Where "more and better Democrats" returns to "more Democrats"

by: Adam Bink

Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 15:09

I'm here at the America's Future Now conference, where an interesting dialogue broke out on the topic of elections and the prospect of Republican Congressional majorities. Markos of DailyKos, who was a speaker at a lunch plenary, made the comment that at DailyKos, it used to be "more Democrats" as the rallying mantra for raising money and other kinds of activism. After we (Democrats) took back the majority, he said, it became "more AND better Democrats".

A number of people stood up to say they wished progressive advocates focused more on the Republicans because before you know it, we would lose the majority. MoveOn's Ilyse Hogue, also doing the plenary, said she had nightmares of Speaker Boehner. I think a lot of people do, frankly.

What I wonder is at what point does the progressive ecosystem return to investing in candidates who aren't necessarily strong progressives, but are acceptable to retain a majority? One call circulating around the blogopshere- that, if I recall correctly, was first started by Markos- is that (when it was stated), it's better to have 59 Democrats and Sen. Durbin as Majority Leader than 60 Democrats and Sen. Reid in that position. In other words, that it would be acceptable to let Reid lose.

The question I have is, at what point does being willing to allow Democrats to be defeated no longer become an option? 59 or 60 Democrats isn't going to exist forever. At what point do progressives return to the "more Democrats" mantra and shelve the "more and better Democrats" vision, for the sake of retaining majority control? Is it at 55 Democratic Senators? 53? 51? On November 3rd, 2010, will folks regret being so cavalier about letting Sen. Reid- still a decent Democrat, if a less-than-effective Majority Leader- perish?

The answer isn't clear to me, but as this election cycle continues on, and more and more forecasts show Democrats in trouble- as of June 3rd, ours at OpenLeft currently shows 53 Senate Democrats- I think that question will come up more and more, and will generate discussions and divisions about where to invest resources.

Adam Bink :: Where "more and better Democrats" returns to "more Democrats"

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It's a no-brainer that 51 Dem Senators in 2011 is better than 60 in 2009 if those 51 end the filibuster!!! (4.00 / 4)
Then we could see some real action in terms of progressive legislation.

meh (0.00 / 0)
even if you kill the filibuster with 51 Senators, you still need to round up all 51 for yes votes, and the Democratic Party is such that we rarely, if ever, will have 100% of the caucus voting on everything.

It's always been that way. I remember during the HCR vote, people commenting that they've never seen such unanimity from Democrats before.  

[ Parent ]
Nope, the math points to blue dogs on average losing more seats. (4.00 / 1)
This isn't a case by case hard and fast rersearched rule, but by rule of thumb, the ones left will be more progressive, and the losses will all come because of blue dogs being unab;le to see the writing the on the wall: climate change, bank bailouts, job losses, the public option, the list is pretty long. So its a better congress without them, their fault, and we get better legislation, and when we turn it around, we make sure the blue dogs run free in the pasture of their choice, and not Washington.

End the obstruction of democracy, end the filibuster.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Blue Dogs are WORSE than Republicans (4.00 / 10)
They hamstring the Democratic Party by preventing it from standing for anything that benefits ordinary people. This has both the substantive evil effect of preventing anything from actually being done to benefit ordinary people, and the political evil effect of making any Democratic majority a very temporary one by gutting the party of most of its potential electoral appeal.

I absolutely agree. (4.00 / 1)
"More" and "not" better is why I won't give money anymore.   I feel as if I wasted both my time and money on people who had no intention of representing me just because of some stupid label.  

Until I see evidence of a change somewhere, I'm done. I don't care if they lose it all.  

[ Parent ]
You Can't Get The Right Answer If You Ask The Wrong Question (4.00 / 20)
It's not a matter of "How many Democrats?"  It's a question of "How many Democrats to do what?"  This is a generalization of the point that ammasdarling already made. But it doesn't stop with the filibuster. In fact, one might almost say that it starts with the filibuster.

But what it really starts with is the willingness to fight.  If Dems aren't willing to fight, then 100 senators wouldn't be enough.

"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

agree entirely, agree strongly (4.00 / 3)

[ Parent ]
ahh, you beat me to it while I was writing (4.00 / 2)
pith with a punch wins out.  

[ Parent ]
Yep (4.00 / 3)
And no matter how many they have, they never have quite enough.

Even if there were 65 Dems, they'd probably be just a few votes shy.  

[ Parent ]
Sure (0.00 / 0)
Except even with 51 and no filibuster and a fighting Dem majority, simple numerical majorities still matter. The question remains, at what number is someone willing to forget more and better Democrats and focus on retaining that majority.

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[ Parent ]
What difference does it make? (4.00 / 5)
If the Democrats are in trouble, it's because they simply aren't serving the interests of the party base. You know, the little people who actually go out and vote. If they were out there creating jobs, raising wages, protecting their savings and retirement and not completely selling out to corporate interests, they wouldn't be in this pickle.

At this juncture, the only real selling point the Democratic Party has is, "Be very afraid of Speaker Boehner?" Sadly, yes, that's about it.

Good luck with that.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
While I'd like to agree with you (0.00 / 0)
the cautious/pessimistic side of me tells me to be suspicious of any guarantee that good policy will always mean good politics.

See: Iraq war, anything to do with gays, offshore drilling (it took a huge environmental disaster to change that), drug war, the ideological role of the federal government.

[ Parent ]
True enough. (4.00 / 1)
Good policy is no guarantee of good politics. The thing about all the issues you raise is the Democratic leadership has never been on the right side of any of those issues in practice.

