Gaius Publius: Are Democratic Leaders Already “Tea Partying” The Progressives?

Yves here. It’s good to see Gaius Publius, a regular fixture at AmericaBlog, now writing at Down with Tyranny, Howie Klein’s blog. Among other things, Howie helped raise funds for a 2010 MMT conference. As Lambert says, “He’s one of the good guys.”

There’s one small sour note in this otherwise fine piece, that of calling Elizabeth Warren a progressive. The fact that Gaius feels compelled to include her speaks to the dearth of individuals who can be accurately described as progressive in roles of any prominence in the Democratic party.

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and contributing editor at AmericaBlog. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook. Cross posted from DownWithTryanny

As documented frequently by Howie Klein and others, Steve Israel, the DCCC, and to a lesser extent the DSCC, have been disasters for the Democratic Party, if “success” means “taking or keeping control of Congress” and “disaster” means “failing to try to do that.” These Democratic train wrecks have been well document on these pages– for example, here and here. But click any link tagged “Steve Israel” or “DSCC” to get the gist.

You also know that corporate-aligned Democrats, including most party leaders and many who work with them, are more than eager to excoriate any progressives who dare to consider forcing neoliberal Dems out of office, especially if hurting neoliberals also hurts party chances in elections. Attacking the party from the left and attacking neoliberal rule of the party are cardinal sins, almost hanging offenses. The venom goes very deep.

The magic phrase, the one you hear the most, is “Ralph Nadar!” but excoriation comes in other flavors. Like: “Do you really want Romney to be president?!” Or: “The one thing that would make me vote for Hillary Clinton … Jeb Bush!” Or these days: “OMG, it will be your fault if we lose the Senate!” Always with the exclamation point. Always with the scorn, the flecks of virtual spittle, the virtual hair on fire.

The main idea — if there’s one bridge too far, it’s risking the party to gain an intra-party advantage. It’s intolerable, according to party leaders, to use Tea Party tactics against corporate Democrats. Which leads to the question in the title: Are Democratic Party leaders already “Tea Partying” progressives?

An Exercise In Taxonomy

Consider this an exercise in taxonomy, in naming and classifying things. In other words, is one thing like another? Not: Is this thing good or bad? Just: Are these two things alike?

1. We know what it means to “Tea Party” Republicans, what the term means. It means that one party faction, in this case Koch-funded “Tea Party” candidates, mounts a campaign to remove its party rivals from power … even at the cost of party success as measured by winning elections and controlling institutions like Congress.

The italicized part of the definition is important — in some circles this extreme tactic is a form of treachery, or at least bad manners. It’s widely thought, for example, that in 2006 AFP-led and -financed Tea Party candidates were created to take out or block non–Tea Party-funded candidates, even if they cost the party its chance to control the Senate.

There are many examples of this in recent Republican politics. It’s almost common wisdom that the Koch-led billionaire caucus is taking over the Republican Party (some call it a “merger and acquisition”), and one of its tools is, “We we are willing to cost the party elections — even whole houses of Congress — to expand our control of the party itself.” (Some Democrats are comforted by these gifts, but they shouldn’t be. When Koch control is secure, it’s full steam ahead for the newly-dominated “Republican” Party. I predict by 2015 the Kochs will be firmly in charge, fully ready to roll.)

So that’s point 1, the meaning of the phrase to “Tea Party” your rivals. It means hurting the party to defeat your enemies within it.

2. Progressives, or those among them who hate the corporatists, sometimes talk about “Tea Partying” the neoliberals who dominate Democratic Party policies. Alan Grayson, for example, explains at 2:15 in the video below how the Tea Party disciplines Republicans who “get out of line,” and how Democrats should do the same. But whenever progressives — in or out of the party, in or out of office — talk about how we should “punishing” Democrats, the counter-argument always becomes — Yes, but at what price? At the cost of losing elections? At the cost of losing the House? The Senate?

3. For progressives who are strongly aligned with the Democratic Party, risking party wins is a bridge too far. For some, again, it feels like treachery; for others, bad tactics, or at least, bad manners. On the other hand, progressives who are less aligned to the party — I, for example, have never been a Democrat — would consider a more “take no prisoners” approach, but this group is apparently smaller. As a result, progressives take it on the chin for the party as a whole, mostly all the time. When the party wins and progressives win, fine. When the party wins and progressives lose, too bad for progressives.

4. At the same time, despite the fact that Democrats are often good on what I call “identity” and “rights” issues — for example, abortion rights, LGBT issues, immigration reform, marijuana and incarceration reform — majorities of both parties seem to send the nation to war with eagerness; send money to the one-percent in “wheelbarrows” (as Stephanie Kelton phrased it); give blank checks to Pentagon, FBI and CIA spies and torturers; and adhere to the expanded Nixon doctrine — “If the president, or any of his lieutenants, bundlers, or wealthy friends, do it, it’s not illegal.”

So what’s a real progressive to do? Seriously, what does one do in these circumstances, with these constraints, the main one being, it’s “wrong,” according to Dem leaders, to Tea Party other Democrats?

Are Democratic Leaders Already “Tea Partying” The Progressives?

Which leads to point 5 in this examination, which is also where we started in the first couple of paragraphs:

5. Is it possible this “Tea Party” tactic — defeating party rivals at the cost of party success — is already being used against progressives by Democratic Party leadership? In other words, does the DCCC’s clear surrender of the House, and the risks to control of the Senate that Harry Reid and the DSCC are taking — all to prevent progressives from increasing their minimal power — amount to “Tea Partying” progressives? It seems so to me. As Howie Klein wrote recently about the DCCC surrender of the House:

Continued, unchallenged [Republican] control of the House became a foregone conclusion the day Nancy Pelosi reappointed a failed, incompetent, corrupt and vision-free Steve Israel to run the DCCC for another cycle. Its numerically impossible for the Democrats to win back the House under Israel guide lines of ignoring Republicans who were members of his Center Aisle Caucus and his decision to give free passes to all GOP Leaders and committee chairmen, even vulnerable ones from Obama districts like the contemptible Fred Upton (chairman, Energy and Commerce Committee) and John Kline (chairman, Education and Workforce Committee).

No, the Democrats have no shot whatsoever at winning back the House and if Steve Israel chairs the DCCC for a hundred years, Boehner and Boehner the II and III and IV will be Speaker for a hundred years. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi. For The DCCC it’s become an attempt to re-shape the Democratic House caucus into a more New Dem and Blue Dog tool– less progressive and more under the thumb of the corporatist Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Most of Steve Israel’s recruits are conservatives, maybe not as bad as his prized Sarah Palin of Ohio, but far more conservative than the average Democratic members currently– despite the walloping House conservadems were given by the Democratic base in 2010’s Great Blue Dog Apocalypse. …

My question isn’t, Is this thing good or bad, what House Dem leaders are doing? My question is, Is this parallel correct? It’s an intellectual exercise, no matter which side of the tactical fence you fall on. Is this thing like that thing, or not?

Is It Fair To “Tea Party” Those Who Are Tea Partying You?

Now for two follow-up questions. Is turn-about fair play? Is turn-about smart play?

This is a multi-sided issue with answers both ways. If you think (a) Democrats are a much lesser evil than Republicans, then continue to support corporate and neoliberal Democrats, where necessary, with my blessing (but frankly, not my thanks). If you think (b) both parties are playing a take-no-prisoners game against the everyone else — populists in the electorate, such as yourself and your friends; and Tea Party voters in the electorate, those not paid by Americans For Prosperity — then you might consider stronger action. In other words, if you think the game is a Left vs. Right conflict, you probably want to vote Left. But if you think the game is Rich vs. the Rest, you probably want to defeat the Rich, everywhere.

And if you’re in that second group and noticed that Steve Israel, the rest of his ilk, and the DSCC, are willing to surrender the House and the Senate to keep you out of power, would it really be … a bridge too far, a hanging offense, bad manners … to consider returning the favor? It would certainly mean accepting the rules of the game as the other side plays it, and it could mean a better chance of real progressive victories.

Your call on that. I just wanted you to notice the game as it’s played against you, and to name it for what it is. It’s called “Tea Partying the progressives” — losing elections to keep you at bay.

Which suggests an interesting thought. If a truly hard-core progressive — an Elizabeth Warren or Zephyr Teachout, say — were the party’s strongest presidential candidate, would corporate Democrats choose a lesser candidate anyway, one with a greater chance of losing, just to keep the White House in the hands of someone’s One-Percent candidate? Again, your call, but we may see that tested fairly soon.

P.S. I’ve often fantasized about the formation of an “Open Rebellion Caucus” among progressive office-holders in both houses of Congress — a group that says No and openly defies corporate Democratic leadership. I believe I’ve seen one forming in the House already. Next time I’ll give an example of a golden opportunity to form an Open Rebellion Caucus in the Senate, an opportunity that was not taken. Stay tuned.


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  1. John

    You are not alone. What goes on in the USA does not stay in the USA. Take Europe for example. We invented lots of things, including democracy and exported those ideas around the world. In recent years however our political landscape is looking very similar to the Americans. So called progressives, socialists, are a rare breed these days and have been sidelined in favor of chauvinistic hardliner, progressives, who are beholden to corporate interests.

