Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rahm Emanuel and the DLC Move Into the White House Again

What does the election of Barack Obama mean? Not as much as you'd probably like it to but more than you might think in your darker moments.

I'll leave the speculation about the racism implications (are we past it?) to others. The fact is,l I don't know. As I read this election, Obama could have been a space alien or a cat toy. I've said this several times so I won't dwell on it: people were so sick of Republican greed, selfishness, and pigheadedness that the Democrat was going to win no matter who s/he was. Next to the fear generated by the GOP-sponsored collapse of the economy, racism played a very small role. Apart from the Dead End Kids - who have now been reduced to a paltry 20% - the slime-sucking McCain campaign's use of name-calling, invective, gossip-mongering, innuendo fostering, hysterical scare tactics, and race baiting fell as flat as a busted balloon tire.

Have we finally had it with the Atwood/Rove school of Dirty Pool? Did we look away in disgust when Sarah Palin got right down in the mud in her bikini and shotgunned shit in all directions? Or were we simply more afraid of what might happen if a John McCain got hold of the economy and tried to squeeze out the last few pennies for the banks and corpo's who backed him?

I don't know but whichever of the many possible explanations you pick, the point is that they and their policies, their lies, their slime, their childishness, their cluelessness, and their stubborn wrong-headedness have been soundly and convincingly repudiated. Unlike Bush's election where the squeaker of all squeakers was within days transformed into a mandate, Obama's win really is a mandate - a command from we the people to Stop the Madness.

But will he? Unfortunately, probably not. Not unless we get together and make him. The conservative DLC is already pushing its business-friendly right-wing agenda and warning BO that he'll be sorry in some unspecified way if he makes any lib/prog moves at all, by which is understood that they will hold him responsible if the Dems lose the off-year elections.

This is not a threat I think I'd bother to worry about. The polls show Americans overwhelmingly favor liberal issues and policies - stop the war, universal health care, keeping SocSec public, using govt money to help education and on and on. The danger, as the Dem Congress should have realized when their approval ratings sank after the election that returned them to power in '06, lies in not being progressive enough. They whined and stammered and stuttered about how the mean, wicked Pubs just wouldn't let them pass a law ending the war and there was nothing they could do about it! They were helpless!

A lie that nobody bought and that probably cost them enough seats to make a veto-proof legislature.

The problem is that the early warning signs are clearly waving like mad. Besides the two little signals we already discussed, there is a much more serious one being bruited about today. DownWithTyranny has the details but I can explain it in two words: Rahm Emanuel. (Via Avedon)

You may have guessed that Ken and I haven't been terribly pleased about having Rahm Emanuel around the House of Representatives pulling the strings to betray working families and pushing his corporate agenda at every opportunity-- not to mention, standing behind the curtains at the DCCC making sure plenty of reactionaries and Republicans got recruited to run as Democrats. As great as it was to see Rahm's creature Tim Mahoney go down in FL-16 yesterday (along with fellow fake Dems Nick Lampson and Don Cazayoux) it's mind boggling how many conservative Democrats were recruited in this cycle. (Please don't say "But he doesn't run the DCCC any more." He's still on the recruitment committee, which is "run" by one of his shills, Artur Davis and how much sway he has over Chris Van Hollen is only an argument about degree.) So let's remember Rahm Emanuel when we start watching the votes roll in from Bobby Bright (AL), Parker Griffith (AL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Debbie Halvorson (IL), Frank Kratovil (MD), Harry Teague (NM), Michael McMahon (NY), Steve Dreihaus (OH), John Boccieri (OH), Gerald Connolly (VA), and Glenn Nye (VA)-- a dozen new voices against progressive values and ideals.

So I have mixed emotions about the flurry of reports circulating widely that Obama asked him to take the chief of staff job.

My emotions aren't all that mixed. Obama's ties to the Democratic Leadership Council have been very disturbing for years. So has his close friendship with DLC Leading Light Emanuel and his approval if not active involvement in Emanuel's campaign to recruit harsher and harsher conservatives as local Democratic candidates. Commenter Mark Gisleson recently dismissed Obama's ties to the DLC on the specious grounds that Obama had demanded the DLC stop using his name. But Emanuel is still his best bud and his voting record still shows all those embarrassing alliances with Rahm's corporate agenda. Not to mention that little meeting with Wall Street honchos weeks before the election to assure them that they had nothing to worry about from an Obama presidency. Next to those actions, Mark, a PR move like removing his name from a politically unpopular list (the Dem base hates the DLC) doesn't have a lot of weight.

And now Emanuel is liable to be COS - the WH post with the closest and most personal access to the president, and the launching pad for Dick Cheney's career as the ultimate insider and master WH gamesplayer - controlling access and pushing agendas. This is not a comforting thought. The most powerful forces in the conservative wing of the Democratic party are already lining up to make sure BO stays with their agenda, a slightly milder version of Bush's imperialistic, corporate-friendly policies, no matter how badly they've failed or how loudly we demand a different course. We got this guy elected and they want to make sure he ignores us.