But they sure did campaign and win on Iraq in 2006 and 2008, among other issues. Not that they've done anything since gaining power, of course.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
It's a pretty valid generalization. (4.00 / 1)
Most swing voters are not political junkies. If things are going good, they will reward the party in charge. If things suck, they will punish the party in charge. Most people don't follow the details any farther than that. Good policies lead to better conditions for the middle class - a public option or medicare for all, more stimulus during a recession, a stronger safety net, ending wars and spending the money at home, reining in the big banks, moving us to clean energy, etc. etc. etc.

So the reality is that better Democrats leads to more Democrats. As Markos says, better Democrats are ones who represent their constituents rather than wealthy corporate interests. It doesn't make much political sense to try to take out a pro-life Dem in a pro-life district or state, but it certainly makes sense to mount a primary challenge against a Dem like Lincoln who blocks the public option in a state (Arkansas) where a majority of the population favors a public option.


[ Parent ]
"Things are going good" is not black and white (0.00 / 0)
After all, look at what's going on right now.  The economy is better than where it was one or two years ago, though it's still really bad.  Democratic policies to try to revive it are not as good as they could be, but still better than what the Republicans would implement were they in power.  And yet, it seems like the voters are about to reward said bad Republican policies this fall, despite the economy improving, if not having fully recovered yet.

In 1992, the economy was actually recovering, but voters still threw out GHW Bush in favor of Bill "the economy stupid" Clinton.  In 2000, when the economy had been booming the last several years, the party in charge of the White House lost in large part because with such a great economy, people started focusing more on "character" (the irony of people thinking that GWB was somehow of such great moral character makes me sick).

[ Parent ]
Things are not going good, (0.00 / 0)
and are unlikely to be in November. Unemployment is 10% and closer to 20% if measured in a realistic fashion. There is no way this could be described as good. The stimulus was about half what it should have been by most informed estimates. The efforts to stem the foreclosure crisis were and remain ridiculously ineffective. We have yet to see new bank regulations that will prevent another meltdown. The economy could be in way way better shape than it is and will be in November if Dems hadn't been so lame. And despite the economic growth during the Clinton era, the manufacturing segment was decimated. There are a lot of swing voters whose lives were turned upside down by NAFTA and GATT. For every Java programmer (or whatever) who was making $80k a year, there was a blue collar guy who got outsourced out of the middle class.


[ Parent ]
Yeah, but... (4.00 / 1)
good policy, bad politics sure beats the snot out of bad policy, good politics, no?  I mean, it's not about the game but people's lives. Of course you can't implement good policy if you aren't in office, so there is that.

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts? Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze? And cold comfort for change?

[ Parent ]
How about the flip question? (4.00 / 2)
At what point are people willing  to agree that simply electing assholes with a D after their name isn't advancing a progressive agenda?

Because it's not and it won't.  Watch what happened in HCR... Blue Dogs and DLC types, exactly who you are talking about us backing, specifically targeted and excised the PO and other progressive ideas.  And their presumed support was why single-payer was DoA (that and Obama's bullshit two-faced deal).

In the end... what did we get?  Some half-assed weak-tea shit that basically patches up the current system... nothing that would change the underlying dynamics, mostly throwing money at the health insurance companies... maybe if we throw enough money at them, they'll see fit to cover everyone?

Basically our 60 Senators got us literally the bare minimum to prop up the existing system for another few years.  WOO HOO!

Oh now I see you point!  A GOP plan from 15 years ago IS better than a GOP plan from today.  In fact, it's awesome.  If you are a health insurance CEO.

[ Parent ]
Never. (4.00 / 1)
They either deliver or not.  I either support them or not.  It is that simple.  

[ Parent ]
Comments like Kal's below illustrate the question (0.00 / 0)
Republican government simply is not an option. I'd rather have 51 Ben Nelsons than 49 Russ Feingolds. We cannot allow the Republicans to control either House. The damage to the country would be too great.

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[ Parent ]
A better question: (4.00 / 2)
To what extent would a GOP-oriented agenda be possible with a Senate comprised of 51 Ben Nelsons versus 49 Russ Feingolds?

[ Parent ]
You gotta be kidding me (4.00 / 5)
With 51 Nellie-bellies you get a GOP agenda. Not GOPlite, like we have now, they'd all vote GOP. With 49 Feingolds you can at least stop the GOP through filibusters and other maneuvers. Most important, the next time elections come around (2 yrs or less), you start out with 49 Feingolds.

49 outspoken democrats like Feingold to make our case and persuade the middle, versus 51 Nelsons who can't sell out to their donors fast enough under the rubric of bipartisanship? I know which one I'd want.

My answer to your question:It should never go back to simply "more" democrats.

If you're framing things that way, than you've already capitulated to the worst beltway centrist nonsense.

[ Parent ]
.....that's my point (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
That was supposed to be a reply to Adam Bink (0.00 / 0)
My apologies for clicking the wrong thingy.

[ Parent ]
Why are 49 Republicans adequate? (0.00 / 0)
Majority or minority, they control this ship of fools.  

It really doesn't matter who's in charge because nothing changes anyway.  Reaganomics is still running the country, we are still gushing money on two wars, corporations are still calling the shots, and jobs are still leaving the country.  Tell me again why I'm suppose to care who wins.  

[ Parent ]
Because as lame as Dems are, (4.00 / 1)
Repubs are worse. I'll always vote for the Dem, but I will only donate my time and $ for better Dems.


[ Parent ]
They count on that. n.t (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Do they count on me (0.00 / 0)
volunteering and donating for primary challengers against corrupt Dems?