    For example, here in Belgium our federal government was sworn in yesterday after 140-days of negotiating. During campaigning the Christian Democrats, so called progressives, promised there would be no change to the social security system. In fact, they campaigned on a status quo platform of no changes to anything. Well, bits and pieces of painful changes were being leaked. College tuition would double, parents would have to fork over more money for their K-12 kids school year, mortgage deductions would be cut in half, taxes would go up on some vices like wine, cigarettes and coffee. The most alarming news that dropped this week is full retirement eligibility for social security will be raised to 67-yrs, which has caused a great deal of concern. We can count on street demonstrations.

    Call it Belgium’s brand of austerity and we are merely catching up to everyone else. So, what is left out from the progressive mix of austerity? Ah, yes. Tax cuts. The progressives agreed on a major reduction on labor costs…. to the employer. Yep, employers get a tax cut while employees will continue to retain the highest tax burden for most advanced countries. To add insult to injury, our very progressive annual index, where annual salary raises across the boards to the inflation index, will be put on hold at the strong behest of the business community.

    There are other painful out-of-pocket items the progressives will pick out of us, but you get the drift. Corporate money is a plague in all so called democracies, not just the USA.

    1. Greg

      It is my recollection that democracy was bestowed on the serfs back in the 17th century because the banks were finding it difficult for the monarchs to pay their debts. Since they were loans made to the monarchy they were responsible for their repayment. It was therefore necessary to make the loans national and to do so made it necessary to provide the serfs a voice and therefore skin in the game. This nominal representative democracy transferred the debt to those who had the say to those who really didn’t.

  2. 21st Century Poet

    We can get caught-up in an endless maze of party politics and electoral games, or we could just admit the corporate capture of the entire political process, over most of the world, often by the same corporations, is near complete. We are in the middle of a world-wide corporate-led neoliberal restructuring that is killing poor people and doing significant damage to the so-called middle class, to say nothing of ecological systems that sustain human life – and many have argued, capitalism itself. In other words, the whole system is corrupt. Electoral politics cannot turn back this tide. When it comes down to it, I think people are too afraid to acknowledge this.

    Most politicians are tools of corporations and anyone left in politics with something approaching ethics has no power. I wholeheartedly agree with Yves: Elizabeth Warren is not a true progressive. Everything she offers and talks about is a “kinder, gentler, machine gun hand”, as a great rocker once said. Knock a few percentage points off of a school loan? A consumer protection bureau that lets those bastards continue to get away with murder? (Yes, i know, it wasn’t her fault. Like she didn’t know it would be watered down…). Voting for more money for israel? I would argue she is not a progressive at all – and she is most definitely not a “hard-core” progressive. It really doesn’t take much. Go back in history, find a real progressive, and just start checking the boxes. At this point, the classical political spectrum one would find in a political science textbook has been so distorted it is almost totally unrecognizable.

    It began just after the first salvo of the decades old right-wing war against – well, everyone but the rich. Just about the time the right began its propaganda campaign to make liberal a bad word. Of course those of us on the left already thought liberal was a bad word. And that actually gets us a little closer to where we began. The worldwide corporate takeover is really an extension of the class war that started around the election of reagan, and continued, unabated, through every president and congress to this day. If anyone is not following me, look at what happened to the European Greens. They were supposed to be a true left party and they ended up meek in the face of neoliberal corporate “reforms.” For decades all anyone had to do was utter the magic words, ” we have to stay competitive,” and voila! All parties with any power to speak of rolled over or “made concessions.”

    So, I know all of you finance people and wealthy (you think you’re not wealthy? ok, comfortable) people want a kinder gentler capitalism, but you are living in a dream world. Sure, you can point to the golden days of thriving capitalist states with a strong welfare system, but capitalism is a like a great white shark that has to continually move forward, or die. It must constantly devour to get the energy it needs to keep moving. It is an apex predator. The point is, capitalism cannot be constrained. It is now eating those former jewels of European civility. John just gave a perfect example. Many of those jewels are being pried out of their settings by the same forces of capital at work in the rest of the world. It is a scourge, and it happens to be a perfect expression of how capitalism works.

    The examples are endless. At the moment, the UK is being eviscerated at an unimaginable pace. They cannot privatize fast enough. And it is an ugly and vicious process. The most vulnerable are being killed and abused. And now they are swiftly giving the land under the houses to the frackers to have their way with. It is rape and pillage. And now, a la Bechtel in Boliva, the corporate hordes with their purchased politicians are descending on Ireland again (Ok, I shouldn’t say descending – because they live there, at least legally). They got at Irish water through IMF structural adjustment – literally! (look it up) and now comes the squeeze. The people are in the streets because they have been beaten down by the crisis (manufactured by finance), and austerity (also necessitated by finance and the politicians their money buys) and they cannot take it anymore.

    It goes on and on. The point is, whomever gets into a corrupt system will not stop it. If you want to insist on party politics at least talk about building up and putting forward some common sense socialists like Kshama Sawant (who, by the way, is someone who would look like a progressive democrat on any normal old political spectrum). But really let’s face facts, though many of us have a good understanding of what’s happening – and many even have a good analysis, we are scared of doing anything radical. If you’re not scared, you are too comfortable and you think your wealth will protect you. I can’t say it much more simply than that. Time for radical left politics. Don’t be afraid, in this 21st century dystopia, radical lefties are just old fashioned progressives.

    1. David Lentini

      Many excellent points. But I would differ somewhat on a couple of them.

      First, Reagan and Thatcher were the culmination of several decades of a quiet, relentless coup by the rich that began (in the U.S. at least) during the 1930s. Don’t forget that FDR and the New Deal were savaged by the wealthy, represented by the GOP, all through FDR’s terms even to point of several wealthy families approaching retired Marine Corp. General Smedly Butler—a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor—about leading a coup d’état. The law school at the University of Chicago during that time became a bastion of intellectual counterattack against A.A. Berle and the New Dealers. Much of the McCarthy witch hunts were to create an atmosphere of anti-left paranoid to unseat the Democrats, or at least limit their candidates to those acceptable to the rich, like Harry Truman over Henry Wallace, and remove leftist economics from the universities.

      Second, we can take back political power; it’s been done before many times. But as I mention below, we have to articulate a real moral vision of a better society, not just carp about our crappy economics or lack of freedom. We forget that a society dedicated to absolute personal freedom will become a tyranny very quickly. Personally, I think we need to return to the cause of democracy, which has been crushed for over a century now under the weight of greed and technocracy. If we put the case for democracy forward—and couch all of our goals in terms of their relationship to maintaining democracy—we’ll have the sort of agenda that captures peoples’ loyalty and commitment.

      1. Brindle

        If you substitute “neoliberal” for “fascist” and “monopolist” you get a pretty accurate take on the present. Vice President Henry A. Wallace in April 1944:

        —The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.—-

        —-Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.—-

      2. Dirk77

        A clear alternative is damn right. I think one element in it will be public funding of elections. But that will happen only when Buckley vs Valeo is overturned. I would like to think that happening without a complete collapse, but I don’t know.

      3. Greg

        We can also thanks the same group (Rockefeller, Morgan, Schiff, Warburg et all), for the creation of the AMA and big Pharm which was to control every aspect of the delivery of medical services to the US which is possibly twice or more what it costs to the rest of the world.

      4. James

        Second, we can take back political power; it’s been done before many times. But as I mention below, we have to articulate a real moral vision of a better society, not just carp about our crappy economics or lack of freedom. We forget that a society dedicated to absolute personal freedom will become a tyranny very quickly. Personally, I think we need to return to the cause of democracy, which has been crushed for over a century now under the weight of greed and technocracy. If we put the case for democracy forward—and couch all of our goals in terms of their relationship to maintaining democracy—we’ll have the sort of agenda that captures peoples’ loyalty and commitment.

        I’m skeptical. Taking back power been done many times? From whom and when as examples, especially as relates to our current circumstances? Regarding democracy, I’m not sure we can put forward a cogent moral vision at this point, never mind get a cohesive majority to support it, especially beyond the exigencies of a single election cycle. Moreover, I think the overriding issues we’re faced with are fundamentally irresolvable under a democratic system: overpopulation, resource depletion, environmental degradation/AGW, capitalist corruption, and American militarism.

        Imagine this third party candidate debate opening soliloquy: Folks, I ain’t gonna sugar coat for you. The world as you know it is rapidly coming to an end. The corporate capitalist, America uber alles system you’ve been supporting all these years and have likely greatly benefitted personally from is a complete sham. It has painted us into a corner from which their simply is no easy or palatable escape. Unless you and yours are part of the economic elite, the proverbial top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, your lives from here on out will be dramatically worse economically with every passing generation from here on out, and that’s assuming that you agree and vote for me and mine and we begin to affect meaningful change. Absent that, it’s likely to be much worse still! You’re so-called “military might” has been bought at the expense of the economic well-being of yours’ and the poor’s the world over, your so-called “superiority” is a cruel lie repeated merely to get your support, and your current “prosperity” has been debt leveraged at the expense of your children and children’s children who will never be able to conceivably repay it.

        But beyond that admittedly absurd hypothetical scenario, what exactly is an electable no-growth, downsizing, non-exceptionalist, anti-war platform, that would get broad support from the American electorate? And beyond that, who could possibly push something like that without getting shot in the first place? And absent all of that, what else is worth supporting anyway? And yes, we are in those kind of dire straits at this point.

