Golden Oldie: On the merging of journalism and activism spaces


An Adam Bink Golden Oldie

From Apr 19, 2010. Original HERE


Tim Vollmer has a thoughtful piece out expressing concern over the decline of traditional LGBT press. A few reactions are in order. I think folks like Tim have to get past the notion that you’re only an LGBT media journalist if you have credentials, an office, write entirely without opinion, and your work appears in print. To borrow the phrase of a friend, “journalactivists”- something I would call myself- are on the rise. While I engage in a lot of opinion writing and organizing, I also strive to do well-rounded, more traditional “journalistic” pieces examining a number of topics. Examples:
  • Articles (here and here) looking at the role of religion and the Catholic  Diocese in the marriage equality fight in Maine, including an interview w/Bishop Gene Robinson
  • Looking at the emerging role of new infrastructure in electoral activism (here)
  • A wide-ranging interview with Rea Carey, the Executive Director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (here and here)
  • Discussing the necessity and timeline of the DADT review with Rep. Sestak (here)

The reason I’m mentioning these is that if you closed your eyes and took my name off it, you could see several of these pieces in traditional, respected LGBT print outlets. Of course, not all online writers do this kind of work, but many strive to- Bil Browning at The Bilerico Project does a video series every year at the Creating Change conference. I’ve watched them- he asks the same questions any non-opinion journalist might ask, with a very even-handed approach. Pam Spaulding recently held a series of open interviews with Democratic NC-Sen candidates, the same as any other traditional media outlet might.

I think there is a tendency to group “the bloggers” or online writers in general into all opinion media, and while there is the fair share of that in mine or Bil’s or Pam’s work, that’s not all of it. And that’s where I see the divergence- perhaps in many folks’ ideal world, the journalists would do the non-biased journalism, those who do opinion writing would do opinion writing, and they wouldn’t mix. But they are mixing- many of us online now do both. Even the “View From Washington” pieces by The Advocate’s Kerry Eleveld- as respected a traditional journalist as any- have some notes of opinion mixed in, such as this one on DADT repeal and the Obama Administration’s leadership (or lack thereof) on it.

As someone who still gets the NYTimes in print every Sunday, and reading through the Gray Lady’s history of Pulitzer Prizes yesterday, including one for breaking open the Bush Administration’s record on FISA, I think a traditional full-time press corps is important. But these spaces are merging, and I don’t think it’s necessarily for the bad. I do think if you want an LGBT press, it’s going to be necessary.

Obama: “Bad at losing” because he just doesn’t believe in the fight

Yesterday, Dan’s excellent collection of links included one post in particular that caught my eye for its perfect summation of Obama’s political failure, from Mike Konczal at Rortybomb, “Biggest Surprise of Last Two Years: Bad at Losing:”

I expected Obama to be a better loser, specifically to be better at losing. There were a lot of items on the table, a lot of them weren’t going to happen, but it was important for the new future of liberalism that the Obama team lost them well. And that hasn’t happened.

By losing well, I mean losing in a way that builds a coalition, demonstrates to your allies that you are serious, takes a pound of flesh from your opponents and leaves them with the blame, and convinces those on the fence that it is an important issue for which you have the answers. Lose for the long run; lose in a way that leaves liberal institutions and infrastructure stronger, able to be deployed again at a later date.

I think this statement perfectly captures the essence of Obama’s political failure and deep disappointment of his base.  It includes, but goes far beyond, his failure to really fight for anything, as well as his habit of giving away the store in advance, both of which have been cited countless times.  And it’s this more comprehensive view that really gets to the heart of the matter, because it’s both about long-term movement-building and the immediate experience of politics.  Because building for the long-run is what makes a movement, and while Obama created the feeling of a movement during his campaign, it’s the actual experience of being part of a real movement that makes the immediate experience of politics rich and rewarding enough to draw in the people who will make the long-term movement possible.

To make his argument concrete, Konczal used the example of immigration–a key issue in the long-term building of a Democratic majority that has Latinos as a key component:

Here’s my major memory of the Obama on immigration:
    Whenever Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and other immigrant-rights advocates asked President Obama how a Democratic administration could preside over the greatest number of deportations in any two-year period in the nation’s history, Obama’s answer was always the same.

    Deporting almost 800,000 illegal immigrants might antagonize some Democrats and Latino voters, Obama’s skeptical supporters said the president told them, but stepped-up enforcement was the only way to buy credibility with Republicans and generate bipartisan support for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.

