The Case Against Libertarianism, Against Fear

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

—1 Corintians 13:11

I have often chided libertarians and libertarian-ish conservatives for embracing a “childish” philosophy, one that worked well when we were cutting and shooting our way to the Pacific, living out our self-serving Manifest Destiny.

But it’s time we put away childish things.

America has matured; it has blossomed into the most powerful nation in the history of civilization.  And as it has developed and gained world prominence and dominance, its Constitution has remained the preeminent document guarding liberty and justice for all Americans, partly because courageous interpreters dared to understand it in terms conducive to life in the modern world.

For the moment, libertarians and social conservative zealots and haters of either our progressive or pigmented president—take your pick—are playing nice as they join together to rout the Democrats this November.  But as the conservative fanatic Richard Viguerie suggested the other day in the New York Times, after November 2, the Peace Train will collide head-on with the Soul Train—the fight will be on in earnest for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

But for now, let’s look briefly at libertarian philosophy through the eyes of one of its most famous national proponents, Barry Goldwater, whom George Will married to the Tea Party movement in today’s Joplin Globe:

In 1964, the slogan of the Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater, was “A choice, not an echo.” Forty-six years on, the tea party is a loud echo of his attempt to reconnect American politics with the tradition of limited government.

I have owned a copy of Goldwater’s, The Conscience of a Conservative, for more than 25 years. The book was first published in 1960, four years before Goldwater was overwhelmingly rejected in his run for the presidency.  The following is an excerpt from the book that sounds eerily similar to what one might hear today, as teapartiers temporarily coalesce around demands for a drastically smaller government, some even calling for an end to what libertarians love to call the Welfare State: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid:

The long range political consequences of Welfarism are plain enough: as we have seen, the State that is able to deal with its citizens as wards and dependents has gathered unto itself unlimited political and economic power and is thus able to rule as absolutely as any oriental despot.

Unlimited political and economic power“?  “Oriental despot“?  Keep in mind that was in 1960, and Medicare and Medicaid were still liberal dreams, not to come until 1965.  One would think that after 50 years of even greater “Welfarism” than Goldwater could imagine in 1960, today we would all be bowing to our oriental despot, given a 50-year reign with “unlimited political and economic power.”  

But there just isn’t any oriental despot around, and as our elected President Obama struggles to use the federal government to lift us out of our economic doldrums, one can hardly say the feds have “unlimited” anything, especially “political and economic power.”

Such extremist talk was silly in 1960 and its just as silly today coming from platforms at Tea Party rallies or from 30-second television spots.  In fact, it is embarrassingly immature talk, and fortunately we have half a century of evidence that such fears are cynical and baseless.  Despite an increase in the role of government in overseeing our social well-being, our government is not tyrannical and we still enjoy our liberties.

In 1960, not only was there no Medicare and Medicaid, but the top marginal tax rate was a whopping 91%. Today’s top marginal rate is 35%. Hardly a sign that we are slouching toward oriental despotism.

As far as Social Security, always an object of libertarian and conservative angst, in 1960 the government only taxed the first $4,800 of income at a rate of 3%.  Today, the tax rate is more than twice that and it applies to all earnings up to $106,800. Yet despite that increase, which would have terrified the 1960 Goldwater, there still is no oriental despot on the horizon. 

In fact, Social Security is wildly successful—USA Today reported that the program “kept 14 million seniors above the poverty level” last year. Yet, despite that success, anti-government sentiment is as thick today as when Goldwater wrote in 1960:

Let welfare be a private concern. Let it be promoted by individuals and families, by churches, private hospitals, religious service organizations, community charities and other institutions that have been established for this purpose.

You hear this argument a lot from libertarians and conservatives.  In fact, it is one of their core beliefs that taxing citizens to pay for social programs is illegitimate, amounting to “theft.” The idea that taxation is stealing is creeping into the minds of otherwise sober Americans, who have begun buying into the notion that the government has no business in promoting the general welfare by establishing government social programs. 

Yet what we don’t hear from liber-cons is, what happens if we leave to private concerns all the needs of the needy and those private concerns aren’t all that concerned?  Before Social Security—when private concerns were free to promote the welfare of the poor—seniors were likely to die in poverty. The estimated poverty rate for the elderly was between 70 and 90%.  By 2008, it had dropped to less than 10%.

