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Capitol Idea: Just Who Do We Want To Punish?

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This last year saw massive economic stimulus, contentious health care reform, persistently record levels of unemployment, birth of the anti-government "tea party" movement, and activists who have taken to court Barack Obama's very right to serve as president.

So the fact that this year voters are angry and "want to throw all the bums out" in this year's midterm elections shouldn't come as a terrible shock to the political world.

What is at least somewhat surprising is that that animosity is shared in an almost equal measure on the left side of President Obama's Democratic party as it is among American conservatives.

The liberal blogosphere over time has come to function as something of a ledger that keeps a real-time accounting of the Left's growing dissatisfaction with Obama as president, and with much of the work of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi running Congress.

Using epithets such as "corporatist," "militarist," and worse, a coterie of progressive commentators denounce these Democratic leaders with invective that differs from that used by the Right only in terminology reflective of an opposite point on the political spectrum — but is the same in its disdain.

These progressives have lost faith in Obama over the direction of health care reform, particularly the loss of the government-run public option. They opposed his surge of U.S. troops in the war in Afghanistan. They reviled his support for various corporate bailouts. They disagree with his appointment of nominees seen too close to business or the Republican party for their liking. And today they will add a new criticism to the roster, while tomorrow they find another.

Having held onto these resentments, fueled by a powerful sense of being taken for granted, these progressives want to see Obama, Pelosi, and Reid punished for their transgressions. They have to come to see this year's elections as their first, best (perhaps only?) means to achieve retribution.

Voices on the Left — be they Internet commentators, union leaders, or others — have begun to warn these leaders they feel have so betrayed them that they feel so discouraged and dispirited that they very well may just stay home when it comes to Election Day.

The clear implication is that these disaffected progressives will sit on their hands and, if a bunch of Democrats just go down to defeat, well, that's just too darn bad. They'll say Obama and his militaristic, corporatist friends will have no one but themselves to blame.

This protest may offer some brief emotional satisfaction, but otherwise would do more damage to the causes and issues the progressives claim to care about.

My point here is not to defend the array of policy choices Obama and the others have made. I doubt that I would have the bandwidth even available to me to allow me to rebut all of the countless aspersions cast on Obama, and the others — even if I wanted to.

If you don't care for Obama, Reid, and Pelosi, then so be it, I am not going to try to change your mind. (Also, to be clear: I do not work for, nor represent, any candidate, campaign committee, or any political organization.)

I would simply ask you to consider: If, through intentional inaction on the Left, Democrats across the board go down to defeat, just who really would be punished?

It wouldn't be Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi — that much is true. To be sure, depending on their depth, the losses could frustrate, even stymie, their plans for current and future legislation.

But at the end of the day, don't doubt that even if a self-inflicted implosion of Democrats were to lead Obama, Pelosi, and Reid to be ultimately turned out of office at some point, they wouldn't be "punished" in any meaningful way. They still would have their pensions, and all would go on to other jobs, or a comfortable retirement giving speeches, writing books, and the like. They wouldn't be left wanting, or hurt in any way that truly matters.

It's the rest of us that I'm worried about. Democrats that lose this year, by and large, aren't going to be replaced by other, more acceptable Democrats.

No, Democrats losing means Republicans will be winning.

I fully realize that discontented progressives at this point likely will accuse me of buying into, and even advancing, a "lesser evils" argument.

If so, so be it. I plead guilty as charged!

Have you seen the crowd knocking on the doors of government looking to get let in? These are not moderate Republicans looking to get elected. These are hardcore social and economic conservatives.

By looking at the calendar, we've turned to a new decade. But if people elect candidates backed by these "tea party" folks, it will feel like the deepest depths of the Bush administration all over again — if not worse. The 1994 Republican revolution that led to government shutdowns and more will appear to have been entirely middle of the road by comparison.

No one is asking you to like Barack Obama any more. But, my progressive friends, please let reality set in. Sometimes, things really do come down to a lesser of evils.

If you truly believe the nation would be better off with conservative Republicans like Scott Brown of Massachusetts getting elected to write our laws, then please feel free to disagree with me.