        No, I’m not an optimist. But I definitely am a realist.

      5. Xelcho


        Many good points. In case you were looking for more information concerning these trends/history I suggest you read Democrats: a Critical History by Lance Selfa. He does a yeoman’s job of compiling a clear history of contempt for the people and a sink-hole for leftist radicals.

        The current conditions are so boring, meaning almost all the candidates are captured by the corporate structure that only a massive demonstration by votes will bring the focus back on the people. Seeing as the corporations are looking for control and the reps only get control e.g. power committees based upon seniority, of sorts, the easiest wrench to throw into the works is to get all incumbents out. The argument that newbies can’t get anything done has been dis-proven so many times that it has no ring, not even a hollow one. If this could be done on 2 consecutive voting cycles, the whole system would be on alert that there is no cover and that voters, not $ now are in control. What do you think?


    2. James

      It goes on and on. The point is, whomever gets into a corrupt system will not stop it.

      That’s the bottom line right there. Ever since Kennedy (at least), the message has been go along, or else! Obama provided the definitive answer for those of us who still didn’t get it before; the American political system has long since ceased being responsive to anyone other than the people who own it.

    3. abynormal

      the defeating psychology behind the Masters and their propagandist minions is based on pure FEAR…and FEAR breads IGNORANCE.
      case in point:
      + “I don’t cover economics regularly because it is not traditionally considered science.”
      + “we can say the field has developed something resembling scientific knowledge.”
      Alex Berezow Contributor
      I write about science, science policy and a dash of European affairs.

      Appreciate your post Poet.
      “The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ZAMM

      1. baldski

        Alex: How come you are such a fan of Mankiw? To me he was just a reichwing shill for dubious economics as practiced by Dubya. I would not use him as ammo against a Seattle socialist.

        Question: Why should a person be condemned to a life of abject poverty, just because they toil in a minimum wage job?

    4. Banger

      I think your last paragraph put the matter in clear perspective. The main issue on the left is fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of the future and, worst of all, fear or reality and realpolitik. There is no way around it and we pussyfoot around it here but it is staring us right in the face. Are we willing to put our asses on the line for what we believe? The answer is a resounding “no”! The politicians and the corporations who control them know this and thrive on it.

    5. drb48

      So what’s a real progressive to do? Seriously, what does one do in these circumstances, with these constraints, the main one being, it’s “wrong,” according to Dem leaders, to Tea Party other Democrats?

      Actually that’s not the main constraint, the main constraint is, as you say, that

      the whole system is corrupt. Electoral politics cannot turn back this tide.

      So, after a half century of hoping for some other outcome, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that a real progressive can do nothing. Voting in this system as it presently exists is for “real” progressives about as effective as voting in the former Soviet Union as none of the candidates presented represent my views. I probably won’t vote in November for the first time since I was old enough to vote 45 years ago. Whether some corporate Dem wins or a Republican wins, I still lose. And, because the Democrats and the Republicans make up the electoral rules, it’s virtually impossible for 3rd party candidates or independents to get on the ballot, to get elected if the do get on the ballot, or to have their voices heard if they manage to get elected since they have to caucus with one of the two major parties. Half the eligible voters don’t bother to show up already and I’ve come to agree with them. Voting isn’t going to deliver “change we can believe in”. At this point I don’t know what will.

      1. James

        Voting isn’t going to deliver “change we can believe in”. At this point I don’t know what will.

        Only the inevitable collapse. Embrace it.

      2. Ed Walker

        I’d suggest you vote against the incumbent, regardless of party. That way someone is being held accountable. I that that is the trust of GPs post.

        1. Spring Texan

          Voting against the incumbent automatically is simply stupid. Some incumbents are actually good and hard-working.

          1. TedWa

            That’s just a face they put on, when getting together with their “peers” once in office and in secret you are no longer their main concern – the will of TPTB are.

      3. Spring Texan

        you may be right not to vote in national elections where you are gerrymandered out of your votes mattering or have no one at all to vote for. However, much more attention needs to be paid to local elections, where you more often than not still have a vote and need to use it. City council, school boards, judges, etc. — you vote still matters there and you NEED TO VOTE even if you abstain from other elections.

        1. Spring Texan

          you may be right not to vote in national elections and some statewide elections where you are gerrymandered out of your votes mattering or have no one at all to vote for. However, much more attention needs to be paid to local elections, where you more often than not still have a vote and need to use it. City council, school boards, judges, etc. — your vote still matters there and you NEED TO VOTE even if you abstain from other elections.

          And while those votes may not deliver the “change” that would be overall and which we all want, they can make an ENORMOUS difference to thousands of people in things that really matter for their lives. It’s callous and irresponsible to ignore local elections (although, you may not have meant that you were going to ignore local elections, if so my apologies).

          1. drb48

            I take your point but right now I’m leaning in the direction of passing on the local elections as well, for a couple of reasons – 1) I don’t know anything about a lot of the people on the ballot and 2) the ones I do know something about fall into two broad categories – gadflys/eccentrics with no obvious qualification for public office and members of/people with close ties to the local business community/establishment whose desire for public office seems focused on making sure that they and/or their cronies interests are protected. Can’t find a lot of motivation to care which of those gets elected.

    6. Ulysses

      “Time for radical left politics. Don’t be afraid, in this 21st century dystopia, radical lefties are just old fashioned progressives.” Yes!! Things won’t start getting better until someone like Prof. Cornel West is considered “centrist,” with many people proudly to his left!

  3. ArkansasAngie

    What the heck … I will bite.
    I am a fiscal conservative, social liberal. I call myself a progressive libertarian.
    I will personally vote against all incumbents. In Arkansas I will vote against Mark Pryor and vote for Mike Ross.
    I believe “they” use wedge issue to keep folks from being able to form coalitions to defeat TPTB.
    So … No more wedgies.
    If you avoid/ignore abortion, sex and religion I believe you might be surprised by what you have in common with other people.
    The next time you meet a “tea partier” … ask him what he thinks about “are corporations people”. I bet he says no.

    1. David Lentini

      I’ve found this very true here in Maine in my work to stop that great neo-liberal, corporatist Democrat education reform known as “Common Core”. The real (as opposed to Koch-funded) TP’ers quickly pick up on the corporate angle to this disaster and see how the government, regardless of the controlling party, has joined with corporate America to destroy public institutions. On the flip side, my D friends reflect the story here, swallowing the party’s hooey hook, line, and sinker. They won’t touch any issue that would run against Obama’s policies. Their argument is either fear of Republican victory or disbelief that the Democrats could do such things.

      I think many real TP’ers have realized they’ve been the useful idiots of corporate America and the bankers and are more wary of corporate-government collusion. The so-called “Progressives” haven’t clued in yet.

    2. jrs

      The voting against incumbents, if we add some caveats, strikes me as a better strategy than the LOTE strategy that’s continually agonized about (to LOTE or not to LOTE – as if the whole strategy wasn’t lousy either way). Those caveats are: I don’t think it’ makes any sense to vote against an incumbent with a good voting record just because they happen to be an incumbent. However given the current state of politics this is likely to be a non-issue, as finding someone with a consistently not even perfect but merely non-horrible voting record is nearly impossible!!! Sure some people might be good on some issues and then they’ll be horrible on others. So what if we kept voting them down again and again until they run someone decent … of course I still think it would hit the money in politics wall eventually.

      I’m not sure that everyone is going to find out they have a lot in common with everyone else politically. I think the fundamental riffs are 1) authoritarianism, I don’t think everyone in the Tea Party is authoritarian, I get the feeling it leans in that direction but it could still be called a bit of a mixed bag. But when you start finding people defending cop violence and stuff I don’t think there really is that much common cause 2) economics There’s definitely parts of the right most interested in defending the existing system and existing privilege and wealth. We’re told this is the working class acting against there own interest, but I think this is people who while not necessarily in the 1% actually do pretty well for themselves economically (more than mere middle class and above mean salaries). So I’m not sure their views ever will be altered. But I do think coalitions can be formed on any issue. If the issue is foreign wars, or cop violence or whatever. But what these coalitions can do that would have a chance of working I’m not sure. Protest wars, write their congress people etc., but does any of it really work?

      1. ex-PFC Chuck


        Can you spell out the acronym, at least the first time through? Some of us readers don’t know them all. Thanks.

        1. Paul Niemi

          It means “Lesser of two evils.” I am going to vote against the incumbents, all the way down the ballot, as opposed to LOTE. We must restore accountability and responsiveness in our elected representatives, and the way to do it is to un-elect them. We are at this juncture, because they have not been doing their jobs, rather doing everything else to fit into the structured hierarchies that are running the show.

        2. Doug Terpstra

          LOTE should read LOTW = Lesser of Two Weevils, because that’s all you get under this collective hallucination we call democracy. The rank hypocrisy and treacherous Machiavellian deceit of criminals like Obama and AIPAC toadies like former Repub Warren should disabuse any sentient person of the Democratic Party as a lesser evil. It is a far more effective evil (Glen Ford) thru stealth and treachery, and quite incapable of reform from within. Pick one one two weevils or vote third party … or do something more productive and useful with your time.

          This post is worthwhile for those who haven’t quite grasped, after six years, how hopeless Obama has rendered the DP, but it’s ultimately academic, when only weevils can pass the corporate/AIPAC filters to office.