And whether one thinks that improvement was because of or in spite of Social Security and other “entitlement” programs—programs that are now threatened by Tea Party hysteria—there is simply no denying that the fears that have always accompanied an increased federal role in promoting the general welfare—that promotion rooted in the Constitution itself—are never realized.  Never.

We are not ruled by a despotic federal government, oriental or otherwise.  Goldwater’s State does not have “unlimited political and economic power.”

And contrary to libertarian assumptions, federal involvement in the well-being of the less fortunate, in the well-being of the elderly, has not led to less freedom, but to more.

Because thanks to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, more Americans enjoy the “blessings of liberty” today than at any time in our history.

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What If God Weren’t A Republican?

Rush Limbaugh claims he is a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  And I know millions of Christians listen to his show every week.  But I will say this:  After listening to Limbaugh this morning, as he distorted not only President Obama’s recent remarks on why he became a Christian, but Christian theology in general, I find it hard to believe that anyone can take Christianity seriously, if Limbaugh and his fawning followers are examples of it.

I will not go into the convoluted and embarrassing discussion Limbaugh had over Obama’s thoughtful explanation of his attraction to Jesus Christ, except to say that Limbaugh prefaced it by explaining that a lot of people “don’t know details of their own religious beliefs.”  He then proceeded to back up that claim by demonstrating he himself doesn’t know the details of his own religious beliefs.  As I said, it was embarrassing, cringe-inducing.

But for Limbaugh, it was typical.

I sometimes fancy what would happen if God quit the Republican Party and decided to clear his name.  I imagine the first thing he would do is send ten thousand angels to Limbaugh’s headquarters to carry his hindquarters to the deepest and hottest regions of hell, a suitable place from which Limbaugh could broadcast his daily diabolical diatribes against Democrats, especially Obama.

And I also dream that hell’s news network, Beelzebub Broadcasting, modeled after the Republican “News” Channel, would feature a sign at the entrance, “Abandon All Objectivity Ye Who Enter Here,” a place where the phony fair and balanced broadcasting buffoons are barbecued slowly, ever so slowly, as they transmit their hell-born messages to the world above.

Damn! I’ve got to stop listening to the devil.

Back to reality: For those who haven’t heard Obama’s response to the question, “Why are you a Christian?” here it is:

Squabbling Democrats

The squabble between committed liberals-progressives and the White House the last few months is understandable.

Expectations were high after November, 2008, and Republicans were somewhat successful in making implementation of the Obama agenda very difficult, and they also made it look really, really scary.  You have to give the Republicans credit.  They are very good at bad governance and when it comes to peddling fear they are Zig Ziglar on speed.

In any case, liberals have had some criticisms of Obama and Obama has had some criticisms of liberals and the truth is that both sides are right, and wrong.

It appears to be true that President Obama knew within days of his occupation of the White House that Republicans were not going to be partners in anything he wanted to do.  And it appears that despite knowing Republican plans to undermine him, he continued to extend invitation after invitation after invitation to Republicans in a vain hope that he could peel off one or two, presumably so he could put a “bipartisan” label on some fairly massive legislative efforts.

The invitations, of course, were returned to sender, unopened in most cases.  And liberals wondered why Obama kept mailing more and more of them, when it was clear that Republicans would refuse them. That is a fair criticism, and it certainly appears that White House strategy unnecessarily extended the ugly process of getting the health care reform bill passed.

Liberals also wondered why the administration didn’t fight harder for other initiatives, like a public insurance option, which, it turns out, would probably have made the resulting reform bill more popular, not less.  They also wondered aloud why the administration didn’t fight for more drastic financial reforms. 

On the other hand, Obama and his team believed they have accomplished  much, and they certainly have worked very hard, only to be criticized by folks on the “professional left” for what they couldn’t get accomplished.  Feeling underappreciated, naturally some in the administration, including Obama himself, have expressed frustration with liberals and their seeming failure to understand how hard it is to get things done in Washington.

And there was, and is, some reason for that frustration.  A few high-profile liberals have been hypercritical of Obama and his administration.  FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher, progressive to the core, has been especially harsh, but Ariana Huffington has taken some stinging shots at the President, too, particularly regarding the financial reform law.

Hamsher believes that Obama’s words in a Rolling Stone interview, in which he says it is irresponsible for the Democratic base to be “sitting on their hands complaining,” are meant to provide political cover, should Democrats lose big in November:

No, this isn’t about getting voters to the polls in November. It’s about setting up a narrative for who will take the blame for a disastrous election. And once again, the White House doesn’t care if they make matters worse in order to deflect responsibility from Obama.

