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Positively Giddy

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

The Only Thing They Have to Fear Is . . . Government Itself

Pre-Existing Condition

“We’re very excited. It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.” —Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)

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“The mood in the Capitol on Saturday, at least among Republicans, was downright giddy. When Republican leaders presented their plan in a closed-door meeting on Saturday, cheers and chants of “Vote, vote, vote!” went up. As members left the meeting, many wore beaming grins.” —NYT 9/28/13

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“[Economists] make all sorts of predictions. . . . Many times they’re wrong, so I don’t think we should run government based on economists’ predictions. —Rep. John Fleming (R-LA)

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“There is no such thing as a debt ceiling in this country. I would dispel the rumor that is going around that you hear on every newscast that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling we will default on our debt. We won’t.” —Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) on CBS This Morning, 10/8/13

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They’ve Been Planning a Shutdown for Years

Isn’t it delightful that they are so pleased with themselves? The 80-odd members of Congress known as the Tea Party caucus who insisted on this government shutdown and repeatedly refused to negotiate a budget with the Senate—these distinguished members of Congress continue to be paid from their $174,000-per-year salary. (Congressional salaries have come to $2.6 million as of Oct. 10; see chart below.) Meanwhile, 800,000 “nonessential” federal workers from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Hurricane Center, the Centers for Disease Control, inspectors at the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Agriculture, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission; staff at NASA, EPA, FEMA, and the National Park Service, and other federal agencies and departments are made to stay home with no pay, or to work with no pay. (See “Five Ways the Government Shutdown Is Threatening Our Health and Safety.”)

These distinguished members of Congress who style themselves “fiscal conservatives” and rail against federal debt, who recently voted to cut $4 billion per year from programs that feed the needy, are costing the nation $1.6 billion every week while the government is shut down. That’s $40 million per hour. The shutdown is now in its second week, and, other than insisting on getting their way, and issuing new demands daily, the House Republicans have no plan to restart the U.S. government.

US deficit 2013[ Republicans speak constantly of “this growing federal deficit,” but ignore the fact that in the Obama years, the deficit has been steadily shrinking, and ignore the fact that in 2001 George W. Bush inherited a budget surplus from Bill Clinton, and (aided by their votes) left Barack Obama with a $1.3 trillion budget deficit. The bar graph here—click for a closer look—shows the years 2008–2013 (projected). See the bars getting smaller? ]

From Think Progress and The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, here are  just a few of the immediate consequences of the government shutdown:

Food and Nutrition: Food stamps will still be available, but the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, a service meant to help new and expecting mothers and their young children get nutritious foods, will not. Roughly 9 million Americans depend on WIC.

Housing: The nation’s 3,300 public housing authorities will stop receiving payments from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Disaster Relief: In preparation for a potential shutdown, the Utah National Guard is holding off on sending a team to help rebuild areas in Colorado devastated by massive floods last week.

Health Care: The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients and delay or stop clinical trials.

Financial Services: The Small Business Administration will stop making loans, federal home loan guarantees will likely go on hold, and students applying for financial aid could also see delays and backlogs in applications.

Think Progress notes, “All this will come at a price. The last two shutdowns during the Clinton era—one lasted six days in 1995 and another stretched 21 days at the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996—cost the country 0.5 percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) growth and more than $2 billion (in today’s dollars) in unnecessary expenses—as government employees abandoned their jobs to prepare for the shutdown.”

For more on how the shutdown will affect day-to-day life, click here and here. The NBC News chart below was published on Oct. 10, ten days into the shutdown.

ShutdownChart

The Shutdown Is Not (Only) about “Obamacare”

“We need to make sure that you are going to be with us when we shut down the government, which we will do if we win the majority this year.” —Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), addressing Faith & Freedom Conference, 2010

The tactic of shutting down the government, threatened or promised in 2010, as it was carried out by House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995, was originally intended to enforce fiscal restraint. The hardline Tea Party caucus of some 80 members pivoted to apply the threat of a shutdown as a way of repealing the Affordable Care Act, which they call, pejoratively, “ObamaCare.”

“We urge you not to bring to the House floor in the 112th Congress any legislation that provides or allows funds to implement ObamaCare . . .” —Aug. 21, 2013, letter from Reps. Michele Bachman, Jim Jordan, and about 80 other Tea Party caucus representatives to Speaker John Boehner

6th Congr.Distr-LAIt is important to understand that the Republican members driving this thing have been not only threatening but also promising to shut down the government at least since they were running for office in the 2010 midterm congressional elections. These radical congressmen—and they are not “conservatives,” as they like to call themselves, but are extremists, anarchists—are mostly white men from gerrymandered districts who are largely safe from any electoral consequences: they won’t have to pay a price for their brinksmanship and shenanigans in the next election because everyone in their district (which may look like the 6th district of Baton Rouge’s Bill Cassidy, M.D., shown at right) thinks very much the way they do. Either they do not have many poor people, people of color, immigrants, or college-educated liberals in their districts to worry about, or those minorities who do live, or try to eke out an existence, in their districts will most likely have a harder time voting, if they’re still on the list, next time around.

