This Post Isn’t For Everybody

I have recently written about inclusion in the Democratic Party, as well as Bernie Sanders’ role in the party’s future. A regular contributor to our discussion on this blog wrote me to express his feelings about my opinions, his experience here, and to discuss his views on Democratic politics. Originally, I meant only to respond to him, but after I thought about it, I realized there are other people out there in my blogging family who share his views. Thus, here is my reply to “thgeneralist”:

Okay. Let’s get something straight that I am sure is my fault, for which I apologize. If you feel like I (I can speak only for myself on this matter) have belittled you, then I have sent you the wrong message. Your views are important and appreciated, despite the fact that I don’t always agree with them or, sometimes, attempt to challenge them. Perhaps I do so in ways that sound belittling, but I assure you that’s not what I mean to communicate. I guess I have more work to do expressing myself clearly, but sometimes I just assume that my long (sometimes too long) responses indicate how valuable I find our interactions. Again, my bad for making you feel like our dialogue is not valued.

Also, as far as there being enough room for you and me in the same party, I absolutely don’t know where I gave you the impression that we can’t live under the same tent. I know all sorts of people who either are Democrats or who vote with the party but call themselves independent. I’ve never met one of them with whom I always agree. Nor do I expect to ever meet such a person. I recognize that in many cases, it is I who hold some unorthodox positions for a liberal Democrat (for instance, my stance on a strong military and how that power can serve as insurance to help maintain liberal democracies around the world, but not “create” them).

I also recognize that I am not a revolutionary in the Bernie sense. And that’s not because I don’t share many of his goals. It’s because I think, living and campaigning in Vermont all those years, he doesn’t really understand the wider electoral landscape. I can assure you, if he lived where I live, he wouldn’t think for a minute that his attempt to transform the country overnight into a European-style social democracy, complete with the high taxes that go with it, is as achievable as he sometimes makes it sound. For God’s sake, we are at this moment witnessing Republicans trying very hard to undo a very modest change in our health insurance system, Obamacare, because it is seen, falsely, as a “government-run” system. We have a lot of work to do before we are even close to achieving Bernie’s revolution of American healthcare, not to mention his other proposals.

That leads me to your false charge that I am a “Corporate Democrat.” I hesitate to call it false because I’m not exactly sure what you mean by it. But if you follow some on the left like I do, people like Cenk Uygur and that whole self-righteous bunch of litmus-test leftist purists, then I think I know what you mean. They use that term to describe people who don’t see American politics the same way, say, Bernie sees our politics. They use that term for Democrats who don’t think it is wise, given our system, to unilaterally disarm when it comes to fundraising, who believe that businesses are good for America but also believe that those businesses ought to be good for their workers. It is possible to value business while also aggressively championing labor. Neither can exist without the other.

And, thus, I could have been pissed off at your accusation, but I chose not to be. Because I think I understand why you, or others who read this blog, would falsely label me as a “corporatist,” despite the fact that for years I worked my ass off on behalf of a labor union and still remain a union officer. I think your accusation springs from the fact that I’m a progressive who doesn’t believe in the possibility, here in America, of revolutionary progress. That’s because I think I know American politics fairly well. We are not a revolution-friendly electorate, largely because of what FDR and LBJ did so long ago. People, generally, aren’t ripe for the kind of radical transformation Bernie talks about because they are relatively comfortable (“Thanks, Obama!”). They see problems, but not the kind of problems that demand revolutionary change. Heck, Bernie couldn’t even convince a majority of Democrats to buy into his revolutionary message (and I don’t even want to get into the whining about how he was “cheated” out of the nomination; that is nonsense). 

What I understand is this: our differences as Democrats aren’t so much tied to policy as they are tied to how to get from here to there. On that matter, you and I are miles apart, apparently. You say Bernie champions “causes that will resonate with most Americans.” Well, maybe they would so resonate if our politics were conducted in a vacuum. But when you mix in the severe attacks he and his policies would undergo in a real election—the inevitable and well-funded demagoguery over the taxation necessary to fund his goals, for instance—then that alleged resonance will get muffled very quickly. Suddenly the things he champions will strike the ears of many voters with a cringing dissonance. That’s just the nature of American politics at this point in time. A majority of people aren’t ready for sudden, disruptive change, and Republicans would make Bernie sound like Hugo Chávez bent on turning America into a highly dysfunctional Venezuela. Tr-mp represented, among other things, sudden, disruptive change. And he only got 46% of the vote and barely squeaked out an Electoral College advantage. And he used Bernie, the Russians, and ten thousand lies to get that “win.”

I don’t “slam” Sanders because of his radical policies. I criticize him because he seems not to recognize the reality of American politics outside the bubble of his energetic followers. He translates the narrow enthusiasm he sees at rallies and other events into a wider craving for revolutionary change. But we are still, essentially, a 50-50 country. Change, if and when it comes, will come slowly. I wish it weren’t that way. I wish we had a different electoral system, one in which the winner of the popular vote gets to be president and do things like appoint Supreme Court judges. But we don’t. We have a system that elevated an ignorant buffoon to the White’s House who will change the course of the judiciary for at least a generation, all in the direction of reactionary ideology. And Bernie, unwittingly to be sure, helped put that buffoon there by not realizing how little chance the Sanders’ campaign had of winning the primary and how much damage it was doing to the eventual anti-Tr-mp nominee by attacking her integrity—and by Bernie hesitating to endorse her until the last possible minute. I know that analysis makes a lot of Bernie people mad, but that’s the way a lot of Democrats see it.