    On Saturday, that strategy was in ruins after Senate Democrats could muster only 55 votes in support of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act…

This is losing poorly. It makes major concessions without getting anything in return, conceding both pieces of flesh and the larger narrative to the other side. This unnecessarily splits those who support the Democrats on whether or not to support these action. It doesn’t name the opponents of the effort to figure out ways of deploying pressure to change things. Without an obvious fight it’s not signaled that it was a priority. And the ultimate problem is that it doesn’t leave the coalition in better shape for the next battle.

Exactly!  And Konczal goes on to point out, it was typical of how a whole host of issues were handled….  

It wasn’t just that Obama failed to engage the millions who were on his campaign email list, as chief campaign blogger Sam Graham-Felsen, recently called attention to, Konczal says:

I’d go further and ask where are the newer and/or stronger liberal groups that have emerged in the past two years? So many seem demoralized and confused and few new ones seem to exist at all, which is disturbing given the volume of people Democrats had in Congress going into this session.

He goes on to note that whatever your view of Obama and his politics

Regardless of where the Democrats want to go they need people and institutions to help them get there, and it’s not clear that we are any closer to getting those in place.

He quotes briefly from Ziad Munson’s ethnography of the Pro-Life movement, “mobilization occurs when people are drawn into activism through organizational and relational ties, not when they form strong beliefs about abortion.”  and adds:

Politics is a process, and a person’s political habitus is created by engagement in institutions based on their views that in turn change those views and push on the institutions themselves. If we want a dominate liberalism, institutions to engage people need to be grown and nurtured.

It’s a very compelling piece, not least because his case can’t simply be dismissed as “professional left” “purism”.  The point the makes applies regardless of what you think the content of Democratic Party ideology should be, as long as you think it should be something different from Republican Party ideology.

And here, I think is where we finally get down to the nub of things.  Because the ultimate reason that Obama seems to be so bad at losing is that he doesn’t want to fight in the first place. As K said toward the beginning of his piece:

By losing well, I mean losing in a way that builds a coalition, demonstrates to your allies that you are serious, takes a pound of flesh from your opponents and leaves them with the blame, and convinces those on the fence that it is an important issue for which you have the answers.

But does anyone really think that Obama has had any desire to “[take] a pound of flesh from [his] opponents and [leave] them with the blame”? Sure, on occasion he’s shown flashes of wanting to “[convince] those on the fence that it is an important issue for which [he had] the answers”, but they were only flashes, and they quickly faded from view, seeming all the less credible for having actually been stated out loud, and then abandoned.

These are not the actions of a man who wants to fight for anything.  They are the actions of a man who wants to be the great conciliator, bringing together all sides, transcending all differences.  The actions of a man who would be King, not President.  Over and over again Obama has expressed his desire for bipartisanship almost as religious faith, and by now we ought to finally take him seriously.

This is why Obama’s politics are not the same thing as Bill Clinton’s–even when Clinton was in his famous “triangulation” mode.  When all was said and done, Clinton really was a fighter, he knew the Republicans were his enemy, and he wanted to make the Democratic Party stronger–even though the evidence is pretty darned overwhelming that he weakened it instead:

Clinton’s moves to the right often were corporate friendly, of course.  There is continuity between Clinton and Obama, expressed in their shared neo-liberalism.  But there are important differences as well.  And this can be seen in another aspect of Clinton’s moves to the right–they were almost always intended to capture the center and deny it to the right, to leave them either sputtering with rage, or playing “me too” with him, whereas Obama’s aim is to share the center with the right in a triump of “bipartisanship”–and to exclude the “professional left”, which as Konczal explains, actually means the party’s activist base and associated organizations.

I believe that Konczal has hit the nail on the head, so far as Obama’s political failures of his first two years are concerned.  But I also believe it’s about to get much, much worse, precisely because of Konczal’s analysis. Anyone who could be as heedless of his party’s long-term health and political destiny as Barack Obama has been in his first two years could very well take on the dismantling of the American welfare state–his party’s signature achievement of the past 75+ years–and see that task as his own personal legacy.  After all, if he could succeed at that, could he not become the first 100% business-friendly Democratic President since Grover Cleveland?  And wouldn’t that finally make his dream of bipartisan bliss a reality?

