Cleaning Up The Democratic Party Requires Removing More Than Franken and Conyers

Several female Democratic Senators have called on Al Franken to step down today. This comes shortly after John Conyers resigned from the House under pressure. Removing those who have engaged in sexual harassment makes sense. However, sexual harassment should not be the only sin which goes punished. After we clear out the perpetrators of sexual harassment I hope that this cleansing of the Democratic Party can continue:

Let’s get rid of those have been willing to put up with the graft and corruption of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Plus there should be a special circle of Hell for anyone who uses the “but her emails” line. To excuse Hillary Clinton over the email scandal means that you 1) support her total refusal to abide by rules put in place by Barack Obama to increase government transparency, 2) are willing to ignore repeated lies from her regarding the matter for months, ultimately being a major reason she lost the presidential election to Donald Trump, and 3) you don’t care that she destroyed potential evidence of her influence peddling at the State Department.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who have embraced neoconservative interventionism, including those who excuse Clinton’s views and policies on Iraq, Libya, and Syria, along with those backing the new Cold War type hysteria regarding Russia.

Let’s get rid of Democrats who are now engaging in McCarthyism, accusing those who question their unfounded claims about Russia of being pro-Putin. (Never mind that they are the ones who are really acting to undermine the liberal opposition to Putin in Russia).

Let’s get rid of Democrats who support a totally undemocratic nomination system for the presidency. This includes those who want to preserve measures in place since McGovern’s loss including superdelegates and front-loading of southern states. Even more so, get rid of those who backed the increased actions to rig the nomination in 2016 including restrictions on debates, changing of fund raising rules to help Clinton, voting restrictions, giving Clinton unprecedented control over the party during the primary campaign, changing how the results in Iowa were announced to help Clinton, and Harry Reid’s games in Nevada to help Clinton. Plus get rid of those backing a purge of the left in the DNC and making lobbyists superdelegates.

Democrats Struggle With Putting Principle Over Party

The accusations of sexual harassment being made against Democrats such as Al Franken, as well as Republicans, is causing conflict in the minds of many Democrats. Some are even reexamining the legacy of Bill Clinton. The usual mode of thought of many partisan Democrats is that bad things are only bad if done by Republicans, as they find ways to rationalize comparable behavior by Democrats. We have finally found an issue where many Democrats are breaking from strict party loyalty.

As I discussed in a post earlier this month, most voters consider party over ideology. In 2016 most Republicans stuck with party and voted for Donald Trump despite his differences from conservative Republican orthodoxy. Similarly most Democrats stuck with party over principle and voted for Hillary Clinton, mostly oblivious to the fact that she backed essentially the same agenda which they protested when George W. Bush was implementing it.

It is good to see that some Democrats are now questioning party loyalty in response to reports of sexual harassment. I wish more Democrats had questioned party loyalty when it came to backing a war monger, accepting Clinton’s far right wing record on First Amendment issues (which now extends to her calls for censorship post-election), and in ignoring the influence peddling by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump probably would not be president today if more Democrats had stood for principle and refused to accept Hillary Clinton as their nominee.

Bernie Sanders Brings Us One Step Closer To A Single-Payer Health Plan

Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation to establish a single-payer health care plan, as he promised during his run for the Democratic nomination. In an op-ed in The New York Times he wrote Why We Need Medicare for All beginning with describing the problem we face:

This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?

We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need. This is not what the United States should be about.

All over this country, I have heard from Americans who have shared heartbreaking stories about our dysfunctional system. Doctors have told me about patients who died because they put off their medical visits until it was too late. These were people who had no insurance or could not afford out-of-pocket costs imposed by their insurance plans.

I have heard from older people who have been forced to split their pills in half because they couldn’t pay the outrageously high price of prescription drugs. Oncologists have told me about cancer patients who have been unable to acquire lifesaving treatments because they could not afford them. This should not be happening in the world’s wealthiest country…

This has divided the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton ran a dishonest campaign against Medicare for All during the primaries, and remains opposed. Much of the Democratic leadership, which badly needs to be replaced, is also opposed. Several of those being mentioned as candidates in 2020 are supporting the plan, showing that they realize this is where a leader of the party must be.

Al Franken has blown apart Hillary Clinton’s arguments against Sanders, showing that supporting Medicare for All is not an attack on Obamacare or Medicare as Clinton falsely claimed. Politico reported:

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has been mentioned as a possible 2020 candidate, also expects to sign on to the single-payer bill, a spokesman said Tuesday. Franken noted that his cosponsorship reflects the bill’s status as a long-term goal while the party continues short-term work on Obamacare.

