Please see the end for my thanks yous and where to find me after today. I have opted to close with an attempt to describe the field of play -D
Shortly after Kerry's loss in 2004, at MyDD, Chris wrote "Conservatism is our enemy" which I think is the first time I ever encountered a direct ideological assault on conservatism itself. Along with Phil Agre's rightly famous essay on the subject, it began me on a road and mission to better understanding this beast. Everything I have learned to date from then continues to bolster Chris' original thesis. Conservativism is still the primary enemy of progress, justice, fairness and widespread happiness for humanity. It remains a destructive and corrosive force on the institutions of democracy and the single biggest obstacle to world peace.
If I have had a broad meta thesis here at Open Left, it is that the true fight is one of ideas and thus ideology. We must reject the mushy centrist claim that ideology is necessarily an evil. Not only is it not necessarily evil, ideology is necessary period. The fights over parties, the media, particular policies and tactics are important, but my read on the broad sweep of history is that when the dominant ideas are bad, the parties will behave stupidly, the media will fail to correct them and the policies will be destructive. There is a reason Canada, the UK and the US all elected right wing governments in the 80s. There is a reason Obama's team could not even consider a new WPA or even ask for a big-enough stimulus. Bad ideas are still dominant. I see no refuge in any 3rd party, because I see no reason such a party would not itself be quickly co-opted by the same bad ideas upon attaining power or in order to attain power. I want to fight bad ideas directly.
Chris Bowers has a good, detailed write up on how the Senate rules reform fight happened. It's good reading for those interested in the tactical and strategy debates for how the netroots can most effectively bring about change and so forth. Lots of good grist for that in there, including Chris himself backing away because he might be a liability and the impact of the pro-choice groups who came out quietly against reform behind the scenes.
The myth I would like to challenge is that the Republicans will necessarily kill the filibuster themselves on the first day of the next Congress if they take the majority in 2012. Not very likely.
Watching Chris Bowers' Daily Kos postings on filibuster reform, it is depressing and sad seeing how many are still opposed to ending the filibuster. Broadly speaking, the netroots has watched four years of pervasive and systemic minority obstruction in the Senate which has served to significantly weaken any progressive governance. There has been a large amount of analysis in the netroots on this, with a broad consensus that the price for minority obstructionism is going to be paid for the majority whom the country blames for any and all failures to address their problems. A number of polls confirm the public neither knows nor cares about Senate rules, and are only dimly and occasionally aware of Republican tactics in this regard.
The most frequent progressive refrain to defend the filibuster is the old standby: "Well what if the Republicans take over? Won't it be nice to be able to stop them privatizing Social Security/reinstituting slavery/eating kittens?" My sense is that this viewpoint is on the upswing compared roughly and unscientifically to how often I would see this view in an anti-filibuster piece from 2008 or 2009. That's somewhat understandable. With Democratic fortunes on the downswing, it is natural to fear what Republicans would do if they got the governing triple-crown. They are dominated by awful people with frightening agendas. It's sensible to want to cling to anything which might avert the worst of this.
The filibuster will not achieve that aim. The filibuster is unlikely to serve any useful purpose in preventing anything substantial the Republicans might attempt. This isn't for the "Democrats are too weak to use the filibuster" reason (thought that is a problem), the deeper issue here is that the "Nuclear Option" fracas of 2005 proved that the filibuster is Tinkerbell; a fairtale. It only lives so long as 51 Senators keep clapping for it. The reason to get rid of the filibuster is that the Republicans will not hesitate to eliminate it if and when it suits them from the majority, so relying on it to stop anything really bad from happening is deluded wishful thinking. Besides, the way to head off those Republican majorities is to govern better and that cannot happen with the filibuster.
I'm making an Open Bet with Open Left. This process ends with 3 if the House is gullible enough (Or the Charlie Brown US House we should call them...) or stupid enough or corrupt enough to ever trust the president and/or the senate.
Good morning. I'll be sitting in for Chris today and Friday -- and possibly Thursday if it looks like anyone is visiting the site.
So let's take stock of what has happened since I was here last:
1) The Congress is closer to solving the problem of too many people not being able to afford health insurance by ordering us to buy health insurance from the very same big antitrust-exempted insurance corporations that got us into this mess in the first place. And they still say they won't use reconciliation.
2) "Moderate*" Senate Democrats are threatening to let the country default on the debt unless a commission is set up to cut Social Security and Medicare. (The reason Social Security is a "problem" is that, starting with Reagan, the huge surplus from the Social Security payroll tax was used to give tax cuts to the rich. Now the boomers are getting ready to retire and are going to need to get their retirement money back. That IS a problem.)
It's the depth of hypocrisy to blast people for using quick hits to call out other site members only to turn around and do the exact same thing he's taken others to task for. I mean, is it merely ego at play? Is Bowers the only one allowed to engage in snark? Or maybe he just needs to grow up and engage in honest discussion for a change.
