Why the Progressive Movement Couldn't Stop FISA

by: Matt Stoller

Sun Aug 05, 2007 at 19:38


There's a wonderful discussion in the comments of the last post on why the FISA bill passed, on what motivated 57 Democrats to vote to expand Bush's executive authority.  In Glenn Greenwald's interview with Chris Dodd, Dodd himself expresses astonishment at the vote.  There are really two parts to this question.  One is why Blue Dogs caved, and two is why there was no basically no organizing or lobbying done to stop this bill from moving.

Let's talk politicians first.  Did these members betray their principles?  Were they scared of Bush?  It's easy to make the argument that they are afraid of Bush, that they are frightened.  And in a sense, it's not an either/or.  Still, we must also consider the possibility that these 57 Democrats believe in a more expansive security state and do not support civil liberties.  They are not liberals, and they just don't agree with us. 

It may sound silly and obvious, but we must remember that there are different politicians out there who think different stuff and have different priorities than we do.  When these politicians do things that are murderously awful, it's not always out of craven fear.  Sometimes, though not always, it's just because they are people who believe that a corrupt police state government governs best.  We don't.  And so it's our job to put candidates in office and support those candidates that are going to advocate for our values.  And we're doing that.

Still, as a movement, we have only one crop of politicians in office, those elected in 2006.  Pretty soon, we'll have another crop.  Don't forget that every other person put in Congress on the Democratic side had their instincts, ideas and politics honed by a fiercely reactionary media and political structure.  Most of them raised huge sums of money and put it into TV ads.  Most of them think criticism from the right is to be feared, and that the left is fringe, though Democratic leaders are beginning to get addicted to internet money.

Given the age of our movement, it shouldn't be a surprise that the progressive caucus is weaker than it could be, or that Bush is still able to govern.  It's never been about Bush, after all, it's always been about right-wing coalitions. 

And this brings me to the second point.  Why did this bill happen suddenly this week, with little warning?  Why did it create a situation where activists had basically no time to act?  Where was the communications breakdown?  I've hinted before at the rank incompetence of Anthony Romero's ACLU.  For instance, the group has the worst and most insulting messaging I've ever seen on a political action item, with their 'Find Habeas' campaign done by PR shop Edelman (which also counts Walmart as a client).  The ACLU considers this campaign a success, since it brought a lot of signups and donations, though it did not in fact restore habeas.  In other words, the ACLU is designed to fail.

We saw that their narrow legalistic strategy failed here (as it often does).  The ACLU should have been coordinating with the liberal House leadership on bills like this, giving outsiders weeks of notice so organizing can actually happen.  We may not have been able to stop the bill, but at least we as a movement could have fought the fight.  That this did not happen suggests an immense and unforgivable incompetence at the ACLU. 

We have to get our house in order if we are to restore civil liberties.  That means telling the truth about our liberal groups and their complicity in massive strategic and moral errors like this.  Anthony Romero has a lot to answer for.  In six months, when this bill comes up again, the ACLU has another shot.  Let's hope Romero acknowledges error and works to take corrective action.

Matt Stoller :: Why the Progressive Movement Couldn't Stop FISA

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You said it...they are not liberals. (4.00 / 2)
"Still, we must also consider the possibility that these 57 Democrats believe in a more expansive security state and do not support civil liberties.  They are not liberals, and they just don't agree with us".

I agree completely with your formulation as quoted above.

I also, alas, feel that way about the candidates for President, except for Kucinich and Gravel.

The rest of them give me the feeling that they're itching to get their hands on all that power.


Worth Noting: Harman Did Not Support the FISA BIll (4.00 / 1)
Jane Harman's a Blue Dog, and a past Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee.  Two years ago she not only would have voted for the bill, she would have been on TV talking tough about it.

After being challenged by Marcy Winograd, President of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, not so much.

There's a lesson here:  I don't really buy that these people are that different in their values.

More than we'd like? Sure.

But more than can be overcome with the proper application of street heat?  Again, not so much.

"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


Yes -- amazed by Harmon (0.00 / 0)
Would have thought she'd be wrong on this.

Can it happen here?

[ Parent ]
She's Still On Probation--And She Knows It (0.00 / 0)
Mystery solved.

"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 ]
Primary Challengers (0.00 / 0)
Thus we need to find primary challengers for the  spineless Dems who voted for this travesty. 

