Friday, April 28, 2017

Democrats continue purge, retrench

A bit over two weeks ago -- during Holy Week, mind, you -- Houston City Council voted unanimously to criminalize homelessness in the city.  Every Democrat joined the conservatives: Mayor Turner, who is at the forefront of the effort, with a strong assist from Republican At-Large CM Mike Knox, but joined by Democrats (Mayor Pro-Tem) Ellen Cohen, ALs David Robinson and Amanda Edwards, and District members Dwight Boykins, Jerry Davis, Robert Gallegos, Mike Laster, and Larry Green.  That's nine alleged liberals who lined up to cast away the least among us.  Four days before Easter Sunday.

To say that action triggered my snowflakes is understating the case.

Since then I've written, edited, re-written, and re-edited my post about it at least a half dozen times.  It's still not ready for me to publish, and the two council meetings since -- one where Houston's strongest advocate for the homeless suffered a seizure, and this past Wednesday's -- indicate no remorse on the part of the mayor or the so-called progressives who hold a majority on council.  I'm still deciding how hot I'm going to flame their asses.  For today, let's take a look at national Democrats behaving badly in similar ways.  It's been a bad couple of weeks for them.

You might recall it got started when Bernie Sanders was on Face The Nation last Sunday and pointed out, to the chagrin of the establishment, that the Democratic Party's current model is a failing one.  That brought rebuke from various quarters, and the leading attack was Sanders' endorsement of Heath Mello, a candidate for Omaha mayor who has espoused some anti-choice views while serving in the NE state legislature.

(A personal note here: my wife has both served on the board of Planned Parenthood when we lived in West Texas, and availed herself of their services on two separate occasions when we first moved to Houston.  I escorted her both times to the clinic's former location on Fannin, encountering the crosses jammed along the sidewalk and the gruesome photos attached to the fence.  We are about as pro-choice as pro-choice gets.  I do not and have never supported Democrats who aren't, or who think that choice is negotiable -- like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, for example.)

When Clintonites declared Sanders' endorsement of Mello -- and his missing voice in favor of Georgia's 6th Congressional Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who happens to be in a runoff to replace HHS Sec. Tom Price against Republican Karen Handel, of Komen Foundation disrepute -- was some kind of compromise of Sanders' long and strong pro-choice record, or when they expanded the conflation to wonder why someone doesn't support the party platform in this regard ... then they just haven't been paying attention to Democrats over the years.  Here's Bill Scher of of the longtime website Liberal Oasis, via Real Clear Politics, to remind them.  My excerpt leaves out some background you might want, so read the whole thing.

Much scrambling ensued. Sanders belatedly threw his support to Ossoff. The liberal netroots activist site Daily Kos withdrew its endorsement of Mello. Mello started talking like he was pro-choice. DNC Chairman Tom Perez tried to defend the party’s endorsement while touting the party’s pro-choice platform. By (a week ago) Friday, he was celebrating Mello’s pivot: “I fundamentally disagree with Heath Mello’s personal beliefs about women’s reproductive health. It is a promising step that Mello now shares the Democratic Party’s position on women’s fundamental rights.” Perez then went further, with an ultimatum to every Democratic official and candidate: “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

Shock you; I agree with Perez.  Let's hear Bernie out here, and then we'll go to the moneyshot.

First, Sanders revealed his priorities. He tried to characterize his endorsement as electoral realism, telling NPR, “You just can't exclude people who disagree with us on one issue” and the Washington Post, “If you are running in rural Mississippi, do you hold the same criteria as if you’re running in San Francisco?”

True enough. But Sanders doesn’t speak in terms of electoral realism when it comes to anything on his economic populist agenda, such as single-payer health care, free college and a $15 minimum wage. Anti-abortion votes didn’t disqualify Mello, but apparently Ossoff’s pledge to cut “wasteful spending” and his rejection of “Medicare for All” was, until Sanders was pressured, insufficiently progressive to merit endorsement. By putting his favored planks on a higher plane than abortion, Sanders sends a distressing signal to reproductive rights activists about what he is willing to trade away to accomplish his desired transformation of the Democratic Party.

