Thursday, November 18, 2010

Being a Democrat Stands for Something

Clearly, today was a big day. G.M is now a publicly traded company on Wall Street again, and I think this proves, unequivocally, that the G.M bailout was a success. It may have been a struggle to streamline their business model, and many people did lose their jobs in the process, but the bottom line is that the bailout worked. I don't care whether Texas Governor Rick Perry was in front of cameras today proclaiming that the government should not have bailed out the company because companies are supposed to go bankrupt when they make bad decisions. Anyone who questions whether the Obama administration made the right decision is simply not looking at the facts. Also today, Democratic leaders announced that there would be a vote on keeping tax cuts for the MIDDLE class only, which should force Republicans to at least go on record that they support giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, even as they remained hyper-focused on trimming the deficit. I didn't think I would say this two weeks ago, but I'm cautiously optimistic, because I believe that the Democrats are standing up for legitimately good ideas. Clearly, it's going to be a lot tougher to get things done in these next two years, but Democrats should not shy away from the ideas that define them.


We've all heard so much about how the Obama administration has not done a good enough job of publicizing and advertising the legislation that has been passed. There's been real progress in the last two years, and even though it may take a few years for the majority of Americans to start seeing the effects of healthcare reform and other legislation, that doesn't mean that Democrats should hunker down and expect to have to submit to Republicans on every issue. We still have the President and one house of Congress. I'm not so naive to think that compromise won't be necessary, but from a purely political perspective it is much better for the Democrats to go on the record supporting good policies so that they can point to what could have been accomplished if it weren't for Republican obstructionism.


I'm ranting here, but its not the President's fault that the Republicans have supported hardly any policies in the past year that would be good for ordinary middle class people in the name of political obstructionism. The Democrats offered up plenty. A good example is the Consumer Financial Protection, designed to protect consumers from being swindled by greedy credit card companies or being pushed into signing for higher mortgages. Can you imagine Republicans ever tying the hands of big business like that so that you don't get cheated out of your life savings?


Politics are politics, so compromise is the name of the game, but when John Boehner goes on the TV and tells me that he is going to bring a new way of doing business to Washington by borrowing money from China to give tax cuts to billionaires, I want to spit in his face. It is so frustrating as an observer to see that there is this sort of expectation in Washington that liberals will capitulate to movement conservatives who stand firmly on their principles. Why can't Democrats be the ones framing the debates on things like job-creation, the environment, and taxation. There are numerous issues that cut to the core of the Democratic agenda like controlling carbon emissions, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell and trying to bridge the out of control income gap between the wealthy and the poor, that are popular with much of the country.


Take immigration reform. Some of what I would consider the uglier aspects of our society are against it, but many polls show that a majority of the country supports comprehensive immigration reform. The Democrats have a responsibility to the Latino base to try to do something on this issue, and they can at least mount an aggressive campaign to inform the American public that it makes zero economic sense and is un-American to not allow a path to citizenship for illegals already living here. The bill might not pass but I'd like to see the issue be raised by the Party that is actually looking to move America forward instead of by the one that wants to discriminate against Latinos.

Look at Green Energy. Ask anyone who knows anything about the global economy, and they will tell you that in order for America to lead the world in the 21st century it has to become a technological leader in green energy. For a party that professes to care so much about not placing a burden on future generations, how can the Republican party want to block this from happening. They won't tell you that they want to block it, but a look into campaign contributions from oil companies might tell another story. This is a huge issue that the Democrats can take ownership of, and your heart has to tell you that they can win the public battle on this issue, because it makes so much sense to invest in this country's green energy future.


This past election taught us that the Republican party is exceptionally good at mucking up the system long enough to mount campaigns against good legislation (Death panels anyone???) However, it can still be politically savvy for Democrats to support good legislation that will provide real change. Its defeatist to admit that standing up on principle for bills actually based in reason and designed to protect the average American, like the Financial Regulatory Reform legislation, has to cost you in the next election cycle. Do that and you're basically admitting that the system is completely broken. If Democrats have to learn anything from Republicans its how to win the battle in the court of public opinion.


I think what many of us have felt over the past two years is maybe a sense of disappointment, or frustration about the beating the administration has been taking over the airwaves. I know my heart sunk a little bit every time I read that the President's approval rating dipped another such and such percentage points. The enthusiasm was gone. Obama was governing in prose after campaigning in poetry, and it was rocky. A lot got done but it didn't feel like that all the time. With a little more perspective, maybe we can see these next two years as a series of small successes. This vote on the Bush tax cuts would be a nice place to start. But it wold be remiss to be overly concerned with pragmatism and fear communicating the big issues that the party stands for. In the end, the merits of our party's stance stand on their own. Be proud of it.

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