Gaius Publius: An “Open Rebellion Caucus” Forms in the Senate

Yves here. Gaius Publius describes how an increasingly uppity faction within the Democratic party is revolting against the way that the party has become largely indistinguishable from the Republicans on economic matters. Oh, they make more middle class friendly noises, but as Lambert puts it, “The Republicans let you know they plan to knife you in the face. The Democrats tell you they only want one kidney. What they don’t tell you is next year they are coming for the other kidney.”

But can this “Open Rebellion Caucus” make headway when the Democratic party has moved to significant central control of funding?

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 piece first appeared at digby’s Hullabaloo. GP article archive here.

I’ve been a fan of an “Open Rebellion Caucus” among progressive office-holders and insiders — the principled and conscience-led — for a long time. For example, in a pre-election piece titled Are Democratic Leaders Already “Tea Partying” The Progressives? I noted at the end:

“Open Rebellion Caucus” … 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.

I’ll come back to the situation in the House another time. That Senate “golden opportunity,” which was lost, occurred in January 2013 when progressive Senators proposed strong filibuster reform — and voted for weak reform — because that’s what the “bipartisan moderates” wanted. (Note: It’s not the progressive loss that I’m calling out; it’s the way pro-reform progressives voted.)

Why Does Open Rebellion Matter?

Why rebellion — progressive insurgency — against billionaire-controlled Democrats matters could become an essay in itself, and someday it will. But simply put, it matters for two main reasons. One, because conscience matters — yes, that — and two, because there are already cracks in all three layers of the progressive movement buried within the Democratic Party:

▪ Democratic voters have arguably rejected neoliberal, corporate, billionaire-serving Democrats in 2014. The country is ready for change, and the day Democrats offer one, they’ll win elections by the bucketful.

▪ Democratic activists and writers are desperate for something better from their party. Their cris de coeur are private for now, said amongst themselves, and those cries are not cried by all. Nevertheless, a great many progressive voices and hands are done, have had it, with the Mark Warners and Pryors of the world, and very vocally so.

▪ Some Democratic insiders are similarly ready to rebel. There are pockets of donors, strategists and office-holders who “get it” — get that they can’t be principled (that word again) and support the Geithners, the Pritzkers, and the Orszags. And if they can’t support the Geithners, how can they support a White House that regularly coughs them out for consideration?

Cracks within all three groups are visible if you’re looking for them. I spent a week in Washington recently, selectively and explicitly looking for them. The intra-party war within the first two groups isn’t fully formed, yet, but it could be; the rumbles are loud enough. But among voters, the results appear to be in. When progressive policies are wildly popular as ballot measures, and corporate Democrats are rejected as “no solution at all,” the crack in the base is wide as a canyon and deep as a fracking well.

Now that widening crack is spreading to office-holders.

The “Hell No” Caucus Targets Billionaire-Serving Democratic Leaders

Our first look at office-holders who refuse to play “follow the neoliberal leader” starts in the Senate. POLITICO noted the formation of a “Hell No” caucus led by people like Sen. Jeff Merkley, but carefully couched it as an anti-Republican group (my emphasis everywhere):

Liberal ‘hell no’ caucus rises

The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate marked a major show of muscle for next year’s new hell-no caucus: liberals. … [R]ed-state Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska are on their way out, and liberals like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse — with Elizabeth Warren leading the way on messaging — may cause as many headaches for Senate Republicans as tea partyers caused Democrats in the past four years. …

Here’s that “Hell No” caucus in action, but with a different target. Elizabeth Warren, writing recently at Huffington Post, has this to say about Antonio Weiss, an Obama nominee for a senior post at the Treasury Department. As you read, tell me who she’s taking on, Republicans or her own billionaire-led party leaders:

Enough Is Enough: The President’s Latest Wall Street Nominee

I believe President Obama deserves deference in picking his team, and I’ve generally tried to give him that. But enough is enough.

Last Wednesday, President Obama announced his nomination of Antonio Weiss to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department. This is a position that oversees Dodd-Frank implementation and a wide range of banking and economic policymaking issues, including consumer protection.