The only thing we can do now is make it difficult if not impossible for him to do that. "Feet to the fire" can't wait until January. Obama needs to know NOW what direction we want him to go in, what our agenda is, and that we expect him to listen to us, not Rahm's buddies on Wall Street who got us into this mess.

The Good News is that BO wants a second term. He'll listen if we're strong enough to make him listen. Not even Hammerhead Rahm can make him ignore us if he thinks it will cost him the next election.

What now? We sign up to help out in our local activist groups, that's what. We write letter to the editor, scream online, march in the streets, whatever it takes. Ask Rob. I bet she's got a list.

UPDATE: (11/6/08) Rahm's job is no longer an "if". The AP is reporting that he's accepted the job of COS in BO's WH.

Woe is us.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The DLC and Barack Obama

This has been a week when the insidious influence of the DLC has been on ugly display in more ways than one. There was Barack Obama coming over all Republicanish. First he ignored a genuine Democrat running for Representative from Georgia's 12th District, a liberal black woman, in order to endorse a conservative white male DINO who always votes with the Pubs. Then he accepted and supported the FISA "compromise" that gave Bush everything he wanted - the right to spy on Americans without the meddlesome interference of a judge - and let the telecoms who broke the law off the hook. And as if that weren't enough, he then votes to cut off debate on the FISA bill, ending the chance of the filibuster he once promised to support.

Since the FISA abomination was the result of a midnight meeting between our DLC-led Congressional leadership - Steny Hoyer, Jay Rockefeller and Sylvestre Reyes - acting as if they were the minority and the GOP representatives at the meeting - Kit Bond and Roy Blunt - were the majority, and since BO had to reverse his entire history and everything he'd ever said or promised about FISA in order to prevent derailing it, we are entitled to ask:

Who's in charge here? Barack or Al From?

The answer is stunningly apparent. It ain't Obama.

The DLC/Blue Dog Alliance is clearly calling the shots. It is not at the feet of the GOP that we have to hand responsibility for the destruction of the Fourth Amendment and the unbelievable expansion of presidential power to rival that of a monarch, but to the DLC/BDA and the Democratic party members who refuse to tie them to the nearest train tracks. The FISA "compromise" (read: unconditional surrender) was the work of DLC members and Blue Dogs, sold to the public by DLC members and Blue Dogs, and then defended by DLC members and Blue Dogs. Ordinary Democrats were appalled.

In Georgia, State Sen Regina Thomas is running for Representative from the 12th District, a district currently held by Blue Dog and DLC member John Barrow who never seems to have voted against the Pubs on anything. She is also the one BO tossed aside when he endorsed Barrow, which is sort of akin to hearing that FDR decided to put Stalin up for President of the World. Thomas on Barrow's record:

John Barrow’s basically a Republican. But I don’t know what’s wrong with Obama. Why in the world would you give immunity to anyone who illegally wiretaps American citizens and then give them carte blanche to do that, then using
terrorism as the excuse?

I would go back and try and repeal some provisions of that bill, because that’s a direct conflict to the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. John has tried to defend that, saying that it doesn’t give them the right to wiretap American citizens, but it is a direct violation. Who else would be able to get immunity for doing something illegal like that?

The real question is "Who would be willing to sell out the Democratic party's history, philosophy, and constituency for $$$?"

The DLC. They got Obama to renege on every promise and reject everything he'd said previously. They are a minority with a chokehold on the Democratic party, and they are going to choke it to death rather than allow a populist challenge to return the majority to leadership. They made BO do what he did, and they need to be destroyed. Period. Or we might as well kiss the Democrats Good-bye and resign ourselves to One-Party Government.

The Corporate Party.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Capitulation, Yes. To Bush, No.

Well, they did it and everybody's dependably pissed.
Congress sent President Bush a new Iraq funding bill yesterday that lacked troop withdrawal deadlines demanded by liberal Democrats, but party leaders vowed it was only a temporary setback in their efforts to bring home American troops.

War opponents dismissed the bill as a capitulation to Bush and said they would seek to hold supporters in both parties accountable. But backers said the bill's provisions -- including benchmarks for progress that the Iraqi government must meet to continue receiving reconstruction aid -- represented an assertion of congressional authority over the war that was unthinkable a few months ago.
Elected last November to stop the war, they just voted to keep it going yet again. The reaction was predictable. For an example of righteous anger pithily expressed, here's The Master: Adam Lipscomb at A Violently Executed Blog.
I'm not happy that the Democrats backed down on the war funding bill. So Bush was gonna veto - big fucking deal! That puts the blame squarely on him, because - get this - 70-fucking-percent of the American public is on their side in this. Sure, there's that 25-30% that would support Bush if he raped and ate babies on live TV, but they're not going to support the Democrats anyway.

