We Have Leverage On Harry Reid

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Sep 28, 2009 at 13:46

In the post just below this one, I argue that having a public option in the health care bill the Budget committee sends to the floor of the Senate is the only realistic path to having a public option pass in health care reform. In fact, even beyond the public option, don't expect any significant improvements on the final bill President Obama signs into law from the one released by the Senate Budget committee.

The bill the Senate Budget committee sends to the floor will be a merged version of the Senate HELP and Senate Finance committee bills. The merging will take place largely under the direction of Senate majority leader Harry Reid. As such, commenter danthrax notes an important point of leverage the progressive grassroots has in this process:

if reid is the only way forward...

we may have a hope. Reid is up for a tough re-election fight

That is exactly right. If Harry Reid is the key choke point in this fight, then we have to use Reid's uphill re-election prospects as our point of leverage:

  1. Polling against one announced Republican candidate, Danny Tarkanian, and one Republican candidate who has formed an exploratory committee, Sue Lowden, shows Senator Reid to be in a lot of trouble. In three polls, Reid trails by an average of 7.7% to Tarkanian, and by 5.8% across four polls to Lowden.

  2. Further, should Reid lose, Senators Richard Durbin (#2 in the leadership, key Obama ally) and Charles Schumer (#3 in the leadership, chair of DSCC during 2006-2008 landslides) are by far the most likely candidates to succeed Reid as Majority Leader. Either would be an improvement on Reid.

  3. Why should we activists bother to give Reid the support he needs to pull victory from the jaws of defeat if he is likely to be replaced by a more progressive, more aggressive, and electorally safe Democrat like Durbin or Schumer? Reid needs to give us a good reason to try and save his Senate position. If he decides to take the public option out of the health care bill before it reaches the Senate floor, what possible reason could be left to try and help him?
I, for one, am fine with a caucus that has 2-3 fewer Democrats, but a much better majority leader. I am also fine with working hard to elect Democrats who may not be progressive champions, but who do a good job of enacting progressive change in legislation. If enough progressive activists feel the same way and can make their positions clear, then we have a real stick and a real carrot in this fight.

Any suggestions on how to use this leverage effectively?

Chris Bowers :: We Have Leverage On Harry Reid

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Nevada Public Option Polling (4.00 / 5)
How does the Public Option poll in Nevada?  A little Googling and it seems dKos has our numbers from 8/31-9-2.

Do you favor or oppose creating a government-administered health insurance option that anyone can purchase to compete with private insurance plans?

       Favor   Oppose

All       52    40

Dem    80    13
Rep      21    71
Ind      50    39

Does "reason" count as leverage? (4.00 / 2)
Health reform with a public option is very popular. Health reform, including mandates, without a public option would be Democratic suicide. You'd think this would be enough for Reid to see what he has to do.

One Would Think (4.00 / 5)
One would be sorely mistaken.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
At a minimum, here's a start. (4.00 / 3)
I hereby declare...

If Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid fails to include a public option in the health care reform bill voted on in the Senate: I will donate no money this cycle to Harry Reid's re-election or to the DCCC.

If the Senate passes a health care reform bill that includes a public option: I will make a donation to the DCCC that is twice the size of my average 2008 campaign donation.

I encourage all other Democratic Party and progressive activists to do the same.

Clem Guttata
West Virginia Blue

They call me Clem, Clem Guttata. Come visit wild, wonderful West Virginia Blue

Is there a way to set up some kind of pledge website? (4.00 / 1)
A website where the money actually goes out... and is held in stasis... but if we don't pass a public option in the senate, then the money is credited back to your credit card.

Something like that.

[ Parent ]
$ and activists (4.00 / 4)
Excellent point.  People in Nevada should contact Reid's office directly as often as possible.  As for everyone else, perhaps we could raise money for a fund to either support or oppose Reid depending on public option inclusion.  At a minimum, the option should be open to everyone per Wyden's amendment.  If we're ambitious, we could even require that it be a stronger public option than the "level playing field" version.  

Should Reid come through, the fund will go directly to his campaign coffers (or be spent directly on positive ads).  If he fails us, it translates into ads trumpeting "You're now forced to buy from greedy health insurance companies without the choice of a public option.  Senator Reid could have changed that, but he failed you.  He doesn't deserve re-election.  Don't vote for Harry Reid."

The key, of course, is raising enough to matter, so getting other progressive organizations to help would be crucial.  How long do we have?

Cut 2 ads (4.00 / 9)
One would be along the lines, "Harry Reid: not much of a leader, not much of a Democrat."

The other would be about what Reid has done for Nevadans.

Harry chooses what ad is run by his actions.  How clear can you be?

this is the right idea.... (4.00 / 3)
a co-ordinated campaign to raise funds for the ads, with the question of which ad gets run being decided by Reid's action, who be the most effective means of pressuring him in the short term.
Of course, this is highly unlikely, for the same reason that we're in this position in the first place.  The "A Listers" that would have to get behind this effort to raise the money to do the ads are more concerned with maintaining personal access among DC power-brokers than with policy, and won't go after Reid (or Obama, who is where the real problem lies) directly.

