Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn will seek to offset federal aid to victims of a massive tornado that blasted through Oklahoma City suburbs on Monday with cuts elsewhere in the budget.> more ... (0 comments)
One of the interesting aspects to the chained CPI story has been how little we’ve heard from Democrats about it. Not much going on in the ol’ RSS reader about Democratic reactions to the idea, so I went ahead and searched to see what top Democrats and key Obama allies had to say about it. The answer, it turns out, is nothing. Harry Reid, who one would figure would be a key figure in making any deal happen, said nothing. No statements of any kind. Max Baucus, another person who one would figure would be key in a grand bargain, also said nothing. One of Obama’s closest Senate allies, Claire McCaskill, has similarly kept mum. And Steny Hoyer, #2 House Democrat and one of the biggest grand bargaineers in all of D.C., chose not to mark the event of the President’s new budget with any sort of formal remarks. He has, in fact, gone nearly a month without issuing any statement on the subject, which is pretty amazing, and shows the lack of intensity in finding a deal within D.C. but outside of the White House. In fact, just about the only left-leaning senator to chime in so far has been Bernie Sanders. He is, unsurprisingly, not a big fan of Obama’s idea.
Now, to be sure, it’s easy to read too much into this. And you could argue that these folks quietly support Obama’s bargain in concept but don’t want to get nailed for saying it publicly. Could be! But I’m not sure that fits best. That might account for, say, Max Baucus, who is up for re-election next year and would be in trouble from both sides if he enthusiastically supported and worked on the project. But not for the others. I mean, Hoyer isn’t going to be primaried like ever (though that wouldn’t be the worst idea I’ve ever heard), and it’s actually more noticeable that he isn’t commending the president for his serious, bracing vision than if he’d put out a pro forma statement that said nothing. Is he afraid the whip job would be imperiled if he gave it a hearty cheer? Or could it be even too far for him? One wonders.
I don’t know what it means, but my guess is that the highly vocal intramural resistance to chained CPI has not gone unnoticed by officeholders. My working theory is that there’s significant Democratic resistance to this idea, but keeping quiet avoids breaking with the White House over a deal that will most likely never come to pass in any form. This is perhaps why Obama feels the need to go so far to the right with his proposals, as there’s not much support on the left for this kind of bargain. Of course, there’s not much support for it on the right either. In any event, the pattern is pretty interesting.
My strong guess is that it will be Sen. Mark Pryor (AR), on the basis of his C Street/The Family connections. Assuming he gets another term, come 2016 he could very possibly be the last one holding statewide office in the nation.
Anyway, there’s also this article, which looks at the small number of potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates who haven’t stood up in favor if marriage equality. One of them is everyone’s favorite, Janet Napolitano. Which is just perfect. An equality-shunning Napolitano campaign would set new levels in terms of being hated by the base of the party a candidate wants to lead–possibly not since A. Mitchell Palmer, deranged foe of civil liberties and red-baiter extraordinaire, ran to succeed Woodrow Wilson will we see such contempt for a national candidacy on the part of their own political party. (Though given Wilson’s politics at the time, an argument could be made that Palmer was his ideal heir and logical successor.) I kind of hope she does it, she’ll struggle to crack double-digits anywhere regardless of her marriage stance, and doing it while being one of the last Democrats to oppose marriage equality would make it that much sweeter.
This is the list. Check below the fold for a detailed scorecard. The gist of it is that only eight of the 25 count as quotes uttered by mainstream liberals that might be racist, at least possibly. The list itself almost refutes the premise (being, of course, that liberals are the real racists). The list consists of several distinct categories–undeniably racist quotes that are nearly as old as I am or that were uttered by “liberals” who are so obscure I’ve never even heard of them, quotes that aren’t racist but are troublesome (many of which were ubiquitous for a moment before dying with a shrug), factual statements or statements of opinion delivered with an attitude the writer doesn’t like, with the odd bit of hearsay and hilariously out of context quotes that can’t be racist because they make literally no sense because so much has been removed there is no coherent point. Obviously, this is done to ensure that the audience for this sort of thing feels the suggestion of racism alone, and naturally gives Hawkins the benefit of the doubt. Just goes to show how much work this whole “rebranding” is going to take.
