Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Msfolsom has an interesting comment on my post on Hillary.

We keep coming back to the central fact - the power players in the Dem Party are only interested in power.  They have no respect for Progressives and only want our votes, money and efforts.  After that we can drop dead and die....

Unfortunately the religious right-wingers have shown us the way and we refuse to learn from their efforts.  If the Publicans ignore them - they walk.  Hence they are never ignored!  The same could be true for us.

Do you remember the first two things that Kerry did after winning the Iowa primary?  First, he gave a speech saying the lobbyists were going to be kicked out the door, and second, he offered a corporate tax cut.  Does that seem strange to you?  It did to me.  Since then, I've learned a little something about politicians.  What Kerry was doing was an example of dog whistle politics - Kerry signaled to Republican corporate elites that he wouldn't be bad for business, so they should not fund an attack against him.  This did two terrible things to Kerry.  One, it forced him to take both sides of every issue, including Iraq, and appear unprincipled.  And two, the elites funded Bush anyway, and Kerry depressed his own base.

The problem is not that Kerry acted like a politician, because he is a politician.  The problem is that Kerry calculated that constituencies would be with him - the business elite - were not.  Had he gotten electd, he would have been an awful President (nowhere near as bad as Bush, of course), since business elites would be demanding their payday at the same time as progressives would be ripping him for 'selling out'.  That was the calculation he made to get elected.  It's easy to talk of charisma and personality, but the reality of politics is much steelier than that; it's about your base.  Kerry bet on business, and business bet on Bush.

What we as progressives need are politicians that bet on people.  I assume that politicians act in their own self-interest; assuming otherwise is foolish.  What this means is that we have to make being progressive in politicians' self-interest, and acting as a right-winger against their self-interest.

You see, politicians care about getting elected, and that's pretty much all they can afford to care about.  You can't blame them for this, just like you can't blame companies for seeking profitable arrangements.  I'm sorry if this bursts anyone's bubble, but Paul Wellstone was just a politician seeking power.  So is Howard Dean.  That Dean has popular support from an organized group that will rip people to shreds who criticize him means that he can afford to be progressive.  If he didn't have such support, he'd be out of politics or praising big business.  The American political system is by necessity and design a system for distributing power.  So someone like Rahm Emanuel isn't all about the money, he's all about power, and he believes that money is the route to power.  So is Hillary Clinton.  She has made a calculation that we are not relevant, and that Rupert Murdoch is.  He can bring her money and media, and she thinks that outweights what we can bring.

And there's nothing wrong with this arrangement.

Or rather, there's nothing wrong with the fact that gravity exists.  It just is.  The key for progressives is to understand that elections matter, but how politicians get elected matters more.  It's not about sitting out elections if you don't get your way, it's about making sure that when a seat opens up, or an idea is under debate, or someone needs a set of numbers, your team is there with the people and the information.  Politicians get elected based broadly on organization and money in a continuum.  What we as progressives should be doing is trying to pull the political system away from money being the determining factor in how someone gets elected to making it one determining factor of many.  And if possible, we want to make it impossible for a Republican or Democrat to be elected without taking progressive positions. If someone is elected as a progressive, they will be forced to govern that way or face a backlash.  That's what Wellstone's genius was, recognizing that he could be elected based on organizing rather than big money.  That's why I'm watching Bernie Sanders in the Senate as the next great progressive hero; it has little to do with his voting record.

And that's why I'm taking Hillary Clinton's fundraiser with Murdoch and her lie that it's just because he's one of her constituents so seriously.  She has made the calculation that progressives are not important in getting elected, and that corporate Republicans are.  As a politician, that means that we are not important in her governing coalition, and that she will trash us in office with vindictive bad policies.  It's a shame she's thrown her lot in with such bad people, but it's a rational calculation.  We have consistently shown ourselves as willing to tolerate and write off such bad faith gestures in the name of supposed pragmatism (which isn't really pragmatic since we keep losing).

Hillary Clinton has in effect said that the first thing she will do is offer a corporate tax cut.  She is going to run as John Kerry did in 2004.  It's that simple.  That's why she looks so ineffective and weakly ambitious, because he is running as a liberal backed by conservative interests.  Her politics simply do not cohere anywhere but the Democratic primary.