And how do we get rid of the consultants who advised them to vote for it?


[ Parent ]
I'm Not Suggesting We Need Primary For All Of Them (0.00 / 0)
That's only form of pressure.  And Harman was particularly eggregious.  Especially with the newly elected folks, I think it's much better to approach them as deeply disappointed, rather than angry.

The DC consultants, now that's a different story.  For them, I say no mercy.  They have such a long record of losing there is simply no point in trying to reason with them.

"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 ]
You say that... (4.00 / 1)
the progressive movement has only one batch of candidates in office and this is part of why this FISA bill passed with so little opposition. But it's been noted on other progressive blogs that a sizable chunk of the freshmen congressional class voted for this bill (i.e. Senators Webb, McCaskill, Casey, Klobuchar), a couple of whom were supported by the netroots (Webb being the most obvious one).

Do you think votes like this one suggest the netroots needs to be more discerning in choosing which candidates to back? Is the deck so stacked against progressives that we have to support only mildly progressive candidates (like Webb) while building our own political base?
I guess what I'm asking is whether you think votes like this one might demonstrate that:
a. our support for supposedly progressive candidates like Webb was a mistake.
AND/OR
b. the progressive movement is still too weak to get truly progressive candidates elected in many states and hence we need to take what we can get (like Webb).


I was one of the people who said it, in fact (4.00 / 2)
Right here in this post:
http://scholarsandro...

And I'll say this too: Blaming the ACLU for the FISA failure is a massive shirk of responsibility. It wasn't the ACLU's bad messaging that made people like Webb, McCaskill, and Klobuchar  (and Ellsworth in the House, among others) support that bill.

These were netroots-supported candidates through and through. Cornerstones of the "coalition building" model that emphasized getting Democrats of any stripe into office in the hopes of building progressive blocs later. Particularly military-friendly, right-leaning Democrats who wouldn't scare away moderates and disenchanted Republicans. You're right about one thing, Matt--these people aren't liberals, but the netroots pushed them anyway. Hell, Kos specifically mentioned the "people-powered" victory of Webb (and Tester) in his keynote speech.

When you elect Republican-friendly Democrats to office, you shouldn't be surprised if they start endorsing and supporting Republican policies. Instead of taking potshots at the ACLU (who at least stuck to their principles in this fight), you should keep the focus where it belongs: On the candidates that the netroots put into office to force change, and ended up giving us more of the same.


[ Parent ]
This Is A Good Point, But.... (4.00 / 2)
It's amazing what riding herd on a politician can do, as the case of Jane Harman not being among them shows.

Which leads me to believe that the immediate problem was not so much that these candidates were insufficiently progressive--although they certainly are--it's that we haven't really geared up to engaging them as lawmakers.

I was never under the illusion that Jim Webb was the Second Coming, for example.  I knew he would be surprisingly good on some things, and a potential disaster on others.  I don't know how to make it any clearer than this:  He made Ronald Reagan a key part of his campaign.

But it was a smart thing to support him anyway.  Why?  Not just because it gave us a numerical majority, but because it's a step in expanding our circle.  Of course, there's another part to this process--it's called keeping the circle unbroken.  And that requires "constant vigilance" as they say in the trade.  Which brings us to where we find ourselves today.

This was a truly terrible development, but now that's happened it's time to look at learning from it, and deciding what to do.  One thing, certainly, is to think about what happens in six months, when it has to be renewed.  Of course the Democrats will fold again, so much closer to election 2008--unless we sit down and strategize about it, and then work the strategy for all we're worth.  It's important to realize that different candidates voted for this bill for different reasons, and therefore need to be persuaded differently using different counter-reasons.

There's also the larger question, of course: why not put more resources into electing real progressives, who will actually make us proud?  (Well, even they will require riding herd on, but that's a subject for another comment.)  And to that, I say: Yes, why not?

But it doesn't have to be either/or.

Elect more progressives and keep engaging those--progressive or not--we have elected to stay responsive, be more thoughtful and keep the circle whole.

It's a well-known fact that grow in office. They don't have to grow corrupt, complacent, reactionary or lame.  They can grow competent, confident, wise, courageous, and more progressive, too.  It's up to us to help them out.

"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 ]
The results and more (4.00 / 1)
Looking at the "no" votes, 12 came from freshman Democrats including Charlie Wilson who took over a Democratic seat (Ted Strickland's?).  So 19 of the 30 came out OK and the other 11 are still better than the Republicans they replaced.