Well, no, not exactly.  It’s far more likely to lead to decades of one-party GOP rule.  But fighting our way back from that abyss is going to be a lot harder this time around without the natural dynamism of a growing newly-industrialized economy at our backs.


Coda

As my last diary of the year, I’m tempted to end by wishing everyone a “Happy New Year!”  And on a personal level, I whole-heartedly do.  But politically, particularly in light of what I’ve just written, it seems  utterly foolish to say, “Happy New Year!”  The words would barely be formed before my inner ear would hear the voice of Chief Wiggums saying, “Yeah, what are the chances of that?”

And so, instead, I leave you with the wisdom of the I Ching: “Perseverance furthers.”

New York Provides A Snowy Glimpse Into America’s Future

“Welcome to the New Normal.”

Those words should be displayed at New York’s airports as a welcome to bedraggled travelers during the Northeast’s latest “snowpocalypse.” Why? Because the Big Apple’s much-lamented paralysis this week is a critical cautionary tale for everyone. As I show in my new newspaper column, the episode warns us about the kind of thing that’s likely coming to the rest of America as we now willfully mix three toxic problems.

The first of those is global climate change. Though no single mega-storm is the fault of climate change, scientists agree that weather – including snow patterns – will become more intense as the planet’s ecosystem is transformed by human-produced pollution. So while New York’s near-record snowstorm may not be the direct result of unbridled carbon emissions, powerful storms like it will undoubtedly be more frequent thanks to our head-in-the-sand attitude toward the environment.

This might be slightly less alarming if our country were making investments to mitigate climate change’s worst effects. But that gets to the second problem that the New York snowstorm epitomizes: America is still being eviscerated by conservatives’ anti-tax, budget-cutting religion – a religion whose high priest is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Like so many wealth-worshiping politicians across the land, Bloomberg spent the last few years focused on two priorities: He campaigned against proposals to replenish depleted public coffers via slightly higher taxes on Wall Streeters, all while citing those depleted coffers as a rationale for massive municipal layoffs. Those job cuts, which were particularly acute at New York’s snow-removing sanitation department, have now predictably translated into an immobilized metropolis.

Bloomberg and other politicians who champion this pervasive tax-cut/budget-cut ideology will certainly employ rhetorical spin to distract from this cause-and-effect story. But with New York still resembling the ice planet Hoth, it’s clear Mother Nature can’t be spun, and even more clear that conservative economic ideology will probably deliver similar results all over America during future weather-related catastrophes.

But, then, how can such a bankrupt ideology persist in the face of such terrible consequences? Welcome to the third problem highlighted by the New York snowstorm: plutocracy.

To read my full newspaper column, go here.

ADDENDUM: I should add that only right-wing tin-foil hatters would have the gall to look at massive layoffs at New York’s sanitation department and nonetheless make up a story that insists the city’s paralysis is a product of a secret union conspiracy. Unfortunately, there are plenty of tin-foil hatters in the media – people like Michelle Malkin, for example. Again, considering the massive layoffs at the sanitation department, you have to be a tin-foil-hat-wearing lunatic to even think this, much less make such a spastically bat-shit-crazy argument in a public forum. What the New York fiasco shows is simple: When it comes to city services, cities get what they pay for, and they don’t get what they refuse to pay for.

NOTE: I appeared on MSNBC earlier this week making precisely this point. It was a good interaction – though some took issue with my argument. Watch it here:

Golden Oldie: The Ultimate Contradiction-in-Terms: Right-wing Christianity


A Mike Lux Golden Oldie

From Mar 15, 2010. Original HERE



I have done a lot of writing, in my blog posts and my book, about the historic differences between conservatives and progressives in political battles, but almost equally fascinating to me is that between conservative and progressive religious traditions. The exact same fault lines, most importantly in terms of individualism vs. community, play themselves out in theological debates which sound very much like our political debates- and indeed, a lot of the same people operate in both realms.

Glenn Beck and Jim Wallis got into this debate over the last few days, and because Jim actually knows something about the Bible, he easily won the debate. Beck’s classic conspiracy-minded starting point- that because both Nazis and Communists have used the phrase “social justice”, that any religion that uses the term must be bad too- has a similar logic to saying that if a really bad teacher said two plus two equals four, because he or she was a bad teacher it must be false. Or saying that if a politician you don’t like says “God Bless America”, then any politician who says that is terrible. But leaving aside Beck’s incredibly stupid logic, the point he makes about “social justice” is in keeping with conservative ideology: it is all about a self-focused view of religion and politics that, like Beck’s ideological hero Ayn Rand, proclaims selfishness as the ultimate virtue.

