Stimulus Aftermath: How Can We Do Better Next Time?

by: Chris Bowers

Sat Feb 07, 2009 at 18:14

While there is still some wrangling to be done on the stimulus package, most especially during the conference report phase of the process next week (Kagro X describes this process better than anyone around), let's take a moment to think about how we could potentially do better in the next major legislative fight. In this case, by "we" I specifically mean myself and the people reading this post, rather than the Democratic and progressive ecosystem in general. What can we, as individual activists, do to help create stronger, better, more progressive legislation during the next big fight?

In the extended entry, I consider several possibilities.

Chris Bowers :: Stimulus Aftermath: How Can We Do Better Next Time?
Here are some quick thoughts on the effectiveness of various actions individuals interested in supporting better, more progressive can take:

  1. Phone calls to Congress: It was widely reported that conservatives opposing the stimulus plan made vastly more phone calls to members of Congress than Democrats and progressives in support of the plan. While I don't have specific data to back this claim up, and while the gap probably closed during the last couple days as several progressive organizations sent out emails urging their members to call Congress in favor of the stimulus plan, let's just assume for the moment that we were heavily out-called.

    The impact of constituent phone calls and emails on how individual members of Congress vote varies greatly from elected official to elected official. I have heard, for example, more than one member of Congress use a term like "bedwetter" to describe another member of Congress whose vote is actually in doubt after only a couple dozen constituent phone calls contradict that member's original position. A statement like this reveals two things: first, that the impact of constituent phone calls on how a member of Congress votes ranges from "enormously" to "none at all," and, second, that I should have acquired a list of those members of Congress who can be swayed with a bare minimum of constituent phone calls.

    Given the wide range of potential effectiveness of constituent phone calls, the best strategy is probably to move from a generalized "call your Senators and Representative today" tactic to something that is far more narrowly targeted. We probably need to be focusing on a small number of members of Congress to call--no more than ten--and to make sure that the ones we choose coincide with other forms pressure. For example, in the stimulus fight, we could have, in coordination with the relevant state blogs, chosen a small number of Senators from among those targeted by Americans United For Change with television advertisements. There is no telling if this would have flipped any votes, but it would have had a better chance of doing so than the more generalized "call your member of Congress today" actions.

  2. Advice for the Obama administration and Democratic leadership: One of the more common activities in political discussion, and not just online, is to hypothesize how our political leaders could have used different tactics to achieve more successful ends. There is nothing really wrong with these discussions, as they can be both informative and enjoyable. However, they rarely actually lead to any change in strategy or tactics from our political leaders.

    I can, however, think of at least two examples where grassroots and political junkie discussion of strategy and tactics did, in fact, lead to a change in behavior among our political leadership. One example was when, on July 17, 2007, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid forced Republicans to actually filibuster Senator Jim Webb's bill on American troop redeployment. The second, and much more famous example, is that public, verbal support for the "fifty-state strategy" is now basically mandated for every Democrat in the country. While definitions vary on exactly what is meant by the "fifty-state strategy," the idea itself came from grassroots and political junkie discussions, before trickling upward into the leadership.

    The lesson here is, I think, that in order to these suggestions on strategy and tactics to have any impact, they must be specific ("spend DNC resources in all 50 states" or "actually make Republicans filibuster legislation X") rather than generalized ("be tougher on Republicans.") Obviously, it helps if these specific calls for strategic or tactical changes are widespread, and if they have proponents within more established media and political circles. But overall, the most important thing is for any suggested change in strategy or tactics to be very specific. It is actually possible for such suggestions, when given proper visibility, to have an impact.

  3. Stay Active with Organizing for America. This is pretty straightforward--stay active with the Obama campaign through Organizing for America. I still don't think that tonight's House Parties are an effective action to help or improve the stimulus, but they are undoubtedly important for building the organization long-term.

    And really, much the same can be said about staying active with, Democracy for America, Color of Change, et all. Any progressive organization that actually solicits, and takes into consideration, member feedback will always be good to be a part of.  

  4. Primary Challenges: It is simple and classic, but it still works. Already, at least two of the House Democrats who voted against the stimulus package are likely to face serious primary challenges in 2010: Alan Boyd (FL-02) and Paul Kanjorski (PA-14). Showing early, and strong, support for their primary challengers will not only have an impact on how Boyd and Kanjorski behave, but will also be likely to put other Democrats who act against the leadership and the administration on notice.

  5. Join Media Matters for America: Again, this one is straightforward, but still important. The media coverage of the Obama administration has clearly become a huge problem, and there just aren't many progressive organizations other than Media Matters working to correct it. If you want to help out, join MMFA now.