So who is Antonio Weiss? He’s the head of global investment banking for the financial giant Lazard. He has spent the last 20 years of his career at Lazard — most of it advising on international mergers and acquisitions. …

There’s so much more in Warren’s piece, and I’ll come back to some of it. But she’s taking on the (yes, neoliberal) president of her party, two weeks after an election in which her party lost the majority in her house of Congress to the hated Republicans, and one week after the Republicans said they would up their game against that very president. Has Warren joined the nominal enemy (Republicans), or has she taken the fight to the real enemy that controls both parties — the “billionaire class“?

Warren’s indictment of Obama’s appointment reads like this:

The second issue [with the Weiss nomination] is corporate inversions. Basically, a bunch of companies have decided that all the regular tax loopholes they get to exploit aren’t enough, so they have begun taking advantage of an even bigger loophole that allows them to maintain their operations in America but claim foreign citizenship and cut their U.S. taxes even more. No one is fooled by the bland words “corporate inversion.” These companies renounce their American citizenship and turn their backs on this country simply to boost their profits.

One of the biggest and most public corporate inversions last summer was the deal cut by Burger King to slash its tax bill by purchasing the Canadian company Tim Hortons and then “inverting” the American company to Canadian ownership. And Weiss was right there, working on Burger King’s tax deal. Weiss’ work wasn’t unusual for Lazard. That firm has helped put together three of the last four major corporate inversions that have been announced in the U.S. And like those old Hair Club commercials used to say, Lazard isn’t just the President of the Corporate Loopholes Club — it’s also a client. Lazard moved its own headquarters from the United States to Bermuda in 2005 to take advantage of a particularly slimy tax loophole that was closed shortly afterwards. Even the Treasury Department under the Bush administration found Lazard’s practices objectionable.

The White House and Treasury have strongly denounced inversions, and rightly so. But they undercut their own position by advancing Mr. Weiss.

Notice the word “exploit” above. Warren, here and elsewhere, correctly sees the “billionaire class” as predators, and she’s willing to call out the leaders of her party when those leaders advance predator interests.

[T]here’s the larger, more general issue of Wall Street executives dominating the Obama administration, as well as the Democratic Party’s, overall economic policymaking apparatus. I wrote about this problem a couple of months ago on The Huffington Post in more detail.

Here is what I wrote then:

Just look at the influence of one mega-bank — Citigroup — on our government. Starting with former Citigroup CEO Robert Rubin, three of the last four Treasury secretaries under Democratic presidents held high-paying jobs at Citigroup either before or after serving at Treasury — and the fourth was offered, but declined, Citigroup’s CEO position. Directors of the National Economic Council and Office of Management and Budget, the current Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. trade representative, also pulled in millions from Citigroup. …

Shortly before the [Eric] Cantor episode, another former member of Congress — Democrat Melissa Bean — took the same senior job at JPMorgan Chase previously held by Democrat Bill Daley before his recent service as White House Chief of Staff. Yes — this is just a single position at JPMorgan Chase, evidently reserved for the latest politician ready to cash in on Wall Street. …

In recent years, President Obama has repeatedly turned to nominees with close Wall Street ties for high-level economic positions. Jack Lew, who was a top Citigroup official, now serves as Treasury Secretary. The President’s choice for Treasury’s highest international position, Nathan Sheets, also comes from Citi. For the number two spot at the Federal Reserve, the President tapped Stanley Fischer, another former Citigroup executive. A Bank of America executive, Stefan Selig, was put in charge of international trade at the Commerce Department. The President’s two recent picks for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — including his choice for Chairman — are lawyers who have spent their careers representing big financial institutions.

Please do read the whole thing. The phrase “piling on” was invented for exercises like these. Notice that she makes “the President” personally responsible. She closes where she began, by referencing her only other No vote on an Obama nominee and implying strongly that Weiss will be treated the same:

Enough is enough.

Indeed. This is a fight to watch.

Will the “Hell No” Caucus Declare Open Rebellion Against Weiss? Will They Extend Their Reach?

Back in the POLITICO article, progressive Senators Merkley, Sanders and frequently-progressive Sen. Whitehouse were named as part of their fancifully named “Hell No” caucus — meaning “hell no” to Keystone and Republicans. But Keystone is a billionaire-led Democratic favorite as well, one which senators like “No-to-Reid” Claire McCaskill supports. Without really saying so, POLITICO has found the crack in the Democratic Senate. Will an Open Rebellion Caucus (my own fanciful naming) work to widen that crack?

