Wednesday, January 27

"democrats need to fight back"

I've taken to task a leftist writer friend of mine (above) that I have known for years who has a weekly column. Given the setting of this evening's SOTU, the matter of the nature of the Republican opposition to Obama is discussed.

Read his column first and you will see why I couldn't let it go unchallenged. (His stuff is in italics, mine not.) Or you can just skip down to where I lay into him and disrupt his leftist echo-chamber worldview.

I'm not going to watch the State of the Union address live. Instead, I'll record the PBS broadcast and check it out after I fire up the season finale of "Lost." It's not that I don't enjoy a good Obama speech, it's that the occasion and the venue have lost their luster. George W. Bush made a mockery of the address in 2003 when he represented the idea that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Niger as fact when he knew it wasn't, and "Joe the Congressman" Wilson cheapened the chamber when he screamed "You lie!" at President Obama a few months ago. The speech is like a WWE match now — you already know what's going to happen before it starts, but watching the guy get to the ring is always an adventure.

Plus, it's not like any of the Republicans in the room are going to be listening to what our president is saying since they already decided not to work with him. Remember when our economy was on the verge of collapse and every Republican in the House voted against the Recovery Act? That was a declaration of war against President Obama. Right off the bat, that showed they didn't respect the outcome of the landslide Democratic victory; and on every bill since, they've shown that they don't accept the fact that he and his party have a mandate to govern. I thought my head was going to explode on Sunday when I heard senators McConnell and McCain say they would only work across the aisle if the Democrats promised not to say no to every Republican proposal — as though they have some new ideas the voters didn't already reject in November of 2008. The Republican point of view was summed up perfectly on "Meet the Press" by the infuriatingly phony Peggy Noonan who said, "the 2008 election settled nothing, America is still in play." The proper response to this instant and consistent legislative hostility is to change the rules of the Senate so that bills can be passed by a simple majority, taking away the Republicans' ability to filibuster the Democratic agenda to death.

As for what we know about the things our president is going to propose tonight, they will work well to keep Democrats together. A freeze on discretionary spending is a nice bone to throw to the Blue Dogs yipping about deficits; and it will be good for President Obama to use that bully pulpit to stand up for the middle class while heaping scorn on Wall Street so progressives hear him sounding like candidate Obama the populist community organizer again.

But between now and the end of July, the Democrats need wins. They simply can't go into the fall with equal pay for women and the stimulus package as their only legislative accomplishments; not while unemployment is still high and Gitmo is still open. Their programs don't need to be designed perfectly, but the filibuster has got to go because their bills must pass — by any means necessary.

This isn't about my home state electing a Republican because he's good looking, but Scott Brown becoming the junior senator from Massachusetts actually makes my point for me. This guy ran on a campaign promise to filibuster health care reform and happily signs autographs with the number "41" because it takes 41 votes to block any legislation. Think about it, he is actually taking pride in the fact that his vote is critical in preventing the other 534 members of Congress from doing the job he and they are elected to do — pass laws that help solve our country's problems. It's almost like the Republicans are saying, "why should we allow potential solutions to these problems to be implemented so that the Democrats get all the credit if they work?" They'd rather undermine and sabotage the legislative agenda that voters from coast-to-coast supported, then try to run on a "give us a shot because the other side failed" platform. It's the most delusional plan since John Edwards' attempt to get a job in the Obama administration and, like the filibuster, it's all the Republicans have left.

Time is not on the Democrats' side. The Republicans have set up a false dichotomy in which the candidates in the governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey and the special Senate election in Massachusetts were really running against the president, not their actual opponents — and that the election of Republicans anywhere is a rejection of Obama. He'll be carrying every Democratic candidate who runs this November and he needs to be able to shake off dead weight like Martha Coakley. Eliminating the 60-vote threshold to get a bill through the Senate while taking away the primary Republican weapon against their party would be a great start for the president and the Democrats in Congress. After all, being blamed for doing what you have to do to implement an agenda that doesn't work is much better than being blamed for not implementing an agenda at all.

It's as if this column was written in a reality where Democrats didn't have a super majority in Congress for a full year and the Presidency. If the Democrats could have only agreed amongst themselves Obama would have his h/c plan.

It's beyond me why it is expected that Republicans should vote for policies that they philosophically disagree with merely because the Democrats were too disorganized to agree with eachother.

If Obama comes out tonight and tries to blame Republicans, the minority party with no real power, he'll look weaker than he already looks.

Further, Obama never had the mandate he thought he had to take this country to the left.

Two Questions

1. It's fine for republicans not to vote for these bills when they come up, but when an overwhelming majority of voters from coast-to-coast supported the the democrats' legislative agenda, shouldn't the bills be able to get to the floor of the senate for a vote?

2. If a party's candidates run on a platform of legislative initiatives to solve the country's problems and the voters overwhelmingly support that party's candidates, how is that not a mandate to pass those legislative initiatives? IOW, if this congress and this president didn't have a mandate, then what is a mandate in your mind and how does a party or an elected official get one?

1. A majority of voters do not support the Democratic agenda. Obamacare polls at about 38%. Awarding terrorists constitutional rights and miranda rights is also unpopular and not exactly a winning issue for Dems.

2. Obama always had the roughly 1/3 of voters on the left, never had the 1/3 on the right. He essentially tricked the most of the 1/3 of those independents/moderates in the middle into thinking that he was a centrist who was genuinely interested in post partisanship and a new way of doing business in DC. Instead, according to a brand new poll, he is the most polarizing president in history and has been anything but transparent in the way his signature initiative, healthcare reform, has been undertaken. With carve outs and back room deals for special interests like labor unions and special deals for resistant congressional Dems, he has in fact made the appearance of the way DC works look even worse.