So I'm not happy about that, not at all. But maybe, I figured, maybe they knew they didn't have the votes to pull it off again. Maybe. But according to the NYT, the Democrats were afraid Bush would speak harshly about them.
Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.
Let's parse that out, shall we? The American public wouldn't have been angry at Congress over the funding bill not being passed. They'd be angry at Bush. Which they are already. DOY! Then, there's the vacation thing. Reid was worried about the appearances of that? Hell, the American public already think you jokers in DC get too much vacation time. Jeezy-creezy! The way to contradict that is to say, "OK, we tried to get you to understand that the American people want this war to end, but you're too stupid. That's OK. We'll stick around here in Washington and make sure you get it." Then, when Bush goes down to the Sack-O-Shit Dude Ranch in Crawford, he shows himself to be even more of the slacker and lazy ass he is.
Which would certainly be good advice if this were in fact "capitulation" to the weakest president in history and a classic example of Democratic cowardice. It's capitulation and cowardice, alright, but not to Bush.

To its own right-wing Democratic Leadership Council.

The DLC has a backstage bullwhip named Rahm Emanuel, and Rahm likes to win. But even more than he likes to win, he likes collecting money - campaign money from corporate contributors, many of which feature long-term membership in the upper echelons of the MIC (military-industrial complex) as integral elements in their portfolios, and/or a right-wing support for the war. Rahm is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, fundraisers in the Democratic party (it's the source of his power) and a major behind-the-scenes playa in the DLC leadership.

For the past week, probably longer, Emanuel has been button-holing benchmark supporters and haranguing them with every argument he can think of to bolster the [stifling sarcastic chuckle]"compromise"[/stifle] on the Iraq supplemental. I don't know what the arguments were but it isn't hard to guess:

  • We don't have the votes to win a confrontation. Let's take what we can get and call it a victory.

  • We promised a lot more last November than we delivered. The minimum-wage bill - very popular with the base - is stuffed into a provision of the Iraq supplemental. If we do what the president wants, he'll sign it with the provision intact and voila! Victory from the jaws of defeat.

  • And we've got cover: we can always say the president was right and the military is going to run out of money next week instead of in June. That means we had no choice. We had to "support the troops". Because if we inmsist on a bill with benchmarks, we'll lose and the Republicans will be able to accuse us of abandoning the troops instead of supporting them.

The real reason, of course, has less to do with any of these arguments than it does with the conservative, corporate-friendly tilt of a DLC that doesn't want to endanger its relationship with contributors over something as minor as a war. Winning elections, after all, isn't about issues or consciences or keeping promises. It's about $$$MONEY$$$.

I know what you're thinking. "but...but...Hillary voted against it!" And Hillary is a Charter Member of the DLC. Yeah, I know.

But that's the point. Hillary has no - zero - credibility problem with the DLC. As a candidate, however, she has a credibility problem the size of Siberia over her support of the war for the past 6 years. She had nothing to lose with the DLC and everything to gain with the base if she voted against the supplemental. It wasn't going to pass anyway and she gets points, finally, for standing up for something when it didn't cost her anything or even threaten to cost her anything.

No, as long as the DLC runs the Democratic party, THIS WAR WILL NOT END until things get so bad that the corporate support for it melts away.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Rahm Emanuel: The Democrats' Junkyard Dog (1)

There have always been junkyard dogs in American politics - mean, brutal, remorseless sons-of-bitches without mercy or conscience who'll run you down like a rabbit if you get in their way. They've always been here because they've always been needed, and they probably always will be. They have a role and it's an important one.

They win.

The latest Democratic junkyard dog was Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC or D-Triple-C if you live inside the Beltway) for the 2006 election and is a rising star behind the scenes in the DLC. His name is Rahm Emanuel, and he's been called the purest no-holds-barred political animal in America. In a Salon review of a book about him, Chicago reporter Ed McClelland says he "comes off as one of the most colorful, driven and profane Washington characters since Lyndon Johnson". That may not be hyperbole.
At a Clinton victory dinner in Little Rock in 1992, Emanuel celebrated by reciting a hoped-for necrology of Democrats who had "fucked" the president-elect. After every name, he stabbed a steak knife into a table and screamed, "Dead man!"
McClelland appears to be an admirer of Emanuel's down-and-dirty style.
Election Night 2002 was a gloomy watch for Democrats. Their party, led by a pair of innocuous Midwestern Main Streeters, Richard Gephardt and Thomas Daschle, lost control of the Senate and lost seats in the House, sinking to its lowest ebb since the Roaring '20s. Smug right-wing pundits predicted the Democrats were on their way to joining the Whigs in the ashcan of American political parties.

It was a different story in Illinois. The Democrats won everything. They took the governorship for the first time in 30 years. They captured the state Senate. This despite running a ticket made up of ward bosses' children and in-laws. I remember sitting on my couch in Chicago and thinking, "If the Democrats want to turn it around, they need to take some lessons from the machine around here. Chicago Democrats have no scruples. They treat political offices as feudal inheritances. They shake down contributors like a corrupt pope selling indulgences. They're sleazy, they're arrogant … and they WIN."
That's what junkyard dogs do. They win and they don't much care what they have to do to make it happen. That's their function and that's why we need them.

