Bye Bayh, Mon Cowboy

by matttbastard

Every Republican’s favourite soon-to-be retired moderate [sic] DINO gunslinger Evan Bayh refuses to quietly ride off into the sunset:

“There’s just too much brain-dead partisanship, tactical maneuvering for short-term political advantage rather than focusing on the greater good, and also just strident ideology,” the Democratic senator said on “Good Morning America” today.

“The extremes of both parties have to be willing to accept compromises from time to time to make some progress because some progress for the American people is better than nothing, and all too often recently, we’ve been getting nothing,” he said.

[…]

“The people who are just rigidly ideological, unwilling to accept practical solutions somewhere in the middle, vote them out, and then change the rules so that the sensible people who remain can actually get the job done,” Bayh said.

Aww, diddums.

In response to Bayh’s demonstrative bleating, the Village is once again pointing fingers at Angry Intertoob Partisans (oh noes!) for his sudden departure from public service :

During the long, still incomplete march to pass a health reform bill, Democratic moderates – in particular Montana’s Baucus and Nebraska’s Nelson — routinely took incoming from liberal bloggers for dragging the bill rightward. The left was especially critical of Bayh’s take last month on Republican Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts. Bayh told ABC News that voters up there “just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems.” He said Democrats would court catastrophe if they ignored the wakeup call. John Amato wrote at CrooksandLiars.com that Bayh was promoting Fox News talking points.

Amato addresses accusations of cruel malfeasance — and the matter of Bayh’s saddle-sore bottom:

Voting almost 48 % of the time against a newly elected Democratic president is beyond being a conservative democrat. it’s aiding and abetting the enemy of change. Bayh whined like a teenager whose parents cut off their Internet yesterday when he gave his presser and said he was so tired of the partisanship. He could have done his part and helped President Obama and the Senate put together a good health care bill, but he did not. Politics is a contact sport and he proved he couldn’t take it.

Ok. Fuck Bayh’s reflexive, Broder-ready hand-wringing about “practical solutions” and “brain-dead partisanship.”

Sensible?

My ass. Bayh instead proved to be gutless and weak in the wake of constant, deliberate GOP obstruction — indeed, he aided and abetted them nearly half the time in their — wait for it — brain-dead partisan efforts to sink the good ship Obama by any means necessary. Call me “ideologically rigid” (please), but, based on his record, it seems quite apparent that Bayh fell under the all-too-expansive category of “with Dems like these…”.

Good fucking riddance.

Update: When even the sensibly centrist, DFH-hatin’ wusses at TNR are calling you a wuss, then, brother, you are a wuss.

Pull up your big boy pants and STFU.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Red Red Meat (Or, Why Are Democrats Afraid of Getting Their Hands Bloody?)

by matttbastard

Following a long summer recess spent navigating heavily astro-turfed town halls and trying to bring yappy Blue Dogs to heel, President Obama finds himself  barely clinging to a piss-poor public option on health insurance (after preemptively tossing single-payer aside) and his once-formidible public approval rating.  More ominously, the GOP (and its once seemingly irrevelvant wingnut media proxies) has regained control of the malleable DC media narrative, with usefully idiotic outlets like Politico dutifully playing stenographer while chronicling the (as-yet-unfulfilled) Republican ascendancy. With what Michael Tomasky calls “a high-stakes address” on health care reform from Obama only hours away, one must reflect on why, after decisively winning what many at the time called a ‘transformative’ general election, the Democratic Party is now fighting for its political life.

Conventional beltway wisdom on how to survive as a mainstream political entity is as follows: Appeal to the centre, courting noble independents and so-called ‘moderates’; electoral success hinges on support from the unaligned mushy middle.

Sounds exactly like what the old white blowhards on Hardball are constantly yammering on about, right?

Well, don’t buy it.

