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The Morning Plum

* Hey, yo, Democrats, it's crunch time: With the midterms suddenly right around the corner, the next couple of weeks in Congress could prove critical. Dems returning from recess know they need to deliver on financial and energy reform, and on extending unemployment benefits, in time to prove to voters that they deserve to run the place.

* After all, as E.J. Dionne explains, hitting on one of my pet points, as long as Dems dither, GOP obstructionism will only reward Republicans.

* But let's cut through the B.S.: How much will action on energy and even unemployment matter if the economy remains in the tank, which looks more likely now that Dems are giving up on more stimulus spending?

* And absent such action, why would Dems get enthusiastic about this fall, no matter how many times Robert Gibbs warns that there's "no doubt" that the GOP could take the House?

* While we're at it: Wouldn't voters like it if Dems continued pushing for big action on the economy, even if there's no chance of success, rather than throwing in the towel in advance, which accomplishes nothing?

* Don't miss the Post's long take-out on one of the most telling political developments of the year: Congress's ongoing failure to act on climate/energy reform in the face of the worst environmental calamity in our history.

* In fairness, Dem leaders really are trying to move energy reform forward, but a broad carbon-pricing measure looks less and less likely.

* Sobering thought of the day, from Joe Klein: The conservative media has succeeded in creating an "entirely false knowledge base, which seems to be driving the narrative this year."

Klein is really talking about the narrative of the Tea Party, and the important point here is that it's being widely doted upon as a genuine political movement even though it's built largely on pure fantasy.

* Relatedly, the advice of the day: If the Tea Party wants to shed its reputation as extreme and unhinged, all it has to do is ditch everything it stands for.

* No end to the skittishness: Democratic governors wring their hands about how awful the politics of the immigration lawsuit is for Dems, but don't say word boo about whether it was the right thing to do.

* Sharron Angle says Harry Reid is "waterboarding our economy."

* Also key in the above link: A shadowy outside group called "Americans for New Leadership" is pouring cash into ads attacking Reid, and (natch) we don't yet know who's funding it. We'll be digging into this more later.

* Sarah Palin keeps letting other Republicans know that they'd best take her presidential ambitions seriously.

* And hundreds from around the country have donated to Palin's PAC, which is designed to burnish her national profile in preparation for a possible presidential run -- but only one donor came from Alaska.

What else is happening?

By Greg Sargent  |  July 12, 2010; 8:26 AM ET
Categories:  2010 elections , 2012 , Climate change , Financial reform , Immigration , Morning Plum , Senate Dems , Senate Republicans  
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Next: Sarah Palin plays media for chumps


Concurrent with Alterman's brilliant piece in the Nation which Greg linked and which we talked about last week, Tomasky has also written elsewhere in a similar vein (I will get to it later today, I hope). On his blog, Tomasky writes:

"If you boil my 6,000 words down to one sentence or idea, it would be that I want people to stop saying things like if only Obama were tougher like FDR and LBJ, we'd have a climate bill by now or a union-friendly card-check bill or we'd have had a public option or any number of other things. That's an extremely naive point of view and ultimately a kind of toxic one that leads to liberal despair, because it makes progressives think that the only thing preventing their desires from becoming reality is that their leaders are selling them out.

There are many things Obama could have done differently up to now, no doubt. But the above view just doesn't reflect the more complex reality. American liberals need to think about deeper systemic reforms and forms of pressure. Reform of Senate rules and more exposure of corporate power of the sort done by the excellent Sunlight Foundation, which started up four years ago."

The Klein item Greg notes up top is, of course, related and key to one of the institutional hurdles for this, or any, non-Republican administration.

Posted by: bernielatham | July 12, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm..."waterboarding our economy," eh? Wouldn't the GOP consider that a good thing? Waterboarding gets results!

Posted by: jamois | July 12, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

@Greg - not sure why but this morning thread is not coming up when your blog masthead is clicked.

I read Broder's column while I was away and began slapping my forehead about three paragraphs in.

"Until the 1960s, it was mainly a phenomenon of the left -- led by such figures as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan and Franklin Roosevelt.

Conservative populism had an unsuccessful trial run in 1964 under Barry Goldwater but did not flourish until Ronald Reagan took on the Washington establishment in 1980."

What the is with Broder? I can comprehend an AEI fellow trying to get away with this bit of false history but Broder? Unbelievable.

Richard Hofstadter (who captured two richly deserved Pulitzers for his work in American history) studied and wrote about this and other related phenomena in a number of works and the tale is not as told above. See this famous essay if you haven't already. Print it out and read it a second time or send it to Broder...

And if you want an even more thorough grounding in much of this stuff, order a used copy of "Anti-Intellectualism in American Life" by the same author.