So where does that leave us?  Do we sit out as MSFolson suggests?  No.  There are 500,000 elected positions in this country, and any number of ways to effect change as unelected actors.  There's also the possibility of working against someone like Hillary Clinton, beating her and letting her know that she is not welcome in our party.  That would be my preferred solution, but I know that we do not have the power to make that happen yet.  More to the point, there is a desperate need for progressive economists, progressive pundits, progressive historians, progressive fundraisers, progressive state candidates, progressive mayors, progressive journalists, progressive bloggers, progressive organizers, progressive funders, progressive campaign workers, and progressive intellectuals.

We need a new party, and building that party will take thousands of us.  As the Clinton corporate wing leaves into lobbying, and newly emboldened progressives become more involved in funding the party and organizing it, the Democratic Party will become more progressive.  That's already happening, and you can see it in Nancy Pelosi's agenda.  Nowhere do you see a corporate tax cut in there.  The 1980s Reagan-supporting Congressional Democrat is a dying species.  As we build that progressive party, we will dominate more and more of the political apparatus until we will be able to force someone like Hillary Clinton to govern as a progressive.  Why?  Because in order to be elected, she won't have any other choice.

That's what we should want.  Power.  Politicians are just playing a role.  Don't fight it anymore.  Recognize it and embrace it.  They will listen to us when they have to, and not a moment before.

Tags: power (all tags)



Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Excellent essay.  And I agree, an actual Kerry administration would have created alot of disillusionment about politics.

by Michels 2006-05-13 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

ANY Democratic administration is going to cause a lot of disillusionment in the grassroots/netroots. We haven't had one for awhile, so we've forgotten. But it was St. Bill Clinton who trashed poor women with welfare "reform" (always kick the powerless; they can't kick back.) Likewise exploited racism: Sista Souljah.

And with all that, he was 1000 percent better for most of us than the current incumbent.

We use power to take some kinds of kicking the weak off the table -- that is what a strong, organized progressive minority can do. So long as it takes multi-millions to run for and hold office, "progressive" stands by Dem pols with be marginal and we'll have to keep beating them up.

But at least we win more traction when we do this with Dems than with Reps. And smart Dems figure out that building a long time governing coalition requires making life more bearable for majorities, not just fat cats. See FDR.

by janinsanfran 2006-05-14 01:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Kerry is more than just an example of what Democratic politicians should not do. He's an example of what Democratic primary voters should not do -- allow themselves to be stampeded into falling in line behind a candidate they know sucks or don't like or agree with just for the appearance of party unity.

Hillary will probably use that approach. But instead of ELECTABILITY, her mantra will be INEVITABILITY.

by Sitkah 2006-05-13 02:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

I've given you breaking blue privileges if you have stuff you want to post there.

by Matt Stoller 2006-05-13 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

You may want to read up on what that tax cut Kerry proposed would actually do: take away the incentives for companies to move jobs off-shore.

But, I guess keeping jobs in this country isn't a "progressive" position anymore (if I go by this post).

Yeah, that'll win a lot of votes.

by MH in PA 2006-05-13 04:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Ataboy, MH in PA! I'm sick and tired of Kerry-bashing.

by Baltimore 2006-05-14 10:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

A tax cut to business is a tax cut to business.  You can keep jobs in the US in many ways, Kerry chose to do by giving money from the public treasury to businesses.

by Matt Stoller 2006-05-14 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Saying all tax cuts for business are bad is as silly as the Republican position that all tax cuts - in general - are good.  Kerry's proposal both made economic sense and was progressive.

Moreover, what exactly did his tax cut idea have to do with his stand on Iraq?  He had already voted for the war and then against funding for the war before he won Iowa.  And the reason he did that was to court PROGRESSIVE anti-war voters!

Kerry made plenty of mistakes in his campaign and god knows lots of them made me want to pull my hair out.  But he didn't lose b/c he "sold out" to some ethereal corporate interests that you seem to be obsessed with.  Kerry was and is a progressive Senator.  He just doesn't think that all business is bad.    

Seriously Matt - criticize Kerry (and whoever else) for their war vote, policy stances, etc if you want.  That's fair game.  But when you start simplistically distorting other Democrats positions to try and support your demagoguery that's really going too far.  

by HSTruman 2006-05-15 07:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

There's a lot of talk in some circles about how to "stand up to the powerful interests." What we need to do instead is become one of those powerful interests. There's nothing wrong with this, but we simply have to keep our eye on the ball-- does any action we do exercise or give us more power, or is an action simply an act of "begging" for something from people who already have power?