Look back to LBJ's time and even with massive Democratic majorities, civil rights would never have passed without Dirksen and the Republicans (and yes, we had the 60 votes back then and more).  The bigger story is about the Republicans, not the Democrats and that story is two fold.

First, lots of Republican back in the day were real, honest-to-goodness moderates and maybe some actually were vaguely liberal.  With Lincoln Chafee gone, anybody with even a pretense of liberal is gone from the Republican side and many of the moderates who had some conscience are also out (think Jim Leach and Sherwood Boehlert). 

Second, there was a core of conservative Republicans that cast a lot of awful votes but did have at least some principles.  Nixon knew he was gone when Barry Goldwater told him to his face that even he would vote to convict and Nixon had better leave.  It is amazing really that Chuck Hagel gets the big praise when he is, at best, a Barry Goldwater type who is right on Iraq and little else.

The "moderate" Republicans these days seem to disappear in the clutch.  Think the Maine ladies and Chris Shays and, alas, Arlen Spector.  Ever since Spector got the double blow of nearly losing his seat to Pat Toomey (in a Club for Growth primary challenge) and nearly losing his committe chair for his independence, he has lost a lot of his backbone.  The combined ability to primary and take away committee assignments on a solely ideologocal basis have been devastating.  A seniority based system produces good and bad (Lieberman) but it does allow for independence and diversity of views.


[ Parent ]
Absolutely (4.00 / 1)
There's no percentage in simply giving up at this point--we should make it clear to everyone who voted against FISA that this is the kind of thing we like to see, and that it will reap the benefits of being seen as principled and courageous in the long run.

We should also make clear to everyone who voted FOR FISA that they are not living up to the principles they espoused, and that they can be replaced if they don't get their acts together.

And third, we should continue building up and supporting real progressives for these seats, not just Republicans in blue clothing. The country is ready for it--progressive ideas are polling and trending better now than any time in the last three decades. We don't need to keep settling for Blue Dogs when we can get more genuine forward thinkers in office.


[ Parent ]
Both (0.00 / 0)
I'd say it was a mistake to support some of the canidates, but also that the progressive movement is still too weak to get who we want. We need to be more discerning, but we also need to build a much stronger movement so we are not always put in this position.

[ Parent ]
Wow, is that astonishingly incompetent PR (0.00 / 0)
- keeps the alienating Latin phrasing, and  loses all of the emotional content. Genius. 

The DC Press Corps Doesn't Care (4.00 / 1)
It's the DC Media Elite, they don't care.  They don't have a dog in this fight or any fight for that matter.  The DC press corps doesn't feel the public has a right to know.  They've already made their plans for the Vinyard and Nantucket.  The Rovian-Vulcan Death Grip on public discourse and debate in Washington is still too powerful.  Any rational person would agree with the Dems, but the press corps isn't rational.  They lost their damn minds on 9/11 and continue to aid and abet the Mayberry Machiavellis.

Who cares about civil liberties, what do they have to do with democracy anyway, right?  Tune in to CNN and we see a re-run of Larry King's indepth must see teevee interview with "Dog the Bounty Hunter!"  That's what America wants, right?  We get the news we deserve, right?

Are you frickin' kiddin' me? 

The DC press corps is so whipped and disinterested, it has adopted the meta-narrative of Donald Rumsfeld for all issues foreign and domestic. "There are known knowns, and unknown knowns, and"....blah, blah, blah.  Just kill me already.

The Dems FISA vote is in a media environment that is deaf, dumb and blind to all reason.  Any legislative action by the Dems will have taken place in a moral and civil liberties vacuum. 

Why?  The press is intimidated, afraid and doesn't care anymore.

For months the DC press corps downplayed the DOJ USA firings and ignored the "caging" of the voter rolls by Dubya's DOJ.  DOJ's efforts to pursue voter fraud is a fraud in an of itself, but the press didn't deem it newsworthy.  They can't be bothered with the DOJ engaging in voter suppression, that would be biased reporting.  Who cares about voting rights?  That's so 60s.

Voter suppression by Bush's DOJ is real, and the press yawns.  There was a time when the DC press corps believed in the American legal system, in the US justice system.  Those days are gone.

