I thought I'd share some thoughts on strategy, in the wake of the busted filibuster.
Finally, we're starting to see a few real victories against the Tea Party Republicans and their politics of sabotage. Most recently, Harry Reid became the Honey Badger, whipped the votes, and put an end to GOP filibusters of judicial and executive branch nominees in the Senate.
Oh, and remember that victory before the Web Site Snafu? Oh yeah. President Obama, Harry Reid, and many other Democrats stood united in refusing to give concessions to the psychos in the Tea Party Congress when they shut down the government and threatened to force the government to default on its debts. We got a real victory, by showing that Democrats can stand up to bullies.
That brings me to my six points about the new Democratic strategies that our people should be implementing party-wide, if they want to keep winning.
1. Republicans are the enemy. As are their corporate and bankster puppeteers.
The Democratic Party, and its progressive core, is never going to gain more power if we continue to allow our elected officials to treat Republicans as "esteemed colleagues", "partners in power", or anyone that any respectable human being would have anything to do with.
No. Republicans are monsters. They're the party of the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson. They're the party of Wall Street, of financial recklessness, and of stealing millions of homes and billions of dollars from hard-working Americans. They're the party that says "I don't want you to have health care. If you've got cancer, and you don't have insurance, DIE!" They are the party of big oil, of big coal, of fracking, of the BP oil spill, of tar sand extraction. They're the party that claims global warming doesn't exist, and the party that left New Orleans to die after Hurricane Katrina. They're the party of vote suppression. They're the party of racism. They're the party of homophobic bigotry. They're the party of refuge for the Ku Klux Klan, now reformed as the Tea Party. They're the party that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry, and the party that would kick black people to the back of the bus. They're the party of Dominionist Christians who secretly want to kill you if you're not sufficiently worshipful of their psychotic deity. They're the party of Ayn Rand, and of Social Darwinism, of Mitt Romney, and of Bain Capital, who sneer at the poor, spit on the homeless, wish death on the sick, and would have 99% of the country living in shacks made of old garage doors, working in third-world-style factories with guard towers and electrified fences for a nickel an hour.
That is their agenda.
The kind of people who have the above agenda are not the people I would invite over to dinner, or have anything to do with at all.
2. To gain respect from the voters and the political players, you must fight.
Forget the notions certain Democrats have about "being the adult in the room." That never works. Politics in today's polarized environment are not civilized. Today's politics are a form of warfare. Pure and simple. If you want to make policy, make the world a better place, you have to take power, and in order to take power, you must wage war. Hopefully, not a war of bullets, but yes, you're gonna have to get nasty. If you're not willing to throw punches, remember that they are.
Bill Clinton said that the American people would rather vote for the guy that's "strong and wrong" over the guy that's weak and right. Politics is not high school forensics club. There are no referees enforcing rules of decorum, or scoring each side on their use of logical argumentation. Politics is all about emotion, and most importantly, about the psychology of domination.
If you want to win, you must dominate, and you must act like one who dominates. The Republicans know this. Too many on our side don't, and that's why we lose. If you're passive, you get stepped on. We win by being aggressive and playing smash-mouth football.
3. Punch the bully in the nose. Do not leave bitch-slaps unanswered.
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo famously coined the phrase "bitch-slap politics". Some may object to my use of that metaphor. It's misogynistic, but it fits, so excuse me for being a little tasteless.
Because Marshall was right. As I mentioned in point 2, voters respect those who will fight for what's right. Not ask nicely, FIGHT. When you ignore the right-wing's attacks, the right-wing corporate presstitution machine that calls itself "mainstream media" will gleefully pile on, and your strategy of ignoring juvenile idiocy will result in you getting swarmed. This is why the term "swiftboating" is in our vocabulary.
Their game is to try to hit you hard (the "bitch-slap"), and demonstrate that you can't hit back effectively. Because, like I mentioned, we're talking about domination psychology. If you behave in a way that shows that you're weak and powerless, the voters will treat you with contempt.
Democrats MUST hit back when the right-wingers try the bitchslap.
This dynamic was what was playing out in the Senate. Every time the Democrats tried bringing forth anything resembling productive legislation, the GOP came out with the filibuster. Every Senate filibuster from the right wing is a bitch-slap. Every time a bill dies because of a filibuster, that's Democrats showing they're too weak to hit back. They filibuster a bill to smack us down, and show that we can't fight.
The filibusters are a major part of why Democrats lost their mojo and the Tea Party was able to sweep into power in 2010. We didn't fight back against those bitch-slaps.
Asking the un-American saboteurs to stop blocking the people's business didn't work. They just laughed in Reid's face and at the American people. Making mild threats weren't enough.
But finally, Harry Reid bought a vowel and solved the puzzle. He realized that every filibuster was a slap in the face to Obama, to Democrats, and to America, so he finally started whipping votes, and gave Mitch an ultimatum: End the filibuster abuse, or I will.
Because Democrats had submitted to too many bitch-slaps, McConnell didn't take Reid seriously, so Reid had to carry out his threat. Now filibusters of judicial and executive branch nominees are a thing of the past, and I guarantee you that Reid will be taken more seriously.