On the other hand, this may be impossible, as the progressive imperative is about distributing power, not concentrating it.

by Constantine 2006-05-13 02:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

On the other hand, this may be impossible, as the progressive imperative is about distributing power, not concentrating it.

It's not impossible.  We want to distribute power to millions who support progressive policies, taking that power from the few who concentrate on reactionary policies.

by Matt Stoller 2006-05-13 02:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Three ways:

1.  Get the votes out there--try viral marketing, MySpace, whatever it takes, but get more (younger) voters out there.  Personally, I think this is what young progressives could do that we older folks can't and the power players won't.

2.  Organize.  Put together the viral marketing campaign with the precinct-level organization.

3.  Give and raise money via the net.  It is always going to be important.

by Mimikatz 2006-05-14 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Actually, soem of us older folks can even help younger folks become organized to get out the vote. That's what I do as a consultant: write election curricula for community organizations. We need that extra-party progressive infrastructure in whatever forms we can build -- and it needs to develop enough saavy to hold the pols feet to the fire.

by janinsanfran 2006-05-14 01:20PM | 0 recs

Everyone wants power. Everyone. Including us. It's easy to be on the outside complaining about those "in power." But there are plenty of ways those of us on the "outside" can work to get on the "inside."

Take a look at Chris Bowers. He's taken the literal route, and is well on his way to being a Senator. But running for office is only one road. Supporting candidates like Chris with your talents is another route, and the one I have chosen. Everyone has talents. Cook a candidate a warm home cooked meal. Drive them to an event. Write a press release. Talk to your neighbors. Be a precinct committee person.

As Chris is demonstrating and Matt suggests here, there is more to politics than the Federal level. Often much of what happens that directly affects each of us is at the local level of the party. There are literally thousands of candidates running at any given time, probably a dozen or more in your local area right now.

The only way we will gain power is to take power through action. IF this means being the vehicle for that power as Chris has chosen, or just washing the windows of that vehicle, it doesn't matter, as long as you do what ever you can find time to do.

Good post Matt.

by michael in chicago 2006-05-13 02:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

"Hillary will probably use that approach. But instead of ELECTABILITY, her mantra will be INEVITABILITY."
Too true, too true.

What many politicians don't realize is that most people -- liberal, conservative, libertarian, populist -- don't like big business. Most people merely tolerate them. I find it interesting that politicians align themselves so close to them.

But anyway, I completely agree, Matt.

by Brad ODonnell 2006-05-13 02:50PM | 0 recs
The anti-Hillary

Is Al Gore.  Get people to see his movie and talk him up.

by Mimikatz 2006-05-14 08:38AM | 0 recs
Progressives, organize. Use the power of divesting

Take back America by a divestment attack of GOP money contributors and force the GOP congress to pass progressive legislation.

Join the campaign for progressive legislation http://buyblue.biz

Please do not buy products from these Republican contributors.

The Republican Party appears weak and vulnerable at the cash registers of the companies that give money to the Republican Party.

Stop buying products from these Republican contributors and tell others as well to stop. Thank you.

Dell Computers, Walmart, Wendy's, Outback Steak House, Dominos Pizza, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Eckerd, CVS and Walgreens, Curves for women health clubs, General Electric and Exxon/Mobil.

Send this set of demands to the speaker of the house, the senate majority leader and to each CEO of the corporations listed below.

Tell others to send this too.

A progressive agenda for America.

I demand that the Republican Party hold a press conference and accede to these demands. Until such a press conference happens and the legislation and/or actions gets passed I will boycott products from Republican contributors Dell Computers, Walmart, Wendy's, Outback Steak House, Dominos Pizza, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Eckerd, CVS and Walgreens, Curves for women health clubs, General Electric and Exxon/Mobil.

I demand that congress pass legislation ending the war in Iraq and withdraw the troops and arrange with the United Nations to replace US troops with UN troops to defend Iraq until The Iraqi army can defend Iraq.

I demand that the Republican party end their aggressive and hateful action to end a woman's right to choose abortion or not.

I demand that the Republican party end their aggressive and hateful action to harrass immigrants to this country.

I demand that the Congress of the United states and the president of the United States enact a law to increase the minimum wage to TEN dollars an hour and also to extend unemployment benefits to a year or more for all people whose unemployment benefits expired after 6 months even though they still seek work.

I demand that the Congress of the United States to not privatize social security benefits in any form including taking a percentage of the social security tax and placing it in private accounts. People can already create their own pensions with money after taxes in the private sector.