What’s also striking about the list is how distant so many of the quotes are to the heart of liberal/progressive politics. C’mon, Ralph Nader is no liberal, though at least he’s famous. And the liberal/leftist split might not be as intuitive for a right-winger, so I wouldn’t press that point home. But the actual problem with this list is that, while many of these people are liberals, almost none of them have any power, or much visibility. Whereas, you can find sitting Republican officeholders who call the President of the United States uppity, that terrorists would be “dancing in the streets” should he be elected and that he discriminates against white people, that Obama ought to be opposed simply because he’s black. This is to say nothing of a certain former Senate Majority Leader waxing favorably upon the days of segregation, or all of Glenn Beck’s racial rhetoric on his defunct FOX News program, which ended not so long ago. These are considerably more bothersome than some writer nobody’s heard of saying white people shouldn’t vote, or thirdhand quotes about Rev. Joseph Lowery’s views on white people in the afterlife, or that Harry Reid used the word “Negro” once, which mostly just proves he’s really old, or Joe Biden’s famously tortured relationship with the English language. The latter of which refutes the whole premise–Biden is given two “racist” quotes, but if they are intended to “prove” that Biden secretly fumes at all those damned furriners, why would he accept the post of Vice President under a black man? Spend so much time with him, maintain such an attitude of respect and affection for him? I suppose it’s possible in the way that Oliver Stone’s theory of the JFK assassination is possible, but it’s not exactly the most simple or plausible explanation, especially given Biden’s complete inability to keep his feelings to himself. Which is not to deny the existence of liberal racism across the board, I sure as hell know that there’s some out there. But that’s not something I worry about because those people do not wield significant power at this point. Among conservatives, they do.
Pres. Obama is right to be frustrated by the worsening abuse of the filibuster in the Senate. Senate Democrats deserve every inch of scorn for being too timid to actually use the power they’ve accrued. I suspect the rapid re-evaluation of Lyndon Johnson on the left has at least something to do with his having been a Democrat who was not afraid to use every bit of power he could, in contrast with today’s Dems who walk on eggshells even after winning a major victory.
But I would like to make one contrarian point. Harry Reid has taken the brunt of the blowback over substantive filibuster reform failing, but it’s not like there’s no argument to be made for his behavior. An important part of political leadership is insulating the people you lead from political risk, and the filibuster is an excellent tool for doing that. This is why, traditionally, it’s been a popular tool regardless of party. Absent a filibuster, senators would have to take a lot more tough votes on actual bills, not procedural votes that take a few seconds to explain what they mean. Republicans voting en masse against a bill to increase the minimum wage would look just awful, for example. Having a filibuster in place is some insurance that a lot of the controversial stuff doesn’t come to the floor, which means fewer tough votes. Only procedural votes on it that supposedly bores people.
That said, while avoiding potential risk is a component of political leadership, it’s only one component, and it’s hard to make the case that keeping Democrats from losing elections is worth the cost of enduring an escalating battle against getting ever more routine business done.
The Democrats’ staggering inability to extol the inarguable virtues of the 2009 stimulus package is on my top-20 list of the worst instances of political malpractice in the 21st century.
Sometimes a graph really makes the entire argument for you.
I was just thinking about this the other day. It’s entirely academic, but what if John Boehner called up Barack Obama today and said, let’s talk. This sequester is no good, let’s work something better out. So there are a couple days of furious negotiating, culminating in a $2.5 trillion replacement that raises the Medicare age and does the COLA adjustment to Social Security that have been bandied about, and consists of around $800 billion of revenue, including caps on deductions and the closing of various “loopholes” in the tax code. Let’s just assume this could somehow happen, and that Boehner (and Mitch McConnell) could pledge half their caucuses to voting for it. What would the effects of this be politically?
The most obvious one would be that it would be politically great for Barack Obama. Obama’s ambition is to enact as much big change as possible to solve problems, so this would be quite satisfying to him, no doubt. It would make him a hero of the constellation of corporate and wealthy people who are aligned with Pete Peterson, which is not a bad thing for someone who’s going to need to raise tens of millions of dollars right after leaving office to build a presidential library and isn’t likely to get it from college students writing fifteen dollar checks every month. It would be a big-time legacy burnisher, and in policy terms it would (if actually allowed to be implemented) cut deficits significantly over a decade. All upside for him, really.
On the other hand, it would be politically disastrous for Democrats. I can think of nothing better that would open up the cleavages between those perpetually uncomfortable bedfellows, the New Democrat corporate types who are there mostly for social issues and the left-liberals, who are there for everything. Neither group much likes the other, and a grand bargain would run the risk of causing enormous disunity, especially if rejecting the deal becomes a litmus test to those interests. And it’s hard to see a reason why it shouldn’t. Second-term presidents, the cliche goes, take bigger chances and entertain ideologically unorthodox options because they see the end coming. But it’s also common that those options don’t work out, and second-term rebellions are quite common since the risk of losing favor with a lame duck administration are much lower than against a first-term team that will have the better part of a decade to go. Putting yourself out there for a potential primary challenge is a whole different story. So you have George W. Bush suffering virtually no first-term rebellions, and then having at least four major ones in his second (Social Security, immigration, Harriet Miers and the first attempt to pass TARP–am I missing one?). And then there was St. Ronaldus Magnus, who spend his last two years getting kicked in the teeth by Jim Wright, having veto after veto overridden as Republicans in Congress chose to focus more on their problems than his.