In a TNR piece published in 2006, Thomas B. Edsall debunked the myth of the centrist swing voter as nonpartisan kingmaker, noting that most so-called independents are actually rather, well, partisan:

In late 2000, even as the result of the presidential election was still being contested in court, George W. Bush’s chief pollster Matt Dowd was writing a memo for Rove that would reach a surprising conclusion. Based on a detailed examination of poll data from the previous two decades, Dowd’s memo argued that the percentage of swing voters had shrunk to a tiny fraction of the electorate. Most self-described “independent” voters “are independent in name only,” Dowd told me in an interview describing his memo. “Seventy-five percent of independents vote straight ticket” for one party or the other. Once such independents are reclassified as Democrats or Republicans, a key trend emerges: Between 1980 and 2000, the percentage of true swing voters fell from a very substantial 24 percent of the electorate to just 6 percent. In other words, the center was literally disappearing. Which meant that, instead of having every incentive to govern as “a uniter, not a divider,” Bush now had every reason to govern via polarization. This ran counter to Rove’s previous thinking. In 2000, he had dismissed the tactic of running on divisive issues like patriotism, crime, and welfare as “an old paradigm.” And Bush had followed his advice by explicitly reaching out to the center-left. For instance, during the campaign, he held a press conference with a dozen gay Republicans and sharply criticized the GOP Congress for a plan to save money by slowing distribution of tax credits for the working poor. But Dowd’s memo changed all that.

Republicans know that investing in polarization, not aisle-crossing bipartisan capitulation, pays dividends  — it’s why they haven’t been afraid to break out barely-muted racist dog whistles and fall back on appeals to naked fear of all-powerful government intervention (Death panels! FEMA camps! ACORN!) Rather than moving to the (constantly shifting) centre, which some talking heads have suggested is key to a return from the wilderness, the GOP has instead gone hard right, doing its goddamndest to engage/fire up its conservative base, especially those wayward souls who last year stopped publicly identifying as Republicans and, in some cases, voted for Obama or, more often than not, simply stayed home (and, most importantly, didn’t donate to the RNC). What the GOP is trying to do with their seemingly self-destructive obstruction uber alles strategy is simple: work the base into a free-spending fever pitch while simultaneously demoralizing Democrats and disengaging skeptical independents (an effort aided quite handily by ineffectual leadership in both Congress and the White House, both deeply in thrall with the oracular advice imparted by those self-appointed soothsayers of Byzantine Washington protocol, the DC punditocracy and press).

The GOP aren’t concerned if ill-defined centrists/independents are (purportedly) turned off by gauche appeals to right-wing base impulse. If centrists/indies are dispelled from participation in the political process (ie, by not voting for/donating to ANYONE) and the GOP’s white, red state evangelical base does show up (angry, inspired and with checkbooks in hand) the Republicans stand to gain in 2010 (and, hopefully, 2012). Republicans don’t give a rat’s ass if centrists/indies swing to the GOP or not, as long as they don’t vote for the Democrats.

Furthermore, by discarding the strong change mandate voters handed them last November, the current Democratic leadership has done absolutely nothing to give the general public–especially left-leaning Democratic partisans–a reason to renew their current lease on Congress (much less the White House).

I’ll give the GOP one thing: they know when to throw hunks of bloody red meat to the more voracious animals that reside under the increasingly constrained boundaries of the Republican “big tent.” By comparison, the treatment progressives receive from the Democratic Party (perfectly encapsulated by the ritual purge of one of the few actual progressives in the White House, “Green Czar” Van Jones) is largely based on thinly-veiled top-down contempt. Recent rumblings from certain progressive circles about sitting on their check-scrawling hands  and staying home in 2010 perfectly illustrate why you don’t brazenly and repeatedly spit in the faces of the ones who brought you to the goddamn dance in the first place.

When will the Democratic Party give its long-forsaken liberal partisans something to chew on (even if it risks staining its collective hands bright crimson)?

