A Progressive Like Kos Should Know Better

Markos Moulitsas’ recent look at the past ten years in progressive politics on his “Daily Kos” blog should be enshrined as a memorial to modern progressive pundits, and why they impede progress for the most part. It’s that small but loud contingent who thinks they’re smarter than everyone else about politics, when they’re almost the opposite.

The title is “Ten Years of Progressive Progress. And Yes, We’ve Made Progress.” It makes me laugh, not just because he apparently had to add the “trust me” proclamation to a title that is clearly wrong on its face, but also because the piece demonstrates such a complete lack of knowledge of how the political system in this country actually works. Seriously, he should be embarrassed by the – I want to call it naiveté, but it’s far worse than that.

I know it’s become fashionable for a certain “class” of liberals to trash conservative Democrats, but such an idea is politically naive and stupid. But Kos’ latest diatribe takes naïve and stupid to a whole new level. Check out how he starts:

Ten years ago, in 2004, we had a 51-49 Republican Senate. But the fact that Republican Bill Frist ran the joint wasn’t the worst of it. Because look at this motley crew on our side of the aisle: Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, John Breaux, Tom Daschle, Fritz Hollings, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Zell Miller, and Mark Pryor.

Seriously, if you’re nodding your head and saying “yeah, man!” at that garbage, read it again. The worst part of having  a Republican-led Congress under George W. Bush was having the above 11 Democrats on our side? That was it? It wasn’t the fact that 51 Republicans were handing Bush everything he wanted? To make things worse, he PRAISES the defeats/retirements of all the above, even though almost all were by teabaggers. That’s progress? He’s even advocating for the defeats this year of Pryor and Landrieu, despite the fact that their Republican challengers will likely be teabaggers. No wonder he has to add a “trust me” codicil to the title.

Kos must know that what he’s calling “progress” isn’t really progress at all. It’s petulance. How can someone so well-regarded in punditry circles not understand that Democrats representing Maryland and Massachusetts will necessarily be different than those representing Arkansas and Louisiana? Maxine Waters can be who she is, because her constituents are comprised mostly of two of the deepest Democratic base groups; blacks and Mexican-Americans. If Mark Pryor said and did the same as Maxine Waters, he’d never have been elected in the first place. It doesn’t take a particularly large amount of political fortitude to support a progressive cause when you’re Barbara Mikulski. It takes a hell of a lot to be a Tom Daschle. Is this concept really that difficult for some progressive pundits to understand?

Apparently, it is. Here’s what he said about the House.

Back in 2004, Republicans held a 222-210 lead in the House. On paper, that looks better than our current 234-201 deficit. But numbers deceive, because that year the Blue Dog Coalition had 47 members, and several more were excluded because of an arbitrary cap on membership. That cap was eventually lifted, and the Blue Dogs boasted 54 members in 2010 with “Democrats” in the mold of Harold Ford and Jane Harman hogging the media spotlight. That meant that over a quarter of our caucus was happier making common cause with Republicans than with Democrats. Today, the Blue Dogs are down to 19 members, and GOP gerrymandering and retirements will whittle that down even further after this year’s elections.

Really. Fewer Democrats is “progress,” as far as Kos is concerned. Notice how he glosses over the fact that from 2006, when Democrats won majorities in the House and Senate, to 2010, when people like him helped lose the House and damn near lose the Senate, Democrats in the House passed 375 bills that were blocked by Republicans in the Senate. Here’s a partial list. Many of these bills were very progressive, and would have made a difference in people’s lives, which is what progressive politics is supposed to be about, right? And let’s be real here; there would be no Obamacare without Blue Dogs, and Glass-Steagall would still be repealed, not reconstituted with Dodd-Frank.

Yes, I said it. While progressives like Kos are under the impression that it was Blue Dogs that killed the public option, in reality, it was the insistence on the public option that almost killed the ACA. Blue Dogs actually created a public option that would have drawn enough support to pass the bill, while it was progressives who claimed it wasn’t “robust” enough, and damn near tanked it. There also wouldn’t have been enough votes to pass the ACA without Blue Dogs. Yes, they developed a strategy so that many could vote “no” on at least one of the bills in order to provide themselves with cover in their conservative districts, but that’s politics. You’d also be hard pressed to find one Blue Dog who didn’t vote for the bill in some form.

