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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 03:48 PM
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The false promise of political 'realism' in a time of right-wing radical extremism

A DailyKos diary I published this morning:

The false promise of political 'realism' in a time of right-wing radical extremism

by markpkessinger


One of the chief distinctions Hillary Clinton has been attempting to draw between herself and Bernie Sanders is that she is a political ‘realist’ who won’t make promises she cannot keep, where Sanders is a dreamer who will not possibly be able to deliver on his proposals. Chelsea Clinton recently said that Sanders, unlike her mother, doesn’t understand what is “possible” to achieve in government (a rather curious thing to say about someone who has been in the Senate for 9 years, and in the House for 16 years before that — but I digress). Hillary has insisted that her moderate centrism (a description she was happy enough to “plead guilty” to until her campaign realized it was a liability to her vis-à-vis Sanders), and not Sanders’ pie-in-the-sky promises, will be the best bulwark against the treachery o f the political right. But is that really the case?

Imagine, if you will, that our politics are a game of tug-of-war, with the two major parties as the competing teams. Now, in a formal tug-of-war match, the rope is marked in three places: the center, and at two points (one for each team) equidistant from the center (in formal competitions, the distance of each team mark from the center mark is is 4 meters, or about 13 feet. The match starts with the center mark on the rope positioned over a mark in the ground, and whichever team can manage to pull the other team’s mark over the mark in the ground is the winner. But imagine if one team’s mark is, say, only 6 feet from the center mark, and the other team’s mark remains at 13 feet. Obviously, this puts the team whose mark is further from the center at a significant advantage, because they have a significantly shorter distance they must pull the other side in order to win. Certainly no self-respecting Irish tug-o’-war team would willingly compete if they were disadvantaged in such a way!

Yet, metaphorically, that is exactly what the Democratic Party did beginning in 1985 and on through the next two decades: it moved its team’s own mark much closer to the center mark, thus ceding the political advantage to its opposition. In 1985, Al From founded the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which argued that in order for the party to remain politically viable, it had to abandon the party’s long-standing economic populism (i.e., its support for labor, the poor and the working and middle classes), and embrace an economic platform that was solidly pro-business, and find solutions that were “market-based” rather than government program-based. This, it was argued, was the only way the party could once again become a major player on the national stage.

The election of Bill Clinton in 1992 was seen as the vindication of the DLC’s ideas. And indeed, the DLC’s ideas figured strongly throughout Clinton’s presidency, resulting in things like welfare reform, financial deregulation, truly egregious criminal justice legislation, and trade deals such as NAFTA and CAFTA, all of which the DLC (and HIllary Clinton) vigorously and vocally supported. The solemn pronouncement that “the era of big government is over” rolled off Bill Clinton’s tongue as easily as if his name were Newt Gingrich.

Now, whatever might be said of the effectiveness of the DLC’s strategy with respect to presidential elections, it proved to be a Faustian bargain when it came to Congressional elections. The Democratic Party’s long-standing commitment to economic populism had enabled it to maintain a dominant majority in Congress for four decades. When did that change? Not during the Reagan administration, nor that of his successor, George Bush. It changed in the 1994 midterms, after Clinton had signed NAFTA and CAFTA, which many organized labor voters saw — and not without — justification as a betrayal of their loyal support for the Democratic Party. The result was that demoralized labor voters, having concluded that neither party any longer represented their interests, stayed away from the polls in 1994 in a big way, enabling Republicans to gain control for the first time in 40 years. They held control for 12 years until 2006. But they regained control yet again in 2010, when once again, working and middle class voters, reeling from the economic collapse, were left to conclude that neither party really represented their economic interests.

We don’t really know what a President Sanders, or a President Clinton, will be able to accomplish. Certainly, neither will accomplish everything they set out to accomplish — no president ever does. The assumption that a President Sanders will not be able to accomplish any of his agenda is based on the notion that the partisan composition of Congress will remain unchanged. And we simply don’t know that one way or the other. But if we accept, as our starting point, solutions that we think are merely politically attainable, as opposed to solutions that we actually need and should pursue, then we will have ceded the debate turf to our opponents.

