Won’t get fooled again! Again.

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

1979 San Francisco.  We were working on a hard-fought rent-control ballot initiative.  Hard-fought between the coalition of tenant organizations and the Democratic Party stalwarts on one side (seemingly) against the landlords and downtown developers who ran City Hall under Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

Even more hard-fought was the struggle between the tenant organizations which had created the campaign in the first place and ran the campaign’s district committees (I chaired District 6, the Mission), against the Democratic Party’s consultants (the little wigs) and Democratic clubs and official leftists, over whether the campaign would be a consultant-based media affair, or grassroots tenant-based.  The underlying question was whether the district committees would last beyond election day.

The money went to the consultants and for TV ads, while the district committees were starved.  The measure had been gutted even before the campaign began, in order to appease a few prestigious Democratic clubs that in the end actually opposed the initiative.  In the home stretch, it became clear that Prop R was going down.

Now a whiny voice pipes up from the back of the room.  “Hey, old guy, is this gonna be another of your boring stories about how you had to walk 20 miles through the snow to get to an SDS meeting?”

“Shaddup, kid, there’s a point here somewhere!”

As I was  saying, in the final weeks, the campaign bosses went into a pseudo-frenzy.  Once more to the barricades, voter registration, lit drops.  The campaign came down to getting a slate card under every door in the city.  No volunteer was to be left standing as the polls closed.

As the dismal returns trickled in, the consultants were handing out medals to each other and lining up their next gigs.  The district committees were exhausted and helpless as the central campaign shut them down forever.  I can never forget that election night, getting drunk as a skunk with a few friends and then driving home weaving wildly down a fortunately deserted Valencia Street, knowing that the district committees were dead.

While the grassroots organizers zeroed in on election day, the campaign professionals were concentrating on the day AFTER the election.

Moral of the story:  The professionals had it right!

Fast forward to 2001, where the Wall Street Journal writes that Ford Motor is recalling the Firestone tires on its Ford Explorer.  The government reports that defective tires had led to 200 deaths and over 700 injuries.  Ford  had known about these defects for over a decade, but had decided that the resultant lawsuits would cost less than recalling the tires, and out of a sense of responsibility to the stockholders …

Now it’s December 2009.  Healthcare debacle.  People are exhausted, demoralized, confused.  It didn’t just turn out that way by accident.  Like San Francisco 1979, the Democratic Party set it up that way.

First there were the promises.  Obama spoke out for the public option.  A large bloc in the House swore to defeat any bill without it.  The problem was beating the filibuster in the Senate.  But Obama gave signals that he would use his bully pulpit to get it through..  This was the Obama who, after all, had said you couldn’t solve the housing crisis by requiring everyone to buy a house.

Sounded good.  Our progressive leaders were all lining up to support our president.  The incredibly vicious racist attacks against Obama had to be dealt with, no regrets on that count.  No cause for great concern.  But what was in the bill?

 Mandate?  No details.

 Exchanges?  What the hell were they?

 Public Option?  No details.

 Subsidies?  How much?

 Stupak?  Never heard of it.

… seen through the headlines and the New York Times and Olbermann/Maddow.  Which is how most people saw it.  I’m no policy wonk.  I wasn’t researching the details.  I was living my life.  The left blogosphere was railing against the Republicans and I went with that.  I didn’t give a lot of thought to Obama’s focus on having a bill that didn’t increase the deficit, a strategic error of the first order.

I don’t like crying “conspiracy” because this can obscure systemic issues, how the machinery works.  But the Democratic  Party deliberately kept our eyes on the Republicans, and deliberately dodged, if not outright buried, the bill’s details from us, with the full cooperation of the progressive leadership.  Stupak was a long time coming, but I believe the party cynically kept it under wraps until the last minute to prevent progressives from having time to mobilize.  No time for anything but hysteria.  On to the Senate.

 Mandate?  No details.

 Public Option?  No details.

 Subsidies?  Not looking good.

 Stupak, oh yeah, there’d be a version of Stupak in the Senate version as well.