[ Parent ]
Show me a progressive in DC (0.00 / 0)
that stood up to Rahm and Obama?   Unless you can hurt them, they don't care what you do.

[ Parent ]
You hurt them with primaries (4.00 / 2)
and directing all $ and volunteering to the ones who suck less and withholding same from the worst.


[ Parent ]
I'm not sure about that specific instance. (0.00 / 0)
Nelson would still be pretty damn bad, and 49 Feingolds would be really, really awesome the next time we won an election.

But the actual scenarios aren't that extreme. Heck, it's the less progressive congressmembers who are in more electoral danger, so the choice is more on the margins. I mean, if there's a progressive congressmember in danger, and a conservative one also in danger, obviously you're going to put your resources into defending the progressive one. The question is just: if there's a congressmember who's you don't really like but is the difference between a majority and a minority, do you support her or sit it out. (Obviously elections are uncertain things so there's going to be more than one.) And I think the answer is unquestionably that you support her. It's not even like it'll be the most odious of Blue Dogs; the 218th vote is going to be considerably more progressive (less conservative) than the 253rd.

The more I think about it the less More Democrats and Better Democrats seem to be in conflict. You fight for Better Democrats in the primaries and for More Democrats in the general -- you can't even do it any other way. A progressive Democrat is better than a Blue Dog, a Blue Dog is (yes*) better than a Republican. Exceptions can be made for committee chairs and such.

* Though in cases like Walter Minnick, Bobby Bright, Parker Griffith the difference is marginal.

[ Parent ]
&, Why is it either/or? (4.00 / 4)
Looking at what is happening/has happened to Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter, etc., I would argue that we can move the party at least a little further to the left without losing some of the seats that conventional wisdom says can only be won by a "Blue Dog" or Conservadem.  Chris' senate forecast has actually improved as a result of primarying some of these DINO's.  It's certainly not going to work in every district, or in every race.  

I'm assuming that you are speaking strictly of the Senate, because the dynamics of the House (more members, more frequent elections, etc) are substantively different from the Senate.  

OF what value is a 59 seat majority that can't get anything done?  What substantive difference do 5, 6, 7, or 8 more "Democratic" Senators make, if they end up voting against the interests of the Democratic Party and instead shore up the credentials of the Republicans as a party to be taken seriously?  I'd rather have 52 or 53 solid progressive votes in the Senate, than 59 or 60 where 6 to 10 of them are more likely to vote against real change and progress, thus continuing to tarnish the Democratic Party.    

[ Parent ]
Actually (0.00 / 0)
It applies to the House too. One can even leave the filibuster aside.

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[ Parent ]
I'd rephrase your question (4.00 / 17)
"at what point does the progressive ecosystem return to investing in candidates who aren't necessarily strong progressives, but are acceptable to retain a majority?" to read, "at what point do liberals organizing through the blogosphere become like the rest of the DLC-led Democratic party establishment?"

No where does your piece say anything whatsoever about the content of policy or the terms under which it is politicized or implemented.  Looking back, a very persuasive argument can be made that we would have been better off if Bill Clinton had lost in 1992.  To cite just one example, there's no way that NAFTA gets passed without a Democratic President.  I say this to point out that in the course of compromising their core ideals in order to win elections over the past four decades, liberals have surrendered control of the Democratic party to people who have implemented an agenda that Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of.    

The Democratic party needs to demonstrate far more of a conspicuous demand-sided economic ideology and commitment to social justice if it is ever to draw meaningful distinctions between itself and the GOP.  People who laugh at social justice as a politically meaningful organizing tool only need direct their attention to candidates like Jim Tester and Brian Schweitzer who ran and won in classic red states on their fervid opposition to the Patriot Act.  This is something that the Democratic establishment in the form of Chuck Schumer thought was a horrible idea, and points to the limitations of your question that I quote above.  

Our president has cost us dearly in directing popular sentiment for reform into channels acceptable to his corporate contributor class, demonstrating the ability of the DLC to create "change multinational corporations can believe in."  This is precisely the type of politics that liberals must fight if the Democratic party is to not merely regain a majority of legislators, but, far more importantly, control over the legislative agenda and the tremendous power that comes from that.  

Absolutely! (4.00 / 9)
This is basically another road to the same place I was heading.  At a very basic level, the entire purpose of the "Third Way" is to legitimate free-market fundamentalism: Blair legitimating Thatcherism in the UK, Clinton & Obama legitimating Reaganism and Bushism in the US.

And at that level, neither deserve our support.

"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 ]
And this is why the whole reflexive "vote for Democrats!" mantra is so stupid (4.00 / 2)
because the majority of the Democratic Party is at best neoliberal enablers that have maybe some decency (Obama, the Clintons, most Democratic members of Congress) and at worst de facto conservatives (Ben Nelson, Lincoln).

The progressive Democrats (and we can argue about who qualifies, but they're there) are the only people we have in office who are really fighting for us.  Which is why we have to make distinctions between progressive, mainstream and conservative Democrats, not just "Democrats good, Republicans bad".

[ Parent ]
Killer sentence: (4.00 / 6)
Our president has cost us dearly in directing popular sentiment for reform into channels acceptable to his corporate contributor class, demonstrating the ability of the DLC to create "change multinational corporations can believe in."

That, in a nutshell, is the entire problem the party has today. Since Day 1 after being elected, the Obama administration (and congressional leadership) has done nothing but bitch-slap the party base around. Now we're supposed to worry that Dems might take some losses in November?