Fewer Blue Dogs is not a positive. Without a majority in the House AND a supermajority in the Senate, all of those progressives in the House and Senate have absolutely no power. None. Expecting great things from either progressives or Blue Dogs when they’re part of a minority is pure foolishness. Electing all those Blue Dogs created a Democratic majority that put liberal Nancy Pelosi in charge of the House and put progressives at the head of most congressional committees. And the brinksmanship going on these days never happened when Democrats were in charge, even with a significant number of right-leaning Democrats in Congress. During the four-year period when there were around 50 or so Blue Dogs, only ONE ever voted with Democrats less than 80% of the time, and he did so 70% of the time. Most Blue Dogs, including ALL of those Kos lists above, voted with Democrats more than 85% of the time, and most did so more than 90%. No Blue Dog ever cast a DECIDING vote against an important Democratic bill, and none ever cast a DECIDING vote on cloture. If you’re happy that conservative Democrats lost, perhaps you could name one teabagger replacement who won that comes close to that record.

Finally, Kos talks about “policy.” Frankly, some of this is just plain strange (emphasis added):

I haven’t even gotten into policy: marriage equality, marijuana legalization, better access to health care, renewed push on economic issues (such as minimum wage hikes and broader discussion on income inequality), and so on. The Virginia election in 2013 was won on an explicitly liberal agenda.

We still have to contend with that GOP gerrymander in the House and at the state level (2010 was a huge step backward), with a conservative Supreme Court, and a media and political establishment that still overly defers to increasingly fringe Republicans. And of course, our party can be infuriatingly slow to change. But political change happens gradually, over time. And we’ve dramatically improved the quality and ideological cohesiveness of our Congress and are the beneficiaries of demographic trends that will only accelerate those changes.

When does the mother ship come to pick him up? The “quality and cohesiveness of our Congress has improved”? They’ve passed almost no legislation. While they refuse to pass a bill that would create jobs, they’ve voted 50 times to repeal Obamacare. The word “bipartisan” is a complete joke now. And the main reason all of this is happening is because about 30 Blue Dogs were replaced by teabaggers.

And let’s be clear; Terry McAuliffe has NEVER advocated anything “liberal” in his life. He largely won because he and Cuccinelli were such mediocre choices, the Libertarian got more than six percent of he vote. If Robert Sarvis hadn’t run, McAuliffe would have lost. Proclaiming the former head of the DLC McAuliffe’s victory over right wing whack job Cuccinelli as a massive triumph of liberalism is a stretch.

And policies? Is he kidding? Look at some of those bills passed by Democrats in 2009-10 again and compare them with what’s passed since the demise of Blue Dogs. Then consider, marriage equality is happening mostly because of the courts, except for the demise of DADT, which couldn’t have passed without Blue Dog votes. Marijuana legalization has happened in two states; one blue and one purple. There are 48 more to go. Better access to health care came via the ACA, which couldn’t have happened without Blue Dog votes. As for economic issues, if all those Blue Dogs hadn’t been beaten by teabaggers, we’d have millions more jobs, we’d have raised the minimum wage by now, and we’d have been able to add a public option to the ACA by now. Moreover, Blue Dog votes also helped pass Dodd-Frank.

Demographics do favor Democrats, but all trends are curved, not a straight line, and we’re missing out, because people like Kos think they’re “politically savvy” by trying to tweak Democrats instead of giving Republicans the heave-ho.

As a progressive, you have to help whoever is the best candidate, not just the progressive candidate. Clearly, teabaggers are the worst candidates possible, and yet, here’s a guy who is looked at as a top-line progressive praising the loss of Blue Dogs, even though almost all were replaced by teabaggers.

That is NOT progressive. Not even a little. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, I swear.


A Progressive Like Kos Should Know Better — 3 Comments

  1. Kos is a putz or at least a poser. He has allowed his capitalism to outweigh his progressivism. He sits on his hands and watches his site become a reactionary EMO hotbed that does more damage to his professed cause than any connservative blog ever has.

  2. Kos jumped onto the the purity bandwagon back in 2009, when “purist liberal outrage” was driving web hits. There was a lot of gloating at the time over Democratic losses in the 2010 election, but one of the comments on my blog after the 2010 election rather summed up the reality: “What does 190 great Democrats get you? Nothing.” They’re really a version of the Tea Party, where “purity” matters more than “getting something done.” Of course, Kos really doesn’t mind if Republicans control Congress, since that just means he gets to rake in more money.

  3. During the 1930s there was a word for these faux progressives in Spain – Fifth Columnists. The Abraham Lincoln Brigade hated them more than the fascists because they were treacherous in their disloyalty to the cause. The seriously committed 60s radicals called such people “Left in form, Right in practice.” They aren’t progressives. They are narcissistic power mongers. They don’t even know that what they advocate has nothing to do with reality and what people – real, everyday people – really need. They represent nothing and no one but themselves.