Weatherdem's Weblog

Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy


Voting For Lesser of Two Evils Led Directly To Yesterday’s Gun Filibusters

For years I’ve heard fellow Democrats argue that we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, that it’s better to vote for the lesser of two evils, and other inane arguments to convince me to vote for people who have (D) behind their name but are not strong advocates of Democratic values.  “It’s always better to vote for a (D) than an (R),” they say.  Really?  I haven’t thought so for a long time and have voted accordingly come election time.  That means I haven’t voted for “Democrats” than I don’t think will stand up for the issues I think are most important: climate change, privacy, jobs, universal health care, gun safety, etc.

Many pundits are saying today that President Obama was very angry yesterday following the US Senate’s ridiculous failure to pass watered down, gun industry influenced amendments.  Oh, a majority of Senators (50+ out of 100) voted for the legislation, which in sane circumstances would mean the amendments pass.  Not in the US Senate yesterday, where a very small number of fringe Senators stopped honest consideration of any amendments.  That is because of the Senate’s cloture rule, which once invoked requires 60 votes (a supermajority) to break.  Democrats could have changed or removed that rule at the beginning of the current session with only 51 votes.  Unfortunately, Sen. Reid (D-NV) didn’t agree that the majority needed to change or remove the rule.  Instead, he made a deal with Minority Leader Sen. McConnell (R-KY) that cloture would be invoked on legislation and nominees only in “extreme circumstances”.  Since January, Republicans have invoked cloture again and again and again and again.  Apparently, there is a permanent state of “extreme circumstances” in the Senate according to today’s Republicans.  Sen. Reid publicly complains that the rules could be revisited mid-session, but his complaints are ever-moving carrots for the Democratic base, who must enjoy being lied to.  Sen. Reid will not change the cloture rule because he doesn’t want to; it has nothing to do with courage or will.  The sooner the base accepts that, the sooner they’ll vote for Democratic Senators who care more for their constituents than the access to power a Senate position entails.

Observe then that these same Republicans are the people with whom the President wants more desperately than anything to craft a Grand Bargain – be it health insurance in 2009-2010 (note: not health care) or the national debt and social welfare programs (which this “Democratic” President proposed be slashed!) and gun safety legislation now in 2013.  The very same Republicans that so angered the President on his surprising signature issue (gun safety – when did he campaign on that?) have worked since 2009 to stop anything the President wants done.  Yesterday’s public display of anger, which I’m not sure was honest, will not cause the President to evaluate his most desired goal: that Grand Bargain.  The Republicans will not work with the President and the President and his most ardent supporters refuse to acknowledge that basic political reality.

Moreover, the President has only his zealous desire to reach his Grand Bargain to blame for yesterday’s cloture votes.  In the absurd push to enact health insurance legislation in 2009 and 2010, which took months too long precisely because the President wanted that Grand Bargain so badly, health care reform was explicitly removed from consideration a priori to negotiation.  That health care reform was a central plank of the Democratic Party’s most loyal activists, who worked tirelessly in 2008 to get the President and other Democrats elected at all levels across the nation.  There was no mention of a Grand Bargain in the 2008 campaign.  Democrats justifiably felt misled and were extremely disappointed.  Hence, they didn’t vote with similar intensity in 2010 as they did in 2008, which had enormous ramifications.

Governorships and state legislatures flipped from Democratic to Republican.  As a result, the required realignment of political boundaries for the US House and state legislatures following the 2010 census were redrawn in ways that led to more Republicans, many of whom were Teabaggers whose core philosophy is government cannot and should not work, elected in newly safe seats.  That is, people in 2010 made sure that the mix of voters in districts leaned heavily enough Republican that any other candidate would have a very hard time being elected.  Hence today’s Republican-led chamber despite the fact that Democratic candidates nationally received 1,000,000 more votes than Republican candidates.  There simply aren’t enough Democrats and left-leaning unaffiliateds in these districts to challenge what will be Republican dominance.  Remember that when Democrats tell you there are “only 17 seats” they need to flip in 2014 to take back control of the House.  Absent some significant change in the political landscape, Democrats will not take the House back in 2014.  Teabaggers will remain in control of the chamber and a Democratic Senate Majority Leader will not change chamber rules (again) in January 2015, regardless of how many bills Republicans filibuster; regardless of how many judicial and agency nominees Republicans filibuster who are proving that government cannot and will not accomplish anything.

