Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Counterpoint: Rahm, You Ignorant Slut...

Proving I'm a Democrat, I'm airing a semi-counterpoint to my last post.

I'm clearly on the side of Democratic National Committee (i.e., the Democratic Party itself) chair Howard Dean, the party-builder who stays out of primary endorsements because he knows that a spirited primary energizes party voters and informs the general electorate, over Rahm Emanuel, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (i.e., the "protect the incumbent Dems and increase their margin") chair who's been tasked, with backing from the Democratic Leadership Council (another "not the Party" group formerly headed by Joe Lieberman) and Hillary Clinton, with triangulating a narrow House victory in November.

Not that I'm against a narrow House victory: as I've stolen from someone on Air America before (DNR who), the only thing better than John Conyers is John Conyers with subpoena power. But in the long run, given the American people's positions on the issues when they're presented neutrally, Dems should have a permanent majority in both Houses and should elect the next fifteen Presidents, and the only thing holding us back, IMNSHO, are the triangulators who keep aiming for a seat here and a seat there instead of adhering to a coherent, intellectually honest, ideologically consistent (not rigid) platform that would, over time, demonstrate to voters that we actually stand for something, and -- surprise, surprise -- that it's the same thing they stand for. So, yeah, win elections narrowly if that's the best that we can do, especially in the Age of Bush -- but that, as "Seven Habits" author Stephen Covey would put it, merely the urgent; the important thing, and the thing we need to salvage all possible resources for, is to really reclaim and build the Democratic Party as a bastion of populist progressivism.

Anyway, in my last post, I laughed at Rahm Emanuel. But for some balance, here's a decent read from E.J. Dionne, who talks about "the polemics over the past few months between Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the leader of the party's campaign committee for this fall's House elections." Anyone struggling to sort out DLC from DNC from DCCC etc., and why I care so much about the distinctions, should read this. Dionne continues:

Emanuel has expressed frustration over how much DNC money Dean has spent in his effort to create strong party organizations in all 50 states -- money that congressional Democrats believe should be saved for this fall's key contests.

Dean argues, correctly, that Democrats will not be truly competitive if they are strong in only 18 or 20 "blue" states. Emanuel argues, also correctly, that this year offers Democrats their best chance in 12 at winning one or both houses of Congress. The party, he says, can't afford to fritter money away on long-term dreams.

There are many underlying issues here, including whether Dean's spending will actually be effective in achieving his goal and whether the national party is demanding enough accountability for the money it is sending the states. Dean defenders, in turn, note that he has directed more money to states with competitive races this year, and that Dean needs to worry about governorships and state legislative contests, not just Congress.

But Dean and Emanuel are both struggling against the same overlapping realities: Democrats have chronically underinvested in building state parties....

Rest of the article here.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Rahm Emanuel Runs to the Front of the Parade

... and pretends to lead it, as all marginal pols do.

(Photo, left: Rahm Emanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tries to thumb a ride on the VichyDems Express.)

Check out this hilarious nugget from an email the DCCC leader just sent out, referencing Lamont's victory over Lieberman:

Dear Thersites,

The recent Connecticut primary election illustrated how incumbents are bearing the brunt of the public's frustration and anger with the status quo. Change is what November is about.

We have the political atmosphere that is ripe for change. Energized Democrats around the nation can capitalize on our shared frustration with the government and build the movement needed to win.

Last week, Senator Barack Obama introduced a few of our candidates that are going help us get this country back on the right track. In November we not only have an opportunity to claim a Democratic majority in the House, we have an opportunity to do it on the strength of a new generation of progressive leaders....

Now, understand, Emanuel is a poster child for the protection of incumbent Vichys. He's a fave of Hillary and the rest of the DLC crowd; he couldn't even manage to oust incumbent Vichy Henry Cuellar in Texas, even though Cuellar's the worst conservative Bush-kissing Democrat in the House and faced a formidable opponent in Ciro Rodrigues. And Obama CAMPAIGNED FOR LIEBERMAN AGAINST LAMONT!

So I call bullshit, and laugh my ass off. If Emanuel had been in the Senate instead of the House, he would have been on his knees doing intimate favors for Connecticut voters to keep Lieberman in office.

But the good news is: OUR MESSAGE IS FINALLY BEING HEARD. The 2008 Dem primaries are shaping up to be a lot like the 1968 Republican primaries, with the centrist Old Guard finally catching on that there's a new, less accommodationist crowd in charge and scrambling to stay ahead. (Except that progressive Democrats, currently represented best by Russ Feingold, want to actually govern the country well, whereas the regressive Republicans of '64 and '68, such as the pre-reformation Barry Goldwater and a young, energetic Ronald Reagan, wanted to gut the government. So: similar dynamic, opposite effect.)


