Democratic Party ‘Mainstream’ Prefers ‘Balance’, As Only Max Baucus Can Deliver
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took little time in announcing he would be naming Senator Max Baucus as one of three Democrats (including Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. John Kerry) to serve on the “Debt Super Committee”.
Matthew Yglesias assures Liberals there’s little to worry about with regards to Baucus. His rationale is that there’s little disagreement between moderate and liberal Democrats on the “core issue” facing the super committees:
In general, people should remember that while an important cleavage exists between moderate and liberal Democrats about the desirability of cutting Social Security spending, there’s really very little disagreement about the core issue facing the super committee, which is whether Democrats should agree to far-reaching domestic cuts without any offsetting tax hikes. Baucus is firmly within the party mainstream in demanding balance.
In other words, both moderate and liberal Democrats alike agree that far-reaching domestic cuts are okay AS LONG AS Republicans agree to impose tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans. I.e. it appears (according to Yglesias) we’ve all bought into Obama’s “shared sacrifice” spiel: that it’s okay to impose austerity measures on average Americans or even the most vulnerable Americans during a severe recession, as long as the wealthy throw some “tip money into the jar”. And we can be assured that Max Baucus will not bend on this ‘mainstream’ Democratic Party ‘balance’-principle.
Meanwhile, CNN just released a new poll today that reveals the complete opposite about the ‘mainstream’ Democratic Party:
Breaking the CNN Poll results down:
Should increases in taxes on businesses and higher-income Americans be included in the Super Committee’s deficit reduction proposal?
Democrats: 80% Yes, 19% No
Liberals: 82% Yes, 17% No
Moderates: 74% Yes, 25% No
Should major cuts in spending on domestic government programs be included in the Super Committee’s deficit reduction proposal?
Democrats: 39% Yes, 58% No
Liberals: 40% Yes, 58% No
Moderates: 52% Yes, 44% No
Should major changes to the Social Security and Medicare systems be included in the Super Committee’s deficit reduction proposal?
Democrats: 28% Yes, 71% No
Liberals: 30% Yes, 70% No
Moderates: 30% Yes, 69% No
It would appear from the numbers above that Democrats (as an ENTIRE group) don’t buy into Obama’s concept of ‘shared sacrifice’ or ‘balance’. A clear majority DON’T EVEN WANT major spending cuts in domestic government programs TO BE ON THE TABLE. They want the Super Committee to focus entirely on revenues, and they want those revenues to come from corporations and the wealthy.
And let us not forget Sen. Baucus’s track record. Here is a Senator who was instrumental in overriding the will of the American people on healthcare reform (and was rewarded handsomely by the health insurance industry & BigPharma for his efforts).
Now, it’s true that the Senator has made a few surprisingly encouraging statements in defense of Medicare and Social Security recently. But after the healthcare reform debacle, we all know a thing or two about Baucus’s integrity.
When Compromise Means Undermining The Logical Solutions To Our Most Serious Problems
When Barack Obama told the New York Times he was “like a Rorschach test,” after having just defeated Hillary Clinton in the Primaries, you have to wonder if he wasn’t already laying down a narrative he could lean on in defense of all the promises he intended to break.
Make no mistake about it, Progressives were NOT blinded by their infatuation with him. They were NOT merely projecting their own ideas of ‘change’ onto him, as he, his advisers and some in the MSM would have you believe.
Obama was not a candidate who spieled off a list of vague promises, leaving himself a vacuous space he could eventually wiggle away from. On the contrary, Obama was very specific about his platform. He eloquently explained to his supporters in precise details WHY his specific solutions were the most sound and the most logical for remedying the problems this country faced.
Unlike most politicians, Obama is blessed with a professorial ability to identify the cause of a complex problem and to articulately guide his listeners towards the most logical solution.
As it happened, his supporters equated his uncanny ability to brilliantly describe and defend each of his policy choices as evidence of his deep and profound commitment to them.
This is why Obama’s long list of betrayals have stung so many and in a way that differs from the all-too-familiar betrayals of the typical ‘talking points’ brand of politician. Obama was different. He made the intellectual case for the solutions he proposed.
An obvious example would be Obama’s promise that a public option would remain a vital component to any health care reform bill that he would sign. He explained it was the only way of injecting competition into a corrupt industry where none existed; that it was necessary for keeping the ‘for profit’ insurance industry honest, and would serve as a last resort for those who became unemployed, or who couldn’t, for whatever reason, afford the ‘for profit’ industry rates.
He had also described why a health care mandate — something his opponent, Hillary Clinton, favored — was idiotic. He stated “If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house. The reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money.”
As President, he championed the mandate, promised away the crucial public option in secret meetings with the hospital industry, and flipped on a good many of his other significant health care reform promises. And now — shocking! — Democrats worry about the political blowback in 2014 by middle-class families who will discover not only that they don’t qualify for subsidies, but that they will face financial penalties for not purchasing coverage, even if there are no policies they can afford.