“Cut It or Shut It . . . We Want Less”

Before the current shutdown, Congressional Republicans have threatened seven times to take the government down, or take the economy over a cliff (remember the fiscal cliff?), just since early 2011. They have been looking for excuses to “cut it or shut it.”

As Steven Benen wrote in “A Series of Near-Death Experiences” at the Maddow Blog:

In April 2011, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. In July 2011, congressional Republicans created the first debt-ceiling crisis in American history. In September 2011, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. In April 2012, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. In December 2012, congressional Republicans pushed the nation towards the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.’ In January 2013, congressional Republicans briefly flirted with the possibility of another debt-ceiling crisis. In March 2013, congressional Republicans threatened a government shutdown. 

And now . . .

Why John Boehner is allowing a comparatively small group of representatives in the House to control the agenda is beyond our understanding, though we can imagine he wants to keep his position as Speaker of the House. At least it was beyond comprehension before a front-page article in the Sunday, Oct. 6, New York Times, “A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning,” reported that the billionaire conservative activist Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, had put some $200 million into fighting the Obama healthcare law, funding such groups as Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and Heritage Action, a close relation to the Heritage Foundation. These groups ran media spots against some 100 Republican members of Congress who declined to sign on to the Tea Party letter to House Speaker John Boehner mentioned above.

Cracks Appear in Republicans’ United Front

Business, and even some conservative action groups, worried that this has gone on too long already, are beginning to back away from the hardline House Republicans. On October 9, the Koch brothers sent a letter to Congress stating that Koch Industries “has not taken a position on the legislative tactic of tying the continuing resolution [for funding the government] to defunding Obamacare.” Similarly, on the same day, Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham gave essentially the same message to reporters.

“We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.” —Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN)

photo-tea-party-shut-it-down1The Republicans have no plan to end the standoff. They have dug themselves in too deep to pull back out. They insist that the president and the Democrats must compromise. But the Senate passed a continuing resolution some six months ago, and at least four times the House Republicans refused to join in a conference to work up their own budget proposal (as happens in a functioning Congress) because that would have required some compromise. Further, the “clean” budget bill that the Senate has been trying to get the House Republicans to vote on is billions below what the White House requested. The House Republicans held off because they wanted to drive this up to the very brink—they wanted leverage to make demands for further cuts, and then, with the Tea Party caucus’s urging, for defunding and repeal of “Obamacare”—and then, if necessary, over the cliff. Now the car is falling, falling, and they don’t know how to repeal gravity, either.

What worries business leaders and Wall Street is that vocal members of congressional Republicans apparently do not believe that blowing through the debt ceiling (around November 1) is anything to worry about. Economists across the spectrum see a default on the national debt as insane and catastrophic, with global repercussions that could dwarf the financial meltdown of 2008, but even Republican senators are blithely unconcerned. On Oct. 9, the ninth day of the shutdown, Fidelity Investments sold off its U.S. Treasury bonds out of concern that the government may indeed default, and the U.S. government’s borrowing costs have risen sharply—another unnecessary addition to the national debt brought to us by the “fiscal conservatives.” (“Deadlock Worry Jolts the Market for T-Bills”)

The Huffington Post has been running a list of Republican members of Congress who say they are willing to cast an up-or-down vote on a budget without “repeal Obamacare” strings attached. These members of Congress should be encouraged (contact information here) to stand up, speak out, and implore their likeminded members to vote with Democrats to restart the government. Perhaps this has gone on long enough?

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Geography of Inhumanity Posing as Fiscal Discipline

Below are two maps, the first (by The New Yorker) showing the congressional districts of the “suicide caucus” of Tea Party Republicans who pushed for the government shutdown. Almost every district has been made into an impregnable fortress where the representative can be as extreme as he or she wants to be without worrying about having to pay an electoral price.

Note the geographical similarities with the second map (by The New York Times), which shows the areas of the United States where poor and uninsured Americans live. The two maps are essentially the same: the hardline conservatives pushing the shutdown largely represent the states whose governors and legislatures refuse to allow expansion of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), even though they have high populations of poor, unhealthy people.