Oh, but the Senate would take it out.  It would come out in the final House-Senate negotiations.  Stupak is still lurking in his little cesspool, though, and hasn’t gone away, despite party efforts to make us forget.

This whole process, with no information, misinformation and disinformation, has been emotionally and even physically exhausting.  Deliberately so, while the party big wigs are mobilizing their “blame the left” chant, and are threatening to primary those who don’t go quietly into the night, the little wigs are cheering us once more unto the breach.  Now it’s not the Democratic Party to blame, it’s that awful Lieberman.

Progressives play their part in this kabuki dance, with the standard calls for 3rd party, dropping out, targeting the bad ones.  But just like Ford Motor measuring human lives on its balance sheet, the Democratic Party has factored this outrage into its political budget.  They think they will ride this out, and they are right.  In the absence of a plan to actually damage them — rather than the current plan to really, really annoy them — they will cruise on to the next fight.  Over jobs, and Obama has already been meeting with corporate leaders while progressives are still fixated on healthcare.

It’s time to disengage.

Time to get off the treadmill, constantly off-balance, constantly forced to react to the latest new-told lies, the latest outrage.  This time we get ahead of the curve, we anticipate the fight that will be developing around jobs, and we go into it locked and loaded.

Last time around, if we wanted to question Obama’s good will, we had to make the case while the little wigs said give him a chance.  While he was under unconscionable racist attacks.  Innocent until proven guilty.  This time around, if Obama’s good will is in question, they’re the ones who have a case to make.  Guilty until he proves otherwise by his deeds.  Hope gets more audacious every day.

Condensed from the White House website:

o Tax cuts to support additional business investment next year – with a particular focus on struggling small businesses – with much of the cost recouped over time.

o Zero capital gains for small businesses.

o Extension of enhanced expensing provisions for small businesses.

o Extending the Recovery Act provision that accelerates the rate at which business can deduct the cost of capital expenditures.

o A new tax cut for small businesses to encourage hiring in 2010.  [specifically the employment tax]

o Eliminating fees and increasing guarantees for small businesses that borrow through major SBA programs in 2010.

o Additional investment in highways, transit, rail, aviation and water.

o Support for merit-based infrastructure investment that leverages federal dollars.

o New incentives for consumers who invest in energy efficient retrofits in their homes.

o Expansion of successful oversubscribed Recovery Act programs to leverage private investment in energy efficiency and create clean energy manufacturing jobs.


Then it descends into blather about reducing the federal deficit and extending COBRA and unemployment benefits, with aid to the states to fend of further layoffs.

Not a word about direct job creation, no WPA-style jobs creation.  He never promised one, you say?  All the crap comparing Obama with FDR contained an implicit promise.  Back when we believed.

And like the self-sharpening ginsu knives, there’s more.  When it hits Congress, we can count on the Republican Dr. No routine, and will be told we have to get behind Obama to overcome the Republicans.  Free shipping if you call in the next 30 minutes.  At that point, feel the stiletto sliding into your back.  The fingerprints on the handle will be Democratic Party.

They’ll be demanding more tax breaks.  Cut the unemployment extension, too expensive.  Cut the state aid.  Too expensive.  And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of all those programs like OSHA and FMLA that are all that’s stopping corporate America from creating new jobs for all.  And if you order now …  Not too much infrastructure, remember the deficit.  Same old blackmail.  Same old tut-tutting about the deficit.  Same old, same old.  Nothing will be different.  

Except maybe us.

How about we go in with OUR demands:

o 5 million federal jobs

o rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

o full support for the unemployed

o foreclosure moratorium for the unemployed

I’m no policy wonk.  This is a temporary placeholder while those wiser than I write something more coherent.  Maybe one is already out there.  Maybe several.

As usual, my focus is on method.  Point is, first we go in with OUR demands.  We don’t give those who failed on healthcare ANY benefit of the doubt.  They’re the ones with something to prove to us.

