to play spoiler — to actually use their power when they have a veto, have to be willing to withstand both gestures of kindness and real punishment, along with the genuine hatred of their colleagues. If you’re not a “team player,” if you don’t do what leadership wants, there are prices to be paid.

It appears that those prices are too high for the Squad. Again, I may be wrong, but this isn’t a conclusion I come to anything but reluctantly. Nor, of course, does it not mean they aren’t “better” in some ways than other members. But there appears to be a fundamental dishonesty here that is disturbing, and a lack of willingness to use power when they have it.

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How Will Biden Rule Now That Democrats Control Congress?

So, Democrats have bare majorities in both the House and Senate, and they have the White House. They don’t have the Supreme Court.

Because the margin is so low, the people who will rule are those willing to cross the aisle to work with Republicans. Pelosi is fairly good at enforcing discipline, but Schumer is not, so we’re back into an era where right-wing Democrats will have a veto on a lot of legislation, as will the Supreme Court.

Because Biden is conservative in the psychological sense, he is unlikely to pack the Supreme Court unless they cross him in a big way, but because of the time-lag between when legislation is passed and when the Supreme Court strikes down the parts it doesn’t like, it’s unlikely he’ll have the emotional impetus to tackle the Supreme Court before the 2022 elections.

There is good news. $2,000 checks have become Democratic consensus, and they’re likely to pass. I do expect Biden to be more competent administratively, since while lazy, he will hire people who are at least capable of getting out of bureaucrats’ way and letting them do their jobs. (We’re not talking actual competence in most cases, remember how the Obama administration couldn’t handle the Obamacare roll-out. But at least they shouldn’t be throwing mail sorting machines into the garbage and so on. Little deliberate sabotage.)

The Biden environmental team is the one group that activists seem actually happy about. I’m still leery on this, given the Obama/Biden record on fracking and Biden’s statements about the issue, but I think if there’s one area that is likely to be better than one would expect given Biden’s record it’s environmental issues.

This is buttressed by the fact that the House rules waive Pay-Go for two areas:  Covid and the environment. AOC and the Squad have claimed credit, but I think the real credit goes to Biden; these are the two areas he seems serious about and Pelosi does usually cooperate with Democratic Presidential agendas.

I would think this won’t mean anything too radical, but we can expect that parks and reserves will be protected and expanded, pollution rules likewise, and endangered species lists taken seriously. Serious subsidies for renewable energy seem likely. It is possible we may get a green rollout across the federal civil service, which is a bigger deal than it seems, as it covers a lot of buildings and vehicles and it helps set up a domestic market for green firms if handled properly.

Biden’s other priority seems to be Covid. I don’t know how serious or competent he will be, but the current rollout of vaccines has been pathetic. A proper mobilization, if necessary using the military and the National Guard, would make a big difference. It’s clear that the US isn’t going to get past Covid without mass vaccination, as US states won’t do proper lockdown, track and trace, or provide proper support to people who stay home.

The issue here is whether Biden and Pelosi will provide enough economic stimulus and support to create a good economy so that Democrats keep the Senate and House in 2022. If they run as much as possible through the Covid and environmental pay-go exception, then the answer may be yes, but the insane opposition from centrist economists and wonks to the $2,000 check shows that means-testing and economic throttling is still Democratic party orthodoxy. They just don’t believe in giving everyone money, bullying the Fed into keeping interest rates low, and letting the economy roar.
If they give into the neoliberal tendencies of these apparatchniks, Biden will lose the House and probably the Senate in 2022, get impeached, and be a lame duck from 2023 on.

There’s reason to believe this is what they’ll do, simply because they still insisted on putting in the pay-go restrictions. Why have them at all, unless you really believe in them and want to use them to throttle spending on anything you don’t want (like Medicare for all)? By attaching that rule, Democrats have indicated that they’re not really interesting large programs which will have a huge economic effect and ensure they retain control of the House and Senate.

I hope Biden is a good President, and better than I expect. Realistically, he’ll be awful in a lot of ways, especially in foreign affairs and civil liberties. We can hope that he’s good on the environment, handles Covid better than Trump, and runs an economy that doesn’t suck.

But I suspect he won’t have the guts to do what is necessary. He won’t forgive 50K in student debt, for example. He’s not a radical, he’s been one of the key implementers of neoliberalism over the last 50 years, and he’s unlikely to go hard against its orthodoxy. He’s willing to act on environmental issues because neoliberalism is finally coming around to realizing they should do something about that. That “something” is won’t be enough, and they plan on making the peons pay for it instead of rich people, but it’s “something.”

Otherwise, Biden is still a means-testing neoliberal who thinks that if someone is poor they deserve to be poor, and that the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich.