    And really, support progressive media in general. Click on ads on progressive websites, and make donations to progressive media organizations of all types when they hold fundraisers. If we want a better media, we need to not only put pressure on existing, national media institutions, but to actively support emerging media of all sorts.

I'll stop there, and see what suggestions you have. I haven't written anything particularly earth-shattering here, and what I wrote basically amounts to "keep on keeping on, but with a focus." Still, often times the keys to successful activism are pretty stragithforward.

What ideas do you have? How can we, as individuals, make more of an impact in the next major legislative fight?

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Advice (4.00 / 22)
My advice to Obama is to never pre-compromise with Republicans unless he negotiates with specific Republicans whose votes he secures at the same time.  I have no problem with putting in compromises worked out with Spector and the women from Maine in return for their support, but you can't just put in stuff Republicans might go for.

In other words... (4.00 / 19)
Don't theorize about what Republicans might support. Instead, only change legislation in return for promises to vote.

Makes sense to me.

[ Parent ]
Yes, Make THEM Work For What They Want (4.00 / 13)
And make them do it quite publicly, quite early, so there's plenty of time for them to be shamed and embarrassed for it.

I like the idea of having several weeks of time for the "Susan Collins hates schoolkids" narrative to spread.

"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 ]
Exactly! Divide et impera! (4.00 / 3)
Totally right. Make it totally clear that only very few votes are needed, and so there won't be any general recognition of GOP demands. Those republican Senators who want to secure some benefits for their states should step ahead and negotiate those with the Dem leadership. The others won't get anything they can boast about in the next fight for reelection. This would create an atmosphere in the GOP where everybody will look suspiciously at his fellowman if he breaks ranks, and where all will be nerve-rattlingly aware that only those who step ahead quickly will have something to show for it. I'm sure that in such a scenario self-interest will trump party solidarity. This is the kind of "bipartisanship" that can and will bring positive results for the Dems.

After all, isn't this what the rethugs did to liberal lawmakers all those years?

[ Parent ]
can we help somehow get Franken seated? (4.00 / 9)
At the end of the day, the 58th, 59th, 60th and (perhaps) 61st votes seem to be extraordinarily important.  Is there some way to help Franken get provisionally seated by the Senate?  I don't know, but it seems like that is an immediate and permanent gain that is very possible.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

By This Point, I'm Up For A Federal Takeover Of The Entire State Of Minnesota (0.00 / 0)
They don't really seem to realize they're part of the USA.  It might be good to remind them somewhat forcefully.

Yeah, "states' rights" my ass.  After the so-called "compromise" I don't think anyone to right of Harry Reid can plausibly play that card any more.

"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 ]
Easy ... (4.00 / 3)
don't seat Gregg's replacement(if he is confirmed) unless Franken is seated as well .. since no matter what the court in MN decides .. the Senate doesn't have to take into account the court case .. if they decide not to

[ Parent ]
Could there be a local blog for every member of Congress? (4.00 / 3)
It seems to me that for the typical member of Congress their stance on any issue is forgotten very quickly and isn't easy to retrieve.  I don't mean just votes -- they are online at Thomas and WaPo if you can bother to look -- but their statements in local papers and press releases.  

Take my guy - a Republican.  He is a potential swing vote on some issues, and he is a Democratic-leaning district but hasnt yet faced a strong challenger.  TPM drew attention to his stance on the stimulus (ha, I e-mailed it to them), but otherwise he functions without leaving a trace. Try to find what he said when he voted for Clinton's impeachment, or Bush's tax cuts.  So I'm thinking of keeping track of these on a local blog.  We know that for some politicians these have been effective (dumpmike in NJ) and they would certainly be useful in election seasons as races unpectedly become competitive.  Of course, when I say "every Representative" I mean we should each do our own.

Whether it do much good in the short run I don't know, but I'd like to put out the suggestion.  

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Tenth CD in Illinois is doing this (4.00 / 1)
When Dan Seals lost again to Rep Mark Kirk, the monthly Tenth Dems newsletter turned from a campaign watchdog cum clearing house to doing the same with his votes in this Congress. Knowledgable observers also cover Kirk's local publicity and photo ops so that his distortions can be quickly countered. His MO is to vote with Dems in preliminary motions and then with his party on the final, thus providing cover to boost his record on certain issues.

[ Parent ]
This is pretty vague, (4.00 / 23)
but I think we need to spend a great deal of effort trying to support a counterweight. A 'Gang of Three' progressive senators who band together to oppose the stimulus plan unless it includes the $2.6 trillion that the Society of Civil Engineers (or whatever that's called (says we need over the next five years), and a complete reestablishment of mass transit and an Apollo Project for Sustainable Energy.