“This bill is aspirational, and I’m hopeful that it can serve as a starting point for where we need to go as a country,” Franken said in a statement. “In the short term, however, I strongly believe we must pursue bipartisan policies that improve our current health care system for all Americans — and that’s exactly what we’re doing right now in the Senate Health Committee, on which both Senator Sanders and I sit.”

Yes, we can defend Obamacare and support improvements, including a Medicare buy-in and a robust public option if that is something more quickly obtainable, while also understanding that a single-payer plan must be the ultimate goal.

Many centrists, both within and outside of the Democratic Party, remain opposed. Jonathan Chait misses the point when he argues that Bernie Sanders’s Bill Gets America Zero Percent Closer to Single Payer. This is not the first time Sanders has introduced legislation to promote a single-payer plan. This is also not the bill which will ultimately establish it. What Sanders has done has made single-payer the goal of the left and many on the center-left. This is analogous to making support for same-sex marriage the expected position of a Democratic leader to the degree that even Hillary Clinton had to alter her position prior to running in 2016, no matter how much this conflicted with her socially conservative beliefs.

The Affordable Care Act was a tremendous improvement over the system we had before, for the first time providing access to coverage which could not be taken away based upon one’s medical condition. However it did very little to change the reality that coverage on the individual market is expensive. Ironically, Republicans are pushing the inevitability of a single-payer plan without realizing it. This includes Republicans in state governments who have denied access to the expanded Medicaid plan to those in several states, and Donald Trump who is trying to destabilize the marketplace plans.

With the limitations of Obamacare, a single-payer plan is the only idea which makes long term economic sense. A majority of doctors have come around to realizing this. Bernie Sanders is now making the Democratic Party acknowledge this. When Obamacare was first being considered, discussion of single-payer plans was blocked. Bernie Sanders has made single-payer part of any discussion of further health care policy.

Core Issues

Al Franken just tweeted: Net neutrality is a “core issue for everyone who uses the internet.” True but don’t expect that to mean Republicans will support it. For example, climate change is a core issue for everyone who uses the planet, and yet conservatives still oppose action on this.

This comes just as Verizon and Google have announced a joint broadband policy which I have not yet had time to read much detail on.

Debunking Claims Al Franken Won Due To Illegal Votes

Talking Points Memo debunks recent right wing claims that Al Franken won his Senate seat due to fellons voting illegally for Franken. The claims originated with a conservative group, Minnesota Majority, and have been spread by Fox and others:

As it turns out, though, Minnesota Majority’s study has had its share of sloppiness and false assumptions. As the Twin Cities NBC affiliate noted, it’s not even proven that hundreds of felons illegally voted at all — in some cases there were felons who could legally vote in Minnesota, having had their rights restored, and in other cases Minnesota Majority submitted the names of the wrong people:

In reality, that has not been proven. And the actual number of felons who voted illegally will likely be much lower based on reviews from prosecutors who received Minnesota Majority’s lists in the form of spread sheets in February.

“We received about 480 names from Minnesota Majority,” Ramsey County’s lead prosecutor Phil Carruthers told KARE Wednesday, “About 270 were clearly inaccurate and were rejected right from the get-go.”

He said a quick review revealed the names and birthdates didn’t match, or that the felons in question were no longer barred from voting.In addition, instances of individual felons voting is different from any organized fraud. As Franken’s former attorney Marc Elias told The Hill: “Sen. Coleman was represented by some of the best lawyers there are in the country. At the end of that process, the lead lawyer for Sen. Coleman told the state Supreme Court that there was no evidence of persistent fraud in the election.”

Furthermore, the report runs up against a pesky obstacle that in this country dates back to the late 19th century, called the secret ballot. Even if it were proven that hundreds of illegal votes were cast, it can’t ever be proven who those people voted for. Right-wing media outlets have simply been assuming that all the felons voted for Franken. In fact, there was one solid case in January 2009 of a felon who pled guilty to illegally voting — and he said he voted for Coleman, though his word is obviously less than 100% credible. But in any case, the point stands: It can’t be proven who any one of these people would have voted for, or what any spread might have been, much less that they would have all voted for one candidate out of several who were on the ballot.

