Compelled to compromise, Obama and Dems can’t win

When Barack Obama ran for president, in 2008, he spoke of ending the Bush era tax-cuts for the upper two percent of earners, of bringing an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, of allowing the most draconian aspects of the Patriot Act to end and of ending the cultural divide over decades-old social issues. Without ending those things, there can be no beginnings. Without letting the lights go out at sunset, there can be no new morning in America.

Now, what hasn’t happened is not entirely his fault. The Democrats who controlled the Congress the first two years of this administration took few risks, and even though they got “shellacked” in 2010, mostly because of the way they handled passing the Affordable Health Care Act, they rarely waded into the still waters of electoral entropy, for fear of causing the tiniest ripple in the electorate’s conscious that might cause them to lose their seats.

Sent to Washington, DC, in 2006, to create movement against the Republican tide, they stopped fighting. They didn’t raise taxes for fear of being called “tax-and-spend,” didn’t challenge defense spending for fear of being called dovish, didn’t challenge the oil companies enough for fear of being called tree-huggers. “Oh,” they said, “it’s just because we’re such an inclusive party. Our caucus often doesn’t speak with one voice. We don’t march in lockstep like the dogmatic Republicans.”

While that is partly true, one thing then Speaker, now Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Majority Leader Harry Reid were supposed to be good at is getting their caucuses to speak with one voice. Instead of riding the tide of democratic pluralism that got their respective delegations the endorsement of independent voters, they let themselves be swayed by the concerns of the members of each of their houses that they might not get re-elected.

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)It’s like that Major League Baseball, All-Star Game a few years back. You know, the one that was a tie in extra innings, and both managers had used all their players, so they stood on the field, in front of the commissioner, and the three of them decided to call the game. The managers argued that they were concerned for the players from the various teams around the league who were in their care, that it was their responsibility to return them to their individual managers in good health. The game, you see, didn’t mean anything to them. It was an exhibition game, with nothing but bragging rights on the line.

The problem was, it meant a great deal to the fans who had paid their money for tickets, who had voted their favorite players on to the All Star rosters, whose devotion to their players and teams made it possible for these millionaire athletes to earn an incredible living.

That’s the way the Democratic control of Congress over the previous two sessions has been. Nothing to play for, except reelection, and the largesse from lobbyists that is part-and-parcel of being an elected representative. Obama, like the commissioner, compromised because the Democrats couldn’t play to win the game. They were only playing to keep their jobs. Someone has to tell them that is not what voters consider winning. Oh, wait. The voters did tell them that, last year.

Baseball solved the push-back of unhappy fans by giving the All Star Game some meaning, something to play for – home field advantage for the World Series team from the winning league.

If a progressive, Democratic agenda is to be realized in 2012, maybe we need to give them something to play for, besides dollars. We need to remind them, they play for us. We will vote for them, again, if: they make empower President Obama to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire; they allocate money for jobs; they don’t fuck with Medicare to the point where it costs more for seniors and is harder to get; they move forward with the troop draw-downs in Afghanistan; they allow Dodd-Frank to remain law and implement all its provision, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and they pass the DREAM Act and give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

But look, we know you can’t really get all that done. Still, if you at least show us you have the willingness to rise above our lowest expectations, that will be a huge start. Don’t tell us what you’ve already done. Show us what you’re actually accomplishing now.

It’s like this –  if you want us to keep sending you to the Big Show, if you want us to keep shopping at your store, then you have to sell what we want to buy. As Americans, that’s our home field advantage.


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