Remember when the GOP press flack answered a question a couple of weeks ago about vote caging?  He said, "I guess I don't understand what you mean by equal protection under the law."  There was no sense of outrage from the press,  justice isn't cool. 

The editors don't care, Hiatt doesn't care, Dean Broder doesn't care.  Hiatt and his friends refuse to acknowledge the simple fact that the DOJ under ALberto G (aka Fredo) is worse than it was under Nixon's John Mitchell. 

To point out Fredo's failings, half-truths, lies, convenient memory loss, incompetence, as a collective threat to our American way of life is deemed "partisan".

The media/political environment in which Democrats, liberals and moderates operate in is this:

President Bush (with a 29% approval rating) declares an immediate need to fix our FISA law or we will ALL DIE.  President Bush says he will veto any bill that doesn't give more power to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales......Yes, that Alberto Gonzales.....And Bush said it with a stern face.......And the press reported it dutifully.......and congress capitulated. 

Tell me why this isn't hilarious?

This vote is both a farce and a tragedy.  Does the press simply have a more sophisticated sense of humor than the rest of us, are we all missing something?  No, it's simple, the press doesn't care.

Does the press trust Gonzales to do a good job?  Isn't it written somewhere that when a person proves to be an incompetent dolt, they shouldn't be given MORE responsibility?  Does the press corps not adhere to that universal truth.

To quote Jon Stewart: "Do they think we're retarded?"

This FISA vote is the funniest and most frightening piece of legislation passed in United States history.

Groucho Marx would love the screwball comedy otherwise known as the Bush Administration.  The Democrats are Zeppo in this bad joke. 

I can see how the discussion in the White House went between George Bush and Gonzales......

GWB:  Fredo, we need to have somebody that can make lightening like decisions about US security and civil liberties on a moment's notice, we need the best mind in the business, somebody that can read documents and remember what he reads, somebody that has a proven record of multi-tasking, somebody that has an impeccable reputation when it comes to judgment and attention to detail, somebody that has a great relationship with congress.

I've decided to take the FISA court out of evaluating our highly controversial and complex system of monitoring international phone calls and give it to you.  I think you're just the man for the job.  My gut tells me you'd be excellent.  What d'ya think?

Fredo:  Huh?

GWB: Perfect.  Dick, have Addington write up the language.  Thanks, Fredo.  Remember, America's security and freedom relies on your judgment.  Dick will show you the first group of files we need you to read and review.

Fredo:  Read?  Files?  Files for what again?

GWB:  I love this guy.  Now, who wants to watch a ball game?

These guys kill me.


[ Parent ]
Amazingly, even the WaPo was pissed that the Dems got rolled (0.00 / 0)
Who are you, and what have you done with Fred Hiatt?

THE DEMOCRATIC-led Congress, more concerned with protecting its political backside than with safeguarding the privacy of American citizens, left town early yesterday after caving in to administration demands that it allow warrantless surveillance of the phone calls and e-mails of American citizens, with scant judicial supervision and no reporting to Congress about how many communications are being intercepted. To call this legislation ill-considered is to give it too much credit: It was scarcely considered at all. Instead, it was strong-armed through both chambers by an administration that seized the opportunity to write its warrantless wiretapping program into law -- or, more precisely, to write it out from under any real legal restrictions.


[ Parent ]
Freddy's Back But .....Where's Alberto in the Ed??? (0.00 / 0)
Ahhh, nothing like the "day late and dollar short" editorial by Freddy H and his WPost.  Note that there's no mention of how dysfunctional and humiliated the Department of Justice has become under Gonzales.  No mention of Alberto's name, no mention of how Alberto's been a human punching bag and a national joke for over a year.  Thanks to Alberto, the DOJ has been compromised and politicized.  This is the guy that'll have the keys to the kingdom now?  This editorial by the WPost is the rim shot to Washington Beltway logic. 

WPost editorial board members stroll out of their summer homes and got a knot in its knickers when they learned that their phone calls may be tapped at Davos next year.  Buffy, what are we going to do? 

These knuckleheads at the WPost don't have the guts to connect the dots on the DOJ's pattern of behavior.  Yes, the Dems were afraid and wanted to get out of town.  But what powerful, self-obsorbed entitities created our  environment of fear and loathing?  The same elites that now complain about Dem capitulation.  Whether they like it or not, the press is an actor in our democratic process and a referee on consensual truth.  With a perpetual sneer, they've opted out of doing both for the last six years.  This weekend they called in this editorial from the Hamptons and complained about the inability of the unwashed to rein in the unprincipled.  Thanks, Fred. 