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Comedians, Porn, and Government

There’s good reason why, with the exception of Al Franken, we have comedians work in comedy and not government. Two comedians have suggested very bad ideas recently. Woody Allen has suggested giving Barack Obama dictatorial powers (assuming Fox got the quote right):

Woody Allen has a strange take on the democracy that allowed him to become rich and famous.

The “Scoop” director said it would be a cool idea for President Barack Obama to be dictator for for a few years.

Why?

So he could get things done without all the hassle of opposing views getting in the way.

In an interview published by Spanish language newspaper La Vanguardia (that we translated), Allen says “I am pleased with Obama. I think he’s brilliant. The Republican Party should get out of his way and stop trying to hurt him.”

But wait – there’s more!

The director said “it would be good…if he could be a dictator for a few years because he could do a lot of good things quickly.”

As much as I wouldn’t want Barack Obama to have dictatorial powers, I’d want Steve Jobs running things even less. Bill Maher suggested this during the New Rules segment of his show last week (video above):

America needs to focus on getting Jobs — Steve Jobs. Because something tells me that Apple would have come up with a better idea for stopping an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico than putting a giant box on top of it.

In 2001, Apple reinvented the record player. In 2007, the phone. This year, the computer. I say, for 2011, we let them take a crack at America. Our infrastructure, our business model, our institutions. Get rid of the stuff that’s not working, replace it with something that does. For example, goodbye US Senate — Hello Genius Bar! So good luck, Steve — you’ll need it!

No thanks. Ironically Apple, which became big after running the classic ad attacking IBM as Big Brother, has become far more like Big Brother than IBM ever was. I’ve never liked the closed nature of Apple products, and in recent weeks Steve Jobs has received frequent criticism for the restrictions placed on the iPhone and iPad. Jobs defended his policies by offering “freedom from porn.” While I’m more concerned about the non-porn programs which Jobs does not allow on his products, I also do not want someone in charge who thinks their role is to give us freedom from porn.

I realize that many people love Apple products and do not share my dislike of their closed systems. In the marketplace this is fine. We can all purchase the type of products we want. I would not want this attitude in government and therefore will reject Bill Maher’s suggestion.

Four Senators Question Facebook Privacy Policies

There has been a lot of concern raised on Facebook by the changes in the privacy settings which have suddenly made information which had been private, only seen by Facebook friends, available to the public. Four Democratic senators,  Charles Schumer,  Michael Benne , Mark Begich, and Al Franken send  a letter expressing regarding the privacy questions to to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The full text (via Politico) is under the fold:

(more…)

How Could The Democrats Do So Poorly In Massachusetts?

Here’s what I don’t understand. Ted Kennedy and John Kerry have tied up the two Massachusetts  Senate seats for years. I would think that there are many highly qualified Democrats in the state who didn’t get a shot at such a spot until now. How did the Democrats wind up with as weak a candidate as Martha Coakley?

Coakley’s campaign sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign based upon inevitability and entitlement. That is not going to work, especially when Scott Brown is running as a moderate Republican. As The Christian Science Monitor points out, Massachusetts is not so Democratic that a moderate Republican can’t bring out the vote, especially with the amount of anti-incumbent sentiment at present:

…Massachusetts voters also gave Republicans the key to the governors’ office for 16 straight years, from 1990 to 2006.

Moreover, Senate races have historically been tight when the Republican candidate is moderate enough to appeal to centrist voters. Sen. John Kerry had close races against Ray Shamie in 1984, Jim Rappaport in 1990, and Bill Weld in 1996 – all of whom earned at least 40 percent of the vote.

Senator Kennedy saw his toughest challenge in 1994 against Mitt Romney, who would later be Massachusetts’ governor and an unsuccessful candidate for president. While Mr. Romney eventually shifted further to the right during his 2008 presidential bid, Massachusetts voters considered him a moderate Republican in his statewide campaigns. In fact, until 1993, Romney was registered as an independent.

For Coakley and Brown, it’s the state’s independents who will likely determine the outcome of the race.

“The majority of registered voters now are independents,” says David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University in Boston, which conducted Thursday’s poll. “Despite the fact that they are people who say … they don’t want to be tied to one party, independents have emerged as the political party in Massachusetts now. It’s really about the independent voter.”

