Monday, January 5, 2009

The Corruption of Harry Reid, the Bipartisan Conservative Coalition, and Obama

So now we find out that "Harry Reid contacted Rod Blagojevich to oppose a roster of African American candidates because he considered them 'unelectable.'" And we have Reid fiddling with the law to prevent seating Blagojevich's actual pick: a corrupt, egotistical black Chicago pol. This is, in turn, putting progressive Al Franken's seat at risk. Say what? Reid is the Senate Majority Leader. Why is he acting like a two-bit crook?

There have been other moments of "wha?" FISA, Iraq, running interference for the oil and coal industries, and on, and on. And Reid isn't just a Democrat from a conservative state--he's the Senate Democratic Leader, chosen by the Senate Democrats. I've been watching Reid, now, for years, make excuses to Democratic voters, most of whom are far more liberal than Reid. It seemed for a while that he might be a wimp. Only how could a wimp become Senate Majority Leader or retain his seat while consistently opposing his party's own constituency? No, Reid is pursing a conservative agenda and he's doing it with the support of a substantial faction of the Senate Democrats, who chose Reid, by their arcane institutional process (which seems to be secret) to lead them. Which means, not only has Reid sold out his party's rank and file, not only is he corrupt in some well-concealed way, but a substantial faction of the Senate Democrats are, too.

We are in a very bad way. For these Senators--and we do not even know all the names--have allied themselves with the authoritarians who dominate the Republicans. Let's spell that out: the upper house of Congress is dominated by a bipartisan conservative coalition. It is no wonder, then, that Obama, swept into office by progressives and an anti-authoritarian backlash, is not himself pursuing strongly progressive policies. Obama may or may not be a progressive in his personal convictions. But given a bi-partisan conservative coalition in the Senate, how could he make strongly progressive appointments or policy before he has cemented his power? And in fact, he has not made strongly progressive appointments and his early economic proposals are tailored to the biases of the Senate conservatives.

The consensus process of the Senate--the way that it is so easy to block legislation--means that most Senators end up voting for many bills which they do not support. A Senator who consistently votes their own convictions will find themself powerless; all their initiatives will be blocked. Even the Senate's reliable progressives--figures like Saunders, Boxer, and the late Wellstone--engage in this mutual backscratching. The way to know a Senator's convictions is by the issues they return to: John Kerry and veterans, Sanders and environmentalism, Clinton and "women's issues", ... Obama and constitutional law. So with Obama's appointments, I think. His strongest appointments, so far, seem to be attorneys and scientists...and Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Now, I am very pleased with the issues he is taking a stand on. In the long run, I think, these appointments will make for positive change. But, "Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead." Paul Krugman is seriously concerned about his economic policies, Obama's environmental picks are questionable, and Obama's foreign policy picks are hawkish, though not insane like those of W. Bush. In current affairs, I think, the conservative coalition is going to continue to do a great deal of harm.

4 comments:

CMike said...

The Raven writes:

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[T]he upper house of Congress is dominated by a bipartisan conservative coalition.
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All right, I'll buy that. So your point is?:

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It is no wonder, then, that Obama, swept into office by progressives and an anti-authoritarian backlash, is not himself pursuing strongly progressive policies. Obama may or may not be a progressive in his personal convictions. But given a bi-partisan conservative coalition in the Senate, how could he make strongly progressive appointments or policy before he has cemented his power.
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Say what!? President Clinton spent two terms in office being hounded by Congress yet the left does not cut him any slack for having spent most of his time triangulating. President-elect Obama has approval ratings in the high 70 percent range but you argue that the left should understand he has to cement his power before he can advance the right personnel and policies.

Then there's this:

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The way to know a Senator's convictions is by the issues they return to: ... Clinton and "women's issues" ... Obama and constitutional law.
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Actually, I would think Secretary of State designee Hillary Clinton's signature issue has been health care. The point being made here is, perhaps, that in her new position the international issue of women's rights would be in her portfolio and health care would not. Now, what is the evidence that the President-elect has convictions in the matter of constitutional law and what are the examples of him returning to those convictions while he served in the senate?

Let me raise the issue of the BORPP swindle, i.e. the Bush-Obama-Reid-Pelosi-Paulson TARP swindle. The first $350 billion of that is gone, most of it gone with the wind. Now that Bush and Paulson are riding off into the sunset, tell me what we can expect from Obama-Reid-Pelosi (the ORP) regarding the second $350 billion; the purchase of some more cement?

Maybe a little less weight should be falling on Sen. Reid here. President-elect Obama is the standard bearer of the Democratic Party. He is about to become an entire branch of government unto himself. Obama, not Reid, has to deliver.

kelley b. said...

I think you've pretty much hit the nail on the head, but I think it's too simple to call the corruption conservatism.

It's money. True enough, big money is usually conservative. But mostly big money is looking for more money.

Reid is precisely where the weight should fall, along with Pelosi, because these two will ante up the legistlation that Obama has to play with.

The Raven said...

CMike, I'm talking about what is, not what we wish for. I'm very unhappy with what we have. I just don't believe that Obama is going to gain anything by starting his time in office by having his appointments and early programs rejected by the Senate, and picking a fight with the conservative coalition is a pretty quick road to that result. If you want to talk strategy, what I think is most important for the left is (1) get our ideas out there and (2) work on the problem of the Senate. Much though I have come to dislike the institution, we will not reform it overnight.

The Raven said...

Kelly, thank you. I just didn't want to get into the wellsprings of conservatism in this post. Money is there, but not only money, and that's a whole separate thing. Between Reid and Pelosi, my impression is Reid and the Senate conservative coalition is the bigger problem. Especially, their authority of judicial appointments is a big deal. I also think Pelosi can be pressured from the left--she is a San Francisco Democrat, after all--whereas Reid is nearly immune to pressure. So the Senate conservatives I think are the best targets.