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July 26, 2009

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According to Open Secrets.org he got $21K from "healthcare professionals" and another $5K from retail druggists (he's a former pharmacist).

Surely he couldn't have been bought for such measly sums, so his obstruction may be ego or honest disagreement. I think I'll vote for the former, after seeing him on the tube a few times.

"Surely he couldn't have been bought for such measly sums,"

Representatives can be had for not all that much. Note that that "Health Professionals" listing of contributions is his #1 contributor, and the next four in his top five are: Democratic/Liberal $15,000 $0 $15,000
Electric Utilities $10,000 $0 $10,000
Defense Electronics $9,500 $0 $9,500
Agricultural Services/Products $8,500 $0 $8,500

So it's not as if he's a Senator or committee chair rolling in huge sums. But listening hard to what his #1 contributors say? Sure, he'll do that.

Moreover, you just looked at the current election cycle: take a look at what he took in from industries in the 2007-2008 cycle:

Industry Total Indivs PACs
Health Professionals $197,225 $19,775 $177,450
Lawyers/Law Firms $79,850 $44,850 $35,000
Retail Sales $66,050 $36,550 $29,500
Oil & Gas $59,800 $10,300 $49,500
Electric Utilities $55,943 $750 $55,193
$177,450
That's more from "Health professionals" than his other four top industries put together. I think that demonstrates what's going on quite well, and it isn't just ego.

Sorry, I misread his PAC listings as his totals. His totals from "Health professionals," both PACs and individuals, in the last election cycle, was actually $197,225.

2006 cycle, identical pattern:

Industry Total Indivs PACs
Health Professionals $90,910 $18,260 $72,650
Lawyers/Law Firms $77,349 $52,349 $25,000
Commercial Banks $65,989 $42,989 $23,000
Building Trade Unions $62,000 $0 $62,000
Industrial Unions $51,500 $0 $51,500

Ross's district is in Arkansas, the state where Blue Cross/Blue Shield has about 75& of the market, more if you eliminate Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Put that together with the info Mr. Farber provided from Open Secrets and it's not too difficult to come up with a reason why he opposes meaningful health insurance coverage reform.

Mike Ross isn't a Blue Dog Democrat, he's a Blue Cross Democrat.

I would need to study the record of Mike Ross in detail in order to argue every specific issue, but, in general, I don't see justification for your claim that he has specifically benefitted from the party's position on healthcare reform. He looks to me to be in the mold of traditional southern democrats, many of whom have been republicans for years. I don't know the dynamics involved in his 2000 campaign, but I suspect he aligned with his opponent on most issues and he probably could be elected as a republican. I wouldn't put much credence in the potential for the party to punish him at home. I can see why he is willing to express himself and declare that Pelosi is the problem with what is going on in the House.

He needs a primary challenger. It's better to lose the district to the Republicans than to continue to have a fake Democrat sabortaging our agenda from the inside. We have anough of a majority in the House that we can stand to lose jerks like Ross.

'He needs a primary challenger. It's better to lose the district to the Republicans than to continue to have a fake Democrat sabortaging our agenda from the inside. We have anough of a majority in the House that we can stand to lose jerks like Ross.'

Why do you resort to name-calling? Who here thinks they know what the democrat looks like who could effectively challenge Ross in his district? How would democrats be better positioned if the seat were lost to a republican? I sense a dose of totalitarian spirit in the above or is this modern progressivism?

Hey, what else have they got? I don't imagine they've got a lot of good arguments for a Democrat elected in a conservative district to commit political suicide.

The Democratic party got it's majority by picking up a lot of seats in districts which aren't particularly liberal, and the result is a lot of members who know that they're going to be one termers if they go along with their party on many things.

He needs a primary challenger. It's better to lose the district to the Republicans than to continue to have a fake Democrat sabortaging our agenda from the inside.

In a district as conservative as his, why do you assume that a more liberal candidate could beat him in a primary?

I sense a dose of totalitarian spirit in the above or is this modern progressivism?

Yep, calling for a primary challenge to an incumbent smacks of totalitarianism alright. Democratic elections are the first step to a police state.

The Democratic party got it's majority by picking up a lot of seats in districts which aren't particularly liberal, and the result is a lot of members who know that they're going to be one termers if they go along with their party on many things.

The entire point of the post is that whatever it means to campaign as a conservative Democrat in most circumstances, part of the reason they got elected in this one was because of their promises on more liberal agenda items like health care reform. People like Rep. Ross are now contradicting that.