Well, despite Hamsher’s bitterness, this really is about getting Democratic voters to the polls in November.  I don’t know what she hopes to accomplish by suggesting Obama’s heart isn’t in the fight this November, considering he is the one who will pay the biggest political price for failure to hold on to the House and Senate.

And to put an exclamation on that point, here is a segment from last night’s Rachel Maddow Show, which features extensive excerpts from Obama’s speech yesterday at a campaign-like rally in Madison, Wisconsin, before an estimated crowd of 26,000.  If the President keeps this sort of thing up the next five weeks, it will be hard to question his commitment to the cause:

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Dick Keeps You On Your Toes

I just received my regular e-mail from toesucker* Dick Morris.  He thinks Republicans can win 100 seats this fall!  How about that?  100 seats!

It seems that while he’s not busy spewing Obama-hate on the Republican “News” Channel, or writing tomes on how Obama is about to destroy all that is good and decent, or composing  “some of the most illuminating columns on politics available anywhere” (that quote is from his own website), Dick has had time to do a little cipherin’ on behalf of Republicans:

An analysis of the published polling data on eighty House races indicates that there are 54 districts now represented by Democrats in which Republicans are now ahead and another 19 where they are within five points and where the Democratic incumbent is under 50% of the vote.  That’s 73 likely wins. (The undecided vote always goes against the incumbent, so if a Congressman is significantly under 50%, even though he may have a lead, he is likely to lose).

Now Dick wouldn’t be Dick if he didn’t push the envelope.  You don’t get to be called the toesucker by merely contenting yourself with lips and nips:

Why aren’t there more than 73?  Because we haven’t tried.  Only about 160 of the Democrats’ 239 Congressional Districts are even remotely considered to be in play.  But that playbook is badly out of date.  The Republican message has raced far ahead of the GOP campaign and put a lot of new seats in play.  We just have to work these districts to win them.

Now, that’s some toesuckin’ right there!  He says that because nobody considered the 160 “in play enough to poll them,” that God (a GOP consultant) only knows “how vulnerable” they are.  So, if you know Dick, you know that he has a plan.  And if you know Dick, you know that his plan involves you giving him some cash:

So we are launching a new effort: Project 100, in conjunction with ReaganPac, Michael Reagan’s organization, to raise our sights and do independent expenditures in an additional twenty or so districts to give the Republicans in these newly marginal seats a big boost.  We hope to raise $2 million so as to be able to put $100,000, on average, into each of these districts.

Yep! Dick wants you to send him some dough so he can spend it in districts that have a one in a gazillion chance of turning Republican.  That is really goin’ for the toes!

But his motives are pure:

…a win of 100 seats, or anything on that order of magnitude, would be such a total repudiation of the Democratic Party that it would send shock waves through the liberal establishment.  And it would amount to the eradication of an entire generation of liberal Democratic Congressmen.

Having never developed a taste for toes myself, I don’t quite understand Dick’s enthusiasm, but after thinking about it a bit, I urge all my Republican friends to send their Bush-tax-cut dollars to Dick right away.  Because as Dick says:

Pessimism is the only limit on the potential of Republican gains this year.  If we go for one hundred, we can win one hundred!

That’s my boy!

_______________________________

*As far as I know, Rush Limbaugh was the first one to start calling Dick Morris the toesucker, for his regular dalliance in a Washington hotel with a prostitute who claimed that, well, according to Time:

She reported that Morris liked to suck her toes, has a thing for women’s feet generally and one night got down “like a dog” on all fours. At that point, she said, he asked, “Can you imagine someone walking in and seeing this?”

Here’s a typical Rush paean to Dick, from September of 2009:

Now, I have a funny story to tell you.  Kathryn and I went up to Washington for the weekend, the Redskins and Rams yesterday at FedEx Field, and we flew up Saturday afternoon because we were going to have dinner with Kathryn’s brother who lives there and we stayed at the Hay-Adams which is the toe sucker hotel.  I mean, that’s where Dick Morris is on the phone getting toe sucked while talking to Clinton while he was getting a Lewinsky at the same time.

Millionaires And Billionaires Fund Republican Takeover Plan

While Michael Steele, ostensibly the head of the Republican Party in exile, toils away in the GOP’s plantation house kitchen, cleaning up from an eight-year governing gala, the real Republican boss men congregate in the parlor making plans for yet another Age of Conservatism, the last one proving to be short-lived.