But you don't let them govern. You don't let them make policy. In fact, you keep them as far away from the levers of power as possible because they're as likely to embarrass you - or turn on you - as not. They're dangerous, and they have to be controlled or you'll lose three times as often as you win. They're two-edged swords, and for every friend of theirs who puts money in your coffers there will be two enemies waiting to slit your throat.

On the basis of his highly-touted wins, Emanuel gets to play power-broker, policy-maker and kingmaker. He meets regularly with Al Frum and calls Bill Clinton several times a week to "talk strategy". He has read the riot act to Howard Dean over Dean's 50-state strategy.
When Emanuel and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York met with Dean to ask him to shift money to congressional races, Emanuel mocked the former Vermont governor as a political lightweight from a tiny, rural, homogenous state. "No disrespect, but some of us are arrogant enough, we come from Chicago, we think we know what it means to knock on a door," Bendavid quotes Emanuel as telling Dean. Emanuel "slammed his hand on the table," then continued his tirade: "Look, Chuck comes from Brooklyn. I come from Chicago. It ain't Burlington, Vermont. Now, we understand that Burlington knows a lot about grassroots politics and we know nothing. I know your field plan -- it doesn't exist. I've gone around the country with these races. I've seen your people. There's no plan, Howard."
Nobody told him to cool it, nobody told him to lay off, and nobody explained the genius of Dean's planning. Instead, they patted him on the back and repeated the story with admiration for how "tough" Emanuel is.

Well, after 30 years of Democratic wusses afraid to talk back to Republicans, it would make sense that Emanuel's take-no-prisoners approach felt like a breath of fresh air. The problem is that that freshness is all illusion. And his "victories" are mostly PR illusions as well.

A junkyard dog is supposed to win. That's what makes him valuable. But Emanuel made a lot of mistakes. In point of fact, he lost more elections than he won. Illinois campaign activist Ray Koltys writes:
Here in the Illinois 10th, we are a bit unhappy that Rahm saw fit to parachute in and finance Tammy Duckworth over in the 6th. He offended local dems, who had been supporting Christine Cegelis, who had been making headway in her several attempts at the seat, and pissed away a lot of money to prop up a candidate who didn't really have much presence in front of a microphone, and ended up losing big time.

Meanwhile, in the 10th, Rahm gave virtually NO money to Dan Seals, an energetic challenger to Rahm's schoolmate, Republican Mark Kirk. Despite limited resources, Seals built an organization (of which I was a small part), campaigned his butt off, and came incredibly close to beating a milquetoast incumbent in a historically Republican district with 47% to Kirk's 53%.
And Koltys isn't alone. Another Democratic activist summed it up this way:
1. Overwhelmingly, the electorate listed Iraq as the most important issue in 2006. Up until September of 2006, Rahm was telling Democrats NOT TO TALK ABOUT IRAQ. Only when they noticed that opposition to Bush's Iraq policy made a candidates numbers go up, did Rahms Democrats start talking about it. So - not exactly a message genius there.

2. If you look at the 25 candidates on Rahm's "Red to Blue" list - the races he thought the Dems could win, and where he wanted to pour ALL the money - only 13 Dems on that list won. The rest of the Dem pickups were grassroots, netroots populists and progressives who had been first opposed by Rahm, and were then ignored by the DCCC.

3. Rahm poured MILLIONS and MILLIONS into races on his list that were eventually lost: Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Darcy Burner in WA, Patricia Madrid in New Mexico.

If Rahm had gotten his own ego out of the way, looked at the polls, and put even a fraction of that money into netroots candidates that the DCCC ignored - like Larry Kissel in North Carolina, Victoria Wulsin in Ohio, Charles Brown in CA - The Democrats could have picked up another 5 or 6 seats in 2006.
Emanuel is now Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, a powerful leadership position and precisely NOT the place you want a junkyard dog. He's helping to fashion the DLC's next campaign platform and sitting in on strategy sessions.

And why not? If losing more elections than you won kept you off the DLC team, none of them would have the positions they hold. Losing a lot but focusing only on the few wins is the unacknowledged pattern they all share.

Next: Show Me the Money

Monday, April 30, 2007

Harold's DLC Repair Shop: Don't Expect Miracles

All this past month, DLC Chair Harold Ford has been making the rounds of the bigger left-wing websites pushing peace, harmony, and and the DLC's so-called "agenda" like one of those guys who stand outside strip clubs bragging about the nudity inside. I don't know if he realized what a shit-storm he was opening himself to, although on April 3, when he published a post at TPMCafe called "In Search of Common Ground", he opened it by acknowledging that the DLC wasn't exactly loved.
It's no secret that in some parts of the progressive blogosphere, the DLC has attained bogey-man status based on what I can only describe as a distorted view of the organization's history, and its alleged present status as a pillar of the Washington political establishment.
As an attempt to begin bridge-building. it was not a good start. The problem, of course, is that the DLC richly deserves its "bogeyman" status and worked tirelessly to attain it. That is hardly a "distorted" view, and there isn't a Democratic organization that's a bigger "pillar of the Washington political establishment" than the DLC. Trying to spin those as myths wasn't going to get him very far with the wonks of TPM, and it didn't.

