One of the major reasons progressives have been largely sidelined politically for the last 40-plus years is because a large, loud segment of our movement simply can't understand how politics actually works. Because of this relative political ignorance, they tend to react irrationally to everything they're told by "certain people," and in the process end up making us look almost as bad as the right wingers.
Pavlovian responses to Professional Left stimuli does not make for a successful "movement."
Being reactionary is always a bad practice, in every part of your life. I know, because I used to be the king of reactionaries. I make a lot more sense since I learned to calm down and take a long look at the entire playing field.
Politics is a game. I know some folks hate the very thought of that, because they think of politics as some sort of "noble enterprise," the sole purpose of which is the advance society for the betterment of mankind, or some like nonsense. It's not. Politics in a democratic republic is the art of finding a way to get a majority behind the issues you find to be the most important. It is a clash of 300 million "special interests," with the result being, hopefully, a consensus that all can live with. If you're a progressive who thinks our government will ever be a fully progressive, liberal enterprise, I have this bridge for you...
Yet, many of the loudest voices coming from our side of the political aisle seem to have no concept of the gamesmanship that is politics. Some of it is ignorance, but I suspect more than a few who propagate the worst nonsense. They seem to be pretty book-smart, to the point that it makes me wonder if perhaps they’re doing it on purpose. Perhaps they're stealth political operatives trying to help the right wing win elections and stay in power. I know -- that sounds cynical, right? Okay, fair enough, but it's still less cynical than the other reason. I think a lot of them are trying to make a living with their blog, and they’re purposely being obtuse in order to excite you, get you to react, and maximize donations.
Whatever the reason, the reactionary ignorance really has to stop. it makes us look like "them." And if you think the right wing wins because it's reactionary, forget it. They win because we too often look like them.
The latest example of this comes in the wake of a trial balloon put forth by Democrats on the so-called “superCommittee,” which is actually called the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction earlier this week. It included a total of $3 trillion in deficit reduction over a ten-year period. Immediately, the liberal “blogosphere” exploded with rage because, among the cuts “proposed” included (gasp!) cuts in Medicare! OMG! The world is about to explode! Millions of grandparents everywhere will be left without health care and die because those Democrats' suggest cuts. Those heartless bastards!
First of all, where did the notion come from that any cuts to Medicare are detrimental to society? There is a LOT that can be (and probably should be) cut from Medicare without touching anyone’s benefits. Just this morning, I read a story in the Los Angeles Times about a ring that made $18 million by repeatedly billing Medicare for the same pills over and over. And might I remind you that a significant portion of Marcus Bachmann's income from his “Pray Away the Gay” clinic came from Medicare. Therefore, the very idea that any cuts from Medicare must be bad is nothing but reactionary and silly.
Again; reactionary hurts our cause. It hurts it a lot. It's what "they" do.
Have you ever really noticed how the right wing keeps their idiot horde in line? They do it by mining the reactionary zeal contained in those millions of tiny brains. Seriously, does any rational human being truly think the biggest problems in this country are abortion, gay marriage, gun registration and high taxes? Have you seen the teabaggers? Here; take a look at them. Do these look or sound like rational people to you? If you agree they do not, then why would you want to look like them? Why would you think being just like them is a net plus for the progressive movement? I hope you just muttered "I don't" to yourself, because that's why I'm here. I want to pull you back from the edge of the cliff and get progressives winning elections again.
To win elections, we need a majority. The majority of American voters do NOT watch news constantly, and they hardly pay attention to politics most of the time. But they DO pay attention to the overall tone. The tone coming from the right will always be "Democrats suck" and "Democrats are a bunch of weak-ass wimps." Therefore, when you say roughly the same thing, you're actually reinforcing the right wing's overall meme, as well as their tone.
And if that's not bad enough, most of the time, the reactionary crap is just plain WRONG. Facts have a liberal bias, but reactionaries rarely have facts to back them up, because they haven't taken the time to consider them. Smart people usually have to sit back and wait to see what happens in order to discover actual facts; reacting precludes that process.
And for those of you who suggest we can't wait until they actually vote on the proposal, no one is asking you to. But at this point in time, the Democratic proposal is just a notion. It is not a bill, it is not a debate, and frankly, it's in no danger of becoming law, anyway. So the next time you decide to pour righteous indignation onto an "issue," think a little. If it can't possibly become law, why would they propose it?