I demand that the congress make all of a person's earned income taxable for social security FICA tax purposes and remove the 88,000 dollar taxable income limit. This will make social security solvent for many years to come.

I demand the congress increase the payroll tax in order to make social security solvent as well.

I demand congress and the president enact a prescription drug benefit under Medicare Part B which covers 80 percent of medication cost, with no extra premium, no extra deductibles, no means test and no coverage gaps, and no penalties for signing up in a succeeding year.

I demand congress repeal the faulty Medicare law HR 1 / S 1 passed by congress in Nov 2003.

I demand congress enact single payer universal health insurance for every citizen as minimum coverage.

I demand that congress and the president enact universal vote by mail throughout the 50 states of the United States of America with paper ballots easy to fill out and difficult to change or invalidate by Republican Party officials. This will prevent Republicans from vote suppression by skin color and political party which happened electronically and in person in the 2000 and 2004 elections.

I demand that congress and the president enact that civil servants on every state payroll keep track of voter registrations and vote counting of mail in votes in each precinct and not companies such as Choicepoint. We need to take the Republican Party out of the business of keeping track of voter registration and counting votes.

I demand that congress and the president ban the secretary of state in each of the 50 states from engaging in politics especially acting as a campaign official for a presidential campaign.

I demand congress enact legislation protecting private pensions from corporations deliberately declaring bankruptcy or ending pensions outright.

by maximus7 2006-05-13 02:57PM | 0 recs
How will this work?

I'm curious.

We know that control of Congress needs 218 and 50/51. And that the ideological balance of the US (in terms of self-identification of voters as liberal, moderate and conservative) is skewed towards the conservative end of the spectrum.

We also know that the enactment of liberal programs (under FDR and LBJ) required the coming together of extraordinary coalitions in exceptional circumstances.

And that the current period of GOP control (starting with the pickup of the White House and the Senate in 1980) has been achieved by a coalition of social conservatives and corporate welfare-ites.

I'm curious, then, about what sort of Dem party lefties envisage coming out of a movement of lefties into the leadership of the party and a drifting of centrists (or Clintonites) away from it.

For a start, how will the bills be paid without industry contributions? Or - put another way - why will industry contribute if there's no corporate welfare in it for them?

And, in this context, what does progressive mean? To take healthcare as an example: in the US, UHC is viewed as liberal pie-in-the-sky and single payer as virtually communistic. In Western Europe, all right-wing parties accept some version of UHC.

Ending the War on Drugs, domestic and foreign, would seem a sensible, do what works sort of policy. But would have any proponent labeled as a hippie weirdo neo-Guevara.

And a reversal of neocon bringing democracy at gunpoint foreign policy would bring all sorts of benefits, financial, diplomatic, personal (to servicemen and their families).

But that would be a million miles away from the Senate party that lost its water, if not its sanity, at the sight of Feingold's censure res.

As for Pelosi's agenda not containing a corporate tax cut - I'd infer from that not that she's not planning one, but that it's so obvious she's planning one, it's not necessary for her to mention it!

(Plus, of course, some will choose the Pollyanna-ish interpretation - twofer!)

Getting Dems elected at all levels of government - the whole Dean strategy - must be right; but why should one suppose that those extra Dem officials will be disproportionately lefty?

Chances are, if local parties are being built up in places where they've been absent or moribund, those places will be GOP - or, at least, not lefty - and the new Dem elected officials generated by the organization won't be lefty either.

by skeptic06 2006-05-13 04:04PM | 0 recs
Re: How will this work?

Thats really why, as soon as we have the power, campaign finance needs to be the first issue. Even if we can't get full public funding we need laws that give small contributers more power (like say, matching funds for contributions up to $100). Reliance on corporations for campaign funding if probably the biggest barrier to change there is.

by js noble 2006-05-13 05:40PM | 0 recs
Selective history - Amusing and sad.

1/  You are unfortunately repeating RW talking points.  Why I agree that Kerry's PR could have been better, " taking both sides of each issue"  is  a Rovian talking point.  Sad to hear it from a true progressive.  This shows that Rove is succeeding.