Candidate Obama owes his alter ego, President Obama, one gigantic “Told You So!“
For this reason, there is a keen sense amongst many on the Left that President Obama has cunningly betrayed not just mere promises, but the public interest itself. That he sinisterly chose to enrich those same corrupt industries he spoke of so often, and to the detriment of millions of Americans.
Obama shifted very abruptly, once elected, from his commitment to ‘Change’ — as he had defined it — to something entirely different: a commitment to ‘Bipartisanship’. But this necessity for pragmatic compromise has cynically evolved into his chief rationale for pursuing the very opposite policies of the ones he once deemed imperative to solving our nation’s most vexing problems.
Here’s an exercise in simple arithmetic to help highlight the fallacy in Obama’s style of governance:
If Candidate Obama believed 1 + 1 = 2, and now faces Republicans who contend 1 + 1 = 5, should a President who quickly capitulates and decrees 1 + 1 = 4 still be trusted to solve our country’s problems?
Should he be praised for committing himself to something we all know is NOT a solution to the problem: (1 + 1 = 4), merely for the sake of projecting a token display of bipartisanship?
Many progressives believe that Obama’s commitment to compromise is nothing more than a cover to selfishly advance his own political interests. Because, we know from his campaign speeches what he himself believes to be the logical solutions for tackling these gigantic problems. And they are not at all what he has been fighting for since he was elected.
When Lies And Conspiracies Are All You Have To Energize Your Base, Be Prepared For Violence
If a person falsely shouts ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, thereby creating a stampede in which innocent bystanders get trampled, then that person can be held liable, as was decided in the 1919 Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States.
This verdict distinguished between untruthful statements used to incite violence (i.e. falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater) and truthful statements which may also happen to incite violence (i.e. shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater that is actually burning). The former is illegal; the latter is not.
Most of the criticism leveled at the Tea Party over the last two years has been due to the fact their supporters’ threatening and hateful outbursts are largely based on unfounded beliefs fed to them by their leaders, right-wing radio, and the Fox News channel.
After Republican policies failed so miserably under eight tumultuous years of George W. Bush, they have been forced to manufacture lies and conspiracies to outrage, and in turn energize, their base.
When Barack Obama beat John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Election, the right-wing immediately began pushing forward the lie that he was going to outlaw gun purchases. The result was astounding:
According to FBI figures for the week of November 3 to 9 [the week after Obama won], the bureau received more than 374,000 requests for background checks on gun purchasers — a nearly 49 percent increase over the same period in 2007. Conatser said his store, Virginia Arms Company, has run out of some models — such as the AR-15 rifle, the civilian version of the military’s M-16 — and is running low on others.
Such assault weapons are among the firearms that gun dealers and customers say they fear Obama will hit with new restrictions, or even take off the market.
This fear mongering campaign continued unabated into the next year. MediaMatters, at the time, compiled a sample of these lies on “outlawing guns” dating from Obama’s victory through April 2009. Here’s a clip of a Glenn Beck episode embodying this fear mongering.
And sure enough, their falsely “screaming fire” incited its first act of violence when an angry, young, paranoid, conspiracy theorist, Richard Andrew Poplawski, gunned down three police officers and wounded a fourth in Pittsburgh, PA. Here’s how he was described by friends and family leading up to the murders:
He slept with a gun under his pillow in a basement room filled with firearms and ammunition, convinced that Jews controlled the media and President Obama was scheming to take away his arsenal, friends and relatives said Saturday. […]
[Poplawski’s lifelong friend Edward] Perkovic said Poplawski usually was affable and kind, but grew angry recently over fears Obama would outlaw guns. He said Poplawski owned a bullet-proof vest, an AK-47 assault rifle and at least seven other weapons, but obtained the firearms legally.
Tea Party favorite, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) is a notable for spreading outlandish conspiracy theories. She claimed in the Summer of 2009 that the Obama Administration would use the 2010 Census information for nefarious purposes. She insisted ACORN — a group demonized by the far-right — would be the ones collecting and disseminating the information.
In this footage, Glenn Beck reveals that he fears the Census information will be used to deny gun permits to American citizens, and then Bachmann (his guest) one-ups his allegation, by stating “Here’s the other thing that will happen”, and then explains that the United States government will use the information to put Americans into internment camps, much like they did to Japanese Americans during the second world war.
Bachmann had earlier told Chris Matthews that there was a serious problem with anti-American members of Congress (referring to Democrats), which she said necessitated an investigation by the US media.
Not to be outdone by her fellow Tea Partiers, Sarah Palin — when health care reform was being debated in August of 2009 — spread the fear of death panels amongst her low-information supporters:
The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”
There was no such provision in the bill, as was quickly pointed out by FactCheck.org. Palin made it up. But other ‘conservatives’ (including GOP leaders and politicians), Fox News, and right-wing radio would not let facts deter them from energizing their base. They began repeating Palin’s lie as a proven fact, over and over again.