Same Mission, Updated Slogan

Old VichyDems slogan:

Patriotic Democrats, Doggedly Resisting the Vichys, DINOs, Triangulators and Accommodationists. Starting with Joe Lieberman, of course.

Updated VichyDems slogan:

Patriotic Democrats, Doggedly Resisting the Vichys, DINOs, Triangulators and Accommodationists. Dogging Joe Lieberman Until He's Festering in His Political Grave, of course.

OK, Franklin's "Join or Die" it's not, but I like it, because, of course, JoeNoMentum's independent run -- while just a craven clinging to power and a setup for future office as a Republican on his part -- could spoil Lamont's chances of actually being elected, and conceivably could even have legs, and makes George Bush and Tony Snow all giggly even when they're not in the back of Air Force 1 orange-bowling and huffing nitrous oxide with the traveling press corps, and so we won't quit dogging the s.o.b. until he throws in the towel for good.

Other than that, the focus now will be on

(a) getting all Democrats elected in the midterms, even if they're Vichy, because the only thing better than Russ Feingold and John Conyers in Congress in Russ Feingold and John Conyers in Congress with subpoena power; and even more than that (since zillions of bloggers and the DNC, DLC, DCCC, DSCC, MoveOn, and zillions of better bloggers than me already are working on that)

(b) 2008, meaning:

i. reforming the Democratic primaries to ban DCCC and DSCC aid to Democratic incumbents when they're faced with good-faith challengers in the primaries;

ii. finding new progressive challengers to attack the Vichy incumbents we re-elect this year out of necessity;

iii. driving a stake through the heart of every DLC-associated Presidential candidate, starting with Hillary Clinton; and then

iv. electing whichever Democrat wins the Presidential primary (unless, of course, Lieberman's unholy corpse gnaws its way through the dirt back to moonlight and runs again for President, in which case I'll vote for Jeb Bush first!)

Sound like a good slogan from now till November? And a good plan from now until Nov. 2008?


Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Lamont Wins: Day One of the NeoProgressive Era

Lamont won, and Lieberman -- unlike in 2000 -- displays something resembling a cartilaginous proto-spine and vows to fight on as an independent. Lots of analysis on the net (most of it insightful) and on the mainstream news (most of it completely misunderstanding the real point). I won't waste time rehashing what Atrios, Kos, HuffPo, and a host of others already are saying well, but as an early leader in the effort to identify and oust Vichys -- "starting with Joe Lieberman, of course" -- I'm proud, and have some short points to add:

1. THIS WASN'T ABOUT IRAQ. Well, in part it was, but other Democrats, even now, support the war, and while there's some opposition to them, they haven't sunk to the bottom like Lieberman has. It's about Iraq, but also about Iran, the bankruptcy bill, his unflagging support for Israel drunk or sober, etc. He actually has a decent voting record -- something like 90% of the time voting with the Dems, according to Jon Alter -- but that 10% has been on the most important issues. It does no good to be a good Democrat on some appropriations rider giving pork to a blue state but side with the Republicans on preemptive war. And a lot of us still remember he's the one who covered his ass by running simultaneously for VP and for his old Senate seat in 2000, and reportedly persuaded Gore to cave in early on the recount. So this isn't about Iraq; it's about Lieberman.

2. THIS WAS A VICTORY FOR IDEOLOGICAL, PARTISAN POLITICS -- NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. On the Today show, Lieberman just said that Lamont stood for the "old politics" of partisan division. Well, damn straight!

Look, there are fascists and there are free French, and the fascists are wrong and the free French are right, and the Vichy -- pretending to be the mediators bridging the two -- are nothing but accommodationists without vision or values. I want an America that embraces two parties, each rooted in intellectually honest and fact-based ideologies and values, often in opposition but both committed to the success of our nation, playing by the same fair rules and respectful of the other. And I want each of those parties to play hard, because it's in that isometric tension that America finds its way through hard times. When one party is dominant, the other should act as a brake and a reality check: the two-party system as an unintended part of the "checks and balances" system. That's a major part of what I've labeled "neoProgressivism": an honest, but vigorously argued, political system rather than a tepid, accommodationist one.

The problem with Lieberman and the DLC/DSCC/DCCC crowds are that they are trying to stand in the middle of the tug-of-war and negotiate a compromise, when their role is to stand on one side and haul like hell, trusting that only by doing so will the other side be counterbalanced and something like "neutrality" or "balance" be achieved. Imagine what would happen if, in the middle of a tug-of-war contest, 1/3 of the people on one side suddenly let go and said they were tired of partisanship. The rest of their team would be face-down in the mud, and the quitters would stand there clean as whistles, sweat-free, saying, "see where conflict gets you?" No: that's where dodging the hard work gets you. Lieberman let go of the rope; Lamont grabbed the rope; the rest of the team appreciates Lamont for doing so. Simple as that.

