"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“What Was Susan Sarandon Thinking?”: We Can Blame Her Ideology For The Dysfunction Of Our Politics

In an interview Monday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Susan Sarandon said that it was a “legitimate concern” that Bernie Sanders’s most passionate supporters wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, should she be the Democratic Party’s nominee. Then, she said she could see the logic in voting for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, because “some people feel Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately.”

Hayes clarified — did Sarandon mean “the Leninist model” of voting for Donald Trump? Picking the worst possible candidate in recent history in order to “heighten the contradictions” between Trump’s decisions in office and the newly heightened potential for a real “revolution”?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Sarandon responded. “Some people feel that.”

This campaign cycle has seen the Democratic Party maintain some level of stability, even though it’s been thoroughly shaken up by a successful insurgent candidate and the huge viral movement behind him. Compared to our Republican friends, Democrats — even new, energized Democrats — have kept a level head and our eyes on the ball: winning in November. And not only the presidency. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president, which looks likely, we could take the Senate and even, maybe, the House of Representatives.

But if Sanders supporters, including myself, take our cues from Susan Sarandon, we can blame her ideology for the upcoming Trump presidency. And more than that, we can blame her ideology for the dysfunction of our politics.

Though Sarandon took to Twitter after her remarks to clarify that she would “never support Trump for any reason,” her ideology remains the same: that Bernie Sanders represents a “political revolution” against “establishment” politics, and that this establishment itself is a greater threat to American democracy than even the Republicans’ most extremist views.

If you believe this, so be it. But I would hope you consider a few things before doing so.

Do you know your options for your local congressional race? Who most closely aligns with your views? What about among candidates for the Senate? For governor?

These are the real “establishment.” These are what Bernie Sanders would need, as president, in order to ensure his über ambitious legislative agenda has a snowball’s chance in New York’s unusually warm winter.

When Bernie Sanders talks about a “revolution,” it is this: a revolution in political pressure on all levels of government. He wants to do more than he was ever able to do as an independent senator from Vermont.

Winning the presidency would be a huge mandate, but what if Sanders loses? Susan Sarandon, to take her word for it, wouldn’t mind if Sanders supporters “brought on the revolution” by electing Donald Trump.

These are two completely different revolutions.

One requires democratic engagement, vigorous debate, political organization, and systematic, long-term effort.

The other is a vain hope that the people most at risk of a Trump presidency — immigrants, refugees, Muslims, the poor, women — would be so at risk as to prompt some larger push back. To be honest, I really don’t know what kind of “revolution” this is. Protests in the streets? Tea Party obstructionism?

Surely, something will happen if Donald Trump becomes president and makes good on his promise to find and deport upwards of 11 million people, ban Muslims from entering the United States, and start trade wars with China and Mexico. It’s simply unavoidable.

But I would hope whatever happens, should Bernie Sanders lose the nomination — or win it and lose the presidency — fits his definition of revolution. We need a political revolution. Americans are traditionally very bad voters. We’re typically disengaged from politics. Our political media doesn’t hold our political leaders accountable, and neither do their constituents.

If we accept Sarandon’s definition of revolution, which requires installing what would be the worst president in a century, surely, none of that will change.

If we accept Bernie’s definition, we can have it all, even if he loses: a Democrat in office, and millions upon millions of politically engaged Americans holding her feet to the fire.


By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Susan Sarandon | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bringing The Shutdown Logic Home”: The Government Shutdown Crowd Has A New Target, John Boehner

The long knives are out for John Boehner on the right – again. National Journal’s Tim Alberta has a must-read today on a conservative plot to oust the House speaker next year … or put the squeeze on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor … or something.

According to Alberta, the frustrated right numbers in the “several dozen,” with the ringleaders all hailing from the House Liberty Caucus, from which came the core of the dozen GOP’ers who voted against Boehner for speaker last year. Alberta writes:

The conservatives’ exasperation with leadership is well known. And now, in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains, they’re trying to figure out what to do about it. Some say it’s enough to coalesce behind — and start whipping votes for — a single conservative leadership candidate. Others want to cut a deal with Majority Leader Eric Cantor: We’ll back you for speaker if you promise to bring aboard a conservative lieutenant.

