There's a Lot to Do Besides Worry About Obama/Clinton

by: Mike Lux

Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 16:19

One way or another, the period of 24/7 obsession with the Obama/Clinton showdown is about to ease up. Either Obama will wrap up the nomination on Tuesday with wins in Texas and Ohio, or a win in Texas combined with a virtual tie in Ohio; or Clinton will claim another comeback kid title by winning both states, and push onward to Pennsylvania. Either, though, the intense pace of the campaign- 37 states on 27 days- is about to ease up for awhile. After Mississippi and Wyoming wrap up a few days after March 4th, we have about six weeks before Pennsylvania.

So perhaps all of us- myself included- who have been obsessed with this race should start getting more focused on other things. There are three big things that progressive should be working on right now:

1. Defining McCain. A lot is going on in this area of activity right now, and it should be. All of the progressive movement's tools ought to be put into play to define this guy accurately: as a neocon's hyperaggressive neocon, as a far right-wing extremist on 95% of the issues, and as one of the most hypocritically corrupt guys in D.C.

2. Help progressive candidates. We've already added one person to the ranks of progressives in Congress with Donna Edwards. Now we just have to keep adding to the list. Darcy Burner, Al Franken, and Scott Kleeb are at the top of my list for whom I want to help, but I'll be adding onto that list all year long.

3. Planning for 2009. If we add to our majorities in the House and Senate, and win the Presidency this fall, it will only be the 2nd time in 28 years that Democrats will have control of all three institutions. We have both a big opportunity, and a lot of political urgency, to accomplish big things in the next session of Congress. We need to be planning now on what we should be doing to take advantage of that opportunity- both on the policy side of things, and the political strategy side as well.

The tough thing is that, after eight years of neglect and worse by Bush, the agenda is enormous. We need to work to get out of Iraq, and to pass major reform legislation on health care, climate change, immigration, and reviving the economy. That is a massive amount of really big things to try and take on, but it's all important, so we need to do some serious planning and strategy in 2008.

Both organizations and the blogosphere have a major role to play in this planning work, and I hope they can work together to being to do the strategic thinking now.

Mike Lux :: There's a Lot to Do Besides Worry About Obama/Clinton

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In 2009: Eliminate the filibuster (4.00 / 1)
Unless we somehow get a 60-vote majority in the Senate, we should either eliminate the filibuster, or change the requirements for a cloture vote to 55.

Critics will say that Democrats would be trying to assume too many powers, or would be giving up their own minority rights if Republicans retake control.  My opinion is that the filibuster is essentially undemocratic, the Republicans have wildly abused it during this last session, and that Democrats never had the balls to use the filibuster even when they were in the minority under Bush.

If Republicans are allowed to continue this filibustering and stonewalling, we won't be able to make the changes necessary to fix the country.  So I'd say Dems in the Senate seriously need to lay the groundwork for getting rid of it (or mending it).

I should also mention (0.00 / 0)
that there is some precedence for such "get tough" tactics.  When FDR came into power, he had to deal with a conservative Supreme Court that kept striking down parts of the Great Deal.  FDR had to threaten to expand the court in order to intimidate some justices to retire, allowing him to pick replacements more likely to go along with his changes.

While the Roberts court might be a problem for Obama, the Republican minority in the Senate is the real impediment to change.  To get through universal health care, tax increases, more regulation on big business, better trade deals, sensible cuts in military spending, etc., we need to make it possible to defeat a filibuster with 55 votes or less.

[ Parent ]
typo (0.00 / 0)
sorry, I meant "New Deal".  But it was great!

[ Parent ]
FDR packing the Court (0.00 / 0)
FDR's 1936 landslide was the high water mark of his power; his attempt to pack the Supreme Court in 1937 caused a huge backlash, and he never recovered.

In 1938, FDR supported a slate of liberal New Dealers against the Dixiecrat reactionaries -- every one of FDR's candidates lost.

Of course, within a few years the question was moot -- as FDR said, Dr-New-Deal had to take a back seat to Dr-Win-The-War.