Senators didn’t lack courage yesterday.  They simply do not see any downside to voting  against their constituents’ wishes.  When most Democratic voters “vote for the lesser of two evils” no matter what, they are not holding their elected officials accountable for their actions.  Thus, Republicans will continue to abuse the filibuster.  The President will seek more Grand Bargains.  And we will make very little progress in a time when much progress is needed.  But come November 2014, I will hear once again that I have to vote for the same people who voted against my values, who only want to stay in power, because the alternative is just unthinkable.

Senators who abuse a parliamentary tactic do so for one reason: to remain in power.  Senators are not there to represent anyone or anything except their access to power.  People on the “news” networks are saying Republicans thwarted the will of 90% of the American public yesterday.  The President and the Senate Majority Leader both could have done very different things had they wanted to avoid yesterday’s political result.  They didn’t want to, so they didn’t do things differently.  They did exactly what they wanted to do and stuck the rest of us with the devastating results.  Remember that the next time someone tells you it’s better to vote for the lesser of two evils.  Evil still happens: someone slaughtered 20 innocent children with a tool designed exclusively to kill other humans.  If a plastic toy killed 20 children, we would ban the toy.  The right to own a gun ends at the life of others, especially children.  More than 30,000 people die because of gun violence in the US every year.  Their blood is as much on the hands of “Democrats” who advocate for political cowardice as it is on the shooters; for voting for the lesser of two evils because what other choice have we?  We have choices, but are purposefully misled by people who only want to remain in power, then show public displays of anger.  Finally, minorities can be vocal, but they shouldn’t be able to thwart democratic processes single-handed.

Actually, one more thought.  Does anyone seriously think the NRA won’t target Democratic Senators in their 2014 elections even if those “Democrats” voted against gun safety amendments yesterday?  The same amendments that a majority of constituents in those Democratic Senators states supported?


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How Much Of The Big 3 Will Obama Give Away Just To Make A Deal?

We heard plenty of rhetoric from Obama super-supporters leading up to the November election: how we had to vote for Obama because crazy ol’ Mitt Romney would destroy the country.  It turns out Democrats are just as eager to scare-monger as Republicans are when it comes to protecting those in power from accountability.  Largely left unsaid was what Obama would do if re-elected.  I argued with many friends about this topic.  I saw what the first-term was all about: taking progressive policies off the table prior to negotiation, negotiating for too long, yielding concession after concession while not getting anything of equal value in return from Republicans who only wanted to see him lose the 2012 election.

Now that Obama has been reelected, a political “crisis” that Obama and Congress purposefully created for themselves needs our attention.  The fiscal curb is approaching.  For a couple of weeks, Obama made a good show of touring the country and showing voters how smart they were to vote for him, because he wasn’t going to capitulate and concede on tax cuts for the obscenely rich or the Big 3: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  Social Security doesn’t add to the deficit because it has a guaranteed revenue stream.  Medicare and Medicaid could be made solvent for decades with minor adjustments that have nothing to do with things Republicans think they do.

I had no doubt we would see the following.  Obama made the following proposal yesterday: in exchange for extending middle-class tax cuts, raising the debt limit, extending unemployment benefits, and new spending on infrastructure, he would continue Bush’s high-income tax cuts for income up to $400,000 and would cut Social Security benefits.  That’s $1.3 trillion in revenue for $850 billion in spending cuts.  Obama has already given up on raising taxes for incomes over $250,000.  And he threw Social Security under the bus.  For nothing in return.

Mark my words: the Big 3 will take massive hits.  And unlike in 2005 when the country resisted a Republican President doing it, a Democratic President will do it in 2012.  Republicans will successfully get even more spending cuts in programs that need only slight tweaks while raising the income limit that gets subjected to a return to tax rates under Clinton than is present in this offer.  How do I know?  Speaker Boehner quickly rejected the President’s offer.  Why?  Because it ensures that Obama will continue to foolishly engage with the Speaker in closed-door meetings instead of speaking in front of the American people.  If he did the latter, as was his initial strategy, Boehner would have to agree to the President’s proposal.  Because Republican plans consist of everything Americans don’t want to see: slashing unemployment insurance, tax hikes on the middle class while the rich walk away untouched, cuts to the Big 3, etc.

And here is why that will happen: Barack Obama wants his legacy to be defined by his ability to make deals with Republicans.  The specific details don’t matter that much to him.  He wants to be perceived as someone who gets things done, regardless of who came up with the idea in the first place.  Health care?  Let’s try the Republican plan Mitt Romney got through in Massachusetts.  Climate Change?  Let’s try the Republican plan from the 1990s.  Budget balancing?  Let’s try what Republicans have wanted for decades: no social programs and lots of defense spending.

