Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bowers’

This Might Be Why You Say Dumb Things

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

At the risk of delving too far back into the realm of criticizing the netroots, I’ve made the point before that I think a lot of netroot progressives thrive on feeling scorned by the Democratic Party, to the point that they need such a feeling, both professionally and personally. And this little missive from Chris Bowers might illustrate that better than anything I’ve ever seen:

So, here is how I understand things:

  1. We get no new votes on legislation from Specter
  2. Democrats are given no opportunity to challenge Specter in either the primary or general election, thereby locking all of his bad votes into place even though he is in a blue state.

So, we not only get no new votes, but we lose the ability to challenge those votes. Apart from the image of total Republican fail, this isn’t a good thing at all. Not only do we have to deal with Specter’s voting record, which is worse than any other Democrat in the entire Senate, but we are denied the opportunity to even challenge him.

This is so absurd, I almost can’t imagine that even Bowers actually believes it. I realize the netroots isn’t big on Harry Reid, and that Bowers was a frequent critic of Barack Obama’s political strategy, but even granting that, surely Bowers realizes that you don’t get to be the leader of the largest Democratic Senate caucus since the late 1970’s, or elected President of the United States when your middle name is “Hussein,” by being as naive about politics as Bowers seems to think the Democratic leadership must be.

Let’s game this out a little bit. What Bowers is basically saying is that Harry Reid and Barack Obama were looking at a Republican Senator who was in a tough spot in his own party, and was holding a seat that Democrats would likely pick up in 2010 anyway, and decided to offer that Senator a very generous offer to join the Democratic Party in exchange for absolutely nothing. That’s just a cartoonishly caricatured level to take the netroot loathing of Harry Reid, and Bowers’s dislike of Obama too. It’s just unspeakably absurd. Did they”promise” Specter that they would try to dissuade challengers from running against him in the primary? Perhaps, but if that’s the best Specter got, netrooters ought to be thrilled, given that there’s no way for them to actually back that promise up. Ed Rendell can’t, in fact, prevent anyone from running against Specter, even someone of high profile in the state. They can support Specter, obviously, but if the next year sees Specter take positions and cast votes that are unalatable to the median Democratic primary voter, it’s going to be very hard for even Ed Rendell to deliver a primary victory to someone who just joined the party after 40+ years in the GOP.

To be as gentle as I can, Chris Bowers needs to grow up.

Bowers Throws Geoghegan Under the Bus

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

Well this is interesting:

Now, I donated to Geoghegan’s campaign as well, as I always make a point of taking whatever action I ask of the community. Also, while it appears that Geoghegan only received one vote for every $100 he raised, that amount seems pretty similar to everyone else in the campaign. We should have done better, but the lack of endorsements was the main cause for that.

This isn’t the first time we have backed a candidate who lost by double digits, and I doubt it will be the last time, either. I am still happy to have supported such a strong progressive, and I don’t think less of Tom Geoghegan as a person because of this. However, in the future, I promise to do a better job of gathering information on the campaign beforehand, and of monitoring warning signs as I see them appear. There were other, pretty progressive candidates in this campaign, and I had done more due diligence, we might have been able to help one of them.

Pardon my French, but this is fucking ridiculous. I was pulling for Geoghegan as well, but I never thought he was going to win. He was running in a special election with a lot of candidates in a large media market without any real bank account and with no establishment support. Crazier things have happened, but not very often. And with 3 major candidates in the race and a lot of money floating around between them (the SEIU alone spent $250,000 on behalf of State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz) in an abbreviated, low attention, campaign, there was no room for an insurgent candidate of any sorts. The winner, predictably, was the candidate with the most name recognition.

What Bowers is doing is really, really pathetic. He’s basically been slapped in the face with his own irrelevance in the grand scheme of things, and he can’t really take it. $11,500 is not that much money in the grand scheme of things, and while it was certainly nice of those donors to give (and much appreciated I’m sure), there really should be no delusions that it wa enough money to change anything in a large market district. But Bowers just can’t allow that his is a marginal position, so he feels the need to lambast the Geoghegan campaign, who frankly from what I hear did an excellent job when accounting for their lack of resources. This is no different than the wingnuts insisting that they’re the base, damnitt, even though John McCain won the Republican Presidential nomination in a walk. There’s nothing wrong with supporting a marginal candidate if you want to (again, I was pulling for Geoghegan myself), but if you’ve deluded yourself into thinking a marginal candidate is reallya front-runner, or more specifically that you yourself are some super-awesome political force because you raised less than $15,000 for a contest in Chicago, well that’s your own damn fault for being out of touch with reality.

Chris “We Are All Economists Now” Bowers really ought to be ashamed of himself.

Update: Credit where credit is due, David Sirota has it right:

If we had portrayed Geoghegan as the former – a guy who was a frontrunner who needed our help to throw him over the goal line – and not the latter – a movement progressive facing tough odds – then sure, I guess we would owe people an apology for misleading them.* But I don’t think we ever did that – and we didn’t do it primarily because everyone from activists to the Chicago media had little clue what would happen in this race because it was so low turnout and so many candidates were in the race.