From the New York Times on Sunday:

In 2004, the Republican master strategist Karl Rove led weekly sessions at his Washington residence where, over big plates of his butter-smothered “eggies” and bacon slabs, he planned the re-election of President George W. Bush — and what he hoped would be lasting Republican dominion over Democrats.

In April, Mr. Rove summoned several of the important players behind Mr. Bush’s ascendance to his home once again, this time to draw up plans to push a Republican resurgence.

To help him push that resurgence are the usual suspects:

…the old coalition of millionaires and billionaires who supported Mr. Bush and have huge financial stakes in regulatory and tax policy…

Oh, boy! Millionaires and billionaires. Just your ordinary Republicans!

This time, Rove is assembling “a collection of outside groups,” in addition to his American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which began poisoning the political well a while ago, spending tons of undisclosed donors’ dough in various races around the country. From the Los Angeles Times:

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have already run millions of dollars in advertising in nine Senate races in California, Illinois, New Hampshire and other states. Washington state and Florida ad blitzes are likely to be announced soon.

Crossroads expects to move heavily into more than two dozen House races, including those in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and possibly California.

Some of the $31.6 million raised by Rove and his allies for the Crossroads groups also is going into a grass-roots campaign network that promises unprecedented coordination with business and conservative groups, strategies to monitor new early voting rules and a new database that will allow precise targeting of likely conservative voters. It would then generate 20 million phone calls and 40 million pieces of mail to get them to vote.

Not very comforting was a quote from David Axelrod, President Obama’s politics guy in the White House:

They’re running a very proficient party operation funded by millions of dollars of undisclosed special-interest dollars. These guys are great political operatives, and they will have an impact in this election.

Not exactly warfare rhetoric there, David.  How about this:

They’re running a political operation that is funded by millionaires and billionaires, the same folks who benefited from Republican leadership the last time they were in power, and they are trying to buy this election, the bastards.

There, I feel better. 

A ray of hope in an otherwise dark electoral cloud was provided by Richard Viguerie, who founded Conservative Digest and is known as the “funding father of the conservative movement.”  If you don’t know anything about Viguerie, just know that he used to work for Billy James Hargis, a Christian evangelist who had a penchant for Communist conspiracies.

Back to the New York Times:

Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative strategist who has allied with Tea Party activists, said, “We’re all on the same page until the polls close Nov. 2.”

But, referring to Mr. Rove and Mr. Gillespie as part of the “ruling class,” he added, “Then a massive, almost historic battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party begins.”

At least if Democrats get kiboshed in November, those of us who write for beer money will have plenty of material, as the conservative extremists fight each other for control of the plantation.

Meanwhile, where is Michael Steele again?

Oh, yeah.  He’s in the kitchen.

The Turner Report Takes On Teacher-Bashing

I received a heads-up several months ago that Randy Turner, a Joplin blogger (The Turner Report), wasn’t fond of Joplin Globe bloggers, including me presumably, nevertheless I want to commend him on a thoughtful piece he published yesterday on the fashionable tendency to blame teachers—and their unions—for most of the problems with our education system.

Turner has the bona fides to comment on the system because he is part of it, teaching English at East Middle School in Joplin.

The attention given this week to education apparently triggered Turner’s post:

With all of the media and political firepower that has been turned on teachers in the past few years, we have been labeled, unfairly, as the root cause of all of education’s ills.

Last week, Time Magazine followed that pattern, and Newsweek did it several months ago. NBC has just begun a weeklong teacher-bashing frenzy, disguised as a forum on education.

For Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President Obama, and leaders of both political parties, teachers have become a convenient whipping boy, not only for problems in schools, but also for problems throughout our society.

While I think Turner is right about the tendency to blame teachers for “all of education’s ills,” I don’t think he is right in comparing the criticisms of the President and his Secretary of Education to those on the other side—conservative Republicans—who apparently have never met a good teacher who was also a good union member.  These Republicans, including many of our local politicians, do constantly bash teachers’ unions and do use teachers as “convenient whipping boys.”  

(Speaking of teachers as whipping boys: The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that only 2.2% of preschool and kindergarten teachers are men; 18.1% of elementary and middle school teachers are men; and a relatively whopping 45% of secondary school teachers are men.)

