Recent polls have found a lack of enthusiasm by Democrats about next years election. Republicans are pulling ahead of Democrats in polls of likely voters in the 2010 congressional election. Rasmussen found Repubs had a 7-point lead over Dems in the generic congressional ballot released 11/24. A poll conducted for DailyKos.com found that 81% of Republicans will either definitely or probably vote in 2010, compared with only 56% of Dems who plan to vote while 40% of Dems said they are unlikely to vote next year.
Its not all bad news for the Dems they lead Republicans in generic congressional matchups in the Northeast 53% to 7%, in the Midwest 38% to 31% and in the West 37% to 32%, but Republicans lead in the South 51% to 21%.
Chris Bowers noted at OpenLeft.org (11/30) that the House might have a Democratic majority, but it isnt a progressive majority. According to ProgressivePunch.org, 227 members of Congress (including 55 Dems) voted less than 50% with Progressives on crucial votes, while 208 members (all Dems) voted progressive 50% or more. Of the 34 most-endangered Dems, 19 are part of the non-progressive majority, one is on the fence at 50%, and 14 are in the progressive minority. The Progressive Caucus has three endangered members, but there are at least four good pickup opportunities of non-progressive seats in Alabamas 7th District, Californias 36th, Delawares at large and Louisianas 2nd.
This means that the Progressive Caucus could very well gain seats in 2010, Bowers wrote. Combined with overall Democratic losses, this would make the Progressive Caucus a much larger percentage of the overall caucus. This would in turn give Democrats more control over institutions such as the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], which would make it easier for 50%+ progressives to win Republican seats in 2012 and beyond. This greater influence is needed since, of the 50 Democrats who vote with progressives less than 50.00% of the time or less, 41 of them were first elected in 2004 or more recently. The DCCC is packing the House with non-progressives.
So Bowers is ambivalent about the dismal electoral prospects for the Dems. It just isnt enough for progressives to be a junior partner in a centrist majority governing coalition. We need to be the dominant partner, and that probably requires the current dominant partnerBlue Dogs and New Demsto suffer heavy losses.
However, Nate Silver, the numbers cruncher at fivethirtyeight.com, examined how the 39 most vulnerable House members, as determined by the Cook Political Report, voted on the three major votes of the year: the stimulus package, the health care bill and the climate bill. He found that all but the most conservative Dems were worth having around. On all three issues, the vulnerable Democrats were more likely than average ones to have voted against their party, Silver noted (11/30). Nevertheless, solid majorities supported each of these agenda items. The Most Vulnerable Democrats (MVDs) voted for the health care bill 22-17, the climate bill 24-14, and the stimulus package 34-4. Only 12 of the 39 voted against at least two out of the three initiatives, and only three of the 39 (Bobby Bright and Parker Griffith of Alabama, and Walt Minnick of Idaho) completely struck out. And only 14 of the 53 Blue Dogs are considered vulnerable.
Mike Lux wrote at OpenLeft.org (11/30) that he fears the poor polling numbers will cause Democratic leaders to further moderate their agenda. Democrats have to figure out how to produce real benefits for real people now, not in some future years from now. A new poll out from Democracy Corps nails it: Rather than bragging about the signs of progress in the economy when voters dont feel them yet, Democrats need to focus with urgency on jobs, and other tangible benefits voters can see and feel. Trickle-down economics (first get the banks healthy, then eventually everyone will get jobs) and health care reform with benefits kicking in for people in 2014 will make the 2010 elections ugly.
Taking stock of Senate races, Josh Marshall noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (11/25) that if Republicans regain control of the Senate next year, it will be in part because of bad or questionable picks by Democratic governors to fill vacancies created by the Obama administration. Democrats will be defending seats in competitive races that probably shouldnt be competitive, particularly in Delaware, Illinois, New York and Colorado.
Matt Yglesias at ThinkProgress.org (11/25) blames Obama for letting some of those seats open up in the first place. The Obama team seems to me to have consistently underrated the extent to which the ability to play offense in the 2010 elections would determine the fate of their legislative agenda. Or to look at it another way, they placed an undue amount of emphasis on outreach and too little on inspiring fear, as a potential way to gain bipartisan support for a legislative agenda. Thus instead of encouraging Tom Vilsack, Kathleen Sebelius, and Janet Napolitano to run for GOP-held 2010 Senate seats in Iowa, Kansas and Arizona, he appointed all three to his cabinet. And in addition to the one Senate seat left open by his own victory, he jeopardized safe seats in New York, Colorado, and Delaware by bringing Hillary Clinton, Ken Salazar and Joe Biden into his administration. Then on top of that, Democrats failed to get the strongest possible candidate for a very winnable North Carolina race, and couldnt persuade Houston Mayor Bill White to run for Senate rather than Governor.