Governor Dean posted this dairy over at DailyKos earlier today and I wanted to make sure no one here missed it. -Charles Chamberlain
We're in the final stretch in our campaign for healthcare reform including a public option.
The good news is we're winning.
I know that sometimes it is hard to tell. After all August was a brutal month filled with right-wing fear mongering and misinformation. Whether led by Glenn Beck, FOX news or Rep. Joe Wilson, too many Americans were told to disrupt Town Halls rather than participate in them. And of course the media covered every moment of it.
But the real story of August is that these scare tactics didn't work. Support for President Obama's Healthcare Reform Plan which includes the choice of a public health insurance option has increased since the beginning of August.
This is a testament to the fact that you never gave up. All summer we worked together to make sure Congress got the message that inclusion of a public option in any healthcare reform bill passed this year is non-negotiable. And every time Republicans tried to kill it or the insurance industry claimed it's already dead, you stood up and proved them wrong.
Now what we keep hearing is that Congress doesn't have the votes to pass a public option.
Once again, thanks to your help, we have proven them wrong...
I wrote this as a personal reflection point; I don't presume to know or be suggesting any statistical or methodological pretext in this post. I just wanted to raise the observations of one node in the network.
I wonder what happened to all of my colleagues who said they were opposed to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder what happened to my colleagues who voted with me as I opposed every war supplemental request under the previous administration. It seems, with very few exceptions, they have changed their position on the war now that the White House has changed hands. I find this troubling. As I have said while opposing previous war funding requests, a vote to fund the war is a vote in favor of the war. Congress exercises its constitutional prerogatives through the power of the purse.
As a lifelong Texas Democrat, I don't know if there's anything that pains me more than having to cite Ron Paul at the beginning of my first post written for OpenLeft. But the man has a point -- what the heck just happened?
I read the national blogs -- the "short head" of the political blogosphere -- regularly, but not fervently. I browse the stories on Google Reader, go to several sites to comment on interesting posts, but my real focus is on state politics. I write for Burnt Orange Report down in Texas, and if I only have 30 minutes a day to focus on blogging politics, I'll focus on state politics and not really pay attention to national politics.
This is all by way of saying that I just lose some stories. I just do. And, for whatever reason -- my recent graduation from grad school, job hunting, blah blah -- I had no idea that nearly 2/3 of progressives who pledged not to fund the war have totally changed their minds until KT got all of us over at BOR involved.
But now what? I can do little more than read the coverage. And that's what this post is about -- the different tones in coverage that are now recorded and part of the "history" of this particular Congressional milestone. But I'm not talking about Democrat vs. Republican (as all the major papers will report), or even Democrats vs. Democrat (which is the more obvious discussion for Democrats to have). No, I'm talking about the difference in tones among Democrats that wanted the "No" vote, including:
These are not the whole spectrum of tones, I'm sure -- just the ones I interacted with right away when I was reading about this tonight. And I don't mean to pigeonhole any/all of these voices as solely existing in that tone. Those descriptors are relevant to this set of observations on this issue, with the hope that a simple case-study may generate an interesting discussion.
So here's the question: in light of the fact that I wish I had done more and am displeased by the outcome, how do I react/respond to the various rhetoric of the coverage provided by those whose goals I agree with?
One of the biggest memes the netroots is constantly fighting against is the idea that we mindlessly participate in an "echo chamber." Yet I would argue that each of those posts has decidedly different tones, and that each tone influences an activists' perception on the work that was done in distinctly different ways.
Ultimately, the dividing line among these voices has little to do with any talking points -- because each group supported the same side of the same issue. Instead, the dividing line amongs the "progressives of the progressives" appears to be those who appreciate emergence politics, and those who don't.
Chris Bowers' interesting post on trusting the Obama administration issue ("Do you trust the administration or not? For progressives in many ways this is the fundamental economic and political question of our times") raises some questions for me:
1. How much does it actually matter whether any of us trust him?
2. How do you define people like me who actually trust him and his team quite a bit but still strongly disagree on some important issues?
3. Isn't there another category on the trust/no trust thing, especially given a highly diverse administration?
Here's what I mean: I don't think our behavior change depending on that whole ephemeral "trust" question. Whether or not I trust the Obama administration makes no difference in how I should act, in my judgment.
House Democrats reached a compromise yesterday on the cramdown provision of John Conyers' Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, and for a change, it was a decent compromise. Proponents of this legislation pretty much managed to keep the cramdown provision intact, meaning that bankruptcy judges will be able to modify mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure on primary residences. Plus, there were negotiations with Senate Dems and not just New Democrats, who have been acting on behalf of their corporate interests and have made passing cramdown legislation ridiculously and unnecessarily difficult.
Chances are Conyers' compromised legislation will pass the House tomorrow. And while, as Chris noted, it was a good sign to see Senate staffers participating in yesterday's negotiations, odds are HR1106's counterpart in the Senate will still face a tough battle. That's why it's key to keep Brave New Foundation's petition going that over 17,000 people have signed in the last four days! We have to keep the pressure up on Congress and get these judicial modifications passed.
