On James Carville

I learned yesterday that James Carville, the noted if controversial Democratic strategist with close ties to the Clintons, is the main political consultant to the Juan Manuel Santos campaign in Colombia. When I think of James Carville I think that somewhere a pond is missing its scum.

This isn't the first time that Mr. Carville has chosen to back dangerous right-wing candidates in Latin America over more progressive forces. In 2002, Mr. Carville went to Bolivia to support a notorious right winger Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and was instrumental in his win. The Sánchez de Lozada administration turned out to be a catastrophe in Bolivia and instead of a thoughtful centrist pragmatist like Manfred Reyes Villa winning the stage was set for the advent of left-wing populism four years hence.

I'm finished with the Democratic party. I will no longer support any Democrats for any office. The time has come to build a progressive movement outside the Democratic party. I cannot support a party whose membership includes people like James Carville whose ideology is frankly indistinguishable from neoliberalism and the reactionary right. From here on forward, I will advocate only for candidates outside the two mainstream parties. The task is arduous but the imperative of starting down this road is clear to me. To support the Democrats is to support a militaristic Empire, a noxious foreign policy and to defer social justice at home because too often we have to contend with the likes of neoliberals like James Carville, Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin, Blanche Lincoln, Jane Harman among so many others. In short run, this likely means handing over power to the GOP but in the long run, I honestly believe, that it will lead to a more fruitful environment for progressive politics.

Here's what Carville's involvement in Bolivia led to:

 

Political documentaries don’t come any more shaming than Rachel Boynton’s terrific ‘‘Our Brand is Crisis,’’ a barely straight-faced account of what happened in Bolivia in 2002, when a group of US consultants helped a candidate win the presidency only to see the country slide into near-total chaos.

Globalism extends to the American way of campaigning, it seems, and the hubris of the gringo strategists — earnest ex-Clintonistas employed by James Carville’s Greenberg Carville Shrum group — would be hilarious if human lives and a country’s political will weren’t at stake.

It’s a galling and provocative experience to viewers of any political persuasion, and a reminder to the left of how easily idealism can run amok.

The Carville boys were hired by Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, a.k.a. ‘‘Goni,’’ a patrician Bolivian businessman who served a rough term as Bolivia’s president in the mid-’90s. Goni’s legacy was an unsuccessful program of ‘‘capitalization’’ (i.e., he welcomed foreign investment and watched foreigners get all the jobs).

By 2002, the time of filming, unemployment is through the roof and rural campesinos are agitating for political representation. Goni is old news and his poll numbers are dismal. Enter Jeremy Rosner, Greenberg Carville Shrum’s point man in Bolivia, an articulate manipulator of mass moods (and a fellow who bears an uncanny resemblance to Seth Meyers of ‘‘Saturday Night Live’’ — reality parodies itself here better than any comic could).

Rosner and his minions hold focus groups, print bar charts, and quickly decide on Goni’s campaign theme: crisis. The country’s falling apart, so who will you turn to? The candidate’s longtime campaign manager, Carlos Morales, has his own polls and research, but they’re arrogantly shunted aside.

It’s an uphill battle, nevertheless. ‘‘Over half the electorate really can’t stand you guys,’’ admits one of the consultants.

Against Goni are Evo Morales, a socialist firebrand who represents the country’s coca growers but who denies he’s a drug lord or a terrorist, and Cochabamba mayor Manfred Reyes Villa, a thoughtful pragmatist with a charismatic head of hair. Villa leads in the polls, so Rosner and company decide he must be taken down.

It’s a measure of the trust filmmaker Boynton built with the Americans that they happily discuss negative campaigning with the cameras rolling — either that, or they’re willfully blind. Management consultant Tal Silverstein insists ‘‘we have to turn [Villa] from a clean candidate to a dirty one,’’ and articles go out fretting about his military experience and digging into his finances. ‘‘Tomorrow they’ll probably say I’m an associate of Osama bin Laden,’’ Villa shrugs in an interview.

Wrong. They tie him to the Moonies.

Goni’s own response is that of a plump tuna surrounded by sharks. ‘‘Mine not to reason why,’’ he sighs and goes out to insult the electorate and bobble softball questions lobbed by the hostess of a morning chat show. When Carville himself arrives from the states to rally the troops, he gleefully gives Boynton the lowdown on media manipulation and chuckles that ‘‘campaigns are like intercourse: You don’t have that much control over when you peak.’’ TMI, Ragin’ Cajun, TMI.

Goni wins by the narrowest of margins in a severely split field. He does little for several months (other than plan to ship Bolivia’s natural gas from a port in enemy Chile), then decides to raise taxes. Cut to riots in the streets. Over a hundred people died in the ensuing months, and Goni eventually fled to America. In late 2005, Morales won the presidency with a historic 54 percent of the vote. You could argue that the Carville consultants helped drive Bolivia into his arms, since the centrist Villa would likely have won in 2002 without their intervention.

Not that Rosner’s taking credit. Gently asked by Boynton what went wrong, he stares into space and stammers that ‘‘there are conditions that democracy can’t deal with.’’ It’s the confusion of a privileged child whose toy has blown up in his face.

 

Tags: James Carville, progressive politics, neoliberalism (all tags)

Comments

45 Comments

Carvill is not Democrat.

