GOP Plays Hardball…Dems, Not So Much

From Political Wire:

Matthew Yglesias: "The Republicans do this the right way. The Senate Republican caucus is organized, like the House caucuses of both parties, like a partisan political organization whose objective is to advance the shared policy objectives of the party. The Senate Democratic caucus, by contrast, is organized like a fun country club trying to recruit members. Join Team Democrat and Vote However You Want Without Consequence! But it’s no way to get things done."

Steve Benen: "It often goes overlooked, but it’s worth remembering that the Senate Republican caucus, unlike Senate Democrats, have mechanisms in place to enforce party unity and discipline. When Democrats break party ranks on key bills, there are no consequences. Those who let GOP leaders down, however, know in advance that enticements like committee positions are very much on the line."

GOP Rooting for Failure

Bless the Democrats who are responding in kind to years of abuse from the GOP who would accuse Democrats of hating America when they opposed the Iraq war or other security issues.  Politico has a story about the Dems return of serve.  Buried at the end:

Within the first 45 minutes after the Labor Department announced a worse-than-expected 263,000 jobs lost in September, POLITICO received no fewer than eight GOP press releases blasting away at Obama for failing to stem the tide of unemployment.

The office of Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) literally hit the send button at 8:30 a.m. — the moment of the announcement.

Democrats We Need

Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida has been criticized for saying the GOP’s plan for health care is to have sick people “die quickly.”    The Republicans, the same ones who cry out, “You lie” or tell their constituents that there will be death panels that will pull the plug on granny, want him to apologize.  He did.

That’s the kind of Democrat we need.  This is the kind we get:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Democratic Super Majority
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

“The Can’t-Do Nation”

Harold Meyerson has a column in today’s Washington Post complaining about the “Blue Dogs” hindering Obama’s healthcare goals.   They have many reasons – they are in red districts, their new, and they really worry about – everything.

While Meyerson says it reveals our country’s  inability to meet our national challenges, the practical interpretations by the electorate is the Democrats can’t govern.

Say what you will about the GOP under George Bush, they may have punted on the big problems, but its ability to pass most of its agenda is viewed as at least competent in governing. 

In 2010, if they pick the issues that voters are worried about – the economy, health, etc. – and put forth solutions, those voters just might say, “At least they can get something done.”

The Party With the Best Message Wins

The challenge is on (via Political Wire).

Democratic momentum is slowing but not yet reversing. What Republicans should hope for, and Democrats should fear, is that we are nearing an inflection point, when the directions change. That hasn’t happened yet.

The key indicator to watch for the rest of the summer is public confidence in Obama. Whether looking back at the economic stimulus package and the budget, or forward to the pending climate-change and health care reform proposals, voters see legislation that is massive, important, and complex. Few will understand the intricacies of any, let alone all, of these measures, which will be defined, positively or negatively, by the media and public dialogue. Whichever party does the better job of messaging will win.  [emphasis added]

The first thing I hope Democrats do is work the refs.  Democrats tend to wring their hands when the media criticizes them or, more important, when the media consistently regurgitates the GOP talking points.  They never seem to challenge reporters.

Or for that matter the GOP talking points.  The Dems in Congress will probably argue that they defer to Obama to take the message to the people, and he has shown that he has some fight in him.  But he could use some help. 

For starters, stop talking like geeks.  Talk in big themes, and by all means, criticize Republicans.  If you want to win, you need to not only give your argument but destroy your opponents’.  And don’t be afraid to put things in simple language.  This is not a debating society.  Talking points:


  • Health care is already controlled by a massive bureaucracy.  it’s called the insurance industry.  Which seems to be what the GOP is beholden to.
  • Meanwhile, Medicare, a public option plan, has worked great for 50 years.
  • The U.S. has some of the worst health outcomes of industrialized nations and the highest costs.  The GOP points to France.  Well, they’ve got some of the best outcomes, there is no wait, and it costs less than U.S. healthcare.   Pass the french fries, please.
  • A public option will help small businesses, most of which can’t afford health insurance for their employees.  Why does the GOP think it’s more important to help businesses avoid healthcare than it is to ensure healthcare  for its citizens?


