Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Rob Kall Headshot

Spineless Dems or a Dem-Trifecta Driven Filibuster-Proof Congress and a Media Carrot

Posted: Updated:

crossposted from

It had been months, since November, or maybe even longer, since I characterized the Dems as spineless. I was giving Obama and the dems a chance, wishing and hoping and thinking and praying.

The Burt Bacharach lyrics advise us to "hold him and love him."

Sorry Barack, sorry house and senate. No holding, No loving. I did my thing in the voting booth and I've been writing and showing up, raising my voice, and you're coming up short. Lately, that word, "spineless,"
has been creeping back on my tongue.

Spineless BLUE Jellyfish flickr image by I Love Milwaukee

The dems in congress were given incredible power by the American people and they've pissed it away.

David Swanson's brilliant new book, Daybreak, must reading for any progressive patriot, has a chapter title which describes the 111th congress democrats-- Voluntary Impotence. Castratos,
self induced! When power is given, there is a responsibility to use it wisely. That takes courage. It is cowardly-- spineless-- to not use it at all.

Now I wasn't the one who pulled the S word out from the past. Bill Moyers called the Dems spineless in describing how they're handling health reform. How else could they be characterized, allowing a loudmouthed minority of angry losers and a right wing echo-chamber, fueled and funded by the insurance company and for-profit health care industry EVERYONE knew would be there to foment fear and insecurity.

You and I knew that the health care industry would spend billions to protect their multi-trillion dollar industry. Why was Obama and the Dem Trifecta team surprised by the toxicteabaggers and their lying messages of fear? It's just plain bad leadership that is at fault. And part of the reason for the failure is there are a lot of Dems who actually are whores bought and paid for by the for-profit health industry-- like Max Baucus. But he's not alone.

Over and over again we've seen clear examples of congressional Democrats using Right wing talking points to criticize single payer plans. These legislators are not ignorant. They've met with many single payer advocates and they know the truth. They just choose to mouth the right wing talking points. This is not the representation they were elected to perform.

The good thing is, the Dems and Obama can regain their spines and start doing the job we elected them to do. They gave more than lip-service to the idea we now see was unrealistic-- working at achieving bi-partisan agreement on the big issues.

The truth is, the American people massively rejected the right wing vision and gave Democrats the trifecta-- the perfect horror storm for Republicans-- control of the house, senate and White House. And the (expletive deleted) spineless dems are throwing it away. More than anyone else, I blame Harry Reid. He has failed to keep his house, or in this case, his senate, in order, allowing MaxBaucus to produce a total clusterfuck in the Senate finance committee. It should never have been allowed to go so far. It is Reid's job to whip Baucus and the other bluedog Dems in the senate into acceptable compliance.

Bernie Sanders, on Rachel Maddow last night, said it right. Those Dems need to work with the Dem party to block the Republican filibuster. That's all. They don't have to vote for the bills they don't like. They can abstain or oppose them. But they do have to help the Dems so they can hold up or down votes that allow a simple majority to pass basic legislation. This should be a given. This should be clear from the beginning. If Lieberman orLandrieu or Specter or Baucus don't like the health bill, they don't have to vote for it.

Ten Democrats can abstain or vote against it and it will still be passed by the Democratic caucus, with the Vice President breaking the tie. But those moderate Dems MUST make it clear that they have demolished, obliterated and wiped out the filibuster in the 111th congress. Either they work with the Dems or they don't. If Baucus and his "centrist" Dem cronies won't block the filibuster, what good are they in the caucus? Tell them to guarantee a filibuster-proof congress or go join the other side-- and lose his committee seat and whatever other penalties can be applied to Montana, including a cut in funding for Montana projects, wherever possible. Votes have consequences-- for the constituents who send assholes to Washington and the assholes who constipate progress.

Once we've gotten that filibuster-proof senate resolved, and the silly notion of bi-partisan cooperation on health care out of the way, it's time to re-assess what American needs. The fact is, for profit health care is a parasite, a cancer getting bigger and bigger, dragging down the US economy, literally laying waste to and killing US industries.Obama's band-aid approach to cobble together a public option doesn't cut it. We need the same solution that EVERY other first world civilized nation has come to. We need single payer health care. Repeated studies have shown that it will save one to four trillion dollars over ten years, rather than costing an extra trillion-- with medicare cuts.

That's right. We have to get Baucus and Landrieu and Lieberman and Specter and Claire McGaskill and others to not only block the filibuster, but allow 50 democratic senators and Joe Biden to pass the most momentuous, most courageous, most moral bill America has seen since Lyndon Johnson ended racism with his Great society and equal rights protections.

We've given the Dems and Obama incredible power. As they've spinelessly avoided using it, their numbers have descended lower and lower. Part of the problem is Obama selected a ragged collection ofDLC Dems from the Clinton administration-- a failed administration that repeatedly sold out Americans, signing the US up with the American-industry-destroyingWTO and NAFTA, trying to make Democrats look more and more like Republicans. Obama may have had some rationale for starting with experienced administration hands, but now, it's time to jettison them, to replace them, like Moses replaced his leaders with people who'd never lived under Egyptian slavery, with tough, strong leaders who truly want change, who are willing to represent the people who gave the Dems the Trifecta Majority.

If Obama and Harry Reid don't "spine up," they will deserve to lose their next elections.

It is a great gift, an extraordinary honor to be handed great power. Failure to wield the power with courage and integrity may be one of the worst failures of character, perhaps even a mortal sin. There are leaders who are already standing up-- Bernie Sanders, Anthony Weiner, Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers. They are examples for others to follow. Talk to your congresspeople. Tell them you expect to use ALL the power they were given, not for half-assed measures, but the full measure of what America needs-- real universal, single payer health care. That will still allow private enterprise for doctors and hospitals. It will still allow capitalism. It will stop the parasites, the cancers that have grown out of control-- in the for-profit health care business, on K-street and on Capitol Hill.

A few more things. Those angry teabaggers at townhalls. Some of them may be paid shills, but a lot of them are just angry right wing losers who have been revved up by right wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck. Some are senior who are really scared because they are being told big lies by right wingers all over the place. I say tell the former to STFU and help the latter by defeating the messaging lies the for-profit health care industry is promulgating. Beat it.

One way to do it is to throw some money to the media in the health care bill. I know it ay seem crass, but congress should include in the single payer health care budget a quarter of one percent of the $2.5 trillion spent on health care annually, to be applied to buy advertising for "health education." This investment would equal three quarters of the ad revenues newspapers and the US broadcast media saw in 2008. That kind of carrot might start getting the mainstream media on the bandwagon, supporting single payer. And actually, that much advertising supporting healthy lifestyle and preventive care might actually save thousands of lives and become a solid, productive investment. While the media are looking at this carrot, maybe they'll consider where their bread is buttered. Maybe Clear Channel, wondering where that single payer health and wellness ad money will be allotted, will decide it should start adding more liberal, progressive talk shows in all the metro areas that only have right wing talk, like Philly, where I live. Maybe Rupert Murdoch will think about how much of the ad money pie Fox will see as long as Glen Beck is spewing his lies and innuendos.

The Dems were given extraordinary power. They need extraordinary leaders to wield it. It really is time for a change. Maybe they should go all the way and replace Harry Reid with Bernie Sanders or Russ Feingold. America deserves better than what we've been getting. The people who voted for Obama deserve better.

Register To Vote