I too am absolutely disgusted with all the former Clintonistas who are now showing their true colors. We have suffered decades of faux Democrats like them as a result of the party's  gradual shift to the right. All I can say is looking for a Third party alternative is more destructive than not. The answer is working to purge the party of DINOs and replace them with Real Dems. I know, I know youve heard this before but unless there comes a personality the likes of Ghandi that would enthrall a nation and lead it to a new third way you will only end up actually  supporting the likes of McCain, Palin and Bush and Cheney.

by Ed beckmann 2010-06-01 04:06PM | 2 recs
If you're finished with the Democratic party...

Why are you writing for a Democratic blog?  In fact, excessively bashing the Democratic party is explicitly prohibited on MyDD.

by turnnoblindeye 2010-06-01 04:12PM | 0 recs
RE: If you're finished with the Democratic party...

I motion to change the guidelines.. but seriously, and more to the point, that guideline was directed at Republican conservative trolls, not those who are criticizing the Dem Party for not being progressive enough.

 

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-01 04:41PM | 1 recs
RE: If you're finished with the Democratic party...

I kind of like the fact that we're implicitly behind the Democratic Party, but the blog can obviously front page whatever it likes.  That would just be my preference, as a long time reader.

by turnnoblindeye 2010-06-01 11:48PM | 0 recs
I'm with Ed

the solution here is to retake the Democratic party, not abandon it. And part of my rationale for that is that it would be completely insane to let the Republicans back into power again. The amount of damage that would result would be catastrophic. I mean, look at them. I'm not fan of Carville or Lincoln, but they can be marginalized (although they'll still show up on tv, sadly). But we wouldn't survive McConnell and Palin and Boehner and those clowns in Virginia. Can you imagine a Congress of these people running the country again? Unfortunately, I can, and it scares the hell out of me a lot more than Carville shooting his mouth off. Far better to let the Republicans and Tea Partiers tear themselves apart--that way it will be easier to get some better people in there.

by wufnik1 2010-06-01 04:23PM | 1 recs
RE: I'm with Ed

That's my feeling too. Both at the state and federal level, we need to keep Republicans out of power because they would do so much damage. But we also need to focus on electing better Democrats, because I am not satisfied with what our Democratic majorities are delivering. I have stopped giving to the party committees and am supporting only individual Democratic candidates who share my beliefs.

by desmoinesdem 2010-06-01 04:37PM | 2 recs
RE: I'm with Ed

I've been thinking about this for quite some time. I'm hopeful that Halter and Winograd will win their primaries but ultimately I'm not convinced that a big tent party is in the interests of progressives. 

We're too diluted.  

by Charles Lemos 2010-06-01 04:48PM | 0 recs
A big tent party

is the only way for progressives to even have a chance at setting the agenda, or even being on the agenda, in a country like the United States. You even admitted to this.

We can either be a big tent majority or a progressive minority, the latter may seem nice, but doesn't allow you to get a chance at passing anything.

by DTOzone 2010-06-02 11:53PM | 0 recs
RE: I'm with Ed

I think the biggest frustration is that progressives already did take back the party. That's what Dean and then Obama was supposed to be all about (its how the story was sold anyway). But yea, I agree on taking out Lincoln, that's where the good energy, mine included, is being spent.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-01 04:43PM | 1 recs
All Politics is Local

 

People forget the classic Tip O'Neill saying way too often. Howard Dean? Barack Obama? Bill Halter? None of that is about taking back the party. It makes noise, it gets people noticed, and it has a ton of value. But it's never going to take back anything. Any real and lasting movement-- from within the Democratic Party or from outside it-- has to start by building a bench, changing minds locally, and supporting lower-office candidates. Forget Washington. This is a 40 year project that begins with county commissions, city councils, school boards, and, when you're done with that, state legislatures. That's not to say you can't support the right people for the big offices. But I'm sick of hearing about primary challenges or third party challenges against senators or the president without anyone talking about the more important work that has to be done locally. You want a more progressive country? You've got to build from the bottom up. This is what the grassroots is all about, but it's not fun and it's not sexy. And most of the time, no one in the blogosphere seems interested in doing it.

People forget the classic Tip O'Neill saying way too often.

Howard Dean? Barack Obama? Bill Halter? None of that is about taking back the party. It makes noise, it gets people noticed, and it has a ton of value. But it's never going to take back anything.

Any real and lasting movement-- from within the Democratic Party or from outside it-- has to start by building a bench, changing minds locally, and supporting lower-office candidates. Forget Washington. This is a 40 year project that begins with county commissions, city councils, school boards, and, when you're done with that, state legislatures.

That's not to say you can't support the right people for the big offices. But I'm sick of hearing about primary challenges or third party challenges against senators or the president without anyone talking about the more important work that has to be done locally.

You want a more progressive country? You've got to build from the bottom up. This is what the grassroots is all about, but it's not fun and it's not sexy. And most of the time, no one in the blogosphere seems interested in doing it.

 

by Fitzy 2010-06-01 05:29PM | 3 recs
RE: All Politics is Local

Bernie Sanders told me last year that he felt that progressives refuse to do the hard work of local politics and pin too many of their hopes on Washington. He said the better avenue was at the local level so your point is well taken.

by Charles Lemos 2010-06-01 05:55PM | 1 recs
Well

I was probably a little harsh the first time around. I've met a few really great people in a couple of communities who ARE doing the hard work of local politics.