3. If Obama and Dems want to get serious they may find that Republicans will be interested in helping them if they moderate some of their policy proposals/positions and embrace some of the Republican ideas that we're constantly told don't exist such as portability of healthcare coverage across state lines, tort reform, a payroll tax holiday, and a new employee tax credit.

1. Legislation isn't passed on a "public opinion standard."

2. I don't care about polls questioning relative levels of polarization and you're crazy if you think millions of people were "tricked" into voting for democrats from the top to the bottom of their ballots.

3. Republicans aren't entitled to put qualifiers on their willingness to work across the aisle because when the voters had a chance to choose their agenda or the democrats', the voters chose the democrats. winning a congressional majority means the minority has to work with you, not the other way around.

And you didn't answer my questions:

1. When an overwhelming majority of voters from coast-to-coast supported the the democrats' legislative agenda, shouldn't the bills be able to get to the floor of the senate for a vote

2. If a party's candidates run on a platform of legislative initiatives to solve the country's problems and the voters overwhelmingly support that party's candidates, how is that not a mandate to pass those legislative initiatives? IOW, if this congress and this president didn't have a mandate, then what is a mandate in your mind and how does a party or an elected official get one?

when a huge majority of voters (not people polled, but people who went to the polls) support a legislative agenda, should those bills be able to reach the floor for a vote? it's a yes-or-no question...

does winning an election give a party or a candidate a mandate? again, yes-or-no question...

1. No

2. No

Then what is the point of campaign promises, campaigns, and elections? what is Congress supposed to do with itself?

You asked me if bills should reach the floor for a vote which is a way of asking if I think that the filibuster should be removed or reformed in some way as to not require a 60 vote supermajority to break a filibuster.

The parliamentary maneuver of a filibuster is an important part of the checks and balances we have in the current legislative system/process.

Your question is perhaps purposefully vague whereby it's assumed that because voters elected Obama that they now approve of everything he's doing. What exactly is the legislative agenda you imagine that a vast majority of people approved of? Whatever it is, it's certainly not what we've been getting. Campaigns and campaign promises are always just vague outlines of ideas. Its when the details are unveiled that the people truly get to see what they ended up voting for.

Take healthcare, sure a majority of people approve of healthcare reform and extending coverage to those who don't have it in some vague theoretical sense but the devil is in the details. When the actual bill started to take shape, when the specifics materialized, none of which Obama ever mentioned in his campaign rhetoric other than his broken promise of allowing C-Span cameras in on the negotiations, the voters started to recoil.

Thankfully the system includes checks and balances such as the filibuster. Sure, every last bill shouldn't be blocked, but the reshaping of 1/6 of the economy and the partial government takeover of health care should, it think its fair to say, have widespread approval and bipartisan consensus before its jammed through against the people's will.

In order to understand the nature of the Republican resistance to president Obama's agenda we have to go back to the $787 billion stimulus package.

Back in those days of early 2009 the Republicans were reeling, a broken defeated party rudderless. Obama could have divided and conquered the Republicans with the crafting of the stimulus bill by including at least some of their ideas. After all, Obama won what 56% of the popular vote? That means there is a good 44% of the people left out in the cold when their representatives, the Republican party, were completely shunned and cut out of the process entirely. Not a single Republican idea was even listened to in the crafting of the stimulus bill. The attitude was: "We won, you lost, now shut up."

The effect of this arrogant approach of acting as if the Dems had a 100% mandate when in fact the margin of victory was in single digits was to completely unify a weakened Republican party in opposition to a party and a President who seemed intent on running roughshod over the minority party and those great numbers of Americans whom they represent.

So the stimulus bill was jammed through and has yet to do much let alone keep unemployment at 8 % or whatever they kept telling us it would do, and the Republican party found their voice as the unified group standing against an Obama agenda that increasingly became one that the American people didn't think they were voting for.

The Republican opposition to the Obama agenda has not hurt them at all. In fact it has paid huge dividends. The elections in Virginia, and the liberal bastions of New Jersey and Massachusetts have been a clear message to the administration that the people don't want this Obama agenda now that we've graduated out of the vague platitudinous rhetoric of the campaign and the actual details of what he's trying to do have been unveiled for all to see.

From the tea parties, to the town hall meetings of August, to the elections of Republicans where Obama personally stumped for the candidates in Virginia, New Jersey, and now Massachusetts with Ted Kennedy's seat, there is a broad based popular opposition to the Obama agenda that is undeniable.

Call it 'buyers remorse' or a matter of Obama's 'bait and switch' but I for one am surely glad that there are mechanisms to arrest the headlong rush to either side of the political spectrum by any particular party's interpretation of what they imagine that their "mandate" is. After all, it's not a mandate of heaven, it really should be a mandate of the people. And if anyone paid one bit of attention to the election of Scott Brown, a conservative Republican in the bluest of blue states which serves a microcosm of the country, the people are mandating or more precisely demanding that this agenda be stopped, slowed down or at the very least reshaped.

Circling the wagons and moving further to the left, like Obama did tonight in the SOTU, is completely politically tone deaf, and the results of the people's new "mandate", not the supposed mandate of two years ago, will be realized this November when any pundit who knows anything understands that the Dems are heading for widespread losses.

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