Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Conservatives Shouldn't Get the Credit For Coakley's Defeat

By Jeralyn TalkLeft

Peter Daou in HuffPo, Liberal Bloggers to Dems and Obama: We Told You So, explores the two most prevalent reasons for the Republican win in Massachusetts:

The first, promulgated by conservatives, is that the new administration has moved too far to the left and alienated a large swath of independent and moderate voters.

The second, pushed by progressive activists and bloggers, is that the administration hasn't been true enough to fundamental Democratic principles, has embraced some of Bush's worst excesses on civil liberties, and has ditched popular ideas (like the public option) in favor of watered down centrist policies, thus looking weak and ineffectual.

The conservative argument is unpersuasive.

I think he's got a point. But I'll take it a few steps further. [More...]

In the last year, Obama and the Dems have compromised too much, moving further away from the goals of progressives. The abandonment of the public option is just one example. On the civil liberties front, Obama has not eliminated trial by military commissions and continued many of the overbroad domestic surveillance programs of the Bush Administration. Here's the ACLU's report card on Obama's civil rights' records, out today.

On issues like spying on Americans, monitoring of activists, terrorism watchlists, the Real ID Act and DNA databases, the administration has carried out none of the ACLU's recommendations.

"Our hope a year ago was that the Obama administration would restore our nation's long tradition of respect for privacy and the rule of law by rolling back the privacy-invading domestic security policies enacted by the Bush administration," Romero said. "Unfortunately, many of those policies have not been reversed, and we now run the risk of seeing them become a permanent part of American life."

On criminal justice issues, one year has passed since Obama's inauguration and we still don't have a law equalizing crack and powder cocaine. There's been no federal law passed reducing or eliminating mandatory minimum sentences or increasing good time for prisoners. Obama is still backing indefinite detention for some detainees, without the filing of criminal charges. He missed his one year deadline to close Guantanamo. There's been no action to legalize the millions of undocumented residents. The war on drugs is still in full force.

Rather than getting us out of the Middle East, Obama has committed more troops and money to Afghanistan. His anti-terror policies are not much different than Bush's global war on terror.

Peter says:

The case by progressives that Democrats are undermining themselves with faux-bipartisanship and tepid policies gets much closer to the heart of the problem.

How so?

....Democratic leaders and strategists, privately disdainful of the netroots, underestimated the influence of progressive bloggers.

Nothing should have been a bigger red flag to the new administration than the growing complaints by established progressive bloggers that Democrats were veering off track on the stimulus, the health care bill, civil liberties, gay rights, and more. But scoffing at the netroots is second nature in many quarters of the political establishment, even though they laid the groundwork for Obama's victory.

The single biggest reason Obama's hope bubble burst is because of the unintended convergence of left and right opinion-making. The cauldron of opinion that churns incessantly on blogs, Twitter, social networks, and in the elite media generates the storylines that filter across the national and local press, providing the fodder for public opinion. Stalwarts of the left, dedicated to principles not personalities, hammered the administration; couple that with the partisan criticisms from conservatives and libertarians, and the net effect was to alter conventional wisdom and undercut Obama's image and message.

....Progressive bloggers have been jumping up and down, yelling at their Democratic leaders that the path of compromise and pragmatism only goes so far. The limit is when you start compromising away your core values. I sincerely hope that's the lesson learned today.

Contrary to what Joe Lieberman thinks, going centrist will just be handing the reins over to Republicans. One more time:

The path of compromise and pragmatism only goes so far. The limit is when you start compromising away your core values.

The Dems are losing vast segments of us, for a variety of reasons. For some, it's health care or economic issues. For others, it's civil liberties. For some, like me, it's criminal justice reform. I wonder, had Obama shown us this year he cared about criminal justice, drug policy and immigration reform, and protecting civil liberties, would I have found Martha Coakley so objectionable? By herself, she's nothing. A crime warrior in an Administration committed to reform is a nusiance, but not a threat.

But with an Administration that has shown no inclination to push reform issues, given her strong law enforcement background, as a Senator, she posed a threat in a way that Scott Brown, whose positions are even worse, didn't. Consider: Joe Biden telling Coakley what crime bill to author, the same way prior presidents prompted him. He brags he wrote everything from Title III to FISA and AEDPA. These bills passed, because the various Administrations wanted them. Other possibilities: Coakley teaming up with DiFi and Lieberman to pass more victims rights bills. Coakley and Orrin Hatch, Coakley and Jeff Sessions. Coakley and Janet Napolitano getting together on anti-terror bills. Had Obama shown leadership and commitment to reform this year, those possibilities would not be anywhere near as worrisome.

Obama and the Dems, as demonstrated so clearly by the health care bill -- but it's only one example -- have pushed more than a few progressives over the edge. They have compromised our values past the point of no return. They've lost our trust. And if they don't turn around, and head back our way, and instead continue to run center and right in the name of bi-partisanship, I think they risk losing us altogether.

We won't support the Right or Republicans, but we may stop actively advocating for Dems. If we stop fighting for Dems, there's only one voice left out there, and it's the voice of the Right. If we jump ship and no longer have their back, whether out of a sense of futility or apathy, the Right will win, like they did tonight. It won't be because more people agree with them than us -- but because they just happen to be standing in the right place at the right time. Yes, they have finally figured out how to use new media and social media to spread their message, but by itself, that would not be enough. We are still the champs at that -- but only if we choose to use them.

I may not have been one of those filled with hope and visions of change when Obama got elected, but I did expect progress. What we've seen so far falls far short of even that modest expectation.