[ Parent ]
it's not PR (0.00 / 0)
it is my analysis, dumbass.  I am sorry you don't understand the law.

Truth over balance, progress over ideology

[ Parent ]
Another factor in the "late hit" nature of this . . . (4.00 / 1)
A major difficulty in dealing with highly classified operations is that the people who do have access, and some knowledge, almost never can or will discuss the nature of the "stuff."  Even when some issue needs to be aired out, the intelligence committee members hesitate because it is so difficult to identify the material that can be divulged & that which really needs remain unknown.  Most of the Senators & Representatives take the fool-proof option: say nothing.

As a result, the information that becomes available to the Senate & the House is completely controlled by the administration.  A select few insiders know the real deal (and are often very supportive of the project) & all others are spoonfed the most glowing & rosy depictions of the matter.

Knowledge is power.  And the progressives are/were just about totally ignorant of this project, which has been further complicated by what appears to be stupid or contradictory testimony in front of various committees on other topics.  Bu$hKorp had total control of this.

What a circus.


I wish someone would explain to me... (0.00 / 0)
  ...what is so "conservative" about giving the executive branch all this power.

  Authoritarian, yes. Conservative, no. And not ALL conservatives are authoritarians -- true conservatives, one would think, would be appalled at this legislation.

  And I would presume that the blue dogs, while conservative, are probably not authoritarian. If they were, why would they even remotely identify as Democrats?

  Even granting the blue dogs all possible concessions, it remains inexplicable to me that they'd vote for this legislation. Has "conservative" really come to mean a complete disregard for the rule of law, personified in the likes of Alberto Gonzales?

  If so, why, exactly, are the blue dogs Democrats?

 

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


One Would Think (4.00 / 1)
true conservatives, one would think, would be appalled at this legislation.

By now, one would think everyone knew that "true conservatives" are as rare as unicorns.

Indeed, some say that "true conservatives" are unicorns.

A unicorn, you see, is a pony with benefits.

Like unicorns, "true conservatives" are very well known, and quite legendary, capable of amazing feats, which many people know better than they know themselves.  They have a long and storied past, spanning continents as well as ages.  And, like unicorns, no one living has ever seen one.

"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 ]
Well, sure, but.... (0.00 / 0)
  ...while "true conservative" is a chimera, the fact IS that there ARE many people who consider themselves conservatives who actually believe in limited, non-intrusive government as a core principle. And apparently, NO ONE who fits that description happens to be in Congress today, which is fairly remarkable if you think about it.

  People who would give Alberto Gonzales this kind of power, one would think, would be the wingnuttiest of the wingnuts, the ultimate uberauthoritarians.

  And it's inexplicable to me that someone who buys into that mindset would have ANY reason to self-identify as a Democrat. And yet we seem to have managed to find 57 of those people in Congress.

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


[ Parent ]
Oh, Right! (0.00 / 0)
...while "true conservative" is a chimera, the fact IS that there ARE many people who consider themselves conservatives who actually believe in limited, non-intrusive government as a core principle.

And 28 years of voting for drug war-fighting, anti-abortion crusading, gay-bashing busy-bodies is just their idea of a joke, right?

Who knew that unicorns had such a sense of humor, too, in addition to that sexy horn?

"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 ]
To be honest (4.00 / 2)
It's going to take me a couple of days to digest all of this.  I'm heartsick.

As the father of pre-teens and the grandfather of a newborn, I am filled with an aching sense that we've seen the last of the Republic and that my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will grow up in a "National Security" state that bears no resemblance whatsoever to even a speck of the nation envisioned by the Framers.  After all, Rome never hung up a sign that said "The Republic Has Now Been Cancelled." 

I'm sure there are technical explanations and excuses for why the Democrats caved in (again).  I'm sure that they'll be explained in coming days in calm, re-assuring tones and that Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid will once again make clear that it's all about the '08 elections.  I'm sure that pundits and bloggers will refrain from crying "We've been SOLD!"  I'm sure there are Democrats who voted for this vile legislation who will tell us again that we had to put another dagger in the Fourth Amendment to keep Bin Laden from killing Mama.