Nathan Newman called him on the DLC's whoring of the corporatocracy.

The DLC's policies seems tailored to dump the costs of the capitalist economy onto taxpayers -- while not demanding that the corporate sector pay its fair share of taxes -- while leaving profits of that economy in the hands of society's winners in an increasingly unequal society. That may be admitedly better than doing nothing for those losing out in the global economy, but it does reflect the interests of a certain sector of the business community more than democratic interests.

Instead of calling for a decent wage for everyone who works, the goals settle for merely a non-poverty wage, a lowering of the bar for success that is almost appalling. A two parent family making the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is not officially living in poverty, but Ford's position doesn't even demand a serious minimum wage increase (something never mentioned in his speech).

The best Max Sawicky could muster up was a tepid realism: hold your nose and work with the DLC because they make the party "viable".
The truth is the Democrats without both the DLC and everyone to its left are not politically viable as a national party at this time. Liberals can wish and work towards the day when the DLC will be dispensable, but we aren't there. The diplomatic way to put it is, let's try and achieve some consensus and go forward.


Like other politicians, not excluding liberals, the DLC wants to win elections so they are tempted to tell people what they want to hear, and that of course is based on what they already think.

What you might call "faint praise".

The commenters, however, were blunter.

Mark Weinberg said: You voted for the war and never repudiated your vote. You are against gay rights. You invoke Jesus at every opportunity. You are anti-choice.
Why in God's name would an antiwar, pro-gay, pro-choice Jew like myself have any reason to support you?

sphealey said: [A]fter that 2nd paragraph it is going to be a bit tough to remain civil...

oakland said: Distorted view???? You may be distorted, but the rest of us arent'. The DLC is corporate owned and yearns for early Reagan. You may be early Reagan, I'm FDR. Reagan was one of the worst things that ever happened to this country. Bill Clinton's DLC gave us NAFTA/WTO/fast track, media consolidation (Rupert & Hillary), and welfare reform for babies but not corporations. I will never support a DLC candidate - ever!

PW said: [T]he DLC was a useful movement when it started and continued to be so until the mid-'90's. At that point its arrogance was a thorn in the side of life-long progressives. I'd have to agree with many here who find the DLC chillingly establishmentarian and eager to separate itself from (put itself above?) the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.
And so it went for some 400 comments over 3 pages. There was the occasional peacemaker who wanted everybody to give Ford a chance, but it was clear from both the volume and the tenor of the responses that a) the DLC isn't fooling anybody any more, and b) the Democratic base's patience with the DLC's Republican-Lite policies ran out a long time ago.

Two days later, Ford responded to this avalanche of criticism by reminding everyone that the DLC was responsible for both of Clinton's wins.
[W]e should all remember that the DLC played an instrumental role in giving Bill Clinton - then an Arkansas governor - a policy platform to campaign on and from in 1991.
Yeah, they did. They helped Bill Clinton do what he became famous for doing: stealing right-wing issues and forcing them on the Democratic party. Clinton's pro-corporate toadying was no more palatable to the base than the Pubs' toadying, the only difference being that while the corporatocracy owned the Pubs outright, they only rented the Dems.

The problem now is that there's a political sea-change going on, as Glenn Greenwald noted the other day, and faux-right-wing policies like those the DLC champions aren't going to cut it much longer.

The elected officials comprising the Democratic caucus are very politically diverse, characterized by widely disparate ideologies, varying amounts of political courage, and completely different calculations of self-interest. Yet virtually without exception, they have remained unified in their opposition to the war and the President even in the face of the Washington Establishment's painfully trite warnings that they must capitulate for their own good. That, standing alone, is a fundamental change, a sign that something has shifted profoundly.

One can view their efforts as insufficiently aggressive in stopping the war if one wants, but that is a different issue. Thus far, they have been shockingly smart (and resolute) about ignoring out-of-touch and corrupt Beltway pundit wisdom, and instead are paying far more attention to the prevailing anger among Americans towards the war, the President and his supporters.

Harold and the rest of the DLC are waaaaay behind the curve on this one. They're still punching away at decade-old counter-policies that aren't relevant in the wake of the Second Gulf War and the anti-Constitutional Bush/Cheney theory of the "unitary president" - the presidency re-envisioned as a de facto dictatorship. The commenter who spurred Glenn to write that post, DCLaw1, put it about as well as it could be put.

I have to say that a remarkably intimate, yet expansive, community of thought seems to be forming across television, film, and the Internet. There's a rather quiet, yet intense, movement of thought and expression building. It focuses not so much on any particular ideology ("right" or "left"), but on a common, critical-mass thirst to dispel the deception, irrationality, and utter hubris that has been corroding our proud country for what seems like an eternity.

An undeniable intellectual and social confluence is rapidly gaining momentum and solidarity. This solidarity is amazingly organic, not hierarchical -- its only guide is the sixth sense of skepticism, outrage, and, yes, reason. It transcends party. It is oceanic, atmospheric. An intellectual, moral, societal, and psychological gestalt as ancient as humanity itself, kept underfoot by a long winter, but indelibly germinating once again with the thaw.

