HOME



Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405



Facebook: Digby Parton

Twitter:
@digby56
@Gaius_Publius
@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)
@spockosbrain



emails:
Digby:
thedigbyblog at gmail
Dennis:
satniteflix at gmail
Gaius:
publius.gaius at gmail
Tom:
tpostsully at gmail
Spocko:
Spockosbrain at gmail
tristero:
Richardein at me.com








Infomania

Salon
Buzzflash
Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Slate
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic


Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018 April 2018 May 2018 June 2018 July 2018 August 2018 September 2018 October 2018 November 2018 December 2018 January 2019


 

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Hullabaloo


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

 
Good Dems, Bad Dems, Dems Who Are In-Between

by Gaius Publius

I've written about the possibility of an "Open Rebellion Caucus" (my playful name) forming in the Senate — a group of progressive senators strong enough and willing enough to openly defy their corporate-friendly Clintonian leaders.

Clintonian leaders frequently espouse anti-progressive policies, like cutting benefits to Social Security and punishing the poor by "ending welfare," for example. Those "leaders" include both President Obama and former President Clinton, high-ranking members of their administrations, and most Democrats in Congress, including those in leadership positions — Steny Hoyer in the House (next in line for Pelosi's position) or Chuck Schumer in the Senate (next in line for Reid's), to name just two.

For years, real progressives have been frustrated by these men and women. They've also been shamed, bullied, blackmailed, and in some cases bought off by their "leaders." Their losses, their fear, their attempts to advance more human policies have become just "part of the game," and we've been watching the results since Al From, Bill Clinton and the DLC. It's been a good game for bipartisan government "by the money" — they've scored win after win — but a terrible game for the rest of us. And mainly, the game's been stable.

A United Party Is a Complicit Party

How have progressive office-holders (most but not all) been complicit in government "by the money"? In two ways. First, many progressives have given their votes (reluctantly perhaps) to policies that benefit mainly the rich — Wall Street bailouts, gutting of the regulatory structure of the state, support for Monsanto when no one was looking, and so on.

And second, they've given ground cover (unknowingly perhaps) to the Democratic ("evil, but less so") Party as a whole. How? Because the pro-corporate Democratic party can always point to its (often hated) progressive wing and say, "See, we're the party with a conscience. Our evil really is lesser. Listen to the speeches of these fine progressives — you know, the ones we ignore."

And progressives, in the name of party unity, have mostly held their tongues when it counted (for example, during the 2013 filibuster "debate" when they hid the names of their own anti-reform elders), mostly soldiered on, content to pick away at the edges of corporate rule, to win a few crumbs from the floor at the corporate feast. And they've traded away their principles, often, for those wins. Which makes them complicit in the first way I mentioned.

Open Rebellion Means Breaking the Chains of Complicity

But now there's a birth, a start, of a new group of progressive office-holder, a group that won't be party-loyal when the party sides against the people, that won't hold its party-loyal tongue, that will openly criticize and fight the other enemy of pro-citizen government — corporate Democrats.

The calculus is simple — progressives are mostly losing anyway, and they're also losing their "souls," or at least obscuring their anti-corporate "brand," with critical pro-corporate votes. By voting in party unity with corporate-friendly "leaders," they're giving voters a reason to look elsewhere than the Democratic party. If progressives are going to lose anyway, they might as well lose fighting the real enemy, the bipartisan corporate state, and be seen doing it. At least they'll give the people someone to rally around. There's no question that the people are looking for someone to rally around.

It's a tough road to go down, though, fighting one's own party leaders. What to choose? Party unity when the party demands it (and the perqs that go with that compliance), or progressive principles and life as an outcast if you hold to them? Choosing the latter takes extraordinary courage (remember Dennis Kucinich's plane ride?). Thus there are three groups of Democrats in office today:
  1. Money-bought and corporate-friendly. Bad to the core on most money issues; frequently deeply corrupt as well. The many.
     
