On ABC’s This Week, Intelligence Committee vice chair Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will discuss the nuclear talks with Iran, and the fallout of the Senate Dems . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/24/13
This was a big week in the political world, so we’ve got a lot to get through before we get to the big, explosive “nuclear option” story. In fact, it was even a big week just for political anniversaries. Fifty years ago this week, an event of no little importance happened. I speak, of course, tomorrow’s 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who by the BBC.
OK, I apologize for that, but I just wanted everyone to know up front that since I wasn’t alive when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated, there will be no personal remembrances today. There’s plenty of that sort of thing out there in the wider media universe today, in case you would like to indulge. If truth be told, what actually astonished me this week was how little attention was paid to another historic benchmark: the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. I didn’t see — not once, mind you — a single instance of anyone just broadcasting an uninterrupted recitation of the speech. Even though the entire thing is only about two minutes long. It’s less than 300 words, for Pete’s sake, and Ken Burns (of PBS documentary fame) even put together a nice video of former presidents reciting it. Yet I still didn’t see a single unedited reading of the speech — on its 150th anniversary, no less. Maybe I’m just looking at the wrong media, but I consider this omission pretty damn pathetic, personally. I mean, the speech is two minutes long, people! I saw extended commentary on the speech, mind you, some of it taking up several times the length of time of the actual speech itself, and yet nobody just presented Lincoln’s words (which truly do stand alone in exemplary fashion).
Sigh. Maybe my expectations are just too high. This is the mainstream media we’re talking about, after all. They’ve got more important things to do — like telling each other to ingest human feces. I really, really wish I made that last one up, but sadly, I didn’t have to.
Before we get into weightier matters, it was a rather sad week for three House members. Grace Meng got mugged on the streets of Washington and Creigh Deeds was stabbed by his own son, who then committed suicide. Our thoughts go out to them and their families. The other story was self-inflicted, so we’re not offering any sympathy at all to Republican House member Trey Radel, who (it was announced) had previously been caught buying $250 worth of cocaine on the streets of Washington. He isn’t going to resign after his conviction, mind you, he’s just going to take a bit of time off. Isn’t that nice — a job which allows you to take personal time off to deal with a drug problem? It’d be a little more appropriate if Radel hadn’t earlier voted for a bill to drug test welfare recipients. How about we drug test Congress, first? After all, they get federal money too, right? Let’s see some mandatory pee-in-a-cup tests, on a regular (and unannounced) basis. And how about we start with every member who has ever voted to drug test anyone else, at any time during their career? I mean, the hypocrisy is so thick you can cut it with a razor blade, bag it up, and sell it on the streetcorners for souvenirs. So to speak.
In other “Republicans must be high” news, the House GOP met to discuss their agenda for the upcoming year. Except (you simply can not make this stuff up, folks) that what they gathered to discuss was a blank sheet of paper with “Agenda 2014″ written at the top. Future historians may point back to this as being the moment when the Republican Party just gave up even trying to pretend it was for anything. Reflecting their empty agenda, John Boehner thought it would be a funny to joke that the House “shouldn’t even remain in session in December.” They’ve scheduled a whopping 15 work days for November and December combined, so I guess the best response is: “Who would even notice?” But it’s really not that funny, when you think about it. Even more ironic, the next line in the article reporting this knee-slapper was: “Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 3 House Republican, told activists last week that there isn’t enough time to complete immigration reform this year.” Sorry, no time for that sort of thing. We’re busy meeting to discuss a blank sheet of paper, maybe we’ll get to it later.
Democrats, meanwhile, got gay marriage approved in two more states (Hawai’i and Illinois), and — much like when the last few states did so — it was barely even newsworthy on the national stage. Think about that for just a moment. We’ve come a long way on the issue when states number 15 and 16 approve gay marriage — and the reaction barely rises above “ho hum.” That, my friends, is what progress feels like.