I also fiercely criticize Bernie because he still refuses to taint himself by actually becoming a Democrat. He seems too good, too self-righteous, to ever attach himself to an entity that might say and do things he doesn’t like. And by that I mean say and do things that don’t match up exactly with his own economic vision, the only vision he seems to have or care about. He doesn’t seem to mind rounding the edges off issues like, say, reproductive rights, but he resists rather dramatically people who don’t share all of his views on economic justice or trade, or he simply seems to ignore them (he finally got around to a late, lukewarm “endorsement” of our Georgia congressional candidate, Jon Ossoff, for instance). 

What I want to tell you and others is this: the Democratic Party is a political association with certain policy goals but with uncertain and evolving strategies on how to achieve those goals. Most people who call themselves Democrats share most of the party’s goals, but have different views on how to get there. Much of the variation on that goal-achieving strategy has to do with one’s view of the electorate. I have met people here in southwest Missouri who, election after election, actually believe Democrats can win here. They base that belief on the enthusiasm they see at local events and other indicators. But when you step back and look at the local landscape from a higher perspective, you see very quickly that Democrats, particularly Bernie-friendly Democrats, cannot do well here. Heck, a few elections back we actually had two Democratic candidates for the House seat who were really Republicans who called themselves Democrats. Most of their policy positions were indistinguishable from the average Republican. And they still got trounced. In politics it is vitally important to know the electoral landscape, to know where to put scarce resources, to know where and how to put up a robust goal-achieving fight. That’s not to say local Democrats shouldn’t try to change the landscape. But the changes will come slowly, incrementally. There will be no Democratic Party revolution here in southwest Missouri, I can assure you. 

Again, I apologize for making you feel belittled or for making you feel like you have to put up with “shit in order to listen to and participate in the conversation.” I do agree with you that we are all, in our own way, “trying to do the right thing.” And, yes, that includes Anson Burlingame, as hard as that is for some readers of this blog to process. And because we are all trying to do the right thing we tend to get passionate about it at times. I plead guilty to that. I am still so bothered by “president” Tr-mp that I get heated when people try to tell me it was “corporate Democrats” who derailed Bernie’s candidacy and who made Tr-mp’s tainted victory possible. No. That’s not true.

Image result for bernie sanders and tom perezHillary Clinton won the popular vote. The Democratic Party platform was Bernie-approved. What happened was that not enough people, particularly working class voters in crucial states who had previously voted for Obama, understood what a Tr-mp win would really mean. In some cases they believed his populist lies and voted for him. In other cases they assumed he would lose and stayed home. But in too many cases they believed that Hillary Clinton was corrupt and untrustworthy. And some of them believed she was corrupt and untrustworthy because Bernie Sanders told them so. Thus, I confess that still burns my ass. But I could get over that if it weren’t for the fact that when I listen to Bernie and some of his supporters talk about the Democratic Party these days, in much the same way they talked about Hillary Clinton, I think about how such talk brought us Agent Orange. And I think about how such talk will keep him in power.

Duane

 

The Pup Tent Party?

Elizabeth Warren and Nancy Pelosi, both of whom actually belong to the Democratic Party, said what shouldn’t have needed to be said: DNC Chairman Tom Perez was wrong when he said the national party would not support any candidate who did not support reproductive rights. Here’s part of what Perez said:

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.

He is right. Everyone should support reproductive rights for women and those rights should not change depending on where you happen to live. But he is wrong to ignore the reality of American politics. Pro-choice Democrats can’t get elected in some places.

Both Warren and Pelosi are, in Warren’s words, “strongly pro-choice.” Pelosi said:

I have served many years in Congress with members who have not shared my very positive — my family would say aggressive — position on promoting a woman’s right to choose.

Image result for warren and pelosiBut both of these powerful Democrats recognize, as do most party leaders, that the issue of abortion is one that plays differently in Louisiana than it does in Massachusetts or California. We should remember that when Democrats held a majority in the House in 2009, it was because more than three dozen anti-choicers called themselves Democrats.

Leading Democrats have more work to do in convincing an overwhelming majority of people that women should be able to control their own bodies, should be able to make their own choices about having children and how many they should have. Until then, we have to live with the fact that not everyone, including not everyone in the Democratic Party, agrees with the party’s platform on the issue. Warren put it well:

I recognize that not all of my colleagues agree with me. I’ll do everything I can to persuade them, but they are my colleagues, and that’s just how it is with the Democrats. But I got to say, it does not dampen my energy in this fight.

It’s the same way with issues like single-payer health insurance. Many Democrats don’t support the concept, either as a revolutionary change in our system or even as an incremental change, step by step until we get there. These Democrats need to be convinced otherwise, as far as I’m concerned. But if they are willing to fight for other issues that we Democrats have in common, then they should be welcome in our party to fight with us on those issues.