Maybe they should have thought about that when they decided to (bleep) us all over. Maybe they should have thought of that before promising us a depression with their deficit terrorism. Why on earth would they expect popular support, much less that from progressives, when they clearly are acting against all our interests?

This is our party on drugs.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
I think this depends strongly on the quality of the opposition party, as well. (4.00 / 1)
If the opposition party were sane, you could say "let them govern for a few years, and then we'll come back, hopefully with a mandate", rather than clinging to a thin majority and being ineffective and unpopular.

However, the Republican Party we have today is completely and utterly insane. They cannot be allowed to be in control. Sure, after a period of Republican rule, the Democrats would be back with a vengeance, but at what price? The damage to the country and the world would be immense.

But, of course, you can't hold on to a majority forever... so the question becomes, what chance is there of the Republican Party becoming sane again any time in the near-to-medium term?

I don't think there's an easy solution here which doesn't involve magic. (If anyone has a magical cure to reverse the brain damage the Blue Dogs have been causing themselves through autoasphyxiation all these years, for example, that would be very welcome.)

(We do have three branches of government, though, (0.00 / 0)
and control of just one of them (either house of Congress or the Presidency) should be enough to keep things relatively, for lack of a better word, sane. I wouldn't rely on the filibuster; the Republicans will nuke it straight away, and that's if Democrats have the guts to use it.)

[ Parent ]
If the Dems lose both Houses... (4.00 / 1)
Say goodbye to President Obama. The Republicans wouldn't hesitate to impeach him over any made-up scandal. Heck, the Sestak Job "scandal" would be enough.

[ Parent ]
They couldn't get rid of Clinton (0.00 / 0)
and they tried and tried and tried.

[ Parent ]
The Republican Party has changed over the past 12 years (0.00 / 0)
The Senators who voted no have been replaced by enthusiastic yeses. The Republicans of today have no problem marching in lock-step over a cliff, as long as they can bring Obama down with them. And their base will do everything they can to cheer them on.

[ Parent ]
2/3 vote (0.00 / 0)
The vote on Clinton was 50-50 IIRC with 5 Republicans against impeachment.  In order to convict and remove Clinton, 12 Democrats would have had to go along with the ride.  I don't see 12 or more voting to remove Obama.

Obama would be safe but would risk losing control of his presidency to a stale mate or a Republican dominated regime.  That's the only "bipartisan" government possible with this crew.

Clinton actually got more popular in the polls the harder the Republicans tried.  One big mistake was playing it safe at the end of the 1996 election.  I still think Democrats might have won the House (by a very small margin) if Clinton had gone all out.

[ Parent ]
And Clinton did nothing except fight the impeachment (4.00 / 2)
the government was hobbled. Though I dont know how much more welfare reform we could have survived.


The government has a defect: it's potentially democratic. Corporations have no defect: they're pure tyrannies. -Chomsky

[ Parent ]
Exactly (0.00 / 0)
Republican government simply is not an option. I'd rather have 51 Ben Nelsons than 49 Russ Feingolds. We cannot allow the Republicans to control either House. The damage to the country would be too great.

We may not like everything about FinReg and HCR. But if the Republicans were in charge, FinReg would consist of a tax break for CEOs, and HCR would consist entirely of eliminating state laws that restrict private insurers.  

[ Parent ]
This doesn't account for the ability to set agendas (4.00 / 2)
given the tremendous power the Senate gives to opposition blocs - remember how 30 southern Senators dictated the parameters of reform during the New Deal with a weaker filibuster mechanism than that of today? - 49 Russ Feingolds (leaving aside his rabid Zionism) are eminently preferable to 51 Ben Nelsons.  

It's absolutely critical that people on the left understand this basic fact of American politics as things stand currently.  

[ Parent ]
No, I agree with Kal (0.00 / 0)
even though I'm reasonably sure he's the new incarnation of UpstateDem.

51 Ben Nelsons setting the agenda is far preferable than 51 Republicans. It's not that I would be thrilled, but it's far preferable.

Always pick the less agonizing of two painful options.  

[ Parent ]
Again, nowhere do you account for what gets on the agenda (4.00 / 6)
and what is resisted.  If we've learned anything over the past 220 years - particularly in the past few months - it's that organized minority blocs in the US Senate are incredibly powerful and can dictate the parameters of what's politically possible in federal legislation.    

Mere numbers alone don't make for a meaningful argument in this case. You need to account for the ideological predilections of the respective legislators, and the simple distinction that you support is an easy one to demolish.  

[ Parent ]
You think the Republicans would hesitate (4.00 / 1)
to nuke the filibuster the minute Democrats actually started using it to meaningfully obstruct them? The only reason they didn't last time is that the they basically made a deal where in exchange for the Republicans not nuking it, the Democrats didn't use it. Brilliant fucking strategy that was...

[ Parent ]
"51 Ben Nelsons setting the agenda is far preferable than 51 Republicans." (4.00 / 1)
Is there really even an effective difference between 51 Ben Nelsons and 51 Republicans?

I highly doubt that Nelson ever cast an even remotely "progressive" vote without being dragged, cajoled, bribed or acquiesced to (e.g. the stimulus, health care, pretty much everything that's passed since January 2009).  If everyone in the caucus is just like him, with no liberal counterweight, it'd basically be a conservative caucus.

Also, realize that this would mean the entire Senate would be made up of conservatives (assuming that the other 49 Senators are all modern Republicans).  The most liberal member of the Senate would be Olympia Snowe.  This would mean that NO progressive legislation, or even okay legislation, would ever be passed.

