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Betting Against the House

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Before the Supreme Court ruled against McCain-Feingold, unleashing unlimited corporate campaign contributions into the political scene, the big issue of the week was the defeat of the filibuster-proof Obama majority in the Senate. Despite the seriousness of the Supreme Court ruling, the issue of why the Democrats lost Ted Kennedy's seat should not go away, for there is a message contained within it which both parties, as well as the Court, should be heeding.

But before any such message can be evaluated for action, one has to clear away the clutter. In the instance of the claim that the Democratic Party lost for being out of touch with voter reality, those the clutter protects attempt to make the spinning worse and hide what the real issues are. Senator Evan Bayh and former Clinton White House Counsel Lanny Davis attempt to do their post-ruling-best duty to the ruling corporatists by attempting to paint their Democratic Party as being under the thrall of the Left, a claim which Glenn Greenwald laboriously exposes as fraudulent. Greenwald's exposé is supported by Ezra Klein, who reports that the Left got "exactly nothing they wanted in recent months."

How this puts the Democrats under the control of the Left escapes examination once one looks at the details, as Greenwald and Klein have done. Even conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan is amazed that the unsupportable attempt is underway. So what is the reason for making these specious claims?

Greenwald proposes that the strategy is to isolate Obama from the effects of the Massachusetts defeat. Considering how isolated Obama has been since winning the election, one has to wonder just who is actually being protected by this action. Supposedly, according to Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum, the laughable argument is that what little liberal media as exists in this nation somehow derailed the Obama agenda due to not blindly following the leader. I invite these two sages, and any other unsighted and unthinking Obama-tons, to recall that one of the major complaints about the Republicans during their majorities was their blind allegiance to GOP Party leaders. Is this how Democrats should rule just because the shoe is now on the other foot?

I say no. It is the duty of the American voter to challenge the elected representation over their assertions, an act of much greater import now that the Supreme Court of the United States has seen fit to tilt the playing field even more sharply toward Big Money.

This increased tilt might be one of the explanations for the allegedly lefty-dominated Democrats now calling for the extension of certain Bush tax cuts rapidly approaching expiration (We'll leave discussion as to the merits of this proposal for another moment). But the appearance of abandoning the working class which supported Obama so strongly in 2008 isn't playing well on Main Street. As blogger Rebecca Sive bluntly puts it to the Democrats, "You're Not My Heroes Anymore."

Alexander Cockburn explains the Massachusetts result as being due to a case of "people of moderate income accurately believ[ing] that 'reform' is going to cost them money". Yet he is also of the opinion that the insurance companies spent too much money on shaping "reform" to meet their needs to let it all drop now, and that they will tug on the leashes of their pet Republicans to come up with some kind of a compromise which will deliver the goods — for them. That Obama and the Democrats will also benefit from this Potemkin Victory is of no concern to the insurance industry, for they will have plenty of time (and money) to correct that problem. This should not prove difficult, for as Harvey Wasserman points out, "The Democratic shtick is to market the PROMISE of change while making sure it doesn’t happen."

One such assurance is to drive away your supporters into the other camp before change can happen. Some of these disenchanted Massachusetts voters managed to convince themselves that voting for the Republican Brown was the best way to send a message to the Democrats (I happen to disagree, but that is also a topic for another post) that they weren't happy with the stalling tactics Obama has utilized for a year now. Those Democratic voters who took this specific position were , according to the AFL-CIO, leaving the margin of victory to be delivered to the GOP by the independents. MoveOn.org, analyzing polling results gathered by the Research 2000 Massachusetts Poll, claims that the results show voters generally feel that the Obama administration has not done enough to reverse the excesses of the Bush administration. If true, then those who voted Republican to send a message were conveniently forgetting that little of the Bush term evil has been reversed, and that giving them power again isn't going to fix anything significant any more than waiting for Obama to do it will. Even some Republicans can see this. Why don't the voters?

This may be due to why the renewed attack on the Left is underway when the Left isn't the problem. Distraction? Keep the peasants away from hoisting their pitchforks and igniting their torches? Clearly self-preservation was a motive for bald-faced lying on the part of supporters of the White House, and for Blue Dogs looking to curry favor with their philosophical brethren across the aisle and maybe undo some of the hometown voter damage from supporting Obama.

