Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Worthwhile Fight

So I raised a bit of a ruckus yesterday over in the Kosoverse over the Lieberman thing. Good times, and it was definitely the place to be when reading reacts to the netroots getting potentially thrown under the rhetorical bus. I suggested that the only way to ensure that the grassroots are taken seriously is to not always fall in line, but to serve notice that their help cannot always be taken for granted.

I specifically mentioned Georgia; since the Dems are desperate to win that seat now that Alaska and Minnesota look pretty positive and Lieberman is keeping his gavel, the netroots could make the point that they want to see some progressive change or those lovely online dollars and vigorous phonebanking would dry up. It, well, "provoked some controversy".

Thing is, I don't think Martin should get the short shrift for this; but I understand that the Dems are only going to listen if pressure is applied where they'll actually feel it.

But as usual, digby points to more useful fights.

Matt Stoller wrote a piece yesterday about the fight over the Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship between John Dingell and Henry Waxman and he points out that the outcome of this is probably far more important to a progressive agenda than all this sturm and drang about Lieberman and he's right. Waxman is an effective, green progressive and he knows how to get things done. Dingel is an elder who is discredited by his relationship with the auto industry and the NRA. If pragmatic change rather than milquetoast status quo bipartisanship is what people voted for, this is where the action is.

Stoller lays out all the strange political machinations, with the fight over seniority (as this article in The Hill.) It's complicated, petty politics (which should be something the netroots should be good at participating in.) He concludes:
No one really has any idea how the votes will play out, but I am surprised that the blogs have taken so little interest in this fight. The 2008 freshmen are being absorbed into the House quagmire without any protest from our quarters, or even requests that they actually take a position to help a progressive chair one of the most important committees in Congress, the one that regulates climate change, media policy, net neutrality, and trade.
Waxman is the right guy to be in charge of these things as we deal with this economic/energy crisis. Whatever threats there may or may not be to the seniority system by putting Waxman in charge pale in comparison to the necessity to have the House working properly on these issues.
The seniority system is, to a certain extent, what's at fault here. Lieberman kept both his job and his committee chairmanship not because he's either a good Democrat or a good Republican—or even a good centrist—but because as an old-line Senator their loyalty to him was greater than their loyalty to either their party or their ethics. The newer Senators wanted him out, the older Senators wanted him to stay. The latter won.

So if the netroots has a chance to make a difference on that front in the House, why wouldn't they? Yes, Lieberman is a more accessible, simpler villain here, but perhaps the refocus isn't a bad idea. The key is to have progressive appointments, and if Waxman promises to be one, so much the better.

It helps weaken incumbency advantages, too. Yes, incumbency advantages might sound good right now, considering where the Dems are. But the primary battles that will be necessary to unseat (or at least unsettle) the Blue Dogs aren't going to happen if incumbency advantages scare off potential challengers. Besides, Republicans have a lot of tools that can overcome these advantages. They can get around it. Dems can't. So they're probably better off levelling the field a bit.

So call your Congressional Rep (if you're an American reader and have one; Brits, Canadians, Mexicans and whoever else probably don't) and let them know where you stand.

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