Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why is My Party So Spineless?

What is wrong with this picture: when Republicans controlled the presidency and both Houses of Congress they pushed through whatever legislation they wanted. Now that Democrats control Washington, Republicans still seem to be calling the shots. WTF?

A look at the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Wednesday shows that I'm not the only Democrat who's extremely frustrated and disappointed with the overall performance of President Barack Obama and the Democrats who seem to control government in name only. Obama's approval rating has dipped from 60% to 47%, and only 40% believe he has the right goals; 61% of voters believe the country's in decline; while 55% see the nation headed on the wrong track. It's just under one year since Obama's taken office and already everyone from Republicans, Democrats, Independents, the media and political consultants are discussing the possibility of a "1994-like landslide" in next year's mid-term elections. Have Democrats so thoroughly and so quickly blown their unprecedented seat at the controls? Has Obama failed so miserably to deliver on his promise of change? Have Republicans demonstrated once again that in the political equivalent of a street fight they know how to kick the crap out of liberals? Yes, yes, and yes.

I'm not gonna pull any punches here, the Democrats have become a bunch of spineless pussies. Sadly, this is the way it's always been, which is why my party has held power for about 15 minutes over the last 15 years. Democrats now own the White House, 60 Senate seats, and have an 81 seat lead in the House. Yet the party seems so utterly neutered and unable to accomplish anything unless it waters down every measure to the point of being worthless.

Take health-care reform, for example. The bill, which now appears to be on the verge of collapse, if passed will resemble nothing that either Obama, Democrats or voters initially intended. No public option, no medicare expansion, no provisions for abortion, no meaningful cost-containment measures, no competition. It's little more than a gift of 30-million taxpayer-subsidized new-customers to insurance companies. Just a few months ago about 65% of Americans supported reform, but that number has free-fallen to 32% as the economy continues to struggle, joblessness remains, and Obama's priorities seem oddly misplaced. Throw in Congressional Democrats' spinelessness in caving on all the original key benefits of the measure and it's no surprise why voters have seemingly given up on health-care reform, Obama and the party. Count me in that highly disenchanted group.

The fear over next year's election is well-founded. Obama is losing the faith of his most loyal supporters, and that's a terrible omen for the party. During the 2008 campaign my pal Nathan Dean had been one of Obama's most ardent defenders. While I consistently argued with him, and here on this blog, that Hillary Clinton would be a stronger, tougher fighter against the GOP Nathan, and millions like him, stood firm and preached the Obama kool-aid. There was no moving Nathan, a loyal Obamacon who accused the rest of us of failing to see the magic in this futuristic agent of change. But consider what Nathan wrote to me this week regarding the president's impotence over health-care reform:

..."Seeing how he operates, with the incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity he had to make a difference, he has absolutely blown it.... Again, he let Republicans get the upper hand, seize the argument, scare people and Democratic Senators off. He tried to compromise with them despite knowing that their plan is to vote no on every piece of legislation he presents....Instead of stepping up and being a President that wants to make real change, and being as nasty politically as he needs to for the good of the country, meaning reconciliation, he's going to let Lieberman go down in history as the guy that killed health-care."

Can you hear the anger and frustration in Nathan's voice? Well, he's not alone. Liberals, progressives and independents are abandoning ship because they believe Obama has failed to deliver on his promise of change. From gay marriage to Iraq to Afghanistan to Wall Street reform to a public option for health-care, the president has waivered and/or flip-flopped on some of the most important issues on which he campaigned. He's so quickly morphed from politics' Boy Wonder, the Messiah, the once-in-a-lifetime-candidate, to the standard-model broken-down tired old politician with no fight left in him. While Americans obsess over their next paycheck and the security of their jobs, Obama's disproportionately expended so much political capital on health-care. Why health care? And why now, as the country fights for its economic survival? To many, Obama seems to care more about his own personal legacy than putting Americans back to work. No small wonder then that voters see his goals and theirs on totally opposite ends.

On health-care reform, there is an answer. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) needs to push through the measure under the parliamentary tactic known as reconciliation, which would require he get just 51 votes instead of 60, which he doesn't have now that Sen. Joe Lieberman has joined with Republicans to filibuster the bill. But here again the Democrats are spineless, refusing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, unlike their Republican counterparts, who did everything including play dirty to push through their agenda.

Debating former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews Wednesday night, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu (La) said of the former DNC head, who believes the party is wimping out by not using reconciliation: "He is wrong, we are tough enough, and you are right, Chris, about the process of reconciliation. It is not to be used to create broad additional new federal programs." please stop me from smashing my head into a wall. Did former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) give a shit what anyone thought when he deviously used redistricting as his own personal tool to ensure greater GOP victories? He cared about one thing and one thing only: getting the job done. Imagine if Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the same balls. Yet here we are watching Democrats again self-righteously over-intellectualize everything as the Republican enemy rams its you-know-what you-know-where. When will Democrats learn who they're battling? When will they finally wise up and fight to the death for what it believes in? Jeez, if the party can't push through its agenda now, when the hell will it?