We need a very small group of Senators with whom the rootsgap is zero, who are unafraid of becoming the poster children of rightwing nightmares, and who are willing to actually scuttle a mediocre bill in the attempt to craft an excellent one.

There is no institutional reason that the Collins/Nelson axis is the only place from which the key votes must come.

This is a great idea! (4.00 / 9)
Start with Bernie Sanders, I think he would be an excellent choice for your group.

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." - SCOTUS Justice Louis Brandeis

[ Parent ]
Tonight on CNN (4.00 / 5)
Bernie Sanders said that tens of millions of Americans need to get out and demonstrate.  I tend to agree with him on this.  Demonstrations don't always work, but sometimes they do.  This is the time for demonstrations, not house parties.

[ Parent ]
Demonstration (0.00 / 0)
The power mongers in America have done a great job of brainwashing us to believe demonstrations are irrational and ignorant. Other countries use mass public protest much more effectively. I think this is needed to truly demonstrate the urgency and anger of status quo behavior in Washington. President's Day would be a great day. We can ask everyone to bring toy or plastic pitchforks instead of the real deal to keep it light. Great symbolic instrument for expressing our return to medieval serfdom. They'd probably arrest us anyway. "Plastic Pitchforks across America" has a nice ring to it!  

[ Parent ]
And Feingold ... (4.00 / 4)
and Merkley .. or Franken once he is seated

[ Parent ]
Try clicking the "view comments" (0.00 / 0)
Try clicking the "view comments" link on the quick hit, and then copying the URL. That has worked for me in the past.

[ Parent ]
I think that gives you the url to the diary, not to a comment in the diary (0.00 / 0)
I think I found a way to do what I wanted

here's the url to the diary

at first I right-clicked the "Wed Feb 04, 2009 at 15:58" line on my comment and copied the link and I got this

that link pointed to another comment though

the trick to do in order to get the url was to post a reply to the particular comment
then in the reply, right-click on "Parent" and copy the link and you get

but if there's no reply, there's no "Parent" link to copy

[ Parent ]
Of course the problem is that (4.00 / 2)
whereas a Collins/Nelson/Specter/Snowe vote against the bill was very possible, the same wouldn't be true of Sanders/Feingold/whomever.  It would be a transparent smokescreen.  At the end of the day, they aren't really going to vote against an economic stimulus because it's too small--at least not this one.  Everyone would know this, and as a result they'd not be able to put very much pressure on.

[ Parent ]
re (0.00 / 0)
At the end of the day, they aren't really going to vote against an economic stimulus because it's too small--at least not this one.

why sanders wouldn't vote no if there was a cut to something he really believes in?

[ Parent ]
Well he isn't voting no (0.00 / 0)
so, that should answer your question

[ Parent ]
Fairness Doctrine (4.00 / 4)
The press will tear our party down day after day after day. If we don't return ownership of the airwaves to the people (and allow truly liberal voices to share air time equally), our party will be removed from power once again.

People believe what they hear on TV, period. The Republicans are killing us on the airwaves, because they own them.

Won't work (0.00 / 0)
Actually implementing the fairness doctrine would be completely impossible. If we couldn't get 60 votes for crumbling schools, how do we get 60 votes for the fairness doctrine?

I don't think you'd even find majority support for it within the progressive blogosphere.

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

[ Parent ]
Didn't reagan kill the fairness doctrine with an executive order? (4.00 / 2)
Couldn't Obama restore it with an exectuive order, then?

[ Parent ]
Ok, I looked it up, and it wasn't an executive order (4.00 / 3)
but it was a regulatory decision at the FCC level.  It wouldn't take congressional approval to restore the Fairness Doctrine.

[ Parent ]
perhaps oppose media consolidation (4.00 / 2)
But re-instating the fairness doctrine isn't the way to go about it. We don't need to spend all the time arguing about what the two sides of any issue is.  

[ Parent ]
Results (0.00 / 0)
Ending the Fairness Doctrine meant that opinions replaced news and usually that opinion was from the right or the far right.

Somehow we have three cable news stations but the bulk of what is shown is not new; it is right wing opinion.  The "facts" cited blithely are either flat out wrong or made up (Glenn Beck, for instance, said the other day that unemployment is higher than at any time since 1974.  (Actually, unemployment was low between 1942 and around 1981. Well, actually news reports that unemplyment is higher than any time since 1992.  Big difference.  Unemployment under Ronald Regan peaked at 10.8% in November and also December 1982.  Instead we have many people who blithely nelieve that unemp[loyment was low and the economy was strong when Ronnie was President.