The problem, to me, seems to be that it's almost impossible to get these folks the help and attention they deserve. The big money of the progressive movement (unions, netroots fundraising, whatever) is mostly interested in getting the biggest short-term return on investment. That means spending on "better" candidates in high-profile races while the "best" candidates down ballot fend for themselves. There isn't a mechanism to send money or energy to help support them.

So if someone wants to start a PAC that runs progressive newspaper ads in competitive school board races and directs phonebank volunteers to worthy candidates for county sheriff, let me know. I'll donate everything I've got.

(Also-- sorry to everybody for the crazy formatting and the double-text in my first comment. I have no idea how that happened.)

by Fitzy 2010-06-01 06:22PM | 1 recs
RE: All Politics is Local

After his death, the family of Paul Wellstone created Wellstone Action! to help progressives run for office. This page describes two success stories by people who were trained by them.

by RandomNonviolence 2010-06-01 10:30PM | 1 recs
Perhaps it's our faith in government?

We believe in government, so we believe it is supposed to do all the work for us?

Bernie Sanders is right, in my opinion, and it must have been an honor to meet him.

But I would like to query Sen. Sanders whether progressives refuse to do the hard work period beyond getting politicians elected?

by NoFortunateSon 2010-06-01 11:05PM | 1 recs
RE: All Politics is Local

 

I graduated from a suburban high school near Burlington, Vermont in 1980 and from UVM in 1984. I was on the executive committee of the Democratic Party in one of the large (by Vermont Standards) suburbs of Burlington in 1983. In short I was present at the start of the only real third party  of the left to actually gain paower in America since at least before 1960. I was NOT a Sanderista. I still am not - though I have voted for Sanders on occasion I voted for the Democrat in the three way House Race in 1988. I am not a Progressive - I don't know what that word means.  I am boring liberal. Like Howard Dean.  I first met Howard Dean at a Chittenden County Democratic Committee meeting in 1982. But that is another story. I can you tell you some lessons to learn from that experience from the Progrssives: 1.  Win local races.  Focus on actually delivering something.  Burlington is a better place because of the Progressives, I think. Most everyone I grew up with thinks that.  Governing in Burlington bought them credibility when they ran candidates for the State House, and for other state wide races. 2.  Focus on Democratic strongholds with leadership that is out of touch.  Sanders was elected in what was then a one party city run by a machine. Demographic changes were part of what happened there as well (those of French/Canadian descent were becoming less dominant a force in Burlington than they had been). 3.  Leave Federal races alone until you can win them. Bernie Sanders has endorsed every Democratic Nominee since 1984.  That represents a change: in 1980 he was an elector for the Socialist Worker's Party.   You can ask him why (I don't know him) but I suspect it is because  1.  The lesser of two evils is always less evil 2.  If you don't, you will split the coalition you will inevitably split the very coalition you are trying to build. I would not have voted for Bernine if he did not support Democratic candidates, and he wouldn't have gotten as far as he did had he done otherwise. You are dead right.  The example to study is the work the Goldwater people did after 1964.  They showed up at the local committee meetings, and eventually took over the party. Sixteen years later.   It is worth noting they took on a sitting President in '76, though there are miles of difference between Obama and Ford. Let me give you another example. I graduated from a suburban high school near Burlington, Vermont in 1980 and from UVM in 1984. I was on the executive committee of the Democratic Party in one of the large (by Vermont Standards) suburbs of Burlington in 1983. In short I was present at the start of the only real third party  of the left to actually gain power in America since at least 1960. I was NOT a Sanderista. I still am not - though I have voted for Sanders on occasion I voted for the Democrat in the three way House Race in 1988. I am not a Progressive - I don't know what that word means.  I am boring liberal. Like Howard Dean.  I first met Howard Dean at a Chittenden County Democratic Committee meeting in 1982. But that is another story. I can you tell you some lessons to learn from the experience of the Progressives in Vermont: 1.  Win local races.  Focus on actually delivering something.  Burlington is a better place because of the Progressives, I think. Most everyone I grew up with thinks that.  Governing in Burlington bought them credibility when they ran candidates for the State House, and later for other state-wide races (it is worth noting that nearly 30 years after Bernie was elected Mayor in Burlington they still have not elected a candidate statewide, though one of their own did win the Democratic nomination for Governor). 2.  Focus on Democratic strongholds with leadership that is out of touch.  Sanders was elected in what was then a one party city run by a machine. Demographic changes were part of what happened there as well (those of French/Canadian descent were becoming less dominant a force in Burlington than they had been before 1981). 3.  Leave Federal races alone until you can win them. Bernie Sanders has endorsed every Democratic Nominee for President since 1984.  That represents a change: in 1980 he was an elector for the Socialist Worker's Party.   You can ask him why (I don't know him) but I suspect it is because  1.  The lesser of two evils is always less evil 2.  If you don't, you will split the very coalition you are trying to build. I would not have voted for Bernie if he did not support Democratic candidates, and I don't think he would have gotten as far as he did had he done otherwise.  His campaign ads when I was living in Vermont had pictures of him with Clinton in the 90's (I moved from Vermont for good in the mid-90's)

 

by fladem 2010-06-02 12:09AM | 3 recs
RE: All Politics is Local

There were paragraphs in my post before I submitted it.  Really.  There were indents and everything even when I previewed it.  Sorry everyone for the text blob.

 

by fladem 2010-06-02 12:13AM | 0 recs
RE: All Politics is Local

Formatting aside, this is exactly what's needed. Personally, I'd rather work from within the Democratic Party, but in or out, more Bernie Sanders' need to step up and take power from the bottom up. But it's not just the candidates, it's the activists, too.