No doubt, President Obama and Arne Duncan have not taken the traditional Democratic approach in terms of assessing the problems we have with the education system.  They have indicated that, to some degree, bad teachers are a problem, but I haven’t heard either one of them suggest everything that is wrong with education can be fixed by firing bad teachers.  Mainly, because it can’t.

Here is part of the official administration position on education reform:

We need to stop paying lip service to public education, and start holding communities, administrators, teachers, parents and students accountable.

That’s not exactly teacher-bashing.  And here is a segment from President Obama’s interview with Matt Lauer this morning, who gave the President a couple of opportunities to bash teachers:

 Vodpod videos no longer available.

In his piece, Turner accurately places some of the education burden where it belongs:

What teachers realize is that successful education requires not only good teachers, but parents who take an active interest in their children’s education…and children who care enough to try.

I have heard President Obama say that same thing every time he gives a speech on education.

Turner continues:

Any real national education reform plan would deal with all three areas- teachers, parents, and students.

I have heard President Obama express that same idea repeatedly, including today.

Turner concludes the point:

That will never happen as long as it is more politically expedient to demonize teacher unions. No one ever succeeded politically by calling out parents and children and asking them to live up to their responsibility to themselves, to their communities, and to their nation.

Count me among those who do not want bad teachers in the classroom, but any politician who thinks the solution to our nation’s education problems can be found by perpetuating the lie that teachers are standing in the way of reform is performing a disservice to this country.

As the video clip above demonstrates, Obama and his administration are not the ones demonizing teachers’ unions. And certainly it would not help him politically to do so.  Here is a quote from the clip that addresses Turner’s point:

To their credit, you have had a lot of unions who are now working with states on their reform plans, that include things like charter schools, include things like pay for performance and higher standards and accountability for teachers, and so we have seen states be able to work with teachers unions to bring about reform as opposed to resist them.

As I said, Randy Turner, whose voice is a teacher’s voice, has a point about the teacher-bashing these days.  But most of the thumping and dumping on teachers is coming from the anti-union right-wing, who are using the problems we have with our education system as a means to not only undermine teachers’ unions, but to undermine the legitimacy of unionism, a perceived enemy of one constituency group Republicans care about above all others: the wealthy.

_____________________________

UPDATE: I just heard Arne Duncan on MSNBC (12:00 noon) actually defending teachers against bashers, and, like Obama, pointing out the fact that teachers’ unions and associations are working with reformers in many areas.

[Turner photo by Ron Graber found here.]

The Bully, The Bullied, And The Bitch-Slapper

The Joplin Globe regularly features Morton Kondracke’s columns.  Kondracke has a reputation for being a middle-of-the-road guy, someone who isn’t an ideologue but seeks practical solutions to our problems.  And like a lot of people who try to stay above the political fray, he mistakenly equates the actions of one side with the actions of the other.

It’s sort of like this: If little Billy were on the playground bullying little Johnny, and if little Jimmy decided he needed to come to the rescue of little Johnny and stop little Billy’s bullying by bitch-slapping him, Kondracke is the kind of guy who would rush to the scene and scold each child for their behavior. Billy the bully, Johnny the bullied, and Jimmy, the peace-making bitch-slapping rescuer, would be equally guilty in his eyes.

Likewise, Kondracke, in his column today, addressed Americans’ “displaced fear that working hard doesn’t guarantee prosperity anymore” by saying this:

Instead of figuring out together what to do, politicians would rather blame each other and stick to their ideologies.

Democrats want more government-funded stimulus packages and continued tax cuts for the middle class even though the national debt is nearing 100 percent of gross domestic product, the highest since World War II.

Republicans want to extend tax cuts for everyone — especially the wealthy — even though the census numbers show that income disparities are as great as they’ve been since the 1920s, and growing. Cutting domestic spending would add to the woes of those at the bottom.

This kind of stuff, my friends, is why the word “bullshit” was invented.  Citing Democratic efforts to kick-start the slumping economy—”stimulus packages and continued tax cuts for the middle class”—as the equivalent of Republican efforts to give wealthy folks tax cuts while wanting to cut vital domestic spending is, well, it’s like saying little Jimmy the bully-fighter is just as guilty as Billy the bully because both of them were fighting.

Hmmm.

