You've probably noticed that the debate swirling around the president's recovery bill has reached new levels of mortal terror and chaos. Even a casual excursion around the liberal tubes and you'll find posts that read like the worst parts of the Bible. There's a palpable vibe in many progressive circles that the president is on the brink of an epic fail.
After all, this is one of those do-or-die moments in American history and the panic level is rightly proportional.
But while urgency is appropriate, we're losing the initiative.
We all have our own ideas about what the recovery bill is supposed to look like. The Republicans are threatening to filibuster, and we can't trust Harry Reid to stop them. Rush Limbaugh, the very serious leader of the Republican Party and alleged sex tourist, has ordered his dittoheads to blitz the Democrats with angry phone calls. Concurrently, Democrats, liberals and progressives, for all we've learned in the last eight years, are losing the framing battle -- "stimulus package" sounds like a weird service offered at a porn store and, in that context, a trillion dollar "stimulus package" sounds, you know, painful. Meanwhile, centrist Democrats like Ben Nelson appear to be ransacking the bill. Other Democrats have bugged out of Washington entirely.
We're looking at fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Forty years of darkness. The dead rising from the grave! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!
Come to think of it, some of that Ghostbusters stuff might actually come true if a beefy and expensive recovery bill isn't passed, and right soon.
So how do we get there?
The first step in getting a handle on all of this mayhem is to understand that this is unprecedented in terms of size, scope and strategy -- only rivaled by the New Deal. Then again, for all of the obstacles he faced, FDR didn't have to negotiate his way through cable news, a hostile press, far-right talk radio, the blogotubes and an army of dittoheads taking their orders from an impotent burnout whose stated goal is the failure of the economy. In other words, while there are very smart economic solutions being pitched by Paul Krugman and others, the price tag, politics, optics, media and discourse are all brand new.
This is massive, this is complicated, this is unlike anything we've ever seen.
Nevertheless, the president hasn't faded, which is good considering the Herculean enormity of what's confronting him. President Obama, as we witnessed throughout the campaign, has a narrative build and a cadence in his speech-making that's almost perfectly duplicated in how he leads and how he manages a crisis. And based on his public appearances this week, he's actually gaining strength -- amplifying his voice and fortifying his position.
The second step is the big one. The progressive netroots have yet to seriously blitz Congress on this thing. The central reason for this lack of activism was summarized by Chris Bowers and Atrios who are asking: If we blitz Congress, what the hell do we support exactly? There are so many ideas in terms of what the recovery bill should look like, which iteration do we get behind?
There are obviously no easy answers. But regardless of the differing ideas about the details of the recovery bill, there's one thing that most of us can agree about: the Republicans can't be trusted on the economy and they can't be trusted to meddle with the recovery bill.
The president wrote in the Washington Post today:
In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis... I reject those theories...
In addition to being a clear message to Congress, this sounds like a mission statement -- for the administration and for us. Reject the Republican economic theories.
To that point, there's no debating the Republican record on the economy. Their allegiance to Reaganomics and free market deregulation have led us to the brink of, well, dogs and cats living together and mass hysteria.
Nevertheless, there they are on cable news and the Sunday shows acting as if they know something. At the same time, they've proved themselves to be dishonest, bad-fath actors in this thing. They've spread lies about fake CBO reports, while also ignoring an actual CBO report on the Senate bill indicating that it would, in fact, succeed in stimulating economic growth. They've spread lies about nonexistent ACORN line items in the bill -- line items that only exist inside of Michelle Malkin's twisted dome. I mean, they met with Joe the Plumber on the Hill this week to discuss the economy. Joe the Plumber. About the economy. Because they're very serious people who ought to be taken very seriously.
And so they should be summarily shut out of this process -- whether or not the president wants them out.
The Republicans have zero cred.
And that's the message we can unify around: ZERO CRED.
Operation Zero Cred.
From there, considering the unprecedented dollar amount of the recovery bill, it might be impossible to herd every cat. But perhaps, in the process, we'll at least marginalize the Republicans just a little more. And that will surely mean a larger, more robust recovery bill.
So as the saying goes: We are the ones we've been waiting for, and all that.
Don't write or send e-mails. Written screeds can be conveniently lost, deleted or shredded. Telephones, on the other hand, make loud beeping and ringing noises and you'll know right away that there's a real life human being on the other end of the line who has to listen to what you have to say.
"The Republicans have zero credibility on the economy."
Paraphrase President Obama:
"Please reject the Republican theories that got us into this mess in the first place."
Feel free to toss in the following:
"Make the Republicans stand and filibuster if they want to filibuster. No cloture votes!
Don't get into specific details of the bill. Our message needs to be consistent and unified: Zero Cred. The Republicans have zero credibility. We reject their ideas and we reject their theories.
Let's do this.
Order my book: One Nation Under Fear, with a foreword by Arianna Huffington. Also available in stores.