Given that the Republican Party has been overtaken by a kind of radical extremism that apparently unlimited in how far to the right it is willing to push, the notion that we can hold the center while occupying it is not grounded in political reality. Absent some serious pushback in the opposite direction, the “Overton Window” — that range of political ideas that are considered to be within the mainstream of our political discourse — will continue to move to the right. Indeed, the very fact that Bernie Sanders is regarded by many as a “far left” candidate stands as evidence of how far to the right that range has already shifted as a result of the DLC’s misguided ideas. As Noam Chomsky recently pointed out, whatever label we apply to Bernie Sanders, and whatever label he himself uses to describe himself, in reality he is a New Deal Democrat in the mold of FDR. Indeed, as an article appearing last month in Bloomberg View pointed out, in Europe, Sanders would be considered center-right.

Having an honest understanding of the current political climate is certainly important for any politician. But political ‘reality,’ such as it is, is immutable only to the extent voters accept it as such. And in the face of the kinds of deep and systemic problems we face, settling merely for what appears, at any given moment, to be attainable is the surest recipe for making no substantive progress towards solving those problems.

Note: The DLC, as an organization, formally dissolved in 2011, but its philosophies and its adherents are still very much with us, passing under labels such as “New Democrats” and the “Third Way Democrats.”
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Feb 21, 2016, 05:20 PM (2 replies)

Obama abandons all pretense of concern for civil liberties

I'm shocked -- SHOCKED, I tell you! From the NY Times:

In Nod to Law Enforcement, Obama Ends Attempt to Straddle Privacy Divide


WASHINGTON — For years, President Obama has struggled to reconcile a civil libertarian’s belief in personal privacy with a commander in chief’s imperatives for the nation’s security.

This week, security won.

The decision by Mr. Obama’s Justice Department to force Apple to help it breach an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists has ended, at least for now, the president’s attempts to straddle the feud over encryption between Silicon Valley and law enforcement.

Asked about the president’s backing of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into San Bernardino, one of the worst terror attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Obama’s press secretary declared on Wednesday that “the F.B.I. can count on the full support of the White House.”

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Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 19, 2016, 07:08 PM (32 replies)

The one thing that keeps me from giving into grave dancing over the death of Justice Scalia . . . .

. . . and I do mean the ONE thing, is the fact that he and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, although bitter rivals on the bench, were close personal friends. That makes me think that perhaps there was some facet of him that we, as members of the general public, were not privy to. But, while I might not be prepared to dance on his grave . . .

. . .

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Feb 13, 2016, 10:30 PM (8 replies)

Sorry, HIllary Supporters -- it WAS Bernie in those photose . . .

. . . and much as you might like to make it so, this is not at all comparable to, say, a candidate claiming to have dodged sniper fire in Kosovo when she did not!
Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Feb 13, 2016, 04:14 PM (12 replies)

When Hillary said that President Obama "stood up and took on Wall Street" . . .

. . . I found myself asking aloud,"Did she really just say that?"
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Feb 12, 2016, 03:37 PM (9 replies)

Thank you to the two people who sent me hearts!

Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Feb 9, 2016, 07:08 PM (0 replies)

The Facebook page, The Christian Left, is selling these T-shirts!

Thought you all might get a kick out of it -- I did!

From The Christian Left's Facebook page:

Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Feb 9, 2016, 04:30 PM (15 replies)

May I just say, as a Sanders supporter, to whomever is advising the Clinton campaign . . .

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Feb 7, 2016, 04:52 PM (3 replies)

The Affordable Care Act was a great accomplishment, but it is NOT a sacred cow!

Anybody who is at all honest with himself or herself will acknowledge that, while certainly better than what preceded it, the ACA is FAR from ideal or perfect. Yes, more people are insured. That's a good thing. Yes, pre-existing conditions are covered. Ditto. But the very high deductibles and skyrocketing drug prices are, quite literally, killers for those who, like me, live with chronic conditions (Type II diabetes in my case) that require continuous medical supervision and maintenance in order to keep them under control.

Hillary has falsely claimed that Bernie Sanders will be putting the ACA, Medicare, Medicaid and S-CHIP at risk by pursuing single-payer. Look, if he tries and fails, all that means is that we are left with whatever is currently in place. But this notion that we cannot and should not even attempt to TRY to come up with better system amounts to despicable fear-mongering based on a despicable lie, all borne of desperation -- it is truly pathetic.

