Byron Dorgan, Democrat Senator from North Dakota, decided it was better to retire rather than to be tossed out in November. His retirement is an indication of just how grim the political environment is becoming for Democrats, especially in red states. The news of Dorgan’s exit is sending out shock waves on Capitol Hill among Democrats. Which Democrat Senator will decide next that “retirement” sounds better than “defeated”?
Update I: Politico takes a look here at the sudden wave of Democrats retiring.
It appears that Democratic leadership is going to forgo the customary conference process to reconcile the House and Senate health care reform bills. Instead it will be negotiated between Democratic leaders from both chambers and the Obama administration, to the exclusion of Republican lawmakers.
See the following headlines:
(Biretta Tip: Lucianne)
As an Illinois Republican I have little love for the Daley clan of Chicago. However, I have always respected their political acumen. William Daley, Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s campaign chairman in 2000, where he was much too effective for my comfort in what should have been a big Republican year, and brother of Richie the Lesser, current Mayor for Life of the Windy City, has an interesting column today in the Washington Post:
But now they face a grim political fate. On the one hand, centrist Democrats are being vilified by left-wing bloggers, pundits and partisan news outlets for not being sufficiently liberal, “true” Democrats. On the other, Republicans are pounding them for their association with a party that seems to be advancing an agenda far to the left of most voters.
The political dangers of this situation could not be clearer.
Witness the losses in New Jersey and Virginia in this year’s off-year elections. In those gubernatorial contests, the margin of victory was provided to Republicans by independents — many of whom had voted for Obama. Just one year later, they had crossed back to the Republicans by 2-to-1 margins.
Witness the drumbeat of ominous poll results. Obama’s approval rating has fallen below 49 percent overall and is even lower — 41 percent — among independents. On the question of which party is best suited to manage the economy, there has been a 30-point swing toward Republicans since November 2008, according to Ipsos. Gallup’s generic congressional ballot shows Republicans leading Democrats. There is not a hint of silver lining in these numbers. They are the quantitative expression of the swing bloc of American politics slipping away.
And, of course, witness the loss of Rep. Griffith and his fellow moderate Democrats who will retire. They are perhaps the truest canaries in the coal mine.
Despite this raft of bad news, Democrats are not doomed to return to the wilderness. The question is whether the party is prepared to listen carefully to what the American public is saying. Voters are not re-embracing conservative ideology, nor are they falling back in love with the Republican brand. If anything, the Democrats’ salvation may lie in the fact that Republicans seem even more hell-bent on allowing their radical wing to drag the party away from the center.
All that is required for the Democratic Party to recover its political footing is to acknowledge that the agenda of the party’s most liberal supporters has not won the support of a majority of Americans — and, based on that recognition, to steer a more moderate course on the key issues of the day, from health care to the economy to the environment to Afghanistan. (end of column)
Trading Women’s Rights for Political Power
By KATE MICHELMAN and FRANCES KISSLING
A grim reality sits behind the joyful press statements from Washington Democrats. [The health care bill passed. What is so grim?] To secure passage of health care legislation in the House, the party chose a course that risks the well-being of millions of women for generations to come. [Are women not being allowed to have health care coverage or something?]
This past week, I began reading the novel 1984. For those who have not read it, it is a futuristic novel describing a society that lives under the rule of a totalitarian government described as “the Party.” The government controls and monitors every aspect of human life and even practices historical revisionism quite literally—burning books and re-writing history—to have everything reflect whatever it (the government) happens to be saying. The agencies within the government are all a blatant contradiction. The Ministers of Truth re-write history and instigate direct government propaganda through always-on “telescreens” found literally everywhere in society that don’t turn off; the Ministers of Peace advocate war; the Ministers of Plenty plan economic shortages, and the Ministers of Love carries out the government’s “corrective” punishment and torture of its rebellious citizens.
In one scene, there is a Hate rally (which occurs regularly to inspire hatred within the people for the enemies of the Party) and at the rally the Party shifts its diplomatic allegiance, so the nation it has been warring with is suddenly its ally, and the former ally is now the enemy. Despite the obvious contradiction when the speaker changes the nation he refers to as the enemy during his speech, the crowd simply accepts the change without question and even is embarrassed that they brought wrong signs to the event. Just in the same way people accept the ministries conducted by the Party aforementioned even though they blatantly contradict their titles in their action. What is with the collective intellectual schizophrenia? How can people look right passed the most obvious facts? This theme that runs throughout 1984 is about a troublesome little tendency to believe or argue for some truth that obviously and patently contradicts other truths.