      2. sleepy

        At the same time, despite the fact that Democrats are often good on what I call “identity” and “rights” issues — for example, abortion rights, LGBT issues, immigration reform, marijuana and incarceration reform

        Some dems are supportive of those issues, though Obama’s actions particularly through his DOJ have been tepid at best. What professional dems are great at is messaging more than action.

        Beyond that, what most gays got from Obama–to use an example of one group–is Obamacare, austerity, declining wages, endless war, authoritarianism, and universal surveillance.

    3. trish

      “fiscal conservative…progressive libertarian.”

      So what’s the progressive part? Pro-private charities for the growing poor? Encouraging entrepreneurship in the poor communities (see baffler link today)? Or is it the easy identity issues of some social liberals, those ones that don’t really threaten economic interests? Or is it just “big government” that’s the problem (not the co-option of govt by the corporations etc)?

      1. ArkansasAngie

        Well … I have started a 501c3 recently — Soldier ON service Dogs, Inc. My son-in-law was blown up in Afghanistan last year. He now has TBI and PTSD. Make a donation on our web site :P

        I do believe in entrepreneurial efforts. I am an angel investor. I am a small business owner with employees.

        I believe in helping people on one hand … but … have been around the block enough times with Alcoholics and addicts to know what enabling means and think 49% of folks receiving government money will not end well.

        And … and … honestly … I don’t care what your race,creed,marital status etc is.

        I do care about ZIRP.

        I do care about bailouts.

        My answer to “it wasn’t specifically illegal at the time” defenses is … horse manure. I know fraud when I see it.

        1. rur42

          Which 49 percent? That’s an awfully broad brush.

          Any of the defense budget in that 49% — contractors, arms builders etc… any corporate subsidies? Farm subsidies? Foreign aid, eg to Israel? How about PTSD benefits? Social security, and so on.

          49% strikes me as code to crack down on so-called welfare parasites, while leaving corporate welfare and farm welfare and Bundy-type welfare & defense contractor welfare firmly in place.

      2. jrs

        I’m not sure it’s not big government that is the problem, as the U.S. is one of the biggest governments in the world (not per-capita I just mean in overall expenditures). Now obviously it doesn’t have the most generous government social services in the world or anything. But if you include the military budget …

  4. jrs

    You’ll probably find some who vote somewhat progressive on many issues in the House but they don’t have Elizabeth Warren’s name recognition, they also may be in places too solidly blue to even be contested. However the thing is they’re more likely to be warmongers than not (like Warren) voting for endless war every chance they get. So there is that …. And I suspect that has long been so, I think candidates in the past who meet progressive views on that are mostly a fairly tale.

    As for this:
    “Which suggests an interesting thought. If a truly hard-core progressive [sic] — an Elizabeth Warren or Zephyr Teachout, say — were the party’s strongest presidential candidate, would corporate Democrats choose a lesser candidate anyway, one with a greater chance of losing, just to keep the White House in the hands of someone’s One-Percent candidate? Again, your call, but we may see that tested fairly soon.”

    Does it matter? Really does it matter at all? When you get to that level of power? I think this gets the mechanisms by which a progressive candidate would be a non-starter entirely wrong. If someone wasn’t willing to do the billing of those with money to buy presidential candidates (including the banks etc.) they’d run what, a campaign with no money? Well that’s unlikely to work. There doesn’t need to be some grand conspiratorial plan to throw the election for those who have the gold to make the rules (although there could be that too, although I can think of at least 2 conspiracies that are more plausible than this one: rigged voting machines and deep state control).

    How “Koch funded Tea party republicans” are supposed to be worse than existing republicans I’m not sure. It’s not that Koch funding is just wonderful, it’s just that I’m not sure things aren’t already be about as bad as they can get in whatever results that could achieve and it’s been that way for awhile now.

    This writer seems mostly to be playing a game that can’t be won by those means no matter the strategy, the means of which are trying for a progressive government by voting (and not even in the primaries!) at the federal level. As *IF* there even exists a winning strategy there (voting for the LOTE, not voting for the LOTE – heads you lose, tails they win). All that can be said is voting one’s conscience retains some consistency inside one.

  5. Eureka Springs

    Progressives are Democrats, they are Charlatans. They play a pretty feckless and obvious role of covering for the neoliberals who always prevail. I could continue to wonder why ‘good guys’ like Howie and so many others continue to give Progressives the time of day but that is all these posts/questions are designed to do… waste time and remove focus from real issues, real fight.

    If folks like Howie didn’t work hard to fund Progressives then the Koch’s would probably have to. I really don’t care what one calls themselves but if they so much as caucus with Democrats then they are clearly part of the problem. Both major parties are systemically criminally corrupt to their very core and must be abolished probably through delegitimization. One cannot deligitimize something they are.

    Just like sports and why I never gave it the time of day… The owners always win. The people always talk in circles, pay too much for tickets, bad food and beverage while the workers bash their heads in. I can’t sit in silence any longer and watch Howie and Gaius bash their heads in. Just stop!

    If you are remotely Progressive in your principles and want to be so with conviction then you must stop repeating failure. At the very least quit asking people to join you in certain failure. Want to worry about tea-bagging effects, look in the mirror.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      EUREKA! Perhaps many just enjoy democracy theater, like sports fans enjoy bone crushing and head bashing or the less harmful cartoon violence of “pro” wrestling. Pundits, like sportscasters, also make a good living playing along with the charade, but the players on the field really make a killing, literally, especially those who learn how fabulously profitable it is to stampede the herd and rubber-stamp every mass-murder campaign the league and team owners, Israel and Wall Street, conjure up on the flimsiest of false-flag pretexts. If only political-economics were as harmless and pointless as sports. To quote Rahm Emanuel, voting for Democrats or Republicans is “fucking retarded”. I think Gaius is tactfully addressing the dullards who haven’t quite caught on yet that the game is fixed.

  6. Carolinian

    If the Democratic Party refuses to give voters a choice then clearly a third party must. The continued loyalty to the Democrats by professional pundits like Madow shows they aren’t serious people. Even the hemming and hawing in the above post seems extremely odd. We are way past the point where one has to wonder whether it’s ok to hurt the Dems. They are the problem–far more than the Republicans who are simply representing who they have always represented (the wealthy).

    1. Brindle

      Rachel Maddow’s salary is estimated at $7 million per. She is firmly a member of the .01%.
      She is paid to tend herd on “progressives”.

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        I still remember Rachel Maddow shrilly attacking someone for believing in Conspiracy Theories. I think in regard to the missing Malaysian aircraft. I was done with her as soon as I saw the foaming-at-the-mouth intensity of her attack on someone who would challenge the USG party line.

      2. proximity1

        Seven million dollars in annual salary puts one in the top 1/100th of 1% of the wealthy? I don’t think so.

        See: (
        “The World’s 85 Richest People Are as Wealthy as the Poorest 3 Billion”
        ” What exactly does that mean?”
        by Derek ThompsonJan 21 2014, 11:27 AM ET
        Political capture and economic inequality”
        “Inside The 2014 Forbes Billionaires List: Facts And Figures”
        by By Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll
        “World’s Billionaire Club Expands By 7% ”
        11:18 pm ET Sep 16, 2014
        by Jason Chow

  7. David Lentini

    I wish those who like to call themselves “Progressive” would take a hard look at the history of their namesakes. The original Progressives in fact followed the sort of trajectory that we’ve been complaining about with the Democrats, dumping the social justice champions like Jane Addams and Ralph Bourne for the likes of Walter Lippmann and those who served Woodrow Wilson in creating the propaganda for our entry into the First World War. The war in fact is often cited as the destruction of the movement, with the PR geniuses like Lippmann going on to start the great American advertising industry on Madison Avenue in NYC. They were the original “Mad Men”.

    The story of the original Progressives brings to my mind two lessons. First, you have be wary of arguments that “progress” is somehow inherently better than stasis. Ultimately, for the Progressives of the last century, “progress” became technocracy and “scientific management” leading to the disaster we have today in the schools and Democrat party. Second, you have to define your political agenda in cogent moral terms as well as technical terms. It’s hard to take the positions we need to take concerning limiting the economic and political power of individuals when your platform is one of individual freedom.

    1. trish

      Interesting- and interesting the way words shift in meaning over time. And vary in different people. today’s use of/by progressives seems to be against the historical use. And certainly what’s currently denoted is more important?

      I too am wary of arguments that “progress” is somehow inherently better than stasis. But “progressive” in the current sense and in this context suggests – at least to me- social good.

      truly, we must define our political agenda in cogent moral terms (another thing the far right accomplished – the heist of/claim on morality (supposed morality, ie family values) with the Dems and the media acceding.

      1. abynormal

        he who recreates definitions…rules.
        why i keep Ambrose Bierce near…

        “Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.”

        LIBERTARIAN, n. One who is compelled by the evidence to believe in free-will, and whose will is therefore free to reject that doctrine.

        POLITICS, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

      2. Brindle

        The “right” has used the word “morality” in mostly a pro-patriarchy/authoritarian vision. Interesting how to be “moral” is to be subservient—in their view.

        1. trish

          Also allowed the creep of religion into policy (up to just a couple days ago, Water Cooler link, Cuomo proposes creation of state Office of Faith-Based Services [Daily News]), among other things aiding the privatization of our schools. The right-wing morality thing has been yet another useful tool.