The single most important stance we could take is restoring the Fairness Doctrine.  

[ Parent ]
I totally agree with you Chris (4.00 / 2)
but especially on number 2. I would have gladly done more to contact my Senators, but I didn't know what the best things were to ask for. A checklist of "absolutely keep X in, and Y out" would have gone a long way. I did contact them about transportation, because that was something that was specifically mentioned.

Another thing I think we have to remember is to be realistic about elections in specific areas of the country. I'm moving back to Nebraska to be with family soon, and as bad as Ben Nelson is, he is still FAR, FAR better than Johanns. Nebraska in the last few decades seems to like to send one conservative Democrat and one Republican to Washington. Two conservative Democrats would be an improvement, even if those two were at the bottom of the list of Democrats. Incremental change is the best we can hope for usually. Fielding a real progressive in Nebraska would be disastrous, and yield nothing but another Republican in Congress.

Why? .. (4.00 / 1)
Fielding a real progressive in Nebraska would be disastrous, and yield nothing but another Republican in Congress.

What is it about Nebraska?  just curious .. is it the way campaigns are run? .. why is Nelson even a Democrat?  Are you telling me a Progressive can't tailor his message(like say ... running as a populist) and win?  Does Nebraska really hate teachers and school children?

[ Parent ]
it's better than Utah and Idaho (0.00 / 0)
In any case, this is academic, since there isn't an opportunity to defeat a Republican Senator in Nebraska until 2014.  Even Nelson is not up until 2012.  We need to look elsewhere to find another vote.


New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
Well, again, Obama won Omaha. (4.00 / 1)
The state has its wingnuts, but mostly people there are pretty libertarian and don't like taxes and don't think much beyond that (to the consequences of not having schools if you don't have taxes).

Though the fact that they're kept afloat by farm subsidies seems to be lost on quite a few of these libertarian sorts.

With respect to the libertarianism, this wasn't always so (think of George Norris and WJ Bryan) and people like Frank Morrison.

[ Parent ]
He won Cheyenne, Wyoming (0.00 / 0)
Boise, Idaho and Salt Lake City, Utah too...doesn't make those states any less wingnuttery.

Despite his victory in Omaha, Nelson still has nothing to lose by ignoring us.  

[ Parent ]
There are several reasons for it (4.00 / 5)
First, Nebraska neither goes very high with market highs, nor very low with market lows. There is also nowhere near the income disparity in Nebraska (except maybe in Omaha). So the stimulus package feels all rather academic to Nebraskans, as in "pay a lot of money to help out the OTHER guy".

But to answer your question about schools. No. Schools and teachers are held in high regard in Nebraska. I haven't lived there for awhile, but school bonds never had a problem while I was growing up and teaching there in my 20's and 30's.

There actually is a large populist streak running through Nebraska, but it is a very conservative one. That's why Nebraska Democrats are conservative for Democrats, but Nebraska Republicans tend to be moderate for Republicans (think Chuck Hagel). And as MattD mentions, Nebraskans tend to be somewhat libertarian, but can turn hard-core populist in a flash. WJ Bryan is remembered with pride, and George Norris infuriated his fellow Republicans by being a very staunch supporter of FDR during the Depression.

So basically, as a native Nebraskan I would have to say that if a depression ever really affects Nebraska, they will become such "New New Deal Populists" so fast it will make your head spin.

Another unfortunate thing is that "liberalism" is regarded a "California and New York thing" in Nebraska, so if any inroads are going to be made in Nebraska, it will probably have to be on something like the rural broadband. Also, I have no idea why the House Republicans voted against the extension of time before digital TV takes over, but that sounds like something that could bite them in Nebraska.

So in order to combat conservatism in Nebraska, you need to show either how conservatism is hurting NEBRASKANS, or demonstrative how progressiveness helps them.

[ Parent ]
I felt Scott Kleeb (0.00 / 0)
did that in last year's Senate race and it was just going over Nebraskans heads.

But wasn't J. James Exon and Bob Kerrey pretty progressive as Senators?  

[ Parent ]
Kerrey? ... (4.00 / 1)
he was one of the guys backstabbing his DLC buddy Clinton in the 90's ... the only good thing Kerrey ever did was marry Debra Winger

[ Parent ]
Not really (4.00 / 2)
Kerry was solid on social issues like reproductive rights and gay rights and wasn't really a terrible Senator. But he was also a little like Corporate Joe where he would pick some high profile issue and stab Democrats in the back again and again on it, disparage Democrats and the like.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
He was terrible (0.00 / 0)
He was constantly backstabbing Clinton for years on the talk shows, Sunday shows, etc. The problem with Bob Kerrey was not his vote so much as his mouth.  I always felt it was sour grapes because he, Bob Kerrey, did not get the Democratic nomination and Bill Clinton did.  Based on recollection, Kerrey was worse in a trash talk mode than Joe Lieberman but better than Zell Miller.

