Following Martha Coakley’s loss in Massachusetts, Obama will no
doubt get a lot of advice to move to the center, to compromise more, to
give up any hope for the progressive agenda he was elected to deliver.
But that advice is totally wrong-headed! If he wants to be
remembered as anything other than an ineffectual one-term president, he
and his weak-kneed party need to seize the debate, push the agenda, and
present themselves once more as the party of change. Maybe they should
even go back to Spiro Agnew’s “nattering nabobs of negativsim” and pin
that label on the GOP.
It is unconscionable that even the last few months when they’ve had
their precious 60-vote supermajority, they’ve kowtowed to the right and
let the party of intransigence frame and control the debate, and the
votes. Now that they’ve lost that cushion, they’ve got only one hope of
staying viable. Here’s the briefest outline:
Stop running crappy candidates! The Dems lost two governorships and
for goodness sake Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat because they keep running
candidates who don’t stand for anything, do little campaigning, and
expect their money and connections to carry them to victory. Did they
learn nothing from the John Kerry debacle? Or from Dukakis in 1988? I
live in Massachusetts and can tell you that Coakley ran a terrible
Be the framers of the debate. Show the people how you proposed the
change Obama ran on, and over and over again, the Republicans, the
party of the failed policies of the past, have blocked your way no
matter how many bipartisan overtures you make. Build momentum in the
streets as well as in the boardrooms. Show that these Republicans, and
the Blue Dog Democrats who vote with them, are blocking the way. Then
mount effective campaigns by effective progressive candidates to get
them OUT in November.
Refuse to tolerate the shenanigans of people like Joe Lieberman and
Ben Nelson. The Republicans managed to get a lot of their agenda
through with a very close majority during the Bush years, because they
held together. Make it clear that the party will support primary
challenges(and general election challenges) from the Left.
Play hardball. When Nelson, Lieberman and Snowe threatened the
health bill unless it dropped all its substance, the party’s
progressive stalwarts should have been out there shouting very publicly
that dropping the public option meant dropping THEIR vote. Even Bernie
Sanders wasn’t willing to go there.
Listen to Howard Dean
, who used to chair the party: “If you want to win you actually can’t move to the middle and become a
Republican,” former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean
said on MSNBC Tuesday night. “You have to stand up and stand for the
things that you got elected on and the Democratic Party believes in. We
haven’t seen that on the health care bill and I think that’s part of
THIS strategy will result in one year writing good laws that won’t
get passed, throwing the bums out, consolidating power, and having an
amazing third and fourth year. Franklin Roosevelt used this strategy
successfully in his first term, showed the public that he wanted to
make real change, and swept back into office not just for a second term
but for a third and a fourth.
Obama, as a former community organizer, knows how to do this. He did
it effectively in his campaign. He did it in the first weeks of his
administration, and built a culture of hope. And then he started
back-door dealing, chipping away at the agenda, providing giveaways to
Wall Street, maintaining the worst aspects of the Bush foreign
policy…is it any wonder his constituency feels deserted and abandoned?
And that hope crashed and burned, leaving people bitter, angry, and
unmotivated to vote for weak-kneed scoundrels–which is how they are
perceiving the Democrats.
Otherwise, the issue of leadership is too important to leave to the politicians.