There’s this great line from Lily Tomlin’s “Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe” in which the central character is trying to explain to space aliens the difference between a can of Campbell’s soup and Warhol’s painting of said can. The aliens go to see a play but ultimately — taken by the intriguing reactions from the crowd — decide that “the play is soup, the audience is art”.
Former Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell isn’t the smartest witch in the coven. But apparently, even she was wise enough to know that bloviating against same-sex marriage on primetime television wouldn’t win her any fans.
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.
My take on the continuing default crisis, Elizabeth Warren and the CFPB, and James O’Keefe’s latest disaster >> If you want to receive my adVantage Points every weekday morning in your inbox, email email@example.com
Republicans Retreat To Right - story
Republicans are not only holding our nation’s entire future hostage, but they’ve hijacked basic common sense and political decency. The Tea Party will go down in history as the movement that threw America overboard.
James O’Keefe At It Again – video
James O’Keefe notoriously brought down the community organization ACORN through falsifying videos that undermined the organization’s reputation. Before anyone believes O’Keefe’s attack on Medicaid in Ohio, we need to see (a) proof that the clips shown do not included edited-in voice-overs, and (b) unedited footage of all discussions with Medicaid workers. Given O’Keefe’s track record, we should take this latest video with a grain of assault.
Cordray, Not Warren, To Head CFPB - story
Obama could have done worse with this nomination, but he could have done much better. Warren was by far the best choice for the job and favored by progressive voters. Why is the President so inclined to throw bones to the far Right on spending cuts and deportations, but can’t make the most basic of gestures to his base?
So they took out the part that said African American kids were better under slavery. Hooray. Though as Mediate points out, the “apology” issued by the Right wing Family Leader was more of the “sorry you misunderstood us” type than a “damn, that was really f*ing stupid of us” type. Though I guess them Family Leader people don’t cuss.
In her “apology” Bachmann clarified that slavery is awful and ”economic slavery is also horrible.” Uh…. Take away that woman’s shovel. Or, if you’re the DNC, buy her a backhoe.
Meanwhile, let us not forget that the Family Leader is a front organization for Bob Vander Plaats, Iowa’s very own homegrown Right wing demagogue. Vander Plaats has called being gay a “public health risk” and regularly compares same-sex relationships to polygamy and incest. Perhaps worried that gay weddings would be more stylish and more fun than his own, Vander Plaats created the infamous pledge to protect marriage — which also protects women and girls (not men, though) from pornography and such, guards against Sharia Law because that’s coming to Iowa any minute, and inveighs against taxes and the federal government as hurting marriage (which is odd, considering the 1,100+ benefits that couples get for marrying, and the fact that conservatives have endorsed programs whereby government forces poor people to marry). The point is, even with the slavery stanza removed, this a deeply disturbing pledge and overall deeply disturbing agenda for any politician to sign.
Yet what’s more disturbing is that Bachmann is being increasingly treated as a mainstream candidate. This goes to the larger phenomenon of the mainstreaming of Right wing ideas — the fact that, just to give one example, our entire economy may be crashed because a very small Tea Party minority holds disproportionate sway over the Republican Party and, thus, our nation.
I worry that, in our reality TV-obsessed 24/7 short-attention-span culture, we give as much attention to salacious and even offensive opinions as we do genuinely substantive opinions — thus dangerously conflating the two. Arguably, Bachmann rose to national prominence in part because she was a heroine of the Tea Party but also in part because of her repeated, self-inflicted gaffes and crazy-talk. But fame is fame, right? Bachmann is proof that a crazy woman everyone knows about has more political cache than a whole bunch of dull, no name others.
Anyone else worried about the future of civilization?
The Republican Party is now officially out of touch with the vast majority of the American people. While there was no real doubt of this before, Republicans did a better job of feigning mainstream populism on and off. Until last week, when the GOP proudly stood its ground against not only core American values and principles but even mainstream popular opinion.
First, it was taxes. Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Republican Senate Minority Whip John Kyl petulantly abandoned debt negotiation talks with Democrats because the Republicans are firmly opposed to any repeal of tax breaks for the super rich. Here were are, a nation that has always relied on those who get the most out of America to give the most back — now at a time when, as the profits of the rich continue to reach record levels, unemployment and economic stagnation for the rest of us remains. All the Democrats want to do is restore the upper tax rates to the levels under President Clinton, then the economy was thriving — not even to the much, much higher levels under past Republican presidents like Reagan or Eisenhower. And almost two-thirds of Americans agree that we should raise taxes on the rich to address the deficit.
Yet the Republicans continue to push irresponsible and unpopular cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. It should now be apparent to every American that the Republican agenda in these respects does not prioritize the economic health and well-being of the hardworking American middle class but, rather, the greedy interests of wealthy campaign donors and Wall Street. The GOP would rather create even richer billionaires than create more jobs for working people. The GOP would rather give handouts to insurance companies than make sure our seniors can keep affording their health care.
Meanwhile, in an historic vote on the right side of history and basic human decency, New York has enacted marriage equality for same-sex couples. Four — count ‘em, four! — Republicans in the state senate voted in support of the law. Meanwhile, 53% of Americans — a majority — support same-sex marriage. And, as we know from the history of comparable civil rights struggles, public opinion will only grow more favorable. And, unless they do something, the Republicans will grow even further out of touch.
In the short term, this doesn’t bode well for Republicans in 2012. Apart from the fact that they don’t seem to have a candidate who possesses both a genuine smile and a genuine knowledge of American history, the Republicans are quickly losing public opinion on every political issue on which they’ve sought to demagogue in the past. It will get harder and harder to gin up fear about gay marriage and divide voters as public opinion tips further toward marriage equality. And despite having successfully elevated the deficit as a political issue in 2010, the Republicans are showing a pathetic lack of leadership in seriously solving the problem — meanwhile, putting our entire nation at risk of default. In fact, the very same deficit crisis Republicans played up to win in 2010 will likely be their downfall in 2012.
But in the long term, I worry about the health of our democracy, such as it already was, when one of the two major political parties is so beholden to special interests that it increasingly ignores the interests of not only all voters but even its own base. The Tea Party, albeit entertaining, has meant that Republican figures like Michelle Bachmann hold greater sway than someone like John Huntsman or Gary Johnson who, while I may not personally agree with their politics, I can objectively state they are more in line with the American mainstream than Ms. Bachmann could ever dream to be.
Which makes the surge of Bachmann and the pro-rich petulance of Cantor and Kyl a dream for the Democrats in 2012 — but, ultimately, a nightmare for our collective political future.
Time magazine's Richard Stengel has written a great piece asking whether the Constitution still matters in America (spoiler alert: YES!). I appeared on America's Live with Megyn Kelly (with fill-in host Shannon Bream) to defend the Constitution as a living, evolving document. Take a look and tell me your thoughts on the issue.
I have a new post up on the Fox News opinion page about the small but significant overlapping reform agenda between Progressives and the Tea Party. Here’s an excerpt:
“These three actions would dramatically curtail the corrupting influence of special interests in government and society and return power to the people. Then we can return to our respective ideological corners to fight over tax cuts versus public infrastructure or the future of gays and guns — but at least we’d be fighting fair, with the outcomes truly determined by public will as opposed to which side’s outsized corporate influence throws its weight behind which argument.”
Read the entire piece here.
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