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Conservatives Just Can’t Quit the (Profitable) Partisan Bomb Throwing

by matttbastard

Behold–the birth of the New New Spirit of Cooperation (now with even less irony):

The Conservatives issued a fundraising letter on Wednesday painting interim Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff as a parachute leader who wasn’t rightfully elected by Canadians or his own party members.

“Stéphane Dion has resigned as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, and by extension, of the Liberal/NDP/Bloc Coalition,” Tory campaign chair Doug Finley writes.

“In yet another stunning and unprecedented demonstration of Liberal contempt for our democratic rights, they’ve decided to appoint a new leader in place.”

The fundraising letter then implores party supporters to donate $200 or $100 to “help us spread this message to Canadians.”

The letter came just a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an olive branch to Ignatieff, urging the “big national parties” to work together on protecting Canada’s economy from the global economic turmoil.

“I hope the next Liberal leader, the first thing he’ll do will be … to sit down with me and have that kind of discussion,” the prime minister said in an interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday.

Likely to be first on the (current) Prime Minister’s agenda: “So, uh, what colour is your parachute, Mr. Ignatieff?”

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Contemplating a Coalition on the Left and the Potential Destruction of the Liberal Party of Canada

by matttbastard

Today the Stephen Harper Party officially took the helm of Canada’s 40th Parliament, warning of severe economic strife on the horizon–a gloomy forecast that has some Serious commentators hopping on their trusty Magical Unity Ponies Hobby-Horses. Thankfully, in the midst of all the fuzzy-as-a-blue-sweater-vest non-bi-post-partisan sentiment, erstwhile Tyee columnist Murray Dobbin has dared to cut an echoing fart from the left flank, outlining how behind the scenes plans to craft “a parliamentary accord between the Liberals, Bloc and NDP” continue unabated.

Dobbin:

[The accord] would take the form of a Liberal minority government, following a non-confidence vote, with a proposal to the Governor General that the three parties would agree to govern for at least two years.

It would be based on a limited policy agenda — for example, child care, climate change, the Kelowna accord, early troop withdrawal from Afghanistan — defined by the considerable overlap in the three parties’ election platforms.

The Liberals’ Bay Street agenda would be put on hold as the price it paid to survive and rebuild.

Unfortunately, the Natural Governing Party isn’t too keen on making any compromises with the separatists and the socialists:

The Liberals are the ones who are holding up such an accord. They simply don’t think it would be in their interests to do so. Many in the party see their future in moving to the right, not the left. And why not let Harper deal with the economic mess, getting badly bruised in the process? The Liberals would then move in, fully refurbished, and govern once again.

But, as Dobbin explains, it ain’t that simple. All the recent placating rhetoric from Harper about putting ideology on the backburner is, to be blunt, horseshit:

…Stephen Harper’s ultimate objective is not just a majority government. It is to destroy the Liberal Party as a contender for power. The Liberals aren’t dead yet but if they’re not careful, they could be after the next election. While Stephen Harper does not relish using government to save the country’s economy, it is in this one area that he will, if he’s smart, actually behave like a minority government and seek co-operation with the opposition. Why? Because he would get the credit if somehow Canada could be saved from the worst ravages of the global recession, but he also would be able to share the blame with the opposition parties if it cannot.

Then would come the death march for the Liberals. Once Parliament has put in place measures to protect the economy, Harper will return to the agenda he prefers: social conservatism, a gradual reduction in federal spending powers, and the devolution of power to the provinces. He intends to launch round two of humiliating the Liberals into oblivion.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

Related: Video of today’s Speech from the Throne (full text here)

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Greenwald: Right-Wing Hypocrisy is “healthy”

by matttbastard

After surveying some of the rightwing opposition to the $700 billion Paulson bail-out (and acidly noting that such sentiments from these quarters are unfortunately “vital for having any meaningful chance to stop [the Paulson plan]” thanks to the sorry record during the Bush years of craven Democrats in Congress), Glenn Greenwald explains how the sharp, self-interested reversals on display are actually indicative of democracy in action:

The blatant hypocrisy here, while extreme, craven and obvious, is also healthy. Hypocrisy of this sort is actually a vital part of how checks and balances are supposed to work. It is expected that political factions, when in charge of the government, will seek to obtain greater power for themselves, and the check against that is that the “opposition party” will battle and resist — not necessarily out of ideology or principle but due to raw power considerations and self-interest. That is what has been so tragically missing from our political process for the last eight years: while the GOP sought greater and greater government power, Democrats acquiesced almost completely when they weren’t complicitly enabling it. While the Executive was off the charts in terms of the power it seized, the Congress was off the charts in its passivity and eagerness to relinquish its Constitutionally assigned powers to the Bush White House. That’s what has caused the extreme imbalance, with a bloated Republican Party and virtually unlimited presidential power: the failure of Democrats and the Congress to serve as a check on any of that. As their newfound contempt for unlimited power makes conclusively clear, the executive-power-worshipping Republicans of the last eight years — if there is an Obama presidency — will quickly re-discover their limited government power “principles” and won’t be nearly as accommodating.

Related: Jim Johnson on how bipartisanship poses a threat to a healthy US democracy (h/t Crooked Timber):

In terms of consequences, why should we endorse bi-partisanship? That is a fundamentally anti-democratic response. Here I am persuaded by argument by political theorists who, following Joseph Schumpeter (whose conception of democracy is, despite common caricatures, neither a ‘realist’ nor ‘minimalist’), insist that robust competition is crucial to a healthy democracy. For instance, Ian Shapiro* suggests that competition has two salutary effects: (i) it allows voters to throw out incumbents (known more appropriately as ‘the bastards’) and (ii) it pressures the opposition to solicit as wide a range of constituencies as they are able. Given these effects, Shapiro suggests quite pointedly:

If competition for power is the lifeblood of democracy, then the search for bi-partisan consensus … is really anticompetitive collusion in restraint of democracy. Why is it that people do not challenge legislation that has bi-partisan backing, or other forms of bi-partisan agreement on these grounds? …

Among the crucial empirical observations about partisan polarization in the U.S. is that it reflects the economic bifurcation (in terms of wealth and income mal-distribution) among the population. Because the poor participate at relatively low levels, and because many recent immigrants remain unnaturalized (hence disenfranchised), the constituency for a real alternative to right-wing policies remains politically inchoate. The solution to political polarization is to attack economic inequality, to resist anti-immigration policies, and so forth. That might, in fact, require Democrats to stop their headlong rush to mimic Republicans and prompt them to seek to forge broader and deeper alliances between constituencies that do not now see one another as allies. But that would require the Dems to be political rather than play the bi-partisan game. What we need is more robust competition.

That sonic boom you heard was Johnson’s point swooping over David Broder’s shiny pate.

Update: Greenwald pwns the mother of all shameless partisan hacks, “Captain” Ed Morrissey.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

More On The NDP And Bill C-6

by matttbastard

[cobbled together from various comments/forum posts, edited substantially for coherency]

Ok, so we’ve heard from the NDP (sort of). And if the NDP kills the bill, great.

But upon reflection (thanks, skdadl) I think my last post was itself too mealy-mouthed in reaction to what amounts to awkward damage control by the Dippers. The NDP dropped the ball and still hasn’t picked it up–period. Some may be comforted by Dewar’s non-response, but, rather than clarifying the Dipper position on C-6, I find it further muddies the water.

Dewar’s letter, and the response from some hardcore NDP partisans, rubs me the wrong way. “Muslims see this as a non-issue” was initially the preferred talking point of some Dipper apologists (we’ll leave aside the crass notion of Muslims in Canada holding monolithic views). But this is a misrepresentation of what has been said by some (some) leaders in the Islamic community who have spoken out in regards to the (non) issue. Here’s an example courtesy the Halifax Daily News:

The veiled voting controversy is a tempest in search of a teapot, says Saleem Ahmad, president of the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia. Framed in the context of “reasonable accommodation,” a national firestorm has been raging over the issue of whether Muslim women can vote while covering their faces with veils.