I earnestly hope so. If you’re in my camp, or just interested in watching this battle, here are three things to notice:

1. Watch what happens to the Weiss nomination. Especially, watch the vote. Weiss is Money-to-the-core — the billionaire’s next nominee for Treasury — so he’ll get Republican Yes votes. But he’s Obama’s nominee, so he’ll draw Republican No’s as well.

If the nomination fails, every Democratic No has joined with Warren and could become an Open Rebellion candidate going forward. Voting No in a winning cause will take real courage — “I decline to follow the leader” courage — and every man and woman who does so deserves your praise and support. The crack in the Democratic caucus will widen and the insurgency will grow.

But if the nomination succeeds, Democratic No votes could be real or just for show (“It’s safe to vote No, ’cause he’s gonna pass anyway”). Any No vote in a losing cause could be suspect, because there’s no way to tell who’s sincere and who’s been given “permission” to vote against the rest of the caucus “for the folks back home.”

2. Watch what Harry Reid does. In my travels I heard a number of mixed reports about Harry Reid. Those opposed to or concerned about his past Senate leadership consider him unreliable — good on issues like TPP, but too willing to compromise elsewhere in order to “keep the caucus together.” But I also spoke with several close observers who say that Reid-in-opposition — a Reid who no longer has to hold his majority together with anti-progressive decisions — may prove a strong progressive ally.

Which Reid is the real one? Only the deep insiders know for sure. But if better-Reid is on the horizon, now is the time to show it — with deeds that can be seen and understood from outside the Beltway. Watch carefully. The Weiss nomination, if it moves through the lame duck Senate to conclusion, could make an interesting test of which Reid we’ll have in the next two years — progressive-ally Reid, or party-first Reid.

I’m eager to see which Reid raises his head. A true progressive insurgency in the Senate, if it solidifies, will have to go forward through Reid or with Reid. Going through Reid is obviously the harder course. Going with Reid, in my opinion, will benefit both Reid and Democrats. Saying No to billionaires is the path back to the majority as I see it, and I believe the 2014 losses confirm that observation.

3. Watch the nomination of Loretta Lynch for Attorney General. If Elizabeth Warren thought Antonio Weiss was bad, consider Loretta Lynch. Yes, she’d be the first African-American woman Attorney General. She’s also deep in the Eric Holder mold — no Wall Street crime is too criminal to prosecute. She’s a “white shoes” lawyer who signed off on the white-washed HSBC settlement:

According to a Matt Taibbi blockbuster in Rolling Stone, HSBC, indirectly and directly, laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for entities that included Mexican drug cartels, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Russian gangs, Iran, and North Korea.

“Money laundering” means “being a banker” for people who cut people’s heads off (click; it’s the Mexican cartels I’m talking about). I mentioned “conscience” above; this settlement is conscienceless. As the article notes, it was “an exclusively financial settlement without criminal prosecution.” About Lynch as AG, lawyer Mike Papantonio says in the video below:

She’s going to make the lives of Wall Street criminals a cake walk, not a perp walk.

Cake walk, not a perp walk. That’s your next Attorney General unless our nascent, Warren-inspired “Open Rebellion Caucus” is willing to partner with other Democrats and Republicans to stop it. I will take courage for Democrats to do this — one of today’s themes. Not only will they be partnering with the hated Republicans, they’ll go against many prominent liberal cheerleaders. What will they do, act on the principle already demonstrated by Ms. Warren in the Weiss case, or … fold?

Courage and Conscience — Who has it and Who Doesn’t?

We live in times that test us. Sad that, but it can’t be helped. I would not want to be a Clinton — a triangulating billionaire-serving Democrat — as the day’s issues grow more stark and the bright lines more clear. And I’m not sure I’d want to be a party-loyal, on-the-fence progressive either. Yet that way victory lies, the way of courage.

Just look who won and who lost in the last set of fights. Marriage equality won — because gays went toe-to-toe with Obama and defied their own “triangulating” organizations, like Human Rights Campaign. Immigration reform is winning — because immigration activists pushed La Raza to call Obama the “deporter-in-chief” and he didn’t like it.