In a district as conservative as his, why do you assume that a more liberal candidate could beat him in a primary?

wonkie rather specifically doesn't. As he/she said, it might be better to lose that vote than to have a member who is consistently undermining key items in the progressive agenda from inside the party. Indeed, it is entirely valid to wonder if losing a few votes to Republicans is better or worse than having Democrats using their status within the majority party to essentially destroy that agenda.


In a district as conservative as his, why do you assume that a more liberal candidate could beat him in a primary?

Actually, I see what you are saying here. Yes, it is not clear that a more liberal candidate could prevail in a primary anyway so Ross would still be the Democratic candidate in the general election under the circumstances. Given how conservative the district is, this is a good point.

Just in case there's anybody who doesn't read fivethirtyeight, yet: Nate Silver has a good argument (much in line with pulius's) that it's in the blue dogs' political interests to support health care reform. See:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/07/dear-mr-blue-dog.html

The entire point of the post is that whatever it means to campaign as a conservative Democrat in most circumstances, part of the reason they got elected in this one was because of their promises on more liberal agenda items like health care reform.

I'd love to see some empirical evidence for this claim. There are plenty of conservative Democrats who don't run on these issues at all. I live one district over from Dan Boren's CD. Boren wins because of the Boren name and because his district is overwhelmingly Democratic...yet votes overwhelmingly Republican in Presidential elections. It's overwhelmingly Democratic for largely historical reasons: it always has been and, at a certain point in the past, the GOP was the Party of Lincoln and you wouldn't want to vote for that! I doubt very much that Dan Boren ever gave anyone any promises on health care reform (despite the fact that his district is among the most poorly insured in the country).

The country is overwhelmingly in favor of health care reform. And the handful of progressives who live in CDs like Dan Boren's usually end up voting for the Blue Dog because he's the lesser evil. But there's zero political cost for Boren to obstruct health care; he isn't even vulnerable on this issue among his primary voters. (I should add that Boren and Mike Ross are extreme cases when it comes to the conservatism of their base.)

The central mistake of this post is its no-true-Scotsman view of the Democratic Party. There are plenty of Congressional Democrats who are committed to health care reform. But there are also plenty of Congressional Democrats who are bitterly opposed to it, and they are, unfortunately, as "real" Democrats as their progressive partymates.

If health care reform fails in this Congress and with this President (not a sure thing, but more likely than not, I fear) it will be 100% the fault of the Democratic Party and its lack of commitment to real health care reform.

'Yep, calling for a primary challenge to an incumbent smacks of totalitarianism alright. Democratic elections are the first step to a police state.'

Totalitarian spirit, with emphasis on the spirit like Pelosi tries to do it, and not so much on an actual election process.

Thank you, Ben Alpers, I think you got it just about right. And I think Ross is stepping up on this issue because he is one of the less vulnerable Blue Dogs on it.

Totalitarian spirit, with emphasis on the spirit like Pelosi tries to do it, and not so much on an actual election process.

Perhaps concepts like how "Pelosi tries to do it" makes some sort of sense in Republican speak, but I suspect you will have to clarify for those of us who aren't familiar with these arcane codes. X calls for contested elections does not equate to totalitarianism in spirit or otherwise and the entirely random invocation of the Democratically elected Speaker of the House does change that equation. Such a claim is, quite frankly, fundamentally nonsensical unless you understand something about the nature of primary elections which you have not sufficiently explained.

I'd love to see some empirical evidence for this claim.

Am I to take this to mean that the quotes publius provides are insufficient to demonstrate that Ross did run on the idea of health care reform?

the entirely random invocation of the Democratically elected Speaker of the House does change that equation.

This should obviously read

the entirely random invocation of the Democratically elected Speaker of the House does not change that equation.

'Such a claim is, quite frankly, fundamentally nonsensical unless you understand something about the nature of primary elections which you have not sufficiently explained.'

Well, I've often thought of the parties as being mostly bottom up organizations wherein the democrats in the 4th district of Arkansas will decide who they want to run in the general election. Since Ross has been pretty much unopposed lately, it looks like they just recently said who they prefer. Now its apparent that Speaker Pelosi doesn't like the congressman's open opposition on healthcare and it remains to be seen what so-called national democratic party leaders might decide to try to do about that. Encouraging a primary challenge is one action possible, but the locals might not respond very well to that. They might even see it as someone butting in where they are not welcome. On the other, the leadership might just try to punish Ross within the House organization. Heh, so much for big tent.