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About Scott Nance

  • It’s just possible that you’ve missed something here, the possibility that the discontent with the Democrats is deeper and more substantial and related to real, ongoing flaws in the party. From what I’ve seen posted here on BC and certainly through my other contacts, it looks like it’s not just the progressives. Working class democrats are also waking up to how they have been exploited for years by a party of elitists who have never had their best interests at heart.

    The truth is that the GOP is a much more populist, egalitarian party which represents the real needs and interests of working people better than the Democrats do, despite the general crappiness of its leadership. I think people are starting to realize this.


  • I must echo Dave’s sentiments. I’m Progressive by contemporary GOP standards. That being said, I’m more consistent with the GOP platform of Lincoln’s time. Scott, we can’t perpetuate this Progressive/Regressive; Conservative/Liberal; Democrat/Republican thing any longer. This isn’t about which side of the aisle one happens to be standing any longer. This is a time when real issues and real problems must be addressed if we are to flourish as a Republic henceforth.

    Scott, if you are so convinced that Scott Brown is in the pockets of Wall Street, then you really have not taken the time to look at the candidate closely. This man is not some back-woods, white trash, Bible-thumping Promise Keeper. He’s what the new face of the GOP should look like. You don’t see Sarah Palin or Dick Cheney here in town — but the Democrats want to associate Brown with them. It’s scare tactics. It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s a desperate attempt by the Coakley campaign to stop the momentum.

    Barack Obama should never have come to Boston. If Coakley loses Tuesday, it’s not a setback for MA Democrats. They’re ready in the shadows to come out on Wednesday morning and spin this in their favor. In the meantime the national MSM, specifically FOX, will report a horrific political defeat for Barack Obama which will set the stage for a bombastic general election this Fall.

    With Coakley in the Senate it’s a perpetuation of business as usual. With Brown, it means a time for coalition building. Ted Kennedy was the first in line when it came to compromise and building communication lines across the aisle. Therefore anyone who loved what Teddy Kennedy stood for has no alternative but to cast their ballot for Scott Brown.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    The truth is that the GOP is a much more populist, egalitarian party which represents the real needs and interests of working people better than the Democrats do

    That is perhaps the worst example of doublespeak since Orwell coined the term. Ever since the Roaring 20’s the GOP has been the party of Big Business, of the rich. Ever since the 70’s the GOP has been the party of the WASPs. Ever since the 80’s the GOP has been the party of deregulation, of Reaganomics and ‘trickle-down’ economics…and look where that took us.

    The GOP is the party of “greed is good”, of “what’s best for me must be the best for the country as a whole”. Frankly, Deng Xiaopeng had a slogan for China during the ’90’s – “To get rich is glorious!” Given that particular sentiment, and the much greater level of deregulation, the much weaker position of unions, the far fewer resources for the protection of the workers against discrimination or dangerous work conditions (not to mention menial wages)…

    …if anyone wants to see examples of Republican political philosophy at work, go to almost any third-world country. If anyone wants to see examples of liberal political philosophy, go to any (non-Muslim) first-world country.

  • Baronius

    Scott – Well-written article.

  • Dave and others love to claim that the GOP is the “true” party of the good ole blue collar working man. As Glenn points out, there is no current or historical facts to support such a position.

    That being said, I pretty much agree with Scott. The Democrats are proving to be their own worst enemy. They can’t seem to get out of their own way.

    I DO like Obama. He has certainly made some mis-steps during his first year in office, but what president hasn’t? The real problem lay in the fact that the Democrats have failed to support their president.

    One does not expect any president to receive carte-blanche support, but so many have backed away from his agenda that the only way in which anything could be accomplished was through over the top compromise.

    Assuming that Brown does in fact win tomorrow, which seems likely, it will first and foremost be the fault of the Democrats who simply were not paying attention. Given that loss, it is likely that health care reform will be dead. The ONLY way for it to survive would be for the House to accept the Senate bill in its entirety. The left wingers and some of the more conservative Dems will find that an almost impossible pill to swallow.

    If we assume a one term presidency for Obama and the return of the White House congressional control to the Reps over the coming two election cycles, I will be curious to see how long it will take for all the fickle independents and others from all political postures to start demanding their heads? Not long, would be my guess.

    BTW – Is it a genetic problem amongst Democrats that they appear to have no backbone? Again, just curious.


