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“What Is Bernie’s End Game?”: Hillary Not Likely To Adopt Agenda Of The Guy Who Is Losing

For a while now, Greg Sargent has been speculating about Bernie Sanders’ end game in this presidential primary. The candidate himself has said that it will be up to Clinton to win over his supporters. And at times, he has even suggested that she will need to adopt some of his campaign promises in order to do so – like advocating for single payer and free public college tuition. It’s hard to know if he is really serious about that. But at any rate, it is not going to happen. Clinton ran on her own platform and is winning the primary. She’s not likely to adopt the agenda of the guy who is losing.

Yesterday, Sanders seemed to indicate a push for the Democratic Party to adopt some changes to their election rules and strategy. Specifically, he called for three things:

  1. Automatic voter registration
  2. Same-day registration and open primaries
  3. A 50-state strategy

To the extent that Sanders intends to push to have these issues included in the Democratic platform during the convention this summer, that would be an interesting discussion. If adopted, they would set these up as goals for the Party to work towards. But the national party can’t simply make them happen. The first two involve state parties and legislatures – who establish these rules. This is something that Sanders often fails to articulate – like when he promised that at the end of his first term as president, the U.S. would not have the highest incarceration rate in the world. He failed to mention that reaching that goal would primarily be up to states.

But the 50-state strategy is an interesting one on a different level. As Howard Dean demonstrated, it is certainly a priority that is set by the DNC. But if anyone remembers the argument over that one, it had to do with how the national party distributes funding. Those who opposed a 50-state strategy wanted the DNC to target its limited resources to races where they had determined it could actually make a difference. Dean wanted the funding to be distributed to state party leaders and let them decide.

From the perspective of Sanders and his supporters, this raises a couple of interesting questions. The most obvious is that the resources that are under discussion are the very ones he has criticized Clinton for helping to raise. Remember how the Sanders campaign reacted to the fundraiser hosted by George Clooney? It was all about raising money for the DNC and state parties. In other words, the money that would enable a 50-state strategy.

But the other issue is that Howard Dean’s success with the 50-state strategy resulted in the election of what we often call “Blue Dog Democrats” – especially in the South. They are also the ones who lost in 2010 and 2014. Many of the Sanders supporters I know were pretty happy to see them go.

I would suggest that these are all questions that would be good for Democrats to discuss. But as we’ve seen very often with Bernie Sanders, they lead to much more complicated questions and answers than he has articulated.

 

By: Nancy Letourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2016

May 1, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Day For Liberals”: What We Learned In The Epic Clash Over The Spending Bill

The House passage of the omnibus spending act is on its face a defeat for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party that fought to block it. In the end, though, risking a government shutdown over the bill’s ugliest provisions – restoring government protection to risky bank maneuvers and raising the cap on party contributions, astronomically – was probably too much to expect. According to Greg Sargent, Dem sources say that while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi fought it ferociously, in the end she signaled that members could vote their conscience.

And what did that vote tell us about the Democratic Party? Most of the departing Blue Dogs who lost their seats voted for the bill, predictably. In a break with President Obama, who lobbied for it, most of the Congressional Black Caucus did not. The remaining House Democrats are going to be more reliably critical of Wall Street, and less inclined to bow to the White House. 2015 is going to be interesting.

I admit, for a few hours on Thursday I thought Democrats might be able to win the public relations battle if they blocked the bill. Why should taxpayers protect risk-taking banks? The story of how Citigroup wrote the provision, and Wall Street’s friends snuck it in, is so outrageous I thought it had a chance to carry the day. So Republicans wouldn’t pass a spending bill without this giveaway to Wall Street? That would make them responsible for a government shutdown. But Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies may have thought the same thing about their message when they shut down the government last year.

We’ll never know if Democrats could have mustered populist outrage over Washington catering to Wall Street in the event of a new shutdown. But what else did we learn from the battle?

We now know that Nancy Pelosi is through guaranteeing the votes for ugly messes liberals hate (like the debt ceiling and sequester deals) but that House Speaker John Boehner can’t pass alone. In a new Congress where many Blue Dogs lost their seats, this sets the stage for House Democrats to block elements of the GOP agenda, especially when there can be left-right alliances.  Tea Party defenders say it was partly inspired by outrage at the 2008 Wall Street bailout and corporate-government cronyism; it would be nice if House adherents remembered those roots.

We also know that Elizabeth Warren wasn’t tamed by her ascent into Senate Democratic leadership; she was emboldened. While her star turn may increase the pressure on her to run for president, I’m with Elias Isquith here: I still hope she doesn’t. A President Warren would lack a Sen. Warren protecting her left flank. Giving Warren more progressive Senate allies would be more politically productive than elevating her to the White House.

We’re also seeing a more clearly defined bloc of Wall Street critics emerge in the Democratic Party, just in time for 2016. The Warren-led battle over Treasury nominee Antonio Weiss is also heating up – and both fights pit the popular progressive against President Obama.