  2. Progressives willing to say publicly to their leaders, "Enough is enough." The insurgents. The very few.
     
  3. "Progressives" who triangulate between their principles and their loyalty to party (or their fear, their calculation, or their own careers). The in-betweens, the torn, or those who appear to be torn.
This is about those three groups. They're starting to sort themselves. They're starting to self-identify. And one group may be starting to grow.

What Did the Continuing Resolution Show Us?

As I've often written, when it comes to votes in the House or Senate, you can only trust the sincerity of people who vote with the winner when the outcome is uncertain. In situations where the outcome is not in doubt, votes for either side may be sincere, or they may be just "for show," for "the district," or a form of what Howie Klein below calls preening.

We got a perfect example of that in the Senate recently on the so-called "CRomnibus" bill — the continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, which also contains the "omnibus" appropriations for all of its agencies. (That bill passed in both the House and Senate, by the way, so the government is funded through the end of its fiscal year, October 1, 2015.)

There were many many reasons to vote against this abomination (there are at least ten at the link), but Elizabeth Warren and others made several impassioned pleas to kill it over a "Citibank rider" that would have put taxpayers back on the hook for derivatives-gambling losses. Warren was especially strong and caustic, as in this floor speech:


In the Senate and in the caucus, it was Warren who led the charge, who forcefully urged rejection of the "CRomnibus" bill. Since Steny Hoyer and almost everyone in House leadership except Nancy Pelosi supported the bill, and since both Barack Obama and Joe Biden whipped for its passage, she put herself squarely in the insurgency, in open and public rebellion against her leaders.

As it played out in the Senate, those three groups revealed themselves, partly in caucus meetings and partly in their votes. Let's consider just the votes here, and leave the caucus discussion for another time. There were two votes on the bill, two chances to kill it. One group tried to kill the bill every chance they got. One group supported the bill every chance they got. And one group voted against the bill only after it was sure to pass.

As usual, three groups of Democrats. And because Warren created such a sharp bright line with her charismatic, principled intra-party challenge, the self-sorting into those groups was both revealing and perhaps a harbinger. Let's look at the names.

Where Was the Merkley Crowd During the Cloture Vote?

The Continuing Resolution/Omnibus Spending bill came for a vote in the Senate on Saturday, December 14. First it had to survive a cloture vote to bring it to the floor, then a floor vote on the bill itself. From a valuable Howie Klein analysis (my emphasis and paragraphing):
First there was a cloture bill. The Democrats who were really serious about blocking Schumer's Wall Street bailout voted against cloture. They were ready to filibuster for real. There were only 5 plus Bernie [Sanders]: Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Al Franken, Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill. And, of course a bunch of crackpot Republicans who actually want to shut down the government. The total there was 77-19.

What happened to Jeff Merkely, Tammy Baldwin, Brian Schatz, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed [on the cloture vote]?
Then there was the vote on the bill itself. Klein again:
Once the filibuster was broken and it was impossible to really stop the thing from passing, senators could posture and preen on the final bill-- and they did. Corporate whores like Bob Menendez (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Cory Booker (NJ), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ed Markey (MA) and Carl Levin (MI) scurried across the aisle to safely pose as liberals. Tom Harkin (IA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Barbara Boxer (CA) too. It passed 56-40.
Let's break out these lists. In bold are the Democratic No votes on cloture, votes to kill the bill by keeping it off the floor:

Senators Who Voted to Kill the Bill at Cloture

NAYs ---19
Brown (D-OH)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Franken (D-MN)
Heller (R-NV)
Lee (R-UT)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sanders (I-VT)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)

These are the people who tried to kill the bill at the first opportunity. Everyone who voted Yes on the cloture vote helped it pass. Once the cloture vote failed, 77-19, everyone in the Senate knew there were plenty of votes to pass it. Time for some posturing.