And finally, before we get to all the really big news of the week, a town in Utah seems to be competing with Congress for sheer laziness. It seems that Wallsburg just plumb forgot to hold an election this year. Whoops! They also spaced out on holding an election a few years ago, for added irony. Maybe they should try the “there’s something in the water” excuse?
We still have two quick Honorable Mention awards to hand out before we get to the big story, though. Both are for introducing legislation, and the first goes to Representative Gwen Moore, for her “Domestic Violence Criminal Disarmament Act,” which would remove guns from domestic violence criminals. The second goes to Representative Louise Slaughter for her “No Budget, No Vacation” bill, which would force Congress to stay in session throughout the holiday season this year, if they don’t get a budget deal together by the mid-December deadline. Maybe that’ll make John Boehner stop joking around about how little they have to do next month. It’s certainly worth a shot.
Whew! We have finally gotten through all the other news of the week and cleared the launch pad for the biggest story of the week: Harry Reid grows a spine! OK, maybe that’s a little harsh, but some people have been waiting for this “nuclear option” moment for a long time now, Harry.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided this week that enough was enough, and he finally pulled the trigger on the “nuclear option” in the Senate. By a 52-48 vote, the rules of the Senate were changed so that executive nominees and judicial nominees (below the Supreme Court level) can no longer be filibustered, but instead will face only majority votes in order to be confirmed.
This is historic. It is the biggest change in the filibuster since 1975. And it is long overdue. Continue reading Friday Talking Points  — Harry Reid’s Explosive Week
Bio-rhythms were the inspiration to eliminate human suffering before Prozac, and it became a cliché that people complained about their triple critical days—the times when all three bio-cycles were at their lowest. The growth in American manufacturing may well be coming from pills—a story in the New York Times cites new addictions to control the old addictions; clients serviced at pill clinics run by doctors who were addicted in the new and old ways, which means blood tests are out and pill counts are in.
The lines, legally and culturally, are converging to create new vortices of future misery, even as some politicians try to substitute the politics of memoir and the politics of money.
The point is certain ideas persist in America’s pop psychology and politics, chief of which is government is bad and blacks are inept (except for the exceptional!), and the combination is lethal. The current political tragi-drama defies all common sense, and isn’t the least bit affected by evidence. More than the Affordable Care Act computer glitches, the twin pillars of hate and meanness have found a place to roost. The chickens have come home. Smug looks abound, with “I told you so-s” all around.
Amazon should have been given the job of messaging health care; they service thousands of products with all sorts of interfaces and seldom crash. Pay them a percentage and let them run banner ads.
But the question isn’t what’s wrong, but how it was missed? Whose triple critical reviews missed the important functions, especially security? Why was the software not tested against cyber attacks? Who missed that the most important piece of software of the American Promise wasn’t being tested at the same level as the code constructed for the President’s re-election campaign, when so much was riding on it working properly? And not just politically, but in creating real coverage for the medically uninsured?
That no one has come forward to say what steps were skipped and how they were covered up, who signed off and why the failure was aided and abetted until it exploded under its own weight brings to mind the Bangladesh incident in April in which the garment industry building collapsed and killed a thousand workers. The construction used inferior materials, took shortcuts, didn’t meet building specifications. It was a predictable failure. So was the code for the ACA sign-up. But it’s predictable failure rests more on the vortex in which blame inside and outside of government passes for oversight, and the denial common among addicts substitutes for work product, and the pill the public has to swallow is maintaining the old condition. Continue reading A Triple Critical for ACA
As though any further proof were necessary, the reaction of the mainstream media to the launch of the Obamacare website, and its attendant glitches, has become yet another example of one overwhelming truth: if there is anything that can be used to discredit this President’s competency, motives, or ability to govern, it will be discussed 24/7 on every major news outlet ad nauseam.
