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My brother wrote me this morning with two very important points:

  1.  We need Democratic Votes, not just caucus members
  1.  We need to improve the standing of liberals and their agenda with independents, conservatives and, frankly, liberal voters.

I agree.
I also think he will disagree with my suggestions for how to accomplish those goals.  Nevertheless, here they are.

I have said for some time now that the reason people are unwilling to identify with the term "liberal" has more to do with a lack of leadership than anything else.  I submit that Bush got as many results as he did, even when his approval ratings were quite low, because he took a strong leadership role.  He said, in essence, "this is what I'm going to do, and nothing will dissuade me."  To increase people's willingness to jump aboard the progressive bandwagon, we need leaders who will present their actions as inevitable.  You either join up with the winning side or eat our dust.  Right now the progressives are demotivated because even they cannot count on their representatives to stand firm.  Well, it's not over.  The big prize is not even health care reform.  It's changing the conventional wisdom.

Here are steps that progressives can take, right now:

1.  Harry Reid must shape up or ship out
Health Care Reform is a test of Harry Reid's ability to be the kind of leader I describe above.  He has consistently failed to negotiate from a position of strength.  I now believe that the insertion of the opt-out public option was merely his opening bid for negotiation, believing that removing it would ultimately be the deal-maker with Nelson, Baucus, Landrieu, and Lieberman (possibly even Snowe?).  It was calculated capitulation, and that is exactly the kind of weakness that we need to eliminate.  The refusal to wield reconciliation or threaten Lieberman's post only emboldened his enemies.

How can you help?
 a) Donate to the ad campaign - Reid is up for re-election this year. is raising money very quickly to run ads in Nevada to put pressure on Reid from the left.  They are seeking small donations here:
 b) Should he capitulate and somehow win re-election, then we need a vote on a new Senate Majority Leader.  Write your Senators and encourage them to elect new leadership.
 c) Should he lose re-election (a real possibility accoring to the polls), a new majority leader will need to be chosen anyway.  We need to advocate a far more aggressive liberal to be SML.  Be ready to jump into the fray.

2.  Lieberman must go
Kick him out of the caucus.  Period.  We're done with the senator from Aetna.  Having him in the caucus (and overseeing areas of government he shouldn't be trusted with) is pointless if you can't count on his vote.  Furthermore, he's already started to pick out more parts of the bill he wants removed, saying that the Democrats have still not compromised enough.  I believe the real strategy here is to remove enough cost cutting measures to declare the bill too expensive and kill HCR outright.  I do not see negotiating in good faith.  I see a Republican trojan horse.  Not hard to see, given his behavior during the 2008 campaign.

How can you help?
 a) Write to Senator Reid and tell him you'll be donating to the ads against him and lobbying senators to replace him as majority leader if he doesn't let Lieberman go
 b) Support opposition from the Democratic party in CT come election time.  Get Lieberman out of the Senate for good.

3.  Ben Nelson, Max Baucus, and Mary Landrieu need to be put on notice
Health Care for all Americans has been a bedrock of the Democratic Party's platform for many years.  To sell out this basic principle is to put into question your party affiliation.  

How can you help?
 a) I call on all liberals to work to support primary challengers to these DINOs (Democrats In Name Only).  
 b) Additionally, I call on all liberals to lobby the DSCC to cut off support for their re-election campaigns unless they fall in line.  Losing these seats means little if we don't have their votes anyway.  Having them in the caucus mostly provides a false sense of security.

4.  Rahm Emanuel must go.
Rahm Emanuel is the epitome of the Democratic capitulator.  He is the type who says "we can't do it, so let's not even try".  (More pithy - "No We Can't!")  This was the core of his argument against the 50 state strategy.  He was wrong about that, and he's wrong again on HCR.  So long as there are people like this in the White House publicly undermining the Senate Majority Leader (and then lamely trying to deny they're doing it only to be outed within hours), it will be difficult to address the "liberals have no spine, and can be counted on to cave" meme that undermines the entire progressive effort.  Rahm's gotta go.

How can you help?
 a) Honestly, I don't know.  I suppose you can help by making suggestions.

5.  Kill the bill if it remains as-is or gets even worse.
Okay, this is the bitter pill to swallow.  But it is imperative that we show that liberals need to be taken seriously in negotiations, not taken for granted.  So far we've lost caps on annual out-of-pocket, negotiations with pharmacutical companies, public option, crappy triggers, medicare expansion, the list goes on.  Yet somehow the mandate remains.  What exactly are progressives getting in return for this much capitulation?

Standing against this "Republican lite bill" will do more to improve the standing of progressives in the long term with independents, who are looking for strength, and with liberals, who are looking for some reason to be hopeful.  Yes, it will embarrass Obama.  Good.  He should be embarrassed for having played the politics so poorly, appearing to waver and jerk the American people around.  If he doesn't like being embarrassed, he should stop using liberal capitulation as a mechanism for seeming "reasonable" and getting nothing in return.

How can you help?
 a) Write to Senator Sanders and encourage him to stand firm on a filibuster of a bill that does not contain a public option.  If there are other Senators we should be encouraging to filibuster, let's hear it.
 b) Write to all members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and encourage them to kill the bill in the House.
 c) Write to Speaker Pelosi to kill the bill in the house

Grow a damn spine, liberals.
The Republicans are never going to stop calling you names, no matter how nice you are to them.  Enough already.  Time to stand up for what's right!  I'll be posting more in the future where I go into greater detail on the larger underpinnings of my argument.  For now, we need some action!

Originally posted to FireBreathingLiberal on Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 11:35 AM PST.

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