Monday Reads: Out with the Old or a Change is Gonna ComePosted: December 10, 2018
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I want to start off with the one change that is coming that will hopefully bring some fresh air to desperate circumstances. There’s a whole lot of diversity coming to the House of Representatives and there’s a whole lot of trash being sent back to the states from which it came. Let’s start with the Granny Starver who enabled a huge, historic deficit while preaching austerity. Austerity is for grannies and not real estate and finance high rollers. Bye Bye Paulie Boy! Just remember: Proportion of Democrats who are white men will drop from 41% to 38% while Republican figure will climb from 86% to 90%” These dudes will finally be the minority they are.
Change is gonna come. I can see it in the bright pages of places hidden from corporate media.
Ryan’s defenders portray him as a principled legislator trapped by the coalition he managed.
“Donald Trump was president of the United States, and that circumscribed Paul Ryan’s choices,” says Brooks. “You can dispute what he did, but he got as much of the loaf as he thought he could get given the factions of his caucus and Trump’s peculiarities. Did he like being speaker of the House? The results speak for themselves: He’s leaving.”
In this telling, Ryan’s principled vision was foiled by Trump’s ascendancy. Faced with a Republican president he had never expected, and managing a restive majority that mostly agreed on being disagreeable, Ryan defaulted to the lowest common denominator of Republican Party policy: unpaid-for tax cuts for the rich, increases in defense spending, and failed attempts to repeal Obamacare.
This is more or less the defense Ryan has offered of his tenure. “I think some people would like me to start a civil war in our party and achieve nothing,” he told the New York Times. Trump had no appetite for cutting entitlements, so Ryan got what he could, and he got out.
But would it have started a civil war in the Republican Party if the most publicly anti-deficit politician of his generation had simply refused to pass laws that increased the deficit? And even if it had, isn’t that the war Ryan had promised?
The question here is not why Ryan didn’t live up to a liberal philosophy of government; it’s why he didn’t live up to his own philosophy of government.
What’s more, Trump was clearly flexible when it came to policy. On the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he wouldn’t cut Medicaid; as president, he endorsed legislation Ryan wrote that did exactly that. After winning the election, Trump promised he’d replace Obamacare with a plan that offered “insurance for everybody” with “much lower deductibles,” but he ultimately backed Ryan’s bill to take Obamacare away from millions and push the system toward higher-deductible plans. For Ryan to claim he was not driving the policy agenda in the Trump years is ridiculous.
Ryan proved himself and his party to be exactly what the critics said: monomaniacally focused on taking health insurance from the poor, cutting taxes for the rich, and spending more on the Pentagon. And he proved that Republicans were willing to betray their promises and, in their embrace of Trump, violate basic decency to achieve those goals.
Just as we’re about to see the start of a promise of a legislative body that has the look and feel of America we see the media trying to push us right back into that old corner. Andrew O’Hehir asks a brilliant question today in Slate: “First wave of 2020 panic: Is Biden vs. Bernie really the best Democrats can do? After the sweeping, female-fueled victories of the midterms, a battle of old white dudes could spell disaster.” Why won’t they just go away?
In case you thought the Democrats’ big win in the midterms — a pickup of 40 House seats, and counting — meant that the weirdness and bitterness of the 2016 primary was behind us, and that the party is ready to come together and banish the Twitter-troll-in-chief to the doghouse (or to prison) two years hence, you have a number of other thinks coming. Consider this: The leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, by far, are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Speaking as a friend, kind of: That should be avoided at all costs. It’s a tragicomic farce waiting to happen, one that threatens to undermine much of what the Democrats have apparently accomplished over the last two years. Both of them are profoundly decent men who have done a lot for this country. But, just, please no.
But right now we’ve got Joe and Bernie, who both look extremely likely to run and could easily end up as the principal antagonists. What in hell did we do to deserve this? I take no position on which of them is most likely to win, or even which of them should win — as Bill Moyers told me years ago, those are always the least interesting questions in politics. I do know that this could be disastrous for the Democratic Party, and not just because it opens the door for the re-election of What’s His Name. (Although that too.)
A Sanders-Biden throwdown would rip the scabs off old wounds, inflame entrenched divisions and cast the party in the worst possible light, making clear on a bunch of levels that it doesn’t know who it represents or what principles it stands for. At a moment when Democrats finally seem to be moving toward the future, this would make them appear stuck in the past.
I suspect that many political pros in and around the party feel similarly, which is why they keep trying to construct alternate scenarios that will make this one go away. So we have had the Oprah Winfrey boomlet (do you remember it fondly?), the Kirsten Gillibrand ponder, the Michael Avenatti moment, the Michael Bloomberg trial balloon, the Elizabeth Warren mini-wave and most recently Betomania, in which a guy who lost a Senate race in Texas has abruptly been inflated into the latest liberal dreamboat messiah.
Maybe lover-man Beto or one of those other people I mentioned will be elected president two years from now, and we’ll all look back and say, Of course! We should have seen it coming. But also maybe not. At the moment, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are starting out amid a crowded field of unknowns and semi-knowns, with huge advantages in terms of name recognition, fundraising ability and being generally liked more than the incumbent. (Which is admittedly not difficult.)
I think those two face a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma: It would be better for the country, arguably, if both of them concluded they’d had their shots and run their races and done their part, and it was time to let a scrum of younger Democrats fight it out, with unpredictable results. But if only one of them runs, he becomes the prohibitive favorite and a central focus of media attention — and each has concluded that he’ll be damned if he lets the other guy be the hero who un-Trumps America. So we lurch toward a battle of the dinosaurs that’s a bad idea to start with, and likely to get worse.
I love the snark in this piece but really, do we have to do the least sensible thing to excite the country to the polls? Haven’t we learned anything?
Politico covered some of the new Congress Critters right after Thanksgiving and I have a hankering to see something different heading off to Iowa and New Hampshire. And, I want some action now before we face another presidential campaign season filled with MAGA Hatefests. Can we just let these folks do something first? And there’s a hell of a lot of them which begs the question why the focus on the new woman from NYC? There’s plenty more that are headed east from other parts of the country.
Colin Allred: A former NFL linebacker and civil rights attorney, Allred knocked off GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, an entrenched North Texas incumbent. But Allred says there’s a lot more behind his congressional victory than just a flashy professional football résumé. “The impression that people have gotten, I think, around the country is that I was elected because I was a football player. And that’s not it,” he said. “Football is an icebreaker… but the other things that I’ve done and the story that I have growing up in North Texas is really what resonated.”
Allred told POLITICO his goal in Congress is to continue to be a moderate voice in the Democratic Caucus, even as he senses some liberal colleagues are trying to pull the group further to the left. “All of us who come from the red-to-blue districts, we are the closest to where the American people are,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that our new members coming from safer districts and the members that are already there understand why we have the majority.”
See, there’s some life in Democrats from all over the country. Why focus on the old white dudes from Maryland and Vermont and the outspoken lady from Queens Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who reminds my republican friends of a Democratic Sarah Palin which is not a really good thing? I mean my cousins from Kansas City sent a nice Lesbian Native American Rep-elect Sharice Davids. Can’t we all do better?
Davids will be part of a record number of women and a historic number of female candidates of color elected to Congress. “The time for people to not be heard and not be seen and not be listened to or represented well changes now,” she saidon election night.
So far we see some movement from other Dems, but today’s headlines focused on Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has the core of her 2020 team in place if she runs for president. She has the seed money — there’s $12.5 million ready to go, left over from her recent Senate run — and a massive email list she’s amassed over years, boosted by a $3.3 million investment in digital infrastructure and advertising in the last election alone. Her aides have been quietly shopping for presidential campaign headquarters space in the Boston area in recent weeks, according to a source with knowledge of the move.
All that’s left is for her to give the green light.
I’m not sure she’s got what it takes either but again, why not focus what these folks that are coming in can do now? Politico has named “19 to watch” in 2019.
NEW … THE PLAYBOOK POWER LIST — “19 TO WATCH IN 2019” is up. This list features politicians, activists and operatives across the country who are positioned to play a critical role in the political landscape leading up to 2020. From the new generation reshaping the Democratic Party to the behind-the-scenes players who keep Congress moving and those with their eyes on the presidential election, these are the people to watch over the next 12 months. The full list
THE LIST (in alphabetical order): Jarrod Agen … Aimee Allison … Anne Caprara … Saikat Chakrabarti … Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) … Justin Clark … Gary Coby … Michael Dreeben … Lauren Fine … Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) … Lisa Goeas … Drew Hammill … Patti Harris … Tish James … Brendon Plack … Angela Ramirez … Juan Rodriguez … Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) … Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)
But what’s the agenda? Julie Wittes Schlack from NBUR believes the focus should be on legislation.
In contrast to the early and deep partisan divide in the country over health care, there is already a good deal of public agreement over some of the most crucial challenges facing us. A majority of Americans across political parties think that big money has too big an influence in government, and wants to see both greater transparency and constraints on campaign spending. A majority of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage and implementing some common-sense gun control. And though only 50 percent of Republicans believe that global warming is real (versus 90 percent of Democrats), the fact is that Americans who recognize the dangerous reality of climate change outnumber those who don’t by a ratio of 5:1.
Those four issues — voting rights and ethical leadership, a higher minimum wage, gun control and serious, radical measures to fight climate change — should comprise the muse and the mandate for the House for the next two years.
With HR1, their first planned bill of the year, the Democrats are off to a good start. This legislation calls for greater public funding of campaigns (making them more feasible for candidates who lack or don’t wish to take money from wealthy or corporate donors), requires super PACs and “dark money” organizations to reveal their contributors, requires the president to disclose his or her tax returns, strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, and most importantly, restores the Voting Rights Act and creates a new, automatic voter registration system. Will it pass in its entirety? Of course not; probably not even in pieces. But if the loud, clear, undistracted battle leads voters to question why Republicans oppose it, that may be enough to force some candidates to have an ACA-like change of heart or be voted out of office.
The Green New Deal — an audacious proposal to rapidly cut carbon emissions and move the U.S. to 100 percent reliance on clean energy in 10 years and guarantee every American a job building a sustainable food and energy infrastructure — is equally unlikely to win passage in anything resembling its current (still embryonic) form. But if educating the public and agitating for its passage succeeds only in putting the climate change deniers and fossil fuel profiteers on the defensive, that will at least create the conditions in 2020 for the kind of radical, urgent action we need to save jobs, homes, lives and, ultimately, the planet.
More suggestions at the link.
I have two notable international events to end with today. First is the Nobel Peace Prize. Both Winners came to prominence seeking justice for war rape victims Please read their compelling stories.
Denis Mukwege, a doctor who helps victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State, are joint winners
Then, there is this news.
We also lost a woman who was a human Rights activist in Russia which is also not an easy place to extol Human Rights. “The extraordinary life of Lyudmila Alexeyeva. Meduza remembers a Russian human rights icon.”
The “Strategy 31” movement in 2009 belonged to Limonov’s National Bolsheviks. That year, on the 31st day of any month with so many days, a crowd of journalists would burst from the Mayakovsky subway station and descend on Triumfalnaya Square to watch the same spectacle unfold: protesters gathered to honor the Russian Constitution’s 31st article (which guarantees freedom of assembly), with some dragged into police vans, while officers shouted into megaphones: “Disperse! This is an unlawful assembly.” It was especially amusing to watch passersby, running late for a play at the next-door Moscow Satire Theater, completely perplexed by what was happening. Some of the least patient of these theatergoers also ended up in police vans.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, “For Human Rights” head Lev Ponomarev, and several other activists then formed a temporary and enormously fragile union with Eduard Limonov, the leader of “Other Russia.” At first, they simply provided assistance to detained demonstrators, but on December 31, 2009, Alexeyeva attended the meeting in person, dressed self-deprecatingly as Snegurochka (the mythological character commonly depicted as the granddaughter and helper of Old Man Frost, whose cultural role in Russia is similar to Santa Claus in the West). She was detained and shockingly manhandled by police. “They’ll probably charge me with swearing at them,” she told me in a call that night (this time from a mobile phone), citing the grounds most often used back then to detain demonstrators. Despite the holiday celebrations, the police released Alexeyeva with blinding speed, just as the outcry from state officials around the world started pouring in.
The falling out with Limonov didn’t take long. As always, Alexeyeva and the other human rights activists sought compromises and common ground with the authorities, and eventually they found some. The “31” rallies starting winning permits, but this approach didn’t appeal to the National Bolsheviks, and so they parted ways.
So, I guess there are some inspirational stories out there that have nothing to do with Bernie or Biden. Let’s aspire to make all these voices count in 2019. Out with the old white dudes. In with the rest of us.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?