Filibuster Reform: The Silent Veto 1

Oh the filibuster, I hear Harry Reid was grousing about it yet again, and really, really threatening to reform the filibuster in January 2013, assuming of course he remains the Senate Majority Leader. It isn’t guaranteed Reid will be leader of the  Senate next year anyway, Republicans probably have a good chance of taking some more seats, how many is up in the air of course. But I find Reid to be the most disingenuous prick in the Senate.

We could have used this reform in 2009. Imagine if filibuster reform had been in place. Maybe there would be a public insurance option, a larger infrastructure package, more money for Pell grants, strengthened regulatory agencies, oil companies would have had their subsidies eliminated, Bush tax cuts would have expired, Gitmo might be closed, throngs of openings for federal judges could be filled quickly,  the list goes on and on and on, and yet it is only now Harry Reid is frustrated enough to say he might just do something about this filibuster abuse in January of 2013. Except he won’t, all the available evidence points in the direction of preserving the filibuster.

The filibuster is effectively a veto of any legislation that could be passed by a majority in both houses. If a lose coalition of folks decided to stop certain kinds of legislation or appointments, they do, with gusto.  The Senate has resisted democratizing their rules  for a century. Harry Reid has been saying something needs to be done about the filibuster rule since 2010.

Even in 2011 Harry Reid threatened to change the rules, but he didn’t have the heart to give up his own silent veto, because you never know when you will need such things. I don’t really take his threat seriously this time. I think it is too much power for individuals to give up.

Sorry Harry, I’ll believe it when I actually see it, unlike your raving masses who are praising you over your sudden anger and threats to reform the filibuster. But I’ll tell you what, when we could have used that particular reform you failed to deliver. Until it is reformed there will be no real progress for America because like the One Ring, power is too much for people, they can’t seem to give it up once they have it, Senators are just Gollum in Armani.

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Democrat Like Me 1

For years the idea haunted me, if a Republican became a Democrat in the deep North what adjustments would she have to make?

And that is how it began, that fateful day in 1984 was the day I decided to infiltrate the Democratic party and turn them all into Liberal Republicans! I knew I could do it if I could just find a way to fit in first, to blend in, so I went to the doctor’s office for some help.

“Hey Doc”, I said to him after he forced me on that scale again, why do they always want to know how much I weigh? “Hey T”, he replied, we were old friends since the heady days of Watergate. “Doc, I want to attempt to infiltrate the Democratic Party and turn them into a corporatist Republican lite party. I think I can do it, if I try very, very hard. How can I do this?”

He laughed and then smirked at me, he said, “Well first of all you need to quit shopping at Brooks Brothers, cause that totally doesn’t fit for a Democrat, I think you need to shop at vintage stores from now on, and find some bell bottom jeans with embroidery on them, preferably flowers and sunshine and stuff, it will make you seem whimsical and egalitarian.”

I was kind of happy that I had to shop for my newest endeavor, although I wasn’t totally into this Vintage Store BS but if I had to buy some crappy hippy clothes then I would, it is easier to punch them if you look like them.

So I thought I should find out about the party I was infiltrating so I decided I would study hard at the virtual knee of one James “Corporal Cueball” Carville. I saw him one night on CNN, and thought he would be the perfect teacher for me.   So I studied Carville, and knew I was about to become a superstar in the Democratic Party, superstardom leads to apparatchikdom too and that was my ultimate goal, become an apparatchik, it would make me feel like I had more control over all things Democratic and I could lead them myself to Republicanism, which ultimately was my goal, to make sure Democrats were just Republicans without the backbone.

My first effort was to make them, the Democrats, think that I took my new party seriously, when really I was just a shill for my corporate, tribal overlords. This fact was discovered by the arch nemesis to all corporate shills like myself, one Glenn Greenwald. He is a superstar this Greenwald guy, he has absolutely no connection to corporate overlords. His CATO membership is just a ruse, and his white papers for them, just a job, but he isn’t affected at all by these things, as he isn’t a sell out in anyway shape or form, and he never ever lets the corporate will beat him down, he fights it all the time.  He has no professional connection to corporate overlords and he is merely out for America the Beautiful. Greenwald is awesome in his ability ferret out those of us who have sold out America to the highest bidder. Working with the Koch is like waving an American flag, working with the Democrats is like working for Satan.

