Beginning with the Stimulus Obama, Reid and Pelosi caved into the demands of the "No Sayers". Much of the blame for those capitulations rests in the hands of the Blue Dog Democrats, who either voted against, or threatened to vote against the bill without significant concessions; concessions that ultimately weakened the administration and the Democrats' positions in the eyes of the public. What better gift could the Blue Dogs have delivered to the GOP than the ability to say "See how bad the bill is? Even your own party is against it." So while the Stimulus bill should have provided large amounts of government money to repair our failing infrastructure and get people back to work, it instead turned into tax cuts (over $250 billion in tax cuts) that was largely unnoticed by the public.
The same problems came up during the Affordable Care Act debate as Blue Dogs once again demanded changes to the legislation that fed the GOP narrative that the bill was bad. In truth, the bill was bad but mostly because of the compromises that were made before even approaching the bargaining table. When Congress should have been discussing a "Medicare for all" piece of legislation, they were instead caving in to the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies to create a giant corporate handout in the form of mandated coverage. Because of the cowardice of the Blue Dogs not only was a "Medicare for all" option left undiscussed but even the public option was gutted to ensure the votes of Blue Dogs.
Despite all of those compromises, Republicans still stood firm, united as a group and blocked the bill with every parliamentary maneuver they could come up with; from attempting to derail the bill with an endless series of amendments to forcing the reading of lengthy amendments to run out the clock. They even went so far as to hold up funding for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to kill the health care bill. So when the "brave" senators from Nebraska and Connecticut could have sent a strong signal to the Republicans that their tactics of stalling and delaying the bill will not work Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman sent them the opposite message and began to waffle on the bill over minor provisions in the bill, allowing the GOP to once again rise up with another wedge issue (this time the specter of federally funded abortions) and made certain that the final bill would be an even more damaged piece of legislation than it was before. The longer the efforts to pass these bills dragged out, the more and more unpopular they became as pundits attacked while more of those polled were now unhappy with the bills for not going far enough as well as those who thought they went too far.
Beneath all of these policy debates though, was the strongest weapon in the GOP armory and that was Barack Obama's appearance. Had it not been for his middle name, Hussein, or the color of his skin, many of the attacks on Obama or the Affordable Care Act would not have been able to muster so much strength. Those opposed to this administration were able to profit from the subtext of "taking our country back," because they fed a narrative that Obama, someone who does not look like an American President had taken the country from them, those that do "look American." Couple that with the outrageous claims that Obama was not born in America, or that he was a secret Muslim, and all the ingredients for a reactionary racist revolution were in place.
So where does that leave progressives? We have a rough couple of years ahead of us as the Republicans resume hacking away at the little progress that has been made over the last 50 years. Along with new efforts to restrict access to abortions and non-abstinence sexual education, we can probably expect at least one serious effort to impeach President Obama. And while the minority Republicans were united in standing in the way of their opponents, the Democrats will likely cave on a number of issues as they always do, strengthening the GOP in the eyes of the electorate and rewarding their obstructionist policies of the past two years.
Not much of a surprise, but the young voters of America are mostly to blame for the results caused by their apathy that allowed the over 65 portion of the electorate to grow from 15% in 2008 to 25% on Tuesday. As much as any of us might love Grandma and Grandpa, for the most part, they have some ass backward policies. Whether that comes in the form of racism or other prejudices, voters aged 18-35 must not allow the over 65 crowd to determine so much of our elections.
But all is not lost. While many Democrats were defeated on Tuesday, a large number of those defeats were dealt to the Blue Dogs who got us into this mess to begin with. The once powerful caucus of more than 50 Blue Dogs has been neutered down to less than 25. And let us not forget that the Republicans are about to send some seriously crazy individuals to Congress like Senator Elect Rand Paul, who adamantly believes that private companies should have a protected right to discriminate on the basis of race and that government has no business stopping them. So let's look at 2010 as a wake up call to be less passive. Let's demand our representatives that are left do what's right for their constituents and explain to their constituents why it's the right thing to do. Democrats and other progressives need to get out there and talk to the people who election after election vote with the guy they think is on their side but is really on the corporations' payroll, like John Boehner who handed out checks on behalf of the tobacco lobby on the floor of the House.
So let's hang in there and wait for the openings that will surely come from another GOP controlled House. Let's keep an eye out for the gay-bashing congressman who sexually harasses a congressional page, or gets caught tap-tapping his foot in an airport bathroom, or the congressmen who will inevitably become mired in some corruption scandals a la Duke Cunningham. And let's remind those Democrats that are left in office that it's time to stand firm. If they cannot reign in their members they will once again appear weak as the remaining Blue Dogs vote with the Republicans and give their awful bills the air of bi-partisanship. Be strong...and I mean Jackass strong!
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