Friday, November 16, 2012

Editorial: Battle is Just Starting

President Obama and the Democrats, with the invaluable help of organized labor, showed it is still possible to beat the billionaires, even in the era of Citizens United.

Secretive billionaires, such as the Koch Brothers and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, took advantage of the plutocrat-empowering Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010 to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into super PACs run by Karl Rove and other Republican operatives in an attempt to blow away the Democrats with an unprecedented “air war” in the eight or nine battleground states. But more than 400,000 volunteers from the labor movement knocked on doors, called from phone banks and handed out leaflets explaining the candidates’ stands on the issues. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said, “The unprecedented tidal wave of secret corporate cash threatened to dilute and corrupt our democracy, but this election proved again that there is no match for the strength of people power.”

Not only did the unions help re-elect Obama; the Dems also won 25 of the 33 Senate seats that were up, increasing the Democratic majority by two, to 55-45, and they drove a real upgrade in the Senate, which will get a freshman class of eight new Dems, including six solid progressives, starting with populist Elizabeth Warren, who unseated one of Wall Street’s best friends in the Senate, interim Sen. Scott Brown (R), who got more money from Wall Street than any other Senate candidate. Warren reclaimed Ted Kennedy’s old seat for progressives in Massachusetts.

In Wisconsin, progressive Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) beat former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) to succeed Sen. Herb Kohl (D).

In Connecticut, progressive Rep. Chris Murphy (D) overcome professional wrestling impresario Linda McMahon’s millions spent in the race to replace turncoat Sen. Joe Lieberman (I).

In New Mexico, Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) had a center-left populist record as a congressman when he ran for the seat liberal Sen. Jeff Bingaman gave up, defeating Rep. Heather Wilson (R).

In North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp (D), a populist former state attorney general, beat the pundits who had consigned retiring Sen. Kent Conrad’s seat to teabag Republican Rep. Rick Berg.

In Hawaii, progressive Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) defeated former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) for the seat vacated by retiring progressive Sen. Daniel Akaka (D).

In Virginia, former Gov. Tim Paine (D) will be more progressive than Sen. Jim Webb (D), and much better than former Sen. George “Macaca” Allen Jr. (R), whom Kaine beat.

In Indiana, Rep. Joe Donnelly is a conservative Blue Dog Democrat but a country mile better than teabagger Richard Mourdock (R). And in Maine, former Gov. Angus King, a centrist independent who won the seat that retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) gave up, is expected to caucus with the Dems.

Democrats also re-elected progressive populist Sen. Sherrod Brown over $30 million pumped in by right-wing super PACs that had targeted him in Ohio.

Only the ruthless gerrymandering of congressional districts by Republican-dominated legislatures in the “red states” prevented the Democrats from retaking the House, as Democratic candidates overall actually got more votes than Republicans but Republicans held a 234-197 majority with four seats still undecided a week after the election.

House Speaker John Boehner (R) still claimed his own mandate to defend tax cuts for the rich, saying “raising taxes is unacceptable — and it couldn’t even pass the House.” But he’s playing his poker hand with a pair of treys, since a tax bill doesn’t need to pass the House. The Bush tax cuts expire in January, reinstating tax rates to the level they were when Bill Clinton balanced the budget in the 1990s, when the economy was booming. So Democrats can give Boehner and the Republican House the option of continuing the tax cuts only for lower and middle-income households — which would raise $1 trillion over a decade from those earning more than $250,000 — or Republicans can take the blame for those higher tax rates for everyone.

In his dealings with House Republicans on resolving the “fiscal cliff,” Obama should, as the physicians say, “First, do no harm.”

Workers need to stay mobilized to pressure Congress to pass a jobs bill to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Unions also need to take a page from the Tea Party and make it clear to members of Congress that any Democrat who supports reductions in Social Security or Medicare benefits will get a primary challenger.

A poll conducted for Democracy Corps and the Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) shows that voters strongly reject proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare. When asked, 70% of respondents said that protecting education, Medicare and Social Security was more important than broad cuts to reduce the deficit. More than half — 58% — said that they felt strongly about opposing such cuts. Only 17% felt strongly that across-the-board cuts were important enough to cut the popular programs.

If Obama were to agree to any such cuts, Senate Democrats should “just say no.” And it looks like the Senate leadership is coming around to that position, as Majority Leader Harry Reid has agreed with Social Security defenders that the program is self funding and has no role in increasing the national debt. If anything, Social Security is financing the debt.

The Supreme Court has announced that it will review the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires states with a history of interfering with minority voting rights — mainly in the South — to preclear changes in voting procedures and redistricting plans with the US Justice Department. After the unconscionable attempts by Republican officials in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere to make it more difficult for working-class and elderly people to vote, and the radical gerrymandering in those states, President Obama should propose expansion of the Voting Rights Act to cover every state. It should set up a uniform system of non-partisan redistricting, similar to the plan used in Iowa, which has resulted in competitive races instead of safe seats. It should require early voting periods, including the weekend before federal elections. It should set standards for voting machine access, so that partisan election officials can’t put plenty of machines in one area of town and skimp in other areas, resulting in waits of several hours or more in unfortunate precincts. Some states have lost the nation’s confidence that they can conduct fair and competent elections and the feds need to step in to ensure voting rights for all.

Voters struck a blow for fact-cased campaigns when they rejected the most prolific liar in American political history — whose pollster bragged that the campaign would not be called to account by fact checkers — would be laid low by his most outrageous lie — that Chrysler was planning to move Jeep production to China.

Romney first floated that lie on Oct. 26, at a rally in Defiance, Ohio, where GM has a powertrain plant. “I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China,” he said. “I will fight for every good job in America. I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair, America will win.”

Chrysler executives explained that the company intends to build Jeeps in China to be sold in China, but it isn’t moving American jobs abroad (unlike Sensata, a manufacturing firm in Illinois, owned by Bain Capital, which Romney founded and still has investments in, and which was preparing to move hundreds of manufacturing jobs to China. And unlike Delphi Automotive, the parts supplier to GM and Chrysler which was taken over by vulture capitalist friends of Romney, with investments by Romney’s wife, and which resulted in moving 25,000 formerly union jobs to China).

Romney doubled down on the lie about Chrysler moving jobs to China, even as industry executives called him on it. But the Ohio media also called Romney on his deceptions. The Toledo Blade chastised Romney for “conducting an exercise in deception about auto industry issues that is remarkable even by the standards of his campaign.” Ohio voters were not fooled and Obama was re-elected.
From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2012
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