Courage and conscience. Do progressive Senators have what it takes? Does Harry Reid have what it takes to support them? I can’t wait to find out. Here’s that Papantonio–Loretta Lynch video. It’s short; enjoy!

By the way, Thom Hartmann’s The Big Picture makes a great pre-MSNBC watch. Check it out when it returns to Free Speech TV. Just a thought.


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  1. David Lentini

    Interesting observations and points, but perhaps I’m just too jaded now to think better than how this is more kabuki to—as you like to say—”cool the mark” for a progressive-ready Hillary (“Clinton 2.0”) or other candidate in 2016. Given the mid-term (engineered IMHO) disaster, Obama will be an especially lame lame duck and the real- and faux progressives can run for awhile. All to allow Lucy to set the football for the charging progressive Charlie Browns in 2016.

    1. CB

      Concur. The dem apparatchiks designed the mid term loss to accommodate the repubs: “Whatever help we can give you.” And they’ll expect their rewards for the performance, another development to watch.

    2. jcgrim

      Agreed. Obama pretends to be a friend of pubic education but a careful look at the Dept of Education’s appointees and you’ll find silicon valley’s key strokes everywhere. Never has DoEd been as captured as under Obama.

      Eight fine Obama-serving individuals in key USDOE positions whose priorities (and professional experience) lay far and away from the traditional American classroom but who have been appointed to carry out the work of condemning and supplanting the traditional K12 American classroom with profitable “ventures” and disposable teachers by relentlessly testing the traditional classroom, collecting unprecedented amounts of data on it; labeling it a failure; replacing it with under-regulated, philanthropic-padded, market-driven “reform” that is also supposed to channel students to serve the market, and all the while adding the USDOE padding to their corporate-favoring resumes and advancing their own careers in the process.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Can we please stop referring to Obomba and crew as “Democrats”? The party founded by Andrew Jackson to rout out “nest of viper” central bankers and all of the attendant ills that descend from them does not deserve to be defamed in this manner. Obomba and Hitlery are the worst form of corporo-fascists, because they smile and lie while stealing our future. At least Darth Cheney had the integrity to snarl at you when unleashing his brown shirts.

  2. trish

    What strikes me is how low the bar is set now (for “progressive” Democrat). Maybe just my cynicism when it comes to congress…

  3. James Levy

    Political parties have always been agglomerations of interests in the US, not ideological instruments for formulating and enacting coherent policies. They started that way to bridge the North/South/West divide in the early Republic and have largely stayed that way. Ideas exist in them to satisfy and justify the needs and wants of interests. That’s why attacks on “identity politics” are ahistorical–regional, religious, and ethnic identities have always had a place at the table since Andrew Jackson.
    What we here want is a new kind of party that has weak roots and little history in the USA. Whether or not the Democrats can be transformed into such is an open question.

  4. Northeaster

    Not sure why people are so into Elizabeth Warren, does she reflect a different persona to those outside of Massachusetts?

    She puts on a great show, parading government and Fed officials in front of her Committee, but nothing happens. She never called on Eric Holder, or anyone from the injustice department, the only people who could have levied criminal charges. Her idea on student loan interest rate reduction will just end up with borrowers gaining access to more money should the rate be reduced, exacerbating the student loan issue. For all her criticizing TBTF wrongdoings, she banks with one of them – Bank of America! How does that happen? Looking at her campaign donors and financial disclosures, as well as being just another multimillionaire CONgress Member, she doesn’t look any different than the rest of the CONgress critters occupying D.C.

    1. Banger

      Why “nothing happens” has nothing to do with Warren but with the political reality within Washington. The left has no power–it, generally, believes power is a bad thing and prefers sermons and “it’s not fair” as substitute for realpolitik thus people like Warren who are interested in making things happen are left helpless and unsupported by the left. She’s in the business of making deals and if she can’t, for example, threaten a general strike of a major boycott or a disruption of traffic or whatever how can she wield power and make deals that benefit us?

  5. Eureka Springs

    Good lord this kind of talk/post makes my head explode. It’s like reading NPR in the Nice Polite Republican meaning. Lambert could color code it into oblivion for sport.

    This is the party who said Hell No to Bork and gave the country Kennedy whilst patting themselves on the back. And this is a post which hopes and dreams performing that sort of kabuki yet again could really mean something this time.