4. Compromise of core principles is death.
That means we need to stop talking about Grand Bargains. No Social Security cuts, no Chained CPI (what, surely you can substitute cat food for ramen?) no more accepting of right-wing frames of deficit panic.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democratic Party of the 30's put in Social Security, to ensure that every American could retire in dignity, didn't have to live in squalor, eating cat food.
Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats of the 60's brought us Medicare and Medicaid, to ensure that Americans could get health care, even when they're poor or elderly.
As Democrats, we believe in helping our fellow human beings. We believe in the social safety net. We believe in making sure that everyone has food, clean water to drink, a roof over their heads, and decent health care.
What are the Republicans fighting for? Less of the above. Poorer Americans, with shitty food, filthy water, slums instead of houses, and a joke of an ER visit that results in monstrous debt if you ever have a medical emergency. Real insurance? That's for the rich.
Do we meet them halfway?
We demand vindication of our principles. If we compromise with the GOP, enter that Grand Bargain, and accept that we'll help fellow human beings only a little less, that is death for us, death for our principles, and death for those who count on us to help them keep the lights on.
The correct answer to a proposal of meeting a fundamentally immoral proposal half-way is "Fuck, no!" We make our demands, that the cap to the FICA tax be raised, and that the wealthy pay more to fund the programs that are necessary to keep our society running.
We accept no compromise, we allow no surrender. On this issue, we should be demanding victory or death!
On our core principles, we should prefer war to surrender.
5. Civility is overrated. Being nice is death.
Why do you think Rush Limbaugh is still on the air? Because to the power-mongers, he is valuable. He's the keystone of the Right Wing Hate Machine, and they'll keep him on the air as long as possible. Clear Channel has lost tens, maybe hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to Stop Rush and the advertising boycotts. Where there used to be advertisements for major companies, now there are homeopathic sugar-pill pushers, survival seed outfits, and PSAs to fill all the dead air. But Rush is still on the air. After the smearing of Sandra Fluke, after all the misogyny, the racism, they haven't fired him. Even though when a progressive host says something slightly offensive, he's suspended and possibly fired in a New York second. But Rush is special. After all the protests, the boycotts, and the loss of advertising revenue, they're still keeping him on the air.
That's because Rush Limbaugh is an attack machine. He was never civil in his career as the right-wing's king of the AM dial. His fare always consisted of caricatures, ridicule, smears, slander, and incitement, and that's the bread and butter of the right-wing's strategy.
They are determined to be on the attack at all times, and they're willing to flush millions of dollars down the toilet to keep the attack machine going. They don't care about offending women, the GLBT community, black people, Latino people, or anyone else. It costs them some votes, but they keep winning elections. Staying on the offensive pays. Even when you're being offensive.
Alan Grayson knows this lesson well. He's not pulling a John Kerry and trying to maintain comity. He throws punches and makes no apologies. On health care, he made the right-wing health care plan perfectly simple: "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly!" Oh, the right wing howled and wailed about how offensive that statement was.
More recently, they've howled and wailed because Grayson sent a fundraising email likening the Tea Party with the Ku Klux Klan. A lot of people started clutching pearls, and said Grayson went over the line, with the picture in the email spelling "Tea Party" with a "T" made out of a burning cross. Even Democrats, including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz started wagging their fingers, saying Grayson went too far.
Grayson did the right thing, and doubled down. Or in his words "If the hoods fit, wear 'em!"
Understand this from my perspective. I don't want to live with the right wing. I don't want to reconcile with them. I don't want to rebuild relationships with them.
I want to dominate them. Democrats should be wanting not to get along with Republicans, but to dominate them. Dominating isn't nice, but it's necessary if you want power. In order to dominate, you must attack. And attacking isn't nice. Fuck nice. Nice gets us nowhere. Republican wails and screams about the latest black eye we've given them are music to my ears. I don't want to sit down and make nice with them, I want us to put our boots on their necks.
We live in the era of Fuck You Politics. I suggest you tone up your middle fingers. You're going to need them.
6. Fight for your core values. NEVER compromise them, and never apologize for holding them or fighting for them.
Elizabeth Warren gets this. That's why she's more well loved than Terry McAuliffe. While McAuliffe is yet another self-serving politician, who will pretend to be the people's champion long enough to get through the photo-op, most of us see through the bullshit. The only reason why he's governor is because he stumbled into one of the few races he could win: against an opponent that's nuttier than squirrel droppings and manages the astounding feat of being even more unlikeable than McAuliffe.
Elizabeth Warren barely has to campaign at all to retain her seat. The people know she's out there kicking ass. The right wing is scared shitless of her. Why? Because she's taking a firm stand for what's right. She's standing for bringing Wall Street back under proper regulation, and for righting the economy. She stands for protecting regular Americans from the predatory scams foisted upon them by the banksters. She speaks up regularly about their abuses, and what's needed to put a stop to them.
Do you hear her making excuses? No. Do you see her needing to work very hard to energize her base? No. Because the voters know a fighter when they see one, and they're damned well going to stand behind those that fight for them.
Because they fight for our core values, Elizabeth Warren and Alan Grayson will never lack for people who will stand and fight for them without hesitation. They are the templates everyone in the Democratic Party should be following, and as long as our leaders, like Harry Reid and President Obama follow their lead, start fighting for core Democratic values, and stop playing nice with the enemies of the American people, we'll continue to see victory.