Been Here Before

A strange thing happened to me this Fall.  I stopped writing regularly about politics, for the first time since 2005.  I absorbed about as much as I always have, but all I had little more to say than "This is stupid."  Rinse, repeat.

I've always felt that the best blogging -- at least the stories I enjoyed reading the most -- were 2 parts productive anger, and one part cynicism, as least toward the two party architecture of our politics.  And in November, I was angry.  The Democrats had just backed away from the only winable fight on the Bush Tax Cuts, and seemed hell bent on heading into the election with nothing much to get voters, at home either content or disenfranchised, out to the polls to fight back.  Part of that was the policy they were defending, and part of it was the lack of any unified, consistent message.  You can't campaign on principle your policy doesn't back up, and the principle the policy does portrays -- Eh, we sorta tried? -- isn't a winning slogan.  Ta-da!  GOP "mandate."

We've been here before. 

In 2006, I remember making calls for Claire McCaskill from a coffee shop in northern Utah, almost as a rebellion against the politics of the state I live in as much as wanting to be a part of what seemed like an actual "movement" developing in the Democratic Party.  Dean was out fighting, the message was tight, targeted, and right.  A takeover was a-foot.  Right?

In 2008, I remember sitting in that same coffee shop re-drafting talking points for a long shot congressional candidate headed to an OFA event in Salt Lake City, feeling I was still a part of something bigger.  That campaign ended with the predictable 60/30 split Democrats can't seem to break here.  I was a bit frustrated with the voting betrayal of some I'd worked for in 2006.  But Obama was about to take the White House, Democrats were going to have their better-than-working-conservative majority, and the state party here was finally standing up, if a bit wobbly still, on two legs.  There was still a sense of "movement" to it all for me.  Call it naive, but for me that feeling is where it's at.

This fall, when the pre-election Bush Tax Cut vote fight was scrapped, Democrats were running away from the health care reform many of the same helped to hobble, and I found myself writing -- embarrassingly often! -- in defense of Blue Dog Jim Matheson (yes, his opponent, Morgan Philpot, was that crazy, and things were trending dangerously close to a Bishop/Chaffetz/Philpot trifecta with little to offer but pandering to the same base that had just positioned the Skousen brain-trust Mike Lee as a US Senator), my energy and productive anger fizzled.  The Democratic Party suffered the same self-induced setbacks in 2010 they struggled with 2002-2005, and I was just angry.

We've been here before.

The past months, I've re-read those that had always inspired me before.  Drew Western.  Lakoff, Sirota, Moulitsas/Armstrong too.  I even tried watching David Gregory pretend to be useful a few times, hoping that might flare me up.  I buried myself in what local volunteering there was available, and gave up writing for longer than I had since first creating the ol' blogger account.

Last week though, I felt a little spark.  Still a bit irked at Jon Tester's Dream Act vote (I'd made calls and volunteered for him back in the day too), I was struck by just how tone-deaf his newly announced 2012 challenger seemed, announcing along-side none other than his "President" Michelle Bachmann.  This is really their world, I thought, and it's lunatic!  Dream Act aside, I know if anyone asks, I'll go to work for Tester.  Seriously, President Bachmann, Mikey?

But what really brought me back from the brink of silence wasn't Rehberg and Bachmann or the frightening hilarity that was CPAC'11 this week.  It was Dana Carvey, circa 1996.  Check it out, at least the first minute.

Notice that?  Edit Fred Armisen's Obama in place of Carvey's Clinton, and you've got relevant 2012 satire, without a single script change from 1996.

This is the Republican Party, my friends.  Has been for a very, very long time. 

The Democratic Party is a long way from where I or you want it to be, and no doubt still room for More and Better Democrats, but as Greg Giraldo would've said: They aren't that team!

A few week's into the new GOP House, they've tried to redefine rape and leverage tax code against women, fought carbon regs for polluters, made good on their "pledge" to propose a middle class gutting budget, and continued to feed the anti-government hysteria while quietly taking credit for it's benefits.  (I had to leave the PATRIOT Act extension out as example, because... well, Obama wanted a longer extension than the GOP.  Thanks for that, Mr. President).

The Democratic Party has abandoned progressives many times, and will again.  But once in a while, maybe by accident, progressives make gains, either in policy or poll cycles.  The Democratic Party right now, with all it's warts, is still the best vehicle for progressive change.  It doesn't have to stay that way, but as of this post, it is the reality.

Frustration is healthy, but at some point I let it take me almost to the point of resignation, and I doubt I'm alone in that.  Political change is much more fullfilling when you've got a clearly defined ass to kick, and nothing will ever mandate that targeting corporatist hacks posing as Democrats and unhinged opportunists driving the TeaGOP back centuries in policy IQ are mutually exclusive.

Also, Dana Carvey is still funny.

MT-Sen: Tossup for Tester

Self-professed "reformed earmarker" and Montana's lone congressman Denny Rehberg is expected to announce his candidacy Saturday, challenging Sen. Tester.  Tester wasted no time getting the frame-jump on his expected opponent, tying Rehberg to Michele Bachmann:

[...] I look forward to comparing records and talking about how we move this country forward, move rural America forward and being all we can be. But it's kind of interesting the way his campaign has started out. He's going to bring Michele Bachmann to Montana -- that's who he'll be standing beside when he announces.

Tester also took shots at Rehberg's vote record on veteran issues, and staked out a clear position on improving -- not repealing -- the Affordable Care Act.