And then we go in with a stick.  Several sticks.  We go in saying we want [some stuff], and if we don’t get it we will [appropriate actions].  I don’t mean that we get kind of irritating, we won’t love them any more, that’s the last holiday card they get from us, if only their mothers knew …  Real retaliation.  Not hastily thrown together IF they spit in our faces, no, locked and loaded for WHEN they spit in our faces.  No naivete.  Progressives have backed down so many times, there is no way they are going to fear any threat we make.  It is going to take us actually wielding our stick before it becomes credible.  That’s the price we pay for years of progressive sellouts.

Yes, the Full Court Press! is one stick.  But it’s focus is 2012, and we need something more immediate.  Maybe have thousands of the unemployed storm congressional halls, call it the six-packers.  Sit-downs at phony jobs fairs.  Surround the homeless shelters or welfare centers.  I really don’t know exactly.  Some of this may sound outlandish, but December 3 Bloomberg reports, “senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.”  I do know there are going to be a lot of pissed-off people out there with nothing to lose, and I don’t believe we can’t come up with something.

I don’t have a road map for how to do this.  But I know a few things NOT to do, like not repeating the healthcare debacle.  Not trusting media-anointed progressive leaders.  Not coming in with our hands raised in prayer, but brandishing a gnarled shillelagh.

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  1. you know on this blog I’m considered a centrist.

  2. instead of proactive.  PROactive = PROgressive.

    We have been soundly fucked with no happy ending.  I am all for getting mine, finally.

    They care about money…do they even care about being elected again with so many juicy gigs after their “service”?  Do we work smarter, not harder…dividing pending bills amongst the smarter among us for research and finding the shiny beads they intend to deploy later?  Will anyone care if we change our registration en mass to Indie?

    Ugh, wish I was smarter about this shit.

    • Edger on December 19, 2009 at 17:16

    for forty years.


    I just had a conversation at reddit with someone who replied to me saying:

    With Obama’s approval rating dropping like a rock and Congress’s in the tank, it’s possible I suppose, that Obama and the Dems just might be smart enough to realize at some point that they’ll need to start listening to and producing results for the left and the independents to get the votes back that they’ve lost from them that they’ll need, if they want to retain the house, senate, and white house.

    Not likely the way they’ve been going so far, and especially when the mandates come into effect, but possible.

    [Obama] won the popular vote by about a 6-7 point spread. From the left and independents. He’s already lost far more than that – he’s lost the left, the independents, and some of the center/center/right.

    If he and the dems don’t move to the left they lose.

    The left is the only thing that can save the country from another republican in the white house, with possibly a republican controlled congress.

    And the only way they’ll get the left back is to start producing progressive results.

    The incredible reply I received was:

    He won by appealing to the independents and his public appeal. Now that he actually has to be a politician he is not looking quite as nice as he does in a suit. If he goes progressive, he loses. He has to do what made him popular in the first place.

    What made him popular in the first place was a bunch of high sounding empty promises. To assume that doing the same thing will win it for him again is to assume stupidity from the left and the independents.

    Producing results is the only thing now that will get them back.

    Unfortunately it appears that some people are all too willing to “get fooled again”.

  3. I always hated electoral politics.  I spare you the litany of reasons.  I think as far as electoral politics goes, I’m going to hibernate for the season.  I’ll see how things look in the Spring when I wake up hungry again.

    No doubt you’re right about what you say in this essay.  Inspiration, though, is going to be a huge issue.  It’s really hard to keep getting kicked to curb and to keep getting up.        

    • rossl on December 19, 2009 at 17:29

    If this is your attitude, you might want to get out of electoral politics.  I’m not joking.  Try some local activism or issue campaigns or something like that.  I know you’re older than I am and probably wiser, but I’ve gotten much more satisfaction from planning a community garden at my school than I ever have from electoral politics.

  4. Just read your other piece, added this comment.


    Lately I’ve been pondering, what’s the difference between activism now, and yesteryear?

    My answer.

    Now: everyone is typing to each other from the comfort of their home.

    Before: We were out organizing and creating change from the ground up.

    What do you think?

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