Gaius Publius: Bipartisan Corporate Establishment Turns Back Challengers, Strengthens Hold on Congress

Yves here. This post by Gaius on the bipartisan corporate triumph of the midterm is a follow-up to his recent piece Are Democratic Leaders Already “Tea Partying” The Progressives?

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. A version of this essay appeared at Down With Tyranny

There will be much analysis of the 2014 election (including here), but I want to add some preliminary notes of my own.

1. DC insiders and corporatists have increased their hold over the House and the Senate. It took a joint, bipartisan effort, but the effort paid off on election day. Bad for corporate Democrats, who sacrificed their numbers for the cause, but good for the Corporate Congressional Coalition (hereby the “CCC”) as a whole.

2. In the Senate, conservative Democrats Hagan, Pryor and Begich have lost or will likely lose to conservative Republicans. (Begich is good on Social Security, but not on much else.) Conservative Republicans Perdue and McConnell (he who kissed the Koch Bros ring) fended off challenges from DSCC-sponsored conservative Democrats Nunn and Grimes. Economic conservative incumbent Mark Udall lost to extreme conservative Cory Gardner and right-wing Democrat Mark Pryor lost to extremist ideologue Tom Cotton.

While modestly-progressive Jean Shaheen held serve, barely, unloved-by-DC-insiders Shenna Bellows and Rich Weiland (both true progressives) were successfully defeated by conservative Republicans Mike Rounds (to flip the seat) and Susan Collins (to hold the seat). Collins was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, a pro-environmental group that wants to curry favor with both sides. (Wonder who’s going to speak at their annual big-donor dinner? It won’t be the first time a conservative politician said thanks in this way to a “progressive” group backing conservative policies.) The seat held by mainly-progressive Tom Harkins was captured by ultra-conservative Kochist Joni Ernst.

If you’re scoring the Senate D. vs R., the R’s went up by +8 (if Begich loses). If you’re scoring it Rich vs. the Rest or Corporatists vs. Progressives, the Corporatists went up +2 (or +1½, depending on your opinion of Mark Udall) — flipping the Harkins and Udall seats — and in true bipartisan fashion, supporters of both parties jointly turned back two potentially strong but mainly un-DC-supported progressive challengers, Weiland and Bellows. Way to win, Friend of Corps. Team effort.

3. The House analysis is going to take more time, but if all current leads hold, Steve Israel turned a 35-seat deficit into a 61-seat deficit. You can talk “wave election” and “gerrymandering” all day, but when Dems don’t even compete in 21 winnable seats, your problem starts closer to home — the boss is throwing the race (my emphasis below):

All of these [Republican] incumbents represent districts where Obama won in 2008 and/or 2012 but where Israel has refused to back the grassroots local candidate or has frightened off anyone from running against his Republican pals:

• NJ-02- Frank LoBiondo- D+1
• MI-06- Fred Upton- R+1
• WA-08- Dave Reichert- R+1
• FL-27- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen- R+2
• PA-06- Jim Gerlach- R+2
• MN-03- Erik Paulsen- R+2
• PA-07- Pat Meehan- R+2
• MN-02- John Kline- R+2
• PA-15- Charlie Dent- R+2
• MI-08- Mike Rogers- R+2
• WA-03- Jaime Hererra Buetler- R+2
• VA-10- Frank Wolf- R+2
• CA-25- Buck McKeon- R+3
• WI-01- Paul Ryan- R+3
• MI-11- Kerry Bentivolio- R+4
• IL-06- Peter Roskam- R+4
• PA-16- Joe Pitts- R+4
• CA-49- Darrell Issa- R+4
• IL-16- Adam Kinzinger- R+4
• MI-03- Justin Amash- R+4
• MI-04- Dave Camp- R+5

To put this in numerical perspective, it takes 218 seats to control the House. Democrats started this election with 199 — meaning they were 19 seats away from the majority. The list above is itself 21 seats.