Conservative Christians manage to ignore the literally many hundreds of Biblical quotes about social justice by making Christianity a religion solely focused on one very selfish goal: whether they get into heaven or not. That’s it, that is the entire goal and purpose and meaning of their faith. And because St. Paul argued that faith is more important than “works” (what you do good in the world), they think that believing a certain doctrine is the only thing that matters in terms of whether you make it into heaven or not. Since everything is about getting themselves to heaven, and the Earth will be destroyed soon in Armageddon anyway, nothing that happens here matters very much. The one thing that matters to their God is having more people worship Him, so they try to convert people, but all that other stuff Jesus and the Old Testament prophets and Moses and James and all those other folks in the Bible talked about in terms of kindness, mercy, forgiving debts, being your brother’s keeper, helping the poor, and all that other liberal socialistic stuff just isn’t much of a priority to them compared to: me getting to heaven, and (second most important) converting others to my God. These so-called “Christian” conservatives live in a state of paranoia that somewhere, somehow some dollar of their taxes might go to some undeserving poor person, ignoring the fact that Jesus’ entire ministry was targeted to the “undeserving” poor.

Not all Christians think this way, of course. There is another kind of thinking about the Christian faith: one that actually takes what’s written in the Bible (beyond the Book of Revelations) seriously. The Jewish Torah (for Christians, that’s their Old Testament) and the Christian New Testament have a wide variety of ideas and voices in their pages. Written by scores of authors over a span of probably a couple thousand years, one of the things I love about the Bible is the wide range of beliefs and perspectives within it. A lot of fundamentalists are desperate to find ways to explain away the contradictions in the Bible, because they believe every word is inspired by God and it’s all literally true, but in fact the authors of the Bible disagree on both the details of what actually happened and the interpretation and philosophy behind the events they write about. If you take the Bible seriously, you see the debates and differing perspectives. Some Biblical writers were more conservative in their thinking, and some were more progressive. But the most consistent and enduring theme that runs through virtually every book in the Bible is that we are expected to love and be kind to our neighbors, especially the poor, hurting, and oppressed of the earth.

From the God of Genesis punishing Cain for not being his brother’s keeper to Nathan the prophet rebuking King David for taking from the poor; from the Psalms that over and over proclaim the need to help the poor, and condemn those who judges, government officials, and wealthy people who mistreat them, from the prophets like Isaiah and Amos who  deride those who engage in ritual sacrifice while refusing to help the oppressed (Isaiah I: “Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.”) to Jesus very first sermon proclaiming that he had come to “bring good news to the poor” and “liberty to the captives”- virtually every book of the Bible demands justice and mercy and community.

People who take the Bible seriously and respect its words, as opposed to being obsessed with whether they personally will get into heaven by following a certain kind of dogma, understand that community and compassion are in fact far more central to it than any specific metaphysical belief system. And that is what the Pat Robertsons, Glenn Becks, Sarah Palins, and the other false prophets of conservatism don’t understand.

Filibuster reform landmine

There are two major benefits that would come from the Merkley-Udall Senate Rule reform proposal:

  1. Filibuster reform.  Biggest thing here is to shift the onus to maintain a filibuster onto the 41+ minority and away from the model of requiring 60 affirmative cloture votes to limit debate.  But also very significant here would be making the motion to proceed non-debatable and ending secret holds.  Much has been written about this, I think these are positive improvements and while I would rather just see the Senate move to actual overt majority rule, this is a significant improvement and would have led to a much better 2008-2010 for progressives.
  2. Majority changing the rules at all.  Like FDL, I think it would be very important for the Senate to pass changes to the Senate rules on a straight majority on the first day of the new Congress.  It remains one of the most baffling self-delusions that the Senate and most Americans accept the fiction that it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster or 67 to change the rules.  I have tried to make the point that the 2005 “nuclear option” fiasco proves that the majority can in fact rule the Senate if they so choose, but it is a tough slog.  Changing the rules on a straight majority would be a big step forward in forcing everyone to dispel this cherished fable of the “cooling saucer.”