But there’s a more audacious option on the table, according to conservatives involved in the deliberations. They say between 40 and 50 members have already committed verbally to electing a new speaker. If those numbers hold, organizers say, they could force Boehner to step aside as speaker in late November, when the incoming GOP conference meets for the first time, by showing him that he won’t have the votes to be reelected in January.

They’re not gunning for Boehner alone. They’re pissed at Eric Cantor because he moved the Medicare “doc fix” through on a voice vote a few weeks back, a move which had the pragmatic virtue of passing needed legislation without forcing members to go on the record casting a vote which could have proved potentially troublesome in a primary. In short, Alberta writes, “conservatives find fault with the entire leadership team.”

So what’s the plan? They haven’t found someone to run against Boehner yet (conservatives like Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Ohio Rep. Steve Scalise aren’t interested, Alberta reports) and while “privately they define success as vaulting one of their own into any of the top three leadership spots,” they also tell Alberta that scenarios like Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise running for whip – which is, you know, one of the top three leadership spots – “would hardly qualify as the splash conservatives are determined to make.”

In short conservatives are all riled up and determined to make a splash; they’re eyeing a nuclear option – blocking Boehner from another term as speaker – but don’t have a clear end-game beyond that. But they’re pretty sure one will materialize when their opponents inevitably fold in the face of their show of will. They’re definitely going to make a splash because they’re really, really determined.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should – it’s the government shutdown logic transferred to the Republican civil war. The right wound itself up about Obamacare and then shuttered the government without a clear plan other than that Obama was going to inevitably fold in the face of their Keyzer Soze-like superior show of will. However it turned out, they were going to get something big out of the whole affair because they’d tried really, really hard. (“I don’t think our conference will be amenable for settling for a colletion of things after we’ve fought so hard,” New Jersey GOP Rep. Scott Garrett said at the time.) How’d all that turn out?

The tea party right’s problem here is that they echo chamber themselves into badly overestimating their leverage and end up with little more than egg on their collective faces. See the paltry dozen votes they managed against Boehner last time, for example, or the outcome of the government shutdown.

We’ll see. Maybe the wingers really will be able to produce 50 anti-Boehner votes and shut down the House. Or maybe they’re basting too long in their own tough and angry talk. Again.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, April 10, 2014

April 11, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, John Boehner, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Bellwether Or Harbinger Of Anything”: Meaningless Special Elections And The Press’s Consequential Imperative

If it were up to me, I would eliminate special elections for the House of Representatives entirely. They make sense when it comes to the Senate, where every state has only two senators and terms run six years, meaning a vacancy can leave a state without significant representation for an extended period of time. But when a congressman dies or retires and there’s another election to fill that critical 1/435th portion of the lower house’s lawmakers in a few months, do we really need to mobilize the state’s electoral resources, spend millions of dollars, and get a bunch of retirees to haul themselves down to the polls, only to do it all again before you know it? Hardly.

The other objectionable thing about special elections is that because they’re almost always the only election happening at that moment, they not only get an inordinate amount of attention, the results also get absurdly over-interpreted. This is a symptom of what we might call the Consequential Imperative among the press (note: if you have a better moniker for this that could propel me to the front rank of contemporary neologism-coiners, hit me up on Twitter). The Consequential Imperative is the impulse, the desire, the need to assert that whatever a journalist happens to be reporting on is very, very important. So for instance, if your editor sent you down to Florida to do a week’s worth of stories on the special election that just concluded there, you are extremely unlikely to write that this election was a contest between a couple of bozos, and means next to nothing for national politics (unless you’re Dave Weigel, who for some reason seems to be almost the only reporter capable of saying such a thing). It’s the same impulse that causes every gaffe, polling blip, and faux-controversy of every campaign to be presented as though it could dramatically alter the outcome of the election, despite all the experience telling us it won’t.

What happens after every special election is this: The losing side says, “This means nothing!”, while the winning side says, “This is a bellwether, signifying more victories to come for us!” And the press almost always agrees with the winning side, whichever party that happens to be, because the Consequential Imperative dictates that, like every other political event, this one must be of great consequence.

So in the case of yesterday’s special election in Florida, we get articles like “Why a Republican Wave In 2014 Is Looking More Likely Now” (National Journal) and “Florida Loss Big Blow to Democrats’ 2014 Hopes” (Politico), explaining that the results of this low-turnout election in one district in Florida can reasonably be extrapolated to tell us what will happen in the November 2014 elections.