There are several reasons Democrats on the “Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction,” might float a trial balloon. They might do it to gauge public reaction to a proposal, although that's not likely, because I'd be willing to bet they already know what the reactionary folks will do by now. (Meaning the reactionary folks on the right; they really don't care about the reactionary folks on the left.) More often than not, they release such a proposal because the work inside the committee is getting bogged down, due to one side refusing to offer anything workable, and the deadline's approaching. We all know what the current incarnation of the Republican Party is like these days; is that really so hard to imagine? Because they’re so tied to the teabaggers, they literally cannot make a proposal that makes any sense or actually cuts anything significant. So, the Democrats offer up a (very generic and non-specific) “proposal” that reduces the deficit a whopping $3 trillion in order to get a “counter-offer” from the GOP.
Though many progressives can’t see it through their reactionary fog, this “proposal” is a stroke of genius. Politically speaking, it’s exactly what they should have done. Look at the campaign positives the proposal brings up.
They Backed Republicans Into a Corner on Medicare
By including the prospect of Medicare cuts, the Democrats put Republicans back on their heels. Because they’re heading into an election year having already voted to kill Medicare altogether, the last thing they want as 2012 rounds the corner is to be on record as favoring enormous Medicare cuts, even if the details of those cuts make sense. Remember; they’re in the majority in the House; they would get the “blame.” The GOP has been shouting from the rooftops that “entitlement programs” must be on the table since, oh, about January 20, 2008. Twice this year alone, Democrats have called their bluff and watched Republicans back down both times. What the reactionary sees is Democrats putting Medicare on the table. What's really happening is, Republicans are demanding Medicare be on the table, and when it's put there, they demand it be taken back off. they can't mention it again this entire negotiation. It's called inoculation, and it's a common political tool. Got it?
They Reveal Republicans to Be Fiscally Irresponsible AGAIN
The size of the overall deficit reduction is also remarkable. When you throw out a figure like $3 trillion, even over 10 years, you look serious to the average voter who cares about that sort of thing. A majority of voters won't care about the details, even if you are obsessed with them. As long as they get a job, their taxes don't double, and they get a reasobable level of service from government, they won't care. But even the most casual moderate voter will see a figure of $3 trillion and be impressed. More importantly, it shows Republicans for what they really are. There’s no way in hell Republicans are going to approve $3 trillion in cuts in an election year, which means, once again, Democrats and President Obama will have snookered them again, and gained another notch to brag about during the election.
They Forced Republicans, Once Again, to Reject Increased Taxes to Reduce the Deficit/Debt
In essence, the proposal by Democrats once again demonstrated to voters that Republicans are not serious about deficit reduction whatsoever. By forcing them to reject $1.3 trillion in new taxes over 10 years. That’s really a modest tax increase, and it only affects millionaires, but it’s enough to prove that the people whining the loudest about the country’s huge debt don’t really think it’s all that big of a deal. And they once again showed that the Republican Party takes their oath to Grover Norquist far more seriously than their oath of office.
They Forced Republicans Into Coming Up With a Specific Proposal That Looks Weak
The only way Republicans can possibly prove they’re serious about “fiscal responsibility” and “debt reduction” now would be to come up with a number that is at least $3 trillion, and they can’t do it. Why? Because Democrats essentially took Medicare off the table (see above), Social Security is never on the table in an election year, and they absolutely will not discuss tax increases, period. The sad thing for the Republican Party is, the Tea Party really does take their stance on “fiscal responsibility” seriously, and they can be counted on to be upset when Democrats propose $3 trillion in deficit reduction and Republicans can only manage $2.2 trillion
Basically, Democrats keep calling the Republicans' bluff, and the GOP's been blinking all year. Only a reactionary can't see it, because they don't take the time necessary to examine the facts.
Contrary to what the reactionaries will tell you, Democrats haven’t been “caving” on this stuff at all. Whether you like it or not, reactionary progressives are part of the problem when it comes to all of this "austerity" talk. You don't get to rail about "enormous deficits" and mounting debt for eight years when Bush was president, and then just magically change your mind when Obama's president and we're trying to pull out of a recession. That's what reactionary politics gets us, to be quite blunt about it. Obama and Democrats have to care about deficits and debt because we and they spent eight years warning the electorate about the danger. You can't just blow off eight years of austerity talk because you think it no longer matters.
Politics is about compromise. It's not about winning 100%, or even 75%; it's about winning 51%. You're not going to get a lot more than that. And to get to that 51%, sometimes you have to play the game, and that means playing poker a little bit better than the other guys. That's what the Democrats have been doing, and that's what the reactionary wing of the progressive movement has been unable to see.
Let's stop the reactionary BS, and get better at politics, please?