ANALYSTS: HEALTH BILL CUTS PREMIUMS. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) concluded that most Americans will pay lower premiums for insurance under the Senates health-care reform proposal. Republicans seized on the finding that the legislation would result in higher premiums for millions of people compared to what it would cost them in todays market. But most people who get their insurance through their employers would see a small reduction while subsidies would lower premiums by 56% to 59% for people with incomes below 400% of poverty who buy their insurance on proposed exchanges. One of the reasons premiums would be higher is that the insurance would cover more services and provide greater protections against high costs due to serious illness or injury.
MISPLACED PRIORITIES. Conservative senators in both parties are proposing that Congress cut domestic spending to pay for the troop escalation in Afghanistan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on ABCs This Week (11/29) endorsed a new surge of forces in Afghanistan while dismissing a war surtax proposed by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) Graham suggested that Congress trim up the health care bill to pay for the war. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) echoed those sentiments on CNNs State of the Union, saying health care reform should be delayed until next year to focus on Afghanistan. Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) on Fox News denounced Obeys war surtax, suggesting cuts in other parts of the budget rather than raising taxes. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) replied on This Week that Graham and other Senate hawks have a poor set of priorities. Replying to Graham, Sanders said, What Sen. Graham is now saying as I understand it is, hey we can cut back on education, so middle-class families cant afford to send their families to college. We dont have to rebuild our infrastructure. We dont have to invest in sustainable energy, so we stop importing $350 billion a year in foreign oil. Lets just spend more money in Afghanistan while Europe and the people of China and the people of Russia watch us do that work. I think that is a very poor set of national priorities.
DEMS PUSH ENTITLEMENT REFORM. Moderate and conservative Democrats want to empower a special entitlement commission to recommend major changes in domestic spending programs such as Medicare and Social Security, and theyre threatening to stop the raising of the debt ceiling unless the commission is authorizing. If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling in December, it could trigger a default and, perhaps, economic calamity. I will not vote for raising the debt limit without a vehicle to handle this, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told McClatchy News. This is our moment. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), is leading the charge for the commission, Brian Beutler noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (11/30). As proposed, the commission would make recommendations on entitlement programs that Congress would have to vote on, up or down, without amendments or filibusters. Thats a bridge way too far for liberals, who see the commission as a backdoor approach to gutting Social Security, Beutler noted.
Signers of the letter seeking an entitlement reform commission (all Dems except as noted) include Sens. Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mark Udall (Colo.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Michael Bennett (Colo.), Feinstein, Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Mark Warner (Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Conrad, Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.).
FINE ONES TO TALK. Three of the dozen Democratic senators who signed the letter raising concerns about the national debt Sens. Bill Nelson, Evan Bayh and Arlen Specter voted for an amendment sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) that would have slashed the estate tax for multimillionaires. (10 Dems, plus Specter, who was then a Repub, voted for the amendment.) According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the measure would have blown a $250 bln hole in the budget. By coincidence, the Deficit Hawk Democrats warn that interest on the national debt cost taxpayers more than $250 bln in 2008. To be fair, the Lincoln-Kyl amendments price tag wouldve been spread out over 10 years, Beutler noted. But still: How does one square a vote to diminish the estate tax with fiscal discipline?
HIGHTOWER PUFFIN UP. Congratulations to Jim Hightower, the Austin-based populist who has been named the ninth winner of the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. The prize recognizes an individual who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work. Perry Rosenstein, president of the Puffin Foundation, said Hightower is a frontline defender of our civil liberties. Swimming against the current is a challenge he welcomes at all times. Hightower, whose column has been a feature of TPP since its inception in 1995, also broadcasts daily commentaries on 150 radio stations, publishes a newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, and has written seven books, including the latest, Swim Against the Current, with his partner, Susan DeMarco. He was to accept the award (which includes a check for $100,000) at a dinner in New York City (12/7). Previous winners include environmental activist Van Jones (2008); Democracy Now! host and TPP columnist Amy Goodman (2006); and journalist and author Barbara Ehrenreich (2004). See jimhightower.com or NationInstitute.org.
