Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Written by Ted Rall

Given his druthers, Obama will pursue the most left-leaning course that he can get away with.” So says Jennifer Rubin, a right-wing pundit at the neoconservative-leaning Washington Post. “Obama,” Rubin claims, “would have marched through his entire liberal agenda–if he had the votes.”

This, of course, assumes that Obama ever had a liberal agenda. There’s not much evidence of that. Moreover, Obama did have the votes in Congress to get almost everything that he wanted. But he chose not to even try.

It is also not true. He did have the votes.


In recent years, for example, minority Republicans in the Senate have threatened filibusters on most major Democratic initiatives. When they have or more votes, Democrats file a cloture motion to stop filibusters before they start. In practice, Democrats say–and the media has been repeating their meme–that it now takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the Senate.

It isn’t true. Not now. Not ever.

What Dems fail to understand is that they are depriving themselves of a big political opportunity by embracing automated parliamentary procedure. If Republicans want to filibuster, let them drag out their District of Columbia white pages and start reading on C-Span. Footage of GOP senators stonewalling popular legislation–extensions of unemployment benefits, eliminating tax breaks for individuals who earn more than $1 million a year, or healthcare benefits for 9/11 first responders–would make for awesome attack ads in 2012.

When the Bush Administration enjoyed a razor-thin 50-vote majority in the Senate, it only needed a simple majority in order to pass major bills. Even though they should have, Democrats didn’t filibuster. Democrats lack nerve. And voters hate them for it.

There’s another factor at work: self-delusion. Much liberal disappointment with Obama stems from the fact that, on several issues, he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do during the campaign. He told us that we were going to go deeper in Afghanistan. Liberals simply chose to pretend that he was lying. It’s not Obama’s fault if people are in denial. At the same time, Obama failed to realize that the world had changed dramatically between September and November of 2008.

During the summer of the 2008 campaign, there was a plausible argument to be made that the American people were fundamentally moderate. But after the economic meltdown of September 2008, a crisis of capitalism and consumer confidence that continues today with no end in sight, the electorate moved decidedly to the left. Six months into Obama’s term, most Americans told pollsters they preferred socialism to capitalism. In early 2010 one in five Republicans said they have a positive view of socialism.

Meanwhile, the right became more radical too. This is what happens during a crisis when the “mainstream” system is unresponsive. Moderation? There are no more moderates.

As we have seen time and time again in American history, compromises usually mean no solution at all. From the status of Missouri as a slave state to last week’s tax deal between Democrats and Republicans, compromise usually means kicking the can down the road for another generation of people and politicians to contend with.

Yet the myth persists: moderation equals common sense. I don’t know about my fellow lefties, but I find more common ground with Tea Party types who are angry as hell and don’t want to take it anymore than I do with squishy soft liberals who think everything is fine as long as Barack Obama gets reelected in 2012.

Nothing is fine. The unemployment rate is over 9.8 percent officially and about 20 percent officially. Yet neither party has lifted a finger to even talk about proposing a jobs program. Tax cuts? Unemployed people don’t pay taxes. Depression-level joblessness is fiscal poison. If we don’t create tens of millions of new jobs soon, social and political unrest will increase dramatically.

Chris Hedges recently put out a book titled “The Death of the Liberal Class.” A better title might have been “The Death of Moderation.” No one better embodied the American brand of political moderation than traditional liberals. They supported income redistribution, but only through a slightly progressive income tax: not enough to make a difference, but plenty to make right-wingers spitting mad. They consistently voted for huge defense budgets and war after war, yet were successfully framed as wimps by Republicans whose rhetoric matched their similar bellicosity.

The smug and the complacent love moderation precisely because it can’t change the status quo.

Look at ObamaCare: that’s what happens when you compromise. The insurance companies get to soak even more Americans than usual–and charge those of us who are already in the system more. Like many other issues, the “extremes” work better than the centrist, “common sense” solution. If I can’t have full-fledged socialized medicine, give me free markets.

Moderates know their time has past. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently brought 1,000 people together to create a militant moderate organization called No Labels. Like Jon Stewart’s Million Moderate March, No Labels is meant “not to create a new party, but to forge a third way within the existing parties, one that permits debate on issues in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect,” say organizers.

Sweet.