The best part?  We’ll all do it together!  Yay!  Be happy, Democrats!  You prevented the world-ending Mitt Romney from being elected and now your party’s President will dismantle the most successful programs that kept millions of Americans out of poverty in the 20th century.  Because we all had to vote for the lesser of two evils.  Phew, disaster was narrowly avoided, wasn’t it?

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Health Insurance Law (ACA) Upheld By Supreme Court

First things first: it’s not a health care bill, it’s a health insurance bill.  Tens of millions of people will be made to buy insurance from private corporations.  Whether those folks actually receive quality health care is another problem altogether, having mostly to do with socio-economic status.  Do you think a child in the poorest part of Alabama will have access to the same level of care as Mitt Romney’s sons or Barack Obama’s daughters?

Onto the main topic this day: the Supreme Court of the US has upheld the Affordable Health Care Act.

This is not the result that I predicted beforehand.  I did not think the anti-consumer, anti-citizen, anti-Constitution right-wingers on the Court would do anything that might help President Obama.  My initial reaction is that Chief Justice Roberts realized the profits the health insurance industry would reap if the law remained in place and that overwhelmed his tendency to stick it to the American people.

Furthermore, I do not think this helps Americans get closer to a universal health care system. in the short to medium term.  I think that is the direction most activists are pushing and therefore we will implement such a system sometime in the more distant future.  I would like to see individual states offer some version of universal health coverage by themselves and then join cooperatives to expand their population pools.

This gives candidate Romney something to talk about for a while, but there is no way he will actually remove the ACA if he were elected: the industry has already changed too much in preparation for 2014, when the law takes full effect.

Some of the media struggled with reporting this as the following screenshots demonstrate.

MSNBC at 10:20EDT:

CNN at 10:11EDT:

CNN at 10:18EDT


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You Still Get Evil When You Vote For The Lesser Of Two Evils

I have argued for some time now with fellow Democrats and liberals about what I perceive as the lack of choice in candidates between the two major US political parties, especially for “higher” offices – President and Senator especially.  Yesterday’s news that President Obama restarted an effort begun under the Bush presidency to establish a free trade pact with eight Asian nations, despite clear and unambiguous 2008 campaign promises not to, is the latest evidence supporting my theory.

My theory is the lede: you still get something evil when you vote for the lesser of two evils.  This goes out to all the so-called Democratic activists who claim that voting for a “Democrat” is always the only choice.  No, it’s not.  It’s a terrible long-term plan because right-wingers purposefully grow more extreme, which pulls Democratic candidates and their policies further and further to the right.  I only vote for candidates that I think will stop this trajectory.  I didn’t think then-Sen. Obama would do that in 2008 and most of his actions since then have convinced me of that opinion.

Compare this:

The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.

with the 2008 campaign promise:

“We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” reads the campaign document.

The administration and its sycophants can spin this free trade effort any way they want – the end result will be the ultimate determination of what President Obama and his backers really want.  Read again what I wrote in the first paragraph: Obama restarted the Bush effort.  Obama stopped it once he gained office, with a grand public show trying to prove how change-gy and hope-y he was.  Then he restarted it without public acclaim.  His administration has been negotiating for over 2 years in secret.  It’s all bipartisanship-y, which is exactly what the corrupt media inside the D.C. Beltway wants to see, but it’s not what average Americans want to see.  Has Obama been campaigning on this effort?  No, he hasn’t brought it up once.  Nor has he campaigned on the other free trade agreements he’s signed.  Our economy falters, which we’re told causes Obama to worry, but the free trade express keeps chugging right along without public debate.

So keep voting for the lesser of two evils.  Just don’t expect me to consider a slower march to an evil state a success.  A march away from that state would be a success.  That’s what I’ll be voting for in November.

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Didn’t Environmentalists Cheer the Demise of the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Yes, yes environmentalists did cheer the demise of the Keystone XL pipeline.  By stopping a Republican amendment earlier this year, the decision on whether to build the pipeline from Canada through the central US was left in President Obama’s hands, which was “rejected“.

It turns out that both the “rejection” wasn’t really a rejection and the cheerleading probably happened too soon.  I say that because today, Obama pushed for the southern branch of the pipeline to be finished faster than originally projected.  Many of the same environmentalists who cheered the original “decision” (read: delay) are the same ones who are now decrying this latest call.

I would put more stock into those complaints if those environmentalists hadn’t spent so much time and energy earlier this year trying to convince me that Obama’s “decision” was really and truly final and Keystone wouldn’t get built.  I argued then, and was proven correct today, that Obama’s “decision” really was a delay – it was enough action to get the topic out of the headlines in an election year when he can’t afford to piss off elements of his base too much.