Think about that — 21 low-PVI Republican-held seats where Israel has either blocked progressives or protected Republican incumbents. Again, the boss is throwing the race.

I don’t have a Corporate vs. Progressive count for House races, but a number of progressives lost or are losing as of this writing, including the under-supported New Hampshire progressive, Carol Shea-Porter. (Well-supported corporatist Ann Kuster won handily, 55% to 45%. I wrote about both races here.)

As you can imagine, none of the new Republicans is likely a populist, and since most of the losses on the Democratic side were by corporatists, the CCC held serve. Did they increase their numbers in the House? Likely, but a later analysis will have to determine that.

4. Does the newly-minted corporate Senate majority favor real filibuster reform? I kind of hope so — especially since our “collegially-minded” Democrats wouldn’t take full advantage of a robust filibuster anyway. The old-minted corporate majority favored only weak filibuster reform, and then only because, with Democrats in the nominal “majority” they had to make a show of doing something. They did the least something that looked like a thing.

(I know that the short-lived reform insurgency led by progressive Jeff Merkley was sincere in wanting reform, but the bipartisan majority had its way. Then, when it came time to either hide or expose the names of Democrats who wanted to help Republicans keep the filibuster alive — Merkley’s group chose not to expose the “old lions” to censure. How collegial — progressives and corporatists, together again, united to defend the corporatist plan. I will definitely come back to this.)

5. I earlier identified Obama’s four high-priority legacy items as:

▪ Health care “reform” — a privatized alternative to Medicare expansion
▪ A “Grand Bargain” in which social insurance benefits are rolled back
▪ Plentiful oil & gas, and passage of the Keystone pipeline
▪ Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement

He accomplished the first as his first major legislative effort. The second was stymied when back-bench Republicans joined with House progressives and refused many times to approve it. On the third, Obama is indeed giving us “plentiful oil & gas” despite a great show of caring about trying to begin to start the ball rolling on climate fixes. On the fourth, TPP is stalled.

Look for Obama’s unfulfilled dreams — Grand Bargain, Keystone pipeline approval, TPP corporate empowerment masked as a “trade agreement” — to come back alive, thanks to the strengthened corporate Congress. If they reach his desk, will Obama find himself “forced” (by collegiality?) to sign them?

If he does, he’ll get a four-point legacy “sweep,” as I count them. Mission accomplished. On to his next task

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  1. Propertius

    I don’t recall Strom Thurmond’s filibuster being any great impediment to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 when LBJ was Majority Leader. IIRC, he just had the Sergeant at Arms lock the Senate chamber with the Senators inside to insure he still had a quorum when Thurmond ran out of steam (which took a bit over 24 hours). Of course, Harry Reid was no LBJ and never really intended to pass anything anyway.

    1. Paul Niemi

      I have heard Harry Reid did not want his caucus members to have to take difficult votes. Therefore, he did not bring difficult votes to the floor, in the last two years. So, the Democrats in the Senate sat on their hands for the session, had no record of doing anything to speak of, and this was Harry Reid’s success. Considering the results of the subsequent election, he ought to consider giving up his leadership position to the animal Schumer, who has enough conceit to make moves giving evidence of respiration at least, if not perspiration, among the gentle Democratic senators.

  2. Propertius

    I wish GP had mentioned the really sad defeat of Andrew Romanoff here in Colorado – a Congressional candidate who made a point of accepting no corporate or PAC money.

  3. ProNewerDeal

    If the Senate Bipartisan Corporate Caucus (SBCC) passes a Grand Ripoff bill, could it be fillibustered such that it needs 60 votes to pass? Do you have an estimate of how many votes the SBCC has for a Grand Ripoff bill? If it is fillibusterable, & the SBCC has 50 >= votes >= 59, is there a rock-solid reliable anti-Grand Ripoff Senator (E Warren, B Sanders?) who will fillibuster the Grand Ripoff, & is willing to resist Obama Reagan Jr. carrots/sticks, aka the Kucinich airplane ride treatment, & is willing to say to Obama “go fuck yourself, fuck your Obama legacy, I am protecting the American Peoples legacy & American Peoples’ economic/human rights established in the New Deal/Great Society”?