    Rather than repeatedly expect a handful of Senators to stop killing people from The Mid east to Mexico to Ferguson and establish rule of law for the first time in its entire history we should abolish the United States Senate. Now that could be ‘progressive’. Wondering if Harry Reid should do anything but resign or be run out of D.C. in shame is reason number 9,872 why I am not now nor will ever again align with democrats, not even for dog-catcher.

    1. steelhead23

      I recently penned an essay on Why I No Longer Vote Democratic – the basic reason is that the Democratic Party of Kennedy and Carter no longer exists. But I refuse to give up hope. Hope gives impetus to action and without action, we’re doomed. So yes, just like Charlie Brown, should the Dems decide to bite the billionaire hands that feed them campaign cash and offer a progressive candidate for prez (yes, that would include Warren, Sanders, and Merkley) I would not only vote for them, I would campaign for them. Hope, my friend, springs eternal. I also note that in order to get anywhere in Congress, one must soften one’s edges. So, I don’t expect a progressive candidate to show up sporting a halo. Senator Warren has softly snarled at this bankster coddling administration often enough to show her populist roots.

    2. Vince in MN

      Cliche-ridden 1930s B-movie script thinking is what passes for progressive amongst the demobots I am afraid.

    3. Nathanael

      Just remember, progressive third parties (including the Progressives, the Populists, the Farmer and Labour parties in Minnesota, the Non-Partisan League, and others) succeeded in the late 19th century (prior to Wilson co-opting most of their platform).

      Also, always remember that the Whig Party completely collapsed during the 1850s. Very quickly. Ex-Whig politicians were fleeing it at high speed.

  6. MikeNY

    From your lips to God’s ears.

    As I’ve asked before, why have a Republican Lite, when you can have The Real Thing?

    SOMEBODY needs to figure out that the old paradigm is leading us straight to third-world oligarchy. And more tax breaks for billionaires and corporations won’t change that course by one one-hundredth of one degree.

  7. ella

    When it comes to the so called progressive Democrats, we are all cynics now. Why? They run as progressives and govern as conservatives. Long ago many of us decided that the only difference between the D’s and the R’s was the rate of national and middle class decline. That rate is slower with the D’s than the R’s.

    Time for more deregulation and tax cuts for the Uber’s and their business interests. Amazing to think their policies catered to the Uber’s at the expense of the middle class. Destruction of the consuming and producing middle class is destruction of American as a nation and as a market. Market as in main street.

  8. pretzelattack

    succinct. i wonder if it’s worse with the democrats in charge because they are more effective at stifling change with their faux populism.

    1. bh2

      No chance.


      The dilemma for the dems (progressive or not) is that their voter strength lies almost entirely in the cities, but it is also in those very cities that the primary money power of the country is heavily concentrated and entrenched.

      With little influence outside these deep blue urban regions of the country, dems have no choice but to pretend hating the 1% even as they depend on them to keep the corrupt financial juice flowing which fuels the urban economies their primary voter base depends on for survival.

      E.g., Chuck Schumer may nominally be a “liberal Democrat”, but he’ll never deeply annoy the politically agnostic financial powers occupying the high towers of Manhattan. No bankers ever go to jail in Manhattan even though they and their crimes are co-located in one of the most “liberal” bastions of the republic.

      This isn’t an accident. It’s an arrangement. And permanent.

  9. susan the other

    The Open Rebellion caucus in the US Senate. Right. Isn’t it interesting to watch. It comes out with a lot of hard talk by Liz and it is followed by nothing at all. And here from GP we get more pureed politix with the age old red herring that “we’ll all just have to watch and see how it turns out” because it might be grandstanding on Liz’s part. I’m sorry to say it but this is just more feeble minded blabber. The United States is falling apart. Has already fallen apart. And we’re gonna sit around and have a cordial conversation about what might happen in two years time? No thanks. I’m done. (Remember Obama telling his audience after his election in 2008 that even tho’ we all elected him we still had to lobby our congress people so Obama could push his agenda thru? – That was just one more barricade by his puppet masters preventing any sensible social programs from even having a chance in hell. So big deal Liz, you’re going to prevent another Citi zombie from controlling the United States Treasury. That’s really going to help alot. Oh man, I’m just so thrilled!)

  10. Minor Heretic

    It’s about the money supply. Either we have to go supply side or demand side.

    Supply side means creating alternative funding, finding and bundling many small donations from ordinary people to match the spending of the billionaires. This is logistically difficult but possible because it doesn’t require legislation or a SCOTUS decision. It could also mean legislation to provide sufficient government funding for candidates to offset the influence of billionaires. Not likely.

    Demand side could mean either 1) legislation and/or a constitutional amendment to restrict political spending. Tricky. or 2) Developing/exploiting alternative outreach methods for progressive candidates that don’t require huge sums of money. This would include internet based campaigning and direct human on-the-ground volunteer campaigning. Big logistics.

    Until we deal with political money we are wasting our time on other efforts. As long as the two major parties are the sole political ATMs we are screwed.

  11. Code Name D

    Sorry, but I have already seen this movie and know how it ends. Uppity editorial peaces like this are so cheep one could line their septic tank with them and still have plenty left over for a few hundred bird cages. If Warren is serious, she needs to do more than fire a few shots off Obama’s bow – they need to actually connect and do real damage. Otherwise – it’s just more talk.

    Democratic revolts are not new.

    Howard Dean road in a popular-revolt wave which got him into the DNC, where he could carry forth his 50 State Strategy. It was not a coincidence that four years later, Obama and a large raft of Democrats were swept into office by one of the largest mobilization of young activists in recent memory. It was simple; Dean went around to all of the red states and picked off the low hanging fruit that the wealthy Dems see fit to rot on the vine. Even if their votes didn’t count, they could drive to the states where they did count and help out with the ground campaign.

    You would think that with a winning strategy such as this would be something Obama would want to keep around. Nope. As soon as he took office, he also became head of the Democratic Party and stated waving around that magic wand I am told he doesn’t have. He removed Dean from the DNC and replaced him with yet another inside hack who wasted no time in restoring the old Battle State Strategy. Insert predictable consequences here. To make maters worse, those young people are older now, and not nearly so naïve as they were before. They are not going to step up again without something up front.

    Dean made the mistake assuming that success was enough to advance. When in reality what the Orthodoxy demands is loyalty, not competence. In fact, they don’t like competent people because they fear losing their power because they know they are incompetent. They would much rather have loyal failures, than independent successes. That is why I call it the Utopian Paradox; it’s the assumption that the system is healthy enough to see to its own reform.

    Warran, if she wants to be a true hell-raiser, needs to start breaking the rules. And I have an idea of how she might do it.

    It’s called “Forward Campaigning”. Rather than running on your own name, you start bringing other people on board as examples of your style of governance. You also start leaning on them for the rhetorical material. If you want to take a green campaign to take on global warming – rather than simply shooting off your opinion, you turn to the actual climatologists to do the heavy political lifting. For Warran, this may be something as simple as attending or even hosting a public conference to openly discuss current policy. For example, she could be seen attending a Modern Monetary Theory Conference, even better, to be seen asking good questions of the attendees. The point is to not just look like she “gets it”, but for her to do her homework, to actually start to take command of the subject, and more importantly, to actually start getting it right.

  12. flora

    Thanks for this post. The Dem party losing the base Dem voters this fall, and in such a resounding no-spin way (debacle, anyone?), must undercut the Wall St. Dems authority in Congress to some extent. Main Street Dems are done with them. Witness one of the lowest voter turnouts since 1942. Nothing for Main Street to vote for.
    The “hell no” caucus may have found the moment.

  13. Vatch

    So the Open Rebellion Caucus has Senators Warren, Merkley, Sanders, and Whitehouse. Well, that’s a start. Who else is in the caucus? They really need to have 41 members, so they can filibuster effectively. Four isn’t enough if they really expect to hinder the functioning of the oligarchy.

    1. Nathanael

      I’d expect Wyden, who’s basically called the President a traitor for the NSA crimes. That gets us to five, right?

      Yeah, not very many, is it?

      Anyway, serious rebellions and party splits in a legislature always start in the more numerous chamber, not a Senate. Count the House members (harder problem).

  14. Demeter

    The only time I ever saw Harry Reid acting like a political warrior was in a surgical-strike defense of his own sorry hide in a primary. Otherwise, he would be a better representative of the People’s Interest by being 6 feet under.

