Levees Not War
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Posts Tagged ‘Republican Noise Machine’

A Cure for “The Silence of the Dems”

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

What kind of future can there be for a political party that defers all its speaking roles to a conflict-averse President who does not want to be too closely identified with his party? And what future for that party’s legacy of “social contract” programs—and the people who need them?

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“For too long, Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives have acted as if government programs being funded by tax dollars are either settled issues (in the case of SS, Medicare, etc) or can speak for their value themselves (NEA, Amtrak, Post Office, etc). None of those things are true.

“All the Democratic, Liberal, and Progressive analysts are sitting around scratching their heads, wondering why Perry is actually gaining support by saying things like [‘Social Security is a Ponzi scheme’].” —Pat Armstrong, aka Cousin Pat from Georgia

[ Note: The following was posted late on 9/10 as “Rx for ‘The Silence of the Dems’ ” but is being re-posted for better visibility now that 9/11’s all-eclipsing 10th anniversary has passed. ]

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A Fix for the Deficit That Worries Us Most

Over the weekend, our friend Cousin Pat from Georgia (below), the Station Manager of Hurricane Radio, wrote some compelling comments in reply to “Pass This Jobs Bill” that should be taken to heart by as many readers as possible—particularly those of the liberal, progressive, Democratic stripe. Particularly the donkeys in the Democratic party machinery, who, like their G.O.P. counterparts, never listen to anyone under them. And so we’re bringing the discussion up from the basement of that post’s comments section to the front page here, which as you already know ranks somewhere between the New York Times and The Onion in influence on the thinkers and powers that be. Seriously, though, we wish the lion-hearted geniuses at the Democratic National Committee and on the committee to re-elect the president would tune in 24/7 to Hurricane Radio.

Pat, who describes himself as “a pragmatic, just-left-of-true-center Democratic voter,” debuted at Levees Not War last October when we posted a lengthy excerptfrom his hot, lucid rant titled “Why the GOP Is Going to Win in November.” Unfortunately, he was absolutely correct. Sadly, every word still rings true. See for yourself.

In reply to our account of President Obama’s “assertive, even imperative” address to the joint session of Congress Thursday night, Pat wrote:

I was wondering who that guy was giving the speech. 

What makes me angry is that, had this type of language been used in the first go-round, and these types of policies been more highlighted in the first stimulus, he may have gotten more with less drain on his political capital. 

Even with this new language and policy, he’s facing an uphill battle because the last stimulus was a modest policy win coupled with an absolute political disaster. 

But you know what they say about the best time to plant a tree.

We have complained before about “the Silence of the Dems” and said so again toward the end of “Pass This”: “The Democratic party has a serious communications deficit and had better start training its members in sharp, focused, disciplined public speaking.”

In reply to Pat we wrote:

[Obama] and his party need to emphasize repeatedly as one of their Top 3 Messages that government / public agencies serve many vital, necessary functions (safety inspections, air traffic safety, postal service, Social Security & Medicare, education, transportation, etc.), and in these essential ways “your tax dollars” are not being misspent. But many of us citizens all across the spectrum dislike gov’t in part because we feel we’re not getting much return on the taxes we pay—so much of the application of tax $ goes overseas. And because one party in particular constantly rails against the very idea of government. This may not have been your point, exactly, but do you agree? ¶ On another point, when is the best time to plant a tree?

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A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

Not Good, But Could Have Been Worse

A party that governs well but communicates poorly was set back by a party that obstructs well but is more interested in holding power than in governing.

What could have been a hideous wipeout following a grotesque campaign season was instead a series of setbacks, strong disappointments, and some reliefs and bright spots. Among the setbacks we sadly count the Illinois and Pennsylvania senate races where the Democratic candidates came very close. Among the strong disappointments were the losses of progressives like Russ Feingold, Alan Grayson, and Tom Perriello. Ouch. But we were relieved by the victories of senate majority leader Harry Reid, California senator Barbara Boxer, and among the bright spots are the gubernatorial victories of Andrew Cuomo in New York and Jerry Brown in California.

But the Democratic party is in serious trouble in the midsection of the country, with painful losses from Pennsylvania west to Wisconsin . . . Obama already is not strong in the South (which sometimes includes Florida), and that’s not likely to change. (Also disappointing was Charlie Melancon’s loss to David Vitter in Louisiana; Vitter ran against Obama, disregarding Melancon.) Obama and the Democratic party must get something in gear—something like employment, jobs programs, and a focused communications department—to regain support among the Rust Belt and Midwestern voters.

How to Interpret the Election?