I worked in the office for my rural county's Democratic Party, and which doubled as the office for the county Obama organizers (two), the county congressional candidate's organizer (one), an incumbent state rep, a sheriff candidate, and a couple of county commission candidates.

If I had to guess, I'd say the volunteers we had coming in broke down roughly as:

70% Obama
20% Congressional
10% State Rep
Friends and family only for the rest

It's a rural and very conservative place (home to the Hutaree militia, in fact), but Obama won the county, the congressional candidate barely lost it but won the district overall, and the state rep won reelection (but he was really safe from the start-- his last name is golden in my area). The sheriff candidate and the county commission candidates? They all lost.

So what we had was a ton of enthusiasm for Obama, and to a lesser degree other high-profile candidates. We had volunteers knocking on doors, but more importantly educating themselves on the candidate and his vision and talking with friends and family and winning over voters.

And then the more local candidates withered into oblivion. Some of them had good ideas and would have done a good job, but practically no one bothered to teach themselves about those candidates, knock on doors, or talk to friends and family. We had a ton of energy for the sexy guy on TV, but nothing for the offices that have a more immediate impact on our lives. Democrats and especially progressives remain perceived as a tiny and silent minority, when Obama's victory in the county demonstrated that we can be a majority, if we put in the energy.

It's a mindset that has to change for progressive activists. Change happens locally first, regionally second, statewide third, nationally last. We've got to build up.

by Fitzy 2010-06-02 12:58AM | 1 recs
RE: I'm with Ed

In short run, this likely means handing over power to the GOP but in the long run, I honestly believe, that it will lead to a more fruitful environment for progressive politics.

Neo-naderism.   It is on the rise in blogsphere.  Some of this intentional: I fully believe that some want to take Obama out.

The quoted sentence sbove is so full of bullshit, so divorced from anything approaching any sort of understanding of American Politics that it is hard to know where to begin.

Did Progressives get closer or further from power when Bush won in 2001?

The questions answers itself.

 

by fladem 2010-06-01 11:15PM | 2 recs
This was my feeling all along about the Clintons

And this is why I supported Obama in the primaries.  But to be fair, I wouldn't necessarily say this is a "Clinton" or a "Democratic" problem.  The problem is mercenary strategists and the way they tend to lead policy decisions, messaging, and the way politicians hedge every action against swing groups in swing states.  I think Obama is slightly different from this mold.  Only slightly.

That said, I'm currently in the process of re-thinking my allegiances due to the Gulf Oil Spill disaster.  At some point, what is needed is action, not supporting a party because of its purported reputation on certain issues.  I'm tired of this "the Democrats aren't quite as bad as the Republicans" calculation that needs to be made on almost every issue.  I'm tired of rooting for the Democrats even though I have to make excuses for all their hedging, bungling, and corporatism.

by the mollusk 2010-06-01 05:06PM | 2 recs
Our Brand is Crisis

Quite the classic, right up there with doing BP pollster work.

But one other thing, something I've been thinking about, with regards to the Democratic Party. I don't think there is a lot of energy right now with taking over the party from the inside. With Bill Halter as the exception, the number of progressive-inspired primaries is next to nothing this cycle. I'm sure hoping that Halter wins and changes that expectation.

But I think the movement energy really exists for something to be created outside the Democratic Party, and probably within the Green Party, or Independent candidates that arise. Nader, whom I voted for in 1996, about trashed and burned the GP brand in his subsequent runs, but they may be on the mends. I saw a poll that showed Swift at 8% in the MA Gov race, which seemed surprising to me. iirc, she gets public financing and we could likely see her number rise. The chances of Obama getting a Democratic challenger are next to 2% in 2012. The chances of the Green Party choosing someone with some credibility are a lot higher (maybe even double digits-- I kid). But who knows, its conjecture; I'm just pointing out that Charles isn't alone here, bloggers like him represent a growing movement, and its going to find an outlet.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-01 05:11PM | 0 recs
RE: Our Brand is Crisis

Marcy Winograd is the other great hope in the June cycle. I hope Halter wins. Incredibly important.

That 7m piece is classic.

 

by Charles Lemos 2010-06-01 05:27PM | 1 recs
RE: Our Brand is Crisis

Here's the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V3mE5beWuQ

Let me see if I can find the full documentary. 

The Mockus campaign hit a wall when doubts were cast over whether he was an atheist, whether he was Chavista, whether he would extradite Uribe. The disinformation campaign is the same that was waged against Reyes Villa in 2002. It has Carville written all over it.

by Charles Lemos 2010-06-01 05:40PM | 0 recs
The reason there is no challenge to

Obama from the left is because people don't understand how open the primary process is.  I wrote two diaries here in 2007 trying to explain to people how you can knock seemingly invulnerable candidates off Iowa and New Hampshire.  

Primary history is littered with examples of this.  LBJ in 1968.  McGovern in '72. Carter in '76.  Bush nearly beat Reagan in '80.  Hart nearly beat Mondale in '84. Kerry was nowhere in National Polling and dead broke until he won Iowa in 2004. Hillary was thought invincible.  

Frankly I think the bloggers are focusing on a third party because they are scared of taking on Obama in the primaries.  Which, when you think about it, is pretty strange since it would be far easier to win the Democratic Nomination than to win some third party effort from the left in a General election.