But distancing themselves from their base isn't going to help the Democrats this time, for they can hardly be any further away from them than they now are. Is it any wonder why Democratic and independent voters are asking themselves which side Obama's Democrats are on, and deciding to follow Harry Truman's choice about real vs fake Republicans in their voting? Maybe, for the Democrats' actions only produce results not deemed suitable for a "party of the people". That sort of delivery doesn't foment electoral victory.

But what will?   In discussing the case of the resignation of David Barber, Roger Shuler, the Legal Schnauzer, has revealed some interesting desires for behaviors and attitudes he'd like to see emerge in the Democratic Party. Due to a private investigator's investigation, Governor Bob Riley became shocked — SHOCKED! — that Alabama's Anti-Gambling Task Force Chief Barber was caught busily playing a slot machine at the Golden Moon casino in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This casino is operated by the Mississippi Choctaws, who allegedly spent $13 million helping Barber's boss Riley get himself elected Governor of Alabama. A little conflict of interest, anyone? A little indication of the possibility of corruption and graft? Throw the miscreant over the side! Just don't fret about the bucks. That isn't going to be seen as much of an issue now that the US Supreme Court doesn't approve of limiting such donations. After all, it's just the Choctaws exercising their fiscal muscle — I mean, free speech rights.

It was apparently just the exercise of their fiscal muscle -I mean, free speech rights- for those who brought Barber's over-the-state-line activity to light. Shuler expressed the idea that Alabama's casino operators hired the PI to stick it to Gov. Riley for blocking their plans to expand their operations through the installation of electronic bingo machines. If true, it's just another example of how both parties tend to ignore the locals when Big Money beckons. As Shuler puts it in regard to the lame Obama Democrats, "That's the kind of hardball you have to play against Republican hypocrites. When will the Democratic Party ever learn that lesson?" We already know how well the Republicans can play that game, so you GOP groupies can save those tears of "unfair advantage" for the crocodiles. Maybe they'll bite.

But to address Shuler's question, the answer has to be: never. Not as long as Obama and the Democrats insist on selling out to their opponents and abandoning "them whut brung 'em" to the Big DC Dance. Going along doesn't necessarily produce get along. The people want changes, and they will keep replacing the players until they get what they want. As Stuart Rothenberg warns both parties, "Voters don’t like arrogance – or being taken for granted…"

All we need to do now is figure out a way to get this message to the Roberts Court.

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  • It is amazing that what galvanized that little party up in MASS. was a promise to cut taxes…that’s all you need to say to bring the masses to the streets, wearing tetley all over themselves and claiming to be the same as the original Boston Brew! We are represented!

    But, then again, when is the last time you saw jay-Walking on Leno?

    Let’s face it , we have been dumbed down.

  • I tend to agree with your last prediction, Baritone. We have yet to see what we have unleashed.

  • Don’t you think there are all kinds of mis-direction coming from multiple sides of this multi-faceted coin? Everyone of whatever ilk wants to either point fingers or take credit for the Massachusetts debacle and Obama’s failures to this point.

    This notion that “people want change” is one of those gobbledeegook catch phrases that means little. When asked just what “change” people want, many are hard pressed to come up with anything substantive. They can make broad claims and accusations, or talk about things like big government, out of control spending, jobs, and so forth, but few have any idea how all this came about, specifically what Bush, Obama, etal, did or did not do that caused or could have prevented our current dilemmas, or what can be done to correct them. The only answer is “throw the bums out,” which as you suggest means just reseating the “bums” that were tossed 15 months ago.

    To say that Dems should be lending an ear to what the voters are saying is hardly a useful endeavor in that what they are “saying” is tantamount to a cacaphony of mixed messages and mis-directed, or perhaps more aptly, scattershot anger.

    What’s to be learned from all this is anybody’s guess. As stunning as the Dem’s defeat in Massachusetts was, it likely will have little discernable effect down the road. The paradigms will continue to shift. Where that ball drops come November is, again, anybody’s guess.

    The Supreme Court ruling regarding corporate campaign contributions will likely have far more significant and long term effects on the American political landscape in the years to come than anything that’s going down right now.