As it happens, this race was decided by less than 3,500 votes. To believe that it emphatically means one thing for election outcomes all over America eight months from now, whereas if those 3,500 votes had gone the other way it would have just as emphatically meant the exact opposite, is just absurd. But, you may be saying, that’s because the Republican won! And if the Democrat had won, I’d be saying it really was significant! Well, no. Special elections don’t mean anything beyond deciding which person is going to represent that district until the next election. They may be interesting for one reason or another in and of themselves, but they’re never a harbinger or a bellwether of any national trend. If you ever catch me saying otherwise, feel free to call me a hypocrite and a fool.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 12, 2014

March 13, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Life After John Boehner”: Things Could Get Much Worse In The House And It Looks Like They Will

In non-Syria news, HuffPo’s Ryan Grim and Jon Ward reported yesterday that some GOP Hill rats are now starting to say on background what most of us have been assuming for quite some time—that John Boehner won’t seek reelection in 2014 and thus will end his tenure as speaker.

If so, he will have lasted just four years, and, it must be said, a pretty crappy four years, when the House has passed almost no meaningful bills and when the most meaningful one it did pass, the sequester, is widely acknowledged to be a disaster and an admission of Congress’s inability to do its job. And remember, we still have, after the Syria vote, the looming government shutdown and the debt-limit fight coming this fall. A brief government shutdown and a credit default, while undesirable generally, would provide fitting capstones to a terrible tenure.

Now of course all this failure isn’t his fault. He’s got a lot of people in that caucus who weren’t elected to govern, but to burn down. His length of tenure reflects this problem. As speaker, you have to make some sort of attempt to govern. That’s the gig. But when half or more of your caucus is against governing, well, they’re going to get mad at you and consider you a sellout. As Grim and Ward point out, he won the speakership last time by just three votes.

It’s worth reflecting on this before he goes back to Cincinnati (back to Cincinnati? What am I talking about? He’s staying right here, I would imagine, and will earn a few million dollars a year as a post-lobbyist lobbyist, doing most of his work on the courses at Burning Tree and Congressional; I guess in a way he will have earned that, and a carton of smokes): the current House Republican caucus doesn’t want a speaker who will attempt to perform the basic job of speaker—shepherd through compromise spending bills in a semi-timely fashion, work with the Senate to pass a few other respectably significant bills, keep something resembling an orderly appearance. Boehner did none of these things, and probably couldn’t do any of them. Immigration is a great case in point, when he was forced by the yahoos to say he wasn’t taking up the Senate bill at all.

But the more important question is who replaces him. HuffPo:

The assumption that Boehner’s departure is imminent has set off a round of jockeying for the positions that would open up. The current power structure includes an ad hoc leadership-in-waiting, consisting of five conservatives who serve as go-betweens for the leadership and the tea party. Getting the blessing of that group is usually the first step toward getting broader tea party buy-in. According to GOP sources, this group includes Reps. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Tom Price (Ga.) and Steve Scalise (La.). All but Ryan have chaired the Republican Study Committee, the bloc of arch-conservatives in the House. Much of the speculation has focused on Hensarling, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, who is considered a viable candidate for either speaker or majority leader. Price, who lost a leadership race last round to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), is considered a viable challenger to current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).

A grim menu. These people make Boehner look like Nelson Rockefeller. Under any of them, the point of the House of Representatives will be to throw as many wrenches into as many gears of government as they can possibly get away with. You think things couldn’t get worse? Oh, trust me, they could get much worse. And it looks like they will.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 5, 2013

September 6, 2013 Posted by | John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Budget, No Pay”: How To Get Congress On Good Behavior

If taxpayers want better results from Congress, they must stop paying their elected officials for failure. After all, you get what you pay for.

That’s why I’ve introduced a bill called No Budget, No Pay. It’s not your typical congressional reform. It is the first effort to pay Congress for performance, the way that an increasing number of doctors, teachers, corporate executives, athletes, and other professionals are paid.

