Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Progressive Idiocy: A Fundamental Truth Everyone Else Knows

Over at Corrente, letsgetitdone (A.K.A. Joe Firestone) had this to say today about the Senate Democrats' refusal to amend filibuster rules after they've been abused for three terms running by the Republicans:

[I]t's clear that part of the reason for the dysfunction we see is the existence of the filibuster and various procedures related to it, that now prevent the Senate from passing legislation unless 60 Senators will support a cloture vote. In itself, the maintenance of this rule has nothing to do with partisan commitments and much more to do with the individual wish of every Senator to be able to block legislation they are opposed to.

The power to say no, is a very important one for each Senator, allowing them to get special concessions when their vote is needed to get legislation through. Senators fear being in the minority and not having the power to say no. When they are in the majority they worry that some day, perhaps soon, they will be in the minority, and will need that ability to say no to extract concessions. They also worry that removal of the filibuster, would give campaign contributors much less reason to donate to the campaigns of individual Senators and even more reason then they have now to focus donations on Congressional leaders.

Is It Really About “Dysfunctional” Partisanship?

This is entirely correct, and from what I've seen, it is news to most progressives. Whenever I'm unfortunate enough to be involved in a conversation about politics with progressives these days, one of the things I almost inevitably have to tell them is that there is one thing that all politicians, whether good ones or bad, no matter what the system they work in, need in order to be effective at their jobs. That something is this:


They need to have the ability to get people to do the things they need those people to do in order to accomplish what they want. Whether that power is for the betterment of society, or just the betterment of themselves, they need that ability or they won't succeed. That power can be in the form of persuasion, intimidation, money, or favors traded, or a combination, but they have to be able to exercise it better than their rivals.

To me, this is the fundamental rule of politics. Yet it seems to be a mystery to most progressives. When they label voting for alternative parties or otherwise withholding support from errant Democrats "making a point", they clearly don't understand that it's the only point that matters, at least if you as a progressive voter have any hope of getting what you want. Unless Democratic politicians understand that they will lose their power if they fail to do what we want, then they will continue to fail to do what we want. The power they will work to maintain is the power that will go elsewhere if it's not satisfied.

If there's another way of making that point, then tell me. However, if that solution involves the word "primary", then your next words need to be an explanation of where the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to mount credible primary challenges in enough places to matter are going to come from. What we've seen in the past is that the current crop of Democratic politicians will happily use the money of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and its Senate counterpart, the DSCC, to finance incumbents facing progressive challengers. We learned that in Bill Halter's campaign, and in Ned Lamont's. "We'll out-organize them" isn't an answer, either. You need money for polls, television, and other advertising. Being better organized and attracting volunteers just makes the money required somewhat smaller. Don't tell me just the act of challenging an incumbent in a primary will change his behavior, either. It won't.

Nor is "reforming the party from within" an answer. You don't reform an organization you work for. You do what the bosses tell you. The bosses need to be given motivation to do the right thing. That will not come from their underlings. It will come from outside. Only when the bosses believe that their success, or the success of their organizations, depends on changing course will they do so.

Conservatives understand this. That's why their politicians will do just about anything they demand, even if they risk their chance of being elected. Republican politicians know which side will withdraw its support should they fail to do what's expected, and it's not progressives.

Until progressives grasp the basic concept that their undying support of the Democratic Party will only bring them more of the same, more of the same is all we'll get. There's really no point in discussing how to change things until that concept sinks in.

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