So it is with significant trepidation that I read this item on Harry Reid negotiating potential rule changes with the Republicans.  The likely result of any such negotiation would be a symbolic but insufficiently substantial rule tweak that allows the Republicans to continue the substantive work of grinding government to a halt at whim, while allowing Reid and other Senate rule fablists traditionalists to maintain the polite fiction of the Senate as a “continuing body” and pass such meaningless rule changes on a 67 vote supermajority.

What other point can there be to such negotiations?  Republicans clearly can have no interest in limiting the filibuster as presently construed, and the only rule changes they will agree to in sufficient numbers to reach 67 would be ones that don’t do anything.  Hopefully I’m wrong and this is just some necessary step Reid had to take in order to placate other conservadems who like the comfortable myth of the supermajority Senate, and Reid can keep them on board with a majority imposed rule change by saying he tried to get Republicans on board, but the possibility of some kind of Gang-of-14 gentleman’s agreement is a real land mine to rule reform.

One hopeful sign against this is that benefit #2 above is actually high on Udall’s mind as a reason to do this:


Sen. Tom Udall, who’s been at the center of the efforts to convince the Senate to begin updating its rulebook with each new Congress, has argued that this knowledge will make both the majority and the minority act more responsibly in the future, as they’ll labor under the knowledge that misuse of the rules will mean reform of the rules.

So at least he’s less likely to be pawned off by some agreement that is sufficiently useless as to attract 67 votes.  Though, the piece on Reid from TPM quotes Udall saying he’s not privy to whatever Reid is discussing so they could just bypass him and Merkley.  

Illinois may repeal Death Penalty

Next week, the Illinois State House is slated to vote on SB 3539 which now contains a House amendment from Rep Karen Yarbrough (D) which repeals Illinois’ death penalty.  The bill would then have to go back to the Senate, and then to Gov. Pat Quinn (D) who has not yet announced whether he would veto it.

Illinois has not executed anyone since Governor George Ryan (R) halted executions (and famously commuted all death row inmates at the time to life in prison) back in 2000.  His successors in office have maintained the executive branch ban on executions, but since the law is still on the books, prosecutors have still sought, and juries have still imposed the death penalty.  While the status quo is better than the State actively imposing capital punishment, in another sense it is the worst of both worlds, as in addition to still being prone to the issues I discussed here, Illinois also has to bear the costs of keeping people on Death Row and the necessary appeals as no convict can be sure the next Governor won’t overturn the ban.

Nobody seems very sure whether the bill can pass  though it appears to have the votes in the House, and with Democratic majority in the Senate and Illinois being a No-filibuster, majority rule state, it is at least possible.  If you’re interested in helping out, the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is having a lobby day on January 4th to try and push legislators to pass the repeal.  It would be a significant liberal victory to have the fifth largest state make its de facto repeal permanent.  Even having the vote is some kind of progress, indicating the issue is alive and on the agenda.

A Tea Party Crackup: I’m Not A Witch, I’ve Just Got Sticky Fingers

Take a moment from your busy holiday season to consider the following fact: As the new class of Tea Party backed legislators prepares to head off to Washington for the 112th Congress, the movement is once again besmirched by one of it’s former stars. This time it’s thanks to a slip up by that one time sensation, Christine O’Donnell, who is now under the microscope for yet another round of financial improprieties, these related to her failed 2008 run for the U.S. Senate.

According to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, it seems pretty clear that O’Donnell had been using her campaign money to finance her personal lifestyle and that would be highly illegal. These allegations were backed up as well by Ben Evans of the Associated Press, who pointed out:” At least two former campaign workers have alleged that she routinely used political contributions to pay personal expenses including her rent as she ran for the Senate…O’Donnell has acknowledged paying part of her rent with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters.” Likewise, Mark Halperin and others have provided similar and supporting observations. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware is reviewing a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, examining the merits of that complaint and whether or not the amount of money purloined from the campaign reaches the appropriate threshold to require D.O.J. action. The matter is also before the FBI.