They are actually CHOOSING to marginalize themselves.

by fladem 2010-06-02 12:22AM | 1 recs
RE: The reason there is no challenge to

Well, its not going to be the bloggers that lead a hypothetical effort. The bloggers might help draft someone, or get behind a candidate that emerges, but its not going to come out of no-where.

I agree that history shows alot of vulnerability, but play out a scenario; for instance, John Kerry could take on Obama in both Iowa and in New Hampshire, but try asking if JK is interested in that effort! Or Howard Dean!  Partly because of the bloody '08 primary, no politician is anxious to take on Obama at this point in a primary. Maybe things will change in the next year, we'll see.

I just don't see it happening, but instead, that the energy is outside the party. Yea, you could say its marginal, but to an extent. When was the last time a 3rd Party challenged the Democratic Party in Presidential from the left, while the internet was around? It hasn't happened, so who knows what that looks like. 5% is huge and could spoil/swing the race.

I'll tell you what though, I'm watching what happens in MA with the Gov election, and that four way race. If Stein moves into double-digits, its a very interesting dynamic that starts to happen.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-06-02 01:13PM | 0 recs
So, what next?

There are a lot of times that I feel the same way. But our electoral system is set up for a two-party system. Watch how much the Greens or Libertarians have struggled over the years.

Without serious electoral reform, I can't see how to get people elected outside of the two-party system.

And if we were to replace the Dems in the two-party system with another party, it's just a matter of time until it becomes corrupt by power and corporate money and everything else.

So, what's the solution? If there's a better way to acheive real progressive political goals than through the Democratic Party, I'm willing to give it a try. I just don't see what that way is.

by Satori 2010-06-01 05:24PM | 1 recs
RE: So, what next?

I don't know what the solution is but I see the problem. 

by Charles Lemos 2010-06-01 05:39PM | 0 recs
RE: So, what next?

I don't know either. But I do know this--progressives do have to run for local office. School boards (I was on one). Planning boards. Whoever runs your town. This is the nitty gritty that has to get done for communities to function, and progressives do tend to ignore these levels of governance--Sanders is correct. This may not be sufficient--but it's necessary.

This requires something that's kind of weird, or at least it was for me when I started--you run for office. Or get appointed to something. But it's better to run. Because then you're forced to go out and talk to people, and listen to them. When I ran for the school board, I got an earful. And I learned to how talk to all sorts of people that I normally wouldn't have gotten to know. Developing that public persona was definitely a strange experience.

It means you give up part of your life. You're certalnly going to have less time to sit around blogging. On the other hand, you might be able to prevent some crazy creationists from taking over your school board.  Because you know what? The reason all these crazy people get themselves elected to Congress is because they did the gruntwork of getting elected to school boards and planning boards first--especially school boards. They've been targets for years. And we better start doing it too.

by wufnik1 2010-06-01 06:25PM | 2 recs
We all see the problem

but maybe there isn't a solution.

We have a country that claims to be more Democratic than Republican, but far more conservative that liberal. By design that means the Democratic voting bloc is far more conservative than the Republican voting bloc is liberal. If you look at voter registration in places like Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama, you'll see that's true. These states have far more Democrats/Independents than Republicans, but these Democratic voters are Blue Dogs, willing to vote for Democrats who sell out to corporations, so long as they're pro-life, anti-gay and want to kill and torture Muslims.

 That is what's producing Blue Dogs, not some conspiracy between corporations and Rahm Emanuel.

Its great that Gallup shpowed 51% of Independents lean Democratic, it's not great if they do so only because they're conservatives who think the Republicans are TOO conservative.  

You say the big tent prevented progressive legislation from getting passed. This is true, except the big tent was the only way the Democratic Party is able to win elections, and even then with only 52%-53% of the vote. So either way, progressives aren't going to get to pass everything they want. Will letting the GOP fuck things up for another few years will arise a progressive majority? We tried this in 1968, 1980, 1994 and 2000 to no avail. The fact is, whether it's the way we are as a society or the media influence, whenever Democrats finally win and attempt to lay down a progressive agenda, there's a strong counter reaction from the right. It's as if there is a voting bloc of people who just go back and forth on issues depending on who is in power...when Republicans are in power, they're progressives and now they're teabaggers.

And I know quite a few for whom that's true. People who worked on the campaigns of Democrats like McGovern, Carter, Dukakis, Clinton and Bill Bradley and today shit Glenn Beck.

 

by DTOzone 2010-06-04 12:32AM | 0 recs
RE: So, what next?

Publicly funded campaigns would greatly reduce the influence of the super-rich and corporations. Public Campaign is leading the effort for Clean-Money Elections.

by RandomNonviolence 2010-06-01 10:16PM | 1 recs
RE: So, what next?

Couldn't agree with you more. As campaigns have become more expensive, the Democratic party has lost its way becoming increasingly a party that puts corporatist interests ahead of the general interest.

by Charles Lemos 2010-06-02 01:58AM | 0 recs
Short run

I cannot support a party whose membership includes people like James Carville

I don't get the logic of not supporting person A (let's call him Al Franken) whom we really like because there's another person B (let's call him James Carville) whom we really can't stand.

In short run, this likely means handing over power to the GOP

The "pox on both your houses" philosophy which you are advocating now also played a role in the razor close 2000 election.  I won't argue that there was necessarily a spoiler effect just because Nader received many thousands of Florida votes and Gore lost by about 500 in the official count. What I do know with certainty is that this razor close election was followed by eight hellish years of Bush/Cheney.  I know with certainty that the "short run" can be too brutally long.

