Most progressives are aware of James Carville’s prediction of “40 More Years”, in which Democrats will dominate the next generation. It would be comforting to believe that. Or, if you’re a realist you could take note of the fact that the same book where that is predicted, Carville also opines that the Democrats still would have done even better had they nominated Wal Mart’s corporate attorney to run on a Republican Lite platform of continuing her husband’s free trade agenda.
Operating under this continual delusion that the “New Democrat” program of offering up their party as a pro-choice, pro gay-marriage version of the Republican Party is the path to victory, Democrats are all supposed to accept that its just a fluke that they happened to win when, for the first time in 40 years, they nominated a candidate who actually offered the American people “a choice, not an echo” from the Right’s agenda.
This delusion naturally works well for the Right-wingers who own the corporate media, which of course is content with keeping the political discourse limited to fighting out the culture wars between the Pro-Choice Corporate Party and the Pro-Life Corporate Party, and thus can easily summarize the results of the recent Virginia and New Jersey races as follows: “The American people changed their minds in just one year… they didn’t really want change they can believe in”. But unfortunately the same delusion also suits those limousine liberals, who are similarly indifferent to change when it comes to anything that really matters, and care more about pushing gay marriage against the wishes of the majority of the people in even the bluest states, and to fighting any restrictions to abortion access even if it means killing the only real chance we’ll have to break the power of insurance companies and pass health reform in a generation.
If those limousine liberals in Congress make good on that threat, then they are even lower than Joe Lieberman, and even more worthy of primary challenges and removal from their chairmanships. But whether its them in their inability to distinguish between how many people’s lives will be affected by the Stupak Amendment versus the number of lives that will be affected by another insurance company victory, or the right wingers in their genuine desire for this victory, both of these potential enemies to reform are empowered by the same lies propagated by the corporate media: that the electorate we’ve got is one just itching to legalize gay marriage and keep abortion legal, but won’t tolerate any interference with the corporate health care system that kills millions of people a year.
As long as the Democratic leadership insists on being directed by the supposed wisdom of this advice, they will continue down their present path to an electoral train wreck next November as bad or worse than the one they suffered in 1994, when they played their cards the same way. With Obama now committed to escalating Bush’s Afghanistan quagmire, you need only substitute Afghanistan for NAFTA to see the parallel with the last President who abandoned health reform in favor of pushing an item at the top of the Republican agenda as the thing that was surely going to earn him support in the midterm elections.
Democrats could choose to repeat this yet again, and allow the Republicans to take over in such large numbers that the chance of getting ANY health reform will disappear for another 40 years. Or they just might want to take a chance on actually continuing to win and taking to heart the real lessons of last month’s elections.
The corporate media conveniently ignored how one of the bluest states in the union overturned a gay marriage law, without this having any effect on its support for change. The Democrats can’t afford to.
The corporate media conveniently ignored how this same electorate resoundingly defeated a Tea Partier backed initiative that would have created a budget process as dysfunctional as ours here in California. The Democrats can’t afford to.
The corporate media conveniently failed to consider local issues being what were at stake in Virginia and New Jersey, or the possibility that Obama’s health plan, which the governor of New Jersey has no power over, might not have been as great a factor in Corzine’s plunging approval ratings as his unyielding drive to legalize gay marriage. The Democrats can’t afford to.
And most significantly, the Democrats cannot afford to ignore the lesson contained in the fact that Obama’s Virginia Voters did not change their minds a year later. They simply stayed home, the same way union households stayed home in 1994 after Clinton screwed them with NAFTA. If they want to win, they’d better wake up to the fact that their declining support, if anything, has to do with the fact that when you promise voters change, they kind of expect you to provide it, and they remember when you don’t.
The reddest of red states expect it, and this includes those represented by the four holdouts. The closest Senator to having a point that his constituents are truly conservative and expect their representatives to vote that way, is Ben Nelson, who takes this to heart when he consistently votes pro-life, pro-gun, etc. Harry Reid should encourage him to continue to do so if he still wants a Nebraskan in his caucus, since these are the issues that conservative red state voters are thinking about when they snarl and say “liberal” like it’s a bad word. They aren’t thinking about the public option, which even a majority of Nebraskans support.
The reason is simple. As the saying goes, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but you aren’t entitled to your own facts. If people from one part of the country wish to assert that a fetus is a human being, then that is their opinion which they’re entitled to. But those who wish to assert that our private insurance industry is the best in the world are depending on having their own facts in order to win their argument, and it just so happens that insanity is not a characteristic that breaks down differently amongst different regional voting demographics.
Wherever you go in America, people that continue to subscribe to the dogma of repeatedly discredited economic theories are a small group of committed ideologues that Democrats have for far too long believed they can convert. The Blue Dogs who try to do so have never seemed to grasp that these folks have already got a political party, its called the Republican Party, and nothing any Democrat says or does is going to earn their votes.
Mary Landrieu, of all people, is the best example of a Blue Dog who learned this the hard way in the embarrassingly close call she had in her 2002 campaign. Never has a politician’s talking point backfired any worse than when she bragged about how good a Senator she was because she had voted with the Bush Administration 70% of the time. Her opponent wasted no time in retorting that since they were in agreement that what qualified a person to represent Louisiana in the Senate was how frequently she voted with Bush, then Louisianans should just make it easy and vote for the candidate who’ll vote with him 100% of the time.
If the polls in Nebraska don’t do the trick, then the embarrassing fallout from that gaffe, which almost cost Landrieu her seat seven years ago, needs to be a reminder to her and to her three partners in crime that it is their jobs as much as Harry Reid’s that depend on passing real reform. If bypassing them by using reconciliation, or browbeating them in a manner the Republicans would have done a long time ago in his situation are not in Reid’s playbook, then maybe he can try a diplomatic appeal to their self interest, that defines that self interest in the honest way that the corporate media will not. Whichever route he goes, he simply has to make this happen.
If he doesn’t, his party’s time in power will not be anything close to Carville’s prediction. It’ll be closer to “40 More Days”, approximately the amount of time he has before it’ll be too late to convince America that “Change We Can Believe In” is not just another empty promise from a party Americans can’t trust.
DSCC Delegate, 55th AD