CANADIANS WARY OF AMY. Amy Goodman, on tour to promote her new book, Breaking the Sound Barrier, was detained at the Canadian border 11/25 by border guards who expressed concern that she would say something bad about the Vancouver Olympics, which are coming up next year. When asked repeatedly what she planned to talk about at a Vancouver Public Library benefit for community radio stations, she said she was looking at Tommy Douglas, father of Canadas Medicare system, as well as global warming, the world economy and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. When asked about the Olympics, she said she hadnt thought about it. The guard was clearly incredulous that I was not going to be talking about the Olympics. He didnt believe me, she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. The guards searched her car and laptop, as well as her companions laptops, and demanded to see her notes for her talk. After an hour and a half they took her picture and let her in, but said she had to leave Canada within two days.
CHOICE IN AFGHANISTAN. Andrew Sullivan wrote at his blog for The Atlantic (11/30), I fear Bushs wars will destroy Obama as they destroyed Bush. Because they are unwinnable; and because the US is bankrupt; and because neither Iraq nor Afghanistan will ever be normal functioning societies in our lifetimes.
You want empire? Then say so and get on with it with far more forces, and massive cuts in domestic spending to rebuild thankless Muslim population centers thousands of miles from home for decades into the future.
You do not want empire? Then leave.
SAY IT AINT SO, O. Michael Moore, in an open letter to the president (11/30), said increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan would make Obama the new war president and destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions had placed in you, turning a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics.
ANTHRAX ATTACK REMINDER. Britain is currently engulfed by a probing, controversial investigation into how their government came to support the invasion of Iraq, replete with evidence that much of what was said at the time by both British and American officials was knowingly false, particularly regarding the unequivocal intention of the Bush administration to attack Iraq for months when they were pretending otherwise. The British Ambassador to the US in 2002 and 2003, Sir Christopher Meyer (who favored the war), testified before the investigative tribunal and said attitudes towards Iraq were influenced to an extent not appreciated by him at the time by the anthrax scare in the US soon after 9/11. US senators and others were sent anthrax spores in the post, a crime that led to the death of five people, prompting policymakers to claim links to Saddam Hussein.
When Dana Perino boasted on Fox News (11/24) after the Ft. Hood massacre that we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bushs term, Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com noted (11/27) that most of the resulting derision focused on the 9/11 attack while ignoring as always the anthrax attack. What makes this particularly significant is that the anthrax attack is unresolved and uninvestigated, Greenwald wrote. The FBI claimed last year that it had identified the sole perpetrator, Bruce Ivins, but because Ivins is dead, they never had the opportunity or the obligation to prove their accusations in any meaningful tribunal. He said the case against Ivins is riddled with logical and evidentiary holes that have generated doubts from mainstream, establishment-revering and ideologically disparate sources, including Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), a target of one of the attacks; fellow Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa); Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), a physicist from whose district the anthrax letters were sent; Dr. Alan Pearson, director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation; and other scientific and legal experts in the field.
Here we have one of the most consequential political events of the last decade at least a lethal biological terrorist attack aimed at key US senators and media figures, which even the FBI claims originated from a US military lab, Greenwald wrote. The then-British Ambassador to the US is now testifying what has long been clear: that this episode played a huge role in enabling the attack on Iraq. Even our leading mainstream, establishment-serving media outlets and countless bio-weapons experts believe that we do not have real answers about who perpetrated this attack and how. And there is little apparent interest in investigating in order to find out. Evidently, this is just another one of those things that well relegate to the irrelevant past, and therefore deem it unworthy of attention from our future-gazing, always-distracted minds.
OBAMAS ASIA TEST. The right wing marked President Obama as weak during his recent trip to Asia, and many on the left criticized him for not taking a harder line on human rights and the environment, which has led to a growing perception in D.C. that Obama is a patsy, according to John F. Harris, the chronicler of conventional wisdom at Politico.com, but Marc Ambinder noted at Politics.TheAtlantic.com (11/30) that Obama scored some accomplishments.