Ms. O’Donnell has tried to deflect this latest controversy by asserting that she is he victim of “thug tactics” perpetrated by Vice President Biden or some well orchestrated conspiracy being carried out by the “professional left.” However, Melanie Sloan, President of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington quickly dispatched with these allegations with the following comment which revealed that the source of the allegations against O’Donnell came from her own Republican Staffers and not:” “because we’re some Soros funded group or something, it’s the Republican staffers — people who worked for her — who made it clear she was stealing the money,”

While many would ask the question: “Why bother with Christine O’Donnell as she has by now been roundly dismissed for the buffoon that she is?” Well that may in fact be the case as far as Ms. O’Donnell goes but there is a larger, more compelling question beyond the particulars of her personal missteps alone. That larger question revolves around the selection of someone like Christine O’Donnell as a candidate for public office and what that says about decision making process within the Tea Party Movement as it relates to who is picked to run and how they are vetted. Moreover, what in turn does the selection of candidates of Ms. O’Donnell’s caliber that say about the Tea Party Movement’s chances for long term success? I for one think that this element of the movement’s modus operandi is in fact one of it’s greatest weaknesses, one that works against its long term viability as a serious force within American politics. Not to telegraph too much, but this will be part and parcel of a wider discussion in the New Year, Stay tuned and Happy New Year.

Steven J. Gulitti

12/30/10

Ethics Group: Amount Of Money Could Make Or Break O’Donnell Investigation; http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpoi…

Questions about Christine O’Donnell’s campaign finances; http://www.citizensforethics.o…

Christine O’Donnell: ‘Thug’ Tactics Responsible For Campaign Finance Accusations;  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

O’Donnell’s Denial; http://thepage.time.com/2010/1…

The Latest Tea Party Crackup: I’m Not A Witch, I’ve Just Got Sticky Fingers

Take a moment from your busy holiday season to consider the following fact: As the new class of Tea Party backed legislators prepares to head off to Washington for the 112th Congress, the movement is once again besmirched by one of it’s former stars. This time it’s thanks to a slip up by that one time sensation, Christine O’Donnell, who is now under the microscope for yet another round of financial improprieties, these related to her failed 2008 run for the U.S. Senate.

According to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, it seems pretty clear that O’Donnell had been using her campaign money to finance her personal lifestyle and that would be highly illegal. These allegations were backed up as well by Ben Evans of the Associated Press, who pointed out:” At least two former campaign workers have alleged that she routinely used political contributions to pay personal expenses including her rent as she ran for the Senate…O’Donnell has acknowledged paying part of her rent with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters.” Likewise, Mark Halperin and others have provided similar and supporting observations. To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware is reviewing a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, examining the merits of that complaint and whether or not the amount of money purloined from the campaign reaches the appropriate threshold to require D.O.J. action. The matter is also before the FBI.

Ms. O’Donnell has tried to deflect this latest controversy by asserting that she is he victim of “thug tactics” perpetrated by Vice President Biden or some well orchestrated conspiracy being carried out by the “professional left.” However, Melanie Sloan, President of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington quickly dispatched with these allegations with the following comment which revealed that the source of the allegations against O’Donnell came from her own Republican Staffers and not:” “because we’re some Soros funded group or something, it’s the Republican staffers — people who worked for her — who made it clear she was stealing the money,”

While many would ask the question: “Why bother with Christine O’Donnell as she has by now been roundly dismissed for the buffoon that she is?” Well that may in fact be the case as far as Ms. O’Donnell goes but there is a larger, more compelling question beyond the particulars of her personal missteps alone. That larger question revolves around the selection of someone like Christine O’Donnell as a candidate for public office and what that says about decision making process within the Tea Party Movement as it relates to who is picked to run and how they are vetted. Moreover, what in turn does the selection of candidates of Ms. O’Donnell’s caliber that say about the Tea Party Movement’s chances for long term success? I for one think that this element of the movement’s modus operandi is in fact one of it’s greatest weaknesses, one that works against its long term viability as a serious force within American politics. Not to telegraph too much, but this will be part and parcel of a wider discussion in the New Year, Stay tuned and Happy New Year.

Steven J. Gulitti

12/30/10

Ethics Group: Amount Of Money Could Make Or Break O’Donnell Investigation; http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpoi…

Questions about Christine O’Donnell’s campaign finances; http://www.citizensforethics.o…

Christine O’Donnell: ‘Thug’ Tactics Responsible For Campaign Finance Accusations;  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

O’Donnell’s Denial; http://thepage.time.com/2010/1…

Golden Oldie: A question of character


A Mike Lux Golden Oldie

From Jan 20, 2010. Original HERE


In all the hundreds of thousands of words being written and spoken about the implications of last night’s special election in Massachusetts by all the pundits and strategists and drum-beaters for various interest groups, only one thing really matters right now: the character of the leaders of the Democratic party. It is up to them whether this generation of Democrats has the guts to keep moving forward boldly even as they run into resistance and trial, or whether they fall back into the collective character flaw that has held the Democrats, and the country, back for 40 years now: that sense of abiding caution that would have them pull back into a shell at the first sign of trouble and give up on trying to change anything. As I wrote in my book The Progressive Revolution:
In the culture of caution that dominates Democratic politics in the modern era, when you try something big and fail, even if the failure is due in great part to your own timidity, you only become more cautious.