It is literally everywhere now. The voices of blindness and rage cannot shake me anymore. I haven't felt such hope in a very long time.

The DLC would like to piggy-back on that hope, but if they do, their policies will kill it. Their time has passed.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Teamwork: The DLC and DCCC Ruin Two Bills

What with people being camped out on Nancy Pelosi's front lawn and David Obey being ambushed by a know-nothing and many in the left blogosphere taking pot-shots at people like Murtha because they voted for a supplemental that these critics don't think goes far enough, it might be time for a little reality-check. Consideration of two Congressional actions this week might help put things in perspective.

1. The Pork

Can't remember where, unfortunately, but this week I ran across a rant on some blog about how the Republicans forced all that pork into the supplemental. The rant went on to a blistering attack on the Pubs' greed and willingness to kill or at least cripple a bill that begins to end the war unless they first got their pound of flesh. Blackmail, I think s/he called it.

The truth, I'm afraid, is somewhat less one-sided than that. Most of the $20Bil added to the supplemental was for stuff like Katrina reconstruction and more body armor for the troops, but of that which could rationally be considered pork, more than half went to states represented by Blue Dog Democrats who had threatened to vote with the Pubs against the bill. Pelosi, in time-honored Congressional fashion, was forced to buy their votes by including their pet projects in the bill.

Several of those BD's were the new guys recruited by Rahm Emanuel, the new head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC, or "D-Triple C" in pol circles).
As part of his strategy to win back the House, Emanuel has unleashed a high-octane campaign to recruit candidates to represent the Democrats next fall. He has already put forty-one House seats "in play" -- forcing the Republicans to defend their majority district by district. On the same date in the last election cycle, the number of seats in play was three. "The way you crack the strategic imperative of not enough seats is by putting more seats in play with good candidates," Emanuel says. "And one way you do that is by broadening what people think of when they think of Democrats." Indeed, the lineup of candidates he has recruited to run next year sounds more like a GOP dream team: four military veterans, two FBI agents, a pastor, a sheriff and a former NFL quarterback, Heath Shuler. Once again, the common denominator is change. "You've got to have people that look and sound like they're not career politicians," he says.
Well, if so, it appears they're learning fast.

The rest of the BD's are long-term conservative Dems with track records of unbroken support for Republican initiatives who have been recruited, sponsored, and/or supported, unsurprisingly, by ex-DLC Chair and fund-raiser extraordinaire Terry McAuliffe - the man whose motto is "All we want is the money". This is typical:
For Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), there is $25 million for spinach growers hurt by last year's E. coli scare. For three conservative Democrats in Georgia, there is $75 million for peanut storage. For lawmakers from the bone-dry West, there is $500 million for wildfire suppression. An additional $120 million is earmarked for shrimp and Atlantic menhaden fishermen.
Between the two of them, McAuliffe and Emanuel, BDs now represent a sizable percentage of Democratic office-holders, and the pork in the supplemental is an example of the power they wield. Without them, it would not have passed the House. It's that simple.

2. The DC Rep

But even more telling than the extortion in the supplemental was the way a bill to give DC its first voting seat in the House was sabotaged by a Pub whacko named Lamar Smith from - where else? - Texas.
The surprise development came as the Democratic-dominated House appeared on the verge of passing the measure. Many D.C. vote activists had gathered at the Capitol for what they hoped would be a historic day -- the first time in nearly 30 years the chamber would vote to give the District a full-fledged House representative.

But as more than three hours of debate drew to a close, Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.) proposed sending the bill back to committee with additional language gutting the city's gun restrictions.
The mere threat from a Pub to turn the DC vote into a vote on gun control - or the lack thereof - was enough to send the House leadership running for cover. Why, considering the Dems have a solid majority?

The DCCC/DLC BDs, that's why.
Democrats retreated, fearing that conservative, pro-gun members of their party could be tempted to side with Republicans. The majority party postponed further action to give voting-rights backers time to regroup.
Lamar's tactic was standard GOP: brainless, irrelevant, highly partisan, and divisive. It should have been a simple matter to vote his stoopid amendment down and go on to the more important business at hand.

But it wasn't. The tactic, about as subtle as beating somebody over the head with a crowbar, worked. It shouldn't have but it did - and fast. The DC bill was pulled and tabled in deference to the power of Pub-Lite conservative Dems with a history of backing Republican anti-gun control legislation.

It's important to keep your enemies straight, and even more important to be clear about who they are. Democrats are in the majority now, and for lefties to beat up on Republicans, while understandable and still necessary, and at the same time ignore the real problem - and the real enemies - inside the party in order to harrass friends is worse than counterproductive.

