The Democratic Party desperately shoved through a debt deal that manages to be wildly unpopular with the American public, disastrous to economic growth and job creation and, not incidentally, opposed to every core principle of shared sacrifice that liberals supposedly hold dear. This will go down in history as the moment Democratic liberalism died. Finally brought down by the repeated blows from the far Right? No. The fatal wounds were entirely self-inflicted.
The vast majority of Americans favor raising taxes on the very rich and oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. Let me repeat that. The vast majority of Americans favor raising taxes. That includes majorities of Independents and Republicans. Nonetheless, Obama refused to force-feed the Republicans heaping spoonfuls of tax increase peas with a glass of persuasive poling on the side to wash it down. Instead we got the proverbial shit sandwich, which given that no one is happy with the deal and partisanship is even greater now as a result, may have solved the economic crisis but enshrined a political one. Even with the prevailing winds of public opinion strongly at their back, Democrats caved to Republican threats and grandstanding.
Of course, the fact that raising the debt ceiling was coupled with deficit cuts was a Democratic capitulation from the start. The wise and independent Economic Policy Institute writes in its post-mortem:
This proposed debt ceiling deal tentatively concludes a needlessly manufactured crisis and will do great harm to our nation. The debt we are undertaking now and scheduled to undertake over the next ten years is solely the product of past decisions (primarily unfunded wars, an unfunded prescription drug benefit and two rounds of tax cuts under President George W. Bush) and the recession-related revenue losses caused by the financial crisis generated by financial deregulation and weak oversight…. There is no economic necessity to undertake spending cuts or deficit reduction plans at this point in the economic recovery, when high unemployment is expected to persist for several more years. Jobs should be the priority and jobs are the path to get our nation’s fiscal situation to a responsible place.
In other words, what’s needed to cure our economic stagnation is not spending cuts that will further cripple the middle class but more spending on infrastructure and jobs to kick start the future. Yet at precisely the moment that we should have been talking about spending more instead of cutting spending, Republicans pigeonholed the political conversation into slashing Social Security, food stamps and Medicare. Democrats agreed to play ball on Republican’s ideological home field. And then kicked the ball through the other side’s goal. It is, unfortunately, my liberal suckers thesis played out to the letter.
I voted for Barack Obama. I volunteered to help him win. And yes, I was swept up by the fantastical Camelot of hopes and dreams. But like many progressives, I’m reminded today that 2008 was about the mission, not the man. And if we cling to the hope that Barack Obama, as one of the few charismatic leaders on our side, might any minute now take up the mantle of progressive ideals that he has so clearly eschewed so far, that is a reflection less on his power over us than our own power of self-delusion and desperation.
Michael Tomasky brilliantly observes that while Republicans fear their base in the sense that they treat them with respect and kid gloves. Democrats fear being associated with their base and thus make “aggressive public moves to demonstrate that they aren’t really like their base.” Which is all the more absurd — or pathetic, really — given that the Republican base is in fact an extreme fringe while the Democratic base represents a very large, very mainstream segment of America. More voters stayed home in the 2010 mid-term elections than voted, and yet the Tea Party has managed to hold a powerful ideological sway not only over the Republican establishment but, clearly, President Obama and many Democrats. The Tea Party is an audacious fringe with mainstream influence. Meanwhile, progressives represent the moral mainstream yet have barely fringe influence.
I’m sick of being taken for granted, in general but especially when something like basic tax increases on the very rich are not only good for our economic future but something that the American people overwhelmingly support. If the President isn’t listening to us now, when will he? Obama didn’t just stab Democratic liberalism in the back — he may have cut himself off from his base permanently.
I’m not judging individual politicians. I’m judging a trend.
Clinton. Sanford. Lee. Ensign. Vitter. Straus-Kahn. Weiner.
Example after example of men in power not just cheating but abusing their powerful positions in sexual relationships with structurally less-powerful women — and then trading on their trust and credibility with the public to try and cover up their acts.
Yes, when Republicans who moralize about “family values” get caught with their pants down, it opens them up to critiques of hypocrisy. But that aside, Republican scandals actually perversely advance the Republican agenda. “…One more example that politicians are all corrupt bastards, so therefore you can’t trust government…”
Democrats, on the other hand, have the vital job of restoring trust in government, in helping all Americans see the role that government has played and must continue to play creating and spreading opportunity for all of us. And the downside to being a progressive standard bearer is you have to bear higher standards. If we want public institutions to be revered, than those who serve the public must act with greater reverence.
Including greater reverence for women.
So how is it the many male politicians we entrust, Republicans and Democrats, to protect the very amorphous borders of the United States cannot respect the very physical and clear boundaries of women? Especially at a time of astonishing political and economic crisis, where the need for leadership is greater than ever, why can’t they keep their little Congressmen in their pants and focus their attention on the needs of their constituents and the nation?
If you’re response is that, allegedly, at least 50% of men cheat then fine. That still leaves plenty from the other 50% who can run for office.
The reason doping allegations are such a scandal in sports is because, fundamentally, we look up to athletes as role models and want to think of them as generally upstanding and honest heroes. And that’s in something as frankly trivial as sports! Now we’re talking about our nation’s government, the traditions of public leadership and trust handed down from our Founding Fathers to the elected officials of today. And no, the Founding Fathers were not perfect either — nor were Teddy Roosevelt, JFK and so on. Fortunately for Benjamin Franklin, the etchings of his flying kite that he sent to some young woman weren’t posted on Facebook. The standards today are different. And I, for one, want to be able to encourage my daughter to correspond with her Member of Congress in this great era of technological transparency — without her being exposed to her Member’s member.
Weiner is a great champion of political causes. Or was. Now he is fast becoming the Tiger Woods of politics, an albatross around the neck of any issue he may champion going forward. If we feel the need to defend Weiner simply because there are so few bold progressive voices in the Democratic party today, that says much more about the Democratic party in general than Weiner in specific. We cannot solve the Democrats’ pathetic leadership vacuum by desperately clinging to dud leaders.
Integrity matters. And in a time when, more than ever, we need our politicians to use their power for good, there’s no room for those who abuse their power over others. I don’t know if this entire episode reflects most poorly on Weiner in specific, men in power in general or even all men potentially — but let’s use this as an opportunity to not just chastise Weiner’s poor judgment but to, once and for all, say enough is enough. You cannot credibly serve the interests of the nation while appearing to habitually, systematically demean and disregard all women therein.
If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s brilliant!
After all, big business has been buying and selling America for decades. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, they can make it official. And why stop at Congress? Wal-Mart for Secretary of Labor! Enron for Secretary of Energy! Haliburton for Secretary of State!
Will we ever wake up as a nation and realize that our economic and political systems aren’t God-given creations but manufactured fronts for growing corporate power? We recognized colonialism and imperialism in the forms of kings and slaveholders. But now, dazzled by rows of “choices” at the supermarket, we ignore the same colonial legacy lurking beneath.
Check out the Free Speech for the People campaign here: http://www.freespeechforpeople.org/
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