[ Parent ]
That's what I was trying to say (0.00 / 0)
he had a fairly solid voting record but was always badmouthing Democrats.  

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

[ Parent ]
The best thing I remember about Kerry (0.00 / 0)
was the fact that he could beat the snot out of the idea that Democrats were unpatriotic draft dodgers in Viet Nam, back when that still made a difference. (He had fought in Viet Nam and lost his leg there.) So he was good to have to get the Republicans to shut up about Democratic cowards. Other than that, I don't remember much.

[ Parent ]
Ironic. (0.00 / 0)
There is also nowhere near the income disparity in Nebraska (except maybe in Omaha)
Omaha, yes. Where Warren Buffett lives. ;-)

[ Parent ]
Well.... (0.00 / 0)
Buffett is a bit of an outlier.

[ Parent ]
I think it's interesting... (4.00 / 7)
how I hear about ideas here first, people just floating possibilities on OpenLeft, even Politico blogs, which then become "mainstream".

What I mean to say is that time after time, I see bloggers bring up things which may be out of the current realm of thought; support or opposition to that idea soon grows, and it reaches the front page of the Huffington Post, Politico, and perhaps even conservative sites (I wouldn't know). Then, it seems, the politicians begin to react and at times take those ideas and apply them.

A good example, I think, was the Evan Bayh for VP phase of the Obama campaign.

It takes a large, coordinated effort. (3.67 / 12)
My cynicism for politics was forged in the Vietnam War protests.  It deepened when I actually served 3 years in the Army (1966-69).  I lost interest in politics for many years after and I now regret that.  For all the high ideals my contemporaries had, too many of us sold out to the Corporate Idol.  Sadly, I did not so I am not a wealthy man, at least as measured in material goods.  But I am angry that we are not a better, more congenial society at this stage of my life.

Until last year, I had never wandered into the world of the progressive blogs.  It is like manna from heaven that I have found you and them.  Open Left, Digby, Salon, MyDD, The Agonist and many others.  Please, accept my thanks for just being here and you need not apologize for your perceived short comings.  Just promise that you won't lose your ideals like so many from my generation.

The power of the internet is growing and it will be a difference maker.  The various Netroots efforts ultimately must find a way to overcome the propaganda machine in Washington.  I'm not a big strategist, more a bull in the china shop type.  But I am more than happy to watch your back.  I thought Obama was the guy who could be the front man to the cause, but I'm not so sure anymore.  I could be wrong but identifying a successor wouldn't be a waste of time at this point.

Bill Moyers had Jay Rosen and Glenn Greenwald on "The Journal" last night.  I won't delay by finding the link, but you probably already watched it anyway.  They had a great discussion of how the Beltway operates (the village) and reversing it is the key to reversing the direction of America.

Bill's closing statements brought a tear to my eye, as they often do:

BILL MOYERS: I had a history professor at the University of Texas - Robert Cotter - who believed the most remarkable quality of Abraham Lincoln was his empathy for people he didn't personally know. The working man. The soldier in battle. His widow and orphans.

Ordinary folks caught in the undertow of events. We could use that kind of empathy today. As Washington obsessed all week over the fate of one nominee to the cabinet, and as we watched hearings about the failure of watchdog agencies going to sleep on the job, we heard almost nothing of the people across the country suffocating in the wreckage of their lives. Some of us born in the Depression still remember the song made famous by the Carter Family singers, called the "Worried Man Blues".

"I went across that river and I lay down to sleep. When I woke up there were shackles on my feet."

The day my father was fired from his job at Manly's Appliance Store, he came walking home as if he had shackles on his feet. I still remember the look on his face. He wasn't yet 50, but had suddenly turned old, the way a lot of people look today who are losing their jobs. Their stomachs are knotted with fear as the life they had come to expect is fading fast. Not because of their own failures but because our political and financial elites rigged the economy for their own advantage.

John F. Kennedy famously said, "Life is unfair," and so it is. But it wouldn't feel as unfair if the shackles wound up instead on the well-heeled feet of Wall Street and Washington's elect. That's the change we need, the change we can really believe in.

"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." - SCOTUS Justice Louis Brandeis

That was a great show. (0.00 / 0)
It's online if you didn't see it.