So he’s likely to not do enough, and become a lame duck in 2023.

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Perez Chosen as DNC Chair

Ellison, of course, was the left-wing choice, endorsed by Sanders, etc.

I’m going to have a lot more to say about the Democratic party, neoliberals, Obama, and Clinton later. For now, I simply note that the most important thing, for those who control the liberal party, is retaining control over the liberal party.

I note also that they genuinely believe in neoliberalism. They genuinely don’t want a $15/minimum wage and will only grudgingly give on something as basic (and really, minor to them) as that.

They want Americans poor. They want the poor to stay poor. They want the middle class to decline.

I mean this exactly as I say it: The policies they prefer make the middle class poor, and make the poor poorer, and have done for 40 years.

This is who they are. This is what they want.

They are the enemy of all people who prioritize any form of kindness to other human beings.  Whether they are better than Trump is irrelevant, they’re just another group of enemies.

More on this later. Perez is only an occasion to mention it, and nothing major: He’s just another sign that, no, they don’t want people who favor decent policies in charge of anything, ever. They would certainly far rather lose elections to someone like Trump than allow the left power.


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It Is Better to Be Feared than Loved, if You Cannot Be Both

Contra Machiavelli, I prefer ruling through love, rather than fear.

But, if it can’t be love…


…then fear will do.

For a long, long time, centrist Dems have loathed, despised, and even hated the left-wing part of the Democratic base. (Obama was quite public about this.)

Republican politicians loathe, despise, and even hate their base, too. Be very clear about that. The difference is simple: Democrats weren’t scared of their base and Republicans are (as they should be).

If that’s changing, that’s good news.

Marcotte, of course, is deranged and essentially incapable of reason due to her strong personal identification with Clinton as the avatar of woman. Her understanding of why Sanders was popular and of why Clinton lost are both deficient, and that’s the point. It is precisely those people who cannot be reached through reason who must be reached through emotion; and because they prefer to despise the people, it cannot be love that motivates them.

And so, fear it is.

(Sanders, by the way, appears to be the most popular federal politician in America.)

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The End of the American Dream and How Democratic Apologists are Creating It

I’m going to be even more blunt than usual. Democratic apologists (and Obamabots) are a huge part of why the US is becoming a worse and worse place to live for most of the population.

The only “progressive” group who really got any of what they wanted from Obama were gays.  Why did they get it?


They did everything they could to hurt Obama, politically and personally.

I will be even more frank, the contempt I have for Democratic apologists and Obamabots is far greater than what I feel for Republicans.  Republicans tend to be pretty straight: they intend to repeal the last millenium worth of social progress and institute a new Gilded Age.

Democrats, on the other hand, lie about how they care, care, care, but their ACTIONS show that they want to repeal the last millenium of non-identity based civil liberties and re-institute the Gilded Age.

Do not even dare to talk to me about the financial crisis.  The most important thing that happened to allow the financial crisis was the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which happened under Bill Clinton (D) with his whole-hearted approval.  Which is why Bill is worth 100 million or so now.  He made a lot of bankers and brokers very rich, and if you were hurt in the financial collapse and the shitty economy since then, well, he’s even more to blame than George W. Bush.

Furthermore things like the no-fly list and “1st Amendment Zones” started under Clinton.

Yes, the Big Dog may have had a pretty good economy, and may have been competent, but he is massively complicit in what happened after he left.

As for Obama, he has been worse on civil liberties than George W. Bush.  It is not even close.  He is significantly worse.

The thing is Obama promised to be great on civil liberties. He campaigned on that.

Democrats, as a group, are liars.  They make promises they do not keep.  People who cover for them are enabling this.

Now let me be even more clear.  The US and the developed world are in a Depression.  I know, I know, no one has told you that.  But when during the recovery and the boom the jobs don’t come back and the wages don’t increase, that’s a depression.  You just had the recovery and the boom and are moving into a recession.

You aren’t just going to lose twenty years.

You are going to lose your prosperity forever.  Sure, there will be good years (like about 3 years at the end of Clinton’s reign.

That is the smart money bet.  It is not that it couldn’t be stopped, it could be.  The policies required are known, the technology is available, and so on.  But they aren’t going to happen, because both parties want it to happen.  They compete to give money to the rich, that is their job, and apologists (for whichever party) enable it.

People keep using the Japanese lost decade as an analogy.

Japan did not lose a decade, it never recovered.  And it is still getting worse.  And Japan, remember, started with a huge trade surplus and a massive savings rate (though it did have a demographic time bomb.)

You redeem one of the two parties, by taking out bad actors, or you create a viable third party, or you lose your prosperity unless you get very lucky (and by very lucky I mean “get an FDR at the right time.”)