Because, you know, you should always be civil and respectful to people who think torture and concentration camps are A-OK.

About author Ted Rall is the author of the new book “Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next big foreign policy challenge.

For those who despair of the rise of political extremism, I ask: From multi-trillion dollar deficits to endless war to mass die-offs of species and climate change, are the problems America face so trivial that they can be resolved with more half-assed compromises?
_______
Ted Rall Online: www.rall.com
COMING OCTOBER ’09: New graphic novel “The Year of Loving Dangerously”

About the author

Ted Rall is the author of the new book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?,” an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America’s next big foreign policy challenge

By OEN

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
RS Janes
11 years ago

One of the things that has driven me crazy is the number of Obama supporters I’ve met who apparently didn’t listen to his speeches and instead overlaid their progressive political wish-list onto him. As Rall writes:

“There’s another factor at work: self-delusion. Much liberal disappointment with Obama stems from the fact that, on several issues, he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do during the campaign. He told us that we were going to go deeper in Afghanistan. Liberals simply chose to pretend that he was lying. It’s not Obama’s fault if people are in denial.”

As well as not vowing to pull out of Afghanistan immediately, Obama never promised universal health care, or that he’d nationalize the banks, or form a Dept. of Peace, or drastically reduce the defense budget, or appoint only liberals to cabinet posts, yet some progressives seem to think he has, and now they are mad at him for violating promises he never made. (I’m mad at him for the ones he did make and didn’t fulfill.)

As to Rall’s take on moderation: I agree, but only because what’s called ‘moderate’ these days is really less-fringy right-wing, like Blue Dog Dems Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln being referred to, even on MSNBC, as ‘moderate’ senators. I wanted to gag every time I heard this. There is no prominent true left-wing voice in American politics these days that gets the same amount of airtime as the Teabaggers and right-wingers; most of the ‘liberal’ Dems in the media are really just Eisenhower Republicans. This is how far right the national ‘political debate’ has come since Reagan.

The biggest laugh is Mike Bloomberg’s ‘No Labels’ group — this is from a billionaire who blatantly bought an exemption from the law that limited him to two terms as mayor just because he felt like being mayor of NYC again. Gee, when did that become ‘moderate’?

The All-Mighty Webmaster
Admin
11 years ago

What Dems fail to understand is that they are depriving themselves of a big political opportunity by embracing automated parliamentary procedure. If Republicans want to filibuster, let them drag out their District of Columbia white pages and start reading on C-Span. Footage of GOP senators stonewalling popular legislation–extensions of unemployment benefits, eliminating tax breaks for individuals who earn more than $1 million a year, or healthcare benefits for 9/11 first responders–would make for awesome attack ads in 2012.

Harry Reid should have changed the Senate rules in January 2009 to force the person who calls for a filibuster to actually stand and filibuster. That requirement was removed thirty years ago because the filibuster was not widely used and it streamlined the process to allow other legislation to go on. Hopefully, Harry “The Spineless” Reid will finally change those rules. Here is what I would like to see concerning the filibuster rule:

a) Get rid of it, along with the other silly rule that allows a lone senator to put a hold on any one or all legislation.

Since that will never happen, the alternative:

b) Change the rules on the filibuster.

Limit the number of filibusters each Party can have in one session. Three sounds like a good number — just like in baseball. This force each party to pick its fights wisely.

If someone calls for a filibuster, then ALL Senate activity comes to a halt, and the person(s) calling for the filibuster must immediately start, and none of the participating Senators will be allowed to leave the chamber for any reason as long as the filibuster is going on.

Change the number of votes required for cloture. Instead of a hard number, change it to the percentage of Senators who are in the chamber at any given time. That percentage required for cloture should never be more than sixty percent.

Example: if at any time a call for a cloture vote finds say, thirty Senators in the chamber, then if eighteen of them vote for cloture, the filibuster is broken and a final vote is scheduled.

Another Example: If there are seventy Senators in chamber at the call for cloture, then it will take forty two votes to end the filibuster and a final vote is then scheduled.

No more than one cloture vote will be allowed in a twenty-four hour period, but a cloture vote can be called at any time by the Senate Majority Leader.

Those who are participating in the actual filibuster will not be counted in the cloture vote.

This will have the effect of forcing those who are interested in blocking the legislation but not actually participating in the filibuster to hang around the chamber for the duration of the filibuster.

