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We’re Not “Whining,” Mr. Biden,
But Democrats in Congress Are Cringing

[1]“Campaigning for Democratic candidates in New Hampshire, Vice President Joe Biden said Monday the party’s base should ‘stop whining [2].’ . . . [Mr. Biden] said Democrats can win . . . if they draw clear distinctions between themselves and their Republican opponents, and he urged Democrats to ‘remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises.”

Given a chance to clarify his remarks on Lawrence O’Donnell’s The Last Word [3] (MSNBC), the Vice President said [2]:

“there’s some on the Democratic base, not the core of it, that are angry because we didn’t get every single thing they want. . . . But because there was no public option, some of them are so angry, they say, we’re not going to participate. They should stop that. . . . And so those who . . . didn’t get everything they wanted, it’s time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better . . . but not yield the playing field . . .”

We agree entirely about drawing “clear distinctions” and not yielding the playing field. But we want Mr. Biden to understand a thing or two.

Following is a letter that we’ve faxed and are mailing to the Vice President’s office (White House [4] fax # 202-456-2461; phone 202-456-1111). A version of this letter will go out this week to the Democratic National Committee and Democratic members of the House and Senate.

Don’t Insult the “Whining” Base While Democratic “Leadership” Cringes

Dear Vice President Biden:

With all due respect, sir, you’re not helping matters by telling the Democratic base to “stop whining.” The reason why our party faces potential losses in November is that Democratic candidates are afraid to fight (Creigh Deeds [5], Martha Coakley [6]), as sickeningly exemplified by the cowardly choice to not even debate [7], much less vote on, the expiring Bush tax cuts for billionaires. If there’s an enthusiasm gap it’s because we’re not inspired by the so-called leadership.

I am an OFA [Organizing for America [8]] volunteer who worked on the Obama-Biden campaign (GOTV), made countless phone calls for health care reform, and will be pitching in again before the midterms. Let me tell you, Mr. Biden, we know your administration has done a lot of good, and there’s nobody I’d rather have as president and vice president. We still believe in you. But the party’s in disarray.

Instead of telling us to “stop whining,” why don’t you instead publicly tell the cowering, risk-averse, camera-shy Democrats in Congress to stop hiding from the party’s achievements—not only your stimulus and health care and Wall Street reform bills but also the legacy of FDR and LBJ that are under constant attack by the right wing? Why don’t we see the big names like Reid and Durbin, Kerry and Schumer, Boxer, Leahy, Harkin, Rockefeller, Feingold, and Tim Kaine and Howard Dean, standing up on their hind legs and defending our achievements? It’s as if they’re embarrassed by the entire Democratic tradition.

Don’t snap at us—get your own caucus in line the way the Republicans do. You and President Obama and Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Shultz do a good job of defending and framing the issues, but you should not have to be doing all the work. The congressional Democrats are not defending Social Security and Medicare and unemployment insurance that are keeping our people out of poverty and holding this country together. They’re frightened to stand up and slam the GOP for serving the billionaires—because they’re compromised by their own ties to Wall Street? No wonder the base is disaffected.

Furthermore, we’re sick of being insulted by Rahm Emanuel and Robert Gibbs and whoever else whispers anonymous complaints about the “professional left [9]” and says “those bloggers need to take off their pajamas [10] [and] get dressed . . .” When you attack progressives, you’re slamming the ones who worked their asses off to help Obama win primaries when the establishment Dems (risk-averse as ever) were backing Hillary Clinton. You punch us more than you ever lash out at Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, or the right-wingers who are really making your lives hard.

There’s still a month to go. Bring Kaine, Reid, Pelosi, and other leaders together and tell them to fight a national campaign against the GOP’s middle-class shredder instead of the pathetic, listless, schizoid local campaigns currently losing ground to the likes of Christine O’Donnell and Joe Miller of Alaska. (God spare us.) America deserves better than the current Democratic party, but we also don’t deserve to be (mis)ruled by the Tea Party Republicans, as you rightly call them.

Yours truly, and ever progressively,

Mark LaFlaur

*

On the Cutting-Room Floor

The following paragraph was part of the original draft, but did not fit onto the single-page letter:

the change we were believing in did not include escalating the war in Afghanistan by 30,000 troops, or stacking Treasury and the economic advisory team with Robert Rubin protégés Citigroup / Goldman Sachs veterans; making self-defeating preemptive concessions on the stimulus (one-third of the too-small package was tax cuts); not even trying for universal health care coverage, making backroom deals with medical and insurance groups (thanks, Rahm and Baucus), and then making almost no push for the public option. (Then, two days after his West Point speech announcing 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the president tells a White House forum on unemployment that “our resources are limited.” Now, why is that?) And this is not even mentioning the administration’s long hesitancy to nominate Elizabeth Warren, fear of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell boldness, or the continuation of secret Bush era torture policies and now trying to find ways to wiretap the Internet.

etc. etc.

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