[ Parent ]
Organizing for America is (4.00 / 5)
just a cheerleading squad for Obama.  I think people should develop organizations independent of him, since I think he is ideologically predisposed toward overly conservative proposals.

Look at the new banking rescue bill.  I think we need to be making a bigger stink about the people he has hired like Geithner and Summers.

My blog  

Actually, (4.00 / 4)
I'm going to be calling congress people to vote against that bill. I don't see how it will pass, as the only way the TARP got through was because Bush got some GOP on board. I can't imagine them voting for another bailout, and if we progressives organize and hit the phones early, Democrats will start to peel away from it.

In fact, I am hard-pressed to imagine ANY help for distressed financial system that could get through Congress -- even something decent.

[ Parent ]
what bill? (0.00 / 0)
As far as I can tell, they're just telling us how they plan to use the TARP money.  It's already approved.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
Organising for America is harder to control (0.00 / 0)
Obama doesn't have a campaign staff any more. Local networks are more important. It's less under Obama's thumb and there's more opportunity for exerting pressure further down the line.

At the very least, you aren't going to develop independent organisations without taking along a lot of the Organising for America crowd with you.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
from paul's "Stimulating Opposition" post (4.00 / 4)
In the Stimulus Open Thread comments, debcoop wrote:

     If he [Obama] had started out stronger the evolving dynamic would have been different

     The Republican Senators would have come over because they would be under public pressure not to screw the country.

no, there was nothing obama could've done to make demint & co. come over on obama's camp

I absolutely agree that obama shouldn't have pre-compromise and load the bill with tax cuts but I strongly disagree that they  "would have come over" if...

I never meant Republicans like DeMint. They would never come over, agreed (4.00 / 5)
I meant that there are 3-5 moderate Republicans in the Senate...Snowe, Collins, Spector, Voinovich (sometimes) and Maritnez, maybe.  

I think those are the only ones who will ever vote with us and those are the only ones to target.  So if the dynamic had been the other way, they would have been wedged  away from their party and toward the American people.

Pulling the Republicans left would have neutralized the "moderates" on the Democratic side like Nelson, McCaskill, Bayh and others.  From 2006 to 2008 they voted more with their party because there was in a sense a more liberal, Democratic wave.

It's the same dynamic as if Lincoln Chafee had voted against cloture in th eAlito fight....the Democrats would who voted for cloture would have had a shield to also vote against cloture, potentially defeating Alito.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

[ Parent ]
Well first (4.00 / 5)
what CAN the netroots do?

Raise Money: We've shown an ability to raise a decent sum of money. Donna Edwards and independent expenditure efforts spent somewhere between 2-2.5 million on the primary. Somewhere between 1/10th and 1/5th of that was from the very broadly defined netroots (and probably that's about as unified as we can get). Money raised has also gone to help support local blogs and progressive entrepreneurs (BlogPac) (237k), and to fight FISA (Blue America) (353k). In addition about 4-5 million is raised annually through the major blog fundraing pages.  

The question is. How well is this money being spent. How much bang for the buck?

I think Edwards was a good investment although I think her and other campaigns have showed that primary challenges don't work unless they are well run, well funded and have outside organizational support (SEIU, LCV and MoveOn spent more then the Edwards campaign to get her elected). For a short time the Democratic caucus seemed a little scared but when our other challenges failed they went back to their old ways. And despite the failure of other challenges they did move the challenged incumbent to the left in every case. The  highest primary success rate the more primary challenges will scare incumbents.

Local blogs are a very positive thing and could be used much better to pressure reps for votes. It would be a good idea to develop a better system so that when a vote comes up local blogs are posting action alerts.

I'm not convinced the FISA effort that so much money was raised on did much. However I think the SCHIP one did.

Candidate investments have some impact, sometimes. But I don't think they are nearly as good an investment. We could focus a lot more on a few candidates and make major efforts for them, but only when we are convinced they are running good campaigns and can win (Grayson, Perriello).

So I think the money raised by the netroots could be put to much better use.

-Focus on fewer candidates and ones who we know can win and who will be LEADERS.

-Redirect more money into BlogPac's efforts and expand BlogPac's efforts to do more targeting on congressional votes. We should target a few swing votes and then run robocalls, newspaper ads, radio ads and even TV ads in their district and also work to generate phonecalls to the target.  Innovative protests or actions to get earned media also don't hurt. Congresspeople and their staff's read local media and would feel the pressure.  

Phonecalls: We have not really made any big efforts in this area but a lot of people read blogs and if they'd just pick up their damn phone that would make an impact. Recruiting people from Maine and Pennsylvania as well as in targeted districts should be the goal, but any phonecalls don't hurt.