“It’s just the hypocrisy of the government,” Ahmad says.

“There was no controversy. The Muslim community never complained. The women would gladly take off their veil for a woman official.”

He points out that no one is required to show photo ID to vote, and postal voting does not require photo ID. Further, he estimates that 300 women in all of Canada wear the veil.

Hamzah Mangera, the imam at the Dartmouth mosque, agrees it is a non-issue. His wife, who wears a veil, happily removes it in private for female officials when using her passport to cross borders.

Mangera says the row points to a deeper issue of fears over cultural integration, as illustrated by the “code of conduct” produced by Herouxvile, Que., which informed newcomers that stoning women was prohibited and that women should show their faces in public, apart from Halloween.

Ahmad blames an outburst of xenophobia against Muslims, led by “that idiot down south” (U.S. President George W. Bush) and a lack of nerve among Canadian politicians to say it is not an issue, “rather than courting an easy vote.”

What has stirred up the tempest is Bill C-6, not the outcry against it. Face saving or not, the fact that some members of a purported social democratic party feel there’s even room for discussion is highly disturbing. The last thing we need is New Labour North.

Sinister Greg asked some pertinent questions yesterday that still deserve an answer:

Was Godin freelancing or did he have reason to think the party was behind him? Why did they sit on this for over 24 hours? Where is Jack Layton? Usually he can’t run to the microphones fast enough, why is he silent now? Why does Dewar say the party has not taken a final position on Bill C-6? Why not? Do they think they can somehow spin shit into gold? I think it is a bit rich too, for Dewar to say this bill was introduced for political reasons, when the NDP, the Liberals and the Bloc egged the government on with their craven attacks on Mr. Maynard. Trying to slam the barn door now is just a laughable attempt at damage control.

pogge has some questions of his own:

There was no ambiguity at all in the Globe and Mail‘s headline: NDP supports show-your-face bill. And the story supported the headline. And there is, as of this writing, no correction attached to that story.

So what gives? Did Yvon Godin miscommunicate? Did someone else? Did the Globe reporter screw up?

Bill C-6 doesn’t exist in a vacuum. On its own, it may be a ‘non-issue’, but it takes on an entirely different meaning when taken in context with today’s increasingly xenophobic political culture where Muslims have been singled out for attention (especially in Quebec). As any person of colour can tell you (*waves*), it’s easy to shrug off blatant attempts at othering when one is privileged to be a member of the majority culture.

Now, to be fair, though ideologically I’m a social democrat and have only ever voted NDP (both federally and provincially), I hold no love for Jack Layton. I do try to restrain myself from reflexively ‘piling on’ out of spite when it appears he’s giving the Stephen Harper Party a pass (even though admittedly the temptation is ever present). But this issue in particular should transcend partisan loyalty (or lack thereof).

Should.

Over the past several years our neighbours next door have provided an all-too-visceral example of what happens when unapologetic nativism is allowed to be mainstreamed. I for one refuse to remain silent as this country continues its incremental-but-increasingly-apparent shift to the capital ‘R’ Right; the potential consequences threaten everything that makes (post ’67) Canada Canada. And when the party that best represents my ideals helps contribute to fascism’s creep (whether deliberately or unintentionally) I feel obligated to speak out, goddamn the optics–especially when those purportedly on ‘my side’ have reflexively defended the indefensible with privileged apologia like this.

To quote the ever-quotable skdadl:

The issue here isn’t ID by face. The issue is a neocon assault on voters’ rights, spun for the neocon base on sexist, racist, and paranoid-political grounds, and if Canadian leftists haven’t wised up enough yet to recognize this kind of Rovian shit and call it for what it is, then we are in trouble … srsly.”

Bottom line: why won’t the NDP take a definite position against legislation that is both (admittedly) unnecessary and (IMO) deliberately inflammatory?

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers