Thursday, December 2, 2010

How the Democrats Blew The Tax "Debate"

So it has been a while since I have posted on here while my focus has been on getting the hockey site off the ground and because it had a more built in following from the start it took precedence.  Obviously since I last posted the elections happened and wow was that a bad result, but I will come back to that and what really happened another time along with how the Democrats, specifically the White House, do not seem to be grasping the actual lessons they were taught a month ago.  For today the focus is on specific screw up it appears the Democrats and that White House are about to make on the tax issue.

In 2008 when Barack Obama was running for the presidency he would classify the Bush tax cuts as fiscally reckless, along with looking out for millionaires and billionaires instead of the middle class.  This argument was still be espoused by the President in a speech in Cleveland three months ago and to some extent in interviews since.  The difference is that now the White House apparently is willing to cut a deal on the tax cuts even though they have publicly said it is a 700 billion dollar giveaway to the top 2% of the population that will not improve the job situation or the economy, but this time it was he would not threaten to veto their extension.  Today the news is that it appears the deal is being cut to possibly extend them for an interim period of two years in the most likely scenario.  So what in the facts changed about their viability that now they have the upper hand while the middle class tax cuts which actually do boost the economy are being held hostage?  The true answer is nothing other than the resolve and spine of the Democrats writ large and the White House.

Public polling is on the side of the Democrats on the issue for once in a tax debate as the majority is for extending the middle class tax cuts and an overwhelming majority is against extending the tax breaks for the wealthy and yet here we are.  If the Democrats had been smart they would have trotted out the vote they had in the House of Representatives today two months ago and made every Republican office holder have an up or down vote on whether to stand with the middle class or not.  Imagine the theater that would have been watching the tea partiers and supposed populist GOP candidates having to explain that they could not stand with the middle class for their tax cut unless the rich “wall-street” types got theirs too.  The problem was the Democrats had jelly instead of steel in their spine and they punted afraid that any tax talk would be good for Republicans instead of actually making the voters see the differences in the two parties. 

The simple fact is Democrats will NEVER beat Republicans in a sound bite war on any issue because the GOP is just better at it.  Republicans are the best at the sound bites because they keep it simple and go for the old it must fit on a bumper sticker rule while Democrats sit there and try to explain everything.  Look no further than the leaders for the Democrats against the leaders elected and unelected for the GOP.  Obama on just about any and all issues will sit there and explain the facts expecting the audience to actually want to know the facts and find out the actual information while Republicans will sit there and simply say, “TAXES=BAD”.  Reality is facts do not matter in most of these debates until you make someone vote and force them to do the right thing or use it against them. 

The first rule for politicians is not about making the best policy or creating jobs, rather it is about focusing on sustaining one job; theirs.  The lesson to be learned here and over the last two years is that being a politician in Washington these days is not about policy at all, it is solely about politics and until the President learns that having the facts in a policy argument is never going to win against these opponents and learns to play the political games he decries so often he is going to continue to get tattooed while caving to the opposition and trying to spin it into victory.  Any extension of the Bush tax cuts is a loss for the country and the debt and there is no way to spin that, especially when the very next day the people who will get more free money for the rich will then complain about doing anything the Democrats want that is not paid for using the debt and deficit as their crutch.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Back To The Front Lines of Campaigning: Vote Row E New York

In January of 2007 I walked into the Working Families Party office at 2-4 Nevins Street not fully sure of what I was getting myself in to or what the job I was applying for really meant I would be doing.  For the following seven months I would get the best first hand understanding of how an organization can mobilize people through their organization and the passion of it's workers into creating real social change.  I wish everyone even if for only one day could experience what it is like to walk in the office knowing that they will see the other side of what it means to be truly involved in our democracy and help to organize those in their communities.

When people think of the democratic process the first thing and for many the only thing they think of and is required of them is to go vote on election day.  For me there are many very sad parts of that statement in that even with that mentality more than half of the registered voters in this country do not even fulfill that right which so many before them have fought for them to be able to exercise.  The other part that saddens me is that many think once they exercise their right to vote on Election Day that their requirements as a citizen of this republic are fulfilled until the next time elections come around.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Who we elect certainly plays a role in the policies that we see in our daily lives, but it is in the action of holding the politicians we send to the state county office, the state house, or Washington D.C. that we can have the most impact on the policies that are passed.  My first experience with WFP was an election campaign and I believe a canvass operation was in the field for 34 of the 35 days leading up to the election to inform voters of the choices in the election, allow them to ask questions so they could make informed decisions and most importantly encourage them to vote and be a part of the process.  Seems like a normal thing for most to pay attention at least in the last couple weeks of an election cycle but in that case it was a special election in January on Long Island where the expected turnout was only expected to be 10-15%.

When that election was over there was no consideration that the fight and the work for social change was at all finished but in the results of the election all of us were more driven to enact it in what many deem the "offseason" of the political process.  In the weeks that followed the work stopped being about a particular candidate and shifted into a letter and phone campaign about budget cuts to health care that the new governor was proposing in his first budget.  This is the real work of democracy.  You elect representatives in this case having just been sworn into office a month prior and then you see the proposals on the table and you hold them accountable to the desires of their constituents by getting the constituents organized in a united voice.

If in this economy you believe in things like the right to a higher minimum wage, affordable housing, transparent government, green jobs, a living wage, paid family leave, and of course universal affordable health care then on November 2nd in NYC you will vote Row E to help the Working Families Party hold your politicians accountable.  Since I believe in all of those things today I go back to the front lines of organizing and seek to help others understand those things and make that same choice in the midterm elections this year.  All the talk in the mainstream media is about the enthusiasm gap and how the passion rests on the conservative side of the aisle.  I dare all those in the media to walk into a WFP canvass operation because when they walk out they will think much differently.

In 2008 Barack Obama ran his campaign on the idea that one voice could change a room and that the accumulation of those voices could eventually in the domino effect change the world.  I am a believer to that in the abstract, but what I know even more is that every person I see when I walk in that WFP office this morning will do their part today to help change the world of someone they talk to today about exercising their rights as an informed voter come November 2nd, 2010 and even more they will still be doing it on November 3rd when the cameras stop paying attention at the local levels.

And now a message from Matt Damon:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Republicans Admit There Shall Be No Compromise

For anyone that doubted the conclusions I had drawn last week when I said that if the Republicans were rewarded for the “just say no/take your ball and go home” tactics of the last two years, Mike Pence has erased any of those doubts now.  On Friday, The Hill’s Michael O’brien released an article laying out the GOP game plan post elections titled, “GOP says compromise not on the agenda if they retake the House.”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Congressman In A Conservative District Shows Democrats The Right Way

Tom Perriello Shows Democrats How To Fight on Donations
Perriello closing Statement 10-19-10 debate Promoting Progressive Principles.

The videos above is exactly what I was talking about the other day when I said that Democrats needed to show their voters that they are proud of their beliefs and values instead of running and hiding just trying to survive and save their jobs.  Perriello is from the conservative leaning 5th district of Virginia and won a close race back in 2008 and many would have "understood" or at least excused it if in trying to get re-elected he did what so many other Democrats have done in this cycle; distancing themselves from their votes and the principles of the party under whom they are on the ballot.  This is not Tom Perriello's way.  He has gone the opposite way and pushed even harder to espouse and explain the progressive values in the face of the long odds in his district.  Whether he wins or not will not be the measure of the character of Tom Perriello because in victory or defeat he gave his constituents an honest campaign and a real choice on Election Day, which is more than many of his colleagues can say.  This is leadership and we need more of it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Look at the Senate Picture

In looking at the races in the US Senate we must in some ways understand where we have been to see where we currently are.  Twelve months ago the assumption was that the Democrats even in a bad environment were going to be a lock to hold on to a majority in the Senate.  A few months ago and even as shortly as a few weeks ago it started to seem as if the Republicans had a real shot at taking control away.  I say taking control away, in terms of the majority, since we have all seen that in reality they have had control of the Senate already by imposing the filibuster proof margins to do anything. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Enthusiasm Gap: Who Is Responsible for It

One of the buzz phrases for the midterms has been “enthusiasm gap” and the talk of how the Republicans are so energized this year while the Democrats are rather indifferent.  First I am not willing to concede the point that the gap exists, but what I will say is that the Republicans/Tea Party supporters certainly appear to be more vocal about it.  What I will look at today is not if the gap exists, but analyze why it might and the responsibilities of the different parties if does.  In doing that I am going to look at the voter, the media and the politicians themselves to see what role they play in ability for an enthusiasm gap to exist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mainstream Thinking Clouds Reality For Midterm Elections

Here we sit 13 days until the 2010 midterm elections and all across the mainstream media all I see is how the Democrats are about to get rolled by the Republicans/Tea Party candidates.  It may very well happen and to some extent it always happens that the midterms mean losses for the President’s party, but certainly not to the extent that some are projecting.  The talking points are that the losses will be because of: the economy; a distaste for big government; fear of the deficit/national debt; high taxes; health care reform; the need for divided government are the main drivers of the backlash against Democrats and Obama.