Think:As you said, having specific ideas is the most helpful. Also being unified in those ideas and having some champion for those ideas helps (i.e. Dean). For example, back in December Schumer and Nadler laid out a goal of 20 million for transit, if we had gotten more vocally and strongly behind that earlier I think we could have made more of a difference on that fight. The entire transportation bill will be coming up later in the year so hopefully we can agree on and push a ratio for transit/roads funding (50/50?), we should also reach out to transit advocates in Congress and see what they would be willing to champion so we don't have lots of different positions floating around.

Write: And obvious one, but blogs write stuff that a lot of people read. Politicians love getting good press in any form. When good things happen we should praise the people who do the good things, that will make them more likely to do them again. Blogs can also bring attention to undereported stuff (legislation project, net neutrality, media reform). Keep doing that.

So, essentially, keep doing what your doing but make it more action focused, more focused and more effective. Let's pick out fights and win them. My suggestion for a fight is the transportation bill.

John McCain: Beacuse lobbyists should have more power

Praise -- when they DO good things -- not when they just SAY good things (4.00 / 3)
it's ridiculous to see every single blog praising talk that a day or 2 later is followed up by criticism -- because it's been proven to be either lies, or much less than meets the eye, or the actual actions don't in any way match the talk, etc.

and i'll loudly second an emphasis on focus -- it brings attention to issues/needs -- esp at a time like now when they're devalued in the media and WH.

[ Parent ]
incidentally (4.00 / 10)
at our OFA meeting we called Nevadans to tell them to let Reid know that they prefer the House version.  We spent two hours talking about  why the House version is superior and an hour-plus calling.  By the end, we have 30-35 people who really know their shit on the stimulus and can explain why spending is superior to tax cuts.  That's empowerment.  

Insert shameless blog promotion here.

the House -- Pay-Go Pelosi -- (4.00 / 1)
everything depends on the House now, sadly -- and they are being made the fall guys already by Obama -- and not listened to either.

the next things up are more free trillions for Wall St/Banks, probably a double "supplemental" for Iraq and Afghanistan --

and then most likely i bet -- and most tragically -- Entitlement Reform

(or something else that only cuts needed spending/programs -- maybe a beyond-horrendous Budget for next year too?).

tax cut portion (4.00 / 1)
obama pre-loaded the bill with 40% (is that number correct?) tax cuts

the senate agreement is 42% tax cuts says kerry

say after the conference they get it down to 40 from 42; where obama started

if obama had started tax cuts at 10%, do we have any idea where would he have needed to go in order to get votes from nelson/collins/snow/specter?

I can say 20-30-40% but it would be just a guess. What do you think?

Boycotts too -- and other punishing actions -- (4.00 / 1)
-- take all money out of the banks getting and wasting and sitting on our money.

-- do not do business with or buy from any company who gets stimulus $$ and then lays off people and/or creates jobs only overseas.


(or would this type of thing simply ensure they receive even more of our money?)

Think Different (0.00 / 0)
First of all: The stimulus bill guarantees that we will be in another recession two years from now. It wasn't big enough. It did not target the root cause of this current economic crisis.

Second of all: Obama's unitarian politics are designed to marginalize those to the left of him (us). All media coverage was, is, and will be focused on process and tactics rather than the question: "Will the bill actually work?"

To the question at hand:
If we really want to improve bad bills with certain details (like, say, x amount of dollars for building new schools) then I suggest- instead of mobilizing us to pressure slick politicians like Specter, Lieberman, Nelson, or Collins mobilize us to pressure allies like Feingold, Boxer, Brown, and Sanders to join the republican filibuster. That's right! All hell would break loose, but the ball would be in our court.

I am totally in favor of health care reform.
I am diametrically opposed to health insurance reform.

There's no filibuster (4.00 / 4)
any bill needs 60 votes to pass filibuster or not, simply because it spends on a deficit. This was a successfull effort by the Republicans in the 80's (I think was in the 80's) to prevent a potential Democratic majority from spending. It's a shame that all of us hadn't considered this before this process began, we could have been looking at this differently.

There is no certainty that if you get Senators on the left to vote against it, they won't keep moving right and getting more Senators that way.

They can't get 60 votes for what we want, but they CAN get 60 votes for what, say, John McCain wants.

[ Parent ]
Republicans from Obama states (4.00 / 3)
Republican Senators from states carried by Obama are natural targets.  Especially if they are up for re-election in 2010 (or perhaps if they are retiring).

The Maine ladies, Snowe and Collins, are not up for re-election but represent a state carried by Democrats for at least the past 5 national elections.

