Thursday, April 1, 2010

DO the Dems need lessons in partisanship?

Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t write “bipartisanship” – because with few exceptions in today’s political climate, that is a useless, naïve, and appeasing stance to take. It essentially allows the other side to dictate terms to you, as they exploit their negative stance for political advance. Look at how the Repubs have parlayed their incessant no’s to all of Obama’s entreaties into a powerful political position that could actually cost the Democrats 10-20 seats in the House, and maybe five in the Senate come November.

Let me repeat here, in case certain Demos have heads too hard to get it - what provocateur Grover Norquist once wrote about “bipartisanship”:

“In terms of the democrats, we regard it like we would date rape: we get and they give”.

Need I go further? If that is their attitude, then why allow yourself to be repeatedly date raped, which interpreted by Rachel Maddow last night –means the debate and issue forum is constantly turned to the Right? This means any Left positions are incessantly diminished.

Now enter Barack Obama. He claims that policies must move “beyond Left or Right” and so he has allowed drilling to be done off Florida’s west coast, and off the Atlantic coast – from about Virginia south to the Carolinas. He insists this was a difficult judgment and made for the benefit of our economy and to cut oil costs, deficits, etc.

Alas, this is all fulsome codswallop. Save it for the peanut gallery, Barack. As both Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, the actual oil volume that might be delivered for all that drilling is maybe two months supply, if that.

If the U.S. actually wanted to limit its oil indebtedness to Middle Eastern potentates and Oil kingdoms, the better move would have been to not have launched two massive invasions and occupations in the past 10 years. Between Afghanistan and Iraq, the total oil consumed has been nearly 1.5 trillion barrels, or almost seven years worth of U.S. supply. Add in the $150 billion it’s going to cost to ship all war materiel out of Iraq and you have another 6 years worth of supply. That is 13 years of oil supply gone up literally in smoke, or more than 150 times more than Obama is likely to get from his drilling – which also has the potential to foul the coastlines.

So as the MSNBC commentators have noted, this isn’t about economy, or security or anything else – it is a political ploy, a sop tossed to some Repubs (like Lindsey Graham, SC) to hopefully entice them to vote for a climate change bill. (We wonder what kind of bill that must be to enable new oil drilling). But like all of Obama’s other bipartisan sops, the Repukes won’t bite. I can lay that out right now as a bet in Vegas, and I know I’d win.

Why hasn’t Obama learned from his health insurance reform overhaul? Why can’t he see that it is damned near ‘dumb as hammer’ strategy to risk pissing off your base with upcoming midterm elections? Maybe, as Shelby Steele noted in a WSJ opinion piece yesterday, it’s because he really believes he’s a “transformative” president who can transcend the Right-Left divide….and walk on water.

But the news here is that this is wishful thinking. This is a hard core, Left-right country, and was made even more so by Bush’s eight years, in which he ran roughshod over everything liberals (and most democrats) hold dear: from his despicable violations of the 1978 FISA Act and the warrantless searches derived there from (now declared unlawful in a 45-page opinion yesterday by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker - the 3rd federal judge in a row to do so), to launching two pre-emptive wars (which have so far killed over 600,000 innocent civilians according to WHO reports, and violated Article IV of the Nuremberg Laws,), to setting up CIA torture sites in violation of international law, to his Oil mandates and drilling – which have despoiled dozens of national parks while also putting citizens’ health at risk. And now, with Bush gone, Obama expects the Left to forgive and forget and “move on”. Not bloody likely!

According to the latest polls in the wake of Obama’s drilling announcement, the Democratic base is once again demoralized and unenthused about the November elections, while the Republican base is re-energized. After the health insurance reform victory this ought to be reversed – never mind the bill was pretty weak and largely a gift to the insurers(the Dem lawmakers- or authors- couldn’t even get the language straight in one section – and enabled insurers to continue refusing to insure a child for pre-existing conditions, if they decided not to insure him at all)

One has to therefore wonder if it is really true that the democrats have a yen for figuring out how to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory, or whether they’re congenitally stupid (with zero political timing or insight)or maybe just born wussies – who emulate the weak wimp in school that has his lunch taken from him each day. Then comes back the next day to give it up once more – as opposed to a punching in his tormentor’s face.

As long ago as August, 2002, Michael Tomasky observed in his article 'Dems Fightin' Words' ( The American Prospect) that the Dems have lost the ability to parry, thrust, fight and RESPOND!

Tomasky observes, accurately I believe - from what I have witnessed - that the Dems eschewed political point-making and "hard nosed", no-holds barred political partisanship sometime in the early 70s. They replaced it with discussing fact-based policy points, which appeal to "reason" and "temperance" but do little or nothing for core partisans. The very people Dems need to get out to the polls each mid-term election. As he observes:

"Apart from judicial battles, the Democrats don't have much fight in them."

Well, after rolling over in the face of a Repug "nuclear option" threat to slaughter the filibuster, and allowing Alito and Roberts through to Supreme Court positions (which came back to bite the Ds in the ass - with that corporate money ruling recently) I am not so sure.

Tomasky attributes this substitution of rational" policy talk for good, old-style politicking to a loss of identity that particularly accelerated with the onset of the Reagan plague years. The problem was that, in making this conscious switch of emphasis, the Dems lost the ability to really fight - verbally.(Note how often they lose the critical language wars to the Rs, then punk out totally and retreat from defending their earlier positions).

No wonder they are constantly one-upped by Repub PR and spin machines.Factored into this was the diminution and loss of an overarching and motivating vision which keeps all the Rs energized and going to the polls- though they may differ on various platform matters and how to implement them (like 'faith-based' charities).

As Tomasky notes, the Rs are "unified around a central idea which can be expressed in both positive and negative language: that they are the conservators of liberty and morality, and that liberals are sending the country to hell in overdrive. Whatever Republicans do or don't believe they believe in those two hypotheses. This unity gives them their passion." In effect, the Repubs KNOW what they are fighting for, the Democrats do not. (Else they wouldn't so often splinter in their voting - as with the Bush tax cuts and more recently, health reform).

Tomasky argues that the Dems have paid a huge price in lost voters for their turning to "reason and balanced" talk, rather than appealing to emotions (at least some of the time) like the Rs do. In addition, their lack of aggression at critical points during the past 20 years - when they had the opportunity to define themselves- have left many others yawning and not too impressed- hence the conscious choice to be independents - like me.

Tomasky concludes by saying that no, it isn't necessary to "ape the Repubs" or be partisan ALL the time. But it is on some issues and at particular times when partisanship "can be a virtue and a necessity."

It surely wasn't in terms of environmental issues (critical to many liberals, as well as independents) merely to tos a bipartisan sop to the Rs.

Tomasky's final sentence says it all:

"Until the dems embrace politics, become proud partisans and figure out who they are, they will continually be clobbered."

In terms of 'who they are' - maybe, just maybe - they'd like to drop their neo-liberal homage to the "markets" first. A good start would be to get off their asses and ram through (via reconcilation) an actual finance regulation bill with TEETH!

They also might want to recall JFK's words from one of his speeches:

"For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future "

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