Could the rollout of the Obamacare website have been smoother? Duh, do ya think? Should the website have been tested more extensively before launch? I’m leaning towards the bleedin’ obvious here. Should the website’s glitches have been anticipated and dealt with to every extent possible before its launch? I think “you’re damned fuckin’ real” sums it up nicely.
All of that being said, it is still a given that had the Obamacare website been perfect from day one, had millions of people been successfully registered without a hitch within weeks of its launch, had the site’s efficiency surpassed every expectation, no one would have heard about it – because when it comes to Obama’s achievements, the MSM is only interested in reporting perceived failure rather than any actual success.
To hear the media bobbleheads tell the tale, the website’s glitches have resulted in a disaster that ranks somewhere between the attack on Pearl Harbor and 9/11 – only much, much worse.
“The Dems are abandoning Obama in droves! This spells heavy losses for the Dems in the next election! This will be the ruination of the Obama presidency!”
If those phrases sound familiar, they should – because they are trotted out like clockwork. Thus far, the entire Democratic party, according to the Cabal of the Clueless, has abandoned Obama at least twice a week for the past four-plus years – and counting.
While we are all aware that over-the-top hyperbole has now completely replaced honest reportage, the lengths to which the MSM have gone to discredit the launch of Obamacare is only surpassed by the depths to which they are willing to sink when it comes to this administration – and sadly, those depths continue to be plumbed.
In the past week, I have heard the phrase “Obama’s Katrina” bandied about – and truth be told, the similarities between the aftermath of Katrina and the problems with the Obamacare website cannot be easily dismissed. How many heart-wrenching photos of people standing on their rooftops, holding up hastily-crafted signs saying, “We cannot access the website – please send help!” have assaulted our senses since October 1st? What level-headed American does not immediately see the connection between people stranded without food, water and shelter and those who are living the nightmare of not being able to log onto a website?
Offering millions of Americans access to affordable healthcare is – as our no-bullshit VP Joe Biden pointed out quite correctly – a Big Fuckin’ Deal. In fact, it is the Biggest Fuckin’ Deal the citizenry of our nation has witnessed in decades, a program that means an end to those with preexisting conditions being denied coverage, an end to life-saving measures like preventative care and early detection of disease being dismissed as unimportant, an end to hardworking Americans being bankrupted by exorbitant medical bills – an end to good health being a privilege of the wealthy rather than the right of all Americans.
In the meantime, while the all-but-brain-dead idiots who pass themselves off as “journalists” babble incessantly about website woes, the rights of millions of voting Americans are being compromised, the rights of millions of American women to exercise control over their own bodies are being gutted, and the rights of millions of Americans to find work that pays a fair wage are being jeopardized at every turn. Continue reading Good News Is No News
On ABC’s This Week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will talk about the fight over health care and sexual assault in the military. Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be on to talk about his new . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/17/13
Let’s see, what happened last week?
Well, of course, there was lots of Obamacare news, but since most Democrats are pretty sick of hearing about it at this point, we’re going to once again largely ignore it today. After pointing out one story which was strangely ignored in the pile-on in the media this week. It seems the profits for the company contracted to build the Obamacare site are way up. How nice for them, eh? Sigh.
Seriously, though, if you want to read my thoughts on Obama’s presser yesterday, or my warning of a possible upcoming disaster on the website, please feel free to do so. But two columns (in what was essentially a four-day week) is enough on the subject for now, I think. Also, we’ve devoted a whole lot of talking points to the issue for the past two months, so we’re going to instead offer up a rant this week on a different subject.
While it’s hard to see, if all your news sources are of the mainstream variety, there were indeed other political stories happening this week.
The most amusing story was a retraction a newspaper printed. A full 150 years after the original editorial ran. The original article contained a paragraph of sneering contempt, not surprising since the paper was a partisan Democratic news outlet (which was more common back then, of course, than it is today), and the speech they snarkily dismissed was from a Republican president. From the original editorial:
We pass over the silly remarks of the President. For the credit of the nation we are willing that the veil of oblivion shall be dropped over them, and that they shall be no more repeated or thought of.