2.5 THE HALF-JOKING, HALF-SERIOUS RELIGIOUS ANALYSIS, SUPPLEMENTAL TO NO. 2 ABOVE: LIEBERMAN LOST PRECISELY BECAUSE GOD DOESN'T LIKE BUCKETS OF LUKEWARM SPIT. Revelations 3:15-16: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Lieberman is neither hot nor cold, and he was spewed out of Connecticut's maw. Good for Connecticut. Lesson: even God wants people to pick a side -- hot or cold -- and stick with it, 'cause lukewarm spit just sucks. Other "centrist" politicians, take note: God's mad at you.

3. LIEBERMAN'S INDEPENDENT BID IS JUST A SETUP FOR HIS FUTURE JOB AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. He doesn't have a chance in hell of actually winning election as an independent unless the Rs rig the election against their own guy, which I doubt will happen. Lots of R money Joe's way? Sure, but only enough to help him split the D vote -- just as Rs donated heavily to Nader, not so he'd win but so that Bush would. So why's he acting all sanctimonious about his "independence"? Just as he did when he dissed Clinton's morality over a minor sexual peccadillo that wasn't 1/100th as bad as what King David did with Bathsheba and Uriah, he's portraying himself as the righteous man for political gain (and to stroke his own ego). He lost, but he can claim he lost in the name of noble bipartisanship. And it will help his career: unlike Zell Miller, he's not interested in a one-shot speech at the R convention and some book sales; he's trying to establish nonpartisan credentials so he can (a) ideally, take Don Rumsfeld's job as S.O.D. (he recently gave an interview in which he very guardedly criticized Rumsfeld but said "it's the President's decision" whether to replace him, hint hint); or, if that doesn't pan out, (b) he can work both sides of the aisle as possibly the highest-paid lobbyist (whether by that title or not) in history.

4. IF WE KEEP WORKING, THIS CAN BE DAY ONE OF THE NEOPROGRESSIVE ERA: Pundits are saying that the "liberal bloggers" will cost Democrats elections by driving the party to the left. Stop, think: what Congressional election have we won since the centrists took power in 1992? None. Zippo. Not one. All the DLC ever did was get Clinton elected -- but he's tremendously charismatic, would have won anyway against the lukewarm Bush 41, and in hindsight Clinton did a lot of harm (e.g., passing NAFTA without environmental or labor safeguards). I'll write more on this later, but the evidence is that when Democrats act relatively progressive rather than accommodationist, they win more. Everyone predicts this new direction for the party -- the netroots-driven, ideologically purer, more combative direction -- will lead to disaster. The liberal Republicans in 1964 said the same thing about the neocons who tried to reclaim that party for conservatives. I pray we never become as extreme as the neocons did, but you have to admit: the centrist Republicans of the 1960s were wrong, the "purists" in their party did succeed in taking control, they've succeeded in taking control of all three branches of government -- and, crazy as it sounds, are talking seriously about securing a "permanent majority" (in Rove's words). That's a pretty good forty-year run; not even the Raiders have managed to put together a streak lasting that long.

Now it's our turn. Kris Kristofferson wrote a great song saying, "I ain't sayin' I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothing, and then I stole his song." We're going to steal the Republicans' songs in terms of political stratagy by moving left and actually standing for something for a change, and then we (unlike they) are going to use our power for good, to re-establish an America that works better for Main Street than Wall Street, that balances its budgets and spends its money on its own people instead of on transnational corporations and that combats terrorism by building schools and medical clinics in the Middle East the way Hamas and Hizbullah have (earning people's support) instead of just forts and embassies (which generate enmity and have never worked, ever since the Crusader States fell to the Muslims a thousand years ago).

This is a big deal. It's a good sign for the upcoming midterms, it's a wake-up call for the seven dems in the Gang of 14, Landrieu, Feinstein, Ben Nelson and all the other lukewarmers, and more broadly, the start of a new era, not a liberal one but a neoprogressive, fairer one. I'm happy and, for all you who've supported this effort, proud. (And a little proud of myself, too: what was the first site to label this loser as "Lieberman, Joseph (V-CT)"? VichyDems! So let's avoid calling him an "I" and be sure everyone labels him a "V".)

5. KEEP GIVING MONEY TO LAMONT! He'll still need it, all the way up to the general election. I just received my first AdSense check from Google (after half a year!): $100.41. It's mostly going to Lamont (with a little to Menendez, a good first-year Dem from New Jersey who's going to have a tough time in the general election). Please do the same; you can donate here.

And most of all: thanks, gang. The dream of today's result is what started VichyDems in the first place, and it'll keep us going despite my recent hiatus. I'll be fully back in the saddle soon, taking aim not at the general election but at retooling the Democratic political apparatus before the 2008 Congressional and Presidential primaries. As far as I'm concerned, 2006 is now over. Happy New Year. Let's go to work on 2008.