    2. MikeNY

      I strongly agree, David, on the need to articulate a clear moral vision. Leaving it to The Market is abandoning the question, with the social Darwinist consequences we see. It is a messy subject, because it is not physics or math. But ultimately, it is this vision which legitimizes, or de-legitimizes, the social order.

      There is no question in my mind that our social order is losing legitimacy, fast.

  8. trish

    “if you think the game is a Left vs. Right conflict, you probably want to vote Left. But if you think the game is Rich vs. the Rest, you probably want to defeat the Rich, everywhere.”

    The game is a Left vs. Right/ Rich vs. the Rest conflict. The truly progressive left still working for the rest are the only left remaining– the non-progressive Democrats are not left!
    It’s a taxonomic malformation, part of that gradual shift to the right that’s imbued our whole system. And we progressives must beware of the possibility our own subtle drift right in this insidious current (calling Elizabeth Warren not just progressive but “truly hard-core progressive???”).

    Anyway, all nice that the neoliberal Dems can distinguish themselves on “identity” and “rights” issues- the ones that don’t really threaten the economic interests of the elite for whom they’re working. Useful for continuing to portray themselves as different from their shrill far right-wing republican family members and great distractors from the odious things they’re pushing through together that truly harm the public.
    And so it’s no surprise really that they’d be “Tea Partying the progressives.” Aren’t taxonomically the same as them.

    So when it comes down to “Tea Partying” the neoliberals, a concern might be ‘bad manners?!’ Really? that’s a concern when it comes down to what is at stake?!!
    Sounds a bit like a NYT hand-wringing lament, in the same vein as it’s that bickering partisanship that’s the problem, if they’d just reach across the aisle and cooperate… that cooperation that leads ultimately to “compromise” which really compromises the public interest and further solidifies and entrenches the neoliberal hold/agenda.

    And “Open Rebellion Caucus” – seems a great idea. long needed. Same with some ‘bad manners.’

    1. proximity1

      RE: “The game is a Left vs. Right/ Rich vs. the Rest conflict. The truly progressive left still working for the rest are the only left remaining- the non-progressive Democrats are not left! ”

      Thank you for that. Those are my sentiments, too.

  9. Tom

    Yves, as to your sour note comment please put a finer point on it for me. I’m still smarting from having acted on the belief in 2008 Obama was a liberal. The Great Deceiver indeed. Admittedly, I like perhaps many others know little about Warren’s stance on foreign affairs. If I recall correctly she had nothing good to say about TPP secret negotiations. What is the basis of your skepticism of the Progressive label? Let’er rip.

  10. paulmeli

    I’ve already joined the “Tea Party the Rich ” coalition, I donate to Howie Klein’s effort and I could care less what Dems have to say about it.

    Unfortunately, things will have to get a lot worse before they can get better. Consider this “austerity” for the neoliberal Dems.

  11. Ed

    The “old” Left, based on organizing the industrial workforce to gain a greater share of the profits of industrial enterprises, or organizing labor, is dead in the sense of being made obsolete through technology. Due to the explosion of the population bomb and automation, businesses just don’t need workers enough for them to have any power. Any residual institutions from this era have been co-opted.

    The various “new” Lefts, based on lifestyle issues, are pretty useless since they were mainly created to destroy the old Left and were co-opted from the beginning.

    Its a very eighteenth century world in political terms, and if there is to be an effective challenge to the establishment it will simply have to come from the patriotic right.

    1. David Lentini

      Agreed. I recommend reading Chris Hedges’s and Christopher Lasch’s works on the betrayl of the intellectuals against the public. Historically, the leftist intellectuals eventually identify themselves with the educated rich over the masses.

      1. Banger

        Excellent advice, David, those two authors are crucial to understanding what is going on–I would add (from a different perspective) Robert David Steele.

    2. dssss

      Disagree–the Old Left was the culmination of five hundred years of Western institutional development. That’s the best we got, and it was destroyed by establishment institutions because it was so effective. It was so effective it saved the market from itself, it having collapsed decades sooner. Though the residual institutions of the left have been coopted in the West, in other parts of the world they are very much alive.

  12. Jim Haygood

    ‘… a truly hard-core progressive — an Elizabeth Warren’

    Also known as a PEFI — ‘Progressive Except For Israel’

    ‘America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and … we very much need an ally in that part of the world.’ — EW

    1. paumeli

      Democrats have given up so much of the high ground over the years that Warrens half-measures make her look like a progressive when she isn’t.

      Lower interest for student loans? Gimme a break. Free college for anyone that wants it, that’s progressive.

      I saw a list of actual progressives somewhere the other day (based on progressive scoring) and it only had 3 names on it. Grayson and Sanders were two, can’t remember the third. Nadler maybe.

      1. Banger

        I think “progressive” is a relative term with GP. Warren is the closest we have at the moment and the general drift of her narrative is that government ought to help the general population an idea that the DP has abandoned almost completely.

  13. ArkansasAngie

    What are your “lessers of two evils”?

    So long as they can pick you off with Abortion, sex and religion … They will remain in charge.
    The income inequality will persist.
    We will continue to go to war for their economic reasons.
    We will continue to make short term financial decisions that are in their favor .

    Do you honestly believe that abortion will become illegal if you vote out a few crony capitalists … aka oligarchs? Wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    These wedgies are used to supersede moral hazard. I think you gotta bring back moral hazard before politicians will actually care two hoots about you.

    Neither a democrat or republican be.

    1. Eureka Springs

      As a fellow Arkansan I say to you for goddess sake don’t give Ross a vote. He’s just as horrible a human being as Mark Pryor. Their congressional/senate voting records are nearly identical. There’s a Green in that race… likely the only box I will check on the entire ballot.

      1. ArkansasAngie

        Asa is a shathead who I personally think should have gone to jail. So there is no way I will vote for Asa.

        Too bad there isn’t a one-eyed drunken sailor running against Ross and Asa.

    2. Greg

      And the big one; Social Security and Medicare which we will supposedly loose if we don’t side with the DP.

      1. hunkerdown

        “Please don’t throw Medicare and SS in the briar patch…”

        This is how the D party says “I said, I’m sooooo drunk”…

  14. Sam Adams

    The only change will come when some blood is spilled. It’s going to have to get worse. We’ve passed the point where the prols have any real political power to change anything in governance or their economic lives. It will happen precisely because the tea partying of progressive/ liberal players will be successful. Look at Elizabeth Warren: she’s been neutered.

    1. Dan B

      “Look at Elizabeth Warren: she’s been neutered.” As one of Warren’s constituents, I’d say she has never been a progressive. I asked her three years ago about running for the senate, “Why do you want to board sinking ship? Don’t you realize that you cannot change Washington but it will change you?” She just shrugged her shoulders to indicate her displeasure and took the next question. Further, one of my students met her when she visited our college recently. She was all smiles and photo opps with him until he asked a real question, “Senator, can we do something about making rich people pay their fair share of taxes?” She glared at him and replied, “I’m not here to discuss that,” and her aid rushed her away. BTW: most of my friends, all of whom consider themselves progressives, adore her -and most still think Obama is the well-intentioned victim of Wall Street and nasty Republicans.

      1. ambrit

        Ebola won’t be Obamas’ Katrina moment so much as his 9/11 fig leaf. Katrina was confined to the Gulf Coast. Ebola, if it escapes Dallas, will be nation wide. A direct result of 9/11 was “The USA Patriot Act,” the gift that keeps on taking. A probable result of a real epidemic in the US will be severe restrictions on personal mobility, within the USA; Kettling on a grand scale. We will yet live to hear those dreaded words; “Papers please! Where are you travelling to citizen? Do you have your internal travel documents in order?”

  15. Peppsi

    To answer the question: yes, democrats are tea partying progressives. It follows a long tradition of not putting up a fight when republicans do some horrible anti human thing, except maybe some thumb twiddling and hoping that some nice judges will make it go away. The democratic party’s leadership is fully captured by finance. It’s hopeless.

    In American history, the only times things have gotten better were when third parties threatened established parties and forced established parties move hard to the left. The democratic party needs to start losing 5 or 8% of expected voters, especially the magic demographic voters who will deliver it to eternal power.

    What we need is to break the stranglehold neoliberalism has on American politics. It is a thoroughly debunked ideology. It is nothing but an asset stripping strategy that, as a result of tons of money and persecution, became the only idea allowed to be held.

    Defeat neoliberalism, neoconservatism, resource extraction, and the reduction of human beings to bare life. Fuck the democratic party.