[ Parent ]
"I'd rather have 51 Ben Nelsons than 49 Russ Feingolds. " (4.00 / 3)
I cannot begin to say how odious and foolish this remark is. It encapsulates the cause of the present dilemma and explains why the Democrats disappoint time and time again.  

[ Parent ]
51 Ben Nelsons = 51 Republicans (4.00 / 5)
If all you care about is whether politician X has a "D" or an "R" after his name, then this game works well for you. It's just simple tribalism sans any substance.

If you have an agenda that isn't a GOP agenda, then it damn well matters whether you've got 49 Feingolds vs 51 Nelsons.

Of course, this is why so many Dems are totally clueless. They only care about Party ID. What those people do while in office is totally meaningles, as long as there are more of "us" than "them" in office.

This isn't a football game, you know.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
My thoughts exactly (4.00 / 1)
Of course, this is why so many Dems are totally clueless. They only care about Party ID. What those people do while in office is totally meaningles, as long as there are more of "us" than "them" in office.

This, in a nutshell, encapsulates one of the biggest obstacles to a liberal/progressive agenda.

[ Parent ]
This is how we wound up without a public option (0.00 / 0)
Have some backbone and loose a fight now and then.

[ Parent ]
"Republican government simply is not an option." (4.00 / 5)
I was going to address this point to Adam, but since you've been so clear in making it, I'll do it here.  Republican government is not only an option, it's an inevitability.

If you find yourself making strategy based on the assumption that our goal should be to never have Republicans win, you need to check yourself. Because they will - no matter what we do.  

To me, this point is one of the great mistakes of Democratic talk about elections.  We are basing much of the argument on a completely unattainable goal. We need to find a way to operate which accepts the reality that sometimes Republicans will win.  Republicans have been very successful at winning political battles (or having great influence) even when they do not win elections.  Democrats need to learn to do the same.

The problem here is not just the lack of realism and the resulting inability to strategize effectively. It's also that this mentality fosters the very spinelessness and appearance of lacking all principles among Democratic candidates that makes them less likely to win elections.  That is, even if you assume (which I do not) that winning elections is the highest goal, trumped by all considerations, this stance is still bad politics.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Of course you can't keep them out forever. (0.00 / 0)
The question is, by focusing on keeping them out this time (or any given time), whether you gain anything in the form of it being less painful if/when they win the next time (e.g. whether they become less insane in the interim). If not then I guess you're fucked either way and might as well just focus on maximizing the upside rather than minimizing the downside. (Note that the downside here is really big.)

And this kind of realist outside-persective consideration is also different from when the Democrats themselves use "we're not as bad as the other guy!" as their excuse for not doing better but vote for us anyway, which is repugnant.

[ Parent ]
Given the ways these arguments go (0.00 / 0)
I'm not sure you can say "of course."  Those who criticize progressive challengers always demand that we focus on this election only - i.e. act tactically rather than strategically.

I don't have anything against asking what this moment demands - I just want an honest airing of what's involved and to ensure that we have a longer term view as well.

For what it's worth, I think Republican insanity, as you put it, can only be stopped by a Democratic Party that is considerably less callow that it is today. And I suspect that the netroots and other progressive activists have far more power to infuse the Party with a spine than have a significant impact on who controls Congress. (I assume plenty of people will do a spit take when they read that last sentence, but the relationship of activists and politicians, much more than the character of those politicians, is responsible for political spines or lack thereof.)

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
You probably have a point there. (0.00 / 0)
Progressive activists have considerably more influence in primaries than in general elections.

Anyway, I don't think the two goals are really in conflict at all.

Here's a simple algorithm:

Primary election:
- Is there a candidate who is sufficiently progressive (moreso than the others) and also has a chance of winning the general (alternately, none of the candidates do)? If yes, support her campaign. If not, sit it out.

General election:
- Is there a Democrat in the race who has a chance to win and also a possibility to lose? Does she vote with us on at least some issues of importance? If yes, support her campaign. If not, sit it out.
(Keeping the majority doesn't really factor in here, because someone who never votes with us is not going to be the difference between a majority and a minority -- they're the 250th votes, not the 218th, and are going to lose a lot earlier.)

There would be a conflict if the assumed tendency that conservative/moderate candidates are more electable than progressive ones actually held, but as far as I can tell electability depends mainly on the quality of the candidate herself and not on how progressive she is, and the two are basically independent of each other.

If Democrats tell you in a general election to support them because they're not as bad as the Republicans, they're correct even if it's obnoxious. If they tell you to support the incumbent in primary elections because someone more progressive can't win, much of the time they're full of shit and should be ignored.

[ Parent ]
I'm so sick of this political terrorism (4.00 / 4)
How is "Vote for Democrats or the Republicans will kill you" really any different from "Vote for Bush or the Arabs will kill you"?

The more Democrats play this horrible game of "vote for us or die, bitch", the more I want to not vote for them out of pure spiteful reflex.

[ Parent ]
Also, the less willing we are to break from the Democrats when they transgress (4.00 / 1)
the more power we cede to them, and the less influence we have over any policy they might enact if/when they do have power.

It's a vicious cycle.  Democrats make scary threats about Republicans, liberals timidly give in and vote for them, Democrats govern conservatively, liberals protest, Democrats make scary threats about Republicans.  At what point are we gonna wake up and realize what's going on?

[ Parent ]
Fear-mongering (4.00 / 2)
Please accept these blue dogs because the alternative is too fearful to contemplate.


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Besides, We'll Shot This Dog! (4.00 / 2)
You know we will!