2/  Do you even know what the tax cut you are referring too was for?  Creating new American jobs rather than sending them overseas?  I doubt that this depressed the base.  Yes, some of the obligatory centrist stuff that was imposed by the Washington consultants could sometimes depress the base (particularly the conformism of a campaign where people were groaning each time the candidate was trying something somehow original, like finding a way to erase the disadvantage Democrats had because of the way McAuliffe chose the Convention date, or talking about Iraq and defense and attack Bush on national security).  But I doubt that this measure caused any pb to the base (to elitist netroots may be, though).

by hello 2006-05-13 04:19PM | 0 recs
He forgot to pander to the semi-literates who

couldn't (or wouldn't) read past the headline.

Kerry's corporate tax proposal was all about stopping the hemorraghing of American jobs by eliminating incentives to move jobs overseas. It may have involved a tax "cut" for some corporations under some circumstances, but I hardly think this was any "dog whistle" to the mega-corporations. It might have helped smaller corporations who don't have the ability to move jobs overseas though.

Rewarding companies who keep jobs in this country and penalizing companies for moving jobs offshore isn't "progressive" I guess.

Taking away tax breaks for mega-corporations and giving a break to smaller companies isn't "progressive" either, huh.

See, all we really need is a candidate who knows how to pander better. Forget these intelligent, well-thought out positions - just pander to the base, dammit! < /sarcasm >

by MH in PA 2006-05-13 04:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

God yes.  An actual progressive party. Excellent point. All the good intentions in the world are worse than useless without a clear understanding that it is the possession of actual power that determines whether those intentions are ever realized.  It seems like such an elementary point, but it's one that many resist and that we must break through.  I would suggest that there's a big, huge even, wing of the progressive "movement" that doesn't actually want power.  While they wouldn't admit it to themselves, they believe (maybe unconsciously) that it's preferable to maintain the purity of one's own values and lifestyle than to compromise in any way with one another in order to build a coalition to sieze power for all.  This fault, concern for one's own moral purity above all else, has plagued the left (and perhaps American politics in general) throughout its history.  This, I think, is at the root of much of what Markos and Jerome talk about with the single issue organizations.  I was also struck by what I read in the new biography of William Jennings Bryan, where the author describes the encounter between Bryan and Jack Reed (the hero of Reds and a socialist, eventual communist), and talks about Reed's observations of Bryan's tour of the south.  As he watched Bryan actually talking to, and moving, huge crowds of people about progressive ideas in the language of evangelical Christianity that they related to, Reed reported nothing but contempt for a huckster and a rube.  Yet Bryan motivated millions to support him and the very progressive causes he advanced, and he came very close to being elected President a couple of times.  Reed? Not so much.

Then there's the opposite problem, which is that many who call themselves progressive or have a vague urge to do good in the political sphere don't have a clear idea what that means, and so they drift into supporting someone like Hillary, or going along with those who urge that the time to oppose Lieberman isn't this year, or that we shouldn't censure the President.  So the first step is, as Matt says, to understand that power is what decides whether good intentions become good policy.  We simply have to get serious about getting real power -- and that means getting SERIOUS.  Realizing it's not a game or a hobby, but an urgent necessity, understanding that this means hard work, getting dirty, give and take, sometimes sacrificing your own or your organization's goals for someone else's, standing up to bullies, being clear about what you stand for, listening to others' point of view, but articulating your values in a way that people understand at that won't alienate them, doing the work to get it, all the while figuring out how to get it without losing your progressive soul (hence the need for a unifying ideology or political philosophy).

by Jimbob Kinnikin 2006-05-13 04:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

I tend to agree with Chris's view that we shouldn't feed the right wing meme about Hillary.  I am not sure what good it does other than throw red meat to the Hillary haters on both sides.  As I have noted here I am not supporting Hillary for President.

I think the idea that THE POWER IS THE ONLY THING driving politicians is ridiculous and not true.  Of course politicians seek office and the power that goes with them because without it you can't accomplish anything.  That doesn't mean you don't stand for anything.  If power with no core beliefs drove all politicians, they would switch parties with the wind.  Notice most don't.  

Dean, Kerry and Clinton are in line with most of core believes of progressives.  Think the Bush tax cuts, the Medicare drug benefit, Alito and Roberts, increasing the minimum wage, etc.  It is true that Kerry and Clinton supported the war in Iraq and while Kerry has backed away from it Hillary still seems to support it. Too bad.  No politician will be with you 100% of the time because no two people agree on anything 100% of the time.  Just ask my wife.