  16. ogee

    Democracy is lost. As it was always supposed to be. Our founding fathers created a republic because they were weary of the democratic tendencies of “mob rule”. People were never really fit to lead themselves anywhere. Hitler knew and used the folly of the so-called democratic process to beguile the masses. What-ever name you call it, we the people are led by those in power.Always have been.
    Ralph nader gave some interesting talks about the role of “civics” in our public discourse. this is the “progressive” idea that has been forgotten by all sides. These ideas that fall into the catagories of a “common purpose”, that a government was created to uphold for everyone, even those not deserving.
    unbiased justice, fairness,common property;be it the water,air,land use,electromagnetic wavelength spectrums,etc… medicine,healthcare,education,money,etc…
    I don’t care what anyone calls themselves, in this world today, there can only be those who strive for “the good”, for all of us and our posterity…. and then there is everyone else who just wants to control whatever piece of the pie they covet.
    The progressives from a hundred plus years ago, had in mind the rights of some people, while usually dismissing the rights of others. Now we don’t have that luxury. We need to be greater, yet our platforms are smaller.Back when William Jennings bryan could say many great things. or the greenback party had a real cause, public money creation over private…. they were existing in a time when slavery was still on the mind. eugenics and genocide were still ok, if aimed at the right people, and all things horrible were just a part of everyday life…
    Now we have the events of the last 150 years to teach us the what “the wrong side of history is”. And we allow the propaganda that has shaped the last three or four generations,to dictate what our boundries are allowed to be. The world wide corporatist coup is well under way, life is as we make it. Life has always existed under occupation by some group or another… Now is the culmination of those who created this one world dystopian nightmare..the neoliberals and neoconservatives who were engendered by the old british federalists at the roundtable groups and their offspring, all creating a worldwide empire of interlocking corporate structures and fortunes.
    I for one am done trying to vote for any lesser evil. as a citizen in north Carolina, where the democratic candidates are always just a step behind the republican ones, they tend to get the “it’s too close to just throw away your vote”,meme…. but not any more for me. If I have to write in names, or vote for people who don’t even make the “cut-off” of even being on the roll….. so what?
    The democrats are as ill as the republicans… and I wish they would all just jump in a lake.and stay there.

    1. hunkerdown

      They, the oligarchs, were weary of the unprofitable-to-them democratic tendencies of mob rule.

      I don’t feel very sympathetic to that sentiment, for some reason.

    2. proximity1

      RE: “Democracy is lost. As it was always supposed to be. Our founding fathers created a republic because they were weary of the democratic tendencies of “mob rule”. People were never really fit to lead themselves anywhere.”

      I don’t blame people for having a bad case of “democracy-fatigue” but they’re mistaken just the same. First, a “republic” denotes an elected government–by whatever terms and conditions–as opposed to a non-elected one. A democratic republic is one in which, supposedly, the government is elected by a process which faithfully operates by the principle of majority rule (50% + 1 (or more)). So any system of hereditary rule cannot be rightly called a republic or republican. Still, non-democratic republics might or might not, according to the whole circumstances, produce better or worse results than a democratic one. There is nothing magic about democratic rule or democracy; it can’t and won’t save stupid, ignorant, disaffected or demoralized people from their own follies.

      So, your analysis let’s everyone off too lightly. If democratic processes fail, that’s because the elites and the general public or some combination of these first betrayed them or never gave them a fighting chance in the first place. Some people show a considerably better aptitude for leading themselves than others. They do better under democratic systems than any other kind.

      To imply that things have never been any better than they are today or that they couldn’t, if people cared and thought and tried more, ever be better than they are today is ahistorical. At times, the public welfare has fared better and in some respects much better than it does today. We live in times of truly shitty ethics compared to some previous times–even granting that corruption has always played some significant part in public life and politics.

      A senate in which each state elects two representatives regardless of population is an anti-democratic constraint. Minorities on committees or in an assembly which can block legislation from coming to a vote are another. Super-majorities–2/3ds, 3/4ths, 4/5ths, etc., are anti-democratic and shouldn’t be used except as devices to prevent a majority from degrading or eliminating some fundamental civil right or liberty–speech, assembly, etc., the Bill of Rights kinds of things which are properly not deniable to even a minority of one. So, it should be made very difficult (super-majority) to deny or revoke people’s most basic rights but not very difficult to write and pass new law which respects them. Constitutional conventions should be formed around simple majorities, not super-majorities.

      If you leave your precious tools out in the rain, they’ll rust and degrade. If you don’t pay attention, the bigger–more clever and less scrupulous–boys will steal your marbles and take them home. Democracy isn’t kind to foolish people–but there is no remedy for this (other than suffering) and things would be the same under any other form of government. Before you denounce democracy, try one out. If you currently despise democracy, then you have nothing to worry about since you don’t have one. Whatever we may deplore about these shitty times in which we live, the fault doesn’t properly lie with democracy.

      “Hitler knew and used the folly of the so-called democratic process to beguile the masses.”

      Only rather early on in the events. He used other tactics which had nothing to do with democracy or voting to quickly betray and undo whatever there had remained of the democratic processes. Above all, he debauched and turned a relative handful of elites through a combination of bluster, threat and deft double-crossing gamesmanship. But before he could do any of that, the Weimar Republic had to first repeatedly demonstrate a fully criminal incompetence at ruling a nation–admittedly in the most dire economic straits–by serial and disastrous blunders of policy.

  17. Charles Yaker

    For what it’s worth IMHO when the far right ousted the moderates from the GOP they didn’t disappear they took over the Democratic Party. I for one am done playing their game however and will not vote for a “DINO” and therefore I vote Green. I know they have no chance but I don’t care all I have is my VOTE. You want it earn it. One further point keep voting the lesser of two evils and all you end up with is EVIL.

    1. Peppsi

      I’ve been voting green too. Even if their history, as pointed out on this site (green not red!) is something of a problem, they’re the party with the most reasonable and human policies.

    2. Vatch

      Even though the Green Party candidates have little or no chance of winning, they can make a difference. The laws vary from state to state in the U.S., but if a party’s candidate gets a sufficient number or percentage of votes, it becomes easier for candidates of that party to get on the ballot in the next election. So yes, please, vote Green!

      Green candidates in 2014 U.S. elections.

    3. Rustbeltcynic

      Several good Green Party candidates in New York are polling in the double digits, namely Howie Hawkins, candidate for governor, and Matt Funiciello, running to represent the Adirondacks region in Congress. Both deserve support and donations for those seeking a change away from corporatist economic policies.

  18. Ep3

    Democrats have been running candidates against a main stream progressive since before FDR. The best example of this was Ted Kennedy versus jimmy carter. There was absolutely no reason for Ted Kennedy to challenge carter in 1980. And what this did was split the party just enough and created just enough doubt that Reagan wins and begins destroying the country.
    In 2010 Obama was able to reframe the mindset of ppl based upon the results of that election. He was able to blame democrat ideals for the reasons for the losses, instead of showing that it was blue dogs who had lost. He stated the loss was a rejection of progressive ideals. And that the tea party represented a majority of Americans. This showed that his loyalty was with the 1% and the blue dog democrats and not with the hardworking progressive majority that actually exists in this country.

  19. TG

    Yes, agree with most of that.

    But: Even though the Koch brothers may have started the Tea Party movement, they have at least partially lost control of it to the base. In particular, things that many in the the Tea Party movement are opposed to that the Koch brothers want:
    1. The Tea Party is opposed to a cheap-labor open-borders immigration policy designed to drive wages down. This is the primary thing that the rich in this country want, above all others.
    2. The Tea Party is largely opposed to pointless foreign wars. Hey there’s a lot of money to be made on bombs!
    3. The Tea Party may be stupid on thinking that the deficit is due to social security, but they hate bailouts to Wall Street.
    4. The Tea Party doesn’t like the NSA illegally spying on American Citizens.

    That actually sounds pretty progressive. So in the last primaries the Republican establishment spent crazy money defeating Tea Party Republicans, and nominating candidates who do less well in the general election!

    I do also note: the Republican base, love them or hate them, remain intelligent and focused on their issues even if the party leadership is insulting them, and they swear revenge on a candidate that stabs them in the back. The Democratic base continues to worship Obama even though he has stabbed them in the back over and over. Perhaps there is a lesson here.

    Bottom line: for the rich it’s not about winning elections. For the rich it’s about making sure that, come election day, the American people have no progressive choice on the ballot.

    1. Carla

      The Tea Party also wants to end the Fed. Now, what they want to do afterwards is restore the gold standard, which diverges sharply from anything progressive. But I agree with them about the Fed.

    2. dssss

      There’s nothing progressive about the astroturf teapartiers. They are duped, vulnerable, spiteful people that are directing their hatred to the wrong people. The few positive things in their manufactured Madison Ave platform, lowering H1b visas and foreign wars are just there to make it more palatable.

  20. Jill

    At an ostensibly public book discussion consisting mainly of highly educated Democrats, I was told that I could not criticize Obama or any other Democrat before the election. Another person actually waved me to shut up, while others wouldn’t speak to me after I criticized the PARTY. My statement came after multiple railings against the Tea Party by members of the group. They further claimed all Republicans were trying to strip out our civil rights. When I pointed out that this was not correct and further, the president and other Democrats were against our civil rights and economic justice, their response was STFU.

    This willingness to silence others is quite dangerous when a president and a compliant Congress is attempting to strip the civil rights and economic justice from the people. The most dangerous aspect of this situation is when a nation’s citizens willingly join forces to silence others. This is what ultimately allows our civil rights to be forfeit. It is what ultimately allows injustice to flourish. It takes the active acquiescence of many citizens to the powerful, to enable the powerful to take from us what is not theirs to take.

    So yes, we need to be disloyal to those who are not loyal to us. More importantly, if we want economic justice, an end to constant warfare, a clean environment, a restoration of our civil rights and a good life for people across this world, then we need to act in a way that brings those goals to fruition. Voting LOTE will not aid these goals. One way these goals are accomplished is to speak up and refuse to bow down to false god/desses. There are many other things we need to do together, but certainly, this is one of them.

