Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hope and change

"If Democrats had accomplished all that, they would have been out there bragging about it for months." Ha! Only if you don't know Democrats.

David Letterman put it like this:
The Republicans, of course, have turned against Obama, and the Democrats have also turned against Obama. That’s a lonely, lonely gig being president, ladies and gentlemen.

Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon – under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.

Can you imagine if the Republicans could run on a record like that? We'd never hear the end of it. Instead, they have a record of two unpopular, unnecessary wars still dragging our country down, tax cuts for the rich which caused massive budget deficits (combined with waging war on credit, rather than actually paying for it), and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, among other disasters.

When Barack Obama took office, our economy and our stock market were both cratering, with no bottom in sight. We were stuck in two idiotic, unnecessary wars (it's far easier getting in than out), and Osama bin Laden - remember, the guy who actually attacked us on 9/11? - was still at large. (Yeah, we started two wars for nothing.) Budget deficits were going through the roof.

So what did the GOP do? Republican leaders met before Obama even took office and agreed to stonewall everything, no matter what it was. Yes, while America was at war, Republican politicians agreed to do nothing to help. Can you imagine if the Democrats had done that with Bush? Our ears would have been ringing with Republican cries of "Treason!"

Even when the Democrats agreed to adopt the Republican health care plan, every Republican immediately turned against it. Their own plan instantly turned into the worst threat to America we've ever seen. How crazy was that?

But it worked:
In the winter of 2008-2009, the leaders of the Obama transition effort had a theory as to how things would go and mainstream Washington agreed with them.

The theory went like this. With large majorities in the House and Senate, it was obvious that lots of Democratic bills would pass. But the White House would be generous and make concessions to Republicans who were willing to leap on the bandwagon. ... As a result, bills would pass the Senate with large 70- to 75-vote majorities, and Obama would be seen as the game-changing president who healed American politics and got things done.

McConnell's counter plan was to prevent those deals. ...

To prevent Obama from becoming the hero who fixed Washington, McConnell decided to break it. And it worked. Six years into the affair, we now take it for granted that nothing will pass on a bipartisan basis, no appointment will go through smoothly, and everything the administration tries to get done will take the form of a controversial use of executive power.

It's been ugly. But in most voters' mind, the ugliness has attached to Obama and, by extension, Democrats. It was a very counterintuitive strategy, but it was well-grounded in the best political science available. And it worked.

It worked because we let it work. And Democratic politicians - feckless, timid, ineffectual - hardly seemed to fight back at all.

For the most part, that's still what's going on. Here's Andrew Sullivan:
I'm not a Democrat, and I've never understood the Democratic Party. You've got a president who's actually got a terrific economic record compared to any other developed nation on the planet. ...

Here's what I don't understand about the Democratic Party. You have a president enact universal health insurance, which is their goal for 40 years, and they run away from that achievement and refuse to talk about it. They're real week-kneed, lily-livered cowards, essentially, when it comes to really fighting the good fight.

You know, I'm still kind of... psychologically, temperamentally Republican, but I'm supporting this Democrat president, because I think he actually has done a really amazing job in the circumstances.

Well, you can tell he's not a Democrat, huh? At least not a Democratic politician.

And yet, they still lose. They run away from their president, they run away from their party, they run away from their accomplishments,... and they lose anyway. So all they've done is reinforce what the Republicans are saying,... for nothing!

In the 2012 elections here in Nebraska, we were absolutely bombarded with campaign ads which started with, "All the Democrats want to do is spend money." I got so sick of hearing that. But that campaign ad was from Bob Kerrey, the Democratic candidate!

He lost anyway, of course. He spent a ton of money (from Democratic supporters) reinforcing the Republican message about Democrats,... and somehow they're surprised to lose? Somehow, they're surprised that Democrats never get anywhere here in Nebraska?

Over the long-term, how is that supposed to accomplish anything. And note that it doesn't even accomplish anything over the short-term! By and large, they still lose when they don't stand for anything. They just do it without standing for anything.

I don't get it. I get so frustrated at the Democrats that I want to tear my hair out. My choices in nearly every election are between feckless cowards and... complete insanity. I vote for the feckless cowards, but I can't say that I enjoy doing so. (Don't tell me about third parties. Third parties are just a way to help the people you dislike the most.)