The two major political parties in our system are, by the nature of the case, full of all kinds of people with all kinds of views on all kinds of issues. There is no one issue that defines what a Democrat is, even if there does come a point where you can disagree with so many core principles of the party that you should just call yourself something else and get out of the tent.

The Message, The Messenger, And How Democratic Party Unity Is A Two-Way Street

The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

—Matthew 8:30

A after a recent piece I posted on a reported stupid move being considered by Senate Democrats (“Some Senate Democrats Are, Well, Idiots“), one writer, Jim Hight, told me the following:

Yes, Democrats are their worst enemies. I hope Elizabeth warren takes over the Majority Partly Leader when (and if) Democrats take the Senate. I write “and if” because the party will always lose unless this tiff with the Bernie supporters ends. As long as the in-fighting continues, Republicans will continue to tear the country apart.

Another writer, DG, commenting on Jim Hight’s observation, said this:

…a united party must appear very shortly. Jim Hight suggests Elizabeth Warren as a possible leader to unite the scaredy cats on the left. That may well be a good start but we need more. […]

Of course I voted for Hillary, but I am a Bernie supporter. That is, I very much support his views…we need a very progressive movement. Bernie has started one. You can see it with the protests and marches that are taking place everyday somewhere in this country. It’s an angry, disgusted and desperate cry to stop this dangerous bullshit republican take over before it gets way out of hand. Thank God they are!

I know what I have to say below, which I write with some trepidation, will make some people mad. It will upset some folks. But so be it. I’m here to express my opinion. As a Democrat, I’m here to give you my honest take on what I see and where I think we are going as a party and who should lead us there. Here goes:

It happens that Bernie Sanders was on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” on Tuesday. Sanders appeared with the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, who is, bless his heart, trying like hell to hold onto the Sanders folks, trying to keep them from bolting from the Democratic Party when it comes time to vote. Sanders and Perez are on what they are calling a “Unity Tour.” Hayes played a video clip of Sanders saying the following:

Our job is to bring millions of people into the political process. Our job is to radically transform the Democratic Party. And when we are united, we are strongest as a party, as a  nation, as a resistance movement.

Hayes then asked Sanders the obvious question:

You’re talking about reforming, reviving, transforming the Democratic Party.  Do you consider yourself a Democrat?

That’s a fair question, isn’t it? Sanders ran as a Democrat in last year’s presidential primaries. His campaign manager said a year ago that Bernie would remain a Democrat after it was all over. And Bernie just said “when we are united, we are strongest as a party.”  But here is how Bernie answered Hayes’ “Do you consider yourself a Democrat?” question:

No. I’m an independent.  And I think if the Democratic Party is going to succeed—and I want to see it succeed —it’s gonna have to open its door to independents. There are probably more independents in this country than Democrats or Republicans. It’s got to open its doors to working people and to young people, create a grassroots party. That’s what we need.

With jaw-dropping audacity, Sanders sat right next to the DNC chairman (whom Sanders opposed during the DNC election process) and said that although he, Bernie Sanders, wanted to “radically transform the Democratic Party,” he didn’t want to become a Democrat. He essentially said he is happily married to some gal named “Independent.” It is that gal, Ms. Independent, to whom he owes his fidelity, his first and final allegiance and loyalty. Okay. I get it. In other words, Bernie wants to not only go home to Ms. Independent at night, but he wants to have a girlfriend on the side in the daytime, one whom he isn’t quite ready to leave Ms. Independent for, but nevertheless one whom he thinks he should get to sleep with while he simultaneously demands she radically change her ways and become the girl of his dreams. Apparently, he wants the Democratic Party to become his perfect mistress.

Well, to hell with that nonsense. Don’t get me wrong, I think many of Bernie’s ideas are something that Democrats could hang their hats on, could run on and win on (Hillary actually ran on many of them, which is why Bernie’s call for “radically” transforming the party makes little sense to me). But we need someone to come along and talk a lot like Bernie does, but do so while actually marrying the party, committing to it, warts and all. Bernie isn’t that guy. Weirdly, he thinks he can reform the party from the outside; he thinks he can change her ways while still going home to Ms. Independent at night. He thinks he can still retain what he thinks is his moral integrity even while he is flirting, sometimes with the crude entitlement of a Bill O’Reilly, with Ms. Democrat. He flirts while talking smack, enticing her with his rap about rich people getting away with murder while the lower and middle classes suffer, using his position of power to dominate her, to exploit her weakness, to make her give in to his demands. In Bernie’s case, the Democratic Party was a campaign fling, the handy dame he used to run for president against Hillary Clinton. He used the party when he wanted something, even if it was something many Democrats wanted, too. But Bernie’s would-be mistress is not, and apparently never will be, his wife. Why? Because the Democratic Party is not something Bernie wants to come home to at night and snuggle with. He’s not the snuggling, spooning type. He seems to be, to put it crudely, the O’Reilly of party politics.