  • cannonshop

    Baritone, Working people is the dividing difference-the Dems give crap-all about working people (just like the GOP’s leadership cadre). WORKING people don’t HAVE a “Party”(Well, except for certain days of the year when we get together with friends-most of whom are also working people), OUR interests are represented by NEITHER party particularly well-however, AT THIS MOMENT, Dems are NOT on our side, and the GOP is closer to being there than they are.

    Which should scare the shit out of anyone who’s paid attention. Democrats ONLY represent GOVERNMENT people-(well, them and Wall St. Bankers who can’t add…)and while there ARE some government employees who do actual work, they’re not the majority, and they tend to get just as screwed as the rest of us by these ‘helpful’ policies our turds-in-residence at the Congress and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come up with.

    Put simply, the Labour-Lawyer who runs the union isn’t a workingman, and never has been-he’s a white collar scumbag cocksucker of “The Party”-and thus, OUR interests are ignored every day except election day-when they toss us a ‘bone’ to show how friendly they are…right after passing laws to put many of us OUT of work.

  • Arch Conservative

    I could write a book on how politically tone deaf the author of this peice is.

    First of all Scott, you claim that by not re-electing Dems in the midterms Obama, Pelosi and Reid will not suffer. Of course they will and I’m not talking about the support in DC for their agenda. What you seem not to realize is that politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, are greedy, power hungry, self centered narcissists who care more about their image than anything else. I submit that if they are not held up by at least a sizable portion of the populace as the great, caring, public servants they pretend to be, then they will suffer psychologically, and quite a bit.

    “But if people elect candidates backed by these “tea party” folks, it will feel like the deepest depths of the Bush administration all over again — if not worse.”

    You, like most who prance around on their high horse lecturing everyone about the tea party movement, actually have no fundamental understanding of it. The movement is reaction to the ever encroaching unholiest of marriages of big business and big government into our lives. This is what Bush stood for and most tea partiers have nearly as much disdain for W as they do for Barry. But you live in a black and white world so you’re incapable of recognizing the truth. I bet if Keith Olbermann told you that the tea partiers didn’t like Bush you’d believe it huh?

  • Arch Conservative

    Oh and where did you find that picture on the first page?

    I need more like it!

  • I’m really pissed. I just spent the better part of 40 minutes writing and editing a comment. I previewed it, made some changes and then clicked “Post Comment” only to have it just disappear into the ether. This has happened to me on a # of occasions.

    I like posting and commenting here, but I’m not going to waste my time and effort if this is likely to continue.

  • Baritone,

    That always happens to me when I preview!

    So, I always post.

  • Scott,

    progressives have lost faith in Obama over the direction of health care reform, particularly the loss of the government-run public option. They opposed his surge of U.S. troops in the war in Afghanistan. They reviled his support for various corporate bailouts. They disagree with his appointment of nominees seen too close to business or the Republican party for their liking. And today they will add a new criticism to the roster, while tomorrow they find another.

    I recognize myself here.

    but, I strongly disagree with one point you are making here.

    There doesn’t appear to be any progressives voting in Massachusetts today!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    C-shop, Arch, and Dave –

    How about y’all try something completely different…like, when you make a claim, PROVE that claim with historical and/or statistical FACT to back you up!

    All the three of you are doing are making rhetorical accusations without ANYthing to back you up. PROVE YOUR CLAIMS!

    PROVE what you say!

    But you won’t…because you CAN’T…whereas unlike the three of you, I CAN back up just about everything I say.

  • Baronius

    Baritone – write comment, Preview Comment, copy, Post Comment…lose comment, paste, Post Comment.

    Never forget your friends Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.

  • Jeannie & Bar,

    I usually DO copy my comments before I post them, but failed to do so in this instance. But, as the system is set up, that shouldn’t be necessary.

    Suffice to say, that I more or less agree with Scott, and find the view of politicians voiced primarily by AC specious. Politicians are what they are. Were any of us who post and comment here on BC to throw our respective hats into the political ring, we would, I’d be willing to bet, quickly become just what we supposedly revile – a typical politician, selling our souls to get elected, and if successful, repeatedly and constantly selling and reselling our hearts and minds for the sole purpose of staying in office. It’s simply the nature of the beast.