    Is there any additional creative tactic such a Senator could use to resist Obama’s Grand Ripoff Plan? For example, would it be legal for a Senator to agree to join any ReThug impeachment of Obama, as a preventative “stick” should Obama sign a Grand Ripoff bill?

    1. cwaltz

      Reid could potentially filibuster and to his credit was probably the only thing standing between us and a Grand Bargain last go round. Reid may be one of the few who seems to actually understand what Obama is doing to the Democratic brand(you’ll notice I don’t call him overwhelmingly concerned about the constituency, just the brand) Nancy Pelosi is clueless. Last I heard she was blaming the Democratic activists for their loss. Apparently she’s under the impression that voters OWE her. Uh no, Nancy. It’s the other way around. If you are elected it you OWE the voters to act in their interest(and if you don’t they toss you out on your backside.)

  4. bmeisen

    many thanks gp and yves. “high priority legacy items” might also include his push on the higher ed accreditation issue where he is trying to reform the current non-governmental regime by replacing it with one controlled more or less directly by the dept of education. federal tuition grants to individual students would be tied to accreditation. not a bad idea given the corruption introduced by bush II and could lead to fewer students going into debt servitude but i expect the ccc will hold serve here too.

  5. PaulArt

    We are going to have stasis and deadlock until there is $1 trillion a year Defense spending and Social Security and Medicare. Think about it this way, like clockwork, in every election 40-50% of the electorate vote for the Republicans. They do this because they never get hurt by GOPer policies because they are either on the Defense teat and/or the Social Security/Medicare teat. I have long argued that the New Deal was not a very clever ploy by the progressives because all it did was divide the electorate and spared the old gaffers a hell of a lot of pain and threw the rest of us under the bus. The gaffers then did the predictable by immediately moving over to the GOPer side when it became convenient to their racist inclinations or appealed to their financial insecurities. If I was 75 and a Democrat came to me and said ‘they are going to take away your Social Security’ and then a GOPer came by and said, ‘they are going to take away your Social Security and Medicare because the Dems are working hard to give it all away to the poor and the colored people’, who do you think I am going to vote for or believe? If I was living in San Diego on the Defense teat for 35 years working for Northrop Grumman or General Atomics, who do you think I am going to vote for?
    $800 billion to $1 Trillion is pumped as Keynesian Defense spending and it goes mostly to Defense contractors. GE and Honeywell have separate groups that sell into the Defense market. I have worked for both and in 20 years I have never seen these groups go into the red even once for even a single quarter. Inside these companies there is a constant competition to move into these groups. The watch word is, ‘job stability’. Nobody designed the economy this way but as long as Democrats and Progressives fail to recognize this they will keep losing. 2016 turnout will probably be only marginally more than 2014. I sincerely hope we are on an electoral cycle where the Dems get f***d royally for the next decade at least. That will be our hope. A true progressive party may then rise from the ashes provided the GOPer rule in that decade manages to throw Social Security and Medicare into the scrap heap. ‘We are the 99%’ is a bunch of crock. There is no 99% in this country. There is only 40-60% in this country and the 40% of that lot have secure jobs, healthcare and the American dream. Once in a while they will vote for Democrats based on their illusions of how progressive their beliefs are but the rest of the time that 40% bunch will firmly back the GOPers.

