Archive for the ‘political strategy’ Category

A Note on Incendiary Political Tactics

On Saturday, Alan Grayson posted a video on DailyKos in a fundraising diary. The video had a fake George Bush, complete with his legendary wordsmithery, claiming he was going to Florida to fight against Grayson. Most commenters loved the skit, but some claimed it to be over the top. Apparently, such use of caricature and name-calling is demeaning and reduces us to the level of right-wingers and their teabagging minions.

As with most matters, I don’t see this as a black-or-white question. In general, it should be advisable to live by the Golden Rule: treat others as you would have them treat you. Which means that absent intervening circumstances, it is best to stick with logical and civilized debate and eschew personal attacks on one’s ideological adversaries.

However, that does not mean it is necessary or even ethically advisable to hold to that premise in the face of such intervening circumstances. I propose three criteria where, if met, incendiary tactics are justified:

1) The debate is continually muddied and progressive priorities are handicapped by a radical force with no interest in deliberative democracy;
2) Talking points exclusively built on logic are not effectively cutting through the clutter;
3) Any direct attacks must be reality-based and appeal to a higher morality.

So does that mean Grayson is justified? I’d say so, although it’s not 100% cut-and-dried. The first criterion is clearly met here – that point is pretty established. The second is also pretty clear, as the media and most establishment Democrats are unable or unwilling to call out the right wing hordes for what the radical, violent, antidemocratic force that they are.

The third, however, it not quite so obvious. Is using George Bush and parodying his speaking style necessary to get this point across? Does that serve any particular purpose, and on the other hand does it escalate the antagonistic dynamic in the state of political discourse?

I don’t really see the value-added beyond effective fundraising for Grayson, but I also don’t see the harm either because the discourse is already in such an overheated state. Given that Grayson has already exhibited inflammatory behavior in the past, and repeatedly so, it would actually be intellectually inconsistent for him to abandon that bare-knuckled strategy now.



The Truth About Republican Fiscal Irresponsibility

The House Budget Committee has some really fantastic charts I want to share…they desperately need to be seen more widely as the budget debate kicks into high gear.

View this document on Scribd

As my political mentor Howard Dean always says, you can’t trust Republicans to manage your money.


The Filibuster

From Carrots and Sticks buddy and advisor David Waldman:

In case you missed it — and very few of you did, from the looks of things — Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) has issued a call for reform of Senate cloture rules both on the floor of the Senate, and in a diary right here at Daily Kos.

You can review the Senator’s diary for a run-down on the logic behind what Republicans called the “constitutional option” when they were threatening to invoke it in 2005, during a fight over President George W. Bush’s stalled judicial nominations. The facts and the history are correct, and will give you a good general background on where Udall is coming from. And in case you were wondering, one difference between what we knew as the “nuclear option” and Republicans called the “constitutional option” was that the scholarly writing (PDF) which gave Republicans their preferred name for this maneuver was very, very clear about the conditions under which the option was justified under the precedents: at the beginning of a new Congress. Republicans, of course, wanted to ignore most of the “constitutional” part, but keep the “option” anyway.

What I always say, and what I told David the other day, is that sooner or later the Republicans will be in charge and they’ll pull the trigger and end the filibuster. They took a run at doing that a few years ago despite the timing being illegitimate and the issue only being of moderate importance. If an important party goal was at stake and reconciliation couldn’t be used they won’t hesitate to weather a few rounds of media condemnations.

Beyond speculation on the future the Republicans have already end-rounded the filibuster via reconciliation to explode the deficit, so unwillingness by the Democrats to use the reconciliation process on deficit reducing bill like health care creates a substantial disequilibrium in the system.


Go Ahead – Smash Your Television

Last night, the unthinkable happened. The Liberal Lion’s seat was lost to a teabagger. I’ll admit, I thought Coakley would pull it out, but she certainly did nothing whatsoever to deserve a Senate seat. In policy terms and getting legislative results, I can’t say I think too much will change, apart from the current trajectory of final health care talks being derailed. Moving forward, the impact of this election is NOT the difference between Martha Coakley and Scott Brown. Rather, since there is a 60-vote threshold on everything, it’s who that marginal 60th vote is. In other words, Ben Nelson or Olympia Snowe? As far as I’m concerned, that ain’t much difference.

No, the real issue here is WHY the Democrat lost a high-turnout statewide election in FRIGGIN’ MASSACHUSETTS. Ted Kennedy’s seat! What happened? Well, we know what the useless, self-important chattering media bobbleheads and their G”NO”P puppeteers will say:

The American people have rejected President Obama

This election means the populace is turning back to Republicans and wants them back in control

The Democrat Party has run too far to the left, and needs to stop being so divisive and partisan

The Democrats and Obama have ignored the interests of their constituents

Some variation of all these statements will be made over and over again, to a sickening degree and with little counterargument, in the corporate-owned media. And the teabagger horde will be worst of all in their feverish glee.