Bernie Sanders may be the model to follow if you just can't stand the party label anymore.  In the early years, he was a perennial candidate for statewide office, running under the "Liberty Union" label, a quirky party with a socialist/libertarian bent that still exists in Vermont.  I don't think the Liberty Union party has ever had any electoral success.  And so for many years, Bernie was just this kid with wild hair, the sort of perennial lefty candidate whom you feel sorry for and you know will never be elected to anything.  Then he got smart.  He chucked the party label, set his sights lower - ran for mayor of Burlington instead of statewide office, as an independent, and with the support of a new Burlington progressive party, at the time called the "Progressive Coalition" (now the Progressive Party). Won by 10 votes against the longtime Democratic machine, and then did such a good job that he was re-elected 3 more times.  (Currently the Burlington Progressive Party has gotten long in the tooth, having replaced the Dems as the machine that everyone loves to hate.)  So Bernie actually gained credibility, and a springboard for higher office, while bucking the party labels.  Unlike other folks (e.g., Nader, Perot) who run for higher office on celebrity or money alone, never having served in elected office, Bernie gained so much credibility, that the Democratic Party stopped fielding candidates to run against him. They worked with him, instead of against him - and vice versa.  It's also instructive that the incumbant Republican whom Bernie beat when running for Congress had made the fatal mistake of supporting federal gun-control legislation - while Bernie played the much safer position (in a rural state like Vermont) of opposing such legislation.  So if there is a path for success for progressive/lefty candidates outside the Democratic fold, Bernie is a good role model.  Buck the Democratic label, but don't try to run on a third party label. Cut your teeth in office at a local level before setting your sights higher.  Stick to the bread and butter issues that matter most (even if gun control really is a good cause.)  And get a hair cut.  :-)

 

by Rob in Vermont 2010-06-01 06:32PM | 5 recs
See my post

on Bernie above (I didn't read yours until I finished mine).  You and I very much agree.  I wonder if we have met.

<p>One correction.  Bernie ran for mayor of Burlington because he ran for every office he could.  He won because he wasn't taken seriously in 1981, and if I recall correctly turnout was very low.  And his statewide runs had got him some visibility. I well remember his appearance in the late 70's on WCAX's "You can quote me".  

<p>No one thought Bernie had a chance in 1981.  I know.  I was there. Everyone was shocked the next morning.  I can still remember my Russian Professor's delight.  And the funniest Vermont Cynic of all time two months later showing Bernie in a Russian tank going down Church Street....

 

by fladem 2010-06-02 12:31AM | 0 recs
Time to be a grown-up

I'm finished with the Democratic party. I will no longer support any Democrats for any office. The time has come to build a progressive moment outside the Democratic party.

Yeah, right. That'll work.

Whether you like it or not, there are only two viable paths to political power in the US. One is the Republican Party, currently enthralled by anti-intellectual extremist posturing. The other is the Democratic Party, which currently contains the only politicians worth supporting. (The idealists outside it are too silly to be worth the bother.)

When you get over your snit and decide to be a grown-up, work to move the Democratic Party in the direction it should go. It's much closer to where you want to be than the GOP, which is a lost cause. Third parties don't work and you need to face that. In fact, your plan is a prescription for Republican revival, so wake up!

 

by Zeno 2010-06-01 06:51PM | 2 recs
RE: Time to be a grown-up

Long time parties in other parts of the world are facing extinction but alas here in the US we continue to cling outmoded dinosaurs.

You are buying into a frame that the establishment wants to buy into: the GOP or the GOP-lite.

 

by Charles Lemos 2010-06-01 07:12PM | 0 recs
RE: Time to be a grown-up

No, I'm buying into a frame that represents reality. Does "the establishment" keep you from joining a third party? Nope. But they fail. It's been well over a hundred and fifty years since a major party has been created (when the Republicans supplanted the Whigs). Don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen again.

by Zeno 2010-06-01 08:43PM | 1 recs
Parties have gone extinct here too.

The whigs, the federalists, the democratic republicans... It just hasn't happened for a while.

And I believe, if our apparently shared perception is correct, that the aggregate of both parties is to the right of America as a whole.

With a polarization that seems to increase every day and the shifting racial composition of America, I think the GOP is seriously in danger of becoming a permanent white, minority party. The tent can only be so big, and this creates an opening for a farther left, third party.

I do believe that the third party will come from within the democratic party, and it will take a generation or more. Sadly, our system doesn't favor building party infrastructure from scratch.

I also believe all this frustration is for naught unless we remove money from politics and end corporate personhood.

We all like to project positive values onto those who share our values. But I would find it very hard to believe that a green party candidate or socialist candidate, in an environment so dependent upon money, wouldn't remain beholden to special interests at a certain point, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent.

In other words, I don't believe creating a third party would come close to solving our problems.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-06-01 11:01PM | 2 recs
Why we should stay and fight

That's more or less my outlook too.  I see no way for the Republicans to moderate; they've become engaged in a vicious cycle and the demographics are shifting away from them.  If we can survive another generation without them coming to full power again, I suspect they will atrophy and leave just the opening you suggest for the Democratic Party to split into new left and right parties.