  • The top 1-2% of the population had massive tax cuts in the last decade, while the middle class and below sent their children to war that they rich would not pay for.  It’s time to be fiscally and morally responsible.
  • A tax increase of a couple of percentage points on the rich would still put them below levels of taxation during the Reagan administration.  Is he the GOP’s gold standard?
  • Over 98% of small businesses would not be impacted by higher taxes on the wealthy.
  • Democrats are taking responsibility for paying for better healthcare, a cleaner environment and a stronger military.  The GOP wants our grandchildren to pay for everything.

The Party of No

  • Why is it that the GOP, whether it’s war or the economy or healthcare, their answer is always fear?  Fear of what might happen.  Democrats act as Americans have always acted – with boldness, confidence and commitment to make things better.
  • The GOP was against social security, against Medicare and Medicaid, against civil rights, against unemployment insurance.  Historically, the GOP is defined by what it opposes and never offers an alternative. 
  • We want to include Republican ideas.  There are dozens of them in the healthcare bill, for example. 
  • Republicans seem to think “bipartisan” means we put out our ideas and they put out theirs…and then we do it their way.  No, Republicans did enough of “my way or the highway” when they were in power.    We have been more bipartisan in a few months than Republicans were in 8 years.  We’re serious about solutions.  Republicans are serious about politics.


  • Cap and trade is a responsible way of ensuring a cleaner future.  The GOP thinks Big Oil is the answer because that’s who pays their bills.
  • Does anyone really think that gas will never rise to $4 a gallon again?  It is likely to rise to $10 a gallon by 2020. 
  • The wind and sun are free.  Let’s harness them.  American ingenuity is up to the challenge.  Why don’t Republicans trust Americans to solve big problems?
  • It is a sin how we are destroying God’s earth.  We have a moral responsibility to tend to it, to protect it and to leave it vibrant and lush for generations to come.
  • American parents have made sacrifices for two centuries to give their children a better future.  Investing in a future where our children won’t worry about a polluted environment and unaffordable energy is a legacy Americans want to leave.


  • (Here pretty much you can say the same thing to whatever criticism they have of the economy.)  When many people we thinking we might fall into a depression, what was the Republican solution.  Oh yeah, it was “do nothing.”
  • From day one, we knew – and said – the economic turnaround would take time.  Meanwhile, the Republicans were saying “do nothing.”  Now they’re saying, we didn’t do something fast enough.  Democrats take a long view that Republicans are apparently incapable of.  We want the money to be spent wisely, so that we take on projects that will benefit our country in the long run.
  • We need to rebuild our economy in a way that rewards work, not moneychangers. 
  • We need to respect those who work for a living and not those who risk our money for their living.
  • Believe it or not, Republicans argue that we don’t need more regulations.  They just want to enforce the regulations we have.  Wasn’t that what they were supposed to be doing before the crisis?

That’s enough for a Friday afternoon. 

Dems Mum

From Political Wire’s update on the Ensign affair

Senate leaders generally refused comment on Sen. John Ensign’s (R-NV) admission that he paid nearly $100,000 to the family of his mistress but the Las Vegas Sun says GOP support for the embattled senator was dwindling.

If the shoe were on a Democrat’s foot, do you think the Repugnican leaders would refuse comment?

No, I didn’t think so.

No Shame

Don’t you just love it?  The Dems say nothing, allowing Sen. John Ensign to likely escape responsibility for his hypocrisy, while the Repugnicans try to make the poor cuckold the bad guy.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) on Thursday issued a blistering attack on Doug Hampton, the husband of Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) mistress, saying that he had provided false information about paying off Hampton after Ensign revealed he was having an affair with his wife.

“John Ensign hasn’t put me in a tough position at all,” said Coburn, a housemate of Ensign’s at a Capitol Hill home owned by a Christian fellowship. “The person that’s deceiving now is Doug. And you all need to go do the investigation now on that side of it and quit asking us and ask what’s the motivation here.”

Another example of the Repugnicans having the killer instinct and the Dems lacking it.