But here’s what’s so frustrating about it: three of those four points are completely ass backwards, and the fourth (Dems ignoring constituents) is true, but for a reason different than the chattering class thinks.

On the first two points, let’s see the recent Research 2000/DKos weekly tracking poll:

President Obama: 55 Approve, 42 Disapprove

Congressional GOPs: 19 Approve, 63 Disapprove

Oh. Right. And this is after a terrible week for Democrats across the board (thanks Harry Reid). So much for that.

How about the third point, that Democrats have been acting too much like scaaaary socialists? Let’s look at a recent Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll.

Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll

So wait, the public is least interested in more bipartisan compromise among all of these things? Huh.

Now to the fourth talking point, that Democrats are ignoring the interests of their constituents. Yeah, I actually agree with that argument. But not in the way the chattering class would have you believe. They want you to think the country is more conservative than Democrats thought, and regular people want less to be accomplished. Quite the contrary. People are pissed off at a broken power structure and want to see results. They are tired of a policymaking process whose primary purpose is to say something was accomplished without upsetting entrenched corporate interests in the least. Remember, the majority of Americans voted for HOPE and CHANGE just a year ago? Simply put, Obama voters of all stripes aren’t seeing the change they hoped they’d get, and are pissed off. And as usual, the nattering nabobs on your teevee will tell you that it’s all your fault for expecting Democrats to do something, anything, with their mandate.

Do yourself a favor. Turn off your television for a few days. Your political IQ – and mental health – will thank you later.


Republican Donors and Michael Steele

This article seems a little thin on what exactly Republican donors are about upset that Michael Steele is doing:

Steele, who has been making regular television appearances, said Monday that he did not believe Republicans could win back their congressional majorities in 2010. “Not this year,” Steele told Fox News Channel, saying he was just beginning to look at races, even though the party has been recruiting candidates for many months. Believing that Steele’s off-the-cuff remarks threaten to damage the party’s brand — at the very time when Republicans are trying to capitalize on a national political environment that may hurt Democrats — senior aides to top Republican leaders confronted Steele’s staff on a conference call Wednesday.

“You really just have to get him to stop. It’s too much,” a top congressional aide said on the call, according to others on the call, adding that Steele was hurting morale among Republican members of Congress and candidates.

The call turned into “a bickering match,” aides said Thursday, as one top congressional staffer accused Steele of launching “a Republican apology tour at the exact wrong time.” Another congressional aide said Steele was appearing on television “unprepared and unknowledgeable.”

I mean OK his job is to say we’re great and we’re gonna win, but the approval ratings for the GOP are terrible (Dems are only a little better) and they want to him act as if everything is normal? Steele’s ‘we lost our way’ message seems pretty basic and unavoidable.

Additionally a lot of their complaints could be leveled at Sarah Palin (book tour, unscripted remarks) or Mike Huckabee (book tours and his campaign staff used to say the Republicans lost their way and needed a strategy all the time). Maybe these donors where never that supportive of Steele in the first place?


Behind the Current Progressive Split on HCR

As you just may possibly have noticed, there is a lively, heated debate going on among the progressive grassroots/netroots about whether or not to support a watered-down health reform package. I have friends in both camps (as does Carrots and Sticks), and actually am split on the question myself, so I cannot say either viewpoint is wrong. As an organization, Carrots and Sticks has to date chosen not to formally engage on health care reform, not because we do not care about the issue, but rather because it had already been so oversaturated with activists and interest groups that we would have been joining too late in the game to make any appreciable difference. So I don’t think it’s prudent to take one side over the other, but there are a ton of important lessons that we can learn from the public option saga, and I’d like to start laying those out here.

To me, the fundamental reason for the divide comes down to politics vs. policy. After all, the progressive movement came together in a rare show of force and fought for a public option as a unified bloc. Now that it seems the public option is dead in this HCR bill (it could feasibly come back later as a stand-alone measure), we must decide how to react. There is first the question of whether a bill similar to that about to pass the Senate is better than nothing, aka the status quo. Given the political dynamics at play, I must assume “nothing” means “nothing for the next decade or more”. With that in mind, I think the bill as currently laid out is unquestionably a step in the right direction. Sure, it’s far from perfect (the mandate, excise tax and implementation dates being the big issues), but the Medicaid expansion, regulatory insurance reforms and creation of the exchange are huge pluses that far outweigh the drawbacks.