Posted by: bernielatham | July 12, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back Greg. It's good you finally took a bit of a break - lord knows this subject matter can wear you down after a while.

Did you do anything interesting, or just unplug for a bit?

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 12, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Hey BBQ -- just unplugged, nothing in particular. Thinking of taking weekends off through the summer.

And yeah, Bernie, that's astonishing. I continue to be amazed by the willingness to label this movement "populist."

And nice one, jamois. I wish I'd come up with that one. I'll Tweet it.

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 12, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse


"Wouldn't voters like it if Dems continued pushing for big action on the economy, even if there's no chance of success, rather than throwing in the towel in advance, which accomplishes nothing?"

It would to an extent. But remember, at a certain point, Dems will just look helpless and ineffective - which also spells trouble at the ballot box.

The only way they win the political fight is to convey to voters that the GOP is actively trying to stall the recovery for electoral gain. And good f'in luck to get that message through the traditional media filter - who are so in the tank for the GOP out of fear of being labeled "librul" it's pathetic.

"The conservative media has succeeded in creating an 'entirely false knowledge base, which seems to be driving the narrative this year.'"

Again it needs to be made perfectly clear. This isn't just the fault of the conservative media. Beck and Limbaugh are entertainers and liars. It's the fact that NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and CNN fall in lockstep with talking about any "controversy" drummed up by the hard right, which takes the crazy mainstream.

If the major networks stopped giving total credence to the right-wing media machine, then the false narrative would never take hold. This includes Joe Klein as well, btw, who's done his share of water-carrying for the right in the past (though he's gotten a bit better).

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 12, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse


I don't know if you read BooMan, but you should. One of the best level headed liberals out there. here's a good little rant on the Tea Party.

It's a good read.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | July 12, 2010 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Morning All:

I read the Tomasky piece. This, to me, is the point that largely undermines Tomasky's thesis that Obama is largely innocent of squandering a golden opportunity:

"Despite the desire of hundreds of thousands of Obama volunteers to want to continue their efforts on behalf of the administration, according to an online survey conducted by Organizing for America, the successor organization to Obama For America, the administration was not really interested in promoting any alternative structure to the Democratic Party that might develop its own priorities and interfere with those of the administration. (And it certainly did not want to encourage primary challenges to sitting Democratic senators. In fact, it went to great lengths in Arkansas, New York and Pennsylvania to discourage such challenges almost irrespective of the politics of the incumbent in question.) A shadow of its former self—or what it might have been—continues to raise money and send out e-mails but it does not ask for any sustained involvement or even discussion of the issues the administration chooses to address or the manner in which it approaches them. As Charles Homans wrote in The Washington Monthly, OFA "looks less like a movement than a cheering section."

Much of the political and societal dysfunction that Tomasky describes is well-known (if not so well articulated). I think most people realized that and that was WHY so many people, myself included, were enthusiastic about Obama: He seemed to get it. Obama knew the system was busted and he aimed to go around it, or over it, directly to the people. Once elected, however, Obama reverted to Democratic Party regular. That, I think, has been the fundamental strategic error by the Obama Administration. Obama should have stuck with the people that brung him to the dance. But he dropped us like a hot potato as soon as he got into office. And then he was faced with the nearly-insurmountable obstacles the systemic dysfunction presents.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 12, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Greg: "Thinking of taking weekends off through the summer."

Greg, Don't think about it! :o) You deserve some time away from work to unwind and disconnect. I hope you will.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | July 12, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

A coda: There undoubtedly would have been difficulties utilizing a people-oriented approach to governing. Hover, I think those are less formidable, if a bit more unpredictable, than attempting to reform the system from inside as Tomasky seems to suggest.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 12, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

And I was thinking about this over the weekend: The energy and time of young people is vital to a reform movement. By operating largely inside the established halls of power, the Obama Admin has cut young people out.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 12, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Greg: Summers are for goofing off if at all possible. Rest up for the Fall; it's gonna be wild, I think.

Posted by: wbgonne | July 12, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Greg, I agree with sue and others: take weekends off till September. If you want to do anything, maybe post open threads on Sat/Sun, or just a "Weekend Open Thread." Keeps the Friday Happy Hour from getting hopelessly long.

wbg, that's a sharp assessment of what has dampened the mood of young voters and a portion of the left. I think that's right, though it's probably inevitable given the challenges of governing this country. A pivot has to come where Obama tries to move outside this establishment. Moving Howard Dean in still seems like the kind of intellectual shake-up that would matter. I'm still struggling to get over the support of Blanche Lincoln. That's the best example I can think of for articulating what's wrong with the Dem Party.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 12, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

In a good post on jobs, and how the Dems need to get busy delivering on the economic front, John Cole writes this:

"Everyone is broke, the rich get richer, the banks, which we bailed out, post enormous profits while the Senate dithers on unemployment benefits for the people hurt by reckless bank behavior suffer, the blue dogs join with Republicans to block jobs bills, the WH seems to sort of just throw up their hands and sigh, and then, to top it all off, the only people getting hired are more Wall Street leeches. Even more depressing, they can’t even muster the votes for financial regulation in this climate.