In my view, if we want to enable that new party on the left to be born, that's why it is so important to:

A) start now building a progressive movement, as many folks have spoken up for here, from the ground up (I've just come off a term in my town's 3-member governing body.) 

B) keep ramping up the fight to push money out of politics

C) work wherever possible to make the Democratic party more progressive through primaries, which is a gradual process for a fledgling movement like ours

 

While I understand Charles' frustration here, I'm too familiar with political history and science to buy the idea that a third party can wield influence in a plurality electoral system.  Someone mentioned the Whigs, but the Republicans didn't defeat the Whigs in 1860 -- the Whigs disintegrated after a schism and two successive total defeats.  The (fairly progressive, at the time) Republicans were just the ones best positioned to capture their supporters.

it isn't "the establishment" but our underlying electoral structure that only accommodates two parties over time, and you don't defeat a sitting party with a third party.  You build a movement within an existing party that when the opportunity arises, becomes the power behind one of the two main parties. 

I'm all for a progressive movement built outside the Democratic leadership working to supplant those leaders with their own people over time.  But if those leaders like James Carville can convince smart, passionate people like Charles to divert their energies away from that project, it only makes them stronger.  That is why I will always stay and fight.

 

by bruorton 2010-06-02 10:18AM | 1 recs
RE: Why we should stay and fight

That's amazing that you actually did something about building from the ground up!

by NoFortunateSon 2010-06-02 01:12PM | 0 recs
Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.

I've been hearing the same song, various verses, since 1968.

When successful, they gave us devastating Republican rule.  Look at the wonders that principled Ralph Nader gave us in 2000.  

It's a tantrum.  It's give me what I want or I'm taking my ball and going home.

If you want to fight primaries for "better Democrats," fine.   If you win, more power to you.  (I was ecstatic to get rid of Joe Lieberman, wouldn't be unhappy to get rid of Blanche Lincoln, and think Jane Harman does a good job for her district...I live in Waxman's, just over the line from Harman's...and I think Marcy Winograd is an idiot.)
Win a primary, you have a case and you've advanced your cause.  Lose a primary and it's just possible that it's you, not them, that's the problem.

Perhaps sucking it up for electoral politics just isn't for you.  Many people are willing to die for a bad cause but not willing to live badly for a good cause.

If you're going, you should stop writing for MyDD.  Would be too bad, because you write some interesting stuff not covered elsewhere but your "my way or the highway" approach to Democratic politics doesn't fit with MyDD.

by InigoMontoya 2010-06-01 07:53PM | 1 recs
Yeah

Because Obama has done such a great job. Please...he indecisive and over his head. I would take the Clinton Presidency in a hearbeat. They did a much better job from start to finish, excluding his personal issues. You think Obama has a clue? You think Bil Clinton would have let more than a month go by without doing much of anything about this oil spill? Obama has turned out to be a dud...

by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-06-01 08:03PM | 0 recs
Carville

I do not support Carville and am glad that he lost in those various countries, still the degree of American power and influence in the world tends to be overstated, often grossly so.  If America were wiped off the face of the earth, another power would take it's place.  Further, the problems of Latin America, the Middle East, etc., would still exist, as they have been existing, long before America showed up on the scene.

by demjim 2010-06-02 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Mr. Lemos and the Progressive Purists

Over these many decades I have witnessed invective from every side of the political spectrum. 

I have witnessed the rise of Ronald Reagan, from an addlepated film star elevated to "great communicator" status not merely by a stultified media, but by a long-starved for glory GOP Right Wing, desperate to derail all things connected with FDR.

I witnessed the purists in the Democratic Party, disgusted with compromises on their progressive ideals, but absolutely clueless of the political process. 

Thus, the late great Teddy Kennedy, probably the nation's most accomplished Senator, could not stomach a compromise with President Nixon, and the result was, for all of Teddy's great championing of it, in fact a postponement of any National Health Care Reform for four decades.

Thus, too many Democrats have blasphemed LBJ.  Yet, this "Master of the Senate," by way of his glad-hands and back-room deals with anything but progressive purists, achieved the most significant pieces of social legislation since the Great Depression.

I witnessed the Democratic Party in the wilderness of national presidential cycles (discounting the Jimmy Carter win in 1976, an aberration in the aftermath of Watergate) for a quarter century until Bill Clinton came to power.

Yet too many Democrats gave him no credit at all.  He won, thought they, concurring with their GOP counterparts, because Ross Perot entered the fray.  Yet the concrete facts reveal that all Perot truly achieved was to prevent an outright majority by Clinton in what was certainly a change election year.

In fact, Bill Clinton taught the Democrats how to win--and how to govern.  Indeed, the Democrats lost the Congress in 1994, because in matters from health care legislation to budgetary acts, Clinton's agenda was every bit as ambitious then as President Barack Obama's would be fifteen years later--but the Clintons, with no love ever from either press or pundits (unlike President Obama), much less from his Democratic hard-core "base," were unrelentingly vilified.

Yes, Bill Clinton asked the supreme sacrifice from his own Party in 1994--the knowledge that in passing a budget which would ensure prosperity in peacetime for the remainder of the decade, it would likely cost his nominal fellow Democrats their congressional power because of the intensity of that vilification.

Today it is a great irony that Bill and Hillary's only child is about to marry the son of the then congressional representative whose vote was the deciding one in the passage of that landmark budget deal; a lady whom the GOP pegged then as looking at her own political grave.  I like to believe that there is a majesty to the irony; the children of practical politicians coming together as life partners.

