The magazine I usually refer to as The New Republican has for years been the supporter of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Finally they have started to see the light. Last Thursday Glenn Greenwald showed the beginning of the New Republic's rehabilitation from a corporate flack to what it historically was - the spokesmag of the Left. However there is much work yet to be done. I leave it to Greenwald to explain where the New Republic's thinking still stinks:
While it's lovely that The New Republic has now joined that movement and decided that corporate-owned "centrists" need to be purged from the Party, Chait is laboring under complete blindness about the reasons these problems have arisen. Chait accuses me, Dan Froomkin and "liberals" generally of "confusion" because we believe that the Obama White House bears some of the blame in the dominance of corporate interests generally and in the health care battle specifically. Chait echoes the facially absurd excuse of the most hardened Obama loyalists everywhere: namely, that Obama, Rahm Emanuel and friends are just helpless, impotent observers who wield no influence over the health care debate and can do nothing but sit back and hope and pray that the Senate will pass a good, progressive health care reform bill free of excessive servitude to the health care and drug industries. If the Congress refuses to, well that's obviously not Obama's fault -- a President isn't in the Congress and can't really influence what it does, so this excuse-making goes.
For the moment, leave aside all the evidence to the contrary: that, as Chait's colleague Jonathan Cohn detailed, the Obama White House secretly entered into a deal with the drug industry not to negotiate for lower prices; that Obama has repeatedly sought to empower the Baucus-dominated Senate Finance Committee at the expense of more progressive committees; that the White House aggressively threatens, berates, and cajoles House progressives who impede the President's agenda but hasn't done anything against Blue Dogs; that the strategy of the White House from the start has been to ensure that the health care and drug industries are pleased so that they continue to use their ample largesse to fund the Democrats rather than get behind a GOP takeover in 2010; and that Emanuel built his career and power base by controlling the Congress through the expansion of the Blue Dogs and other "centrist" and "conservative" members and by pleasing corporate donors, thus rendering the image of him as a helpless, passive bystander in the health care debate transparent fiction. Even Dick Durbin -- the Senate's number two Democrat -- acknowledges that, even with a huge Democratic majority, the banking industry "frankly owns" the Congress.
More important than all of that is the fact that there is one principal reason that Blue Dogs and "centrists" exert such dominance within the Party: because the Party leadership, led by the Obama White House, wants it that way and works hard to ensure it continues. While Chait seems to envision himself as the pioneering inventor of the primary challenge strategy (something he first articulated six weeks ago), Accountability Now has actually been working continuously for the last year on recruiting credible primary challengers and building an infrastructure to support those challenges -- all in order to unseat the unresponsive, corrupt and corporate-owned incumbents who ensure that the same factions control government no matter which party is in control. But the principal barrier to those efforts has been the accurate perception that the White House and President -- along with key party institutions such as the DCCC -- will use their vast resources to keep Blue Dogs and "centrists" in office and crush any efforts from within the party to unseat them.
It's hard to overstate how many promising potential primary challengers with whom we've spoken -- highly energized and impressive members of City Councils or County Commissions or state legislatures or just private citizens -- who are eager to run against their corporate-owned Democratic Congressional incumbent but are deterred by one primary fear: that Obama and the Party infrastructure will undercut their efforts by actively supporting the Blue Dog incumbent. That fear is particularly pronounced for potential African-American challengers in districts where the corporate-serving "centrist" incumbent is wildly out of step with the interests and views of the typical (and sometimes overwhelmingly African-American) Democratic voter. Such potential challengers anticipate that Obama will intervene on behalf of the Blue Dog against the progressive challenger -- as he's done before -- and sabotage not only their primary challenge but perhaps their future viability as a candidate in their community and district.
That's what makes Chait's insistence that the Obama White House is just an innocent, impotent bystander in all of this so painfully naive and wrong (Obama says he wants a public option, so doesn't that settle it?, asks Chait, vacantly batting his eyes with child-like trust and innocence). When the White House genuinely wants a bill to pass -- rather than paying irrelevant lip service to it -- they know how to apply pressure on the defiant members of CongressThe White House is playing hardball with Democrats who intend to vote against the supplemental war spending bill, threatening freshmen who oppose it that they won't get help with reelection and will be cut off from the White House, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said Friday.Rahm Emanuel, Tom Delay, and the Bush/Cheney White House have left no doubt that where there's a will to influence the actions of Senators and House members in one's own party, there's a way. But the Obama White House has done nothing in the way of attempting to change the behavior of the supposedly obstructionist Blue Dogs and centrists whom Obama-defenders are eager to blame for the health care standstill. In fact, they've done the opposite: Emanuel has repeatedly leapt to their defense and attacked progressives who sought to influence or otherwise put pressure on them to change behavior. White House threats that "you'll never hear from us again" are issued to defiant progressives only. Not only are such threats never issued to "centrists" and Blue Dogs who are supposedly impeding the President's health care agenda, but the White House does everything it can to protect those ostensible obstructionists and further entrench them in power. Isn't all of this fairly strong evidence that the White House knew, accepted and likely even desired from the start that -- despite the President's public assurances to progressives -- the "public option," understandably despised by the insurance industry, would be dropped from bill?
"We're not going to help you. You'll never hear from us again," Woolsey said the White House is telling freshmen.
Nobody suggests that the President could easily or single-handedly change the behavior of Kent Conrad or Mike Ross. But there are certainly things -- effective things -- he could do to try, including making it more difficult for those politicians to stay in office, exactly as they threaten to do with defiant progressives. But they don't do that. They do the opposite. The reason that Blue Dogs and "centrists" exert such control in the Democratic Party and are able to ensure the Party remains beholden to corporate interests is because that's how Party leaders want it. That's how the Democratic Party has been built and it's how they continue to maintain their power.