For example, conservative commentators criticized Obamas bow to the Japanese emperor, but Ambinder noted that it was seen as a gesture of respect to the nation whose new government was voted into power on a promise to re-examine the increasingly unpopular Grand Bargain that has existed between the US and Japan since the end of World War II. Before the visit, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his finance minister were pushing for relocation of a US Marine base from Okinawa and announced they would bring home fuel supply tankers lent to NATO for its mission to Afghanistan. As the Japanese people felt better about Obama, Ambinder wrote, the more happy the Japanese are with the US, the less the Hatoyama government will feel the need to stiffen their spines on the Okinawa base deal and on Afghanistan. The result: this week, the Obama and Hatoyama governments will begin high-level discussions on both issues and the level of irritation that the Japanese felt when Defense Secretary Robert Gates pounded the table on the basing issue has decreased.
Most remarkable about Obamas trip to South Korea was the fact that for the first time in a long while, there were no major protests on the streets to mark the visit of an American politician. South Korea is angry that Congress has stalled a free trade agreement, but his labor base is skeptical of trade deals, particularly those negotiated by the Bush administration, as long as South Korea refuses to open its country to US products, particularly cars.
In China, the day after Obama left, Chinese economic ministers suggested that the exchange rate for the nations currency would be more flexible in the future, as a gesture to the US, which wants Chinas currency to appreciate.
China also agreed to full transparency in how emissions reductions are evaluated and a unilateral declaration that China would agree to mitigation aciton of some sort, despite the conventional wisdom that China and India would present a united force against emissions targets and enforcement mechanisms to protect them.
The White House also noted that China agreed with the US on Iranian sanctions.
So there were plenty of concrete deliverables, Ambinder wrote. There are, of course, just as many open-ended disputes. We may not know for years whether Obamas Asian foray was successful. But judged through the lens of American interests even traditional American interests it cannot be called a failure.
MORE SARAH BAILIN. On the tour promoting her book, Going Rogue, former half-term Gov. Sarah Palins publisher, HarperCollins, outfitted a bus and said Palin would be making two and sometimes three stops a day, traveling in a bus painted with the cover of her book. Palin has said she would post our progress from the road. But Palin herself apparently is travelling from stop to stop in a 12-passenger Gulfstream II jet rented at a cost of $4,000 an hour, Joe McGinnis reported at TheDailyBeast.com (11/29). HarperCollins publicist Tina Andreadis, who actually had to ride the bus, later said the publisher paid for three plane trips for logistical reasons, but Palingates.blogspot.com, which originally reported the flight log, noted that it showed 10 flights matching the destinations where Palin had book signings.
Palin, who quit the Alaska governors office after 2-1/2 years, also bailed out early on a book-signing at a bookstore in Noblesville, Ind. (11/19). About 1,000 fans got wristbands and stood in the rain for hours to meet Palin, but she quit the event before she had the chance to sign all the books, leaving about 100 supporters out in the cold, TheIndyChannel.com reported. Then, on Thanksgiving Day (11/26) in Richland, Wash., large crowds of people turned out to catch Palin at a 5K Turkey Trot charity race, but she quit the race after about 40 minutes to avoid the crowds at the end.
GOP DELUSION. A new national poll by Public Policy Polling finds that a majority of Republicans do not think President Obama actually won the 2008 election. The national survey of 1066 registered voters, conducted 11/13-16, finds that 52% of GOP voters think that ACORN, the community organizing group that has been much criticized by the GOP, stole the election for Barack Obama last year. Only 27% of Republicans admit that Obama won legitimately.
Belief in the ACORN conspiracy theory is even higher among GOP partisans than is the belief that Obama was not born in the United States. When PPP asked the birther question in September, 42% of Republicans said Obama was not native-born, despite the certification (by Republican state officials) that he was born in Honolulu in 1961, after Hawaii gained statehood.
Overall, 62% of Americans think Obama legitimately won the election, while 26% think ACORN stole it for him.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones noted that 21% of Republicans were not sure whether Obama legitimately won: Something like 40 million Republicans are now convinced that ACORN (!) somehow managed to steal an election that McCain lost by seven percentage points. Another 20 million think they might have stolen it but arent sure. The Fox/Limbaugh/Palin axis, which probably directly reaches maybe 10 million people on a regular basis, has nonetheless convinced six times that number to buy into a conspiracy theory that makes the Area 51 crowd look sane by comparison.
It really is hard to take the Republican Party seriously when it is capable of this sort of mass delusion, but GOP leaders have been successful in defaming the Democratic health care reform initiative by accusing the Obama administration of trying to set up death panels and cut back on Medicare for seniors to pay for health care for illegal aliens.
From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2009
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