It's suicidal.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ford Links DLC to Wall Street

If there were any doubts in your mind about where new DLC Chair Harold Ford stood, this should dispel them.
Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. today announced that Harold E. Ford, Jr., former congressman, Ninth District of Tennessee, will join the company as vice chairman and senior policy advisor, effective March 5. Mr. Ford will advise senior management on domestic policy issues, serve as a member of the firm's public policy and social responsibility management committee, and support a variety of business development initiatives in the institutional and retail markets. He will report to Greg Fleming, president of the firm's Global Markets and Investment Banking group and maintain offices in New York and Nashville, Tenn.
Nothing like putting the DLC's ties to the corporatocracy and specifically Wall Street right out in the open, along with the nature of the relationship. Mr Ford will "report to" ML's investment banking group like the good little corporate stooge he is. Like the good little corporate stooges of the DLC that he represents.

Al From and Bob Shrum and the Clintons have been pretending the DLC is something it isn't, and they've sold that narrative to the press, especially the business press. Viz.:
Earlier this year, he was elected chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, the progressive policy and issues advocacy organization....
"Progressive" my ass. The only thing "progressive" about the DLC is the growth of its willingness to turn the Democratic Party into a lapdog for global corporatism at the expense of the old Democratic constituency. You know, us. The un-rich. The non-CEO's. The non-investment class. That effort "progresses" nicely as liberals and real progressives get minimalized and sidelined so as not to get in the way of Terry MacAuliffe's maniacal corporate fund-raising machinery.

As head of the DNC, Howard Dean is clearly trying to turn that equation on its head, but it's an uphill battle. I mean, look at who we've got running for pres. Hillary is a founding member of the DLC; Tom Vilsack is a former Chair of the DLC; Obama has been calling Ford, trying to make nice because he wants into the DLC's exclusive club; Edwards gave up most of his independence (and many of his convictions) in order to be approved by the DLC as Gore's VP. Three of those runners constitute the top tier of candidates. Of those remaining who have the traditional snowball's chance in the primaries, only Dodd isn't a DLC robot; Richardson is, at this point, an unknown quantity. Of the rest, Wes Clark and Dennis Kucinich are outsiders. Clark demonstrably has no taste for kowtowing to McAuliffe & Co, and Dennis hates them - with good reason. Neither of them has a prayer.

The DLC is clearly still calling the shots, and apparently they don't need Ford to do that. Dean had been busting his ass full-time at the DNC because there's so much work to do, but Harold appears to be so little pressed that he can take a time-consuming job on Wall Street that, by any reasonable measure, should be considered a conflict of interest. This makes Harold nothing more than a figurehead at the DLC and exposes his true role: liaison between the real powers at the DLC and the Republican powers on Wall Street. Wall Street will be able to tell Harold what they want the Democratic Party to do for them, and Harold will transfer their orders to the DLC leadership, particularly, one suspects, Hillary.

It's a neat arrangement - if you don't give a damn about the working poor and the middle class.

(link thanks to Mark at Norwegianity)

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The DLC and the Edwards Blogging Controversy

(cont'd from Witness for the Prosecution)

I told you that so I could tell you this:

For those of you who enjoy the excitement of unfettered speculation nicely spiced with a decent conspiracy theory or two, let's spend a moment conjuring up the genesis of the Edwards blogging controversy.

1. Who told him to hire them in the first place?

Let's begin by stating the obvious: John Edwards knows no more about blogging than I do about nuclear physics: he's aware of its existence but as far as the details go, well, it's all sort of over his head. The idea that he might have heard of Marcotte and McEwan before the suggestion came to hire them, let alone actually have read and been familiar with their blogs, is laughable on its face.

Which naturally raises the question: Where did the suggestion come from if not from his own brain?

At first blush the most logical answer might be "from his staff, dummy". Maybe. It's certainly possible that he has, somewhere on his staff, somebody who's familiar with the layer of the blogosphere at Level A (Atrios, Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, InstaMouthit Glenn Reynolds, et al). There might even be someone not unfamiliar with Level B bloggers (the HuffPo Gang, David Sirota, Brad Delong, Jonah Goldberg and the rest of the Kewl Kids, skippy, Ezra Klein, et al). But a sufficient familiarity with the outstanding writing and high esteem in which Marcotte and McEwan - Level C bloggers - are held by those who know them argues someone used to diving into the deep end of the blogging pool, and that's a bit more problematic. Not impossible, mind you, but definitely not something one feels comfortable assuming.

Unlike the Republican Party, which uses wingnut bloggers to spread lies and inuuendo on a regular basis, the Dems are famous for their blogging cluelessness. Before Howard Dean came along, and even after for a good while, Democrats acted as if the Left Blogosphere, far from being a helpmate and potential resource, was a collection of somewhat disreputable, noisy, undisciplined nags which they were more than a little ashamed of having on their side. The kind of party activists who tended to be hired as staff on various campaigns considered blogging or following blogs a waste of time and energy.

And that attitude has only recently begun to change. Considered in that light, it seems much more likely to me that the suggestion came, not from the inside of the Edwards campaign, but from the outside. Ask yourself one simple question: Who in the infamously New-Media-shy Democratic Party owns the internet? And it's not Al Gore.

Of course. See where I'm going with this?

In a post on the Winter Conference, I made two statements that are relevant here.