And make no mistake about it. Bernie can talk the talk. He can paint a broad picture of the economic and political landscape that most Democrats, but not all, find appealing. He is the Picasso of populism on the left. Mind you, he’s short on details, but, as we found out from Tr-mp’s Russian-aided triumph, details don’t really matter all that much to the electorate these days. You merely have to have a monster to attack. You have to have a villain to gun down (as Chris Hayes suggested during his Bernie interview). You have to Image result for demon and the pigshave a devil to cast out. How you gun down your villain, how you cast out your devil, is the hard part, of course. But Tr-mp’s razor-thin Electoral College win shows us that the “how” doesn’t much matter, doesn’t interest people all that much in the voting booth. What does interest them, what does matter, is that you say you want to gun down the villain, shoot the bad guy; you say you want to cast out the demon from a possessed system and send it into the swine, and then send the swine over the cliff.

Bernie told Chris Hayes:

What the party has got to focus on are the most important issues facing working people – that’s the decline of the middle class; that’s the need to take on the billionaire class and Wall Street and the insurance companies and bring people together, a) against Trump`s absolutely reactionary agenda, and, b) fight for a progressive agenda which, among other things, includes a Medicare for all single-payer program.

As I said, Bernie is short on details on how to get all that done. Fighting for a single-payer insurance system is music to my ears (and music to the ears of 80% of Democrats and 60% of independents. But someone has to write down the actual notes on paper, complete with the lyrics about how to win that fight and make it happen in a reluctant, splintered Congress. Someone has to tell us how that can be accomplished in a country so divided as ours, with an electorate so susceptible to the right-wing propaganda that would surely come with such a fight. Vermont, Bernie’s own state, tried the single-payer route. It didn’t work out too well.

To reiterate, the details are less important, at this stage, than the rhetoric. Tr-mp doesn’t have much of value to teach anyone, but he did educate us on how one can win an election without a 48-point policy plan. You simply pick out a couple of bad guys, like the Wall Street oligarchs whose handprints are all over Tr-mp and his administration, and go after them, relentlessly. If our next presidential candidate and our congressional candidates in 2018 and 2020 can successfully do that—if we get a Democratic Congress, and a legitimate president in the White’s House—then we can, and will have to, talk details later. Maybe all we can get done at first are much-needed improvements to the Affordable Care Act. Maybe we can get more. But we have to get in power first.

All that leads me to what you will see below in a video from Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show. All that leads me to Elizabeth Warren. She is a Democrat. She is actually married, willingly, to the Democratic Party. She recognizes the party is not all it should be, but sees it for what it can be, the vehicle for real reform, the vehicle to bring about the necessary change that Sanders and his followers say they want. But she also realizes that one cannot demand change from outside the party. She realizes that one cannot demand that the pursued radically change before the pursuer will half-heartedly commit. Warren realizes, as her support for Hillary Clinton demonstrated last year, that change comes from a committed relationship, not from a one-sided, I’ll-tell-you-what-I-want-before-I-give-you-my-love affair. She’s in bed with the party. She doesn’t have another lover on the side to whom she can go if the Democratic Party lets her down in this way or that.

And that’s why I prefer her to Bernie Sanders. I’ve always had reservations about Bernie because Bernie has so many reservations about the Democratic Party. I’ve always had trouble trusting Bernie because Bernie has so much trouble trusting Democrats. Commenter Jim Hight above says “the party will always lose unless this tiff with the Bernie supporters ends.” He’s probably right. We do have to work it out. We do have to heal the divisions between the Sanders voters and the Democratic Party. But that’s not a one-sided task, not a mending that can be done only by Democrats kneeling at the feet of an independent Bernie Sanders and asking for his forgiveness and promising we’ll do whatever he wants us to do.

Bernie did a lot to hurt Hillary Clinton and, as an unintended consequence, helped elect Donald Tr-mp. Oh, I know he didn’t mean to. I know he finally got on board in the end. But he owes the party some kind of a mild mea culpa, some kind of acknowledgement that, long before he eventually came on the anti-Tr-mp general election campaign team, that he did real damage to the person he had to know, as time and primary elections went by, would be the party’s general election candidate. At the very least he owes it to the party to, for God’s sake, join it. He needs to become one of us. He needs to commit. He needs to stop his flirting. He needs to curb his I-am-entitled-to-reform-a-party-I don’t-belong-to arrogance.

Below you will find the entire episode of Wednesday’s Rachel Maddow Show. I could have chopped it up, but I decided to use the whole thing for two reasons. One is that her opening, pre-Warren segment will piss you off and make you realize why Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are absolutely right about who it is that currently runs and ruins the system, using wealth as their tool. The second reason is that you will see why Elizabeth Warren, as reluctant as she is to become a national candidate to run against Tr-mp in 2020 (she has a Senate election in 2018, which takes priority), is someone who is a real Democrat, someone who really believes the party can be the vehicle to do the things that both she and Bernie, and so many progressives, believe should be done. Rachel’s interview with her, and the way Warren conducted herself and answered the questions, shows why her fidelity to the Democratic Party and her belief in its potential means much more to me than Bernie sitting next to the chairman of our party and refusing to commit to it.

Here is last night’s segment in full. You owe it to yourself, as a Democrat, as an independent, or simply as an interested observer of politics, to watch it all:

Some Senate Democats Are, Well, Idiots

Sam Stein, of HuffPo, posted a piece yesterday that just floored me:

Democrats Contemplate How To Forfeit Their Power Upon Regaining The Senate

It began:

After watching Senate Republicans lower the threshold for confirming a Supreme Court justice in order to vote Neil Gorsuch onto the court, Senate Democrats are openly talking about making it harder for themselves to do the same, if and when they regain power.