Kondracke cites a couple of depressing statistics:

  • The “deplorable fact” that 43 million Americans (one in seven or 14.3%) lived below the poverty line in 2009; however, what Kondracke didn’t mention was that between 1993 and 2000 (roughly the Clinton years), the poverty rate fell each year to a low of 11.3% in the year 2000.
  • Median family income in 2009 was $49,777; to his credit Kondracke mentioned that the median family income in 1999 was a whopping $52,338, although folks would just have to remember on their own that 1999 was the next to last year of the Clinton administration;
  • American optimism about the future, as measured by the Pew Research Center, has dropped since 1999, or, as Kondracke didn’t mention, it has dropped in rough correspondence to when Republicans took over control of the White House and Congress (for most of six years) and nuked the economy, the fallout from that nuking still lingering in many people’s minds today.

Now, remember that what led to these dismal facts is that Billy the Republican bully was having his way on the economic playground.  And for Kondracke or anyone else to say that Jimmy the Democrat, trying to undo the damage done by Billy the Republican, is equally to blame for apathy on the playground is, again, why the word bullshit is in our vocabulary.

___________________________________

For nerds, read these three paragraphs from the National Poverty Center for an overview of post-WW II poverty in the U.S.:

How has poverty changed over time?

In the late 1950s, the poverty rate for all Americans was 22.4 percent, or 39.5 million individuals. These numbers declined steadily throughout the 1960s, reaching a low of 11.1 percent, or 22.9 million individuals, in 1973. Over the next decade, the poverty rate fluctuated between 11.1 and 12.6 percent, but it began to rise steadily again in 1980. By 1983, the number of poor individuals had risen to 35.3 million individuals, or 15.2 percent.

For the next ten years, the poverty rate remained above 12.8 percent, increasing to 15.1 percent, or 39.3 million individuals, by 1993. The rate declined for the remainder of the decade, to 11.3 percent by 2000. From 2000 to 2004 it rose each year to 12.7 in 2004.

Since the late 1960s, the poverty rate for people over 65 has fallen dramatically. The poverty rate for children has historically been somewhat higher than the overall poverty rate. The poverty rate for people in households headed by single women is significantly higher than the overall poverty rate.

Astute observers will notice a correlation, since 1980, of conservative Republican administrations and the rise of poverty rates.

I’m just sayin’.

What They Don’t Say

Mother Jones has come up with “a list of words and phrases and the number of times they are each mentioned in the 45-page” Republican Pledge to America.  As the article points out, the “list is as telling as the actual contents”:

Wall Street: 0
Bank: 0
Finance: 0
Mortgage crisis: 0
Derivative: 0
Subprime: 0
Lobbying: 0
Lobbyist: 0
K Street: 0
Campaign finance: 0
Campaign contribution: 0
Campaign donation: 0
Disclosure: 0
Climate change: 0
Environment: 1 (“political environment”)
Alternative energy: 0
Renewable: 0
Green: 0
Transportation: 0
Infrastructure: 0
Poverty: 0
Food: 0
Food safety: 0
Housing: 0
Internet: 0
Education: 0
College: 0
Reading: 0
Science: 0
Research: 0
Technology: 0
Bush administration: 0

The Democratic Valley Of Dry Bones

And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.

—Ezekiel 37:3  

Ezekiel, call your office.  

I’m just going to say it: There aren’t too many Democratic leaders around these days with whom I would want to share a foxhole.  

When you’re besieged by your political enemy; when it doesn’t appear there will ever be a way of escape; when things look bleak for your survival; one might think that if a weapon magically appeared in your foxhole that had a chance of freeing you from the dominance of your enemy, or a weapon that might stop your opponent’s advance, there would be no hesitation in brandishing that weapon, in fighting your way to a possible victory.  

But then we are talking about Democrats.  

By not holding a vote on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts before the upcoming election, by not holding Republicans accountable for their threat to deny middle class Americans a tax break because Republicans insist on giving millionaires and billionaires an average of over $100,000 every year to sock away for a rainy day, Democrats have essentially surrendered, the leadership has caved.  

And that’s why I would fear for my life if I were sharing a foxhole with a lot of them.  

Whether it was Blue Dog Senate Democrats or whether it was weak-kneed moderate to conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives, it doesn’t really matter.  The Democratic leadership in both legislative houses failed.  Their job is to lead, to do what is right.  

If it weren’t for the fact that a lot of innocent and hardworking folks would get hurt, I would wish the entire Democratic leadership go down in flames.  And I would wish the Democrats lose control of both legislative chambers, if the results weren’t slated to be so deleterious for already struggling Americans.  

There just aren’t enough pejoratives for such cowards, for such pusillanimous political pansies.   