•  “Where the Suicide Caucus Lives” (The New Yorker, 9/26/13), showing districts of Republicans who signed a letter demanding that Speaker John Boehner pass legislation to defund Obamacare

•  “Millions of Poor Are Left Uncovered by Health Law” (The New York Times, 10/2/13)

SuicideCaucusCongressDistricts_final_big-01

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Where Poor and Uninsured Americans Live

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Top illustration by Chamomile Tea Party.

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“Arguing about How to Defuse a Huge Ticking Bomb”

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Burn-it-Down Nihilism Spreads Among Tea-Infused House Republicans

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

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“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.” —Diderot

House Republicans laughed a former George H. W. Bush economist out of the room on Monday when he tried to warn them of the dire consequences of a U.S. debt default, according to John Stanton of Roll Call. Stanton says the number of let-it-crash denialists among House Republicans is actually increasing. They think the Aug. 2 deadline is artificial. The Honorable Louie Gohmert of Texas said in a radio interview that the Aug. 2 deadline is only for the convenience of the president so he can have a big Aug. 4 birthday celebration fund-raiser. Freshman Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) says there’s nothing to worry about: “In fact, our credit rating should be improved by not raising the debt ceiling.” The crazy just keeps on comin’. And the clock—or is it a time bomb?—is ticking. The rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s may not wait till Aug. 2 to downgrade the United States of America’s credit rating. Then what?

Congress raised the debt ceiling 7 times under George W. Bush, 18 times under Ronald Reagan. But that was then. There is serious concern in the Republican leadership (in the Senate, for example) that House leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor cannot control the fire-eating Tea Party members, who distrust them and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only). The radicals have principles; they don’t give a damn about reelection. Many of them scorn the Senate’s “Gang of Six” plan as a betrayal because it involves revenues and does not cut spending deeply enough.

Self-styled Tea Parties of populist anger at overtaxation and nonrepresentation began to sprout at first spontaneously in 2009. As the G.O.P. and right-wing self-interest groups including Fox News began to feed the nascent movement with the steroids of corporate money and tactics training to direct their anger against the Obama administration’s health care reform initiative—and then against everything else Democrats were up to—political observers on the right and left voiced misgivings that in dispensing the steroids the Koch brothers, FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and other Dr. Frankensteins were creating a monster that they would not be able to control. (Remember the GOP House members standing on the Capitol building porches waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and egging on the Tea Party protesters down below shouting “kill the bill!” as the House was debating the health care bill  in March 2010?)

Republicans “won’t be satisfied until the family is out on the street.”

“I certainly think you will see some short-term volatility. In the end, the sun is going to come up tomorrow.” —Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, president, House Republicans’ freshman class

The New Yorker’s George Packer begins a Talk of the Town piece (July 25 issue) about the debt-ceiling fight titled “Empty Wallets” with a heart-grieving anecdote of a jobless Florida man whose daughter has bone cancer. Danny Hartzell is packing up the family to move in with a friend in Georgia with whom he has reconnected on Facebook, hoping for a fresh start. After being terminated from his $8.50 an hour job at Target—business is slow—his last biweekly paycheck after taxes is $140. Hartzell is hit by one ax-blow of bad luck after another, mostly in the form of Republican-legislated cuts of unemployment benefits or access to health care (votes cast by men and women who have health insurance).

Turning to the debt-ceiling impasse between Congress and President Obama, Packer compares the struggle as “like members of an ordnance-disposal unit arguing about how to defuse a huge ticking bomb.”

Obama, securely in character, called on all sides to rise above petty politics, acknowledged the practical realities of divided government, and proposed a grand compromise that would lower the deficit by four trillion dollars. According to the Times’ Nate Silver, Obama’s offer, in its roughly four-to-one balance between spending cuts and revenue increases, falls to the right of the average American voter’s preference; in fact, it may outflank the views of the average Republican. . . . 

The Republicans are also securely in character. They’ve rejected everything that the President has proposed, because Obama’s deal includes tax increases and the closing of loopholes for hedge-fund managers and corporate jets and companies that move offshore. Ninety-seven per cent of House Republicans have taken something called the “No Tax Pledge.” . . . Representative Paul Ryan’s ten-year budget plan, which remains his party’s blueprint for the future, would impose a fifty-percent cut on programs like food stamps and Supplemental Security Income, which, as long as Danny Hartzell remains jobless, represent the Hartzells’ only income. By the last day of June, the Hartzells had twenty-nine dollars to their name. The Republicans in Congress won’t be satisfied until the family is out on the street. 