Yet on the other hand, progressives just went all-in on an issue and came up empty. A major reason this happened was the White House’s (ahem Rahm ahem) arrogant dismissiveness towards liberal concerns. Rahm thinks we can always be depended upon for campaign support when push comes to shove, so our viewpoints can safely be ignored. At the same time, the Beltway punditocracy fully expects the left flank to cave on its demands after the deals are cut. And frankly, they have no reason to believe otherwise, given the trends of recent history. So this is a crucial moment for the legitimacy of the progressive movement. Those of us who consider ourselves representatives of the movement should be very wary of seeming too much like the pushovers Rahm makes us out to be.

As we see, there are two equally valid lines of reasoning, borne from very similar though not identical priorities, leading to diametrically opposing viewpoints. Notwithstanding the value of healthy deliberation and internal dissent, the conflicting messages coming from the left do not serve us well as a political force, and will never help advance the policies we all want to see enacted. Going forward, the key lesson to be learned is how to best limit the possibility for this sort of situation from happening again. Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but there are  a handful of important points to note. Keep in mind, these are open (NOT rhetorical) discussion topics:

  • Was victory (passage of a worthwhile public option) ever possible? I’m not sure the answer is as unequivocally “yes” as we had hoped, especially once Obama decided to make nice with PhRMA.
  • A lack of fierce, mobilized and deep-pocketed opposition would definitely help our cause, although that cannot always be possible (example: banking reform). Obviously, we want to maximize our chances of winning while remaining true to core progressive principles. Thus, how strongly should limiting opposition factor in when we choose our mobilizing issues in the future?
  • Did it make sense to put all of our eggs in the public option basket? It very well might have made perfect strategic sense, but we still need to address that question.
  • Did the strategy of whipping the progressive caucus to draw a line in the sand make sense, in retrospect? Could it have been done more effectively? How else could we have injected our demands into the debate?

Take these questions as food for thought. I don’t pretend to have the definitive answers, nor do I wish to attempt to unilaterally discover them here and now. We’ll no doubt revisit them later.

I’ll finish with a poignant quote from Pandagon’s Amanda Marcotte:

The netroots has only been around for like 6 or 7 years, and only really been a player for 4.  Taking over a party takes longer than that, and that’s all there is to it.  I think there’s a tendency to fight for scorched earth tactics designed to get a lot of results in a very short period of time, and a defeatism when that doesn’t work.  I’ll admit that impetus baffles me, because a lot of us are into politics because we love the game, and so we should have the disposition for a long term fight.  And by “long term”, I mean taking a truly radical stance, which is that political means alone will not get us where we need to go, but that we have to change society itself.


Attacking Hadassah Lieberman

In the shocker of the new millennium, Joe Lieberman has decided to be the weasel that he is and is throwing a giant monkey wrench into health reform. His goal of high-minded principle? Drive a stake into the public option and any other provision that would make liberals (especially the netroots) happy as petty revenge for making him sweat in ’06. If a bill dies because that stance endangers the votes of the couple leftmost senators or the progressive wing of the House, so be it. Truly an odious (and odorous for that matter) position.

As you can tell, I ain’t too happy about Holy Joe’s weasel/snake/worminess, so I can just imagine how furious Jane Hamsher and friends are over at FDL. Well, actually we know just how furious they are. This is now deeply personal, so FireDogLake has decided to launch an initiative to try and get Lieberman’s wife fired from her job at a the Susan B. Komen breast cancer foundation (they of the pink ribbons and little else). I understand where FDL is coming from, and there is a part of me that says “right on, it’s about damn time we fight back and play dirty!”

But that said, I personally just can’t support going after any politician’s family for political reasons. Unless Hadassah Lieberman’s position at Komen directly relates to Joementum’s idiotic intransigence (and there’s absolutely no evidence that it does), it’s really not germane to this conversation. Chances are, the move has a greater potential to make the health care bill worse by further entrenching the Party of One’s opposition to anything worthwhile than to make it better by posing a substantial threat to his personal well-being.

Granted, nobody deserves below-the-belt attacks more than that troglodytic scumbag Holy Joe, but there’s more than enough to say about the guy himself without going after his wife. And believe me, I’m saying most of those things. Did you know Senator Joe Lieberman enjoys squeezing cute kittens to death with his bare hands and drinking their blood?


Great diary on Boxer-Kerry bill on Daily Kos

Pop over there and read this if you haven’t. It’s an awesome round-up and analysis of recent political developments (and Inhofian shenanigans) on the Senate climate bill.