I must admit I was repulsed by the fundraiser by Ruppert Murdoch but as long as politicians have to raise ungodly sums to run for offices like Senate and President they will continue to have these events.  It is why I support a complete overhaul of our campaign finance system.  

by John Mills 2006-05-13 06:46PM | 0 recs
Ridiculous and Not True

Of course it's not so black and white.  But for the most part, but not all, elected officials will be steered, if not dominated, by those with power they must contend with.  Example, here in Massachusetts, the voters' passed, by a two thirds majority, an initiative establishing full public financing for state races.  After only one election cycle where the system was in place (and only then because supporters took the state to court and forced court-ordered auctions of state property to fund those who participated), the legislature, totally dominated by Democrats, repealed the law.  Now, there is some effort to begin the fight over again.   But in talking even to our erstwhile supporters in the legislature, all of them allegedly progressive, several have asked, why should we stick our necks out again?  How many legislators lost their seats because they voted to repeal the law?  And that's just it -- I have no doubt that these, and most Democratic elected officials, have the same values we all share.  But you must create the conditions where they feel safe (not even 100%, but more than 50%) in acting on those values, or frightened of capitulating to the forces of evil.  So is power the only motivator? No.  Is it one of the most powerful? Yes.  And all too often it outweighs the power of one's own conscience.

by Jimbob Kinnikin 2006-05-13 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Ridiculous and Not True

I agree with you on campaign finance reform.  Candidates spend far too much time and energy on fundraising and I believe changing the system would make them freer to serve the people.

You lose me on the power for the sake of power argument.  It doesn't describe the politicians I know.  People who put themselves out for elected offices obviously have a certain amount of ego and also want power.  However, they want power to do things and advance causes.  Most elected officials I have known feel very passionately about issues and want to make a difference.  Some stay too long and become cynical but I think it is a disservice to people who enter the electoral process to say their main concern is gaining power.  There are a lot easier ways that pay a lot better to get power than running office and serving the people.  

by John Mills 2006-05-13 08:10PM | 0 recs
Power for the Sake of Power

I guess I'm trying to make a more nuanced point, not very successfully.  I'm not saying that most Democrats have sought and are in office "only" for the sake of power.  I agree with you that such a point of view does a vast disservice to those who hold office.  I often say that there are few more patriotic things that you can do in a democracy than serve in elective office.  But it would be likewise naive in the extreme to assume that once elected, our representatives are not guided, some to a greater degree and some to a lesser degree, by the forces of power that are brought to bear on them.  If conscience was the only guide, then why haven't, for example, all of the progressive Senators in the US Senate formed a bloc and brought the Senate to a halt through parliamentary maneuvers?  Why haven't they all joined in filibusters and the like?  Why didn't more join in questioning the electoral college vote?  I would suggest that each might have felt in their hearts that the problems each of these tactics might have addressed were grave, serious, and the Republicans' actions were inimical to their values, yet each also felt, correctly in my view, that there is/was no power infrastructure to support such tactics.  No message machine.  No institutional structures for mobilizing popular support within their and others' districts/states.  No assurance that they wouldn't be committing political suicide and bringing the party down with it.  Was that calculation a result of craven political greed?  Of course not?  Was it informed by who in the system has power and who doesn't? Of course it was.  That's all I'm saying.  And I think Matt Stoller's point is that it is up to us to create an infrastructure that creates a context that makes it possible for those we support to act on their values and frighten those we don't.

by Jimbob Kinnikin 2006-05-14 03:46AM | 0 recs

this was pretty much my point in obama's scold is a good sign several months ago. we in the blogosphere have been sorely remiss in playing our part ion the political process over the past year or so, because we think of ourselves mistakenly as unpaid pundits and insiders instead of rabble-rousing citizens.

by wu ming 2006-05-13 07:37PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

First a minor point - its mwfolsom not msfolsom.

Frankly, re: Matt's analysis - I don't think we disagree on much. Our real difference is how to respond to the facts at hand.

Matt seems to believe that we can somehow gain a position of power in the Dem Party's distant future by playing within the rules. On this happy day organizations like the DCCC and DSCC will give us respect - i.e. they won't trash our candidates and give them a fair chance during the primaries.  No doubt other wonderful things will occur at the same time. The problem is - its a pipe dream.  

As long as we are doormats we are doormats.

Remember this is all about power. I've never seen anybody that lives and dies via power show any respect for people or groups that are powerless or aren't willing to use the power they have. In essence you get respect when you demand it and can make the other side pay for not showing it-

Same rules occur here - you demand respect, reward your friends, punish your enemies.