What shocks me the most are the conservative Democrats, who are going to be the ones wiped out this fall. Liberals in safe seats will be fine. But the blue dogs, running around with their masturbatory deficit language while concern trolling unemployment benefits extensions, will be thrown out of power and replaced by Republicans, who will then just do the bidding of their corporate masters. The inability to defend the stimulus, which worked, is even more flabbergasting- all around me there are roads that had not been paved in a decade which are now new and safe and provided much needed jobs, and the people driving on them, local teachers, police, firefighters, etc., all have been helped by the stimulus. Yet the WH and Democrats can’t make the case.

The future does not look good for the little guy."

Angry and a bit cynical, but spot on.

Posted by: BGinCHI | July 12, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Maybe it's time for the left to start a drive for a constitutional amendment of their own. As noted, the right is chock-a-block with notions about how to mess up our founding document, but that's no reason to hold back from proposing things that would actually do some good. To wit: an amendment spelling out that corporations are NOT "persons" insofar as they are not subject to the same responsibilities and penalties that actual living, breathing citizens are, and that only citizens who are eligible to vote may contribute to political candidates, parties, or campaigns - and then only up to a certain limit, which may be increased every few years by an amount indexed to inflation.

As all of us tiresome nags have been saying for the past 20 years, the things that are really broken in our democracy can only be fixed by making it work for actual people again, rather than organized business interests.

Posted by: JennOfArk | July 12, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"the narrative of the Tea Party, and the important point here is that it's being widely doted upon as a genuine political movement even though it's built largely on pure fantasy"

At the end of the day, the Tea Party is not a "political movement" and never has been.

It's a temper tantrum.

Posted by: akaoddjob | July 12, 2010 10:25 AM | Report abuse

BGinCHI - the dirty little secret that our politicians and media dare not voice is that things CAN'T get much better unless we address income/wealth disparity. It stands right now at about the same point it did on the eve of the Great Depression. At some point, wealth becomes so concentrated in so few hands that a consumer economy can no longer function properly, because there are only so many houses, cars, refrigerators, services, foodstuffs and general items that even a Bill Gates or Warren Buffett is going to purchase. We're at a point now where, even before the recession, fully 40% of the population no longer had enough income for discretionary spending (as of 2007, 40% of the population owned less than 1/2 of 1% of the wealth of the nation - wealth being defined as "assets", which of course you can only accumulate when you have a little left over after covering the basic necessities of life). Indeed, the meltdown was caused by people falling farther and farther behind for the past decade and going into debt to try to keep up.

It's like a poker game where after a few hands one guy has all the chips. At that point, the only way to keep the game going is for the guy with all the chips to loan some of them to the other players...but once he wins them back, it's game over. That's where we are now, and there's really only a couple of ways to fix it: tax higher incomes and/or wealth at a much higher rate to put the brakes on overconcentrating wealth into too few hands, or mandatory wage increases.

Everything else is just nibbling around the edges and isn't really going to fix anything for the long term.

Posted by: JennOfArk | July 12, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

All, more evidence Sarah Palin continues to play media for chumps:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | July 12, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse


The problem with "Wouldn't voters like it if Dems continued pushing for big action on the economy, even if there's no chance of success" tactic is that with resultant failures (thanks due to corporate dems), the same media pundits, including you, and the rethugs will perpetuate the meme that "dems cannot govern".

High time americans grew up and faced the looming national crisis for all in all fronts instead of resorting to temper tantrums and whines. They can all go rogue and vote the rethugs in 2010/2012 and live (or die as the case may be) to reap what they sowed.

Posted by: amkeew | July 12, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

So, Sargent, go start a fight that you know you can't win, then come back all bloody and bruised, and tell us how much you accomplished. I'm sure everyone will think you're so SMART and COURAGEOUS.

Think maybe you've watched Cool Hand Luke a few too many times? It's just a movie, you know.

Posted by: converse | July 12, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

As the days and months roll by, Your Morning Plum makes the case that our politics are becoming "very Afghanistan," with Obama channeling Karzai, the Democrats playing the do-gooder American troops, and the Republicans imitating the best of the resurgent Taliban. What else is new, right?

Posted by: dozas | July 12, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Angle Rejects Political Makeover

Posted by: Truthteller12 | July 12, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

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