The speech the Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot & Union wrote about was the Gettysburg Address, given by President Abraham Lincoln, not too far away from where the paper was located. The Patriot-News (their modern successor) printed an eloquent retraction, full of homage, which began:
Seven score and ten years ago, the forefathers of this media institution brought forth to its audience a judgment so flawed, so tainted by hubris, so lacking in the perspective history would bring, that it cannot remain unaddressed in our archives.
They continue by trashing their own former editors: “Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time…” and they finish with rousing praise for the speech:
By today’s words alone, we cannot exalt, we cannot hallow, we cannot venerate this sacred text, for a grateful nation long ago came to view those words with reverence, without guidance from this chagrined member of the mainstream media.
The world will little note nor long remember our emendation of this institution’s record — but we must do as conscience demands.
Which is followed by their official retraction:
In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.
OK, so it was a century and a half late, but that’s the most rousing retraction I think I’ve ever read, so you’ve got to give them points for that, at least.
What else? There’s a Secret Service scandal that seems almost irresistible (as media “catnip” stories go), but which has only really been followed in any meaningful way by the Washington Post. The story involves sex in other countries, sexually-suggestive emails sent to female agents, banging on a hotel door, and an agent who seems to have left a bullet cartridge behind in a lady’s room. You’d think that with all those enticing details this story would have been given more attention, but so far most are ignoring it (for some inexplicable reason or another).
I guess the heart-warming Batkid story took up too much time, or something.
Nominee to chair the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen gave some stellar testimony this week in her confirmation hearing, but we’re really not sure if she’s an actual Democrat or not (they’re supposed to be sort of non-partisan folks, in theory), so we just mention it briefly in passing.
Also deserving of brief mention, as well as an Honorable Mention is Vice President Joe Biden, but we’ll get to the reason why in the rant at the end, so you’ll have to wait.
This week, however, we’ve got six — count them, six! — Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out. Here’s why:
Following an unprecedented three-year wave of state legislative attacks on abortion and family planning services, a group of Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate plan to go on the offensive Wednesday with a historic bill that would make it illegal for states to chip away at women’s reproductive rights.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will introduce the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013, joined by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Judy Chu (D-Calif.) and Lois Frankel (D-Fla.). The bill would prohibit states from passing so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which impose strict and cost-prohibitive building standards on abortion clinics, require women seeking abortions to have ultrasounds, and create other barriers to abortion access.
Blumenthal, speaking in support of his legislation:
In states like Texas and Wisconsin, legislatures are passing bills with the false pretext of protecting health when their only objective is to obstruct and curtail access to safe and legal abortions and reproductive services. These laws are largely unconstitutional, and some measure of certainty and clarity is required to preempt these regulations and laws so women are not deterred in their very personal decisions based on their own values on how they want to use their constitutional rights. The Women’s Health Protection Act will provide a clear and certain response to these regulations and laws that impose unnecessary tests, procedures and restrictions — including requirements for physical layout in clinics — on reproductive services.
Now that is standing up for what you believe in, and showing other Democrats how to fight back! In fact, no other explanation is really even necessary. For going on the offensive, we hereby award Senators Blumenthal, Boxer, and Baldwin, as well as Representatives Fudge, Chu, and Frankel this week’s Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. And we sincerely hope that all other Democrats are standing in line, waiting to sign up to cosponsor this bill.
[Congratulate Senator Tammy Baldwin on her Senate contact page, Senator Richard Blumenthal on his Senate contact page, Senator Barbara Boxer on her Senate contact page, Representative Judy Chu on her House contact page, Representative Lois Frankel on her House contact page, and Representative Marcia Fudge on her House contact page, to let them all know you appreciate their efforts.]
President Obama gave a rather subdued press conference this week, but we don’t feel it merits an award here. A vote in the House on an Obamacare fix proposed by Republicans garnered 39 Democratic votes, but that was less than expected (a full list of Democrats who crossed the aisle is available, if you’re interested).