Here are the Democratic No votes on the bill itself. Bolded names also voted against cloture. Underscored names are those who let it pass during cloture, then voted against it when the lights were on. Remember, this is the vote that gets reported in the papers and on TV.

Senators Who Voted to Kill the Bill After Cloture Failed

NAYs ---40
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Corker (R-TN)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Flake (R-AZ)
Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Grassley (R-IA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Heller (R-NV)
Hirono (D-HI)
Johnson (R-WI)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lee (R-UT)
Levin (D-MI)
Manchin (D-WV)
Markey (D-MA)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Reed (D-RI)
Risch (R-ID)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sanders (I-VT)
Scott (R-SC)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Tester (D-MT)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

In other words, the following Democrats helped the bill pass during cloture, then sided against it, knowing they would lose (but look good doing it). These are just the underscored Democrats from the list above. Note that most have a well-cultivated "liberal" or "progressive" reputations.

Democrats Who Pretended to Try to Kill the Bill

Blumenthal Richard CT D (202) 224-2823
Booker Cory NJ D (202) 224-3224
BoxerBarbaraCAD(202) 224-3553
Cantwell Maria WA D (202) 224-3441
GillibrandKirstenNYD(202) 224-4451
HarkinTomIAD(202) 224-3254
HironoMazieHID(202) 224-6361
KlobucharAmyMND(202) 224-3244
LevinCarlMID(202) 224-6221
Markey Ed MA D (202) 224-2742
MenendezRobertNJD(202) 224-4744
MerkleyJeffORD(202) 224-3753
ReedJackRID(202) 224-4642
TesterJonMTD(202) 224-2644
WhitehouseSheldonRID(202) 224-2921
WydenRonORD(202) 224-5244

I'm calling these people, or most of them, the "Merkley crowd" because they frequently take progressive stands behind Merkley's leadership — on filibuster reform, for example, which I mentioned above. I'm also calling them the "in-between" crowd, at least on this vote, for reasons I just explained. Howie Klein has more about this group of senators here, including some striking and specific information about where some of them get their funding.

If you feel like making a phone call, you don't need anyone's permission. Just use the list above, check Klein's list of funding sources to see if your callee is mentioned (not all are), and then ask the senator this:
"Why did you vote for cloture if you opposed the bill?"
For example, Jeff Merkley issued this statement opposing the bill after it passed (my emphasis):
WASHINGTON -- Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley released the following statement after the Senate voted on passage of the 2015 spending bill.

“Tonight the Senate voted on final passage of the 2015 spending bill. While there are many positive aspects of the bill, I voted ‘no’ [but not on cloture] because of my deep opposition to a provision that puts the Wall Street Casino back in business.

“This provision allows big Wall Street banks to get back in the business of making risky and exotic bets with government backing. These bets have no place inside a bank, putting our financial system at risk. And they certainly don’t merit government backing.

“Just six years ago, these types of bets melted down our entire economy with great losses in jobs and savings for middle-class Americans. We must not allow this to happen again. We can and must do better.”
A principled statement. But given that he didn't vote No on cloture, what does it mean? That he wanted to indicate he was opposed while taking the deal anyway as the best they were going to get? A plausible explanation perhaps, but he could have just said that. I struggle to understand.

Again, Jeff Merkley's DC office number is (202) 224-3753, and his Portland office number is (503) 326-3386. He may have an excellent explanation, but if so, we deserve to hear it, especially in light of the statement above.

Democrats Who Voted With Wall Street All the Way

There were plenty of Democrats in the corporate group — who were a Wall Street Yes all the way. Granted there were other reasons to vote Yes on both cloture and the bill — including and maybe especially, reasoned surrender to blackmail, or a (complicit) "this is the best deal we could get."