So while the Nebraska Democratic party chair has slammed Perez for his purity demands, Bernie still belongs over there with the pragmatic Hillary and Barack on women's reproductive freedoms.  Red-flag warning: here comes the reality takedown, Donkeys.  Emphasis is mine.

On the other side of the coin, NARAL’s implication that the Democratic National Committee should snub all candidates who are not fully pro-choice also creates major complications. Why? Because Democrats already have people in office who oppose federal funding for abortions and late-term abortion rights, or who define themselves as personally opposed to abortion.

This faction includes several senators up for re-election next year and tenuously clinging to red state turf: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Bob Casey (Pa.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.). Abandoning them when Democrats are desperately trying to retake control of the Senate would be political malpractice.

While these senators hold views that pro-choice activists deem antithetical to their objectives, their ascension paradoxically occurred in concert with the Democratic Party’s deepening commitment to abortion rights. Two of the four were elected to the Senate for the first time in 2012, when the Democratic convention was as vociferous about reproductive freedom as ever, and the platform was rewritten to explicitly support federal funding of abortions.

... The four red state Democrats simply expressed their opposition to the platform and won their states anyway, defeating far more socially conservative Republicans. Meanwhile, national party officials didn’t go out of their way to spotlight their “pro-life” candidates, which would have muddled their national message and hampered the base turnout needed to re-elect Barack Obama.

As linked above, both Clinton and Obama have said the right words but signaled to the anti-choice faction a willingness to bargain.  By contrast, those pro-birth Dems have actually voted proper.

Of those still in the Senate, Heitkamp and Casey have voted to protect funding for Planned Parenthood. Heitkamp helped filibuster a ban on abortions 20 weeks after conception. Casey, who, unlike the others, was in office at the beginning of Barack Obama’s first term, voted to confirm two Supreme Court justices expected to uphold Roe v. Wade. Surely the others would if given the opportunity. The same could not be said if Republicans snatched their seats.

And we'll find out in 2018, as most of these Blue Dogs are up for re-election.  Let's wrap this with Schur's pragmatic POV.

Abortion rights activists are getting the better of this bargain. Allowing a few marginally “pro-life” Democrats inside the party tent helps maximize Democratic numbers in the Senate without diluting the national party’s message. A zero-tolerance policy would only shrink Democratic numbers in the chamber, weakening the party’s ability to protect abortion rights and resist the rest of the Republican agenda.

Many progressive (sic) Democrats say they want a “50-state strategy,” without considering that party members in some states won’t want to run on every plank in the platform. The trick is to allow individual Democrats to quietly go their own way when state terrain demands it, so as not to suggest any sacrifice of principle by party leadership. There’s no upside in loudly bragging about a Democratic big tent on abortion, and unsettling base voters in the process. Nor is there any value in naming and shaming right-leaning candidates who aren’t trying to rewrite the national party platform.

If I was a Clinton Democrat, I'd feel a little chastened.  But I'm not.  And since I'm not a Sanders Democrat either, the various criticisms of his emphasis on economic populism to the occasional lack of verbal emphasis on women's rights -- again, check his voting record -- or the tired accusations that his politics are racist (Ta-Nehisi Coates has the best nuance for this question, over a year ago) aren't really my battles any more.  About the only reason why I'd like to see Bernie split off from the Democrats at this point is to hasten their crumbling into irrelevance.  That I can get behind, if still cautiously, because his new party wouldn't necessarily be mine.

That would have been enough for one vast Blue schism for the month (and this post), but then Obama decided he was going to give a speech to Wall Street bankers for $400,000.  About healthcare.  And some stupid fucking Democrats decided it was necessary for them to vigorously defend that.

No.  Just no.  Caity, take over.  This one is going to sting, Mules.  A lot.

Could you ask for a more perfect bookend to Obama’s blood-soaked neocon abortion of a presidency than his receiving $400,000 to give a speech at a health care conference organized by a Wall Street firm?