So my plan has worked, the health care bill we have currently, was my plan from the beginning, to sell out America by forcing them to have access to health insurance.  It will evolve into nothing that can benefit anyone really. States will not take the matter into their own hands to search for the best answer for their citizens either.  Certainly places like Minnesota (status of the Act), California, ( LWV, support of California OneCare), Illinois, Pennsylvania, Montana, (more Montana analysis) Massachusetts and Vermont have not taken the new law and tried to make it beneficial for their own citizens. They have succumbed to the dead-end health reform, the one that only supports insurance companies and is terrible for the people!

My mission is complete and soon I am sure I will be promoted head apparatchik, instead of just being referred to as the Greatest Living Democrat.

Hey Democrats consider yourselves Pwned.

Crossposted at DAGblog

Our Big Mistake 4

“Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile, I caught hell for.”

~Earl Warren

That sounds like a Lyle Lovett song, Our Big Mistake; we are repeating it over and over and over again, from the 1968 election to the present. Isn’t it sort of sad, we gave up working from the inside to continue to move government in a more progressive way?

  1. We turn on each other at the drop of a hat
  2. We keep our eye off the prize, remember this is ultimately about so much  more than one guy

Republicans currently seem to have a real death wish for the country! They will basically do anything to make sure this President is unable to function properly as the Chief Executive.  Certainly this demonstrates the power Grover Norquist has over Republican politicians. What is up with that? How is it these guys get away with this behavior. The whole debt ceiling debacle, can you imagine the outrage of the press and others if Democrats had held the entire country hostage like that? No, I don’t think so.  On the other hand the Hamsher, L. Ron Greenwald faux  progressives fight over who could be the leader of Shangri La., a leader for all, the liberal John Galt, the one who always makes good decisions, the man who never fails, the genius who saves us from ourselves. But he never requires we participate in saving ourselves, he does that on his own. So while the Hamsherwalds wait for their more perfect leader and the Republicans follow the Norquist lead, the country trudges on, but we struggle to maintain our optimism. But I am going to put this out there, why aren’t liberals/progressives working together to gain a foothold in government so more progressive legislation can be enacted at the federal level.

The extreme left is making a big mistake constantly making Barack Obama the issue and not Republican policies which are literally ruining the country.  How do we change the balance of power in the government?

There are few people more colorful in modern American history as Harold LeClair Ickes.  A man of America, he loved politics, and in his time he was a member of the Republican Party, the Progressive Party and ultimately became not just a member of the Democratic Party but was the longest serving Secretary of the Interior under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. From his perch he saw the rise and fall of the Progressive Party. His experience should give current progressives pause, because he offers clues to how to be an effective party in his critique of the Progressive Party of 1912.

Ickes was a young man in 1912, born in 1874; he’d begun his political life as a Republican. However, when Teddy Roosevelt changed parties, Harold Ickes changed parties. He was a Roosevelt republican, he believed in reform and he didn’t see W. H. Taft as a reformer. So Ickes promptly moved from the Republican Party to the newly formed Bull Moose Party, also known as the Progressive Party.

And so began a tumultuous time in the history of American politics By framing our ideas correctly we can wrest control of government from conservatives who flood the ranks of federal government.

By 1912, the progressive wing of the Republican Party had completely peeled off and begun their own party. It was ironically called, “A Contract with the People”. Wow who knew Newt Gingrich stole his Contract with/on America from some former disgruntled Republicans! I certainly did not know this.

The Platform:

The social platform is more than interesting, so here is a small excerpt of their platform:

  • A National Health Service to include all existing government medical agencies.
  • Social Insurance: which would provide for the elderly, the unemployed and the disabled.
  • Limited injunctions in strikes.
  • A minimum wage law for women
  • An eight hour workday
  • A federal securities commission
  • Farm relief.
  •  Workers’ Compensation for work-related injuries.
  • An inheritance tax.
  • A Constitutional Amendment to allow a Federal income tax.

The political reforms proposed included

  • Women’s suffrage.
  • Direct election of Senators.
  •  Primary elections for state and federal nominations.

Sound familiar? Yes it sounds like the New Deal!  Let’s just say the Gilded Aged suffered from many of the same issues America suffers from today, income inequality being a prime source of discontent, and as social nets are whittled down, there will be more discontent in the future. This was a time when Progressive could have had much impact on society and they could today too, but it takes organization and work, not just blogs bitching and moaning about the awfulness of everything.

Progressives didn’t have a big impact until Franklin Delano Roosevelt came into power. The Gilded Age, yes, there are many good comparisons to today. The Gilded Age in the US is marked by having the wealthiest congressional members, just like today.