These same voices on the Right also began to call the proposed health care reform bill “Socialized Medicine” and a “Government Takeover”. This was despite the fact that a single payer system was NEVER ever on the table, and neither Obama, nor any leader in Congress, had ever proposed government employed health care providers (the end result of a ‘government takeover’). Private ‘For profit’ health care was always, unfortunately, to be the end game in all the health care reform proposals.
However, the ‘death panels’ and ‘government takeover’ lies incited a huge violent frenzy amongst Tea Party thugs, who stormed Town Hall Meetings shouting over all discussions, and intimidating Representatives and their supporters.
All this fanatical behavior (based entirely on lies) lead fact checker Politifact.org to award Sarah Palin’s ‘death panel’ statement as “Lie of the Year”:
“Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest,” writes Politifact.com, the non-partisan, Pulitzer Prize-winning site run by the St. Petersburg Times. Palin’s “assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings.”
For those who might have been wondering, the runner-up for “Lie of the Year” went to Glenn Beck — also instrumental in spreading Palin’s ‘death panel’ lie — for claiming “that John Holdren, a science adviser to President Barack Obama, proposed forcing abortions and sterilants on the U.S. population”.
Third place for Politifact.org’s “Lie of the Year” was “a claim [made] by conspiracy theorist Orly Taitz that Obama was born in Kenya” and therefore ineligible to be President of the United States. Her lie launched an entire “Birther” movement which is hugely popular within the Tea Party set. Here’s a clip of an audience of wing-nut Birthers literally domineering a Democratic representative’s Town Hall meeting.
One common element amongst all these egregious lies by the far right — used to drum up support for what would otherwise be unpopular positions — is that they are conspiratorial in nature. They are based on an underlying fear that those in government — namely, anyone left of center, who disagrees with their inflexible ideology — are illegitimate, have stolen ‘their’ government, and are out to take away rights that they believe are accorded to them by the Constitution.
These conspiracies provoke fear, anxiety and fury, which ultimately creates an extremely toxic political environment. Though it may be the perfect recipe for energizing the right-wing base, it also unfortunately can unleash violence from mentally unstable, hyper-paranoid, gun-owning individuals — ironically, those most likely to buy into fantastical Tea Party conspiracy theories.
And at the same time these propagandists stoke their supporters’ fury with blatant lies, they simultaneously use gun-rhetoric, gun-imagery, and make veiled threats towards their perceived ‘enemies’ at every possible opportunity.
TeaParty.org founder, Dale Robertson, who helped start the Tea Party movement nearly two years ago in Houston had this warning for Republican leaders in January 2010:
“We are turning our guns on anyone who doesn’t support constitutional conservative candidates”
Sarah Palin’s local newspaper, The Anchorage Daily, along with many prominent voices in the media have been voicing concerns about Sarah Palin’s gun-rhetoric for as long as she’s been on the national stage:
“RELOAD!” Sarah Palin shouted at right-wing supporters via Twitter on Tuesday after President Obama signed the House health care bill. On her Facebook page, she posted a U.S. map with crosshair targets in states where she’s planning to campaign against moderate Democrats who voted in favor of the health insurance overhaul. “We’ll aim for these races,” she wrote, in the “first salvo” leading up to the midterm elections. […]
Tea Party candidate Sharon Angle also leaned heavily on gun-rhetoric when running against Harry Reid. She hinted at the possibility for gun violence in the event she didn’t win the election:
In an interview she gave with conservative talk show host Bill Manders earlier in the campaign, Angle conspicuously floated, once again, “Second Amendment remedies” to deal not just with the supposedly ever-growing “tyrannical” U.S. government, but to replace her now general election opponent: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Huffington Post is now reporting that firearms manufacturer, Palmetto State Armory, has commemorated “Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) health care reform-era “you lie” interruption of President Obama by engraving “You Lie” on a new, limited edition line of assault rifle components. You couldn’t make this stuff up!
Essentially, these right-wing voices provide a litany of lies which prey upon their followers’ deepest fears, and then they use gun-rhetoric and gun-imagery as if to suggest a violent course of action might be required in ‘getting their country back’.
After falsely screaming ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater for two years now, is it any wonder that when a Democratic Congressperson gets shot in the head by someone who comes across as delusional, as fixated on the written word of the constitution, and as emotionally invested in conspiracies, that the entire country would naturally assume he’s just another wing-nut Tea Bagger, and blame those same right-wing personalities — the ones who push the lies and conspiracies and use gun-rhetoric — for having likely incited his shooting rampage?
Fox News President Roger Ailes, more or less, conceded this point when he admitted to asking those at the Fox News network to “tone it down” in the wake of the Arizona shootings:
“I told all of our guys, shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually,” the Fox News president said. “You don’t have to do it with bombast. I hope the other side does that.”
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