Charles Lemos is a brilliant writer and a most perspicacious analyst.  I, as a reviled Clintonite, indeed have always much admired the great passion of the progressives in the Democratic Party. 

Although I have always believed him brilliant, still, I believe that a more seasoned President Obama on taking office would have become the next FDR.  It is why I, like millions of my fellow Democrats, cast our 2008 votes for Hillary Clinton.  We felt that the collective experiences of Hillary and Bill, both in responding to the Right Wing pundits, press and politicos, as well as their collective knowledge of how not to proceed when in the Executive Mansion, made them second to none in their ability to cope with the supreme travails of contempoary America and the larger world.

Hillary was every bit as popular with Democratic voters in 2008 as was now President Barack Obama.  At best, the contest came to a draw, but now President Obama and his forces under Democratic Party Chairperson Dr. Howard Dean, knew how to better utilize procedure.  In the end, the Clintons were troopers and played their roles on his behalf, and the result was a marriage of two hugely popular movements common in their opposition to many years of Right Wing tyranny and a 2008 election rout strongly in favor of Democrats.

But this victory could not have been achieved without Clintonites in strong numbers on election day in 2008.  It was not solely a victory for progressive purists, but rather a coalition victory with a common enemy to thwart.

Sadly, the purists have not accepted this fact, nor ever shall.  What should have been a certain senatorial seat in Massachusetts in the aftermath of the death of Teddy Kennedy went to a rather obscure GOP candidate not merely because of the campaign folly of his rival, but rather because the Obama base itself wasn't sufficiently motivated.  Just as that base hasn't been sufficiently motivated in elections elsewhere, both before the Massachusetts congressional special election, and since.

Progressives are wont to point out that the third of the electorate defining themselves as independents have been disgruntled, and their movement away from Democratic candidates has been the main cause in those losses.

In fact, the sense of "a pox on both your houses" proclaimed by Mr. Lemos and so many others on the progressive side has become infectious.  If one keeps pointing to all that hasn't been accomplished rather than to all that has, is it any wonder that one's real political enemies seize on that sense of disgust and anomie?

The amazing aspect of the Clintons is the fact that they survive, time and again, remaining relevant when other more vaulted political figures became ultimately relegated to the darker corridors of history.

For all of the invective hurled upon them, politicans of all peruasions repeatedly turn to them time and again, seeking and valuing their consultation.  Bill Clinton is presumed to be a scoundrel; yet his Clinton Global Initative has done more good in more places over the entire globe than the entire history of the Nobel Peace Prize Foundation.

Bill is considered unworthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, yet his CGI has superseded the work of Jimmy Carter, Albert Gore, and Barack Obama combined--the three other major Democratic politicians of the past half century, each of whom the Nobel Foundation thought most deserving of a Peace Prize.  Progressives scoff; Bill Clinton is much too self-aggrandizing, so they say.  And as if his fellow Democratic leaders before and since have not been self-aggrandizing

And progressives deride Bill Clinton when he is asked by President Obama to dissuade a senatorial candidate in Pennsylvania; as if, the one seeking to dissaude that candidate is somehow himself not sullied.  Of course this whole matter was ever a silly politically-motivated cheap shot, inasmuch as American Presidents of all parties have been in the act of dissauding politicians from their own aisles since George Washington himself.

President Obama is also a very practical politician.  He would not be President were he not; thus the political machine to which he himself is indebted has as its core many a seasoned Clinton pol.  That seasoned core may be derided, but ultimately that group, and not the purists, succeeded by their practical applications in passing landmark legislation this past year.

What an extraordinary couple is Bill and Hillary Clinton.  They have survived it all.  And they presided over the last years of sustained American peace and prosperity.  Politicans Right and Left then and now have mocked them morally and have mocked their marriage together.  Yet they are still standing and still togther, whereas so many many of those politicians who have mocked them have gone the way of their own personal scandals, many ending in divorces, some with bitter and lasting consequences.

James Carville is derided.  Praytell, is this because, by profession he is a political consultant, who does what he needs to do on behalf of whomever employs his services, be they Right or Left-leaning, or anywhere in-between? He is scum, we are told.  But then why not argue that all political consultants are scum, inasmuch as they prostitute their knowledge for capital gain?

Again, I admire the passion of the progressives; pure and forthright and noble, and unsullied as are so many of the rest of us.  But in keeping to the purity of their ideals, I pray that Mr. Lemos and his many adherents do not relegate the rest of us to another quarter century in the political wilderness. 

For if they truly cannot understand just how profound are the differences between a presidency under Bill Clinton and that under George Walker Bush, then they are beyond hope.  As is the hope for the future of the United States and the larger world.

by lambros 2010-06-02 03:23PM | 0 recs
Wait

Weren't you the one who said America was too conservative? If you really believed that, then you'd know the problem isn't the lack of progressives in the party, it's the country itself.

by DTOzone 2010-06-02 11:31PM | 0 recs
James Carville

has been a television personality, rather than a serious political consultant, for decades now.  I mean, if you're saying you're through with the Democratic party because of hacks like Carville embarrassing the movement, you aren't in touch with what progressives have been doing to reshape the Democratic party during the Bush years.

 

by West of the Fields 2010-06-03 01:05AM | 1 recs
Another comment just got

gobbled by the new technology.

by QTG 2010-06-03 07:38AM | 0 recs

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