Over the past few days, a number of Democratic lawmakers have said they’d be open to bringing back the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

“When the Democrats return to the majority and capture the presidency ― which we will, that day is going to arrive ― we will restore the 60-vote margin,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told MSNBC on Monday. “We will ensure that for the Supreme Court, there is that special margin that any candidate has to reach, because that is essential to ensuring that our country has a confidence in people who are nominated, rather than just someone who passes a litmus test.”

Image result for knife fightIf you ever wondered why Democrats get rolled so often by ruthless Republicans, now you can see why. Jeez. If the Democratic Party wants people to support it, wants people to knock on doors for it, wants people to send it money, its leader better put out a retraction of this bullshit right now. I ain’t working to support a party that would have its throat cut by Republicans in a fight, and then when it wrestles the knife out of Republican hands, uses that same knife to cut its own throat.

Oh, my.

A Short-Term Win For Democrats, A Long-Term Loss For Democrats?

We’re making permanent tax policies Republicans originally crafted.”

—Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans, at least those not completely ravaged by ideological stupidity, have finally been willing to embrace their substantial victory over Democrats, a victory represented by the last-minute deal to make the once-infamous Bush tax cuts permanent.

Early on New Year’s Day, Senate Republicans saw the light and accepted a Biden-engineered but Obama-blessed “compromise,” and later on New Year’s Day House Republicans—those 85 or so who for one reason or another realized they have won the tax debate—did the same.

All the while, most Senate and House Democrats couldn’t wait to get in line to vote to accept the deal (only 3 voted “no” in the Senate and only 16 voted “no” in the House), which, among other things, makes the Bush tax cuts, I’ll say it again, permanent.

Perhaps we should stop here and get Merriam-Webster‘s definition of the word permanent:

continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change.

That’s a lot of what happened on New Year’s Day.

I watched Grover Norquist, yes, Grover Bleeping Norquist, right in front of CNN, GOP Jesus, and everyone, bless his fellow Republicans as they were about to vote to do what conservatives a decade ago only dreamed of doing: making the Bush tax rate cuts permanent for 99.3% of taxpayers.*

Did you get that? Conservatives in 2001 and 2003 couldn’t even pull that off. When right-wingers passed the original Bush tax cuts, they were only for ten years. Obama extended them for two years just before they were due to expire at the end of 2010—under Republican threats to ruin the economic recovery—and now they have been made a part of the Democratic Party canon. Bragging rights for tax cuts now belong to Democrats, which they may eventually regret.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to extending the tax cuts for most Americans. We can’t afford to jeopardize the fragile economic recovery by removing almost $200 billion a year—that’s roughly the cost of extending the cuts for the 99.3%—from the mix.

But we also can’t afford to extend the full rate cuts for that entire 99.3% permanently—at a cost of $1.9 trillion over 10 years—as doing so will serve to support the “starve the beast” tactic that radical conservatives like Grover Norquist have employed as part of their strategy to turn the country into a 19th-century small-government, rich-man’s paradise.

As I see it, Democrats may have inadvertently aided the Norquistas in their quest to some day drown government, at least part of it, in Grover’s bathtub.

There are, of course, many good things in the package passed, including a five-year extension of the 2009 stimulus expansion of tax credits for the working poor and other tax credits for the needy, including families trying to get their kids in college.

Those on long-term unemployment will get an extension for another year; doctors who accept Medicare won’t get screwed in the next year; tax breaks for wind energy and corporate research are continuing for at least another year; the Alternative Minimum Tax will be permanently indexed to inflation; the Republican-stalled farm bill will get unstalled for nine months—enjoy your cheaper milk.

Most of what Democrats got they got without having to offer significant spending cuts, which would have hurt the economic recovery. All good.

But besides the permanence of the Bush tax cuts, there are other bad things in the deal. The estate tax, which beginning on January 1 returned to Clinton-era rates (estates valued at $1 million were exempted and estate transfers over that amount were taxed at 55%), is now permanently Republican-friendly: a $5 million ($10 million for a couple) estate exemption (indexed to inflation) and a top tax rate of 40%, which, as Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) said, is a “sweetheart giveaway to the wealthiest 7,200 estates in the country.”

Capital gains taxes, which enabled the Mitt Romneys of the world to enjoy millions of dollars in income and pay only 15% in taxes on it, will rise to a mere 20% (23.8% if Obamacare taxes are figured in) for those couples making more than $450,000 ($400,000 for individuals). So, if you are Mitt Romney, you will have to find a way to live without that extra dough. Somehow I think he’ll cope.

But he may not even have to worry about coping. Bloomberg Businessweek reported the following about the increased capital gains tax in the new bill:

Many households with incomes above $500,000 won’t face the higher rates at all, because deductions are subtracted from gross income before the rates are assessed.

