As we try to raise our spirits with thoughts of another holiday season of parties, family gatherings and frenzied shopping, our collective rage mounts as we are brought back to stark reality with yet another example of just how dysfunctional our government has become -- the abject failure of the Super (or should it be called "Stupor?") Committee to come to an agreement on $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts and how to achieve them. The continued irrationality of the GOP's steadfast rejection of any tax increases on the wealthiest among us continues to be the major sticking point. Of course, if the GOP had its way, the Bush tax cuts would go on into perpetuity, which is what this dance has always been about, despite their wild-eyed squawking about the deficit. Thankfully, the Dems -- for once -- refused to take the GOP's bait, and balked at cutting our safety nets of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid without tax increases, resulting in another standoff and the failure of the Committee.
Every sane person in this country understands that the tax code needs a major overhaul to address our desperate need for revenue, yet only a massive outcry from the public helped to prevent another cave-in from the Dem members on the Committee. Who are these people that we've sent to Washington to represent us? Do they live in this country? Do they see the same news reports, pass the same shuttered businesses, hear the same desperate stories from their friends and family? One has to wonder.
Another unaddressed crisis continues to be the over 24 million unemployed and under-employed across America. All of our energies must be directed to getting those people back to work in real, living-wage jobs, which will go a long way towards helping to address the deficit. It should be the first lesson taught in Common Sense 101, Mr. President (and all of you out-of-touch Congressmembers): more jobs plus fair taxation equals a stronger economy, while fewer jobs plus unfair taxation minus Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid
We watched last week as the campaigner in chief headed to New Hampshire to sell the continuation of the payroll tax cut to an ever-dwindling number of middle-class workers, who will otherwise see $1,000 more snatched from their paychecks next year if this tax break expires. Here is a winning plank in your re-election platform, Mr. President, going into the holiday season during this still-weak economy. Where, however, were you and your bully pulpit during the Super Committee's heated negotiations? Why were our safety nets even a part of this Committee's purview? Such obvious failures in leadership are a major reason why you are doing so poorly in the polls, Mr. President. Now, because of the Super Committee's failure, 2013 will trigger automatic cuts in national defense and in our safety nets. There is still time to work on a resolution, but it does not bode well for us if our so-called "leaders" are willing to kick these incredibly important issues down the road until after this election cycle -- a telling example of whose interests they are really looking after.
We, the voters, must take on the task of extricating our government from this morass of selfishness and ideo-illogical behavior that is destroying our democracy and our country. For those of us who consider ourselves to be true Progressives, it can no longer be good enough to just vote the Democratic line on our ballots. We need to find, support and vote for bold, truly Progressive Democrats with sturdy backbones and spotless ethics.
Unfortunately, if you check the DCCC's website, you will be shocked to find that there is no message stating what they stand for, nor is there any information on what candidates they are supporting, or the positions their chosen candidates are taking on a host of issues. Of course, if you look at the Obama re-election campaign's website, you won't see much in the way of substance, either (surprise, surprise), instead only seeing solicitation after solicitation for "da money," with the vaguest of complaints thrown in about those "evil" GOP-ers. The only clear message on both fronts is obvious: "Just give, baby, no questions asked."
The DCCC's mission appears to be only to fill its fat coffers further so they can continue to deliver tepid Blue Dog Dems who are fiscal (and in some cases social) conservatives and, more importantly, mega-fundraisers, like DCCC Chair and former Blue Dog Steve Israel and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. It is painfully obvious that the Democratic party has become a "members-only" affair, open to "pay-for-play" candidates and electeds who bring in big donations to the machine in exchange for committee seats, which enable them to return legislative favors to the high-roller donors of their campaigns. And who are these big donors? The same special and corporate "interests" who give generously to both parties to keep the cycle of graft and gridlock spinning, increasing the ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots.
Where is the change you promised, Mr. President? Will we have to wait for your second term before you'll deliver on your promise to clean out our bought-and-paid-for political system in DC? When will you rebuild the Democratic party and make it actually work for the 99%? After all, you are supposed to be the leader of the People's Party, Mr. President; it's time to show it. The special interests already have the GOP, so there's no point in trying to curry their favor anymore. If you really want to set yourself apart and give voters something to "believe" in again, you must come out in support of an amendment overturning the Citizens United decision, and support the Fair Elections Now Act. These would show not only that you "get it," but also that you are serious about fixing the dysfunction in DC and giving the People's government back to the People.