Understand your Congress

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Following up on my last post, I think one thing that’s going to be critical to progressive political success is how well progressives understand Congress, and how it works. As I opined there, there’s not really anything that stand outs in the section Bowers finds awkward, if you understand that Senators tend to have gigantic egos and an inflated sense of their own importance. And so the fact that Tom Harkin is really relevant to the debate on tax cuts at this point, meaning there’s no reason for Obama to be listening to him  particularly, gets overlooked by Harkin who undoubtedly thinks there’s reason to listen to him on every issue. And maybe he does have something to add, but the administration can’t possibly listen to every member of Congress on every bill, and so they generally seek out members on the relevant committees for input. There’s nothing really unusual or even necessarily bad about that, but some members are going to chafe when that leaves them outside of the inner circle on a major bill.

Similarly, I think this sentiment is a very bad one to have:

I am so sick of [Allen] Boyd. His name seems to crop up in every list like this, from Social Security, to SChip, to Iraq, to FISA, and more. That is a primary challenge I would support in a heartbeat. As for the freshman, why did we even bother spending money on them, if they can’t even support this? There really needs to be DCCC related penalties for voting behavior like this.[…]

Generally speaking, the reason Democrats and Republicans vote differently is not out of spite or a lack of communication, but because they have different values and beliefs. There is nothing wrong with this, especially since, right now, we don’t need Republican support to pass legislation. So, why not just pass legislation that will make people’s lives better, while Republicans vote against it en masse? The only end result I can see to that course of action will be a generational Democratic majority.

I support the Ledbetter act as much as anyone, and I’m thrilled that it passed. But by the same token, I’m not really sure Bowers has really thought through this idea, and there seems to be a real knee-jerk, emotional response working here. To wit, yes all of those votes are bad votes, and it would be better had they, especially as Democrats, voted for womens’ rights in the workplace, but at the same time it’s worth looking at those districts. They’re all heavily Republican and, like it or not, Democrats are going to have to run conservatives in those districts to win. And then those members are going to turn around and vote like conservatives.

Sounds pointless, right? Well, not so much. Because even if those members are a vote against universal healthcare, cap and trade, abortion rights, or whatever, they’re also a vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, Henry Waxman as Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee, Ed Markey as chair of the energy subcommittee, John Dingell heading up healthcare in the House, and so on. And even more so than that, they’re very important in regards to the makeup of committees. To put it in simplistic terms, the bigger your majority in the chamber the more seats you get on committees, where most of the legislative heavy lifting gets done.

Now obviously there’s a certain tipping point here, you wouldn’t want the number of Democrats voting like wingnuts to cancel out the benefits of the expanded majority, but I see no evidence that you have that in this House, and indeed we’re only talking about 5 of them here. So, as annoying as they can be, the Blue Dogs are a net positive for progressives at this point.

It’s the Congress Stupid

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Continuing on his quest to convince everyone that Barack Obama is a Republican or something, Chris Bowers compares the new administration to Congress:

In the 110th Congress, there were 236 Democrats in the U.S. House, 49 in the Senate, and two “Independents” who caucused with Democrats. Of those 287 congresscritters, 74 were members of the New Democratic Coalition, which is affiliated with the DLC. Overall, 25.8% of the Democratic members of the 110th Congress were openly affiliated with the DLC. An additional 31 members of Congress are affiliated with the Blue Dogs, but not with the New Democratic Coalition. If the Blue Dogs are included, the overall DLC-Blue Dog membership in of Democratic congresscritters increases to 36.6%, and 38.1% in the House.

Now, compare this to Obama’s cabinet selections. Of the eighteen cabinet members (not counting Joe Biden, who I have seen listed as a cabinet member at times), sixteen are Democrats. Of those sixteen, eight are affiliated with the DLC, or 50%. Obama’s Democratic cabinet selections have twice the DLC representation of the Democratic membership of Congress. This list does not include Rahm Emanuel, who will be the first White House Chief of Staff during the Obama administration. Nor does it include national security advisor Jim Jones, who supported McCain during the election.

Naturally Bowers’s takeaway from this is that Obama is an evil Republican lite centrist, but it seems to me that that pretty drastically misses the point. Obama’s administration is largely stacked with mainline Democrats heavily identified with the establishment. That they’re to the right of the Congressional median isn’t nearly as important as the fact that the Congressional median is to the left of them. And this is another example of the politics watchers at Open Left curiously displaying very little understanding of the way politics works. Presidential watching is the easy, simplistic venture of pundits and people who don’t really pay much attention to the nuts and bolts of governing. But while the President has a lot of power and autonomy on matters of foreign policy, they have very little as it relates to domestic policy. Obama can unilaterally decide when to withdraw troops from Iraq, and Congress really can’t do anything about it. Indeed, Republicans could have 300 House seats and 60 Senate seats, and they couldn’t force President Obama to keep troops in Iraq if he chose to remove them.

But similarly, the President really can’t force Congress to do anything they don’t want to do in the realm of domestic policy. This is the mistake governors almost always make when they come to the White House, as their experience with line item vetoes accustoms them to having a large degree of control over their legislators (I mean you wouldn’t want some vital spending for your district getting vetoed, or having your constituents singled out for a year would you?) and by extension largely being able to bend the legislature to their will. But Presidents just don’t have that sort of power, and their domestic policy agenda often gets bogged down early in Congress. That’s certainly the lesson Bill Clinton learned when Republicans and conservative Democrats blocked his healthcare bill. And it’s not exactly clear how Bill Clinton being more liberal could have changed that. A more left leaning Congress, on the other hand, would have made the outcomes much different.

So the fact that Congress is currently positioned to the left of the Obama administration, and certainly to the left of where Congress was in 1993, is actually a very positive development.