Matt's first article was about the fact that Hillary doesn't respect the Progressives/Liberals in the Dem Party because she sees them as powerless and doesn't have to! She's been told that they will come home - they always do! So, she intends to flip us the proverbial finger and that this was an outrage. Well, what else is new? The Dem establishment has been flipping us the finger for years.

Yes, this is indeed an outrage but my question is - what can be done about it?

Unfortunately, if in the end, we all fall in line and vote for Hillary after she issues such an insult we will be seen as doormats. Game over - the establishment wins and we loose. There is no need to change their views of the situation.  If however we sat down and said - no, not this time (Just say no to Hillary!) - them the game has changed forever.

I fear that these are the only two alternatives.  If faced with a Hillary candidacy either we cave or walk. It would be a sad state of affairs to find ourselves in but as Matt says its all about power and that's how power politics are played.  

As an aside I need to point out I'm not really asking folks to do anything new. They are and have been doing it for some time quietly, without a request from anyone. The Dems seems especially skilled in this task - note Matt's statement at the end of the first paragraph above where he says "... Kerry depressed his own base". This is essentially the same thing except I believe it has to be explicit.  For some sad reason the Dem Party elites haven't been sharp enough to understand it when folks do it quietly so perhaps if its done with lots of noise the lesson my get home.

by mwfolsom 2006-05-13 08:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

So just to be clear, your position is that progressive voters should sit on their hands if Hillary is the presidential nominee b/c you disagree with her on - objectively - 20% of the issues?  B/c if that's the case, I think what's missing from your "analysis" is how that action (and the resulting inaction on the 80% of the issues that HRC and progressives agree on) will actually effect people's everyday lives.  I mean, if this was a "fun" little intellectual exercise about party building, then maybe I see what your saying.  But what you're talking about won't happen in a vacuum and will hurt people.

With respect to HRC specifically, I would note that she supports the following:

* Maintaining all of the New Deal and Great Society programs, like SS, Medicare, etc.

* Expanding Health Care coverage to at least some of the 45 Million uninsured people in this country

* Repealing the Regressive tax policies of the Bush administration and shifting the tax burden off of the middle and working class.

* Providing tax relief to help students pay off their loan debt (this is a new big issue for her)

* Raising and hopefully indexing the Federal minimum wage

* Appointing Judges that -  if not Brennan, Marshal, etc. - are fair and not right wing nut jobs

Those issues MATTER and will have an effect on the quality of people's lives.  Maybe you can live with another 4 or 8 years of a Republican presidency in the name of party purity, but not everyone can.  Moreover, not everyone WANTS to wait even four more years to start passing some of these ideas that have the support of 60% of the Country.  Yet that is exactly what the Country will have to do if your plan actually happened.  I, for one, sincerely hope it does not.  

by HSTruman 2006-05-15 07:41AM | 0 recs
bill comes due in 2008 primaries

I think any 2008 candidate who associates with Al From and the DLC should be attacked, again and again, in the most brutal way possible. The Connecticut senate primary is going to give us an idea of what works and what doesn't. Most importantly, if Hillary can be taken down than any DLC'er can be vetoed as a presidential candidate.

by Bob Brigham 2006-05-13 08:37PM | 0 recs
Kerry, Clinton, Lieberman, Biden, Feinstein

It's rotten at the top of the party.  Get these idiots out of the top leadership and you can get something started.  Are Clinton and Biden still calling for more troops in Iraq?  

by steve expat 2006-05-13 10:13PM | 0 recs
Repeat 2000, Real bright
    Since we're all so happy with the results of progressives walking out in the 2000 election (since both candidates were toadies of corporate interests), let's see if we can do even better in 2008.
     Bush has been great for recruiting liberals and progressive, but there's still nearly twice as many conservatives as liberals in the country.
      And how many times have conservatives actually walked. Some walked in 1992 and that worked really well for them too.
by Wayne Miller 2006-05-14 05:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Go Get Yourself Some Power, Progressives

Wow, I see we've already revised recent history to fit our increasingly nonsensical arguments. Gone is the much publicized Kerry (and Democratic) talk in 2004 of giving tax breaks and incentives to companies that keep jobs in the U.S. and punishing "Benedict Arnold CEOs" now Kerry was playing "dog whistle politics" pandering to big business.

by Epitome22 2006-05-14 07:39AM | 0 recs


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