  1. Dean seems to have taken on the corporate enablers of the right-wing DLC in a genteel bar-fight

  2. Edwards is a fence-straddler, bowing to the power of the DLC on the one hand and trying to carve out a leftish niche of his own in defiance of them on the other

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that the suggestion to hire Marcotte and McEwan came from Dean's blog-savvy outriders at the DNC, not from Edwards' own staff. What do you imagine might happen when the prestigious (which it still is, not that it deserves the label any more) NYT prints the scurrilous and hypocritical rantings of wingnuts Donohue and Malkin as if they ought to be taken seriously? Who in the Democratic Party has a long history of running away from confrontations with the Right like tigers running away from ants?

You guessed it.

2. Did the DLC send its Enforcers to interfere?

Assume that they did and suddenly Edwards' hesitation starts to make sense. Let's suppose that the original discussion inside the Edwards campaign had to do not with whether or not to stand behind its new staff but whether to respond to the charges or simply ignore them. Let's further suppose that a DLC loyalist/spy (there's one in every Democratic candidate's entourage) calls, oh, I don't know, Terry McAuliffe, and tells him what's going on. What would Terry "I can raise a billion $$$ if y'all would just act like Republicans" McAuliffe do?

Why, he'd get on the phone and tell Edwards personally that he has to fire those troublemakers immediately "for the good of the party", making sure to mix in a veiled threat or two to make the consequences of disobedience clear. That's his style. Why would he bother with what is essentially an internal matter?

Why do you think? To give Dean a black eye.

Because this scenario presents Edwards with a real quandary: defend his DNC-recommended staff from an idiotic wingnut smear or openly defy the Party Power and risk a murderous dogfight with DLC honchos just when he's getting his campaign into gear. Al From, Hillary Clinton & Co are very big on "party discipline", which they define in exactly the same way the Republicans do: lock-step obedience. They are also determined to avoid at any cost alienating their inherently conservative donation list, much of which is right-of-center Christian (thus their hiring and support of Vanderslice and their avidity in shoving her "consultations" down the throats of reluctant Dem candidates). The last thing they would want as they're attempting to form their would-be alliance with the Christian right is a major candidate like Edwards slapping their targets upside the head.

While this analysis is undeniably speculative, it's hardly off-the-wall speculative. It fits everything we know about Edwards, the DLC. and Dean's DNC to a T, and fills in a lot of otherwise perplexing gaps in Edwards' handling of the affair.

Of course, so would cowardice.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

Hail, Caesar! Er, Harold!

So Harold Ford, failed Senate candidate in Tennessee - and one of the few Blues to lose in November's Night of the Long Dem Tongs - is replacing Blue Dog Tom Vilsack as Chair of the DLC.

Sacre blue! What a coup!

He's handsome, he's black, he's highly telegenic. He comes from an old Tennessee political family (which his opponent, Repub Bob Corker characterized as a "political machine" during the campaign) with ties all over the South, never mind the state, and he talks good. No Obama, maybe, but not bad. A catch, definitely.

But wait!

There's something...odd. Ford is a Democrat, yes. (I know. I checked.) But his ideas are all Republican.
He...frequently invokes God on the trail and even filmed an ad in a church.

"I grew up in that church. I was baptized in that church. And the kind of attacks that we're taking in this campaign have been so fierce and so unrelenting, that I've relied on my faith a whole lot in this campaign," Ford said, insisting he had not crossed the line with the ad. "So it seemed pretty natural to me."
Oh, goody, a right-wing DLC Chair who's against (so far, remember) about half of the Democratic Party's key issues - you know, the ones that tell the public they're not Republicans? What a surprise. The DLC has never had a Republican Stealth Chair before (except for all the others, of course). This will be different.


Good thing he changed his mind on the war because that's what will separate him from the Re--

Oh, wait. They're bailing out now, too, aren't they? Well, goddammit, there must be something Ford believes that he didn't get from Newt Gingrich or the Bible. Hmmm.

Taxes? No. He's in favor of killing the estate tax that affects really, really, rich people and he wants to extend Bush's 2001 tax cut package.

Energy? No. He echoes Baby Bush in the SOTU.

Aha! Here's one: he's against pork barrel spending.

Every dollar spent on pork is a dollar that could be better invested or returned to the taxpayers. Astonishingly, the money spent on pork exceeds the entire budget for homeland security ($41 billion), despite the huge gaps in border security, port security, and disaster preparedness.
Oh, wait. He's only against it when he's not the one getting it. (How very Republican of him!)
He has helped direct hundreds of millions of homeland security funding to Tennessee. Ford has even asked for more funds over and beyond what President Bush requested.
Aaaaaahhh, here we go. He's for raising the minimum wage!
"People who work hard everyday trying to create a better life for their families deserve better, especially when the heads of oil companies are enjoying record profits and astronomical pensions. It is an issue of fairness to raise the minimum wage for hard working Tennesseans and Americans."
Yay! A true Democrat! (Of course, that quote comes from the campaign. I wonder if he still feels that way?)

Never mind. Al From likes him, and that's what counts. And Al From is a Democrat. Isn't he?