Finally, the deal Joe Biden brokered with Mitch McConnell does nothing but delay a fight over the sequester and over the dreaded and fast-approaching fight over the debt ceiling that Republicans have pledged to use as a tool to force Democrats to cut entitlements. We are guaranteed to go through all this nonsense again, though this time it would threaten an economic crisis that would dwarf the one we just averted.

President Obama, in his statement after the House vote on Tuesday night, said this:

Now, one last point I want to make — while I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed. Let me repeat: We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic — far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff.

Even though the President went to some trouble to explain that he will not negotiate with Congress over yet another stalemate over the debt ceiling, it is hard to see how he can avoid it, especially since Obama’s press secretary took the “constitution option” off the table recently:

This administration does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period.

Section 4 of that amendment says,

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

Now, it is true that the President himself has not actually ruled out such a thing, saying this summer only that,

I have talked to my lawyers. They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.

That statement, obviously, assumes court involvement. But any judiciary action—and some smart people believe the courts would not even get involved in this political matter—would require time. And Mr. Obama may conclude that by educating the public on the dire consequences of a failure to raise the debt ceiling, and given the extreme unpopularity of Republicans in Congress, that he will have plenty of latitude to do what needs to be do.

Additionally—and this may be the saving grace of this deal for Democrats—Obama said on Monday:

…if Republicans think that I will finish the job of deficit reduction through spending cuts alone — and you hear that sometimes coming from them, that sort of after today we’re just going to try to shove…spending cuts at us that will hurt seniors, or hurt students, or hurt middle-class families, without asking also equivalent sacrifice from millionaires or companies with a lot of lobbyists, et cetera — if they think that’s going to be the formula for how we solve this thing, then they’ve got another thing coming.  That’s not how it’s going to work.  We’ve got to do this in a balanced and responsible way.

That rather strong statement suggests that Obama has a definite strategy in mind for dealing with Republican threats to wreck the economy in order to get what they want.  If he does, and if his strategy is successful, the bad things in the fiscal cliff deal will not look so bad.

And let us hope that what Democrats have done—setting in stone tax cuts that have partly contributed to our fiscal problems—will not someday hinder them as they attempt to protect vital government programs from those who mean to drag the country back into the 18th century.

_____________________________

*For those couples earning between $250,000 and $450,000, less generous Clinton-era tax exemptions and deductions will return, which will increase their tax liability and likely satisfy President Obama’s insistence of tax increases for the “top 2 percent”; but the tax rate cuts themselves are permanent for those couples making under $450,000, which is less than 1% of taxpayers.

Here’s What Happened On Tuesday Night

If you didn’t see Wednesday night’s episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, I suggest you go here and watch it. From start to finish, it was simply the best show she has done.

All of us who sympathize, to one degree or another, with what the Democratic Party stands for, need to sit back and take in all of what happened on Tuesday night. It really was remarkable.

And here is a rather remarkable accounting of it by Saint Rachel, an account we should savor all the way to the end:

We are not going to have a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe versus Wade.

There will be no more Antonin Scalias and Samuel Alitos added to this court.

We’re not going to repeal health reform.

Nobody is going to kill Medicare and make old people in this generation or any other generation fight it out on the open market to try to get themselves health insurance. We’re not going to do that.

We’re not going to give a 20% tax cut to millionaires and billionaires and expect programs like food stamps and kid’s insurance to cover the cost of that tax cut.

We’ll not make you clear it with your boss if you want to get birth control under the insurance plan that you’re on.

We are not going to redefine rape.

We are not going to amend the United States Constitution to stop gay people from getting married.

We are not going to double Guantanamo.

We are not eliminating the Department of Energy or the Department of Education or Housing at the federal level.

We are not going to spend $2 trillion on the military that the military does not want.

We are not scaling back on student loans, because the country’s new plan is that you should borrow money from your parents.

We are not vetoing the Dream Act.

We are not self-deporting.

We are not letting Detroit go bankrupt.

We are not starting a trade war with China on Inauguration Day in January.

We are not going to have, as a president, a man who once led a mob of friends to run down a scared, gay kid, to hold him down and forcibly cut his hair off with a pair of scissors, while that kid cried and screamed for help, and there was no apology, not ever.

We are not going to have a Secretary of State John Bolton.

We are not bringing Dick Cheney back.

We are not going to have a foreign policy shop stocked with architects of the Iraq War. We are not going to do it. We had the chance to do that if we wanted to do that, as a country, and we said no, last night, loudly…

The Democratic senator who was supposed to be the most endangered incumbent in the country not only won, she won by 16 points.

Republican Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who was so stuffed with hedge funds money that he burped credit default swaps, Scott Brown lost by a lot to the nation’s foremost authority on the economic rights of the middle class.

After marriage rights for same-sex couples were voted down in state after state after state for years, more than 30 times in a row, this year, all change. In Maine, they voted on marriage equality and they voted for it. In Maryland, they voted on marriage equality and they voted for it. In Minnesota, they were asked to vote against marriage equality, and Minnesota refused to ban it. In Washington state, the vote is not called yet. They are still counting the vote and we will be watching closely, but if you are on the pro-gay rights side in Washington state, it should be noted that it is looking pretty good.

In Iowa, anti-gay activists were sure that they were going to turf out a judge for ruling in favor of marriage equality. They had done it before, to a bunch of other judges. They had been successful every time they had tried before. But not this one, not this time. Judge Wiggins in Iowa keeps his seat.