But we’ve got to go local this week — extremely local — for our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. Because Lafourche Parish (Louisiana) Councilman Lindel Toups won the award hands-down this week. But the astounding thing was that in virtually all the media coverage, his party affiliation wasn’t even mentioned. Even searching local news items failed to prove what party Toups hails from (try a web search of his name yourself, if you don’t believe this). We had to go back and find an election result story, in fact, to see a party appended to his name (“Democratic incumbent Lindel Toups won”), which pretty much every news outlet ignored (even such stalwarts as the Los Angeles Times, mind you). Continue reading Friday Talking Points  — A ‘Regular Disorder’ Rant
I read and listen to a lot of historic voices. They gave me a long view of the ongoing conversation about how we as humans live in society. I listen to them to add their ideas to the contemporary conversation, the one about how we define ourselves, order the world, create economic value, dispense justice, feed the hungry, provide for the sick, teach our children, preserve our resources, and help our neighbors—the discussion of how we express our values. I listen to how we listen. And the special power of voices in American politics and in America’s communities is being lost.
Through most of history, voices were not intended to be produced, recorded, looped and repeated, printed and handed out as a daily list of talking points, published as headlines, or digitally repeated as sound to accompany a 90-second video, with a 15-second standup close-out. We now have an entire well paid industry devoted to pushing out the traditional use of the voice to create a work product that can be polled overnight and tested by focus groups to herd ideas and tell us what to think.
None of this work is tested against truth and common sense. Rarely does it involve any real evidence. It misses the subtle touches of the Dutch masters’ paintings or the art of Paris salons. It’s billboard stuff. Brazen. Brutal. And ugly. But commonplace.
For two weeks, I’ve been listening to the voices of the jubilee; my term for the formerly enslaved, whose voices were recorded in typed narrative reports between 1934-1936. I’ve been imagining how the stories would have differed with an entire social industry engaged in shaping their message and production—with unlimited amounts of money! I think about 90-year-old elders trying to remember the events of a war that only touched them in its final days, sitting on couches of late night talk shows.
Voices count. Even more, now that money is speech. Declared so by the Supreme Court! That decision has changed what voices say, how they are employed, what purposes, outcomes and accountability they seek. Yet the voice we hear—polished, milled, produced, tested, timed, repeated—sounds like a neighbor’s voice. Sure, the policies these voices suggest may differ, but the voice, the human connection, sounds the same. That sameness is increasingly an illusion to lead us away from common ground to battlegrounds.
Slavery was perhaps one of the first wide-scale national conversations where speech was crafted to serve an end in politics and society that benefited and served a broad, commercial marketplace with rigid social strictures. The enslaved not only generated tremendous value as labor in production, but added wealth as an active, open commodity trade, and as capital property that could be borrowed against (the use of the enslaved as collateral is understudied, but was an important function and source of expanding capital—the enslaved were mortgaged as property!).
The jubilee had wide points of view about their experiences, and at times in the narrative slavery sounded a little like Lake Woebegon, describing a time when no enslaved were hungry and all were well dressed. Behind their stories, their voices reflected a certain pride.
History’s conventions say they were intimidated by by the interviewers, usually white. It claims they were fearful, of an unequal relationship. So they painted a rosy picture. This view closes off the idea that the jubilee themselves had their own reasons to see themselves as well treated! Whether through fear, denial or pride, they assigned the role of victim to others.
Today, we reassign responsibility. We blame and deny. Continue reading The Thrum and Chum of Marketplace Speech
If you’re reading this, either the fragments of the Gravity Ocean Circulation Explorer didn’t fall on you or you have an admirably hard head. The European Space Agency satellite ran out of fuel on October 21 and was predicted to crash late Sunday or early Monday. The ESA expects it to break up at an altitude of about 50 miles, resulting in a spray of debris centered over… well, they don’t really know.
