17 December 2010

Bleak picture for real liberals in America

I wish I had some basis for optimism, but I'm convinced that by negotiating with ourselves yet again, and caving in to the Republicans on tax cuts for the rich and megarich, as well as an awful, weak estate tax, not to mention very ill-advised payroll tax cuts that are almost certainly a stealth move to blur the self-funding principle of social security in order to set the stage for massive entitlement cuts, including social security cuts, we've put ourselves in an awful position. My assessment is that this president's weakness has been fully exploited, his ox has been gored, he got only crumbs from the table of the ruling oligarchy, and our party has had its clock cleaned but good.

You can count on it: the Republicans will take the obvious lesson from this. They can get their way through political extortion every time. They will win almost every battle from here on out, and the picture for 2012, while not totally dark (after all, the American people don't actually like their policies, and can't be fooled quite all the time), is not too good. It's hard to see how we can gain strong majorities in both the House and Senate of real Democrats (sorry, but a good percentage of so-called Democrats are useless, and shouldn't even be counted in our column). And, frankly, I look upon the re-election of Obama as necessary to avoid debacle, but no particular guarantee of anything like progressive policy change. The last two years have been one unwarranted compromise, without any real effort to rally the American people to demand support for the president's agenda, after another.

Real liberals must now face the music. We are in a worse position than the Republicans were after Watergate. We have to start organizing and fighting, including within our own party, if we have any hope at all of restoring something resembling communitarian moral principles to politics in this country, and regaining some power from the corporatists and oligarchs in both parties.

We must somehow pull together on a policy consensus. Core principles that all Democrats will need to sign on to if they want our organizational and financial support.  We must start getting out of our houses, even those of us who due to the mean economy Robert Reich talks about in his latest book (Aftershock), are working more and longer hours than ever before, attending organizational meetings and rallies, opening our wallets even wider, making phone calls, seeking wealthy allies wherever they may be found. We must somehow find real leadership and get real organizations functioning and working together.

Because we've been almost totally defeated by forces that, thanks to the Supreme Court, now have almost total freedom to spend money and resources to keep us down, and we lack cohesion, clear messaging, and organization that will be absolutely indispensable if we are ever to claw our way back to the kind of power that means anything: the ability to get actual progressive policy changes accomplished, without evisceration and destructive compromise on core tenets.

I look to no help from this president. He has failed us utterly. We are stuck with him, but he has blamed us for his failures and shown a flat out unacceptable willingness to compromise without even a shadow of a fight every time.

A bleak picture indeed.
UPDATE, 12/27. I credit President Obama (and Reid and Pelosi, but primarily Pres. Obama) with getting a surprisingly lot of things done in the "Lame Duck." So I admit that saying he has "failed us utterly," as I did in this post, is too strong. But the fact is that most of the Lame Duck bills should have been relatively non-controversial. This president needs to recommit himself to core Democratic principles, and to the proposition that government action is absolutely necessary to end this deep recession; austerity and deficit reduction will not do it. Then, he needs to go out there and stump... like a campaign... making speeches, appearing on TV as much as humanly possible... framing, reframing, messaging, and remessaging these points, and what he wants to get done FOR the people, as often, as clearly, and as forcefully as he can manage it, for the remainder of his First Term. Only that way will he have a realistic possibility of furthering a major legislative agenda ("change we can believe in"), in some small ways in the next two years and in major ways in the Second Term... which, by doing this, he will easily achieve. Otherwise, I'd say his chances of even having a Second Term are not especially bright.

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