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If you can’t say anything nice…

November 13, 2010
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I’ve been trying to decide what, if anything, to say about the mid-term elections.  Shall I look on the bright side?  The progressive caucus came through almost entirely intact – although very much missing Russ Feingold – while the Blue Dog faux Dems were nearly halved.  (And yet, as Rachel Maddow put it the evening after, they intend to “flex their muscle” with the Republicans.) (I tried to embed that clip here, but WordPress is not cooperating. Go to Nov. 3, the segment subtitled “GOP takes out moderates in both parties,” and watch the last couple of minutes.) Does this sound like a mandate for the Republican agenda?

Then again, what IS the Republican agenda?  According to Mitch McConnell, it’s to make Obama a one-term president.  I’m not sure why: he’s doing their bidding.  Will we notice a difference with this new congress?  Even with a Democratic majority behind him, Obama consistently placated, “compromised” with (using a new-to-me nuance of the term that apparently means, “I’ll give up everything I stand for and let you have your way”), and conceded to Republicans and Big Business on just about everything of importance.  I suppose it could get even worse – in which case I take consolation in the fact that with the Tea Party additions to the House, Boehner’s “caucus” is going to be enough of a goat rodeo that the next elections should roll round before they have repealed the already-compromised health care and banking reforms.

Unless, of course, Obama keeps compromising with them.

Here’s my little round-up of “what they saids”:

Bob Herbert:

It would also be a mistake for the Democrats, a terminally timid party, to cave in to their opponents and start embracing a G.O.P. agenda that would only worsen the prospects of ordinary working Americans and the poor.

The Democrats are in disarray because it’s a party that lacks a spine. The Republicans, conversely, fight like wild people whether they’re in the majority or not. What neither party is doing is offering a bold, coherent plan to get the nation’s economy in good shape and create jobs, to bring our young men and women home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to rebuild the education system in a way that will prepare the next generation for the great challenges of the 21st century, and to reinvigorate the can-do spirit of America in a way that makes people believe that they are working together toward grand and constructive goals.

Normon Solomon:

The mass-media echo chamber now insists that Republicans have triumphed because President Obama was guilty of overreach. But since its first days, the administration has undermined itself — and the country — with tragic under-reach.

It’s all about priorities. The Obama presidency has given low priority to reducing unemployment, stopping home foreclosures or following through with lofty pledges to make sure that Main Street recovers along with Wall Street.

Far from constraining the power of the Republican Party, the administration’s approach has fundamentally empowered it. The ostensibly shrewd political strategists in the White House have provided explosive fuel for right-wing “populism” while doing their best to tamp down progressive populism. Tweaks aside, the Obama presidency has aligned itself with the status quo — a formula for further social disintegration and political catastrophe.

Marshall Ganz:

In his transactional leadership mode, the president chose compromise rather than advocacy. Instead of speaking on behalf of a deeply distressed public, articulating clear positions to lead opinion and inspire public support, Obama seemed to think that by acting as a mediator, he could translate Washington dysfunction into legislative accomplishment. Confusing bipartisanship in the electorate with bipartisanship in Congress, he lost the former by his feckless pursuit of the latter, empowering the very people most committed to bringing down his presidency.
[—]
Now Obama must take a deep breath, step back, reflect on the values that drew him into public life in the first place and acknowledge responsibility for his mistakes. He must reverse the leadership choices of the first half of his term. His No. 1 mission must be to speak for the anxious and the marginalized and to lead us in the task of putting Americans to work rebuilding our future. He must advocate, not merely try to mediate in a fractious, divided Washington. And he must again rely on ordinary citizens to help us move forward.

Robert Reich, on the priority of extending tax cuts to anyone making under $500K (the bottom 99%):

The President says a Republican proposal to extend the Bush tax cuts to everyone for two years is a “basis for conversation.” I hope this doesn’t mean another Obama cave-in.

(Editor’s note: Oops… uh, about that: White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts)

(Robert Reich, cont’d)

The politics are even clearer. Over the next two years, Obama must clarify for the nation whose side he’s on and whose side his Republican opponents are on. What better issue to begin with than this one?

The top 1 percent now takes in almost a quarter of all national income (up from 9 percent in the late 1970s), and its political power is evident in everything from hedge-fund and private-equity fund managers who can treat their incomes as capital gains (subject to a 15 percent tax) to multi-million dollar home interest deductions on executive mansions.

If the President can’t or won’t take a stand now — when he still has a chance to prevail in the upcoming lame-duck Congress — when will he ever?

Mark Fiore, “Uncompromise.”

(Just watch.)

OK, I’ll end on an upbeat note, with a good post by Rabbi Michael Lerner, “10 Commandments to Revive Progressives After the November Defeat.”  (Note #1:  “Don’t let the media frame this as a defeat of progressives.”)

More stuff to come soon, including a brief review of Daniel Schulz’s (aka “Pastor Dan” 0f Street Prophets and Religion Dispatches) new book, Changing the Script.

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