Still, a double Yes was a Wall Street Yes, for whatever reason. You can get the full list here of double-yes Democrats, but the names that jump out at me are —

Tammy Baldwin
Michael Bennet (who "curated" the 2014 electoral losses)
Dick Durbin (often an Obama surrogate)
"Independent" Angus King
Pat Leahy
Patty Murray (!)
Brian Schatz (!)
Jean Shaheen (!)
Debbie Stabenow
Mark Udall (who lost)
Tom Udall (who won)
Mark Warner (who very nearly lost, but Schumer loves him anyway)

Care to ask about their votes? Full Senate phone numbers here.

There are several on this list I'd personally add to an "Addition by Subtraction" file immediately, people whose presence should never be missed by any real progressive. For example, I could lose Michael Bennet and Mark Warner in a Wall Street Minute. If their presence cost Democrats the Senate, I'd be glad for their absence. (I could lose Schumer as well, but maybe that's just me.)

What About McCaskill and Manchin?

Finally, an apparent anomaly. Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin, two "centrists" (corporatists), voted with Warren to defeat the cloture motion. How do we account for that? One way is this. If the rule is ...
In situations where the outcome is not in doubt, votes for either side may be sincere, or they may be just "for show."
... maybe they're in that "for show" group. It's possible they're opposed to Wall Street, though both are generally allied with Chuck Schumer, who's widely rumored to have worked to keep the Citibank rider in the bill. But McCaskill and Manchin are also reportedly enemies of Harry Reid, Schumer's frequent opponent in Senate leadership.

So this could just be "for show" on their part. If so, what are they showing? Perhaps a big middle finger to Reid, knowing cloture would fail and the bill would pass without them. According to The Hill (my paragraphing):
Manchin and McCaskill wage protest against Reid’s leadership style

Two centrists, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), voted against Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) Thursday to protest his leadership style.

McCaskill said that, under Reid’s tenure as Senate majority leader, the chamber has become engulfed in partisan sniping and produced little in the way of legislative progress. The Missouri Democrat said she’s focused on “making this place functional again and working with our Republican colleagues.” ...

She voted no on a yes-or-no secret ballot question on whether Reid should serve as minority leader in the 114th Congress. She did not have an opportunity to vote for another leader.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) sounded exasperated after emerging from a four-hour meeting, during which Democrats voted to keep their leadership team largely in place. “I voted for a change,” Manchin told reporters. “I didn’t get a change.” ...
 And this is how the game is played, as I analyze it.

Where Do Our Three Groups Stand Now?

Thus our three groups, at the dawn of the late-Obama era, the post-2014 world. In the first group — the corporatists — money-bought Democrats lost ground to the corporate, money-bought Republicans. On the Democratic side, this group is smaller in number, but still in control of the caucus. Their number is legion relative to the other two groups.

In the second group — the insurgents — we see Elizabeth Warren leading the charge, and so far refusing to triangulate, to settle for less than a fight that puts teeth on the floor, Democratic teeth as well. Their number is six after first the round of battle.

In the third group — the "Merkley" group — we see many progressives who perhaps lack that fight, for whatever reason. (I'll examine those reasons separately; there's news from the caucus meeting.) On this fight they were less than insurgent, less than rebellious. Their number is 16.

If the Merkley group would all join the six insurgents — unlikely, I know, but still — the insurgency would have an impressive increase in strength. According to the latest count, the next Senate is 44 Democrats, 2 Independents, and 54 Republicans. Assuming "centrist" Angus King still caucuses with the Democrats, imagine if the insurgency caucus swells to 22 votes out of 46. (And frankly, without Angus King, 22 votes in a caucus of 45 is even better. Addition by subtraction, remember?)

What's not to like? Democrats would benefit (think of the increase in credibility). The insurgents would individually benefit (think of the increase in credibility). And the people themselves (remember them?) would also benefit. What's not to like?

Will Warren draw the 16 to her side? Will they quiet the fight in her? Or do we have a stalemate in alignment that is unlikely to change? These are fascinating days for a fly on the wall. Welcome to the wall.

GP

.