Eliminate Filibuster Now: A "First 100 Days" of Year 2, Avoid Supreme Court Fight, Win 2010 Elections.

Police Lt.: Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.
Denham: No, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast (King Kong, 1933)

The filibuster will be eliminated this year. One, and possibly two, Justices will retire at the end of the term in June. There is a 100% guarantee that Republicans will filibuster anyone President Obama appoints, claiming approval should await the outcome of the November elections. The President has shown a belief, unsupported by events, to try to be acceptable at least to some Republicans so they will vote for him, in this case, his nominee.

They won't.

So, we will get a lukewarm nominee, and no Supreme Court Justice. The Republicans know theatre very well--that situation will be perceived as the pathetic end of a dysfunctional government.

At that point, Democrats will truly be in a no-win position. If they eliminate the filibuster at that time, for that single purpose, Republicans will have a couple of months right before the election to denounce the 'trickery' to get 'activist' Justices seated. Nonetheless, they will have to eliminate the filibuster then because not to do so would alienate all their constituencies, and guarantee a shellacking in the 2010 elections.

More importantly, Democrats will be in a no-win position because the government will have been dysfunctional for another year and, despite it being Republicans' fault, the Democrats will be blamed because they are in control. And, they have 59 votes, more than Republicans ever had when they rammed through their agenda, and ran the country into the ground.

So, why not recognize the inevitable? Eliminate the filibuster right now. Then, the Republicans' pompous posturing will dissipate after a couple of months now, not near the election, and the Democrats will have a chance to do a "First Hundred Days" of year 2, to pass a robust agenda that will indeed have brought about change:

1) A jobs bill that actually creates jobs;
2) Approve all the President's appointments, together, one vote.
3) A financial reform bill that incorporates Elizabeth Warren's consumer protection agency and (my hope) reinstitution of Glass-Steagall.
4) Healthcare reform incorporating Joe Lieberman's former love, buy-in to medicare for those 55 and older; and a public option; and a combination of taxing high-end plans + a surtax on the wealthy (House + Senate version).
5) Student loan reform
6) Energy tax and rebate (Senator Cantwell's proposal).

While the Republicans bellyache about being steamrollered, Democrats can pass the agenda for which the nation voted in 2008, but soured because of the dithering and dealmaking the existence of the filibuster created. Without the filibuster, no one would have had to talk to Joe Lieberman or Blanche Lincoln or Ben Nelson. [And, since no one would have had to talk to them, I bet they would have been more supportive!].

Without a filibuster, when the summer arrives, and the 1-2 Justices announce their retirements, the President can nominate really good people to the bench. One might suspect that the caliber of those people would be significantly higher than whom he might choose in the vain attempt to get Republican support.

Today, the world is disintegrating. Republicans fear the President's success, both at home and abroad. So does al-Qaeda and Ahmadinejad. They are all reveling in his troubles, because his capacity to force change abroad is limited by his inability to do it at home.

I am late to the "end the filibuster" movement because I worry about what Bush et al. might have done if there were no filibuster then. Social security would have been privatized--and decimated by the financial collapse. Stem cell research would have been totally outlawed (passed twice by the House).

But, I am willing to take those future chances, because the country and the world cannot await an even greater than 60-vote majority that Lyndon Johnson had in the 1960s that will never happen. Eliminating the filibuster means we have to deliver for the American people, and maintain constant vigilance against another radical rightwing takeover.

Although the President is not himself a "boomer", those who control the Congress are. Many of them had their hopes and dreams for a better America, and a safer and more just world, dashed when Robert Kennedy was assassinated. It was then hijacked by George W Bush.

This is their last chance. It starts with eliminating the filibuster.

Now.

 

The Ghost of LBJ

Afghan War Will Kill Democrats' Domestic Hopes

In early 1968 Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not accept his party's nomination for re-election to the presidency.  The Democratic party was a house torn asunder.  It came to a head at the '68 Democratic Convention when Mayor Daley's Chicago police were caught on nationwide television gleefully swinging clubs and bashing the heads of peaceful anti-war protesters.  Inside the convention center the nation saw delegates conducting business as usual.  The Vietnam War was now a Democratic War, continued by a Democratic president, and the protesters saw both parties as corrupt.

The rifts in American society were fully exposed, and it took an extended war to expose them.  On one side, a large number of blue-collar union workers, many of whom sent their sons into Vietnamese rice paddies along with ghetto blacks and Nebraska farm boys, mirrored AFL-CIO union president George Meany's rabid anti-communist, pro-Vietnam War views.  The rough equivalent of today's Tea-baggers, their social views leaned toward conservative, and they were upset with the status quo without knowing exactly why.  They would later be co-opted by the Reagan Revolution, and became the lunch-bucket, Reagan Democrats who provided Reagan's margin of victory.  On the other side were more privileged, college-bound liberals who avoided the draft with school deferments and the perks of wealth.  Some protested in the streets and got their heads busted in Chicago along with their poorer brethren.  Others became the young Republican chickenhawks, the George Bushes and Dick Cheneys, who saw the potential in these social divisions and built careers and political parties by exploiting them.  

When Bill Clinton made his bid for the suburban soccer mom vote by scolding Sister Soulja, he was not challenging Republicans for primacy.  He was taking a page straight from their book.  Twenty years later, by declaring that Democrats would henceforth not challenge the bloated, post-Cold War military budget, not be perceived as hostile to the interests of business, and would continue Reagan's war on welfare mothers, Bill Clinton consolidated the Reagan Revolution once and for all.