Gregg owes Obama big time and NH went Democratic for both Obama and Kerry, has 2 Democratic House members,a Democratic Senator and Governor.

Specter is in much the same boat as the Maine ladies but he's up for re-election this year and does not appear to have a primary challenger to push him right.

Voinovich is retiring and Ohio went for Obama.

Grassley was begging to make a deal and Iowa went for Obama and Gore, has a Democratic governor, 3 of 5 in the House, etc.

Even Dick Lugar represents an Obama state although he is pretty safe.  Still ...

Burr is up for re-election in NC but despite victories by Obama, Hagan, and Bev Perdue he's a winger.

Mel Martinez is retiring and Florida went for Obama.  If republicans are to mount a national; challenge, Florida is crucial.

John Ensign may have gotten a pass but Nevada went for Obama andthe state is trending blue.

Good point! Concentrate on those who are most vulnerable. (4.00 / 1)
As I sadi above, use self-interest to push back against party solidarity. When push comes to shove, those lawmakers will put their own reelection above any party interest. They know damn well that they will be toast if they have to go into their campaigns with nothing to show to their voters. They need at least some small successes, and the Dems can easily block them if those republicans refuse to play along. Fucussing on this group sure is a good idea.

[ Parent ]
Delegate (4.00 / 1)
Couldn't the Netroots delegate more, so there's go-to community outlets for policy, for process and for activism? It oftentimes seems like every good Netroots site is trying to do it all. In the case of the Stimulus, I thought the best policy writing was coming from Ian Welsh at FDL. Couldn't policy have gotten worked out over there and then turned in to a gameplan at OpenLeft?

When our movement finds a way to utilize all the expertise in our midst, it'll be unstoppable.

My #1 way (4.00 / 3)
and I hate to say this...

defeat more Republicans.

People like Collins, Chambliss, Wicker, McConnell should not be in the Senate right now...the fact that they are is disconcerning.

We need to be prepping for 2010, we need to be making the argument that even though Obama could've done better, the Republicans didn't give an INCH and made it nearly impossible for Obama to get any better, even if he didn't want to.

FDR was moved by Huey Long...we don't have any Huey Longs. We need Huey Longs.  

What's to hate about this? :D (0.00 / 0)
Of course, this has to be the longterm goal. But in the current dire situation the Dems can't afford to delay important legislation until after the next elections. So, there also has to be a strategy to break away rethugs from the party ranks in order to get the few extra votes that are needed. And it looks like our folks here have some good ideas for this.

[ Parent ]
Hmm, maybe not exactly Huey Longs... (0.00 / 0)
From having read some stuff about this guy, it looks like he had a huge disregard for democratic institutions and the law, behaved like an absolutist king, and some historians see him dangerously close to fascism. His populism ensured strong support for the Dems, sure, but I don't think Huey Long clones is what the US needs right now.

[ Parent ]
Targeting (4.00 / 2)
My experience has been with e-mail campaigns from organizations that I support.

1) NOW organizes whenever there's a bill or issue of primary concern. The latest, removing family planning funding, drew assurances from Obama that it would be funded later. I received a call asking me to become a dues paying member, but the rep accepted my decision not to.

2) ScienceDebate2008 never got the campaign debate they desired, but the group is forging ahead, and is now a 501(c)(3) organization, and contributions are tax deductible, as of January 7, 2009. Their coordinated effort on the compromises focused on the sector including NASA, NSF, NOAA, NIST, and Dept of Energy. The result: Nelson-Collins lowered a proposed 52% reduction to slightly over 10%. The group's director, Shawn Otto, provides specific items and dollar amounts, and cites sources, so that our e-mails have credible illustrations of the jobs to be gained, including the immediacy of having approved projects already in the pipeline.

3) Lastly, calling Sen Durbin's office resulted in listening to a recording explaining that volume was high; please try again at a later time. Sen Burris' phone just rang and rang. His website form is not yet up, and an e-mail to him resulted in almost the same response: try again later.

The suggestion above that we really concentrate on a transportation bill works great for me. It's possible that my rep, Mark Kirk, would be willing to support that.

Delegate & Gang of 3 (0.00 / 0)
Too many stars in the prog blogosphere and no constellations. Why are infrastructure/renewable/mass transit important? Keep the debate supported w/ tons of facts and an online FAQ w/ sources, case studies and talking points. Who says so? What's the cost/benefit/ROI? Apply it locally and push it to Gang of 3 -- maybe focus on Gangs of 3 in local and state govts as well. In other words, crystallize, organize and fight w/ facts & intelligent spokespeople.  


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