President Obama deserves enormous credit for taking on big tough issues like health care and climate change and financial regulation, but the problem is that the pursuit of these noble causes has become bogged down in the slowness and special interest dominated world that is Capitol Hill right now. The Obama White House has compounded the problem by not taking on the special interests head on and full force, but instead giving in to them on a variety of issues that really mattered to both the Democratic base and to middle class voters: the big banks got bailout money while being asked to do little in return; the drug companies got taken off the hook in order to bring them aboard with health care legislation; the insurance industry won all their big battles on health care, leaving them free from public plan competition or anti-trust worries; polluters got massive set-asides in the energy bill.

Here’s the deal: while there are significant differences between Democratic base voters who didn’t turn out to vote in very big numbers yesterday in Massachusetts, and the working class swing voters who voted for Scott Brown, these two kinds of voters actually have a great deal in common in terms of what will move them to vote for Democrats:

1. They want big change.

2. They are tired of having wealthy special interests, especially the big banks and insurers, run things in DC.

3. They expect the Democrats to get things done on the big issues of the day- they want jobs created, a better health care system where the power of the big insurers is reigned in, investments in renewable energy, the big banks broken up.

The same debate every political party has after every big loss started up immediately again last night. The completely predictable voices of cautious conservative Democrats are already in the usual high pitch whine: we have to pull back, we have to go slow, we have to not change things so much. The quintessential cautious Democrat, Evan Bayh, spoke for this line of thinking in his usual way:

It’s why moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massacusetts aren’t buying our message. They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems.

Although he was arguing this in the context of pulling back, the ironic thing is that Bayh was right about one thing: voters really don’t believe Democrats are solving their problems. And why is that? Because the big change we promised them hasn’t materialized. Because the deals being cut with the bankers and drug companies and insurance industry are not solving their problems. Because going in slow motion on issues like health care has convinced them that we can’t deliver.

At this moment, Democrats face the ultimate test of character: do we have the courage to head into the wind of the pontificating pundits and the culture of caution Democrats, and deliver the real change American voters are asking for? Or do we turn tail and run from the challenge? The irony is that doing the gutsy thing is by far the smartest thing Democrats could do politically. If we actually pass health care reform, if we actually go after the big banks, if we actually get things done on immigration reform, we convince swing voters we are capable of getting things done, and we convince our base that we are worth turning out to vote for.

Voters will reward us if we do the right thing. And so will history. When the revolutionary war was going badly for Washington, when the civil war was going badly for Lincoln, when civil rights reform threatened the Democrats in the South for a generation, our leaders did not turn tail and run away from the challenge. They had the courage of their convictions, and they have a special place in our country’s history as a result. Now is the time for this generation of Democratic leaders to do the right thing. Voters will reward them in the short run, and history will reward them in the long run.

Why are Dems so clueless??? [Part 7,489,631]

It’s only natural that conservative Republicans, hating science as they do, are ultimately clueless about how the world works.  But what’s the Democrats’ excuse?  Two items in Huffington Post yesterday brought this question up for me yet again.  First, Jason Linkins linked to: David Weigle’s follow-up to his Countdown appearance, explaining the utter futility of Hawaii’s new Governor Neil Abercrombie trying to defeat birtherism with facts:

The “birther” movement began not because Barack Obama’s campaign refused to show proof of his citizenship, but because it did show proof. In June 2008, it responded to some rumors about whether Obama was born a Muslim or had different parents than had been reported by releasing the short-form certificate, the sort of form you get if you lose your driver’s license and need to prove your identity to the DMV to get a new license. This launched a cottage industry of hilarious “document analysis” attempting to prove that the certificate was forged by the Obama campaign. And this is exactly what would happen again if the governor of Hawaii, who knew the Obama family in the 1960s, let reporters photograph more of Obama’s documents. The birther crowd would cry “forgery,” as the Kennedy assassination and moon landing hoax crowds look for anything that could unravel the official story in every new official analysis.