A filibuster that goes on longer than 728 hours (one exact month) will automatically end and place a permanent block on that particular piece of legislation for the remainder of that session.

Senator Holds

A Senator will only be allowed to place one hold on one piece of legislation. Each hold will count as one of the three filibusters allowed for each Party.

===

This preserves the minority rights but forces them to work for it. If they can go a month without being forced to end the filibuster, then they’ve won. But they are only allowed to do this a very limited number of times.

This also puts pressure on ALL of the elected Senators. There have been a lot of Dem Senators who have been allowed to hide behind the skirts of the Republican filibuster so that they didn’t have to register a vote for their voting record. This will now put them on record and their constituency will be able to determine whether their Senator has been working for them or against them.

RS is correct that Obama never promised a lot of things that have been attributed to him. While he said he favored a lot of progressive things, such as universal health care, he fell way short on promising them. Even on the specifics of universal health care, most people seemed to have missed the second part of his statements where he said that he would have liked to have started with a universal health care system, it would be impossible to implement with our the way our system was at the time. It would have to be something that might eventually evolve into a universal system and that would take years.

During the campaign, Obama consistently said that we shouldn’t have been in Iraq and that he would focus our attention on Afghanistan where it should have been in the first place.

People blame Obama for the actions (or lack thereof) of Congress. Most notably the Senate. The House has put forward almost 250 fairly Progressive bills that the Senate has allowed to die because of its arcane rules and the lack of spines by the Senate leadership.

Obama doesn’t escape my criticism though. The man should have been FAR more aggressive than he’s been. Like FDR, who made good use of radio to get his message out on a weekly basis, Obama should have almost commandeered entire television shows to put his agenda directly to the people. VERY few people are able to get the President’s “weekly radio broadcast” because with the exception of six (yes, six stations carry the address live) most radio stations don’t carry it at all. It only exists on the Internet and most people don’t even know enough to look for it.

But with Progressive radio, and MSNBC, there are hosts who would give their left arm for an interview with Obama on a weekly basis. ALL of these shows would gladly give up an hour’s worth of programming to have Obama sit there and hold court. Not only would it boost ratings on those shows, it would also get the presidents agenda out there and put pressure on the Congress to get things done.

But most importantly, it would be direct answers to the lies that FOX News and the other Conservative talking heads have been able to perpetuate unanswered for a long time.

Ken Carman
Admin
11 years ago

The man should have been FAR more aggressive than he’s been. Like FDR, who made good use of radio to get his message out on a weekly basis, Obama should have almost commandeered entire television shows to put his agenda directly to the people. VERY few people are able to get the President’s “weekly radio broadcast” because with the exception of six (yes, six stations carry the address live) most radio stations don’t carry it at all. It only exists on the Internet and most people don’t even know enough to look for it.

I didn’t even know they still did that. Only 6??? Good grief. Frankly I think radio may be more than a bit dated as a medium, especially for the young. How many listen to radio for that kind of info anymore? Now if the FCC insisted all public radio stations and those who carry the news/talk format cover it… maybe. But shouldn’t we at least “update” this to TV?

RS Janes
11 years ago

Good ideas on changing the filibuster rule, DJ. Along with limiting each party to three filibusters, if the Republicans were forced to be on the floor to prevent a cloture vote by say, a majority of thirty senators, there wouldn’t be many filibusters. (It’s just like a court case where each side is limited to the number of jurors they can exclude from the jury. Makes the lawyers very careful about who they bounce.)

Ironically, I’ve heard it’s the Repubs who would like to get rid of the filibuster entirely, anticipating a GOP majority in the senate in 2012. I don’t think that will happen, but incorporating the changes you suggest would make the senate less of an impediment to progress.

Ken, if I’m not mistaken, before the Fairness Doctrine was dumped, most radio stations carried the presidential weekly address. It’s true, radio’s kind of archaic these days and Obama would be better off going on TV, if he finds anything he’ll fight for, and by TV, I don’t mean Jay Leno or Oprah.

james lettings swansea
11 years ago

That’s interesting. I’m from Birmingham and see the same result. Anyway, I’ll be back soon.

Blake Rettke
11 years ago

I don’t always agree with your posts, but this was dead on, way to go!

6
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x