To those engaging in the various lines of attack on Sanders, all based on the common theme of what he will not possibly be able to achieve, and pointing to the Republican obstruction faced by President Obama in support of that assertion, I would pose this question: What, exactly, is the basis for your belief that Hillary, for whom GOP enmity is just as deep as that directed towards President Obama and is of much longer standing, will be any more able to push through her agenda? Let's face it: the Republican strategy of obstructing virtually everything this President has tried to do has been, with a few notable exceptions, wildly successful. Does anybody honestly think they will suddenly be inspired to reach across the aisle under a Hillary presidency?

For 35 years, the Democratic Party has watched -- no it has permitted -- this country drift further and further to the right. The relative midpoint on the political spectrum has shifted, and markedly so. Given that there seems to be no limit on how far right the GOP is willing to pull this country, then absent some serious pushback in the opposite direction -- something that simply cannot be accomplished when your starting point is at, or in some cases already over, the center line -- that rightward drift will continue.

It could well be that a President Sanders will find himself unable to accomplish many of the things he would like to do. Then again, it could be that the enthusiasm his campaign is generating could result in some rather long coattails that could potentially change the political outlook in Congress. I really don't see the possibility of significant coattails in a Hillary victory.

One thing of which I am absolutely certain: if voters do not begin to push hard at the polls for the kind of change most of them want and know we need, it is virtually assured that change will never come to pass!
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Jan 29, 2016, 10:12 PM (5 replies)

NYT Editorial: Vindication for Planned Parenthood (and my comment posted to it)

Here is a comment I posted to the editorial (a link to and excerpt of the editorial follows after my comment):

Mark P. Kessinger New York, NY

It is certainly past time for politicians to back off their attacks on Planned Parenthood. But isn't it time also to ask why we continue to allow these scams involving videos that purport to show wrongdoing by some agency or official, videos produced by activists with a known agenda, to be perpetrated on the American public? Isn't it time to call out media outlets who run with these stories, at face value, without undertaking their own independent investigation of their veracity? And is it not time to demand accountability from politicians who opportunistically seize upon any video that surfaces, irrespective of its source and before knowing whether or not what is presented is accurate, in furtherance of a political agenda, wasting millions of taxpayers' dollars on pointless investigations that serve no public purpose, but merely provide a vehicle for political posturing?

The Planned Parenthood "baby parts" scam followed, play for play, the game plan that was used to falsely discredit ACORN and to slander Shirley Sherrod: (1) a person with a known, right-wing agenda comes forward with a selectively and misleadingly edited video; (2) one media outlet runs with it with no attempt to ascertain the truth of the story; and (3) Republican politicians immediately demand expensive investigations aimed not so much at discerning the truth of the video, but at smearing the person or organization targeted by the video. How many times must we go through this?

And here is the excerpt of the editorial itself:

Vindication for Planned Parenthood

One after the other, investigations of Planned Parenthood prompted by hidden-camera videos released last summer have found no evidence of wrongdoing. On Monday, a grand jury in Harris County, Tex., went a step further. Though it was convened to investigate Planned Parenthood, it indicted two members of the group that made the videos instead.

The Harris County prosecutor, Devon Anderson, a Republican who was asked by the lieutenant governor, a strident opponent of Planned Parenthood, to open the criminal investigation, said on Monday that the grand jurors had cleared Planned Parenthood of any misconduct.

Yet despite all the evidence, Texas’ Republican governor, Greg Abbott, said on Monday that the state attorney general’s office and the State Health and Human Services Commission would continue investigating Planned Parenthood. This is a purely political campaign of intimidation and persecution meant to destroy an organization whose mission to serve women’s health care needs the governor abhors.

Fortunately, in the Harris County case, the jurors considered the facts. David Daleiden, the director of the Center for Medical Progress, which released the videos, and Sandra Merritt, an employee, were indicted on felony charges of tampering with governmental records, probably connected to their alleged use of fake driver’s licenses to get into a Planned Parenthood office.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jan 27, 2016, 07:53 PM (4 replies)
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