  15. Oregoncharles

    ” led by people like Sen. Jeff Merkley”
    Some “hell no” caucus: Merkley voted to support Israel’s genocide in Gaza – and earned himself a Green Party opponent in the process. (Literally – we would not have run against him otherwise.) As it happened, the Republican was a total dud, so it didn’t matter; but many elections have been settled by 2.5%.

    The point: Merkley isn’t leading a “hell no” caucus.” He’s still a good little poodle when it really matters. Not sure about the others – don’t have their names. But Udall his making his poodle-ness crystal clear by not releasing the report on CIA torture when it would cost him very little.

    1. lordkoos

      In fairness, it could cost Senator Udall quite a bit, how could we know? It all depends on what type of information the NSA has on him. I don’t think the politicians are really in control.

  16. Oregoncharles


    Starting off with Merkley was just as revealing as I suspected. He’s a nice man and liberal for a Senator, but he’s a party apparatchik (Speaker of the Oregon House before he ran for Senate), not a rebel. And note that most of this depends on Warren – more of an outsider, but liberal ONLY on the banks.

    This kind of wishful thinking focussed on the Democrats is an important barrier to the change we need. They’re the kind of honest politicians that stay bought. Give us a break, for heaven’s sake.

  17. Ed Walker

    The one hopeful point here is that some of the Dem insiders are fed up with this pretend Dem party. I note that it’s almost certainly Harry Reid’s noisy and self-serving chief of staff who talks up this deal as reported by Greg Sargent here:

    That sleazy self-promoter is almost certainly the point man on negotiations, and he just got kicked in the teeth. Reid has a choice: he can keep up this pretense that he is on the side of the angels, or he can actively be a friend of his gambler friends both on Wall Street and in Las Vegas.

  18. SilenceDogood

    Democrats have become the party that supports lesbians and illegals. We have lost the White working class. We are losing the youth. When is the last time you heard a democrat say that we need jobs for our students, not for foreign H-1Bs? It’s been a long time. We support jobs for illegals, not for the WWC. It’s one or the other and not both. You pick illegals, you have kicked WWC voters in the teeth.

  19. Lune

    I like Warren, but I don’t think we’ll know her true colors until she actually takes a stand that costs her something. Right now, the Democratic establishment finds it useful to have someone like her, a powerless junior senator from a safe democratic seat, be the focal point of progressive energy, so that that energy doesn’t spill over and put pressure on other senators.

    If you think Warren is causing true pain to the Democratic establishment, ask yourself this: why did they willingly put her on the Banking committee? As a freshman senator, she has very little say in her committee assignments. The party leadership determines committee assignments and if they truly wished to silence her, they could have easily put her on some other committee where she couldn’t rock the boat.

    A comparison to Alan Grayson is instructive: Grayson is a true progressive hell-raiser, willing to take on positions that put him at political risk (like losing his seat in 2010), and shaming DINOs when they sell out. Despite having more seniority in the House than Warren does in the Senate, Grayson’s committee assignments are Foreign Affairs and Science, Space, and Technology. The democratic leadership knows better than to put him anywhere near the economic committees like Ways & Means or Financial Services.

    Warren so far has served a useful purpose for the establishment, serving as a focus for progressive hopes, then dissipating their energy in a series of grandstanding hearings which lead to no actual change. This, BTW, is not (entirely) an insult to Warren: freshman Senators have very little power, so this may be the best she can do at this time (although Grayson, again, did far more with much less as a freshman House member). That’s why I say I still like her. But I won’t fully trust her not to sell out until she actually puts her career on the line to fight for her principles while willingly facing the wrath of her party.

    For anyone who truly likes Washington insider baseball, watch the committee assignments for the next Congress. The true work of Congress gets done in the committees. By the time most bills reach the floor, their fate is already determined. Indeed, for getting something done, a senior staffer on the relevant committee probably has more power than a senator not on the committee. The party leaders determine the shape of their party’s platform by determining who gets what seat (albeit the decision is a complex one involving people’s preferences, their seniority, fundraising, policy expertise, geographic balance, etc.). Based on the people they put in each committee, you’ll know what the Democrats will do the next 2 years, along with where progressives may have some hope of having one of their own flying under the radar…

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