The central mistake of this post is its no-true-Scotsman view of the Democratic Party.

This is utter nonsense that demonstrates the twofer of not comprehending either this post or the fallacy in question.

The no-true-Scotsman fallacy involves the claim that X cannot possibly be a member of group Y because X does foo and group Y doesn't, or Y does foo and X failed to live up to it. Example: "Conservatism didn't fail during the Bush presidency, because Bush wasn't really a conservative."

This is entirely different than noting that the Blue Dogs in general benefited from the coattails of Obama and the Democratic Party on the subject of health care, that Ross in specific campaigned and won in part on that stance, and that these people are betraying both their constituents and the party by obstructing reform.

If health care reform fails in this Congress and with this President (not a sure thing, but more likely than not, I fear) it will be 100% the fault of the Democratic Party and its lack of commitment to real health care reform.

More nonsense, although this part at least contains a nugget of truth. The vast majority of elected Democrats are solidly behind health care reform. If we put forward a vote on a comprehensive plan that included a public option and the industry reforms we need, it would pass.

The truth buried in here is that there are Democrats who are responsible for slow-walking and watering down real reform for any number of reasons, the most prevalent being that they're bought and paid. Baucus is a good example. Reid is another, although his problem is that he's a spineless turd who had already demonstrated his spinelessness before he was made Majority Leader, and needs to be kicked to the curb in favor of someone who actually remembers that we won an election last fall.

But don't you or anyone else dare try pinning this solely on the Democrats. I'd like to remind you that there is another party that controls roughly 1/3 of Congress, and they are just as responsible for their positions and votes as the Democrats are. True, their party is openly opposed to reforming health care, but in my mind that exacerbates their guilt rather than mitigating it: honest opposition will kill just as many uninsured Americans as feckless betrayal, if we fail to fix health care.

wherein the democrats in the 4th district of Arkansas will decide who they want to run in the general election.

Yes, they decide these things through democratic primaries.

Since Ross has been pretty much unopposed lately, it looks like they just recently said who they prefer.

The idea that an incumbent running unopposed represents a self evidently more democratic outcome is honestly so absurd that it is difficult for me to believe that you intend it seriously. There are all sorts of reasons that candidates run unopposed but the most common one is because the party apparatus most undemocratically discourages opponents to a candidate who is more likely to win a general election.

Encouraging a primary challenge is one action possible, but the locals might not respond very well to that.

Yes, they might even respond by voting against the primary challenger. Totalitarianism, here we come.

On the other, the leadership might just try to punish Ross within the House organization. Heh, so much for big tent.

Yes, having the democratically elected leader of a group actually lead is evidence of a facist conspiracy. There is nothing you write in that entire comment that even comes close to making sense.

The bottom line is that, in the real world, freely held elections are orthagonal to the "spirit" of totalitarianism. This attempt by conservatives to label anything that Democrats do, no matter how obviously contained within the normal democratic process, as advancing us toward a police state is transparently stupid and ought to be considered an insult to the intelligence of any thinking human being. But here we are.

While we're talking "No true Scotsman"...

Rep. Ross merely represents a politician who's hit the jackpot. He's found an issue where he can vote against the solution to a problem, and take credit for solving it.

No true politician is going to be able to resist that.

brent,

I'm sorry that my attempt to describe Pelosi's reign as House Speaker and her oversight of her democrat colleagues with a little hyperbole didn't take. I never intended to assert that our American democratic process is in any way totalitarian in spirit.

Leaving aside, of course, the largest reason that the Republicans in Congress are lock-step crazies is because of constant primaries and threats of primaries from the Club for Growth, fundamentalists, and the rest.

"Well, I've often thought of the parties as being mostly bottom up organizations wherein the democrats in the 4th district of Arkansas will decide who they want to run in the general election."

That's mostly not how it works. To some extent it does: it's a mixed bag. And it's different in different districts, and under different conditions.

Generally, parties and constituencies both tend to support incumbents, for a variety of reasons, most bad (you can rake in vast sums of money, you increase your name recognition, inertia), some good (maybe you're actually doing a good job as the majority of the voters in your district see it).

Then there are cases where the national party actively wants to pry an incumbent out: this is rare, but happens, mostly when the incumbent has committed a scandal and makes the party look bad. Although in many cases, such as Senator David Vitter, even that isn't enough. Better to keep a seat safe than worry about consistency, ethics, or anything else.