Obama could have been FDR. He was given the opportunity. He blew it.

And Dem apologists made excuses for him all the way along.  “The Republicans are worse.”

Yes, well, I’d rather be killed by an axe murderer than a guy with a chainsaw, but at the end of the day, I’m still dead.

And so will be your prosperity.

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Why Obama And Democrats Don’t Do Much of What Liberals Want (Netroots Failure: Part 2)

Politicians do most things because someone wants them done who can hold them accountable if they don’t do it. That includes bad things, and good things. Anyone who doesn’t understand this reality doesn’t understand even the most basic part of politics.

In 2008 Clinton reached out to the Netroots, and felt the Netroots (we, not me, I had almost no contact with the campaign) mattered enough to at least listen to. Obama did not.

You dances with the ones who brought you, as Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said, Obama won by bypassing the Netroots and lying to Progressives and Liberals: he won without us, he owed us nothing once elected.

The movement, such as it was, was bypassed and lost power. As a result, for example, we could not improve Dodd-Frank, insist on more help for homeowners (which I pushed hard for), improve the shitty stimulus bill, or get any of a number of other liberal or progressive priorities pushed.

Note that gays were originally ignored by Obama as well.  What did they do?  They got in Obama’s face personally, heckling him and they organized a very effective donor boycott.  As a result, they got much (but not all) of what they wanted from him.

Holding someone accountable means “inflicting pain”.  If they don’t do what you want, you must be able to do something to them they don’t like (heckling), or take away something they want (money).

Like FDL or not, the last serious attempt by left-wingers other than gays to hold Obama accountable was when they refused to go along with the Affordable Care Act if it didn’t include a public option.  FDL said “if this bill has no public option, we won’t support it.”  When it didn’t, they didn’t.  You may think that’s not a good red-line, but they had a red line.  Of course FDL, virtually alone, did not have the juice: they could not inflict enough pain or take away enough funding  or create enough bad publicity for Obama to care, especially when powerful interests (read: insurance companies), didn’t want a public option.  (For doing so, FDL was attacked by all the usual suspects on “left-wing” blogs and labelled firebaggers.)

Political power is constituted of getting people elected, getting people unelected and being able to reward or punish people for doing or not doing what you want. If you can’t do any of those things, you have no power.

This is realpolitik.

A brief note on why the progressive blog movement failed

In the early 2000s progressive blogging seemed like a big deal.  At the first Yearly Kos, as it was called then, big name politicians came and kissed our ass.  We were covered by major newspaper and TV outlets.  Etc…

Today, we are nothing.

The reason is simple: we could not elect enough of our people. We could not instill sufficient fear.  We could not defeat incumbents.  We did not produce juice.  Clark and Dean didn’t win the 2004 Presidential nomination. Dean was taken out in a particularly nasty fashion (via the manufactured Dean Scream.)

The turning point was when Joe Lieberman, though defeated in a primary, managed to be elected anyway.  After the 2006 House capture by Democrats, Pelosi’s democrats betrayed the fundamental principles that the prog blogosphere stood for: they did nothing to stop the war, for example.  The Prog blogosphere took it, and worse, most of the blogs that did come out against House Democratic Vichy behaviour, lost audience.  (Yes, they did. I tracked this stuff carefully at the time.)

The nail in the coffin was the 2008 primaries.  To put it simply, Obama bypassed the blogging gatekeepers. Commenters, whether free or bought (and yes, I believe many were on the payroll) capsized DKos and other major blogs.  Obama did not need the gatekeepers, he simply bought out the movement.  The bloggers were irrelevant.  At least one major blogger acted as a conduit for Obama hits: was fed oppo, and put that oppo out there.

After 2008 everyone knew that they didn’t need prog-bloggers and that they didn’t really need to fear bloggers. (They may be annoyed by “Firebaggers”, they do not fear them.)

Unlike the Tea Party, most left wingers don’t really believe their own ideology.  They put partisanship first, or they put the color of a candidate’s skin or the shape of their genitals over the candidate’s policy.  Identity is more important to them than how many brown children that politician is killing.

So progressives have no power, because they have no principles: they cannot be expected to actually vote for the most progressive candidate, to successfully primary candidates, to care about policy first and identity second, to not take scraps from the table and sell out other progressive’s interests.

The Tea Party, say what you will about them, gets a great deal of obeisance from Republicans for one simple reason: they will primary you if they don’t like how you’ve been voting, and they’ll probably win that primary.  They are feared.  Progressives are not feared, because they do not believe enough in their ostensible principles to act on them in an effective fashion.

That is why the progressive revolution of the early 2000s failed.  If you want the next left wing push to succeed, whatever it is called, learn the lessons of the last failure.