"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 ]
So (0.00 / 0)
I guess you're saying it's not really?

Again (read my comment to David Kaib above) there's a difference between rationally considering your options and choosing the less bad one, and the interested parties themselves advancing it as an excuse to perpetuate their own power. Even if they're right, it's still obnoxious -- and. as a corollary, just because it's obnoxious doesn't mean they're wrong. Ideally, you would find a different way to punish them. (We should do primaries more.)

[ Parent ]
It may be true (4.00 / 1)
But every option has inherent risk - why let the fear dominate?

Sorry if I'm over sensitive but the caution horses really get me down. Rock the boat.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
"Becoming sane" (4.00 / 1)
I'm a big believer in the idea that in a democracy, people will get the government they deserve.  Which is why I'm a big fan of filibuster reform, even if Republicans have a majority: if the voters vote for a batshit insane teabagger government, then by god they should get their batshit insane teabagger government.

So if you're trying to say that we should also be working on changing the Republican Party somehow, I say no.  Let them be themselves and let the voters decide.

[ Parent ]
So (0.00 / 0)
someone thinks hydrochloric acid would do them good, you give it to them and say they deserved it?

[ Parent ]
If they vote for it, yes (0.00 / 0)
Certainly we see some of the conservatives' ideas as the political equivalent of hydrochloric acid, and they return the favor to us.  Who's right?

Now, there are certain civil rights issues, such as marriage equality, drug possession and use, etc., that I do not think should be up for a vote, any more than the First Amendment should be up for a vote.  But for everything else, in the end voters should get what they/we ask for.

[ Parent ]
If they don't listen when told the acid will burn (0.00 / 0)
and insist that playing with acid is a good and patriotic thing to do - at some point, step back, let them spill acid and learn by experience. Stand by, of course, and help them cope with the results.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
The most succinct, powerful and elegant (4.00 / 3)
exposition of what I mean by agenda setting is in a lively, highly readable book by the historian and political scientist Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in America.  Anyone who hasn't grappled with the ideas in this deceptively slender volume should do themselves the favor of reading it now.  

To answer this question (4.00 / 1)
let's return to December of '08, when some argued here that having 60 votes didn't really matter.

Anybody want to make that argument now?  

Letting Reid lose is nuts.

McCain carried 22 states in a plus 7 Democratic year.  The Senate was, and always will be an uphill struggle. It is nothing less than a bareknuckled fight over power. The idea that you "afford" to lose one seat is political malpractice.  The comment you cite from Markos is one he will regret.

The top priority for progressives should be building firewalls for key incumbents: Feingold, Murray and Boxer.  Supporting them and Sestak should be the first order of business for liberals.   That Firewall should also allow Democrats hold the Senate, but the majority won't mean much if Nelson and Lieberman are the difference.  That means being smart and defending red state Democrats where necessary. It also means investing wisely in states where we can beat the GOP (Missouri and Ohio).  

The House is a different story.  Right now my model shows us barely holding the House.  There are no votes to spar, no seats we can do without.

Reid (4.00 / 1)
I'm sure everyone's first choice is to have Reid win re-election but step down as Majority Leader, but I'm sure we all know that is not going to happen. Is there any precedent for that?  Anything we can do to push things in that direction?  Senate Dems completely lack the courage to make waves that big so they won't do it on their own.

[ Parent ]
1988 (0.00 / 0)
Democrats retained control of the Senate and George Mitchell defeated Robert Byrd for the Senate Majority Leader post.  Byrd had been in the job for a while.  It may have also happened in 1938 when Democratic leadership changed from the 1936 election but that may have been due to other reasons.

In any case, Byrd is the only case in the last 70 years of a Senate Majority Leader who stayed in the Senate and was changed out by a party that retained power.

[ Parent ]
Byrd was defeated, though. (0.00 / 0)
I was wondering if any leader--of either house--had ever retained control and then voluntarily stepped down as leader. Doesn't sound like it.  Unfortunately, we're going to either end up with Reid as Majority Leader or Sharon Angle as a Senator. Or even Mitch McConnell as a Majority Leader (although very unlikely).  None of these choices are in any way acceptible to me.

There is no way Reid is going to step down or that the Senate Dems are going to stage a coup and elect someone else.  It's hard to see a draft movement having any sway over the Senators either.  Look what happened with Lieberman.  

[ Parent ]
Don't be too quick to throw Reid overboard (0.00 / 0)
Are we really sure that whoever replaces him as Majority Leader will really be any better?

At this point I'm thinking that a new Majority Leader is as much a "magic bullet" as 60 Democratic seats.

[ Parent ]
Well (0.00 / 0)
The other instances involved a switch in party control, retirement from the Senate (think Bob Dole) or death (Joseph Robinson, Henry Cabot Lodge).  Anybody who has made it to Senate Majority Leader clings to power if they run for re-election.

Reid did better keeping a nominal majority together than he did with a solid majority.

It wouldn't surprise me to see Schumer defeating Reid on a caucus vote.  The newer Senators owe Schumer but not Reid.

[ Parent ]
What did our vaunted 60 vote majority get us? (4.00 / 5)
Throughout the healthcare debacle, we saw the senate discard all the ideas that would have made the bill into actual reform, supposedly because they couldn't get 60 votes.

Then when they had 60 votes, they still couldn't get squat done. Then they lost the 60 votes, so they passed a healthcare/insurance/corpophilic POS bill without 60 votes, when they could have passed a much more decent bill with the same number.

The 60 vote majority is a scam.

[ Parent ]
I'll take you up on that. (4.00 / 3)
let's return to December of '08, when some argued here that having 60 votes didn't really matter.