In the ongoing health care debate, this same sort of schizophrenia has come about. I almost shouted “yes!” in a public library when finally I saw the political contradiction pointed out in the Washington Post:
After years of trying to cut Medicare spending, Republican lawmakers have emerged as champions of the program, accusing Democrats of trying to steal from the elderly to cover the cost of health reform. Continue reading
Archbishop Raymond Burke has long been held with disdain (or outright revulsion) by liberal Catholics for his penchant to speak bluntly on various issues — from his cautioning the Democrats that they risk becoming “the party of Death” for their grievous stance on bioethical issues), to his disapproval of Obama’s appointment of Kathleen Sebelius to Secretary of Health and Human Services to his weighing in on the matter of reception of communion by publicly disobedient Catholics (see The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin Periodica de Re Canonica vol. 96 (2007)). His appointment by Pope Benedict XVI to the office of Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura was interpreted both as sign of the Pope’s favor (by conservatives) as well as perhaps a “punishment of sorts” by liberals, who hoped that his outspokenness on American political affairs would be muted by geographical distance.
Guess again. From National Catholic Reporter‘s “man in Rome” John Allen Jr. comes the news that, with his Oct. 17 appointment to the powerful Congregation for Bishops, Burke’s influence is set to grow:
When a diocese becomes vacant, it’s the job of the papal nuncio, or ambassador, in that country to solicit input on the needs of that diocese and to work with the local bishops and bishops’ conference to identify potential nominees. The nuncio prepares a terna, or list of three names, which is submitted to the Congregation for Bishops, along with extensive documentation on the candidates.
Members of the congregation are expected to carefully review all the documentation before meetings, and each is expected to offer an opinion about the candidates and the order in which they should be presented to the pope. Ultimately, it’s up to the pope to decide who’s named to any given diocese, but in most cases popes simply sign off on the recommendations made by the congregation.
To be sure, Burke’s nomination doesn’t mean he can single-handedly control who becomes a bishop, whether in the United States or anywhere else. … on the other hand, Burke’s influence may grow with time.
He’s by far the youngest of the current crop of Americans on the congregation (the next youngest, Levada, is 73, and Rigali is 74). Since appointments are for five-year terms and may be renewed until a prelate reaches the age of 80, Burke could be involved in bishops’ appointments for the next two decades. At some point he may well become the senior American in the process, with a correspondingly greater impact.
As Allen concludes: ” If anyone suspected that the decision to bring Burke to Rome last year was a way of muzzling him, or limiting his influence in the United States, it certainly doesn’t seem to be playing out that way.”
For political junkies like me, tomorrow begins the political season for 2010 with gubernatorial elections in Virginia, New Jersey and the special congressional election in New York 23. There is also a special congressional election in California 10, but that is in the San Francisco metro area and everyone, except for the Republican running, David Harmer, believes that is going to be won by the Democrat, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, and I join in that consensus, although I suspect it might be surprisingly close.
In regard to the three competitive races, here are my predictions:
Yesterday The Nation‘s John Nichols wrote a rather scathing piece about President Obama: the piece is entitled “Whiner-in-Chief” and the first line reads, “The Obama administration really needs to get over itself.”
Of course, I tend to agree with perspectives like that. But near the end of the piece Nichols tries to argue that the country isn’t as divided as the White House thinks, and along the way, he makes a heckuva non sequitur:
[Updates at the bottom of this posting as of 3:03am CDT on AD 9-10-2009]
President Obama’s speech covered many topics, lets first layout our President’s plan:
I. Keep the health insurance you have now.
1. Pre-existing symptoms or disabilities no longer will disqualify anyone from coverage.
2. No spending caps set by insurance companies.
3. No drop in coverage in the middle of an illness.
4. Limit on out of pocket expense.
5. Minimal requirements of coverage.
II. Public Option & Exchange
1. When losing your job you have the Public Option if you can’t afford insurance.
2. Insurance exchange markets will be required for insurance companies to participate in.
3. Tax credits for small businesses.
4. In theory this will not lead to a government take over.
Blackadder has had a couple very interesting posts lately arguing that a public health insurance program wouldn’t sound the death-knell to private insurance companies (and hence competition for the consumer) which many have been arguing it would.
I am not interested in having future fruitless arguments over whether or not the Republican or Democratic Party is pure evil or not. It is like the old canard comparing some contemporary American politician to Adolf Hitler- it is a deal-breaker. I am one who believes that truth in politics is pretty spread out among the various major and minor political parties- there are some huge moral gaps in all, so the choice of party for me is not based on trying to find the perfect Party of God here in America.