  21. Jill

    My comment completely disappeared. I pressed post comment and was taken back to the original article.

    I don’t know if it even went to the spam folder. If anyone is able to find it, I would appreciate it.

  22. Banger

    Great discussion so far. But are we really getting anywhere with these discussions? Over the years, many of us who comment here have come to the general conclusion that our political system is corrupt to the core so, it seems to me, we ought to be talking about how to destroy it not reform it or hope for “change.” It’s over folks! George Carlin announced long before his death and he was right then–I didn’t believe him completely–I thought he was kidding–well, he wasn’t.

    We should forget elections at the national level–they can be rigged and any good pol can be easily eliminated through harassment mainly by the media, some scandal, plane crash, heart attack–the possibilities are truly endless. Besides the MSM totally distorts every issue so that we can have no national debate about anything. Only through the internet and private interactions can anything get through the media–and not just through the “news” but through “entertainment.” People with power use that power! All our institutions, as far as I can see, are fundamentally compromised by the corruption of money and power even if the majority in those institutions generally mean well–these institutions are dominated by an ever more ruthless ruling elite and we have little say in any of this since our MSM dominate discourse and our academics long ago sold out.

    If progressives want to have some chance at having a voice in affairs of state they must learn to bark less and bite more. Realpolitik requires that progressive, en masse, refuse to support mainstream Democrats today. Just say “no”! Because of the cowardly nature of most Americans today progressive are “scared” of the bad cop. Well the bad cop/good cop routine of both parties should be really, really, really obvious by now so why do we fall for it? If progressives boycotted mainstream Democrats in one election it would completely change the balance of power in the country–that by itself would cause the whole house of cards to fall. Politicians would be urinating onstage at the thought of offending the left. Politicians, I will have you know, usually believe in nothing–they are power brokers–they deal with the power as they see it. If corporations have power–they move in their direction. If progressive have power they’ll make deals with progressives if they don’t have power they ignore progressives.

    In the end, of course, I don’t see progressives doing any such thing–they’ll fall for the usual fear mongering and maintain their main interest–comfort and the occasion yip and bark. Not to say that there is not a minority of progressives out there living their truth as best they can. As some of us have said here the path forward is through changing the culture through encouraging cooperation, compassion, and conviviality. Diptherio is one of those voices here who offer a better alternative to our efforts than elections.

    1. Code Name D

      So what are you advocating? Armed revolt?

      This is actually what the enemy wants! Conservatives are already paranoid as it is that invasion is just around the corner, that government shall come for their guns at any moment, and that Progressive operatives are roaming back allies in brown shirts who oppress them through political correctness.

      The very last thing you want to do is even give a hint of legitimacy to these paranoid delusions. Which unfortunately we may already be witlessly doing. Once there concerns are realized, there will be an explosion of violence that could push the nation into a second Civil War. The Tea Party is already pushing for this very thing.

      We already have mentioned VAAI or Vote Against All Incumbents and LOTE or Lesser of the Evil. This is an example of self defeatism, that all hope is lost and we should consider extreme non-political alternatives.

      But the point of many here isn’t that we have already lost, but that we never really got into the game in the first place – of course we are losing.

      Step one is to ask the right kind of questions. Step two is to then pursue those answers.

      Case in point, Obama recently gave a speech where he “strongly supports net neutrality.” This prompted a fresh wave of bowing and scraping as Democrats now believe the battle for net neutrality has been joined by Obama – how can we lose now. But the ugly truth is that Obama has already put an industry lobbyist in charge of the FCC who has long campaigned for privatization. And Obama says that he can not influence his decision. (Actually, he can. Hell, he could call for his resignation if he wanted.) Obama is literally saying that he has no control over the actions of his own cabinet and that he is just the spectator in chief.

      See, we have already lost. The only things we can do are things that we already know will fail in advance. But it’s odd that we never consider alternatives that are likely to be more effective.

      1. Banger

        Where did you get the armed revolt? I certainly have never advocated for that even when I was a young rebel and, besides, we are not in that position. I have, for a long time, advocated for community and getting together with your brothers and sisters to create alternative social institutions whether these involved cooperatives, unions, or corporations. We must separate from the corporate world and live a more humane and less stressful life based on connection not separation which is our current cultural emphasis.

        1. Code Name D

          I never said that you did advocate an armed revolt. But if you are going to abandon politics all together, armed revolt is about your only option left to you.

          1. Ulysses

            We need to create our own real politics, eventually pushing the corporate owned establishment politics to shrivel up and blow away from lack of interest on the part the people.

            When an organized group of people begin to farm on state land, and to give the food grown there to the hungry– that is real politics. When hundreds of people form a human chain around a widow’s house and physically prevent her eviction– that is real politics.

            Joining the “one big union,” the I.W.W., and showing radical solidarity with all workers everywhere in the world– that is real politics.

            Chaining yourself to a bulldozer, cramping the style of an oil company trying to build a pipeline– that is real politics.

            Watching a Sunday morning talk show, voting for a corporatist D. or R. servant for corporate interests, with no interest in representing you or anyone like you– that is not real politics. That is participation in the absurdist, kayfabe game that the transnational overclass has tried to convince us is “politics.”

    2. Carla

      Thanks for this, Banger.

      Ohio Dems and Independents, maybe even some Tea Partiers, have been handed an ideal opportunity to put some bite in their bark in the upcoming election for governor: there’s no point in voting for Ed FitzGerald, who in addition to having faced a steeply uphill battle from the outset, has waged one of the worst campaigns in memory. But at least some Independents and most Dems are just not going to vote for the Republican incumbent, John Kasich.

      Don’t stay home! All of you can vote for the Green Party ticket: Anita Rios for Governor and Bob Fitrakis for Lt. Gov. Even some Tea Party folks might like to cast a vote for the Greens, if only to serve up a poke-in-the-eye to Kasich. Don’t waste your vote on a Democrat or Republican you can’t stand! There is no LOTE operating here, because even if FitzGerald were the LOTE, he can’t possibly win. Neither can the Greens, but by voting for them, we can preserve third party access to the Ohio ballot.

  23. Code Name D

    Political skepticism – the use of skepticism to evaluate both political claims as well as the voting record of a specific candidate or office holder. One should only vote for political positions that have sufficient justification, and for candidates who sufficiently show (by record or by demonstrating they understand the concepts) should be supported for office.

    The Dynamic Manifesto – The creation of a body of knowledge that is build through rigorous academic review and research to assist the common person in practicing their skepticism. The TDM also provides a blue print from which legislation can be crafted from, tracked, and monitored as legislation passes through the “sausage factory”.

    Trench Politics – The creation of alternative means of communication that bypasses corporate controlled media that allows politicians to communicate with and from rank and file members and to do so with a far more effective use of scares campaign dollars. These communication channels need to be internal so that efforts to propagandize the members from hostile agents can be minimized, and accurate information can be disseminated and collected.

    Collaborative Politics – The argument that political institutions needs to become more efficient and strategic in how its labor, expertise, political capital, and experience are managed and maintained within the institution. There needs to be far more coordination between Democrats to insure all are campaigning on a consistent political message, rather than tailoring there political message to personal preferences. All politics are not local, but national. CP should also start divisions of labor and duties to more efficiently use existing labor resources and to reduce duplications of efforts. For example, to create a dedicated research staff that is managed by PHDs and recognized scholars in their field to research any specific subject and with results to be shared to all Democrats, rather than having each individual Democrats hand over research tasks to office interns on leave from university. To use labor dedicated to fundraising to free office holders from having to “dial for dollars” and creating a wall of separation between fundraising and issue advocacy.

  24. Paul Tioxon

    The last 6 years and the readings from this site have proven critical to my understanding of the party politics in America. I believe that the term neo-liberal as used for the political movement of the Washington Consensus is clear enough. But for party politics it seems clear that when it it comes to the Democratic Party, the various news terms, self avowed labels such as Blue Dogs, Progressive, Liberal etc get into to the Taxonomy which is fine for precision, but I live in the everyday world where people don’t know what the hell any of that means. That is, until you open your mouth and use the terms capitalism and capitalist. For that reason, I now need to use the label capitalist democrats or democratic capitalists, for those democratic party members who believe that the state and civil society should be placed into the service of the market based economy that we now operate on a global basis.

    In Europe, you have pretty clear labels for various political parties: Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Labour. More recently, the European Parliament has recognized political parties with these names: Party of European Socialists, which is a grouping of national parties with socialist programs as the hallmark of their politics and The European People’s Party, which promotes a free market economy as its top priority. There are many other parties, such as The European Green Party and the European Christian Political Movement. Their names clearly label their politics in general. In America, Capitalist Democrats would the pols who never saw a tax break that failed to generate a job, want every free trade deal on the books, and as a simply practical matter, want to repatriate corporate profits, all to help give me a job, spare me! They want sensible gun rules, as opposed to the senseless gun rules which would lead to senselessness. They are cautiously studying issues which could cause them to lose elections, like Obama Gay Marriage Evolving Syndrome. They can be found playing with Clean Coal and see the Financial Services Industry as the Great White Hope of the American Economy in a globalized world, industrializing in the wake of our de-industrialization. Over all, the power of the state and the labor power of civil society should be harnessed for the productive growth of the market based economy. In other words, capitalism.

