Last week we saw the apotheosis of everything that is wrong with the approach of the current incarnation of the Democratic Party. Greisa Martinez Rosas sums it up on CNN:

Nancy Pelosi spoke in Congress for eight hours straight about immigrant youth. She shared our stories and called for passage of the Dream Act.

Yet, while she was speaking, Democratic and Republican party leaders were writing a budget deal that would leave protections for immigrant youth out in exchange for dollars on other projects. Our lives — and the moral compass of this country — are in real danger and yet Congress is playing games with both. Speeches, empty promises and crocodile tears will not protect me or my sisters from deportation agents.

I recall in the middle of that spectacle – perhaps four hours into her speech – seeing all of the reliable outlets of the Democratic status quo at maximum fawn. What a powerful speech! And I thought, you know, this is gonna end up looking mighty silly unless it is the prelude to announcing a deal. Then the overwhelmingly cynical part of me that remembers everything Democratic leadership in Congress has done since 2000 crushed me like a piano falling on Wil E. Coyote: this speech is what we're getting instead of a deal.

It isn't a negotiating tool or a way to bring attention to an accomplishment that is about to become official. This is it. The gesture is the substance.

This is politics as an Aaron Sorkin fever dream, the misguided belief that if you give a pretty enough speech and if the Hashtag Resistance of older, better off, centrist Democrats gushes over it enough then maybe Hispanics won't realize that an issue that is very, very, very important to them was once again used as a bargaining chip by the Democratic leadership.

Admittedly, of course, the Democrats are not negotiating from a position of great strength here. But neither are they powerless. In an election year, the GOP has a very small majority in the Senate and is facing pressure on an anti-immigrant stance that is resoundingly unpopular outside of the rabid Trump base. The leadership has, for the past two decades, looks congenitally programmed to throw concessions at the GOP at a moment's notice.

As Will Stancil notes ("Democrats' 'Resistance' to Trump Is Eroding, and So Are Their Poll Numbers") the Democrats can point to some short-term, low visibility 'wins' like getting CHIP funded and avoiding a government shutdown. But in doing so they are bringing back to the surface their fundamental shortcoming: they are so obsessed with showing everyone how Reasonable they can be that they are now normalizing the most abnormal, divisive, and unpopular president in modern times. Rather than digging in their heels for once and saying, "No, fuck this fascist" they held out for maybe 9 months and now are right back to "Let's cut the best deal we can" mode.

It's the Vichy France mentality. There is no point at which they consider the long-term consequences or have a mentality that some things are simply too vile and corrosive to sit down and bargain with. Everything, under the congressional Democrats ancient, white leadership, becomes a matter of deciding that there's no way you can really win so why not just cut the best deal possible and declare anything short of the worst outcome a win.

Lately I've been seeing more clearly one of the underlying problems with the Left, Liberals, Progressives, Democrats, or whatever blanket term you prefer for people who are not conservatives: they are, to varying degrees, unbelievable quick to explain to you why something will not work. People who argue that this strategy of accommodation and deal-cutting is the best one are among the most likely to explain to people farther to the left why taking a firm, no-compromise stand on an ideologically left point is not going to work (Conversely, the farther left are just as quick to lecture the centrists on why deal-cutting is defeat in disguise).

And my question increasingly is, when was the last time anyone tried? How do you know it won't work? Maybe give it a try once and see what happens? I bet your precious poll numbers will benefit, if not your campaign donations. I can't think of the last time the Democrats really took one of the no-compromises, Fuck You stands that the contemporary GOP takes all the time to keep its base white-hot and ready to turn out in droves.

Why not try saying "Fuck the budget deal, if you're not ready to keep these immigrants in the U.S. there's nothing to discuss"? Instead, time and again, they throw the interests of some part of their base (usually people of color, shockingly) onto the table as a bargaining chip and then wonder why those same people are so unenthusiastic about showing up to vote when November rolls around. I'd argue that "Some things are too important to compromise, and the Dream Act is one of them" is a superior, or at least equally good, piece of campaign rhetoric to "We punted on the Dream Act but we got a budget deal, avoiding a government shutdown – AND Nancy Pelosi gave one hell of a speech for ya!"

Stop reverting immediately to "It won't work" and devote more time to asking yourself when was the last time anyone tried it. The beaten, defeatist mentality – the kind that has terrified the Democrats into submission, especially on taxes – always seeks to cut a deal rather than fight. Because fighting won't work, because The Opponent is too powerful, too scary, too obviously bound to win. Folding with concessions is so central to the way the Democrats operate in Congress now that the GOP takes things off the table that are not even relevant to the current debate just to watch them "negotiate" to get it back.

I'm tired of hearing that something that hasn't been tried for decades won't work. Especially given how poorly the alternative strategy employed time and time again – being the kind of Serious Reasonable People that win applause on Sunday TV shows and literally nowhere else – has proven so unsuccessful. It's not like the Party is on some hot streak that one should hesitate to interrupt. Just for shits and giggles, maybe try the thing you forever insist will not work, just once.


  • "…they are, to varying degrees, unbelievable quick to explain to you why something will not work."

    Thus this famous quote from one Steve Jobs:

    "The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can't get done. It infuriates me."

  • You've probably heard the adage that if you're not the customer, you're the product. For any ad-supported product, you're not paying, the advertiser is. So the goal of the product is to sell your eyeballs (the product) to the customer (the advertiser).

    This also works with politics. You, Democratic voter, are not the customer. You're the product. The goal of elected Democrats is to make sure they get in their 4-6 hours per day of fundraising call time. Nancy Pelosi sits with a phone and calls rich people every day for 4-6 hours, begging for money. Those are the customers. She's not begging you for money. You're the product.

    So the outcome here has already been sold to the customers. The customers presumably are happy with deportations. The outcome has been purchased, and now Pelosi just has to perform a little dance for the rubes, I mean eyeballs, I mean voters.

    The distinction to remember is that Pelosi's status doesn't depend on her party winning national contests against the Republicans. It depends on her winning within her party. As long as she raises money and keeps beating down intraparty challenges (like Bernie supporters), she stays powerful. She has absolutely no need or desire to win against Republicans – it doesn't make any difference to her power or her career.

    Every member of the Clinton/New Democrat wing of the party needs to be primaried out.

  • I agree with MS. Vote them out, primary if possible, but send the message. Time to flush my generation, once and for all.

  • The people who support and control the republican party literally believe that they would be better off if the federal government did not exist. How else can you deal with such nihilists but to give them as much as you have to to keep them from "drowning it in the bathtub"?

  • The Republicans are running the table of their agenda. It won't be long until the 8 ball of Medicare and SS is smacked into the corner pocket.

  • This attitude was on full display during the primaries, when all of Bernie Sander's proposals were immediately and contemptuously dismissed as unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, unicorn and fairy dust by the Democratic establishment – you know, those realistic pragmatists who've lost one election after another since 2010 and have now brought the party to the verge of extinction.

    I don't think they're worried that different strategies and policies won't work. I think they're worried that they WILL. I think the Pelosis and the Schumers are perfectly happy to lose to Republicans, even a Trump, provided they can maintain their leadership positions in the party and keep the campaign donations flowing. They fundamentally agree with Republicans on foreign policy, trade, and even taxes and social spending (more of less, Grand Bargain, anyone?). Nancy Pelosi's son hangs out with Jared and Ivank at the same parties in the Hamptons, as does Chuck Schumer. They have zero interest – zero – in fundamentally opposing the Republicans and changing the status quo.

  • Better yet, taking a stand would give the Democrats an identity not crafted by Republicans, outside of the shadow of zombie GOP.

  • Not to be the party pooper here, but Democrats are a poker player who can't even draw to an ace-high hand. Shut down the government for a principle, and you screw the people depending on the government and those people don't think, "Wow, I'm glad my party is standing up for something." They think, "Damn Democrats are keeping me from (government service, check, etc.)."

    Everybody knows this and that's why you can't do shit when the other party has both houses and the presidency. So sure, go ahead and primary experienced, well-known Democratic legislators. Just don't expect voters to rush to the polls to support you. I say this and I'm as socialist as anybody out ther. We're beaten. Go back to the playbook, do the best you can with your ground game, try to get some candidates with enough charisma to get some attention and keep slogging away every day. But those who see no choice but to compromise for survival are not your enemies.

  • Except, Beejeez, When the Democrats owned the presidency, the House and the Senate (60 seats!) in 2009-2010, they spent their entire time reaching out to the Republicans and throwing their base under the bus. The Republicans could never have pulled off their obstruction without the full cooperation of President Obama and Majority Leader Reid.

  • Further, The Pelosi House passed dozens of bills. Obama and Reid cooperated with the Senate Republicans – who were so, so sad that the Democrats were "spiking the football" by passing bills – so that NONE of them made it to a vote in the Senate.

  • There's not much there, BeeJee, that I would argue except you can't compromise with those who will not compromise, only surrender. I have been calling for … I commented the other day 'the enemy of my enemy is not my friend, just someone I can work with' … I have called for common ground, only to be answered with the same Republican-Lite belittling, condenscending denigrating

  • Terrific, if typically wrist-cutting, analysis, Ed. Somehow the Democrats can't make use of the fact that even the most conservative poll (CBS) has public support for DACA at 70%. Shouldn't they be hitting the Republicans over the head with this? I've seen polls with support in the 80% range.

  • It has support in the 70 to 80% range in a vacuum. Do you really think that level of support is there for “Pass DACA, even if it means shutting down the government to do so”?

  • DACA is a big issue for a very small number of people. The problem is the Dems have no program to compete with the skreee skreee skreee of the Right Wing that can appeal to the apparently few working class whites not lost to racism. Why did Pelosi not do an eight hour speech on the tax plan that will hurt the economy and the average voter, over the long term? It seems to be group identity politics, which can be deadly when the rest of your platform is basically "Cater to the Oligarchs," just not as cravenly.

  • Remember when we thought Trump's ascendance was going to be the end of the Republican Party? Turns out, it's going to be the end of the Democratic Party as they fiddle while Rome burns.

  • The Republican party of "government can't solve the problem, government IS the problem" is out to prove that to you.

    The Democrats are the party that believes that a government working poorly is better than one that doesn't work at all.

    From the broader messaging perspective: a shutdown is always a win for the Republicans.

  • xulon chooses to ignore that in that 60 were Joe Fucking Lieberman, Max Baucus. Ted Kennedy's last vote was March 26, 2009. That is like 67 days after Obama was inaugurated.

  • Fasteddie, who did Obama campaign for in the race that elected Joe Lieberman? Was it the Democratic candidate? Or Joe Lieberman? That kinda helps make xulon's point.

  • Exactly right to point that establishment Dems called every one of Bernie's proposals unrealistic fairy unicorn dust.

    They care about their own power and the status quo more than they care about democratic principles. We need to primary Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer, and especially my own Senator Ben Cardin, whose picture can be found in the dictionary for the "Aging White Establishment Fuddy-Duddy" entry.

  • I guess I'm confused.

    We're angry at the national Dems because when they lack the actual votes to pass anything, they are reduced to symbolic gestures.

    And the solution to this is for them to make explicit promises that they lack the votes to pass; we're angry because they didn't adopt policies that they would have been only able to support with symbolic gestures ?

  • we're angry because the Democratic Party is nothing really but "GOP-Lite" when it comes to real economic and policy issues.

  • How do I know that smashing my balls with a hammer won't cure my flu? When was the last time someone tried it?

  • Alright, enough.

    When we have Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick saying things like, “We need to focus less on what’s wrong with Trump and the Republicans and more on what’s right with us," it's because of the incessant complaining by reluctant HRC voters, "protest voters", and those too lazy to get off their asses and do their civic duty because they "didn't like either candidate enough". You heard it, maybe even bought it yourself: that "Democrats didn't give us anything to vote FOR, only what to vote AGAINST."

    You can't continue blaming this on the Dems, doing nothing. They're responding to their constituents' own defeatist whinging. It's thinly disguised, lazy Both Siderism, and I'll even hazard a guess that it was invented by Republican strategists and/or a complicit media to manipulate the public, because they're really good at that shit.

    Is the Democratic leadership quick to explain why something won't work because they believe there's some Magical Creamy Center to whom they have to appeal, or are the leaders accurately representing the bulk of their self-deprecating constituency? Or is it just a huge fucking circle jerk amongst the Party AND the constituents, where everyone bitches and complains but nobody, NOBODY, does a goddamn thing? OH OH OH poll numbers are going down, you say? So voters aren't "inspired" enough and it's all the Dems' fault? Get over yourselves. RESIST your own damn selves, and quit waiting for the Party to do it for you. This is supposed to be a representative government, remember? So YOU inspire THEM…get it??

  • the Democratic Party is nothing really but "GOP-Lite" when it comes to real economic and policy issues.

    This is the lesson you took away from watching the first black US President wrestle with a completely intransigent Republican caucus plus that fucking drama queen Lieberman, and nevertheless gpy government-paid health care for 22 million people and dof DACA by executive order and gpy us out of Iraq and dof everything within his power to close Gitmo and avoid going to war with Iran? Settled most of the outstanding legal claims of the First Nations on historically-generous terms, acknowledging the injustices done to them? Perhaps the most upstanding man to every hold the office.

    When you have Trump as the current incarnation of the Republican id?
    Preceded by Cheney/W ?
    Really? Republican-lite?

    Now you could say that about Bill Clinton with respect to George HW Bush and I would still have some quibbles, but I'd understand where you were coming from. But the "Republican" part of Republican-lite has gone waaaaay off the map

  • Interesting how George Wallace's 1968 – that's right, kids, 50-fucking years ago – campaign slogan still resonates in the conventional wisdom.


  • What are the democrats supposed to do here? The republicans are using several different issues as hostages…the dreamers, kids who don't have health insurance, community health centers…the list goes on. The republicans say they are for all these things but actually don't care about any of them and are willing to shoot their hostages. The American people don't want to see those hostages shot. Somehow, the democrats, with a smattering of power, got every hostage save one (DACA) freed, and the fact that this one last hostage might be shot is somehow the democrats' fault and a sign that they don't know what they're doing or aren't willing to fight for their priorities? Like, why is there no blame for republicans? It seems like you're falling into the same trap of blaming democrats for not being able to find a way to fully stop the crazy. It seems like the democrats did what they could to me given the circs.

  • I notice a number of commenters who I'm not familiar with on this thread. Absent a way to track them I have no idea if they're actual human commenters, sock puppets or MarySues or even bots.

    I also see that the usual BernJillGarbroz are here and they're still RILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLY ANGRY about not being given the DNC's war chest and mailing lists and getting to drive the party that they don't support.

    I don't see ANY concrete proposals for beating RefucKKKliKKKlansmen after routing incumbent dems in primries. NOT ONE idea that is anything other than, "FUCK Hillary and everyone who voted for her.".

    The Oprah thing? I have no idea what sort of job she might do but I'm not anxious to elect anyone based on how well they do their job on tv.

    Aung San Suu Kyi won a Nobel Peace Prize.

  • Nice explanation, fast eddie, now explain how it worked that Bush had 53 Senators and Trump 52 and Bush* got everything he wanted and Trump is about to. And why can't the Democrats get shit with 58 Senators and two blue dogs?

    *Okay. Bush said his main regret was that he was unable to use his political capital to destroy Social Security. Obama openly and repeatedly offered to help the Republicans destroy Social Security, but he's Black.

  • @ronzie

    I think a bill that restricts tax revenue from blue states going to states that say, restrict abortion or gerrymander districts would go a long way toward fixing the problem. Federal funding is already restricted to a planned parenthood in a similar manner, might as well fight fire with fire.

  • Uh, as y'all know I tend to fall on the "OMG DEMS SUCK" side of the fence, but will in this case remind everybody that Ms. Pelosi may be the House Minority Leader, but she is ALSO the leader of the CA Dem caucus. And while DACA may seem like "identity politics" to somebody in, I dunno, Minnesota, it's deadly serious for a LOT of people, many of whom live in… California. So I'm gonna give her a break this once ; )

  • "Interesting how George Wallace's 1968 – that's right, kids, 50-fucking years ago – campaign slogan still resonates in the conventional wisdom.


    Thereby proving that conventional "wisdom" is batshit insane, and spouted by a bunch of morons.

    One party wants to absolutely destroy any social safety nets that exist. Not minimize, DESTROY.

    The other party would, at a minimum, prefer that they stick around.

    That's only one difference, but it is a MASSIVE difference, not "a dime's worth".

    Anyone that posts there is no difference between the two parties instantly outs themselves as a complete moron in my book. And there have been a LOT of people outing themselves in the last decade (or more).

    (NPA voter)

  • geoff – no. Just NO. Enough of "giving a break" to people that only talk, never DO. A flowery speech doesn't mean shit if the end result it going against everything in that speech.

  • explain how it worked that Bush had 53 Senators and Trump 52 and Bush* got everything he wanted and Trump is about to

    Republicans have Fox and Sinclair and Rush to spread their propaganda, and they're willing to say absolutely anything,
    including bald-faced lying, if it makes Dems look bad or Republicans look good.
    Republicans are willing to pander to the racism and misogyny and baseless resentments of the worst of the American electorate in order to get votes.
    Republicans have the backing of most of America's wealthiest families, including many billioinaires.
    Republicans are willing to break laws and rules and norms in pursuit of power. "Good government" precepts restrain them not at all.
    Republicans stick together.
    Republicans don't criticize other Republicans; there is no Republican equivalent of the disgruntled Sanders/Stein voters.
    Senate Republicans vote as a bloc.
    Republican voters will forgive and forget ANYTHING that a Republican officeholder does, except co-operation with Democrats.
    Republican voters are willing to burn the world to the ground rather than compromise.

    That's how they exercise power, even when their majorities are slim.
    I don't think I want to work for or support a party that adopts those tactics.

  • The “not a dime’s worth of difference” nonsense is and always has been an excuse to sit on your hands. It’s especially convenient for white guys who benefit from (or at least aren’t harmed by) the status quo. You would NEVER hear something like that come out of a Republican’s mouth.

    There’s plenty of difference between the two, particularly on social and civil rights issues—why the fuck would Republicans for a second dismiss the fact that their Republican candidate was a child molester and vote for him anyway if there were no difference between the two? They literally said that they would rather have a criminal than a Democrat. Y’all Qaida doesn’t give a rat’s ass that Trump embodies everything they preach against, because there’s such a difference between Republicans and Democrats that they’ll toss all their so-called “deeply held beliefs” out the window to make sure the Republican candidate wins. Because there’s that much of a difference between the two.

    Not a dime’s worth of difference…that’s the sort of shit people say when the neighbor’s house is burning to the ground and they just sit there and stare, like, “Fuck the neighbors, it’s not my house.”

  • Aurora nice rant. One thing about “Fuck the neighbors, it’s not my house.”, those folks should keep an eye on which way the wind blows. No telling when they will become collateral damage.

  • Fair enough, Joel Hanes, But also don't forget: There's a reason Democrats do not fight – and you can fight ethically, not just the slimeball tactics – Democrats hate Liberals as much as Republicans and they have the same list of donors. Look at the things they caved on. Aren't we content that they promise they'll bring them up at some unspecified later date?

  • The complaint is that Dems are flabby. It's true. But the Repubs have become a metastasizing cancer.

    At this point it doesn't matter how flabby the Dems are or how fairy-dust-unrealistic Sanders is, or even how deeply bizarre Stein is.

    At this point it IS enough to be anticancer. Once we have a functioning immune system again, then it'll be important to lose the flab and hallucinations.

    And that's not hopeless. Remember that even with vote suppression, gerrymandering, Russian and FBI interference, Clinton won by near-3 million votes.

    Job One in November is turnout. Then deal with gerrymandering. Also get make the National Popular Vote a reality. Then make social media play by the same political messaging rules as old media.

    None of it is impossible. Just boring.

  • I agree with Katydid—in that Joel Hanes and Aurora S do a nice job on this thread.

    Frustration with Obama's caution—especially when contrasted with Trump's utter recklessness—clearly (in my mind) had a lot to do with the rise of the anti-DNC and anti-Hillary sentiments both during and (especially) after the 2016 election.

    Obama, I am convinced, was historically self-conscious in ways that we may never see again. He did not want to be painted as a cultural stereotype. Of, course, there was no way he could avoid that, but nevertheless he became obsessive about the institutions of government. It led to one of the most scandal-free and error-free governments that we've ever seen, but it also resulted in a squandering of the congressional majorities with which he was elected.

    He thought the means by which he would pass the ACA would make it historically bulletproof. This, of course, was naive. (Saul Alinsky famously argued that only foolish leaders believe that that the media will help them argue their case.) Crazy shit filled the airwaves about what the ACA was going to do and journalists of all stripes stood on the sidelines and shrugged.

    The Tea Party movement (a wave of voters whose stupidity presaged the possibility of Trump winning) caused him to lose congress and, then, the next 6 years of his presidency got clogged up. Young voters got frustrated and began to dream of another savior.

    Obama, desperate to be seen as patient and rational, gambled on the existence of reasonable Republicans. I doubt any Democratic leader will make this mistake again. Yes, Pelosi's speech was essentially a mere gesture. But without the votes, she has no leverage. Neither does Schumer. The entire Republican Party needs to be defeated and then demoralized. If Democrats can win in 2018, this might begin to happen.

    I have no problems with Pelosi. When she's had the votes, she has not disappointed. She does a good job of holding a disparate coalition together. I think the Senate might be able to find a stronger fighter than Schumer. (For just one example, it would be nice to see him give an important statement without having to read it verbatim in his customary monotone, his half-glasses sitting on the edge of his nose.)

    The Republican Party has organized itself around Trump. But it's not just the idiot base who supports these white nationalist policies on immigration. All the Democrats can do is keep making clear that they are the only party looking out for immigrants of all sorts. It breaks my heart to see what ICE officers are doing to families all across America. But no Republican—none—has spoken out against these gestapo tactics.

    Similarly, NO Republican is willing to risk getting primaried to do the right thing for DACA recipients. I think it's entirely likely that McConnell, Ryan, and Trump will fuck these kids over just for spite. If the Democrats were to, say, shut the government down over DACA, they would be playing their ONLY trump card. Frankly, it's not a very smart move. Lots of people dependent on government being open will get hurt and Republican leaders will, then, have something potent to run on in November and in 2020.

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