Progressives today are failing in the same way independent progressive movements failed in the past, Ickes work “Who Killed the Progressive Party” gives us insight into those failures. Ickes point was the failure of the Progressive Party came down to one man, but it was so much more than that, through Ickes work we can see the ultimate failure in these words:

“The Progressive party contained few practical politicians in its ranks. The rank and file did not know how parties were run. They were blindly following Theodore Roosevelt, and they were not concerned about what machinery was necessary or how it was to be used. ” (Ickes, Who Killed the Progressive Party 309) Well our failure as Democrats and people who call themselves Progressives has been the failure to understand how parties and governments are run. It is within our best interest to understand how policies are made and implemented and to participate in order to be heard. Yes people are heard with their votes, but the failure to participate deeply by getting people elected and representing all levels of government is the only way to significantly change government policies.

By 1916, the Progressive Party was essentially dead.  It did not have any initial impact other than to break apart the Republican Party. I would hate to see Democrats, liberals, progressives, go this route.  Some progressive ideals did manifest in the next Roosevelt Administration, because it is here where people like Harold Ickes came to change America, and they did it by working from within the government. These participants were able to change the trajectory of laissez faire policies and help institute policies that benefited the working class of America.  Ickes himself was most successful in advancing progressivism when he was participating in the government as a man off all things to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ickes held several posts simultaneously in the Roosevelt Administration, most famously of course, as the Secretary of the Interior a position he held from 1933 – 1946.  No doubt nothing like this can ever happen again, but it is an example of how to help craft big policies, and that is to get more progressives into government. My contention is, it should be done on a micro level as well as a macro level, i.e. the PTA and school boards are just as important as county, city, and state government. But I digress, Ickes was not just the Secretary of the Interior, in 1941 President Roosevelt appointed him the Petroleum Coordinator for National Defense (Ickes, Fightin’ Oil vii).  In fact he wrote a book called Fightin’ Oil based on his experience regulating oil companies. According to Ickes the Presidents objectives were stated clearly that his office was to; “make petroleum and petroleum products available, adequately and continuously, in the proper forms at the proper places …. to satisfy military and civilian needs (Ickes, Fightin’ Oil viii). ”

Here is the interesting passage from Ickes introduction:

There were two ways in which I might have approached the job. I could have said to the President: “Mr. President, you have given me a bunch of tough hombres to deal with, and the only way that I can get along with them is for you to give me dictatorial power so that I can tell them what to do, and see that they do it. That would have been Hitler’s way. In fact some people, including, I suspect, a good many oil men themselves, thought that it would be my way, too. But I fooled them. It just so happens, that in spite of contrary opinions here and there, I believe in the American system of free enterprise. It is also the fact that I believe that business can best do its part – in peace as in war – with the least possible direction, and with the least interference, by the Government.” (Ickes, Fightin’ Oil)

The point is, Ickes and progressivism had great impact because he and others like him worked from within the system to implement progressive policies and to defend those policies to the public. Ickes was an equally controversial Secretary of the Interior.

Right now, we, progressive and democrats, are fighting each other, and when we do that, like the former progressives did, we lose. We’ve lost ground for more than 30 years by giving up control of our power within the government, have you spoken to a federal employee lately? Have you heard the things they say  about the federal government…. But they work for the federal government!!!!! Oh man, I do plenty, so don’t we need to be applying for those positions, if you want people to think the government can do great things don’t the people who are employed their need to believe in the system too? Republicans have done a fantastic job of appointing their friends to positions of power in the federal government, in turn they hire more conservative employees, how else could someone like Michelle Bachmann work for the IRS? If we aren’t pro-active an attempt to infiltrate the government, our policies will never be implemented on a large scale.  Changing the system means participating in the system, and every single time we fail to do that, we lose ground to the Norquist crowd and we allow their message to become more powerful.

In short, we have to quit fighting with each other and we need to put our head down and work together. The President is just one guy, and he only serves for a short time, changes come from long term concerted efforts. If people want to see progressive change they must, must participate in the system.

Bibliography

Ickes, Harold L. Fightin’ Oil. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943.

—. The Autobiography of a Curmudgeon. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1943.

—. “Who Killed the Progressive Party.” The American Historical Review 46.2 (1941): 306-337.

Watkins, T. H. Righteous Pilgrim: The Life and Times of Harold L. Ickes 1874 – 1952. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1990.