[ Parent ]
"never recovered"? (0.00 / 0)
Uh, he won the next two Presidential elections.  And unseating Dixiecrat incumbents in the south is no easy prospect, even if you are FDR.

He may not have succeeded in packing the court, but he did succeed in getting the court to go his way:

Roosevelt's biographers generally agree that his court-packing scheme robbed him of much of the political capital he had won in two landslide elections. It also hindered his all-out war on poverty. But to some extent, the president won his war with the Supreme Court.

First, the court's philosophy began to change even as Congress debated the merits of judicial reform. Owen J. Roberts, the youngest jurist, began to vote Roosevelt's way in close decisions, giving FDR 5-4 wins rather than losses by the same margin. Then before long, the "Nine Old Men" began to retire of their own volition, enabling the president to appoint a "Roosevelt court."

[ Parent ]
Filibuster (0.00 / 0)
Not sure why the filibuster is "essentially undemocratic" any more than many other features of our government system.  I'm also not sure that it's a bad thing that it takes more than 51% support to get something done.  Liberal democratic governance should not simply be absolute rule-making by the the barest majority - it should reflect the interest of wider swaths of the populace.  The filibuster is one (admittedly flawed) way of reflecting that truth.

Sure, it is to our disadvantage in this moment that it takes more to implement our goals.  But if the Republicans had been able to run through everything under the sun back in 02, I have a feeling folks would have been screaming bloody murder about it.

The filibuster almost certainly should be used less, but I think that's more a matter of winning the spin-war.  It should be re-interpreted as a mechanism to ensure that policies aren't change willy-nilly every two years and that new agendas have sufficient popular support to be sustainable.  And when it's used as the GOP have been using it, it should be a crucial focal-point of attack.  The solution is to portray those who mindlessly stonewall as the obstacles to the popular will, and thus get new and better people elected.

[ Parent ]
Right on (0.00 / 0)
That's what the GOP beat US over the head with when we filibustered HALF the time the current minority has been. The "nuclear option", the constant ads and talking points about the "Party of No" can be used again and we should be much more effective at it since these Repub Senators have done it a record number of times in ONE YEAR.

[ Parent ]
The fillibuster is a red herring (4.00 / 1)
The Republicans quite neatly demonstrated from 2001-2006 that it is quite possible to make the minority party irrelevant and get everything you want, filibuster option or no*. The Senate minority has, and should have, the tool of the filibuster, but the Senate majority has tools of its own; it just has to be willing to use them when appropriate.

You know what would be just as effective, if not more so, as eliminating the filibuster? REPLACE HARRY REID.

* Now, given, the Republicans actually had a Senate majority, which the Democrats don't yet. That helped. But this wasn't the sole reason why the Republicans were able to achieve their goals; the Republican Senate majority was for some of that period not very large.

[ Parent ]
It is undemocratic (0.00 / 0)
I think it is "essentially undemocratic" that 40 Senators, who could represent as little as 11% of the country (since Rhode Island and Alaska have as many Senators as California or Texas) can block legislation that is favored by a majority of the Senate (and the American people).

Get rid of the filibuster.  Get rid of the Electoral College.  Those are antiquated checks and balances that have long outlived their purpose.  I don't think the filibuster is even in the Constitution.

[ Parent ]
These are all more general problems (0.00 / 0)
Your complaints are with the way we select our representatives in government.  Of course the Electoral College has to go. And of course the structure of the Senate gives absurdly disproportionate power to small states.  But those have little to do with the question of how to most effectively make policy within the confines of the Constitution as currently formulated.

As I said, there are plenty of reasons to believe that the filibuster is a decent part of the policymaking apparatus, especially if the Senators do a more effective job of making political punching bags out of oppositions which overuse them.

And all of this is an aside given the fact that even if the filibuster is a problem, it would (rightly) be seen as monumentally unfair if it was eliminated just in time for the Democrats to run rampant.

A question: would you have simply sat idly by in 2005 if the Republicans had killed the filibuster and pushed through a whole raft of conservative policies?  You would have applauded their efforts to make the Senate more democratic?  If so, you're a better person than I.

[ Parent ]
If that happened (0.00 / 0)
and the Republicans went full-bore to pass their horrible policies, I would have been licking my chops waiting for the 2006 election.  Every idea proposed by the Republicans is horrible, and voters would have punished them (as they did) for the corporate give-aways, the eroding of civil rights, and the corruption that Republicans unleashed on America.

Yes, Republicans might have tried to privatize Social Security were it not for the Dem filibuster.  But this was a highly unpopular idea, and would have really sunk the Republicans in 2006.

One could argue that Dems wouldn't have been able to filibuster Federal judicial candidates.  But if you remember, thanks to the Gang of 14, we basically gave up our right to filibuster them anyway. We stopped maybe 5 or 6 of Bush's worst nominees, that's it.  We never employed the filibuster to stop John Roberts or Sam Alito.

[ Parent ]
Amend the Constitution (0.00 / 0)
The way the Senate is constructed -- 2 Senators from each state no matter how large or small and elected in winner-take-all contests -- is clearly undemocratic, especially since most of the small states are very conservative.

I'd really like to amend the Constitution so that Senators are chosen in the way parliaments are chosen: the total nationwide vote is tallied and each party gets a share of Senators based on their proportion of the total popular vote. Then the Senate would be proportional by party and the House would reflect geographic concerns (and be winner-take-all by district). This would balance the advantages and disadvantages of these two very different systems.

But given how difficult it is to amend the Constitution, I won't be holding my breath for this change.

[ Parent ]
You do realize that changing the cloture rules... (4.00 / 1)
is itself filibusterable, right?

Without 60 votes, you can't eliminate the filibuster, or even reduce cloture requirements.

[ Parent ]
I would disagree (0.00 / 0)
In 2005, the Republicans openly discussed ways of changing the cloture vote rules in ways that were safe from filibuster. We just pick up their playbook and run with it.  

[ Parent ]
Well, it takes 60 votes to change the rules (0.00 / 0)
It would take overcoming a filibuster to change the rules on filibusters, so that won't take (the Senate is a continuing body, so they don't rewrite all the rules every new Congress -- they do have organizing resolutions that deal with leadership roles, etc.).

All we really need is a majority leader that has the gumption to actually MAKE THEM FILIBUSTER, not these fake and consequence-free cloture votes. Yes, the Senate would be unpleasant and gummed up for a while, but if them's the breaks, so be it. Reid has to go.  

[ Parent ]
I'd like to see it (0.00 / 0)
Maybe a new majority leader could somehow convince these stone age Republicans to stop blocking legislation, but I don't see it.  If they have the right to filibuster, they will continue to do so. Republicans don't care if they great gridlock, they'd love to see gridlock!

When Dems were in the minority, we had much more splintering in our ranks thanks to the likes of Lieberman, Landrieu, Conrad, and other red state Dems would would vote for cloture. Republicans, meanwhile, are very good at sticking together even when it comes to very popular legislation.

If a new majority leader can break the impasse, great. But if this rate of filibustering continues, we have to just say screw the minority and change it. If we rule the Senate, we rule the Senate procedures. Don't tell me the Supreme Court will stop us. Hell, the Republicans have gotten away with torture, trashing White House emails, ignoring subpoenas, starting illegal wars, stealing elections.  I'm sure we could get away with a simple vote to end/amend the filibuster.

[ Parent ]
Think about 2010: The Year of No Excuses (4.00 / 2)
I know this sounds a little crazy but I think we should also be thinking about 2010.

If Dems win big in 08, there will be a big wave of energy and optimism for about 6 months afterwards, just as there was after 08 (but it will be bigger, I suspect this time).

We need ways to transform that energy into action.

I think to do that we need to get volunteers and activists thinking about building our leadership.

I think we really need some type of progressive primary project in place. A wiki + blog to track conservative Democrats and bring voters together with potential candidates.

2010: The Year of No Excuses

Any Dem who has been enabling Conservative policy who is not in a deep-red district should face a powerful primary.

This is a project I think we should begin organizing the day after the 08 election.


We won the Battle. Now the Real Fight for Change Begins. Join and fight for progressive change.  

Send Money Elsewhere (0.00 / 0)
Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled at the way good Democrats have been sending all their money to Hillary and Obama. It's scaring the shit out of Republicans everywhere, and that's a good thing.

But -- and this is a big but: Too few people are sending any money to any of the other persons and groups who need it desperately to elect more Democrats to Congress, to state and local offices, and to combat Republicans generally.

Barry Welsh, IN-6th (0.00 / 0)
I'll nominate Barry, IN-6th.  He's up against Mike Pence, who is the ultimate corporate nightmare, posing as this "anti-choice", "anti-gay" pounder in order to advance his corporate agenda.  Getting rid of Pence would be a godsend and this area has been absolutely decimated, decimated by bad trade policy, union busting, insourcing, outsourcing and all in the name of Jesus (my editorial).  I think Barry is one hell of an honest guy, awesome Progressive/Populist/very strong union positions and if he gets some real local support, could unseat Pence.

Indiana, in my view is a real shut down on main stream media information on politics so it's really tough to get the word out to the people of the 6th.  Barry is a hard worker, hangs tough and deserves some real support.  He was pretty much on his lonely in '06 and I think came within 11% on fumes and not even a dime from the DCCC.  

The Economic Populist

Restore Workers Rights (4.00 / 2)
In the short list of big issues to tackle, we must include restoring the right of workers to organize collectively and effectively bargain. A strong labor movement is necessary to balance corporate power. Passing the Employee Free Choice Act (which would establish majority sign up as a way to form unions) and banning striker replacements are key.

adsf (0.00 / 0)
I'm fairly certain both Hillary and Obama have this on their position list (will pass).  It is a critical labor issue.  

The Economic Populist

[ Parent ]
Agreed. (0.00 / 0)
When I did my short list of issues, I was just thinking about the big complicated stuff, but this should definitely be high on the let's-get-it-done list.

[ Parent ]
Catch-22 thread (0.00 / 0)
Agreed, but this brings us back around to the filibuster again, because whatever GOP rump is left will try anything to stuff union organizing. 60 Democrats in the senate please....

[ Parent ]
McCorporate McCain (0.00 / 0)
McCain has so many corporate lobbyists, I mean he has Carly "no American has a God given right to a job anymore",   fired HP CEO,  now turning her sights on the hill,  Fiorina out there and he literally handed her the mic to talk to the people of Michigan about economics.  That's like handing the devil the bible to talk to the good people of the church about their sins.

I think this is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel but the key is to get as many Progressive/Populist positions from the Dem nominee.

This is actually something both campaigns are ignoring, insourcing (use of guest worker Visas, flood of labor supply to wage repress, displace US professionals) and offshore outsourcing of Professional jobs, service jobs and one of them has to break with the corporate lobbyists and take a strong position.  To date, it's straight corporate agenda here except for some minor, nebulous discussion of corporate tax code (which is very important, I won't discount that but will do nothing on insourcing global labor arbitrage agenda).  

I remember this so well in Ohio.  Kerry came out in the 2nd debate and said he could do nothing about outsourcing, when he ran on that rhetoric in the primaries (remember Benedict Arnold CEOs?) and so many people in Ohio threw up their hands, said they are both the same and plain voted their cultural identity.  I was there, it was just this a mudslide when someone pulls out the foundation of any Kerry support.  

It's a must have to get the strongest Progressive/Populist economic positions now and then one can cremate McCorporate McCain on economic issues.

The war I'm assume is a done deal in terms of McCain losing, although I have great concerns on national security (which is not the same as Iraq).  

The Economic Populist

May 13... (0.00 / 0)
The focus will come to the Nebraska Senate race next, I think. And we could use some help.  

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