Why Pushing for ‘Mere Moral Victories’ can be Pragmatic
There are some in the media who argue the Dems to be more pragmatic-they don’t have the numbers to prevail in the Senate so why fight on every issue?
“Despite the party base digging in for fights on Cabinet nominations and Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation, they’ve come up empty. And it’s looking more and more like the fight just may not be in Senate Democrats — or at least, not to the extent the base is looking for.”
UPDATE: I spoke to Blake on Twitter. He says he will have a post later today or tomorrow that will address some of my concerns. I appreciate him at least responding-whether or not we agree.
Ok. Let’s go back in a time machine to early 2009. The night after Obama passed his fiscal stimulus the GOP went out to eat. The purpose of this dinner was to celebrate. Obviously they were not celebrating its passage. To the contrary every single Republican in the House-and all but three GOPers in the Senate-had voted against the stimulus.
So what was there to celebrate? They had all opposed it but it passed anyway. Didn’t that just underscore their powerlessness? You would think so. That’s how many-including yours truly-back in 2009. It seemed that if the whole GOP was going to oppose everything Obama did and it was all going to pass anyway it just made them look ridiculous.
But they were celebrating GOP unity. And they remained unified in opposition to Obama and the Democrats for eight years. In 2010 they won the House, in 2014 the Senate, in 2016 the White House.
So just because the Dems weren’t able to stop DeVos, Sessions, or Price, and won’t be able to stop Mnuchin and other horrendous GOP nominees doesn’t therefore mean all this opposition is a waste of time.
1. It fires up the base. Say what you want about pragmatism but there’s nothing pragmatic about having a fired up base and dousing it with a firehose. It should be obvious that if your base if fired up then it helps rather than hurts you going forward. Just like the Tea Party in the Obama years.
2. It also robs Trump and the GOP of any bipartisan sheen. This was a large part of what sunk Obama in 2010. Yes the Dems were able to get a lot done-though if not for the obstruction they likely would have gone for a larger stimulus and a public option. But that everything Obama did was on a purely partisan basis ended up lowering the esteem his accomplishments got among independents.
Yes DeVOs is still in at Education but there is a big symbolic difference between winning with 80 votes and 50 votes with the assist from VP Pence.
3. And it’s really frustrating the GOP agenda. They are very frustrated over how long this is taking. To make everything painful has an effect as well. Sean Hannity is noticing that the GOP isn’t actually accomplishing anything just yet.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) February 10, 2017
One thing dogging them is Trump himself who keeps taking the party down all these rabbit holes on his terribly put together Muslim ban his wild tweets, the new bombshells which break every day-like Fynn did talk to Russia about the sanctions after all.
The GOP had hoped for a Republican President with ‘working digits and a pen.’ Trump has proven to be considerably less than that. They had hoped he’d sign Paul Ryan’s bills. Instead Trump expects them to take dictation from him. And Trump is not at all clear with them in what he wants to do. They’re in the dark.
But the Dems relentless opposition is also slowing them down.
4. The lawyer Trump wanted for Solicitor General has withdrawn his name citing the ‘unfair treatment of Jeff Sessions’ in the nomination process.
— The Hill (@thehill) February 10, 2017
So even though the Dems failed to stop Sessions they’re tough vetting spooked other nominees.
Back to Blake:
“Democrats have a weak hand in Washington — even weaker than the one Republicans had when they were in the minority and after Democrats partly dismantled the filibuster in 2013. And as I’ve written, an unprecedented Supreme Court filibuster against a clearly qualified and likable nominee would just give Republicans a good excuse to do away more of the filibuster. This would only further weaken Democrats’ ability to stop Trump, stripping them of their last real lever of power.”
Sure but is it weaker than the GOP’s hand in 2009? As for the filibuster if the GOP will continue to have it so long as the Dems don’t use it for anything important, then they don’t have it now.
The idea of Blake and others like Rahm Emmanuel that you can’t just win playing to your base is contradicted by the GOP’s rise over the last eight years.
If you want to hear what people who actually know how the Congressional game is played-as they’ve played it-listen to Indivisble.
“While the millions-strong turnout for anti-Trump Women’s Marches captured the nation last month, the Indivisible founders were conscious of the need for protest tactics that could truly force members of Congress to pay attention — or risk losing their seats.”
“Marches are great to bring people together, but our experience as congressional staffers had taught us that energy needed to be channeled in a smart way to make a difference on Capitol Hill,” Haile said.
“Indivisible’s founders never planned or expected the groundswell of interest that resulted from their guide, which prompted them to organize as a 501(c)4 group this month. “The last thing the progressive ecosystem really needed was yet another nonprofit,” Levin said.
“But Indivisible’s guide has spread at the grassroots level at an unpredictable speed this year, with the help of other liberal groups amplifying its message. Less than two months after the group launched its website, 225,000 interested participants have registered to learn more, according to Levin.”
“It helped that Doggett was one of the first Democrats targeted by the tea party in the summer of 2009. During one of his routine Saturday morning office hours that August, hundreds of local conservative activists showed up wearing Revolutionary War costumes, Haile recalled. They chanted and jeered while carrying tombstones and coffins, and the chaotic scene caught the attention of the national media. Doggett required an escort to leave his own event that day.”
“Fast forward to last weekend. Police escorted Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) out of his own town hall meeting after a local Indivisible chapter joined other progressive groups to protest it.”
“When the tea party began rattling lawmakers with local disruptions, Haile explained, “what mattered was this sense around the members that their constituents were unhappy. And what that is did is create discontent around Congress but also energized angry people who said, ‘I’m angry; we’re angry; and if we join together we can make a difference and get members of Congress to change their positions.’”
“That alignment of protesters galvanized by many different issues is a linchpin of Indivisible’s early success. The group doesn’t have a core policy mission: some chapters protest in defense of Obamacare; others embrace criminal justice reform or rally against Trump’s controversial travel ban.”
“Chapters don’t even have to call themselves Indivisible. Levin estimated that no more than 40 percent of the 6,200 local affiliates registered on the group’s website use the name.”
“The organizers of Indivisible Grand Rapids, for example, hadn’t spoken to any original drafters in Washington before they helped marshal a crowd of several hundred to a Thursday night town hall meeting held by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Chapter leaders explained to POLITICO that they’d heard about the movement through friends, visited the website to register themselves, then found others registered in their area who wanted to start a group.”
“The Michiganders downloaded the Indivisible guide and started a Facebook group in mid-January. The group now includes more than 300 people, a third of whom are registered for a Sunday training session on how to approach lawmakers.”
“It’s important for us that we rise above; we don’t want to be depicted in any way as only being an angry mob, and we’re not,” said Claire Bode, 49, the co-founder of Indivisible Grand Rapids. “It’s a long-haul effort.”
Like the Tea Party it seeks to be an inside-outside game.
P.S. If you enjoy my blog and my support of #TheResistance-I’m also considering a 2018 run against GOP Congressmen Peter King of the NY 2nd district-then please consider a donation.