My God I hate every single thing about every single part of this. Let me type that out again in segments, so we can all really feel into it: 

Four hundred thousand dollars. For a former President of the United States. To give a speech. At a healthcare conference. Organized by a Wall Street firm.

Why are Wall Street firms organizing motherfucking healthcare conferences, one might understandably ask? And why are they hiring the man who just completed an eight-year war on progressive healthcare policy and a torrid love affair with Wall Street criminals? These are extremely reasonable questions that might be asked by anyone who is intelligent and emotionally masochistic enough to look straight at this thing, and the answer, of course, is America. That’s what America is now. The man who continued and expanded all of Bush’s most evil policies, created a failed state in Libya, exponentially expanded the civilian-slaughtering US drone program which Chomsky calls “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times” to unprecedented levels, facilitated the Orwellian expansion of the US surveillance state while prosecuting more whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined, and used charm and public sympathy to evade the drastic environmental policy changes we’ll need to avert climate disaster and lull the progressive movement into a dead sleep for eight years now gets paid nearly half a million dollars an hour to continue bolstering the exploitative corporatist nightmare he’s dedicated his life to. [...]

This is your intervention, West Wing Democrats.

I can understand why pro-establishment liberals are defending this man; he stands for everything they stand for. If all you stand for is vapid tribalism and vanity politics and you are willing to sacrifice integrity along with economic and social justice and the lives of other people’s kids in corporatist wars overseas in order to feel like you’re on the right team, Obama is your man. But if you’re an actual, real progressive and not just a latte-sipping NPR listener with a sense of self-righteousness and a pro-choice bumper sticker, you’ve got no business regarding Obama with anything but disgust.
I mean, it’s wrong, but I also get it. The sympathy we’re tempted to feel for that child-killing corporate crony is one of the very few problems that we actually can blame mostly on Republicans. They spent eight years hammering the guy, but they couldn’t criticize any of his actual evil policies because they were all policies that Republicans support too, from warmongering to bolstering the Walmart economy. So they had to make up the most ridiculous bullshit we’d ever heard, which you couldn’t just stand around listening to without screaming and disputing. They couldn’t attack his Orwellian surveillance programs, so they said he’s a Muslim. They couldn’t attack his eat-the-poor neoliberalism, so they said he’s a Kenyan. They couldn’t attack the unforgivable bloodbaths he was inflicting on other countries, so they said he’s a socialist (Ha! Remember that one?). So by attacking these moronic right-wing narratives, we often wound up tacitly taking his side, which fostered sympathy.

I confess: even when I abandoned Obama in 2009 for not supporting the public option, I still felt obligated to spend years fighting back for him against the lies and smears and racism from conservatives and Republicans, battles he would not fight for himself.  I called him weak then, but now I see that it wasn't weakness.  Being a corporatist tool is what he was all along. 

If you needed more evidence that establishment Democrats would rather keep their heads in the sand about their 2016 failures, here you go.

Okay.  If you're still reading, Caitlyn says it all better anyway, so go grit your teeth at her.  I'll have more on the local version of these atrocious neoliberals serving us on America's fourth largest city council soon, and if you think I'm pissed off now...

1 comment:

paintedjaguar said...

Re the relative importance of economic equality and pro-choice sentiments:

I'm in my sixties and during my entire life, it's always been the case that women who are financially comfortable have more and better options for abortion access than women who are not. This has been true without regard to the status of laws regulating abortion. Anyone want to try and argue that this isn't a fact? I didn't think so. Oh by the way, I'm personally a pro-abortion absolutist, at least until we get artificial wombs.

To some extent, the same dynamic applies to race relations. It's always better to have "FU" money, even if it doesn't completely guarantee your privilege, as demonstrated by the 2009 police incident involving Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard prof who was suspected of burglarizing his own digs in Cambridge. On the other hand, it is true that Gates and his driver were observed forcing open the front door of the house and that his indignant response to the politzei was "Do you know who I am?". And in contrast, OJ's money worked a treat for him in much more serious circumstances.