What is little-known today is that Johnson's Great Society program, declared before the escalation of the Vietnam War, was truly ambitious and remarkable.   Johnson's goal was nothing less than to eradicate poverty in America, by pumping billions of dollars into education, jobs building mass transit, and a tightened social safety net.  It would reach out to ghettos and dying rural farms alike.  It would require a president with nothing less than the enormous political skills of an LBJ to shepard through Congress; Johnson, the bear-hugging, arm-jostling giant of a man (6' 4") who could bend other men to his will through his sheer physicality and persistence.  But Johnson's enormous energies were drained, and his treasury bankrupt, by the Vietnam War.  The funding which would be required to enact sweeping social change went to Southeast Asia instead.  

The Vietnam War was the rock upon which Johnson's Great Society foundered.  Johnson, sensitive to accusations that his rise owed in part to his willingness to play the race card early in his political career, assembled a Great Society program which even his critics had to admit was a marvel of thoughtfulness, sound policy, and real possibility.  The Great Society was to be Johnson's proof to the world that he was not a racist, nor a southern pol, but a Great President.  It might have succeeded.

The Vietnam War drained $600 billion from the American economy, and the economic maneuvering room to implement Johnson's Great Society disappeared.  Johnson left office obsessed with casualty reports and 3 a.m. meetings with his generals in the war room, poring over maps and particular battles.  He set out to defend Khe San at enormous cost in the 1968 Tet Offensive, blurting out "I don't want any damned Din Bin Phu!" a reference to the French defeat which turned the tide against the previous western occupier.  Like Afghanistan, Vietnam was a dirt-poor Third World country which had never been subjugated.  Throughout its thousand year history, the Vietnamese resisted repeated attempts at conquest by another great power, China.  Despite China's vastly superior numbers and willingness to use brutal methods, the Vietnamese remained independent.  

Johnson was caught between his desire to enact the Great Society and threats from the Right that he would be painted as soft on communism if he did not escalate in Vietnam.  Ho Chi Minh, who quoted Thomas Jefferson and, upon winning independence from the French colonialists, appealed for friendship with the United States, and was rebuffed.  Even though Vietnam had no desire to be aligned with the Soviet Union, no nominally communist government would be tolerated by the National Security State.  This was the foreign policy establishment running in a line from the OSS, the Dulles brothers, the Rockefellers, the Zbigniew Brezinskis, and the Bushes, whose prescriptions always amounted to one thing: more war.  Presidents stepped into office reliant on this apparatus, with deep reach both within the government and abroad.  A president who bucked its advice would find himself the target of attacks from unexpected quarters, accused of being weak, and of leaving the nation vulnerable.  

Johnson succumbed to this threat, and it cost him his agenda.  It made him a one-term president, emboldened the far-right, and paved the way in the long-run for the Reagan Revolution.  In Clinton the final passing of papers took place in the corporate boardroom merger of the Democratic and Republican parties.  

Obama is an outsider, smart, and standing on the same precipice as Johnson did.  Can he sidestep and perfom a dazzling political juijitsiu as pressure comes from behind to push him over the edge?  Into an escalation in Afghanistan which will guarantee we are drained there for another 10 - 20 years?  What would the ghost of Lyndon Johnson be whispering into Obama's ear?  I can almost hear that gruff voice and see that huge paw draped gently across the president's shoulder: Don't do it, son.  Don't do it.

ACTION: Tell your representative to co-sponsor Rep. Barbara Lee's HR 3699, blocking troop escalation in Afghanistan (list of present co-sponsors.) Contact congress member HERE.

Contact White House.

There's more...

Billy Graham & the Rise of the Republican South: An Interview With Historian Steven P. Miller

PhotobucketThe topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.


In the age of Barack Obama, both the Republican Party as well as the South appear marginalized and out of step with the rest of America. Yet it wasn't so long ago that the South represented the foundation of America's conservative hegemony. Starting with Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, the Republican Party prevailed in nine out of the next fourteen presidential elections with a reliable Southern base.


Specifically, the Republican Party exploited white Southern resentment against the cause of civil rights and integration. The "Southern strategy" as it was later called, enabled Republicans to end the Democratic Party's previous domination of the South following the Civil War. A key figure in that realignment was the renowned evangelist Billy Graham.

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Presidential rankings: William Henry Harrison was robbed!

Thanks to Beltway Dem's diary, I saw that C-SPAN asked these 65 professional historians or observers of the presidency to rank the 42 presidents on the following criteria:  

   * Public Persuasion
    * Crisis Leadership
    * Economic Management
    * Moral Authority
    * International Relations
    * Administrative Skills
    * Relations with Congress
    * Vision/Setting An Agenda
    * Pursued Equal Justice For All
    * Performance Within Context of Times

Here are the overall scores and rankings. My comments are after the jump.

(There are lots of good comments in Beltway Dem's thread too.)

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When America Burned After the King Assassination: An Interview With Author Clay Risen

Photobucket


The topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.


Tomorrow, America honors the birthday of heroic civil rights activist Martin Luther King. Americans revere King across the political and ethnic spectrum for his wisdom, idealism, courage and practice of non-violent civil disobedience against the forces of racial oppression. Thanks in large part to the trailblazing efforts of King and his followers; America inaugurates its first black president the very next day when Barack Obama takes the oath of office on January 20th. Yet even as Americans celebrate the historical arc from Martin Luther King to Barack Obama, the scars of racial injustice remain woven into our country's fabric.


Understandably, historians have overlooked the immediate aftermath of King's assassination in a Memphis, Tennessee hotel on April 4th, 1968. The meaning of King's life as well as the tragedy his loss represented has received considerable attention from historians and the body politic. Yet the immediate aftermath of King's death was dwarfed by his iconic life as well as the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the violence that took place during the Democratic National Convention later that year.

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