Anybody want to make that argument now?

What, exactly, did 60 votes get us? (by us, I mean progressives)

Not very much... it mostly got us Presidents Snowe, Nelson, Lieberman and Baucus.

I would gladly trade Reid's seat for a someone with vision, leadership and toughness leading us in the Senate.  However... I don't see too many who fit that description anywhere near the top of the list.

As long as Blue Dogs and the DLC are joining with Republicans on the most odious aspects of policy (which they are), then this talk of having a majority is trite, useless bullshit.  Some of the worst shit happens when Dems are in control (DADT? NAFTA?).  It's cute to act like Democrats and progressives are synonomous or even closely related, but there is a huge chunk of the party that is basically GOP - Nelson is one, Lincoln another, you could go issue by issue with some... but the point is that the GOP has their caucus on lock-down and we progressives don't even have a seat at the table, much less a viable caucus (see NCR for an example of progressives straight up getting the back of the hand by all major elements of the party).

So yeah this theoretical situation is meaningless while "democrat" means "blue dogs, dlc and progressives as long as they stfu.

I don't plan on getting behind and bullshit Dems anytime soon... they will enact the GOP agenda faster and worse than the GOP... e.g. Stupack(abortion), Nelson(corporate whoring), Lieberman(war- and fear-mongering).  "Our team" proving they aren't on our side makes their team look like rank amateurs when it comes to enacting crazy, stupid shit for purely political and selfish reasons.

[ Parent ]
It got us nothing, zip... (4.00 / 2)
So we donate money and spend our time to elect people who tell us to stfu because it's NOT on the table and never will be.

A picture is worth a 1,000 words.


[ Parent ]
Cutting loose Reid is good politics. (4.00 / 2)
His approval rating is almost at GOP standards of excellence. He makes the Party look bad. He's corrupt. He's a right-winger. He's unpopular and he will never, ever serve the public interest and everybody knows it.

Getting rid of him would be a blessing for the Democratic Party.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
You're repeating the false assumption of the original post (4.00 / 2)
that there's a choice being made to "cut Reid loose."  Reid's chances have improved markedly of late as the GOP, yet again, self-destructs.

Does anyone think the liberal blogosphere will prove decisive in financing or creating the political organization necessary to win a general election for a sitting Senate Majority Leader?  The original post seems to suggest that this is a possibility, but, again no evidence is provided.  I tend to think the party's interest in this race is sky high, and no expense will be spared.  Reid will also have the support of union members on the ground.  

But more to the point, the blogosphere has been most adept at the legislative level in creating a meaningful financial and organizational base and for liberal opposition candidates in primary elections.  This isn't to say we should limit our activities to primaries, but it's what people in the blogosphere - correctly I think - are focused on until at least tomorrow.

On that note, the original post strikes me as puzzling and unrealistic in the sense that it's asking the blogosphere to be something it isn't.  What the blogosphere does as a loose but coherent organization comprised of many groups is defined by the autonomy of its constituent members far more so than typical political organizations.  The contributions for Bill Halter relative to Harry Reid reflect that.  I think the people that choose to give their money to Bill Halter instead of Harry Reid would like to keep it that way.    

[ Parent ]
Thank you! (4.00 / 1)
I think that this talk about more vs. better Democrats is a rather self-indulging one that operates on the assumption that the liberal blogosphere is some kind of political god that can bless or smite candidates at will.

The reality is that we have little money, and thus little power.  And accordingly, we have to target our limited resources in the most cost-effective way.

Which means, we have to support those who the establishment won't support.  That means Jennifer Brunner (huge failure of the liberal blogosphere!).  That means Bill Halter.  That means Joe Sestak in the primary (not so much in the general).  It does NOT mean Harry Reid, who will receive more and better help from the establishment than we could ever provide.  Maybe if we all win the lotto, then we can help Reid.  Until then, let's not forget that while we might be sitting around here talking to each other about how powerful we are, really we're not.

I think one of the liberal community's biggest weaknesses is that we're not cohesive (i.e. as wobbly said, everyone kinda just does their own thing) and thus we're suspectible to judgment errors in where we send help.  For example, the amount of money that's been flowing to Alan Grayson is ridiculous.  I love the guy, but he's already sitting on, what, $2 million, with what's looking like token Republican opposition this fall.  Granted, the large amount of progressive money is part of what put him in this solid position but at this point, until there's evidence that he might be in danger, the Grayson spigot has to be turned off and money has to be redirected to more urgent priorities (like Marcy Winograd and Tracy Emblem).

[ Parent ]
Great points all. (0.00 / 0)
I agree with  you. Well, except the bit about my repeating a false assertion. But you're more on point than I am in that comment.

I just don't like to hear arguments for supporting people like Reid.

"More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." -Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates

[ Parent ]
I think the priority of liberals should be to help those the establishment won't help (4.00 / 1)
The establishment will provide more and better assistance than we can to incumbents as well as Sestak and any other Democratic nominee (even Halter).

For the remainder of the primary season we should be focused on primary challenges, such as Marcy Winograd, Tracy Emblem, Bill Halter, Andrew Romanoff (if he's deemed worthy) and Jonathan Tasini (who's running for NY-15 now).

After that, for the general election we'll just have to direct our help to the combination of most progressive + most imperiled.  For example, I don't expect Winograd or Tasini to need any help in their deep-blue districts if they win their primaries.  But I do expect progressives who don't know any better to keep sending them money or other help anyway, and thus divert vitally-needed resources away from more difficult candidacies such as Bill Halter's.