After showing considerable courage in pushing for a modest reform of the health insurance system, and after pushing for reform of the financial system, and after rescuing the economy from the brink of disaster, these once-audacious legislators have pulled back on an issue that had a large majority of the people on their side.   

You see, folks can understand that when you are worried about the deficit, when you are concerned about the fiscal health of the nation, you don’t keep letting zillionaires off the hook on taxes, when everyone knows that their tax breaks won’t end up helping the economy.   

I don’t know.  Perhaps Democrats are tired.  Maybe they have carried the load of governing so long—by themselves, without Republican help—that they just want to take a break, rest a while.  It does get old doing all the work, and while you’re doing it the Republicans sit on the sidelines not only doing nothing, but jeering and throwing big ugly rocks at you while you are trying to pull the wrecked economy out of a Republican ditch.  

I understand that. But here we are, a campaign gift delivered right to the door of ailing Democrats, a gift that could lift Democrats everywhere and help them fight back against Republican demagoguery.  And not only will Democrats not accept the gift, they won’t even go to the door.  They’re hiding behind the blinds, hoping it will all just go away, I guess.  

In the mean time, the Republican onslaught will continue.  They will overrun those Democrats cowering in the foxhole, and this time, by co-opting the Tea Party, Republicans will not just take Democrats prisoner, they will slaughter them on the battlefield, leaving nothing but a Democratic carcass behind as the victorious Republicans march toward their goal of undoing all the social progress that has been made over the last 70 years.*  

One would think that prospect would be enough to energize Democrats, to put flesh on their dry bones.  And one would think that an Ezekiel would rise up from somewhere and command the four winds to give them life, to make them “an exceeding great army.”  

But then we are talking about Democrats.  

[Blue Dog illustration found here.]

______________________________  

*In fact, Glenn Beck said today that the Republican Pledge to America wasn’t bold enough in calling for spending levels to go back to pre-TARP 2008.  “How about a return to the ’08 spending levels of 1908?” he asked. Federal spending in 1908 was less than $800 million (almost 50% was for defense).  The federal government spends that much in about two hours today, so at about 2:00 am on January 1 (nevermind the fiscal year), the government would have to shut down, if Beck had his way. Good luck senior citizens! Good luck Pentagon!  Good luck airports! And on and on and on.   

Blunt Chickens Out On His Own Debate Proposal

Our own Joplin Globe made the Huffington Post today, in a story about the debating cowardice of Roy Blunt.

The story by Amanda Terkel began:

The debate over debating is heating up in Missouri’s Senate race, with Democrat Robin Carnahan accusing her opponent, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) of backing out on a package of debates that he originally proposed.

It seems that the once-courageous Blunt had written a letter to Carnahan inviting her to join him in six debates, including two on national television (Fox News Sunday and Meet The Press).  Carnahan says she accepted the invitations.

Now, however, Blunt has backed out of all but two of the debates, one in Kansas City on public television and one in Lake Ozark that will not be televised.  The Blunt logic in this strategy is obvious, no?

As Globe readers know, our paper was attempting to put together a debate between Blunt and Carnahan here in Joplin.  Terkel mentions the effort in her article:

On Sunday, the Joplin Globe in Missouri expressed disappointment and confusion with the Blunt campaign over its refusal to accept its invitation for a debate. “[Carnahan campaign spokesman Tony] Wyche, after we assured him of television coverage out of Joplin and Springfield, said that Carnahan would accept,” read the editorial. “Rich Chrismer, with Blunt’s campaign, did not decline our invitation. In fact he told me that Blunt had not declined any of the invitations. But, I didn’t get the yes I needed to move forward.”

In other words, Globe editor Carol Stark, who was trying to organize the debate, had to stop her efforts because Roy Blunt would not commit to doing it.  Damn.  When you’re afraid to debate in Republican-happy Joplin, you are really afraid.  It appears obvious, though, that the problematic part of Stark’s pitch was, “we assured him of television coverage.” Whoops.

So, not only won’t there be a debate in Joplin or Springfield, but  the largest television market in the state—St. Louis—is also off-limits for a Blunt debate appearance. 

Obviously, the more debates, particularly televised ones, the more Robin Carnahan can expose Blunt’s long record as a Republican, including his paling around with felons and other unsavory characters, and make him answer for it.

And just like the actions of Republican 7th District congressional candidate and debate-frightened Billy Long, Roy Blunt’s hide-in-the-weeds strategy should send a signal to attentive voters. 

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