OK, not every Democrat is this bad. And here in Nebraska, at least, Democrats definitely have an uphill struggle (a struggle made worse, not better, by past Democrats in our state who've run away from their own party like it had Ebola).

But here's the deal in Nebraska - and I don't think it's too much different in other red states. As usual, Republicans won every statewide election Tuesday by two-to-one margins. It wasn't even close.

However, a measure to raise the minimum wage was also on the ballot, and it passed by a similar two-to-one margin. The same thing happened in Arkansas, Alaska, and South Dakota - red states, all. Even here in Nebraska, voters are more progressive than most people think. OK, maybe that's not too progressive, even so, but they never hear anyone standing up for progressive values.

Nebraskans vote Republican because they've always voted Republican. I mean, they certainly wouldn't vote for a Democrat. Even Nebraska Democrats don't stand up for the Democratic Party. It just drives me nuts. You're going to lose, anyway, so why not lose while standing for something?

And this is particularly insane when those policies are popular - popular even in red states. Why not stand for something, Democrats? Yeah, you might lose, but you're probably going to lose anyway. So what do you really have to lose? Are you really such "week-kneed, lily-livered cowards" that you won't even stand up and fight for something when it's popular?

Admittedly, when it comes to the midterms, this is also a huge problem:

NBC News

Old people - old, white people, in particular - vote in every election. Young people can't be bothered. Minorities tend to vote only in presidential years. (Of course, note that those old, white people still voted for a minimum wage increase in every red state where it was on the ballot. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the Republican Party has been filibustering it.)

But do you wonder why young people can't get college loan relief? Politicians pay attention to old, white people because they vote. And sure, money rules, but that's only because we let it. If we weren't swayed by attack ads, money wouldn't be so important in our political system.

And if we all voted, we'd discover that we outnumber the 1% by... well, you can do the math yourself, I hope.

But it doesn't help when even the Democrats don't support Democratic policies. It certainly doesn't help when they run away from those policies, not through conviction, but because of cowardice and fecklessness. But for us voters, progress happens one small step at a time. If you're waiting for utopia, you'll have a long wait!

Republicans won the midterm election, just as pretty much everyone predicted. (Heck, even the Democratic Party was sending out "All hope is lost!" emails. Yeah, that's a great way of motivating your base, isn't it? That's another thing I'll never understand about the Democrats!)

But you know, that's how it works in a democracy. You win some, you lose some. Republicans had a natural advantage this year. (In fact, when it comes to Congress, they had a natural advantage in 2010 and 2012, too, but they blew it, both times.)

This will make things harder, no doubt about it. But it's the Democrats who'll have a natural advantage two years from now - if they don't blow it. (Maybe they'll finally start listening to Elizabeth Warren? We can only hope.)


jeff725 said...

About the Democrats...again, I go back to the "battered woman" analogy I was talking about the other day. It's the only thing I can think of right now.

"They only hit until you cry,
After that, you don't ask why,

You just don't argue anymore,
You just don't argue anymore..."

--"Luka," by Suzanne Vega

WCG said...

That's a great song, Jeff, but I'm not so sure about the analogy.

After all, the Democratic Party beat the crap out of the GOP in 2012 and will likely do so in 2016, as well. This is just a midterm - important, yes, but the big problem is that Democrats don't vote in midterms. (Note that graph above.)

Well, another big - huge - problem is that we must live with the consequences of our mistakes. We've got a far-right Supreme Court because of past mistakes in electing right-wing Republican presidents. We've got the House of Representatives pretty much guaranteed to Republicans, not because they're getting more votes, but because they've gerrymandered election districts so badly.

That, again, is a consequence of past bad decisions, electing Republicans to state positions. Gerrymandering should be unconstitutional - Jebus, this isn't the first time America has faced that same issue - but any way you look at it, we allowed it to happen.

We're far from helpless. In fact, I'm pretty sure that Republicans are absolutely terrified of us. Certainly, they're fed a steady diet of fear in the right-wing echo chamber.

And keep in mind that progressives have won or are winning on every single issue. We won on freedom of speech and religion. We won on slavery. We won on women's suffrage. We won on segregation. We've won, or are winning, on equal rights for women, racial minorities, and gay people.

And even this year, an increase in the minimum wage passed by large margins in all four states - deep-red states, every one - where it was on the ballot.

No, Republicans land a blow every now and then, but we're not on the ropes. It might not be an easy fight, but we are going to win it. Just like we have every other fight.