Which would all be well and good, only the timing could make the 2016 elections very tricky. Assuming that Hillary opts out, it’s easy to imagine someone like Andrew Cuomo strongly supporting the deal and getting enormous financial backing from the DLC types, and perhaps Elizabeth Warren strongly opposing the deal and rallying Democrats behind that position and her candidacy. Given the makeup of Democratic primary electorates, it’s easy to imagine her being successful, but it’s harder to imagine any candidate who would be able to pick up the pieces and run a united general election campaign (perhaps leading to an absurd spectacle like Warren/Bayh ’16!). And the next election is going to be pivotal to American liberalism–preserving the Affordable Care Act, for one, and also ensuring that Scalia and Kennedy get replaced by better judges (it seems unlikely that both will be serving on the court in twelve years, as both would be pushing 90). You wouldn’t want to contest the election in an environment where large blocs of your party are at each others’ throats.
But ultimately, this would come down to whether or not the bill would actually pass in this scenario. My guess is that it would pass in the House–sure, the 71 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus would almost certainly be against it, but beyond that, it’s difficult to say where the rest of the “no” votes would come from. The Senate would be a lot easier: given that there’s a baseline of 20-25 “no” votes from the GOP on any deal with Obama there, they’d really only have to produce enough to get to 41 to filibuster it. (I’m assuming the vast majority of Democrats will vote for it, because that’s just what they do.) The Bernie Sanders-Al Franken-Elizabeth Warren-Tammy Baldwin cohort would be able to get close just on their own, there probably are enough other anti-catfood Dems to block cloture. Which would be such a perfect metaphor for the entire Obama era, the hard-right inadvertently saving us from harsh spending cuts, and using the filibuster to do it.
Jonathan Bernstein is already on today’s lazy column about how Barack Obama is inferior to some former president who Got Things Done (today it’s Woodrow Wilson). He gets in a lot of good points, but one thing I’d add is how silly this is: “All sides should remember Wilson and the single factor that determines the country’s glorious successes or crushing failures: cooperation.”
This is rich considering that Woodrow Wilson was likely the least bipartisan president we’ve ever had. Moreso than G.W. Bush, who lest we forget was well able to secure Democratic support for the Iraq War and his first round of tax cuts. Moreso than LBJ, who got quite a bit of GOP support on Civil Rights. This is what makes the “let’s sit around like Woodrow Wilson and Republicans did” argument so incredibly baffling. According to Edmund Morris’s Colonel Roosevelt, Wilson simply disliked and mistrusted Republicans and didn’t want to work with them, which was the factor that led to his disastrous 1918 “open letter” to the public prior to the midterm election, which included stuff like this:
Spokesmen of the Republican party are urging you to elect a Republican Congress in order to back up and support the President. But, even if they should in this impose upon some credulous voters on this side of the water, they would impose on no one on the other side. It is well understood there as well as here that Republican leaders desire not so much to support the President as to control him.
The peoples of the allied countries with whom we are associated against Germany are quite familiar with tile significance of elections. They would find it very difficult to believe that the voters of the United States had chosen to support their President by electing to the Congress, a majority controlled by those who are not in fact in sympathy with the attitude and action of the Administration.
It’s widely agreed that the letter, ironically, was the single most important factor that led to a Republican Congress during Wilson’s last years in office, and that not publishing it would at least have allowed Democrats to hold the Senate. It’s pure Wilson, too, just someone who couldn’t stop and couldn’t alter his course, animated as he was by visions of righteousness from which any deviation was essentially a sin. This led, of course, to both his greatest successes and greatest failures, which correspond almost exactly to the years of his first and second terms, respectively. It also led to lots of sabotage of his own priorities–the Republican Senate killed the Versailles Treaty, which was strongly against Wilson’s interest. If he’d just shut up, the path toward American joining the League of Nations would have been clearer.
There’s also the irony of encouraging the president to act politically more like someone who saw his entire legacy repudiated at the ballot box. Wilson’s drive, moral clarity and optimism turned to close-minded bullying by the end of his presidency, and the president who ushered in an era of idealism and progress eventually wound up standing for censorship, authoritarian violations of due process like the Palmer Raids, suspicion and deep public unease. The people-powered insurgent rapidly became a cross between Charles Foster Kane and Joe McCarthy, fracturing the progressive movement and the nation simultaneously. That the successor to this intense intellectual was a braindead, mediocre good old boy was but the symbol of the extent of the nation’s rejection of Wilson, and progressivism and Democrats were simultaneously taken out to the electoral woodshed due to association. That anyone would find this worth emulating is bizarre.
Still, imagining how a more Wilsonesque Obama might have operated is fairly easy. He would not have bothered to negotiate for a “grand bargain” with the GOP, or over healthcare reform. Both of these were big mistakes, and more of a partisan, Wilsonian sensibility would have been welcome in both cases. But it’s difficult to imagine a more inflexible purist type getting a better healthcare bill passed. Anyway, who cares, because the person who wrote the article is trying to turn Wilson into yet another bipartisan compromiser, which he certainly was not. Columnists love writing facile columns about how our contemporary leaders just aren’t up to the standards of history, and since Lincoln didn’t win a bunch of Oscars (and it’s been out for months now), we’ve got to find someone else. Which, okay, fine. Just actually pick someone for whom the comparison isn’t a joke! (Then again, at least I’ve yet to see an article talking about how the theft of the 1876 election was an example of successful bipartisanship, though that might be next week’s comparison…)
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