Rehberg's confidence comes from his 60% victory in the congressional race, and the low bar for jumping on the tea party wave like every other "reformed" conservative with a hat in the ring.  But as Tester himself has said: that was the house, this is the senate. Rehberg's 6th term congressional landslide could be attributed to his ability to raise money against a lesser known, a luxury he won't have in this race.

His congressional issues page reads contrary to the current tea party purity tests, touting his support for SCHIP, access to health care, government programs helping people, etc.  Expect it to be scrubbed by Saturday, especially this:

While I am concerned about continued funding for rail service along Montana's hi-line, Amtrak passenger rail service needs to be restructured in order to improve passenger service throughout the United States. I will work hard to ensure that Montana’s passenger rail service is maintained through any re-structuring process.

Tea party foul, Denny.  Trains = Tyranny, dontcha know!

And if watching Rehberg morph into a darling of the Palin/Bachmann club isn't enough to make this the earliest race to watch, Swing State Project is placing this one in the "titanic clash" tossup category, right out of the gate.


The Deal

David Waldman with the most succinct summary of making deals with Mitch McConnell:

Piss, meet wind.

"The Deal" is putting all of your eggs in the 2012 basket, hoping you come out on top of the messaging in an election year, against a Republican Party that will still be willing to say anything, embrace any position to win.

From an electoral perspective alone, that's placing a lot of faith in Obama's ability to learn from getting rolled -- again -- by Republicans negotiating in bad faith.  74% of Obama's 2008 donors oppose the deal, and if this focus group is any indicator, independent support or opposition to "The Deal" is all over the place on a "compromise" that hands the Republicans every talking point they need for the next two years and legitimizes about half of their insanity (when did not extending unemployment benefits with unemployment this high become a discussion to have and not just bat-shit crazy?).  Think independents will be any more defined on this one when Republicans bring it up again in 2012?  Think Republicans don't have their next hostage taking opp lined up?

From a policy perspective, "The Deal" on the tax cuts may, in fact, be all that is politically possible as the President told us yesterday, but the idea that Democrats should suck this one up -- again -- in the name of bipartisan compromise and moving things forward on the terms of the GOP is absurd. There's a fair amount of stimulus in "The Deal," maybe more than Democrats could get otherwise.  At best a little more of the deficit spending the economy needs. That's a good thing.  But there's no other option to get all of this without handing away the store?

I'm with James Fallows, channeling John Kerry.  This is the argument Democrats should have and should be making, without apology:

"You care about unemployment? We're committed to extending benefits that can help families stay above water, hold onto their houses if possible, and have at least some spending power as they keep looking for work. You need a tax break in a recession? We agree -- we want to cut taxes for every household in the country. And that's why we're in a fight with the Republican minority that is determined to stop tax relief for you, and deny help to families who've lost jobs, unless we give huge extra tax cuts for the people who've already enjoyed the greatest tax-cut benefits and are least likely to spend that money to keep the economy strong. We're saying: tax cuts for everybody on income up to $250,000 -- and for money above that, to control the deficit, let's go back to the rates of the 1990s, when the economy boomed. They're saying: no tax cuts for anybody, unless there's a special bonus for people at the very top.

We're all for compromise -- but not with bad, destructive, budget-busting ideas. That's why we're drawing the line here."

Draw a line, and stand by it.  Put your name here in support of a few Democrats still willing to fight for a better deal.

UPDATE: The Hill is reporting the Senate is a go on "The Deal" so the real fight will take place in the house.

Draft Russ Feingold for 2012

Now that it looks like Russ Feingold will indeed lose reelection this year, he should strongly consider challenging Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2012.



There's more...

Pat Williams Running for Montana Governor?

I doesn't seem like it was that long ago when MyDD celebrated the Democratic Sweep in Montana that elected Brian Schweitzer Governor. But next spring will be Governor Schweitzer's last legislative session and due to term limits the seat will be open in 2012.

The great news is that former Congressman Pat Williams is considering a run for governor!

Pat Williams, like his cousin Evel Knievel, came up on the rough and tumble streets of Butte, America. But he was such a fierce advocate as a public servant that the Williams family is now widely considered to be the first family of Montana politics. After choosing not to run for re-election in 1996, he became one of the most popular professors at the University of Montana. In honoring Williams just last week, UM President George Dennison said Pat Williams, "embodies the ideals of civic engagement."

If Williams runs, it would be a very exciting race. He was famous for running bigger door-to-door campaigns than Montana had ever seen before (or has seen since). In 1992, when Montana's two congressional districts were combined into a single at-large seat, Williams beat another sitting congressman in the most legendary statewide campaign in decades. While respect for Williams runs wide across Montana, his bold progressive stances have earned him a depth of support that runs deeper than can easily be explained.

Keep an eye on this one.

UPDATE: The Montana blog 4&20 Blackbirds says:

Like Pogie, all I need to know is “Where can I donate? Where do I sign up to volunteer?”


UPDATE II: Chuck Johnson got him on record:

"My phone's been ringing again, really for a year, but especially since the story on the Internet," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm honored that this is the third time that Montanans have generously asked me to run for governor. If I ran, I'm convinced that I'd win the primary by a good margin and then the general by a smaller but safe margin.

"I'm 72 years old, and I am more knowledgeable and wiser than I was at my so-called prime at 35. The other thing I know is that there will be a lot of good candidate on both sides, Republican and Democratic, but I will not be one of them."


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