The bill, H.R. 3643, is so simple that it sells itself. If Congress fails to pass a budget and all 12 appropriations bills by the beginning of each fiscal year, October 1, congressional pay will stop. If Congress is even a day late, the penalties could be hundreds of dollars per day per congressman. Longer delays mean greater penalties (and the missed pay cannot be retroactively restored). It’s a harsh regime, but a necessary one. Our nation suffers when Congress fails to pay America’s bills on time.

Today’s Congress has not passed a budget in three years and has not completed all of its budget and appropriations bills on time in 15 years. Few incumbents can even remember meeting these obligations. This is no way to run a superpower.

Congress is so accustomed to today’s back-loaded schedule that it cannot imagine efficiency. Congress barely meets in January and February and, this year, the House was in session for only 10 days in May. Each house delights in passing bills that are dead on arrival in the other body. No Budget, No Pay would make the House and Senate actually talk to one another again. The heat from members to meet the deadline would be so intense that Congress, as a whole, could start forging deals.

A conventional reform would simply levy a flat penalty to punish Congress for tardiness. That’s like yanking a teenager’s allowance because he misbehaved. The goal should be to encourage better behavior. The threat of cutting congressional pay would do precisely that.

Properly understood, No Budget, No Pay is gentler than you think. It will not result in a single senator or congressman losing any pay. The reason: When everyone has an incentive to meet a deadline, you naturally finish on time, even early. For example, when California legislators tried it, they suddenly got much better at meeting deadlines. This is the power of aligned incentives: When everyone is on the same team, you have a much better chance of winning. The threat of punishment is more effective than the punishment itself.

This new type of reform engages the most powerful lobbyists on earth: congressional spouses. No one wants to miss a paycheck, especially spouses who are tired of excuses. These spouses will force Congress to work much harder much earlier in the winter and spring, instead of procrastinating into the summer and fall. Remember, members’ spouses have never let Congress miss a major holiday like Christmas. No Budget, No Pay puts October 1 in the same elite category as December 25.

The dirty secret of today’s Congress is that many members actually benefit from missing our financial deadlines. When they hold up negotiations, highlight a parochial cause, and take a budget or appropriations bill hostage, they get lots of free publicity and become a hero to the special interests they are protecting. This helps them finance their reelection campaigns. Some of their colleagues will honestly object to the delays, but most are just waiting for their own chance to grandstand. Meanwhile, taxpayers suffer because government agencies are crippled with unpredictable funding starts and stops on a month-to-month or even week-to-week basis. Sometimes a key agency like the Federal Aviation Administration is even forced to shut down many of its operations, as happened last August.

Having experienced (and often envied) their colleagues’ selfishness, many members are naturally afraid to be held accountable for the behavior of Congress as a whole. They are particularly afraid to vouch for the other body, either the House or Senate. Social scientists call this a collective action problem. It seems foolish to bet a paycheck that any group of politicians will be prompt. But these doubters have never been in a capitol where everyone was desperate to get paid.

Some fear that wealthy colleagues could afford to grandstand, while poorer members would be deprived of that free publicity. This is possible, but the rich are just as vulnerable to peer group pressure, sometimes more so, because they do not want to be stigmatized for being wealthy. The vast majority of members in the Senate and House need their paychecks and would be quick to ostracize anyone who slowed the budget process down, particularly a rich colleague. Fearing for their positions, party leaders would also make sure that wealthy members were not able to obstruct.

The task is an urgent one. The bill currently has 10 cosponsors in the Senate and 73 in the House. We need more cosponsors now, because there are only a few weeks left in this session of Congress before the November elections. Of course, Congress will miss its October 1 deadline again this year, but passage of No Budget, No Pay this fall would help us meet the deadline next year, in October of 2013. Unless Congress passes No Budget, No Pay this session, no adjustments to congressional pay will be possible until at least 2015, because the 27th Amendment requires an intervening election before any adjustment to congressional pay.

Since no president or Supreme Court has the constitutional power to reform Congress, Congress must heal itself with help from voters back home. Ultimately, Congressional medicine is like veterinary medicine: It must be strong enough to work, and tasty enough to swallow. No Budget, No Pay meets all these tests. It is hugely popular with voters, potent enough to make Congress meet the annual October 1 deadline, and palatable to members once they understand that they will be paid — because they will finish their work on time.


By: U. S. Rep Jim Cooper, The Atlantic, July 26, 2012 

July 27, 2012 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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