If I got to choose a location for GOCE’s crash landing, I’d be tempted to pick room 2154 in the Rayburn House Office Building. Barring such celestial fallout, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will use the room Wednesday morning for yet another of what its chair, Darrell Issa, likes to refer to as “hearings” into the Affordable Care Act. (Far from being exercises in hearing, the proceedings have to date generally resembled the shambolic tribunal of orangutans convened to decide Charlton Heston’s fate in Planet of the Apes.)
To that end, Issa has subpoenaed Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Administration, to appear. Despite having nothing much to do – other than, oh, directing the repair and remediation of healthcare.gov, the site whose technical issues have caused such consternation to Issa and so many others who were completely opposed to Obamacare from the get-go – Park so far shows no sign of complying with the subpoena. It goes without saying that we haven’t heard the last of this, because of course when it comes to Darrell Issa, there is no last of this. Ever.
Speaking of never ending, Rick Santorum heads to Des Moines on Monday, ostensibly to shill for the forthcoming movie A Christmas Candle, produced by his new family-friendly film venture, EchoLight Studios. The fact that the Iowa caucuses remain the first noteworthy date on the presidential electoral calendar is, of course, a coincidence so remarkable that it’s almost a Christmas miracle. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 11/11/13
Look out, y’all, it’s a Christie-palooza Sunday!
On ABC’s This Week, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R-Bombastic) will discuss his agenda for his second term, and which wing of the Republican Party, the Crazy Wing . . . → Read More: Sunday Talks, 11/10/13
Half a year ago, we decided it was time to coin a new political term. We did so in these pages, as a matter of fact, in our “Friday Talking Points ” column. But while the concept is indeed now being noticed more and more by others, our neologism doesn’t seem to be catching on nearly as well. So we’ll repeat the definition we gave it, back in May (once again helpfully pointing anyone who is not aware of the literal, non-political definition of “wedgie” to ask your local sixth-grader to explain and demonstrate, if necessary):
Wedgie: When a political party’s “wedge” issue turns on them and instead of dividing the other party, begins to divide their own.
Usage: “Boy, the Republicans are really getting a giant wedgie on immigration, aren’t they?”
This week, that example would have read: “Boy, the Republicans are really getting a giant wedgie on gay rights, aren’t they?”
I speak, of course, of the Senate passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (or “ENDA”) on a bipartisan vote of 64-32. That’s pretty impressive, since it’s a perfect 2-to-1 split. Ten Republicans voted for the bill, as well as every Democrat who voted. Astonishingly, when the floor debate happened, not a single Republican rose to speak against the bill, even though 32 of them voted “nay.” Speaker of the House John Boehner is so far saying he’s not in favor of the bill, meaning it likely won’t be coming up for a vote any time soon.
Let’s just deconstruct what is really going on for a moment, shall we?
Pretty much ever since gay rights became a national political issue (say, the 1980s or so), Republicans have been working overtime making political hay out of it. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Republicans were downright eager to put anti-gay ballot measures up for popular vote, and were outspoken (to put it mildly) in their scorn for advancing any gay rights whatsoever. It was a reliable Republican wedge issue of enormous proportions, in fact, for over two whole decades.
Now this wedge has turned. Not only is marriage equality now winning at the ballot box (as well as, this week, in both the Hawai’i and Illinois legislatures), but the public has finally gotten disgusted with the Republican position on the issue of gay rights. The younger the voter, the more this is true. Harry Reid summed this up brilliantly this week, explaining this generational shift in memorable fashion:
I have three adult grandchildren now, in addition to my adult children. For me to feel any different about [gay rights and ENDA in particular], they wouldn’t be proud of their grandfather. It’s just with my five children, it’s a non-issue. But for my three adult grandchildren, it’s a non-non-issue. They can’t imagine why anyone gives a damn.