Meanwhile, more Americans will be killed this year by improperly canned corporate food than by Al Qaeda.  More Americans were killed last year by spinach and beef that had been exposed to poop than were killed by Al Qaeda.  More Americans are killed every year by bad doctors than Osama bin Laden could ever DREAM of killing.  Osama isn't trying to kill our dogs and cats, but corporate Chinese gluten sure broke a lot of hearts.

And the urgency, the crisis, was FISA?  And who decided this?  And how?

Pardon me, but I have to go and wash the e coli colonies off my salad before they kill someone I love.


Why the Progressive Movement Couldn't Stop FISA (4.00 / 1)
In all the disussion about the FISA vote, the connection between the dems who voted for it, and the fear that if they didn't vote for it they would be accused of empowering the terrorists, is never mentioned.  Of course the media is the purveyor of this message of fear.  They're also irresponsible in their lack of enlightening the reading public as to the details of this FISA disembowelment!  We can beat ourselves to death about how we picked the wrong candidates, but somewhere along the way we have to take on the media in their relaying the total dishonesty and propaganda of the Republicans.  I could be the greatest Liberal congressperson of the last hundred years, but if my local newspaper calls me a traitor for a certain vote, I'm going to tend to be a little 'gun shy'.  Why have we not done an analysis of the news media relative to each candidate we back?  A complete profile of all the news outlets in the districts of each candidate we back would be something we could work with.  The opposition has been doing this for a few years, but we seem to be in a 'hands off' mode, indeed, it's never discussed. 

I personally believe... (4.00 / 1)
  ...that a person who doesn't have the courage to stand up for what he believes in doesn't have any business running for public office.

  Politicians are supposed to be thick-skinned. Many of them are. And senators and congressmen, who occupy 535 of the most powerful seats in American government, should be exceptional people -- the kinds of people who can withstand the fiercest criticism in the pursuit of doing what is right.

  If you're not one of those people, perhaps political office isn't for you.

  The Republicans understand this far better than the Democrats do, and thus they can push their unpopular policies far more effectively than the Democrats can push their popular ones. 

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


[ Parent ]
Beneath The Surface This Is A Very Conservative Argument (0.00 / 0)
And senators and congressmen, who occupy 535 of the most powerful seats in American government, should be exceptional people

It's the old "man on white horseback" thing.  Sorry, the world doesn't work like that.

Look at how juries work.  Ordinary people, extraordinary responsibility, and they take it surprisingly seriously.  The results aren't perfect, by any means.  But compared to most legislative bodies, the results are truly impressive.

The problem isn't a matter of individual character. It's a matter of the system they're part of.  Change the system, and the people will change.  This lesson has been rediscovered countless times in countless different ways, and it's just as applicable to Congress as to any other setting.  Sure, it's always better to get better people elected.  But nothing beats changing the system as a whole.

Perfect example.  The other day, Bill Walsh died.  Two years before he won his first Superbowl, the 49ers went 2-14 two seasons back-to-back.  Sure, he added Joe Montana in the interim--a 3rd round draft pick.  It wasn't adding Joe Montana that made the difference.  Put him with any other team that year, and no one would have ever heard of Joe Montana.  It was the system Walsh built that made the difference, that made Joe Montana Joe Montana.

Well, in politics, we're Bill Walsh.  It's up to us to make the system that produces the Joe Montanas.

"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 ]
The same system... (4.00 / 3)
  ...gave us the Congress that stood up to Nixon in 1974, driving him out of office. The same system gave us the Republican Congresses that effectively paralyzed Bill Clinton over his last six years. Heck, the Republicans were able to effectively neuter Clinton when they were in the minority in 1993-94.

  You wouldn't argue that the Democrats had better, stronger people in office back during Nixon's time? Did Barbara Jordan worry about what David Broder would think? What WOULD Barbara Jordan say about today's Democrats in the House?

  (Man, I didn't know Bill Walsh had passed away. YearlyKos was quite a bubble...)

 

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


[ Parent ]
Look At What Put Them In Office (0.00 / 0)
Of course you want stronger people in office, and I said so.  But they were stronger people in part because of the system at the time. Labor was far more powerful. Social movements were far more powerful. Corporations and the K-Street Establishment were far less powerful.  The rightwing think tank network did not exist.  Nor did national rightwing talk radio, much less Fox News.  It was a different system.  That's what we need to change.