Nevada elects its first African-American congressman this year.

America gets our first openly gay United States Senator.

America gets our first-ever Asian-American woman senator from Hawaii. Her seat in the House, I should note, gets filled by…a Democratic Iraq War veteran. I’m going to tell you right now that her name is Tulsi Gabbard, because she is on the fast track to being very famous some day. Tulsi Gabbard.

Speaking of Iraq War veterans, Tammy Duckworth, veteran helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq, she is going to Congress, and she is sending home the opponent who mocked her for her war record, Joe Walsh.

California relaxed its three-strikes-you’re-out law and rejected a law to cripple the political power of unions.

Decriminalization of marijuana was approved in Washington and in Colorado.

The astonishing tide of dark money spent against Democratic Senators Jon Tester in Montana and Sherrod Brown in Ohio turned out to be pointless. Both those Democratic senators won. They held on to their seats.

Democrats won a Senate seat in North Dakota, of all places, a seat that nobody thought they could win.

All of these states that had this hugely aggressive, total Republican takeover from the 2010 elections—Ohio and Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania and Virginia and Florida—all of those states that went so red in state government in these past couple of years and that then had these big fights inside their states over how Republicans were governing there, in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia— and we will see about Florida— last night not only did Republicans lose the presidential election in every single one of those states, Republicans lost the Senate race in every single one of those states too: Sherwood Brown, Tammy Baldwin, Debbie Stabenow, Bob Casey, Tim Kaine, Bill Nelson. Depending on Florida, a Democratic sweep of the presidency, and definitely a Democratic sweep of the Senate races in those states that the GOP was so excited to have supposedly turned red in a way that was going to stick.

Last night, Democratic women swept every major office in New Hampshire.

Last night, California Democrats won a Democratic super-majority in the state house and in the state senate. Not just majorities in California, but super majorities. Wherein, if the Republicans don’t turn up, any of them, any day, at work, nothing will be different in California  They’re completely legislatively irrelevant.

Allen West lost his seat.

More women got elected to the U.S. Senate than at any time in U.S. history.

The Republican presidential nominee and vice presidential nominee both lost their home states.

Missouri and Montana and West Virginia chose democratic governors.

West Virginia chose its first gay state legislator. So did North Dakota. West Virginia and North Dakota? Yes, seriously.

Joe Lieberman’s old seat went to a real Democrat in Connecticut.

The proportion of young people voting compared to 2008, it went up. Same with African-Americans, up from 2008. Same with Latinos, up from 2008. Not down, up.

If you are a liberal or if you are rooting for the Democrats, last night was a very, very, very big night.

And, oh, yeah, this happened: President Barack Obama, yes, will go down in history as our nation’s first African-American president. But he will also go down in history as the most successful Democratic presidential candidate since FDR. President Bill Clinton got re-elected too, I know, but only Barack Obama got re-elected with not just big electoral college margins, but also with majority wins in the popular vote, twice.

Wow.

Celebrate! Karl Rove Went Nuts!

Now we know exactly why Republicans tried so hard to keep people from voting.

The easiest thing to do this morning, after Tuesday’s great Democratic victory, would be to rehearse all the pre-election hooey that oozed from Foxed-up folks, whether it be local bloggers or well-known extremists on TV and radio, who were cock-sure that Americans wouldn’t put the black Kenyan socialist back in the White’s House.

Yes, that would be so easy. But because I am such a gracious winner, I’m just not gonna play back all that stuff, all that vitriol-based commentary, all those foolish predictions by the Obama-haters. Nope, I’m not gonna do it.

Couldn’t help it.

But I’ll spare you the rest of the rubbish that came from others, who I am sure had a hard time popping out of bed this morning, at least those who could actually get to sleep after it became clear that they are going to have to live with Barack Obama for another four years.

And they will have to live with more Democrats in the Democrat-controlled Senate and a few more in the House. And, ahhhh, they will have to live with ObamaCare.

Not that some of those folks didn’t put up a fight last night.

I watched with utter delight what happened on Fox after it called the election for the President. Turd Blossom, uh, Karl Rove, was in rare form. He openly challenged Fox’s “decision desk“—nerdish guys and gals who crunch the numbers using decidedly non-ideological arithmetic—and pleaded with the anchors to do something about it. To stop it. To repeal the laws of mathematics.

Here’s how Time’s TV critic, James Poniewozik described it:

What is unusual–really, one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen on cable news–is for one arm of a network to basically turn against itself on-air. “Here’s what we’re going to do!” said anchor Bret Baier. “We’re going to get someone from the decision desk and we’re going to bring them in here and we’re going to have them on air and we’re going to interview them about this decision.”

That’s right: One of you nerds had better get in here and explain yourselves to Karl Rove! You have made an important Republican very upset!

If you didn’t see what happened on Fox, I suggest you read Poniewozik’s entire account of it, including his summation of Karl Rove’s attempt to commandeer a network in service to his political party:

It was a fitting moment for an election that often seemed to be a campaign over the idea of mathematical knowability itself. But it was also a glaring, and embarrassing, example of the extent to which Fox News has become an arm of the Republican Party and is expected by GOP operatives to behave as one. Rove may be a party big shot, but he’s just a guy giving analysis on Fox’s air. He does not run the network, even if his friends do.