It’s really simple, folks: They’re just not that into facts. So providing more facts is a fool’s errand.  Generally, liberals & Democrats are much more attentive to facts–but the fact that facts just don’t matter to conservatives?  That’s one fact they just can’t seem to get, no matter how many times their noses are rubbed in it.

But that’s not all there is to it–Democratic cluelessness, that is.  Consider the second item, Sam Stein reporting on the Versailles Dem cluelessness about the meaning of mid-term elections:

Pollster Reveal: Few Candidates Saw Deficit Reduction As A MajorIssue

Posted: 12-29-10 01:12 PM

NEW HAVEN — It is expected as a fait accompli that President Obama, both in his upcoming State of the Union address and during his next year or two in office, will focus his energy and efforts on deficit reduction.

The administration has already announced a forthcoming freeze in both discretionary spending and federal worker salaries. And with a more heavily GOP-tilted legislative branch in the offing, this topic appears to be the best (and perhaps only) hope for a governing consensus.

There’s a sound argument to be made on economic grounds that this makes little sense. But increasingly it has become clear that there is scant political upside as well, at least for Democrats. A CNN poll released earlier this week found that while a wide swath of respondents thought spending was a problem, only one in five believed “that deficit reduction should be the main goal of government today.” That number mirrors other polling data that sets deficit reduction as a second-tier priority, as far as the public is concerned.

A more telling metric, however, may be that when actual congressional candidates were polling their own districts during the height of the 2010 elections they neither considered deficit reduction a major issue nor were handed data that suggested it was.

The Huffington Post reached out to half-a-dozen major Democratic pollsters to ask them what topics not only resonated most with the voting public but occupied their clients the most as the election approached. The deficit wasn’t on the list.

“Deficit reduction was more a DC-driven narrative during the elections,” said John Anzalone, a partner at Anzalone Liszt Research. “I think it will be a more salient issue in the next twelve months, but the reality is that if the deficit is the most important issue for a voter there is not much of a chance a Democratic candidate for Congress is going to get them anyway.”

“Deficit reduction is very inside the beltway,” said Tom Jensen, the Director of Public Policy Polling. “It was not something many voters spend a lot of time thinking about.”

Stein goes on to report that health care reform was a worrying issue for Southern Democrats, according Jensen, while other pollsters talked about outsourcing and fighting job loss:  

“The one issue I think every Democratic pollster found to be very strong was outsourcing — anything related to jobs going overseas got a strong response,” said Guy Molyneux of Hart Research.

“Obviously, nearly all campaign polling done this year had an economic focus in one way or another,” said Nick Gourevitch, vice president of Global Strategy Group. “At the top of that list was jobs — especially on the Democratic side — where a lot of the polling was on outsourcing and preventing the loss of American jobs.”

That the loss of jobs took political precedence over the levels of government spending seems fairly logical. Voters are more emotionally concerned about their personal employment than the size of the deficit — though it should be noted that the bailout of the banks and automobile industry were polled heavily by candidates, according to several pollsters.

This is not the least bit surprising, actually.  After all, as I discussed in a poll-election polling diary, “Progressive polling post-mortem from Stan Greenberg & Robert Borosage” (Nov 5):

a pro-investment message directly contradicting the GOP would be wildly popular:


[Click to Enlarge in New Window]

As if that weren’t enough, another chart from that same diary tested the head-to-head strength of the investment message versus what Republicans are pushing, just to remove any possible doubt:


[Click to Enlarge in New Window]

Now, yes, I know, a large part of why Versailles Dems ignore polling data like this is that they’re captives of special interests, and ideologically blinded by neo-liberalism. I get that.  But here’s evidence that their own pollsters were telling them something about how to get re-elected–almost always a politician’s number one concern–and they weren’t doing anything effective with it, certainly not crafting a simple agenda like the one that GQR tested for.

What’s more, Abercrombie’s cluelessness about combating birtherism has nothing to do with neo-liberalism or special interests.  What does tie these two examples of cluelessness together is that both reflect the Democrats’ assumptions that they have to respond to the Republican’s agenda-setting, rather than pro-actively doing some agenda-setting of their own.

Ain’t they never heard that “the best defense is a good offense?”

Are they really that clueless?

You bet your sweet ass they are.