Sadly, such bold moves by this President and the current Democratic party are highly unlikely, as Dems continue to shoot themselves in their own collective foot and butt by only seeking and supporting candidates who can raise big bucks for their campaigns and the party. Being a "conservative" also seems to be an extra bonus in their eyes, which is interpreted to mean that they have access to donors with deep pockets. After all, if the DCCC doesn't have to supply candidates with campaign funding (which is their job, isn't it?), so much the better. A truly Progressive candidate will clearly not have ties to corporate interests -- and therefore not have access to big money donors -- and so is actively discouraged from running by the party elders, even if they are clearly the better candidate.
Last month in DC, at a DCCC gathering of 107 invited candidates -- no doubt a significant number from key states in 2012 presidential election -- House candidate Dr. David Gill (Illinois 13th CD) was told he was not a viable candidate, since he did not raise at least $100,000 in the last quarter. Even though Dr. Gill's campaign raised $52,000, including $3,500 left over from last year's run for Congress with a strictly People-driven, grassroots campaign. There is no corporate special interest money being given to this dyed-in-the-wool Progressive candidate, mostly because Dr. Gill won't accept it. Even though Nancy Pelosi noted upon meeting Dr. Gill that she had "heard about" him, and even though any Dem candidate is now polling at 53% against 40-year GOP Congressman Tim Johnson's 33% in a new District 13 that is clearly trending Democratic, the DCCC still did not consider Dr. Gill a "viable" candidate. Instead, all of a sudden, Illinois State Attorney Matt Goetten -- a conservative with big money ties from a family with a longtime connection to Illinois politics -- has "parachuted" into the race. One wonders where his "inspiration" to seek higher office came from.
Other examples of how the party involves itself in primary races against Progressives can be seen just by looking around our President's own home state of Illinois. There is a high profile race in the Illinois 8th CD, where Blue Dog Iraq Veteran Tammy Duckworth -- a former Department of Veteran Affairs official, DC insider and darling of the DCCC, who is also supported by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin -- is running against Progressive Raja Krishnamoorthi, who lost a narrow race for Illinois State Comptroller last year. In the Illinois 10th, another interesting race is developing in the Democratic primary fight to take on Republican freshman Bob Dold between John Tree, a Reserve Air Force Colonel and conservative businessman, and Progressive Dem llya Sheyman, who is endorsed by Democracy For America. And not to be overlooked is the race between incumbent Jesse Jackson Jr. in the Illinois 2nd, running against Blue Dog Debbie Halvorson. Meanwhile, back in Florida, great news has come out that super-Progressive Alan Grayson is seeking to win back his lost seat in Congress. His colorful, in-your-face style of taking on Republicans and issues is an embarrassment to the otherwise weak-armed Dem party, so he will most surely not be embraced by them. These stories are repeated from state to state, with Democratic party support going to Blue Dog conservatives who can gin up "da money" for the party, while also toeing the party line.
The Democratic party has lost its way following its malfunctioning moral compass. Indeed, does it even remember why it exists? That once-great party of labor and hard-working Americans is but a distant memory. Much thanks for this case of collective amnesia can be given to former DCCC chair Rahm Emanuel, who recruited Blue Dogs and built the Blue Dog Coalition in a misguided attempt to drive the Democratic party more towards "the middle" (obviously following the lead of his former boss, the original "Blue Dog" Bill Clinton). Emmanuel was bad news from the day President Obama appointed him as Chief of Staff, making clear what the O administration would really be about. A soulless weasel who cut loose from his donkey roots long ago, Rahm is now imposing his brand of ugly, conservative Democratic politics on Chicago as its Mayor. Good luck to the Windy City as they endure the hopefully brief reign of this ruthless thug.
In the 2010 election, the Blue Dogs lost a whopping 22 members in the House, as the People spoke out against politics as usual. Unfortunately, they were replaced by a pack of raving loons from the Tea Party, who now control the House. But do you think the DCCC or DNC has learned anything? I doubt it. My hope is that the Occupy-ers will come to understand that they can wield a big stick if they work with other true Progressive organizations to build a movement and support Progressive candidates for Congress and the White House. OWS has successfully brought attention back to true Progressive issues and core democratic, People-centered values, and they can have a major role in reconstructing our government, but only if they help bring the right people in to govern.
- with Jonathan Stone