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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

 

Stand for something!

by Tom Sullivan

“The Republican message was ‘We’re not Obama,’ no substance whatsoever. What was the Democrats’ message? ‘Oh, we’re not either.’ You cannot win if you are afraid! Where was the Democratic party? You gotta stand for something if you’re gonna win!” – Howard Dean on Meet the Press, November 9, 2014

That message from Howard Dean has stuck with me ever since. After so many episodes of yelling at Democrats on TV to "Stand for something!" it was validating. At long last, are they taking Dean's advice? This from the Guardian about the aftermath of recent budget fight:

“I’m walking out of this meeting feeling very proud of my caucus because there was moral clarity, there was conviction”, said freshman California congressman Jared Huffman at the height of the great Democratic revolt of 2014. “I had the feeling a few moments ago that we stood for something. I hope it holds.”

Less than 60 minutes later, after that hopeful party meeting wrapped up last Thursday evening, such optimism already seemed naive. Backroom pressure from the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, had quickly killed off an attempt by Democrats in the House of Representatives to draw a line in the sand against a federal budget that favoured Wall Street and wealthy donors.

So don't hold your breath. Fifty-seven Democrats eventually joined Republicans in passing the spending bill.

There's the usual speculation in the article about a presidential run by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of course, but maybe more. Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Warren's revolt against the spending bill last week. "[S]omething intangible snapped," among Democrats, writes the Guardian's Dan Roberts:

Most surprising of all was the withering disdain for the White House expressed by Pelosi, a usually staunch ally of Obama, of whom his press secretary said the next day: “It is hard to think of anybody that the president has worked with more closely or more successfully on Capitol Hill.”

And yet, Pelosi sided with the Senate's Warren against the White House on this one. After January 3 when Republicans take control of the Senate too, it only gets worse.

Nevertheless, the future success of more reliable renegades like Senator Warren depends on their being able to capitalise on simmering party divisions like this – arguably in much the same way that the Tea Party has leveraged power among Republicans so successfully in recent years.

Warren and her new-found friends in the House also have the advantage of being able to team up with conservatives on the right on the Republican party when it suits them, something that Pelosi demonstrated to great effect when she almost brought down the budget bill.

As we found here after Republican-led redistricting, there's nothing quite like being outnumbered with your back to the wall for motivating people to fight. Maybe Democrats will even take a few more stands. And about damned time.