(Note: I poured years of my life into the movement. Its failure is my failure, and I take no pleasure in it at all.)

The Left Wing Case Against Obama and Obama’s Next Term

Matt Stoller’s made the left wing case against Obama, and then responded to his critics, who, he’s right, don’t address his points.  The two articles are excellent, and you should read them.

I haven’t really bothered writing that much about the election because it simply isn’t very important, despite the hysteria.  Romney would probably be worse on the margins, but the difference is at the margins, except, possibly, for the Supreme Court.  The most intellectually honest argument for Obama can be summarized as “he’s an evil man who has gutted the constitution and done everything possible to enshrine oligarchy, but he’ll probably appoint a Justice who will keep Roe. v. Wade and a few shattered spars of the Bill of Rights around.”

The key thing to realize is that Obama is the President who normalized Bush’s Republic.  He normalized routine civil liberties violations, normalized anti-immigrant raids, normalized the eternal war on terror, pushed executive power even further than Bush with a unilateral war against the wishes of Congress in Libya and by arrogating for himself the right to kill any American.  He made sure the rich not only stayed rich, in the face of a financial collapse which he could have used to break their power, but has increased inequality significantly.  The wealth and wages of ordinary Americans have dropped, the portion of the country’s income going to the wealthy has increased, and the US is well on its way to becoming a corrupt petro-state.  Nothing is more hilarious than Mayor Bloomberg endorsing Obama because of climate change, when Obama has quite deliberately overseen a huge increase in hydrocarbon production and openly embraces so-called “clean” coal.   Obama may agree that Global Warming exists, and Romney may pretend that it doesn’t, but the policies of the two are functionally identical and the money Obama spent on renewables was so horribly misspent as to do nothing but discredit the industry.

The argument for “who cares” is simple enough.  Yes, Romney will be worse than Obama in certain respects, but if Obama is not in charge, then the Democrats are far more likely to oppose both civil liberties absuses and efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Let me tell you how Obama’s second term will play out.

1) He will appoint a milquetoast “liberal” to the Supremes.  You’ll keep the remains of Roe vs. Wade, but he’ll keep doing things like overruling Plan B as an over the counter medication, because he doesn’t really believe that girls impregnated by their fathers have a right not to have the child.  And every case that enshrines oligarchy, like Citizens United or HCR, will go for oligarchy (you aren’t stupid enough to think that Roberts switched his vote for any reasons other than to give insurance companies their bailout and gut Medicaid, I hope.)

2) The economy will struggle along till he gets his grand bargain, then it will absolutely crater.  You’ve got a couple years of lousy but not awful economy at most, use it, because years 3 and 4 are going to be awful.

3) He will make a Grand Bargain.  Winning by only a small margin of the popular vote will help with this.  The rich will pay slightly more, but most of the money will come from cutting Social Security, Medicare and other such programs.  The Republicans will give him just enough votes to pass it, so that it will be the Democrats who have gutted SS and Medicare.

4) The Republicans will nominate a right wing crazy in 2016.  He will stand a good chance of winning, because the Democrats, having cut SS and Medicare will now stand for nothing other than “fear the Supreme Court!”  In fact, the Republicans will run as the defenders of SS and Medicare.

Because the Republican Congress is now extremely far right wing, in fact reactionary, when they get their President, they will be able to do almost anything they want.  And all they will need is the House and 51 votes in the Senate, because they will not play stupid games about the filibuster, they’ll pass under reconciliation or just do it with 51 votes and tell everyone to go fuck themselves.  There will be no nonsense about super-majorities.  HCR will, at that point, be removed or gutted.  The court decision making Medicaid optional, however, will remain the law of the land.

Reelecting Obama does mean a better economy for the next couple years.  It does mean that people who can afford health care with mandated issue, and who must have it to make the bridge to Medicare, will get that.  It means nothing else.  It will gut the Democratic coalition, it will make a reactionary right wing president far more likely, it will kick the restructuring of the economy which is needed down the road further, making it more difficult when, or rather if, it ever occurs.  It will make the Grand Compromise, meaning SS and Medicare cuts, far more possible than if Romney were in power and Democrats were opposing the bill.  And yes, poor women will still be able, at least theoretically, to get abortions (upper middle class women are always able to get them, since they can travel.)

Is it worth it?  I don’t, personally, think so.  As with Matt Stoller and many others, if I could vote, I wouldn’t vote Obama.  To be clear, I wouldn’t vote for Romney either.  I’d probably vote for Jill Stein, making a third party viable starts with, oh, voting for it

On edit: one more thing, there is no excuse to vote for Obama if you are not in a swing state.  NONE.  Vote third party.

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