Exactly where did these so-called moderate Democrats in the Senate get the inane idea they have a license to obstruct key features of the party’s agenda? Just who was the nitwit who told them it will be just fine, peachy keen even, if they decide to pay off their corporate overlords by joining a GOP filibuster? Who gave them the crazy idea that they have a God given right to prevent a fair up or down vote on one of their party’s top legislative initiatives, such as health care reform? Seriously, who’s the bozo who told them that? Because, I’ve gotta tell you, I want to give that dude a piece of my mind (and fair introduction to my boot).
Kent Conrad, a “Democratic” senator from North Dakota, for example, seems particularly enthusiastic about his potential seat on the Obstructionism Express. He’s been happily advising anyone who’ll listen that the public option in health care reform is dead in the Senate. Why? Because it can’t get 60 votes, or so Conrad insists, meaning that any plan which includes a public option will be filibustered to death: which is kind of big deal when you consider that a public option is absolutely essential to meaningful reform (now that the more logical and efficient single-payer option has been relegated to political Siberia by the media and political elite).
“But wait just one cotton pickin’ minute,” one might respond. “Aren’t there 60 Democratic votes in the Senate? How can the Republicans filibuster in the face of that?”
The answer, of course, is that while, yes, there are 60 Democratic Senators (if you include the two independents who caucus with them), that doesn’t mean that there are 60 Democratic votes to break a filibuster. As it turns out, there are a handful of conservative Democrats who are signaling they believe they have an absolute right, anytime they don’t get their way, to join the GOP in preventing up or down votes on desperately needed legislation.
To the rest of us that may sound like, well, absolute insanity, not to mention an unforgivable betrayal, but not so according to Beltway conventional wisdom. Only in the Beltway would the “beauty” of a mythical concept like “bipartisanship” trump the health care needs of millions of Americans. But to the great keepers of Beltway tradition — the David Broders (and let us all raise high our Georgetown cocktail glasses in adulation) — it isn’t even a contest.
And so far, at least, the Democratic leadership seems unable (or unwilling) to break the logjam. Thus, our only choice, many of our party’s leaders tell us, may be to gratefully settle for whatever table scraps these “moderate” guardians of bipartisanship decide to grant safe passage through the filibuster reefs into something more closely approximating actual democracy.
And they expect us to just say, “Oh well,” and move on.
Then they expect us in 2010 and again in 2012 to give them our money, to network for them on our web sites and blogs, to knock on doors and to do all those other things we did in the last two elections to help give the party the super majority they now enjoy but refuse to use. They really think we’ll do that.
“What we’ve got here” as the man in the movie famously said, “is a failure to communicate.” I can’t, of course, purport to speak for everyone in the party’s liberal base, but I believe I can say with a fair degree of certainty that this just ain’t gonna cut it. And that is something Beltway Democrats would be wise to keep in mind if they want to avoid a full-scale political civil war.
This country is in trouble — enough trouble that it’s going to take an incredible amount of work to put it right. And to put it bluntly, we don’t have time for this shit. Year after year, progressives have listened to our party’s representatives in Congress give excuses for not getting things done. They couldn’t stop the Bush tax cuts for the rich; they couldn’t stop the war in Iraq; once the war started, they couldn’t stop billions of dollars from being pissed away in crooked no-bid contracts; they couldn’t stop most of Bush’s most extreme judicial nominations; they couldn’t investigate Bush Administration misconduct: and on and on.
Well, folks, the time for excuses has passed. Beltway Democrats have Barack Obama in the White House and huge majorities in both houses of Congress. And if they can’t get the job done with all of that going for them, then it’s time for them to get the hell out of the way for someone who can.
No one’s saying that conservative Democrats have to vote for bills they oppose or believe will hurt them in their re-election bids (God forbid they put the interests of the nation before that). They can vote no, they just can’t obstruct. If Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu oppose meaningful health care reform, for example, fine, they can vote against the bill for final passage. I also don’t begrudge them the opportunity to fight for reasonable changes to the legislation, even ones I don’t personally support. What is not acceptable, however, is for them to use the threat of a filibuster to hold the rest of the Democratic caucus hostage. And what is equally unacceptable is for the Democratic leadership (or President Obama for that matter) to let them get away with it.
Being a member of the party’s caucus has to carry some duty of loyalty with it. And if loyalty has any meaning at all, surely it must at least mean that it is out-of-bounds for a member to join (or threaten to join) the opposing party in engaging in pure obstructionism.
So here’s the bottom line: as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to the Democratic Party’s major priorities, things like health care reform, one strike, as in one filibuster, and you’re out. If a health care reform bill doesn’t get passed, or if a grossly inadequate one, say one without a public option, is passed, due to filibuster or the threat of filibuster, I’m done. I won’t support these clowns anymore (because if they let that happen then clowns is precisely the right word to describe them). Should that happen, next election cycle every dime I contribute and every ounce of energy I expend will go to primary challenges against obstructionist Democrats and to advocacy groups: not one damn penny will go to establishment Democratic groups that may in any way help such obstructionists.
I’m done. And I don’t think I’m even close to being alone in that.