The pipeline was always going to be and in fact will be built in the US.  The part that people should be paying attention to is this: the fossil fuels the pipeline delivers will not be sold in the US – it will be sold overseas because it can fetch a higher price that way.  In return, the “environmentally conscious” President who “cares about the economy” will gladly oversee an increase in deliverable fossil fuels to a largely unregulated, subsidized marketplace which will result in higher fuel prices for every American.  Those fossil fuels will be burned faster than they otherwise would have been and the resultant global warming forcing will be left to future generations to deal with.

But please vote for President Obama in November because who knows what would have happened to the Keystone pipeline if a Republican was in office – it might have gotten built or something horrible like that!  It will be better to get just a little tiny bit of what you want instead of more of what you want if you stop voting for politicians who take your interests for granted.

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Obama Caves Again: Smog Rules

Many people lauded George Dubya for being so consistent during his reign.  It seems that President Obama is looking to establish his credibility as a consistent kind of guy as well.  Unfortunately, the only consistency President Obama is to retreat and capitulate in the face of any kind of Republican Teabagger resistance.

The most recent case (and there’s been a few this week, to be sure) is his order to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to “withdraw the proposed regulation to reduce concentrations of smog’s main ingredient”.  Why?  He offered the weak-kneed reason that businesses have too many regulations and that’s part of the reason why zero jobs were created in the month of August.

In a similar vein as taxes, this President doesn’t seem able to do some simple math.  As tax rates plummeted for the wealthiest elite in the 2000s, were millions and millions of jobs created?  As regulations were eased on industry after industry in the 2000s, were millions and millions of jobs created?  No, that never happened.  Instead, the weakest job growth since WWII occurred in the 2000s, after unpaid tax cuts were passed and after regulations were eased on most industries.  The thought that reducing regulations or cutting more taxes will create a single job for an American is absurd.

President Obama keeps working with Republican Teabaggers to make him look like a court jester.  I’m not sure how that will help him win re-election.  More importantly, millions of Americans’ health will be negatively impacted.  Oh, now I get it: the health insurance corporations he helped out with his 2010 legislation needs to keep Americans in poor health so they can keep raising insurance rates by double-digit percentage increases year after year.  It actually makes perfect sense.  But is this the change Americans voted for in 2008?

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President Bush’s Budget Cuts Target The Working Poor, Middle Class & Students

Read that lede again.  What was your first thought?

If you’re a liberal, it was likely, “Of course President Bush’s budget would target those populations.”

If you’re a conservative, it was likely, “WeatherDem is Bush-bashing again.”

Well, I wrote that lede on purpose to get you to think about your first thought.

Why?  Because the budget I’m talking about is actually President Obama’s.  The rest of the lede is completely true.

Now, if you’re a liberal, you’re probably questioning why I’m Obama-bashing.  And if you’re a conservative, you’re probably congratulating yourself on telling everybody back in 2008 that Obama wasn’t who he said he was.  And if you’re a teabagger, you’re probably grabbing your gun and looking for the nearest Democratic politician to assassinate.

What I want to say is this: This is why I and other liberals were saying back in December that Obama shouldn’t have accepted the crap deal he ended up with in the lame duck session of Congress.  This is why President Obama shouldn’t have pre-capitulated on welfare for the rich for 2 years while accepting only 13 months of unemployment insurance extension.  The START treaty?  It would have been passed this session, regardless of who was in control of which chamber of Congress.  DADT?  The Democratic-led Congress should have passed it much earlier in the session, especially if it was such a necessary thing to do.

The biggest problem with the totally awesome “deal” that President Obama accepted was the Bush tax cuts, now the Obama tax cuts, were not paid for.  They haven’t been paid for since their inception.  Because making sure they’re paid for would require drastic cuts somewhere else in the budget – to the tune of $858 Billion in two years.  Which is exactly why the “oh-so-liberal” President Obama is now proposing to cut programs that help the working poor, help the needy heat their homes (witness the brutal winter most of the U.S. has experience this year and tell me that’s a moral thing to do), provide access to graduate-level education programs and even undermine the same kind of community organization programs that catapulted Obama to his career.  All of which will help the budget out by … oh, look at that … only $100 Billion per year.  Which means there are still $350 Billion in cuts yet to come.  Sweet.

The rich don’t need more welfare checks from the government.  The working poor, middle class and students do need some assistance.

So I hope those folks who were arguing the President had to take the only deal he could possibly ever get are satisfied and pleased with the results.

If this is “Winning The Future“, I’d hate to see what losing the future looks like.