[ Parent ]
Nevada Unions would have sway (4.00 / 9)
Reid's going to need a lot of organized GOTV help to win. Unions threatening to sit on their hands might get his attention.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

that was my thinking exactly (4.00 / 4)
Find his key progressive allies in Nevada, make this the line in the sand.

[ Parent ]
working through other progressive nevada organizations is a great idea (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
This Could Be The Biggest Thing We Can Do (4.00 / 8)
An online "No Help For Harry--If He's No Help To Us" campaign could be a very effective shot across the bow.

As Steve in Sacto points out, the Nevada unions will be absolutely key. But Nevada also tends to draw in a fair amount of out-of-state GOTV work as well.  No MoveOn calls, no wave of California grassroots Dems, a potential third party run for disgusted liberals to vote for.  He could go under 40%.  It wouldn't just be a loss, it would be a humiliation.

Or he could actually, you know, lead.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

it looks like a trigger for Reid (4.00 / 3)
Can't find the link now that I'm looking for it, but I read that Reid (along with the White House) is leaning that way to appease Snowe:


This is how he thinks he can thread the needle and prevent a complete liberal rebellion on this. So if/when you call, fax, email, etc. be sure to emphasize that we want a triggerless public option!

It's obvious, isn't it? Double your leverage ... (4.00 / 2)
and send the $$ to tarkanian.  As a "passive boycott" we are completely ignorable, laughably so.

Personally, I couldn't do it (give money to an R), but if say FDL were to fire up a "tell Harry Reid you're pissed and want a public option" TV ad campaign I'd be hip to that.  That has the effect of driving up Harry's negatives (and suppressing his turnout) without endorsing his opponent.  Might seem like a distinction without a difference, but it makes a difference to me.

Leverage against Reid in particular: (4.00 / 1)
Run a two-tiered challenge in the Nevada election next year: find and run a strong progressive to run against Reid in the primary, and if that fails to achieve the desired result, have a strong progressive independent ready to run against him in the general election.  Given Reid's weakness in the polls, he'll either move to the left or be content with losing in the general (of course, he'll likely opt for the latter, but it's not as though exchanging a worthless pile of filth like Reid for a Republican would make any difference whatsoever).

A good idea. Also... (4.00 / 2)
The recent campaign to get advertisers that buy time on Glenn Beck's show to drop him has shown signs of success. Since progressive voters can never hope to match the leverage of corporate donations, could it not be helpful to choose all of Reid's biggest contributors and make life miserable for them unless they stop giving him money?

After all, if we agree that a significant source of a politician's decisions and actions are determined by the agendas of the groups that provide the most $$$, then why not hit him there? This tactic, along with the running of progressive-minded challengers, could scare the crap out of a pol like Reid.

[ Parent ]
Money Leverage (0.00 / 0)
I think it is clear that we need a pending account of some sort for effective leverage longer term.

In the mean time how about a $1.25 donation campaign. Donate a $1 to Harry so he gets the name with a $0.25 pledge for a later $25 if the public option is passed.

Agree X3 (4.00 / 4)
I agree that I'd rather have a smaller caucus with stronger leadership, especially given the importance of Healthcare reform.

1. Highlight Reid's support and leadership on reform with NV labor. He plays ball and supports real reform, he gets boots on the ground. He shows weak leadership toward or lack of support for real reform, he's on his own for canvassing and GOTV volunteers.

2. Primary challenger if real reform isn't supported. Highlighting Reid's support (or lack of) and leadership (or lack of) on this issue in the primary will either raise his positives or raise his negatives with Dems he'll need in the General. The choice is up to him which that will be.

3. Money. I think this is going to be our weakest leverage point as he'll have corporate dollars to bail him out, but turn off the Progressive ATM if he doesn't push real reform.  

If teaching is so easy, then by all means get your degree, pass your certification test(s), get your license, and see if you can last longer than the five years in the classroom 50% of those who enter the profession never make it to.

I'd support such an action 100% (4.00 / 2)
Don't know if I would still support Reid even if the final bill did have a public option (I mean, are we going to have to resort to these sort of shenanigans for every vote we ever want from him?), but I would donate to a fund that either supported or attacked Reid based on this vote.  It's well spent either way.

You guys set it up, I'd put $100 into it.

Let him know he can't have your money (4.00 / 1)
I used to live in Nevada and am on Reid's email list.  He blasted an email today asking for contributions because, "Delaying reform to protect insurance companies' profits is completely unacceptable to Nevadans, the American people, and me."  I wrote back:

Senator Reid,

At the moment, I cannot support your campaign because you have not yet given me reason to believe that you actually support real, meaningful healthcare reform.  Without a strong, robust public option, the proposed healthcare reforms will simply be billion dollar giveaways to insurance companies.  Things like triggers and co-ops are mere distractions that will ensure that a public option never becomes reality and are no substitute for meaningful reform.  So Senator Reid, I ask you, can I count on you to use your leadership position to support a strong, robust public option and to actively fight against any bill that does not include a robust public option?

Your answer will determine whether or not I can continue to support you and your campaign.


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