[ Parent ]
Sacrifice high profile, committee head Blue Dogs (4.00 / 10)
The Ike Skelton, Colin Peterson, types, or Blanche Lincoln.  

We need the majorities, but we also need progressives replacing high seniority Blue Dogs.  So I can see not working against some low-level buttheads for the sake of preserving the majority, especially if the the Blue Dogs with seniority are defeated and a message is sent to the newbies.

John McCain won't insure children

This is also a legit approach (0.00 / 0)
that reaches well beyond the boundaries of the question that prompted the original post.  

[ Parent ]
What I think I've learned since Obama's election... (4.00 / 3)
... is that if we want to push forward real policy that makes sense then we need 51 better democrats.  We do ourselves a disservice to elect a person with a D by their name if that person can't be counted as a reliable vote.  We may not ever be able to have a third party but with that reality in mind we need to recognize that there are those within the Democrat brand (Reid, Nelson, Obama, Lieberman, Stupak, Emanuel, etc.) that are largely responsible for failures on things like a Public Option, Too Big To Fail, EFCA, and "compromises" on things like DADT, Environmental Policy etc.  

If we are sure we are right and if we know that the Republicans are weak -- on the brink of collapse -- than we cannot cower from our own shadow.  We need to show the DSCC and the DCCC that we run the show from now on and we're crazy enough to steer the ship into the ground if that's what it takes to make our voices heard.

If you are willing to cave at teh get-go... (4.00 / 2)
it's probably a mistake to think you'll ever get anything.

This is what progressives have been doing for a while... and it's the DLC/Blue Dogs that are the ones that are saying we have to do stupid things for elections.  It's NEVER them that have to compromise to keep us happy - strictly a one-way street.

When you are always the one sacrificing for the team, then you aren't really on the team.  You're just a dumbass the people on the team are taking advantage of.

[ Parent ]
With these Democrats as friends, who needs enemys? (4.00 / 4)
Isn't the HCR passed the same exact plan as submitted by the Heritage Foundation and enacted by Romney?  

Has the media skewed your vision so far to the right that you now think Richard M. Nixon was a flaming liberal?  On the issues, that is 100% true.  Obama pushes us further right.

America is a Corporate State now, so (R) or (D) doesn't really matter.  We get the same legistation - whichever party is in power.  Decry the evil shadows - the good shadows are nearing.

We see the shadows upon the walls and cringe in fear.  Shadows rule this sheepish population.  Prepare yourselves, for the handcuffs are locked, your politicians are loaded and the man with the money is leaving town.

Nuts (4.00 / 2)
As magster points out above, progressives in the Democratic party need a strategy that targets corporate Democrats on key committees as well as in Congress in general. It's what the environmental movement did in the 1970s targeting members of Congress who were anti-environment.

John Emerson wrote a great post this weekend that showed the Democratic party leadership has never really cared about progressives. Today is no different. Adam's question simply enables the screw you attitude of the party leadership towards progressives.

And the word "enable" is key: if we let Republicans be Republicans, and the public sees progressive Democrats fight to get rid of "Republican" Democrats, the public will see Republicanism for what it truly is and will reject it. If Democrats support Republicanism, it'll be a pox on both houses. Indeed, voters are on the side of progressives on these issues after eight years of Bush/Cheney and now Obama. The problem is that the Democratic party is no different than the Republicans on a policy level. So more and more voters are pissed and scared. And progressives should cave at this moment?

Speaking as a voter, Adam's question is moot. If I want to vote Republican, I'll vote for the real Republican, not some lame Democrat selling out and calling themselves a Democrat. My fear is what happens to the 99% of Americans who are not wealthy and do not benefit directly from policies that sustain our plutocracy? At what point do they resort to violence? How many people have to be foreclosed on? How many people have to be told, "Don't bother to apply for a job unless you're currently employed?" How many people have to see their 401ks and home equity disappear yet see Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon, and the rest enjoy even more money and keep their jobs? Or gut Social Security without taxing the wealthiest at the 1950/1960 rates of 60-90%?  It's unsustainable.

We are headed for a world of hurt and, as a voter, I'd say the Democrats and groups like this conference are gazing instead at their navels. This country desperately needs jobs. Progressives need to fight early and often to get jobs to be part of the US policy mix. Somebody has to stand up for working people, the vast majority of workers in this country.

Selling out by electing the Joe Liebermans of the world is still selling out.

So my response would be "Nuts." Or to quote the union guy last year in PA, when talking about Specter, "Fuck 'em."

Also ironic: 50 state strategy? Howard Dean? (0.00 / 0)
Anyone remember that?

You know what that was about, right? Electing Blue Dogs?

(For the record, I still think it was and is the right move. But others seem to be having second thoughts.)

I don't know if 50 State Strategy was really for electing Blue Dogs (0.00 / 0)
and if it was, it was only for the short-term goal of taking back the House and Senate.  Long-term, the point was to build up Democratic infrastructure everywhere so that some day we could conceivably run effective progressive campaigns anywhere.

[ Parent ]
I don't think it should ever change (0.00 / 0)
Progressives should put their money and efforts where it is most effective in moving towards progressive change. The political circumstances obviously affect that. In years where we don't have any good progressive primary challengers or major issues to run on we shouldn't waste our efforts there.

But a vote is always a vote, getting as many of the best Democrats possible is always the right strategy and I think it's counter productive to do otherwise (although I think that is partly the strategy that an element of the blogs have tried).

And as for Markos's comments, one of the stupidest things he's ever said, IMHO.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power


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