Making matters worse, Coakley has committed a number of gaffes. Health care might fall in the Senate because of a dumb baseball comment–Coakley calling former Red Sox pitcher and Brown supporter Curt Schilling a Yankee fan. Even worse, she has resorted to the type of tactics which we see far more from Republicans, but which are not exclusive to them. For some reason Republicans do far better than Democrats in bringing out the vote by distorting the record of their opponent, as Coakley did in a recent ad and flier.

The race will be decided by independents, and Brown has positioned himself much better than Coakley to pick up their votes. He is also better able to run as a moderate as the far right has appeared to have learned their lesson in New York’s special election. In New York the far right condemned Dede Scozzafava as if she was on the far left and allowed the Democrats to win the seat. Even though Brown is more liberal than Scozzafava we are not hearing any complaints that he is a RINO at the moment.

The reason why Republicans are willing to accept a moderate in Massachusetts is that he could be the 41st vote to stop a health care reform bill. If not for these dynamics Republicans from out of state would not be giving Brown so much assistance, and I’m not sure that many Democrats would really mind seeing Coakley going down to defeat.

At the moment the race is too close to call based upon the polls. If Brown does win there are a few possible outcomes with regards to health care reform:

The House could very quickly pass the Senate version unchanged allowing this to be sent to President Obama for his signature without giving the Republicans a chance to filibuster a bill coming out of reconciliation. The problems here are that many House liberals would not accept the Senate bill, and the Senate bill should not be passed as it is.

If the race is close the Democrats might try to delay seating Brown should he win. Think back to Al Franken’s election.

Democrats might try to come up with even more compromises to try to get Olympia Snowe’s vote. This could cost them even more votes from House Democrats.

They might try to pass health care reform with a simple majority by using budget reconciliation, but this would require massive changes to the bill as only items affecting the budget can be passed in this manner.

These choices do not look good, making it very possible that it could be the loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat which  results in the blockage of health care reform.

Al Franken Responds To Tea Party Activists

Great job by Al Franken in responding to “Tea Party activists” protesting health care reform (video above).

Paranoia From A Big Fat Idiot

rush-limbaugh-idiot

Al Franken, who can finally take the Senate seat he narrowly won, began in politics by writing the book, Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot. This seems like a good time to provide today’s example (via Mark Halperin) which shows how big an idiot Limbaugh is:

You have to wonder if Obama is just trying to lay a foundation for not being a hypocrite when he tries to serve beyond 2016. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the next number of years there is a move on the 22nd Amendment, which term limits the President of the United States. He may not do it that way, he may not openly try to change the Constitution. But there might be this movement in the country from his cult-like followers to support the notion that a democratically-elected leader who is loved and adored has carte blanc once elected. Just serve as long as he wants because the people demand it, because the people want it, because the people love it.

And I wouldn’t put it past Obama to be plotting right now how to serve beyond 2016 and I think the way he’s reacting to what’s happening in Honduras – Look, they’ve got a constitution, they’re a democratically-elected set of officials down there and you had a guy running the country, Mel Zelaya, who was just going to basically rip that country’s democracy to shreds and the country moved in to stop in him from doing it and Obama sides with the guy who wanted to rip up the constitution. He sides with other dictators in the region. Regardless, I mean, one thing is clear here: Obama is nothing if not a hardcore liberal. Always, always more sympathetic, appearing to side with the bad guys on the world stage.

And I’ll tell you folks, this business about running beyond 2016, you know, the thing that when you look at Obama’s followers – and we’ve discussed it here – they are a cult-like bunch and their attachment to him is not political, it’s not ideological, it is not issue-wise, it is cultish. It includes a wide percentage of minorities, by the way, who for different reasons, who will come to think that he simply cannot be replaced. Let him succeed with amnesty, for example, and all the illegal aliens who are instantly made citizens. He’ll be too important. Just like right now he’s too big to fail as far as the drive-bys are concerned, he’s too important to be replaced. No one else can lead the nation,  they will say. And they won’t care a whit about the legalities that might be trampled. Half of the legalities if they don’t even know about them because they haven’t been properly educated. I think this situation in Honduras is very instructive. Anybody who thinks that he intends to just constitutionally go away in 2016 is nuts … These are people who seek power for reasons other than to serve. They seek to rule.

While his ideas for beyond 2016 are absurd, it is interesting that Limbaugh assumes that Obama will be reelected in 2012.  Robert Gibbs did respond to a question with regards to repealing the 22nd amendment:

I think the President is firmly in support of an amendment that would limit his time in the presidency to eight years if he’s given that awesome responsibility by the American people.