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Hullabaloo


Sunday, October 06, 2013

 
What took Democrats so long?

by David Atkins

Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled to see this. But what the hell took Democrats so long?


The intransigence of Democrats, from Obama on down to red-state senators, has surprised the GOP. They honestly expected a few of the Democrats to crack—after all, four of them are running for re-election in states that voted for Mitt Romney. “If you’re a Mark Pryor,” said Ted Cruz last week, “if you’re a Mary Landrieu, running for re-election in Arkansas and Louisiana, and you start to get 5,000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, calls from your constituents, suddenly, it changes the calculus entirely.”

Landrieu and Pryor never buckled. They voted with the rest of the party to amend or table every House bill. So did Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan. So did West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate who’s not on the ballot again until 2018 but who’s on the record willing to delay the health insurance mandate. “This is about funding the government,” Manchin told me after one of his votes this week. “This isn’t about social issues.”

Why do they stick with Majority Leader Harry Reid—why, when three of them could cast “safe” no votes and Reid could still beat the House bills? Democratic aides say that the red-staters are “scared straight” by the House GOP. They’re not getting the calls from home to defund Obamacare. Their home-state papers aren’t dogging them, either. They’re in no fear of losing an “optics” battle to John Boehner and company.

Neither are the House Democrats. Neither are progressive organizations—not even labor unions like the Teamsters and AFL-CIO, which loudly demanded changes in the law, got cited by Republicans as proof that the Democratic coalition was imploding, then started showing up on the Hill for solidarity marches with furloughed workers. Sure, dozens of Democrats in competitive seats have now voted for “mini-CRs” that didn’t touch Obamacare. Fewer than 10 have voted for any CR that did. Gerrymandering and the 2010 election have hollowed out the old, media-savvy Blue Dogs who used to make public breaks from Rep. Nancy Pelosi. There’s a new, near-total refusal to compromise.

“It’s based on history,” said Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, a former chair of the House Progressive Caucus. “Every time that we get into these situations, whether it was the grand bargain or the last CR or the debt ceiling, at the end of the day it is all the give on the side of Democrats. I think that pattern is well-documented, and all of us know it. People vote for the greater good, to keep government working. Then you come back around, and there’s nothing left to give. I think we’ve reached the tipping point, with Democrats saying, ‘If you want to bear the responsibility for the crisis you’ve created, then you bear it, and we’re gonna stand firm.’"
Yeah, no kidding. Progressive bloggers have been saying this literally for years. Every time a progressive blogger said that Harry Reid and Barack Obama were giving away the store to the GOP and being played for suckers (or even secretly wanting conservative policies), all the usual suspects came out to say how important it was to be the only adult in the room, that bipartisanship was really important, how the President was actually playing 11th dimensional chess, etc.

This quote in particular floors me:

“Dealing with terrorists has taught us some things,” said Washington Rep. Jim McDermott after voting no on one of Thursday’s GOP bills. “You can’t deal with ’em. This mess was created by the Republicans for one purpose, and they lost. People in my district are calling in for Obamacare—affordable health care—in large numbers. These guys have lost, and they can’t figure out how to admit it.” Why would House Democrats give away what the Supreme Court and the 2012 electorate didn’t? “You can’t say, OK, you get half of Obamacare—this isn’t a Solomonic decision,” McDermott said. “So we sit here until they figure out they fuckin’ lost.”
Yes, that's great. But where was that realization when everyone was negotiating the sequester just a few months after the election? It's not as if widely read progressive bloggers and even a few traditional columnists haven't been pointing out this dynamic at length for the better part of a decade, and doing so with increasing alarm.

This is going to sound bitter, but it can't be helped. Why is it that the people who realize political realities years too late still get to be the pundits and advisers, while the people who were right all along are still using blogs to shout from the outside looking in?

It seems that in D.C., there's never a prize for being right. Only for being "serious."


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