And yet apparently no one in Fox’s studio felt empowered to tell him that, just because he’d raised a squillion dollars for Republicans SuperPACs this election, he is not entitled to have the decision desk hauled out to answer to him like a chef who sent out an undercooked steak. It’s the sort of thing that might cause you to examine your mission as a journalistic network. I’m not waiting up for that to happen, though.

No, Fox “News” will not examine its journalistic mission. It won’t ask itself why so many of us put quotation marks around its “News.” It will continue to falsely call itself fair and balanced and wage war on arithmetic and the Democratic Party.

But Democrats can celebrate one simple fact today. Despite all of what the Fox “News” Channel did to sabotage their chances of winning, despite all that Karl Rove and his moneyed minions did to try to buy the election, despite all the attempts to suppress the vote of minorities and young people, a majority of Americans still placed their hope for a better future in the hands of the Democratic Party.

And at least for one day, that is worth celebrating.

Tea Party Tongues

The jobs numbers are out for June and it is becoming clear that the Tea Party has paralyzed not only the government, but it has gone a long way toward freezing in place a weak recovery.

Oh, I know the right-wing is proud of its achievements.  After all, they have managed to bring Democrats to the budget-cutting table; they have all politicians now talking in Tea Party tongues; they have managed to change the debate from what to do about the struggling economy and jobs to how much to cut entitlement programs and other staples in the Democratic Party and American diet, like, say, education.

They have done a lot those teapartiers. But they certainly can be most proud of contributing significantly to stagnating economic growth and keeping unemployment high—both of which just happen to be politically deadly for Barack Obama in 2012—and they show little sign of relenting.

Their continued opposition to government stimulus—in any form—and their continued insistence that we can cut our way to prosperity, including cutting taxes even further than the government-starving ratios in place now, is the most significant contributing factor in our inability to escape the black hole of the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate has now crept up to 9.2% and job growth has been essentially flat the last two months.  But the worst of the news is summarized in this sentence from CNN:

So far, the nation has only gained back about a fifth of the 8.8 million jobs lost during the recession.

And while Tea Party Republicans in Congress have spent a good deal of time fretting over Planned Parenthood and National Public Radio and other non-jobs concerns, they have managed to do what many of them said they wanted to do when they ran for office. From Bloomberg:

Employment in government continued to trend down over the month (-39,000). Federal employment declined by 14,000 in June. Employment in both state government and local government continued to trend down over the month and has been falling since the second half of 2008.

Yep, they can be proud of this accomplishment, as thousands upon thousands of teachers and other “government” workers join the millions of other victims of the kind of Republican economics that ruled the day not so long ago and a kind of economics that will—if Mr. Obama is defeated in 2012 because of the bad jobs numbers this year—rule our tomorrow.

Friends May Go

Friends may come and friends may go,
Friends may peter out we know;
We’ve been friends through thick and thin,
Peter out…or peter in.

—old toast

Anthony Weiner, famous now for acting like an unsupervised teenager, was one of my favorite liberals.  He took on the bad guys on Fox “News”; he took on the hard-right Republican rabble in the House; he articulated the kind of liberalism in which I strongly believe.

Which, of course, is why he has to go, has to sort of peter out.

It doesn’t matter to me that he broadcast his photogenic weenie all over creation, or that he had sex talk with consenting adults, or that he rubbed himself raw while doing either one of the above.

But it does matter that he could walk in front of his constituents, via the camera he loves so much, and tell a self-serving lie.  He should have either shut up or confessed or resigned.  Democrats believe in the authenticity of government, in the basic credibility of the political class.  Lying so blatantly, even about one’s weenie, undermines that credibility and undermines the Democrats’ argument for good government.

If Mr. Weiner really believes in the politics he’s been preaching, he will leave the scene.  He certainly realizes that the other side will use his continued presence to delegitimize not so much him, but his brand of politics and his political party, home to his kind of politics.

He owes it to the Democratic Party, to his fellow Democrats, and to his fellow liberals, to go home, peter out or peter in.

Republicans Counting On Dumb Voters

Michael Shear, writing for The New York Times, characterizes the upcoming Paul Ryan-Republican House budget plan as “a dramatic political bet“:

The budget they are preparing to embrace in the coming days would slash federal government spending by more than $6 trillion over the next 10 years, mostly by reinventing the nation’s largest social programs in ways that Republicans have talked about for years.

Medicare would become a means-tested support program for private insurance. Medicaid would give states new control over their money for the poor. Taxes on business and the wealthy would come down. Overall spending across a range of programs would be capped.

Shear’s point about the gamble is this:

Packaging long-held Republican ideas into a huge shift in policy, the lawmakers are betting that voters will focus less on the individual things they don’t like and more on the overall impression of the party’s fiscal discipline.

Well, voters would first have to overlook 30 years of the party’s fiscal recklessness before they could focus on today’s soak-the-poor-reward-the-rich incarnation of Republican philosophy.

Are the voters that dumb?

Republicans are betting they are.

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