President William Jefferson Clinton fulfilled 73% of his campaign promises in the first two years of his eight-year term. He had a Democratic Congress and Senate. Then, Newt Gingrich and his “Contract On America” won the House. It was downhill all the way for Clinton after that. (Just for the record, not one of the things in the “Contract On America” ever made it into law.)
The last president we had before Clinton who got that much out of Congress was Lyndon Baines Johnson. Johnson had been in the House for so long and knew so many secrets about members and others (including J. Edgar’s secret wardrobe) that he could literally blackmail his way into the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and every other great achievement of his term. He also shamelessly took advantage of our national trauma in the first months after the Kennedy assassination to get a lot of stuff done.
When Barack Obama took office he had a Democratic majority in the House. But in the Senate, there were not enough Democrats to end a filibuster and during the last year of the Bush administration, when the Democrats had the majority in the House, the Republicans in the Senate had discovered the power of the filibuster. All any of them had to say was “I object” and a bill was sent to legislative limbo, never to be seen again.
During his campaign, Obama made a lot of promises. He promised to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He promised to close Gitmo. He promised real health care reform and a single-payer plan. He promised new regulations for the financial industry. He promised jobs and economic growth. He promised help for those facing foreclosure. He promised us almost every progressive wet dream we have ever had. And he delivered none of them.
Now, progressives are threatening to punish him for his failures. In Iowa, the group Progressive Democrats of America is organizing people to vote “uncommitted” in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Tim Carpenter, founder of the group, said “I believe we need an inside outside strategy. We’re not asking everybody in this room to vote for Barack Obama. We’re not voting for Barack Obama. We’re organizing uncommitted slates to go the caucuses on Tuesday to challenge Barack Obama because he gave up on his promise to single payer. He took too long to get troops out of Iraq. There’s still troops in Afghanistan. And we need a financial transaction tax.”
There are days when I really despair of ever finding an educated voter in this nation. This is one of them.
There is no single payer plan or public option because if the Democrats had not given that one up there would be no health care law at all. There are no new regulations on the financial industry because if the Democrats hadn’t given up some provisions there would be no law at all and the Republicans are refusing to finance what was passed. What will it take to get it through progressives’ heads that this is not a dictatorship? The President should not enact laws without Congress. This President is not George W. Bush. He will not, absolutely will not, issue executive orders that violate the division of authority in our Constitution. He absolutely will not exceed his Constitutional powers. That’s one of the reasons we elected him in the first place. To put an end to the de facto dictatorship of the Republican party.
The Progressives can get all stupid and pull a Tea Party revolt on the President or they can learn the meaning of the word FILIBUSTER. It means that the Republicans in the Senate killed almost 300 bills and appointments. We have half a dozen unfilled ambassadorships, a crisis in the Federal judiciary because of unfilled judgeships, openings in the middle management of almost every cabinet department because they will not allow hearings for the approval of appointments. The Republicans blocked important bills and dumb little “pickle week” bills. The Republican filibuster is singularly responsible for the past three years producing the least amount of legislation in our nation’s history.
This is not Obama’s fault. And if the Progressives really want to get all the things that Candidate Obama promised us four years ago, they will do the things that will get results, not screw up the process by dividing the vote.
We need to regain the majority in the House. That means keeping every Democratic seat and taking an additional 25. Thirty would be better. Fifty to sixty would be ideal. We need a strong majority in the House. There are currently 193 Democrats, and 218 is the majority threshold. The Republicans have 242. We would be best served with 250.
We need to control the Senate. No more Conservative Democrats fouling up the works by voting with the Republicans. We technically have 51 Democrats, 2 Independents and 47 Republicans in the Senate. The Democrats can count on one Independent (hell would go sub-zero before Bernie Sanders voted with the Reps.) We need 60 strong Democrats in the Senate to end the tyranny of the filibuster. Ben Nelson is already leaving, so there’s one DINO out the door. If we can’t get rid of the rest of them, we have to compensate. There are only 33 Senate seats up for election next year. We need to take as many as possible.
We need strong candidates for the House and Senate and we need a unified Democratic Party prepared to get down and dirty in this campaign. We need to shout the facts from the rooftops and put down the lies whenever they occur. We have the momentum of the Occupy movement and the frustrations of the 99% if we just tap into it instead of getting divided over something that the President had no control over.
Remember how Kennedy told us to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”? Well, this is that moment…that time when you really can do something for your country, yourselves, your children and grandchildren. You can come together as a force for change, for the change we hoped for four years ago. You can fight for the power to put this country on the right path to recovery and growth. It will not happen if the Progressive wing of the Democrats divide the base and pull votes away from the candidate we need.
The Progressives need to get over themselves, stop pouting in a corner over what could not be done in the first four years and give the Democrats the power to save our country.