Many news accounts have depicted the spending bill battle as Warren vs. Obama, setting up an ongoing clash between the two Democratic leaders. But I think the Warren vs. Obama story line can be overblown. It’s probably too much to expect the president to veto the spending bill and effectively shut down the government – clearly he doesn’t share my optimism that Democrats could win that P.R. battle.  But if the noxious measures hidden in the bill came to him as individual pieces of legislation, he’d be under a new level of pressure from congressional Democrats to veto them, and I expect he would. Obama made clear that while he wanted Democrats to support the spending bill he shared their opposition to both provisions.

In fact, the next two years will be a test of who the president really is: the change agent who inspired progressives, or the guardian of Wall Street power that his left-wing detractors claim he is. Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel makes the case that Warren, rather than being an Obama opponent, could be the best protector of his legacy that the president has. We’ll see.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, December 12, 2014

December 13, 2014 Posted by | Big Banks, Democrats, Federal Budget | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Animal House Republicans Take Control”: It’s Not About Helping You Or Me; It’s About Power

This too shall pass. In the bipolar Gong Show of Washington politics, it’s the Republicans’ turn. Count on them to opt for televised spectacle over governing. It’s what they do.

You think a guy like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be dutifully attending committee meetings and painstakingly crafting legislation? Not as long as President Obama’s still in the White House and there are TV cameras on the premises.

There’s actually an editorial in the influential conservative magazine National Review entitled “The Governing Trap.

It argues for two more years of Animal House Republicanism: “If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?”

See, it’s not about helping you or me; it’s about power.

Speaking of 2016, does anybody imagine the pendulum’s stopped swinging? Here’s the deal: the GOP made big Senate gains in 2004, 2010 and 2014, the Democrats in 2006, 2008 and 2012.

Comes the 2016 presidential election year, 24 of 34 incumbent senators will be Republicans — seven in states that Obama won twice.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich is so old he can remember back when Rush Limbaugh’s personal hero became Speaker of the House:

“I was in the Clinton administration Election Day 1994 when Democrats lost both houses of Congress and Newt Gingrich became king of the Hill,” he writes. “It was horrible. But you know what? It created all sorts of opportunities. It smoked Republicans out. They could no longer hide behind blue-dog Democrats. Americans saw them for who they were. Gingrich became the most hated man in America. The 1994 election also marked the end of the coalition of conservative Republicans and southern Democrats that had controlled much of Congress since the end of the New Deal.”

Alas, Gingrich’s demise took several years. He was simply outmaneuvered politically by Bill Clinton, while widespread exposure to his grating personality and gigantic ego eventually forced him out. The Clinton impeachment doomed him.

Meanwhile, however, those blue-dog Democrats have nearly all become Republicans. I’d argue that the demise of regionally and ideologically diverse American political parties — i.e. of liberal Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats — has brought paralysis to Washington. The merger of GOP economic primitivism with Southern-style fundamentalist religiosity has badly damaged bipartisanship.

Always and everywhere, certitude is the enemy of compromise. After all, if God says that cutting tycoons’ income taxes infallibly leads to higher revenues and enhanced prosperity, it would be sinful to notice that it’s never actually happened in the visible world.

Gingrich got elected due to the Clinton tax increases of 1993, which every single Republican in Congress voted against amid universal predictions of doom. The actual result turned out to be 25 million new jobs and a balanced budget.

What’s more, does anybody remember that the supposed rationale for President Bush’s 2001 tax cuts was that paying down the national debt too soon might stifle investment? Certainly nobody in the Tea Party does.

Meanwhile, count me among those who think that even “red state” Democrats who ran away from President Obama as if he had Ebola made a big mistake. (Remember Ebola? It’s so last week, I know. However, I await apologies from readers of the Chicken Little persuasion who objected to my writing that politicizing a disease was contemptible and the danger of a serious outbreak extremely small.)

But back to Obama. It’s true that his overall approval rating stands at 43 percent. Also, however, that the Republican Congress checks in at 13 percent. The president remains quite popular among the kinds of Democrats who mostly sat out the 2014 election.

True, many voters don’t understand how deep and dangerous a hole the U.S. economy had fallen into in 2008; nor that unemployment’s dropping sharply; the stock market’s more than doubled; and that the Federal budget deficit’s dropped from 9.8 percent to a fiscally sustainable 2.9 percent of GDP on Obama’s watch. But they’ll never know if Democrats don’t tell them.

Probably a candidate like Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor was doomed anyway. But how could anybody imagine the rope-a-dope tactic would work? The same is true regarding Obamacare. Why not praise the law’s popular features and talk about fixing the rest? The Republicans have no health insurance plan except back to the bad old days of “pre-existing conditions” and get sick/get canceled.

On the defensive, Democrats have articulated no persuasive plan for fixing what New York Times economics writer Dave Leonhardt calls “The Great Wage Slowdown.

“Median inflation-adjusted income last year,” he writes, “was still $2,100 lower than when President Obama took office in 2009 — and $3,600 lower than when President George W. Bush took office in 2001.”

Well, they’d better find one. Meanwhile, the GOP/Animal House plan is well known: Cut Scrooge McDuck’s taxes; keep yelling Obama, Obama, Obama.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, November 12, 2014

November 12, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Midterm Elections, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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