Happy New Year

Hello from Jerusalem, Israel, where it has been 2009 for some time -- and I didn't even notice until I woke up this morning (two back to back redeyes can do that to you!). Happy new year! Here's a taste of what's to come:

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Real Democrats Don't Shy From A Fight

I'm not upset with Randi Rhodes calling Hillary a fucking whore. Nor did I throw a brick at my TV while watching Pat Leahy make an ass of himself telling Hillary to drop out.

As for the Obama supporters defending a candidate that gives "flim-flam" a whole new level of meaning, I quit wondering about their reasoning abilities or what planet they're from a long time ago.

Y'see, fair and nice went out the window a long time ago.

Say, around December 12, 2000, when five of the justices of the Supreme Court said to stop counting the votes. And I didn't see a single Democrat lead the charge for revolt against this gross abuse to our system of governance. Not a Senator or a Congressman. Not even a call to arms from Left-wing activists.

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The West Wing Characters Become Lobbyists

Follow the money.  If you want to know why Democrats keep losing, don't offer advice, follow the money and get your hands dirty.  You see, Democrats aren't losing because they are stupid.  Democrats are losing because a significant portion of the operative class is paid to undermine successful populist positions.  Just follow the money.

Here we have a nice example.

The calls are starting to come in from shocked or angry seniors. They have just learned that their Medicare drug plans are maxing out on early coverage and that they must now spend $2,850 from their own pockets before coverage will resume.

"I can't pay for my medications," one man told Howard Houghton of the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging the other day. "What do I do?"

Over the next five months, several million Americans with high medicine costs could find themselves in a similar bind. The gap in insurance, popularly called the doughnut hole, is an unusual provision in most of the private plans offered in Medicare's new Part D prescription drug program. Advocates for the elderly say it is misunderstood and problematic.

This obvious and foreseeable political problem didn't stop Carter Eskew's lobby shop The Glover Park Group from passing around memos arguing Democrats shouldn't take on the Medicare prescription drug fiasco because of bad polling.  Their corporate clients are of course various players in the health care industry.  Here are the opening few sentences of the memo.

After a thorough review of early public polling on the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, our analysis suggests that support for the program is solid.  Five months into the program, enrolled seniors are satisfied with the program, found enrollment to be easy and think it's saving them money.

Here's the full memo, in case you're curious. Carter Eskew was the chief strategist for the Gore campaign in 2000, and his colleagues at the Glover Park group include Joel Johnson, a top Clinton White House advisor on communications and policy, Joe Lockhart, who was Clinton's spokesman from 1998-2000, and Howard Wolfson, a key Hillary Clinton advisor.  If you're looking for a more accessible sense of who these people are, it's the senior team type characters from the West Wing.  They all went into lobbying after the Clinton show was canceled.  This is a HUGE problem.  The people who know how to run campaigns are not politicians, they are the people who run campaigns.  The fact that this class of operative/consultant is working for corporate interests and not for Democratic gain means that there is little to no infrastructure that can effectively push for legislative and political victories.  That infrastructure is too busy getting rich off of corporate payola.  Had this infrastructure been focusing on winning for Democrats, we'd have a campaign ready to go based on the donut hole.  It's not like we didn't know this was coming.

This machine is incredibly powerful, but it's vulnerable, and that's why DC is freaking out about the Lieberman challenge.  How does this machine tie directly into Connecticut?  Well, Carter Eskew is Lieberman's ad man.  

It doesn't stop there, of course.  The corporate Democratic machine extends far into the structure of how camapigns operate. For instance, we have senior Kerry and Dukakis advisor Michael Whouley, who is apparently building a $3 million model on how to win in the battleground states in 2008 in preparation for Yet Another Insider Presidential Losing Campaign.  Whouley runs Dewey Square, a premier lobby and PR shop whose clients include the Chamber of Commerce and corporate health care interests.  Dewey Square employed three separate 2004 Demoratic campaign managers; the campaign manager for Edwards, Gephardt, and Lieberman all did time at Dewey Square.  It's also worth pointing out that diversity doesn't seem to be a, well, primary goal of this group.

All of these lobbyists/PR people (including Steve Elmendorf) have telecom companies as their clients, and are working against net neutrality.  If you want to know why the Democratic party has a muddled message, look no further than the conflicts of interest in trying to run a populist campaign when your other clients have a direct financial interest in not seeing a campaign like that succeed.

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Relishing Democracy and the End of West Wing Liberalism

Reading this post from the legendary Larry Lessig reminds me of something Ezra Klein wrote a few days ago on the end of the West Wing.  Lessig lauds Kerry and the Democrats for 'getting' net neutrality, but adds a caveat:

Lots happening with Net Neutrality, most significantly that the Democrats seem to have decided that this is their issue. The extraordinary tie created in the Senate Commerce Committee (11-11) on party lines (plus the amazing Senator Snowe) seems to signal a decision by leaders of the party that this is a fight they want to lead. The slogan does have a nice right to it -- "Republicans: They sold the environment to Exxon, and sold the war to Halliburton. Now they want to sell the Internet to at&t." (yea, the new logo is no-caps. a kinder, gentler ...)

In my view, this is good news and bad. Good for the Dems that they got it. Bad that the issue is now within the grips of party politics. I guess it was just a matter of time, given how much money the cable and telcos have put on the table.

This attitude is what Ezra was decrying through his eulogy for the West Wing.  The desire for bipartisan compromise as a moral good in itself is a holdover from another era, when there was a national consensus on how the country should be governed.  There is no consensus right now, so the issue needs to be put to the electorate.  That's not a bad thing, it's democracy.

I mean I wish we had won the fight in the Commerce Committee, and I wish more Republicans voted with us.  But I relish the fact that Democrats were with us, since at least now one party is standing up to the telco lobby, and I'm glad that this is going to be put to the voters.  

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The End of West Wing Liberalism

I'm really glad that Ezra Klein wrote an appropriate eulogy to the West Wing.  Now I love the West Wing, and if I had a DVD player I'd probably own some of the seasons on DVD and draw inspiration from Martin Sheen.  I also love The American President, and have wasted afternoons when TBS put that movie on.  

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