Friday, October 1, 2010

No, Mike, the Blue Dogs really suck (a digressive post)

Mike Tomasky's recent blogging has been pretty erratic, especially this:
Politically speaking, let's face it, the best possible outcome from these elections for Obama is that the Democrats hold the House by a narrow margin, and the Blue Dogs D's have more power, which means no more big liberal legislation, which means he can maybe recapture the middle again by 2012. Unfortunately the middle in this country today is well to the right of where it was 15 years ago, let alone 30. But that's another subject and a longer battle, one liberals have obviously been losing for a long time.
I do not think any of this is true at all, and it makes me wonder if Mark Penn is guestblogging over there.

The reality is that big liberal legislation is not going to happen because, if the Democrats win, they will only hold the House by a few votes. The Blue Dogs will make the balance here, but that's sort of the situation already, and the relative proportion of conservative Democrats is likely to actually go down, even factoring in the expected losses. Nancy Pelosi got two votes more than she needed for health care reform despite having a nearly 80-seat majority, so it's impossible to imagine any major legislation occurring in the next Congress. Conversely, if the Republicans gain control of the House, it will likely be by less than ten seats, and successfully pushing the sort of highly ideological agenda they're envisioning (complete with government shutdowns!) seems equally as unlikely. Independents are leaning Republican due to the state of the economy and frustration with Congress. They still hate the GOP. How long will they tolerate that sort of nonsense? Probably not long, I would think.

This is not to mention the state of the Senate--one would hope that recent events would make every Democratic Senator realize the need to reform that institution's rules, but considering how image-obsessed and process-fixated most Democrats seem to be I highly doubt the bare Democratic Senate majority will muster up the will to stand up to the barrage of FNC/Limbaugh/Drudge attacks on the "Liberal power grab in defiance of the public will" blah blah blah. You just know it will happen, and considering they can't even stick together to vote for tax cuts on the middle class (!) I don't think the other thing is going to happen. The right time to reform these rules is at the beginning of a new presidential administration when the media will be obsessed over pageantry, cabinet choices, and so forth. Nancy Pelosi pushed through some pretty significant House procedural reforms of a similar magnitude during the Obama transition and nobody even noticed or cared. So maybe we shoot for 2013 for Senate reform? Perhaps. Especially if Obama treats Mitt Romney to the thorough ass-whipping that I wholly expect he will.

As for "capturing the middle", Obama's real problem is that a lot of Democrats are disengaged from the election. Some of those self-identify as independents, of course, which is why it's stupid to use centrist and independent interchangeably. But has the center really moved to the right in the last few decades? The Republicans certainly have moved to the right, but I haven't seen much evidence that what people actually believe has. If you define the center as "equidistant between what the two parties profess to stand for" then maybe this is right. If you define it as "those things that voters look for in a candidate" or "what assumptions voters make about the economy and social issues" then I think not. In fact, I think that the average American now is a lot more skeptical of free market politics than was the case during the Reagan era or, indeed, even five years ago. In fact, I suspect that Republican victories this year are part of the same phenomenon that propelled some very liberal Democrats to victory in the 1974 and 1976 elections, despite the public developing a huge conservative streak that had let Nixon win a big landslide in 1972--a crummy economy (and Watergate) led people to take out their frustration with the party in power, but after the dust settled, the mistrust in government that Watergate fostered played right into Reagan's hands. The fallout from the Wall Street collapse isn't all apparent yet, and many Democrats (Blue Dogs particularly) don't know how to channel it. But someone will. I still think that 2008 was the beginning of the end of laissez-faire, but that never meant that the transition would be smooth.

In any event, the whole post is pretty stupid. I'm not going to go the full DeMint and say that I'd rather have 20 real Democrats than a majority of sell-outs but, honestly, to see these people take such a weak-ass and out-of-touch stance on middle class tax cuts has admittedly radicalized me to the point where I think it's time to curb the Blue Dogs' influence. They seem to combine the worst of all possible worlds--the limited imagination and vision of moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Sue Collins, the deficit hawk fraudulence and corporate ownership of conservative Republicans, and the fear and insecurity of much of the Democratic establishment. They're like a Frankenstein of fail. I can't think of the last time a major initiative or debate was headed by a Blue Dog, and that's not counting their antecedents in the DLC and the New Democrat Coalition. As far as the argument that we need them to hold the majority, my local Congressman right now is Jerry McNerney, a mainstream/progressive Democrat who has voted with the Democrats on all the big things in this Congress despite being in a classic swing district. He's facing a close race but he's got a good chance of sticking around, and my activities for OFA have introduced me to a lot of people who are grateful that he stood up for their priorities and are spending a lot of time trying to keep him in office. You're telling me that those people would even bother doing anything if he'd done the typical Blue Dog thing and voted against HCR and cap-and-trade? And without enthusiastic volunteers, what chance does any politician have?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.