"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 ]
But so what? (0.00 / 0)
Of course the system needs to change -- radically, IMO. But how do you see changing the system as more likely than changing individual pols? How do you, within the system, change that system? Or do you have something outside the system in mind? Ordinary people have power only through their "representatives" who rarely represent them. How do you change that without having to make those representatives better?

The reality as I see it is that the only deep historic changes that have come to pass in America have come under extreme social duress -- the Civil War, the fear of a commie/socialist takeover during the Depression/New Deal era, fear of black power during the Civil Rights era, fear of anarchic threats to entrenched power during the 60s/70s. We are in or approaching a new chaos now, I believe, but I don't see the threats that would move the establishment to concede anything. At this point the "progressives" offer little in the way of either hope or fear.


[ Parent ]
The exceptions disprove the rule (0.00 / 0)
Yes, the bad media understandably makes pols gun shy, but that doesn't change their responsibility to act on principle. It isn't impossible, it just requires a degree of intelligence and courage. Feingold, Kucinich, and Wellstone are (were) purple-state congresspeople who have regularly voted on the basis of principle rather than PR considerations and easily win reelection.

Which should be uplifting, I guess, but just makes me even more frustrated and enraged. I could somewhat forgive the cowardice of the blue dog types who just want to keep their jobs IF their fears were based on reality. There are many examples out there to show that their fears are based on incompetent politics, congenital seeking of the easiest way, and complete avoidance of all risk, no matter what principles are involved.

I can empathize with selling yourself for a bowl of oatmeal -- I'm no superman either -- but what makes me crazy is that these DINOs are selling themselves for an expired coupon for a packet of Almost Oats. Their cravenness will buy them no relief from the rightwing propaganda mills, so they might as well have at least not pissed off the progressives -- if that's the only basis on which they can make decisions. They let themselves fall for the most glaring cons, over and over and over again. It's all very discouraging because basic stupidity is a very hard thing to reform.


[ Parent ]
One last thought (0.00 / 0)
  When I was in elementary school, we used to get these Weekly Reader publications, which presented a grade-school-level overview of the week's news and features. Once, when I was in the sixth grade (in 1976), they ran a little report on the presidential candidates during primary season. I remember seeing the little capsule about Ronald Reagan: "Favors tax cut."

  My young mind's initial reaction was "well, duh, what's wrong with a tax cut? Sounds good to me!" But it didn't take long for another thought process to kick in my head -- "well, if Reagan's in favor of a tax cut, then some of the other candidates must be against it. And they seem to have a chance to win. So maybe it's not as obvious an issue as it sounds." So while I didn't exactly go out and do exhaustive research -- c'mon, I was a sixth-grader -- I came away with the impression that there are two sides to every issue, even the ones that sounded simple and easy.

  Now, if a SIXTH-GRADER can figure this out, why the hell couldn't the Democrats stand firm and block Bush's latest power grab and trust the public to figure out why? Eventually, it would have dawned on everybody but the hardest-core wingnuts that if the Democrats are forcefully standing up for something, there must be SOME merit to their position, even if it wasn't obvious on the surface. NOBODY, not even Michelle Malkin, really believes that Democrats want to give terrorists free rein in America. 

  But the Democrats didn't even try. They threw in the towel within seconds. So we'll never know if the public would have figured it out.

  I'm sure that the blue dogs think they're "strong" in their narrow, feeble little minds.... 

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn


YearlyKos (4.00 / 1)
This bill, as far as I can tell, came out of nowhere.  Isn't it possible that the Republicans are a whole lot smarter than us, and decided to launch this bill on the eve of the "Netroots" big bash in Chicago, which also coincided with the eve of the summer recess for congress specifically because they knew that a large portion of the progressive blogosphere, which would be expected to lead the charge on pressuring congress to not pass this bill would already be in transit to Chicago, or already there and boozing it up when this thing really came to a head?  They also knew that the Presidential candidates would all be there, as well as who knows how many other elected officials, important strategists, message people, power players, etc. etc. etc.

It appears that the administration sandbagged you "Netroots" types, along with our candidates with the timing of this bill.  The saddest thing is how successful they are.  If it's on a weekend, or if there is a big party going on with martinis and bloggers trying to get laid, everything shuts down.  If our Democratic congressmen are in a rush to get out the door and go to vacation, everything shuts down. Surely Senator Reid, the master parliamentarian, could have come up with some plan to delay this legislation until everyone got back from their little party in Chicago, but hey, it's hot in DC, and everybody is so tired from working so hard.