On another note, we could use your help at The The Adrienne Shelly Foundation. We're a 501 c 3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated in my late wife's honor, and with a simple mission: supporting women filmmakers. Adrienne, who wrote, directed and starred in the hit film WAITRESS, was killed November 1, 2006. Through the Foundation, her commitment to filmmaking lives on. We've established scholarships, grants, finishing funds, screenwriting fellowships and living stipends at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts/Kanbar Institute of Film; Columbia University; American Film Institute; Women in Film; IFP; the Nantucket Film Festival; the Tribeca Film Institute; and the Sundance Institute. Your generous contribution will go a long way towards helping us achieve this very important mission. Please click here to make a donation. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

I'm trying to make sense of all this....

You are - in the same sentence - complaining of both the lack of public option/medicare expansion as well as the lack of competition?

Seems to me that the public option/medicare expansion approach is specifically intended to over time displace all of the private competition. That's why, for example, there were provisions that said that ANY change (co-pays, etc) to any policy meant that you had to go straight to the public option. That's a mechanism intended to kill the private companies since changes happen all the time.

Then your friend complains that Obama screwed up by trying to cooperate with Republicans? Now that one is a belly breaker. He never spoke to any Republicans seriously, other than the one or two he needed to pick off to hit 60.

Obama is in the spot he is in specifically because he has pushed forward with his own ideology regardless of the opposing thoughts of others. And it is coming back to bite him.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it folks. Obama had the opportunity to be one of the great American Presidents. He sounded the call to change in the election BUT, now what have we? Limp Leadership. Banks and Wall Street Fat Cats gorging at the public trough, More money spent on war and, more importantly, U.S. Soldiers killed for no reason other than KBR and Haliburton need to make more money. Jobs - every month losing more to out-sourced fat cat corporations with little help from the Government. Then there is Health Care - looks like the ordinary citizen will get the shaft and the fat cat Insurance Companies will make billions. No addditional coverage, no public pay option (like all other industrial countries), and in reality nothing for the jamoke on the street other than the traditional stick where the sun don't shine. Obama could have been great but he turned out to be just another poser for reform when in reality he is owned by the corporations and crooks.

Anonymous said...

Hey Andy - Long time no comment. I have to say, I'm finally 100% with you this time. Right on!!! Reconciliation NOW!!! Let's get that going around the internet. I'm with ya' buddy. - Barney

PS - I'll also spread the word about Adrienne's foundation. Great charity everyone. Pitch in if you can.

Anonymous said...

Sad to say, we're too nice.

Starting in the 1980s (Lee Atwater ring a bell), Republicans began going for the jugular to win at any cost. They sold their souls. Say to say, it has worked.

My mom use to tell me how rotten the Republicans were back in the 1950s so perhaps it is just the way they are

The Ostroy Report said...

Thanks Barn...glad we see eye to eye on this one! Hope all's well.

Rick said...

Sadly, I believe the problem is not spinelessness. The Democrats are in the pocket of big business just like the Republicans are. The difference is that the Dems pretend to give a shit about the people, whereas the Republicans are more up front about screwing us.

The time is coming when progressives are going to have to face facts. We won't be leaving the Democratic Party - we'll just be recognizing that, to paraphrase Arlen Specter, the Democratic Party has left us. There are true progressives within the party, to be sure, but they are outnumbered and outmaneuvered by neoliberals and corporate shills - among whose number I count both the Clintons as well as Obama.

I don't know whether the Green Party is the answer, or we need to elect independents, or start a new party; but I fear the party of Jefferson is no more. Today's Democratic Party pays lip service to progressive ideals, while doing everything it can to preserve and defend the power of the same monied interests that are openly served by the GOP.

The looming environmental crisis will eventually lead to a worldwide economic collapse that will dwarf the Great Depression. If mankind survives, which is not guaranteed, then maybe we will get a chance to start over from scratch.

WDRussell said...

I don't know when it happened, but since I am 62 it happened in my lifetime. The Dems have developed a case of political Stockholm Syndrome. Every time a GOPer says boo, they run in the corner and hide.

Anonymous said...

Why is everybody so surprised?

The Dems ignored their Constitutional duty and gave Bush, a President, power to start a war. They backed him from the beginning and on occasion when they didn't agree, they caved.

There was clue after clue during the campaign about how Obamaa would "govern". On this blog I and others and of course Ostroy pointed out obvious difficulties and urged support for Hillary. But even she seems weak these days.

I see no hope.

Anonymous said...

For years I e-mailed and wrote letters to Pelosi and Reid saying that the reason people see the Democrats as weak is that they won't stand up for what they profess to believe in, not that they are not right wing enough. Americans respect fighters, even if they disagree with them. I don't see much of an answer. Any third party will merely elect republic ans, but that might not matter. I mainly voted for Obama because I thought he had a better chance of winning than Hillary, who pre-sold out in the Senate and blew the call of the nation by not running in 2004. Perhaps "change" will not come form with- in and we won't have any say in how it turns out. History suggests as much.