    Some people think because the police use violence, we are already a police state. They think that the Federal government spies on them and uses this power to intimidate and coerce political conformity. All states use violence, have reserved violence as their monopoly right and the police and the military are the institutionalized violence of the state. We are not a police state, because it is not the force of violence that makes our social order possible. We have a lot of laws. But they do not require the omnipresent police to maintain order. When the state is threatened enough to fear for the break down of the social order, more police force is used, but withdrawn with civil calm. Capitalism offers enough social control over society to not require the over all exertion of the threat of force at every turn in daily activities. Most people, most of the time decide what they are going to do without force of violence motivating them. On the other hand, lack of money motivates more.

    So, that leaves us with the social programs we rely upon to maintain the social order such as minimum wages, Social Security, Medicare, Disability, Unemployment and most recently, the ACA. There also, are policies which provide for a measure of social justice such as non-discrimination acts, voter rights, housing rights, various civil rights protections. These are the New Deal/Great Society political policies which were and are seen as compromises by the capitalists. They have been championed by the democratic party with eventual buy in and support by the republicans, up until the mid 1970s. Since then, the government is seen as a drain on business and by extension, a drain on civil society, worsening the prospects of the average working family, the proverbial middle class. Government’s focus has been claimed too much on the poor, minorities, women, immigrants, foreigners who get aid from the government, while all the middle class gets is higher taxes and building resentment towards the party who taxes them. The democrats, in order to stay in office, had to talk and act like government was the problem. It needed to get less complicated, less taxing, simpler and easier to deal with it: Government needed to be re-invented.

    The reinvention of government turned out to be government running more like a business or worse yet, pretending to be running more like the family decision makers who sat at the kitchen table to pay the bills and figure out how to live within their dwindling financial means. So the democrats became closer and closer to standing for the policies of the republicans, primarily in fiscal responsibility. Socially liberal though. And that was all it took to dray down the entire party from running on the politics of progressively moving society forward to a more just, more equitable standard of living where the pillars of grinding poverty, homelessness and hunger were completely eliminated. But apparently, that was too much to ask. The equation that those poor who got food and shelter without a job in a factory or out in the field were somehow taking away a better life for most Americans became the key to political success. The New Deal and the Great Society which sought to build a better America was gradually replaced with an America that built more a more profitable market economy.

    The lesson of WWII productivity that was unleashed by state directed policies of organizing people and resources, with the instrumentality of Keynesian finance was replaced with the unleashing of finance to determine the social relations of the society and the economy. The state, which placed everyone and everything at its disposal during a fight to the death, was placed at the disposal of the business interests of corporate America and the power elite who engorged themselves on their profits. Capitalism. And today’s democrats, who fight for these corporate polices at the expense of the New Deal and The Great Society policies are the CAPITALIST DEMOCRATS.

    Though not all of the party has fallen in lock step with these policies, the people who demonstrate an independence from tax give aways, corporate welfare, cronyism and self reinforcing revolving door jobs from government to corporation to university and back again are who I call, Democrats. They are the thin blue line that keeps the Paul Ryan budget from passing along with the sensible reforms to Social Security from the Capitalist democrats.

  25. TarheelDem

    I’m going to ignore two issues that progressives need to focus more clearly on: the political geography of progressive political opinion and the institutional barriers to winning third party campaigns.

    Instead this comment focuses narrowly on electing more Democratic progressives, not because I think that is the proper strategy but because the deliberate frustration of that happening is the topic of this article. IMO, electing progressive Democrats can be an effective tactic of a broader strategy in some places; local people in those places will make the judgements about when that is. In other places, a third party strategy might be effective. But in whatever case, the intent of the campaign should be to win. If you can’t win or contribute to delivering a win, you’re not a threat, you are just a nuisance to be brushed aside.

    Which goes to this. If you are seeking to gain a Congressional seat, you better know where you can find 175,000 or more like-minded voters. For other offices, use past elections and do the math of the number of voters that you would need to turn out in order to win without a runoff under all circumstances. That is your organizing target through all means of personal and social networking.

    Second. It is easier and more effective to “tea party” a Democratic candidate in a primary that you then win in the general election than to put the situation in the “lesser of two evils” box of a general election. Aside from the usual candidate difficulties like name recognition, be aware that a hostile primary will likely pit institutional interests that you might have thought you could count on against you instead of for you. For example, the fact that “progressive” Bill de Blasio turned his machine to the benefit of Cuomo instead of remaining neutral certainly hurt Zephyr Teachout’s primary challenge. Also, don’t expect a sore loser to automatically close ranks with you in the general election “for the sake of the party”; that’s the line they feed progressive losers in primary challenges.

    Third. Ad hoc challenges lose. Persistent organizing eventually wins. Ralph Nader lost because he ran a 40-year-long series of ad hoc challenges for one office alone. And was the scapegoat that diverted attention from Jeb Bush in the theft of the 2000 election by the US Supreme Court.

    Fourth. Nobody can win anything bigger than a small-town city council office starting from scratch in three months. If you are not now planning on how to win Congressional seats in 2020, you are already behind the curve. If you are not putting in place organizations to win legislative seats in 2016, you are already behind the curve. Not completely out of it, but behind the curve.

    Fifth, organizing getting out the vote is more important long-term than message clarity on issues. It is the people who actually go vote for a candidate who determine who is in political office. Media can cause people not to turn out or to vote in last minute confusion for a candidate based on misplaced name of policy associations. It doesn’t affect turnout. Corporatist policies depend on confusion and low turnout and on the notion that government is dirty (as if business isn’t).

    Democratic leaders are “Tea Partying” the progressives for sure. But Republican leaders are working hard to convince progressives that there is no place for them in the Republican Party. A bona fide progressive running as a Republican who would be the Alan Grayson of the Republican Party could very easily knock off a Republican incumbent asleep at the switch by bringing in cross-over voters. It’s how conservatives took over the party of Jacob Javitts.

    But electoral composition of offices is not the problem as much as is the overall political culture, the substitution of marketing for political conversations, and the capture of the institutions that control electoral participation by the corporatists of both parties; when the corporatists seize absolute control, they let one of the parties die. But progressives are not geographically distributed enough to become a de facto second party in any of these states.

    After decades of fighting, it’s now a bit naive to think that having seized Congress, money power in the Democratic Party is going give it up without a huge fight.

  26. Jim

    It may be the case that we are all in a situation of just having to start completely over.

    The “hard left” of the 20th century failed.

    Lentini’s critique, above,, of the pathetic history of progressive thought, is largely accurate. It has simply become a sophisticated apology for the status quo– including MMT and individuals like Elizabeth Warren.

    But a significant portion of the commetariat at NC still apparently clings to the possibility of the emergence of some kind of 21st progressive/left New Deal that will somehow save the day when the avenues for this type of mobilization no longer exist (unions, powerful grass-roots political organizations outside the two-party system, serious work-place organizing etc.) and the ideologies which were a key part of such older mobilizations have long ago been integrated into the modern private/public hierarchy of power.

    Everything must now be rethought especially the relationship between culture, politics and economics.

    What an opportunity to come up with new ideas and new plans of mobilization.

  27. Oregoncharles

    ” ignoring Republicans who were members of his Center Aisle Caucus and his decision to give free passes to all GOP Leaders and committee”
    Proof that there is deep collusion between the two parties, that the rivalry is mostly for show.

    Why would you keep messing around with a deeply right-wing party?

  28. proximity1

    RE: “Which suggests an interesting thought. If a truly hard-core progressive — an Elizabeth Warren or Zephyr Teachout, say — were the party’s strongest presidential candidate, would corporate Democrats choose a lesser candidate anyway, one with a greater chance of losing, just to keep the White House in the hands of someone’s One-Percent candidate? Again, your call, but we may see that tested fairly soon.”

    I’d have sworn I’d replied in a comment to something very like this already–in the “Links” thread of 10 October. But now, it seems, there is no such page. Instead, there are two listings called “Links” dated “9 October”.


  29. TedWa

    IMHO, the only way to get the 50% of voters that do not vote, due to lousy choices and just not caring anymore, is to get everyone to vote for a 3rd party candidate and make throw out the bums the meme of the day, week, month and year. How else are we going to get that 50% that have given up excited enough to go vote? We’ve got to make a 3rd party reason to celebrate – and I don’t see why we don’t considering this race to the bottom we are being forced to play.
    You may think your rep does a good job and wouldn’t think of voting them out, but in reality that mentality perpetually serves the status quo. We need to vote the bums out and get rid of this LOTEs psychology that TPTB play so well against us. Wall St is picking the candidates, we should all know that by now !

  30. TedWa

    There is a large untapped resource out there that likely more than not, shares our sentiments. We just need to get them inspired to go vote. That is an essential need right now as more and more people are giving up on voting or thinking they will ever be heard – cementing this fascist/oligopolistic/kleptocratic/totalitarianistic state in power. You get my drift

  31. TedWa

    Frankly, I favor how France has their voting mandatory for all citizens or pay a fine. Government turns too many people off to want to vote and this forces change

    1. proximity1

      But, in general, that provision is not enforced, public turn-out at elections is often just as low as that seen in other nations without such a rule, and I’ve never once heard of anyone ever being fined for having failed to vote in any election on whatever level from local to national. Moreover, voting isn’t apparently cherished enough to extend the franchise in other than certain national or European parliament elections to non-French nationals who reside in France.

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