I'm absolutely disgusted.  I suppose this could be taken as a back-handed compliment to the "Netroots," since they are somewhat important in driving discourse and pressuring our elected officials (not as much as they could be however.)

This was a pathetic showing, and either our leadership was complicit with this, or are absolutely incompetent.


Huffingtonpost.com (0.00 / 0)
For another example of why we lost this fight, I recommend that people check out Huffingtonpost.com this morning.  No mention of the FISA capitulation anywhere.  A bunch of hokey-jokey stories about how "Those Republicans sure are jerks!  -By the way, if you get a chance, donate some money to Democrats.  Gotta get on that whole electing more and better Democrats train quick, we wouldn't want to essentially sign away our 4th amendment protections now would we?  Need some more Democrats in congress to make sure that doesn't happen."

Man, I am pissed off after the past three day's showing from this party and its advocates.


[ Parent ]
In line with what you're saying (0.00 / 0)
I'm screamin', bottle-throwin, spittin' mad.

I'm reminded of a recent comment by a Democratic member of the house from Nashville who voted against the SCHIP bill a few days ago.

Now, bear in mind I suspect this guy is up to his neck in tobacco money, and that's why he really voted against the bill, but he claimed the Democratic leadership only gave him three hours to read the 700+ pages of the SCHIP bill before the vote.  He said he refused to vote for it on that basis.

Isn't that kind of conduct one of the things we cited as evidence of the corruption of the Repig House leadership?

Is there any way of finding out whether it's true that members had only a couple of hours to read a bill several hundred pages long?

If it's true, are we OK with that?


[ Parent ]
The ACLU did not drop the ball (4.00 / 1)
The ACLU was all over this.

I got emails daily from the ACLU with updates and warnings. When The Hill reported that the McConnell hearing had been canceled, I got an email from the ACLU saying not to believe it, and to keep on warning people about it. I updated my post to reflect this.

The ACLU has been the leader on this since Bush's program came to light in 2005 and they didn't drop the ball in the past two weeks. The Democrats did.


ACLU's tar baby strategy? (4.00 / 2)
if you stop and think about it, this bill actually helps our efforts to stop Bush's unconstitutional eavesdropping.  Before, ACLU's 6th cir. case was stopped by a Bush appointee and partisan hack judge due to a lack of standing, because the ACLU didn't have proof of actual harm caused due to the state secrets doctrine. 

But now, a facial challenge can be brought to the statute, which is basically a congressional blessing of what Bush has been doing for 6 years (data mining is a separate issue). 

While the standing hurdle will still be there, it will be much harder to attach the state secrets doctrine to a bill that was openly debated in Congress on the last day of the session rather than a shadowy program we knew nothing about...

Truth over balance, progress over ideology


Couldn't disagree with you more about the ACLU (0.00 / 0)
I too received and acted on their email alerts.  I also attended the habeas corpus lobbying day the ACLU organized and found it to be one of the best organized events in which I have participated.  An impressive line of speakers ranging from members of Congress to ecumenical leaders addressed teh crowd from an attractive stage with good sound amplification.  Appointments were set up with members of Congress withgroup leaders were provided for each meeting.  The busses from New York City included personnel from the ACLU who distributed folders stocked with talking points, background, maps, etc. and did lobbying training during the last hour of the ride into the city.  Very important - the ACLU had the forethought to provide the busses for free.  The people who rode with me were well-informed and articulate.  I was impressed at each of the 4 meetings I attended at how well-spoken the attendees were.  Overall it was a very impressive showing by the ACLU and offered me the incentive to travel to DC for future events.

From what I understand the ACLU is developing an activist arm.  If you are not a member or on their email list, it is high time you sent them your info because I have high hopes that they will make a difference in getting people out from behind their computers and in the streets and Congress critters' offices.

To blame the FISA travesty on the ACLU is absurd.  Where was  everyone else this past week?  Where was everyone's head this weekend - focused on Yearly Kos.  I think it's great that Yearly Kos is a success, but wtf - everyone who attends stops paying attention to what's going on out beyond that bubble - even when it means another of our civil rights is  offered up on the altar of fear?


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