    1. James

      Sadly true. The legacy of the 20th century Cold War lives on and even found new funding sources in the GWOT. Trouble is, if we truly rein in the MIC and all its subsidiaries now there would simply be no economy left. Ike almost certainly knew that this is where it was headed all along. Just about all of the Veteran’s Day crap you’re gonna hear this weekend, especially from the NFL and College Football, (I’m listening to some of it now) is actually self-serving propaganda meant only to continue to sell the delusion that all these “heroics” are somehow necessary. And all based on US government sponsored false flag events at that. But I’d worry less about SS and MC – they’re peanuts and will be pared away gradually in the same manner they are now either way. MIC largesse is where the gold mine is, but believe me, we’ll never stop it. Let’s just say they suffer no compunction whatsoever about doing whatever’s necessary to eliminate such threats.

    2. jrs

      You forgot the public worker teat. Oh yea quite a lot of conservatives have government jobs, take away their SS and they’ve still got pensions! Not a situation most people could ever understand with their poorly performing 401k that they’re extremely lucky if they any employer matching for.

      1. Vatch

        Two of the most right wing conservative members of my extended family are retired federal government employees. They don’t comprehend the irony, but I certainly do.

    3. Tommy

      Not debating the general gist of your post, some I agree with. But your math is way off. Barely 30% of entire population even votes in a ‘large turnout’. 60% turnout of REGISTERED voters in 2008…that’s less than 40% of voting age population I believe.
      In a general sense, only about 20% of the actual population votes a president into office. We do need to understand that at least 50% of the VAP doesn’t vote and it heavily breaks down along class lines. With that said, numerically the ‘middle, to far left’ outnumbers the republicans by about 80%. We just have to organize half of that to create massive change…and won’t even have to have a political party to do it. Oh hell my math is bad ……say 50 million vote for mccaine or fucking obama for that matter. The population is 300 million.

  6. Jef

    Did anyone really expect a different outcome? Oh… wait… yes I guess everyone did.

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    Albert Einstein

  7. Ep3

    Yves, just read a post election article from the Detroit free press. The following paraphrased quote made me I’ll. ‘Voters may not be happy with the policies/changes being made, but voters are happy that things are getting done and that the legislature is doing something’. To me, this is comparable to a rape victim saying “ghee I was just raped, but at least I had sex”.
    Over the last 20 years, those that are in control and their media have brainwashed voters into thinking nothing gets done. So that voters are now happy with changes that completely screw them over. Not that change hasn’t been happening. But now it change to things voters hold dear (michigan now a red state; dead Union members are now rolling in their graves).

    1. lambert strether

      Even leaving out its potentially offensive nature, I don’t think saying political outcomes are like rape is a good metaphor; it’s a category error of the same ilk as “government is like a household.” Now, we could (in either case) have a discussion about patriarchy, and hierarchies, and so forth, but the structural dissimilarities on each side of comparison are so great as to make them deceptive.

  8. John Puma

    To G.P:

    Why would the GOP-controlled senate consider filibuster reform since, as you say: “Democrats wouldn’t take full advantage of a robust filibuster anyway”?

    1. Gaius Publius

      Yes, John, that’s the “if.” On the one hand, with 55 votes plus reliable conservative Dems (the usual bipartisan coalition, what I called the “CCC”), corporatists can pass almost anything they want anyway. On the other hand, throwing out the filibuster entirely would serve two corporate purposes — put a stick in the eye for Harry Reid and Jeff Merkley, et al, and remove the last shred of opposition should they hit something where a filibuster would be mounted.

      As I said, I hope they vote to lose the filibuster entirely. Since it is unlikely to be wielded effectively, it’s no real loss, and does accomplish something many progressives have wanted for a long time. We’ll see. Good observation.


      1. John Puma

        Care to name the Dem cadre of the “CCC”?

        I’d like to see the filibuster go, too, but I think the GOP has every reason to keep it for the time they find themselves in the minority again.


  9. indio007

    Also this gnashing of teeth… everyone has over looked the obvious.
    There is no longer consent of the governed.
    The vast majority of Americans didn’t agree to elect this body politic and hasn’t for quite a while.

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