The Centrist Charade

In a predictable piece in The Washington Post this morning, there is this:

At its core, Obama’s domestic agenda is a liberal wish list of health care for all, tough new environmental regulations and government solutions to crises ranging from failing schools to faltering auto companies. But as the party’s ranks expanded in 2006 and 2008, its center of gravity shifted to the middle. And the key to a durable majority, White House officials and party leaders agree, is adapting old policy goals to new political realities. [emphasis added]

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), a member of the Democratic leadership, said the party is coalescing as an amalgam of "activist centrists" who think government has a role in solving problems but are more pragmatic than ideological. "I think that’s where the president is, and that’s where we are," he said. "When you win red states, strange things happen." [emphasis added]

I guess the implication is that since Democrats won, it is because they attracted “centrist” or “moderate” voters.  Thus, they must govern not by the demands of their base, but by the whims of the centrists, without whose support, the Dems couldn’t control government.

There are two faults with that thinking, as I see it. 

One, if that were true, then the same would hold for the GOPers.   If they won, it would be because they attracted moderate voters who would then demand that the Repugnican party would govern from the center.  Of course, that has not happened.  When they were in power, they moved hard in the direction of their base, except in financial policies, where they ignored responsibility so they could fund their war machine. 

Two, such “analysis” – and one of the authors of this article, Dan Balz, is famous for passing off conventional wisdom as analysis – demeans the public.  Could it be that the public’s view of what is acceptable has changed dramatically.  No matter how “progressive” or “liberal” Obama’s policies are described in polls, he has broad support for his goals.  While people are concerned about the growing deficit, few except the hard right think the stimulus package was wrong. In fact, many economists think it was too little and not focused enough on infrastructure spending projects.  Obama has broad support for financial re-regulation, and the public seems ahead of him on social issues, especially gay rights.

The new political realities may not be that people are looking for small, incremental change with a slight shift left.  I argue that “[w]hen you win red states” it reflects a strong move by the public in a new direction.  People aren’t looking for a long-term unemployment rate of 7%, a marked improvement over today’s rate.  They are looking for full employment again.  They aren’t looking for a couple of wrist slaps and a few regulations that simply increase paperwork on Wall St.  They are looking for a new structure that rewards steady, long-term investment.

Why is it that reporters aren’t willing to examine if indeed, what we are witnessing in a time of dramatic change in our lives is a dramatic shift in what Americans expect of their government?

Is Obama’s Capital Counterfeit?

At least that’s what Felix Salmon think.

How did Obama manage to spend all his political capital so quickly? Did it all go on the stimulus bill? Wasn’t the whole point of bringing Rahm in as chief of staff that he could work constructively with Congress to pass an ambitious agenda? And isn’t Obama himself the first president since JFK to have entered the White House from the Senate?

With Democrats, it may never have been real.

Are These People Democrats?

Even the headline on the AP story tonight looks like it might be a mistake:  “Obama, Dems Press Unified Message On Health Care.”  It’s not often we see Dems and “unified message” in the same paragraph, let alone in a headline.  But there it is.obama pelosi  Of course, before you get too excited, the lede includes the word “scrambled.”

“The White House scrambled to unify Democrats behind a single health care appeal Wednesday — lower costs, plenty of choice — amid concerns Republicans could scare votes away with images of a ghastly system run by bureaucrats.”

But there is hope.

“{President Obama] spoke to reporters after he and other Senate Democrats met with White House political adviser David Axelrod as the White House pressed to get the party behind a unified message on health legislatiaxelrod, davidon.

Senators emerged with agreement on emphasizing affordability and choice. The issue of coverage for the uninsured would be tied to affordability for all, as when uninsured people drive up costs when they go to emergency rooms for routine care.

‘This is an effort to coordinate our messaging so we present a health care reform effort that the American people trust,’ said Sen. Dick Dirbin, D-Ill., the No. 2 Senate Democrat.”

But wait! Did the Dems really think about coordinating their message all by themselves?  Was this a seminal moment when they realized that it helps if you don’t step on each other’s message?  Nah, we didn’t think so.

“Last week political strategist Frank Luntz gave Republicans detailed advice on how to attack the Democrats’ health plan, even though it doesn’t yet exist in anything approaching final form.

Luntz’s advice included the use of lines like "a committee of Washington bureaucrats will durbin dick establish the standard of care for all Americans."

Luntz’s memo to Republicans served as ‘an interesting catalyst for us,’ [Sen. Dick] Durbin said.”  (emphasis added)

Oh well, at least they got the message from Luntz’s message, which is:  plan, coordinate, execute.

(We’ll see how well they execute.)