Big and bold. That's Mike Lux's recipe for sweeping transformative change. That's the way for progressives to achieve a Big Change Moment, as Lux calls it in his new book, "The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be." Lux likens progressive ideals to American ideals, and calls for progressives to pressure cautious Democrats hesitant to spend political capital.
I'm not talking about President Obama specifically. As Lux wrote here yesterday, Obama has taken tremendous strides to get past the hurdles of centrist cabinet picks and stay on the progressive track. You could hear calls for a Big Change Moment in Obama's congressional address last week, and you can see audacious ambition in his economic recovery bill and budget. While Lux is right when he says we shouldn't hesitate to disagree with the President on everything from the banking crisis to the war in Afghanistan--particularly when Obama respects plurality of opinion--this ought to go double (or I guess increase exponentially depending on your math skills) for every Democrat in Washington right now.
Things are moving right along in book world as I'm starting to hit the road. I was just in Philly last night with the inimitable Chris Bowers:
as well as Natasha Chart, Adam Bonin (whose own event today promises to be great), Atrios and the Center City Drinking Liberally crowd. We had a great discussion about Obama, the economic stimulus, and whether his post-partisanship is symbolic or real. You can view photos from that and my last two events on the book tour Flickr album by clicking here.
Also, I wanted to let y'all know about two new events:
Friday, Feb. 6th, D.C.: I'm going to be sitting down for an event with Steve Clemons at the New America Foundation to discuss The Progressive Revolution and the emerging political environment we're seeing with the new Obama administration and the progressive movement. If you're in D.C., you can RSVP by clicking here and also get a signed copy of the book while you're there.
Tuesday, February 10th, NYC: To celebrate the launch of the book, Eli Pariser from MoveOn, Gara LaMarche of Atlantic Philanthropies, and myself will be discussing what I call "Big Change Moments", how various elements in progressive movements create them, and what will need to happen to create the next one. Laura Flanders from GRITtv will be moderating. It should be a fascinating discussion. You can get tickets in advance for $10, or for $25 with a copy of The Progressive Revolution included. Buy your tickets here, and RSVP on Facebook here.
Crashing the Party: Transforming Netroots Activism into Grassroots Action Within State and Local Parties Sat, 07/19/2008 - 1:30pm, Ballroom F
One of the challenges facing the Netroots in creating a progressive movement is the transformation of Netroots activism into grassroots action. This panel will discuss the benefits and challenges in working within the Democratic Party on the state and local level. This discussion will include a primer on how to get involved, as well as a discussion on the resistance one may face "crashing the party." The goal of this discussion is to encourage more Netroots community members to actively engage in politics on the state and local level.
PANELISTS: Chris Bowers, Jason Melrath, Dante Atkins, Steve Thibodeau, Brian Keeler
Lobbying Congress: Advocacy and Digital Empowerment Sat, 07/19/2008 - 1:30pm, Room 18B
How has digital technology changed advocacy? What should influence look like in a networked social environment? How can individuals best affect government? What role should intermediaries, advocacy organizations, opinion leaders and movement organizers play in organizing government?
PANELISTS: Matt Stoller, Ben Scott, John Wonderlich
Chris' Session Here. Unfortunately it doesn't look like Matt's will be netcasted. I don't see a feed for Room 18B.
I will live blog Chris' session inside. If you're watching (or attending Matt's), please stop by and make some comments.
This is the nucleus of a project or research idea for American Blogger - but it's also a topic on which the Open Left community can likely provide a great deal more insight than I. Here's what I'm thinking about:
Thanks especially to Chris Bowers' and Paul Rosenberg's interests and expertise, on Open Left we've seen a strongly data-oriented approach to political forecasting, strategy, and activism.
Folks like Chris and Paul have mined the internet for data, and this data shapes their political analysis, supports their arguments, and lends credibility to their political commentary.
They and others have aggressively 'trawled the tubes' for publicly-available datasets about American political knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors; demographic and geographic information; financial data; polling breakdowns; and more.
This body of data is foundational to the good work done in the progressive blogosphere - especially here at Open Left and at fivethirtyeight.com. And though this data is being put to great use by some, the unwashed majority of us don't give much thought to where it comes from and to whom it is available.
As a response, I propose that we develop a "Progressive Data Bank":
a place where many types of relevant raw data, basic analysis, and guidance on how to use and apply this information, can all be shared broadly, to democratize the enterprise of political analysis and further a wide range of progressive aims.
Normally, I don't comment on other peoples' written pieces (well, normally anyway), but given Mr. Bowers' prominence in the blogging community, and the fact that he will be speaking at the NetRoots Nation Space policy panel, I decided to go ahead and comment on what he wrote. Besides, it gives me an excuse to write about space policy, and you, humble reader, an excuse to read about it. :D