Packer notes that the sociologist Max Weber in an essay on politics as a vocation distinguished between “the ethic of responsibility” and “the ethic of ultimate ends”—between those who act on the basis of practical considerations and those motivated by a higher conviction, acting on principle “regardless of consequences.” They are opposites, but someone suited to a career in politics forges some kind of union of the ethics of responsibility and ultimate ends.

On its own, the ethic of responsibility can become a devotion to technically correct procedure, while the ethic of ultimate ends can become fanaticism. Weber’s terms perfectly capture the toxic dynamic between the President, who takes responsibility as an end in itself, and the Republicans in Congress, who are destructively consumed with their own dogma. Neither side can be said to possess what Weber calls a “leader’s personality.” Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane. Conviction without responsibility, in the current incarnation of the Republican Party, is raving mad. . . . It was Lenin who first said, “The worse, the better,” a mantra adopted by elements of the New Left in the nineteen-sixties. This nihilistic idea animates a large number of Republican officeholders.

Packer concludes with the pessimistic observation that Barack Obama—whom we dimly remember as a man elected president on slogans of “hope” and “change” (our characterization, not Packer’s)—“is now the leading champion of fiscal austerity, and his proposals contain very little in the way of job creation. . . . he no longer uses his office’s most powerful tool, rhetorical suasion, to keep the country focussed on the continued need for government activism.”

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Top photo from the film The Hurt Locker (2008). Bottom: detail of photo by Dorothea Lange for the federal Resettlement Administration, taken in Blythe, California, August 17, 1936. Found at Shorpy.com.

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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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The Silence of the Dems

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Now, finally, the president’s out there on the stump doing what we wish he’d been doing for the past 16 months or so: drawing sharp, biting distinctions between Democrats and Republicans. Great timing, five weeks before election day. We pray it ain’t too late. It would have helped if the Senate Democrats had not timidly wimped away from forcing a vote on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and pushed the Republicans to show how much they care for the middle class. Their timidity explains the enthusiasm gap (but that’s no excuse for not voting against Republicans on Nov. 2).

Why Is Barack Obama All Alone?

But where are his fellow Democrats, now and for the past year and a half? Is the president alone because he spent more time courting the party that wants him to fail than organizing and training surrogates in his own party to help frame the message and control the national debate? We think so. We recall wondering with distress during the stimulus struggle in February 2009, “Where are the f—ing Democrats?!”

All week we’ve been wondering Where are the f—ing Senate Democrats?! It’s as though the camera hogs have turned into groundhogs, frightened of their shadows, leaving Obama to do all the heavy lifting on the American Recovery and Investment Plan, better known as The Stimulus.

All the work of promoting and defending the stimulus and health care reform and Wall Street reform seems to have been left to the president to handle by himself. This is inexcusable. Even on Dem-friendly MSNBC much of the air time goes to covering conservatives’ antics and rantings instead of Democrats’ and progressives’ positive messaging. (There are a few exceptions, such as Barney Frank, Alan Grayson, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Sherrod Brown, Howard Dean.)

Where Are the Donkeys That Kick Ass?

Democrats are said to be the majority party, yet they’re AWOL while Boehner and Cantor and other conservative big mouths have been shaking the leaves off the trees with their high-pitched elephant roars and hoof-poundings about out-of-control spending. Where are the donkeys that kick ass?

What drives us f—ing craaazy is that since Inauguration Day the Democrats have allowed the Republicans to control the national microphone as though the Dems are still scared shitless of the elephant’s hoof the way they were from 9/11/01 onward. As our friend Pat of Hurricane Radio says in a hot, lucid piece we wish we’d written, “You [Obama and the Dems] have to learn that there are political consequences for letting the other side control the debate.”

Get Out the Vote: No Staying Home on Nov. 2

Don’t get us wrong, we’re about to get our donkey back in gear by rejoining the Organizing for America phone banks to call the disillusioned pessimistics to please come back out and vote even if you don’t feel like it. Please, fellow Americans, check your local listings for OFA in your area and make phone calls as if your nation’s sanity depends on it—because it does. You can phone from home. Even if you’re mad at how things have gone down since January 20, 2009 (we are too), do not stay home on Election Day, but phone and e-mail friends and family to get out and vote for Democrats or at least against Republicans on Nov. 2.

Remember, voting for a candidate is only one step. Even after election day we have to keep after them. The White House and members of Congress—Democrats especially—have to be hit over the head repeatedly with bricks and frying pans before they’ll act on any issue not of immediate concern to their reelection or fund-raising. Sorry, but it’s the system we have. The conservatives never rest, and neither can progressives, liberals, protectors of the social safety net.

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