Ordinarily, when Party leaders support horrible incumbents in primaries, they use the "electability" excuse: this is a conservative state, the incumbent has the best chance to win, and the progressive challenger is out-of-step with voters. That excuse is clearly unavailable here. As Public Policy Polling explained yesterday, Lincoln has virtually no chance of winning in November against GOP challenger John Boozman. And while it would have also been difficult for Halter to beat Boozman, polls consistently showed that he had a better chance than Lincoln did. That's unsurprising, given how much better non-Washington candidates are doing in this incumbent-hating climate than long-term Washington insiders. And it's rather difficult to claim that Halter is out-of-step with Arkansas given that they elected him their Lt. Governor. Whatever the reasons Washington Democrats had for supporting the deeply unpopular Lincoln, it had nothing whatsoever to do with electability.
What happened in this race also gives the lie to the insufferable excuse we've been hearing for the last 18 months from countless Obama defenders: namely, if the Senate doesn't have 60 votes to pass good legislation, it's not Obama's fault because he has no leverage over these conservative Senators. It was always obvious what an absurd joke that claim was; the very idea of The Impotent, Helpless President, presiding over a vast government and party apparatus, was laughable. But now, in light of Arkansas, nobody should ever be willing to utter that again with a straight face. Back when Lincoln was threatening to filibuster health care if it included a public option, the White House could obviously have said to her: if you don't support a public option, not only will we not support your re-election bid, but we'll support a primary challenger against you. Obama's support for Lincoln did not merely help; it was arguably decisive...
...[i]n other words, Obama exploited the trust that African-American voters place in him to tell them something that is just absurd: that Blanche Lincoln, one of the most corporatist members of Congress, works for their interests. Bill Clinton did the same with the Arkansas voters who still trust him. In light of all this, the next time some "conservative" Democrat such as Lincoln plays the Villain Rotation game and opposes some Good, Progressive Bill which the White House pretends to support -- but, gosh darn it, just can't get the 60 votes for -- are we going to have to endure the excuse from Obama loyalists that Obama has no leverage over Democratic members of Congress?
What's going on here couldn't be clearer if the DNC produced neon signs explaining it. Blanche Lincoln and her corporatist/centrist Senate-friends aren't some unfortunate outliers in the Democratic Party. They are the Democratic Party. The outliers are the progressives. The reason the Obama White House did nothing when Lincoln sabotaged the public option isn't because they had no leverage to punish her if she was doing things they disliked. It was because she was doing exactly what the White House and the Party wanted. The same is true when she voted for Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, serves every corporate interest around, and impedes progressive legislation. Lincoln doesn't prevent the Democratic Party from doing and being what it wishes it could do and be. She enables the Party to do and be exactly what it is, what it wants to be, what serves its interests most. That's why they support her so vigorously and ensured her victory: the Blanche Lincolns of the world are the heart, soul and face of the national Democratic Party.That last bold is mine. There's really not much I can add to that. The foursquare support of Lincoln by the Dems' Powers-That-Be, and their continual betrayal of the progressives within their party, shows exactly how much contempt they have for progressives. I can't even credibly say "contempt for their base", since it has been made abundantly clear that progressives are NOT the base of the Democratic party.
A base is a foundation. A base is something you rely on. A base is something you understand that you need. A base is what makes the rest of the organization possible, and once you understand what a base is, you understand that the progressives aren't the Democratic base. The corps that pony up the dough and the fat post-Congressional salaries, now THEY are the Democratic base.
Clearly, the unions aren't the "base" either, as we've seen and as Glenn reminds us:
In case that wasn't clear enough, the White House -- yet again -- expressed its contempt for progressives when a cowardly "senior White House official" hid behind Politico's blanket of anonymity to mock unions for having "just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise." That comment was far more serious than mere derision. It was an attempt to exacerbate the tensions which unions have with their members over union spending on political races -- a rather ironic sore for the White House to try to pick at given that without massive union spending for Obama, he would not be President. What the White House is really angry about is that the unions did not spend that money in order to help vulnerable Blue Dogs and other conservative Democrats, whose agenda could not be more adverse to union members. In other words, the White House wants unions and other progressive groups to be nothing more than Democratic Party apparatchiks, whereby they help Democrats get elected purely for the sake of preserving Democratic power, regardless of the policy outcomes that are achieved, and regardless of how hostile those outcomes are to progressives. The sooner that realization is pervasive, the better.It couldn't be clearer. Liberals and labor unions and all those lovely "progressive" organizations like ActBlue and MoveOn are not the Democratic base. They probably never will be. At best, they're classic "useful idiots", to be bought off with a few kind mentions in a meaningless speech, or a firm-yet-empty handshake at an equally meaningless Oval Office photo op.
They will be tolerated, even exploited—yet never listened to.
Yet there is hope, and this Halter v. Lincoln business has showed us where the hope lies. Again, Glenn:
Forcing Blanche Lincoln and the Democratic Party to spend its money on a bitter, draining two-step primary fight obviously makes it much harder for her -- or any other Democratic incumbent who triggers a future primary challenge -- to win the general election.Halter didn't win. But he came very close, and they do have to pay attention. Glenn is right: the pettiness of the White House's reaction shows just how much this bothers them. They want Blue Dogs propped up, for Rahm's sake as much as the party's, and labor has served notice that they are not going to blithely do what the Dems tell them to. They'll pursue their own interests, thank you kindly.
The point here, speaking just for myself, was not to put Bill Halter in the Senate. While I am convinced Halter would have at least been marginally better than Lincoln (he certainly couldn't have been worse), I don't know if he would have been substantially better. Nor was the point an ideological one -- the real conflict in politics is not Left v. Right or liberal v. conservative, but rather, insider v. outsider. Lincoln's sin isn't an ideological one, but the fact that she's a corporatist servant of the permanent factions that rule Washington. The purpose here was to remove Lincoln from the Senate, or, failing that, at least impose a meaningful cost on her for her past behavior. That goal was accomplished, and as a result, Democratic incumbents at least know there is a willing, formidable coalition that now exists which can and will make any primary challenge credible, expensive and potentially crippling -- even if it doesn't ultimately succeed. That makes it just a bit more difficult for Democratic incumbents to faithfully serve corporate interests at the expense of their constituents, or at least to do so with total impunity.
Considering that (according to Glenn), people in the government have already started calling this "the third Bush term", they shouldn't be the only ones. You should too. I said a while back that you shouldn't support Dems who wouldn't fight for a public option. I still believe it today. Unless you have a very, very good reason to vote for a Dem, I think that you should sit down and think carefully about whether he (or she) is worth it.
You aren't their base. They don't listen to you. They won't listen to you. They'll listen to BP and Goldman Sachs and big agriculture and the Netanyahu/Lieberman government. Oh, yes, they'll move heaven and earth to help that lot.
But they don't care if you and your family go unemployed, or lose your benefits, or get sick from oil in your water. They wouldn't even notice if you died in a gutter. They just don't care. You're Little People, beneath notice. You don't even own a law firm!
Labor fought to make sure that they realized that labor couldn't be taken for granted. You shouldn't let them take you for granted, either. Let them prove that they're worth your vote. THEN think about voting for them.