But the real turn of the wedge can be seen in the dog that didn’t bark on the floors of Congress. When the Senate called for those who wanted to speak out against ENDA, not a single senator stood up to speak. Now that the bill has been handed off to the House, John Boehner will not even bring it up for debate. A Salon article pointed this out this week, ending with: “Yes, gay rights have officially become a wedge issue — that Democrats leverage against Republicans.”
In short, a political wedgie. Republicans are now scared to even bring the issue up, for the most part. That is a downright tectonic shift in their political platform. They’re still just as anti-gay-rights, but they would prefer not to talk about it now — because they are fully aware that it is now a losing issue for them (especially among young voters). This is after essentially creating the issue as wedge way back when, because Democrats used to shy away from even wanting to discuss such things.
There’s a larger picture to see here, too. Democrats (especially in the Senate) have — astonishingly, to some longtime political observers — suddenly seemed to have learned a basic “Politics 101″ lesson: in times of divided government, push your best issues hard and hold the votes and pass the bills that you can — in order to embarrass the other side. This way, you force one of three possible outcomes, all of which are good for you and your party. Pushing the issue could force the other chamber of Congress to hold an open a debate on the merits and then a vote. This rarely happens, but it is a remote possibility. The second possibility is that you force the other party to capitulate, embrace your position, and pass the bill you want to see made into law. This is even rarer (at least, without an intervening election to goad such behavior). But even the third possible outcome is a good one — you pass the bills you can, and then your party uses it as a rhetorical iron-studded club to beat the opposing party’s candidates about the ears, in the upcoming election (and, being Washington, there’s always an upcoming election for them to worry about).
Republicans have been expertly wielding this political weapon for decades now. But for the first time in quite a while, Democrats are discovering the tactic on their own. The Senate has now passed — in true bipartisan fashion, mind you — a big bill on immigration reform and a big bill on non-discrimination for gay people in the workplace. The House is ignoring both. Salon pointed out (in a different article) that, in addition, “Democrats want bills pertaining to minority voting rights and equal pay for women on Boehner’s desk before election season.” To this list might be added a big raise in the minimum wage, which President Obama just explicitly endorsed.
The Republican Party’s 2014 campaign strategy can be summed up in two words, really: “Obamacare bad.” That’s really all they’ve got left to work with. Democrats, on the other hand, are lining up a much better platform which sees a brighter future — “This is what we’ll do if you give us control of the House: immigration reform, equal workplace rights for all, protecting voting rights, equal pay for women, and a minimum wage hike.”
This ain’t exactly rocket science, folks. As mentioned, it’s really just Politics 101. But for much too long, Democrats haven’t really played this game very well. Increasing the pressure on John Boehner and the House Republicans is the smartest thing Democrats could do right now. Much to everyone’s surprise, this appears to be exactly what they are doing right now. The delicious irony is how many of the things on that campaign platform list can be classified as wedgies — issues that Republicans used in elections past to whip up the public in the opposite direction. Wedgies that are digging deeper and more painful each day, relentlessly dividing the two sagging, elephantine hemispheres of the Republican Party.
Well, OK, maybe that was a bit too graphic a metaphorical leap. We apologize for the mental image, really we do. Ahem. Let’s just quickly move along to the awards, shall we?
Both Senators Ted Kennedy and Jeff Merkley deserve at least Honorable Mention awards this week. Kennedy, for being the original champion of the ENDA legislation (he introduced the bill in 1994), and Merkley for stepping in when Kennedy asked him to (when Kennedy knew he wasn’t going to live to see it passed). Both deserve praise for an effort that spanned two decades.
But we also had an election this week, even if it was an off-off-year contest with no overwhelming national implications (no matter what the inside-the-Beltway chattering class thought).
We have to say, New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s win on Tuesday was beyond impressive. He won a whopping 73-to-24 percent victory over the sacrificial Republican candidate. That’s almost a 50 percent margin! Continue reading Friday Talking Points  — As The Wedgie Turns