Of course Republicans are claiming a mandate, but that’s ridiculous (and not at all supported by this CBS exit poll). We think the election results are more a matter of a sick economy (see below), Democrats’ failure to clearly explain and promote their accomplishments, and massive GOP and conservative negative advertising + 24/7 Fox News propaganda (aka the Republican Noise Machine). While Republicans insist the election results are a “referendum on Obama’s agenda” and “the voice of the American people,” let’s not forget that the GOP Tea Party candidates’ ads and secret, shadow groups’ attacks on Democrats were funded by millions of dollars from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Spending on congressional campaigns was expected to reach $4 billion. The GOP started campaigning around the inauguration; the Democrats, preoccupied with legislative accomplishments (see below), were late to the game. Further, remember that the so-called Tea Party, though it had grass-roots origins, has largely been co-opted and the Tea Party as it is now is not a people’s movement in the traditional sense: it is corporate-sponsored, establishment-driven. Ask Dick Armey and the billionaire Koch brothers. So much for “the voice of the American people.”

And “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Comparisons with the 1994 midterms (after Clinton’s first 18 months) are common, but the economy is far worse now, with unemployment officially at 9.6 percent (it’s actually much higher). A closer comparison—which Republicans don’t mention—would be 1982, after Reagan’s first 18 months, when the unemployment rate was about 10 percent: Democrats gained 27 seats, cementing their majority. In 1994 unemployment was about 5.6 percent. It is now about 9.6 percent, with some 15 million people out of work, and that’s only counting the people who have not given up in despair and not counting the under-employed (those working part-time instead of full-time). Reporter Robert Scheer says some 50 million Americans have either lost their homes through foreclosures or their home values are underwater: the amounts owed on their mortgages exceed the property’s market value. (We recommend Sheer’s new book, The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.)

Need we add that the Republicans have done nothing to help create jobs, but instead have blocked extensions of unemployment insurance, voted against tax breaks for small businesses—often voting against their own ideas—and massively resisted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus). They wanted to intensify the economic pain and thwart the president in order to regain power. This will be their strategy for the next two years as well. Gird your loins.

Much Accomplished, Much More to Be Done

This blog has complained possibly too much about what the president and the Democrats have not done. Perhaps most frustrating, though, is that the Democrats in Congress and the White House failed to communicate to the nation the astonishingly productive legislative record that they have accomplished over the past 21 months. With bill after bill, the Donkey kicked ass, but you’d never know it from them.

On Monday, Nov. 1, The Rachel Maddow Show produced a 15-minute segment highlighting the many accomplishments of the 111th Congress. The list is impressive—“the most legislatively productive 21 months in decades”—and we only wish the DNC had boasted far and wide about these bills. With more effective messaging (and a stronger focus on job creation, of course), the Dems could have countered the GOP distortions and rallied stronger base support and thus invigorated voter turnout.

Take a look at these achievements (and spread the good word):

  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help victims of pay discrimination—especially women—challenge unequal pay. Signed by President Obama January 29, 2009.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 expanded health insurance coverage to more than 4 million children and pregnant women. Signed by President Obama February 4, 2009.
  • Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (2009), giving about $6 billion over 5 years and increasing the number of full-time and part-time national service (AmeriCorps) volunteers from 75,000 to 250,000. Creates new programs focused on special areas like strengthening schools, improving health care for low-income communities, boosting energy efficiency and cleaning up parks, etc. Signed by President Obama April 21, 2009.
  • Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (2009) sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), described by Money magazine as “ best friend a credit card user ever had.” Credit Card Bill of Rights signed by President Obama May 22, 2009.
  • College student loan reform, March 2010: as part of the health care reform legislation, a provision “that would cut funding to private student lenders and redirect billions of dollars in expected savings into grants to needy students” (W.Post).
  • Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act gave FDA power to regulate tobacco. Signed by President Obama June 22, 2009.
  • Hate Crimes Prevention Act (aka Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act), made it a federal crime to commit assault based on victim’s gender, sexual orientation, etc. Signed by President Obama Oct. 28, 2009.
  • Car Allowance Rebate System (aka “Cash for Clunkers”): Begun in June 2009, and by August the auto industry was reporting strong sales—only about a half year after GM and Chrysler were bailed out by Washington. Boosted sales of safer and more fuel-efficient cars, helping clear the air and stimulating the economy.
  • Veterans benefited from the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010, and the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. The American Legion said “in our view the real successes [of the 111th Congress] were the passage of bills that affected nearly every veteran in America.”

All this is even before the big-ticket items of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka The Stimulus), the monumental (and incremental) Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform: click here for healthcare.gov), and the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (2010), which included establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, presently being (unofficially) headed by Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren.

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