When a seat opens up because of retirement, though, is when the games begin, and then usually several possible local contenders rear their heads, and some may look way stronger than others, whether through history of other office or offices, or being rich, or having vast name recognition (we have a lot of hereditary offices in America at this point, which is simply appalling and which said appallingness is barely recognized in the public sphere, IMO), or a record of some other impressive accomplishment outside the sphere of elected office, or even outside of politics, and so on.

But the national party has a large hand in then choosing who to help out, and support. If the national and state party choose to support a given local, that local has a huge advantage over everyone else in that district or state; they're given money, helped to raise funds, advice on how to campaign, loaned professional campaign advisors, and so on.

So it's hardly a matter of idealistic local citizens getting together to choose purely on their own evaluation of the merits. In recent years, both parties have recruited like hell, and the Democrats have done a very good job in the last two cycles, under Schumer for the Senate, and Emanuel (and Howard Dean) in the House, in recruit people likely to win. Which is part of why the Democrats made such gains in the past two elections. The Republicans did better jobs at the same thing for the past couple of decades, but now the brand is pretty soiled, and their recruitment efforts are difficult indeed.

Plus, the Republican brand is now reduced to a hard core of what looks to many independents like relative extremists in many cases, and that, too, reduces the number of people who might even consider running as a Republican. See what happened to Specter/Toomey, or look to Florida and Charlie Crist, for examples of how this can happen even to incumbents.

Now, I well understand the tendency in both parties to both want to a) elect more people under their banner; and b) elect more people with greater ideological cohesion.

And these two desires will always remain in tension and conflict, so long as we have a two-party-only (effectively) system, which we're close to locked into for the time being, for a whole long list of structural reasons, including the way most state laws are written (by the two parties) to make it very difficult for a third party to succeed.

Still, changes to the system have happened before. On the other hand, it's usually taken somethng like the onset of a Civil War, or a major economic/political collapse, to trigger that, so I'm not sure hoping for that is a grand idea.

In sum, our system tends to suck, and there's not all that much that can be done about it to give it a quick fix.

Thanks, Gary, that's a pretty good synopsis. I think Ross may be able to withstand whatever pressure outsiders may bring.

Am I to take this to mean that the quotes publius provides are insufficient to demonstrate that Ross did run on the idea of health care reform?

Well, brent, none of the quotations in the post promise health care reform per se. The most concrete promises there involve not cutting Medicare and improving rural care. The closest Ross comes is in one quotation where he mentions expanding coverage (but says nothing about making it universal)...and even John McCain promised to expand coverage. The rest of Ross's statements quoted are more along the lines of Ross promising that he'll focus on health care, which he in fact has.

As for Catsy's long dismissal of my comments...

My (admittedly loose) claim that publius was making a no-true-Scotsman argument really goes back to an earlier post of his on healthcare in which he wrote:

Regardless of whether you're a Democrat in Oklahoma or in Boston, you presumably are remaining a Democrat because you fundamentally believe that the government can play a role in helping people (particularly poorer people) get the basic human right of health care.

I know a lot of Oklahoma Democrats and this is simply not universally true. But you're correct, Catsy, that it really isn't exactly a no-true-Scotsman argument.

My frustration with publius comes from his insistence that Democrats ought to act like (his rather wishful definition of) Democrats, when in fact they are acting the way Democrats have acted for generations. This is not a failure of a few bad apples, nor is it "fecklessness"/"spinelessness." This is the way our nation's second corporate party works. There are some Congressional Democrats who honestly want health care reform; there are others who, as you say, are committed to slow walking it. And given that the other major party is nearly universally opposed to reform, a large minority of Senate and House Democrats in the anti-reform camp is enough to stop it in most circumstances.

As for Reid's leadership: he appears to have the complete confidence of his caucus, which reelected him unanimously last November. Harry Reid is a symptom, not the problem itself.

What publius actually wants is for Democrats to act like progressives. This is an admirable wish, but it's not going to happen without major political change. The Democratic Party is a party that contains progressives, but it is not a progressive party, as its behavior over recent decades indicates.

Blue Dogs do benefit from progressive votes, but in many circumstances only because progressives have nowhere else to go. And they will, by and large, continue to have nowhere else to go without serious electoral reform. In short, what Gary Farber says about our two-party system.

"In short, what Gary Farber says about our two-party system."

This isn't to say that all the other systems, such as proportional representation in its many forms, having a multitude of parties in a parliament/congress, etc., don't have major problems, as well.

Government is hard. Democracy is hard. This is why I value the people who put much effort and thought into improving them, and don't so much value those who simply are convinced that government is nothing but evil.

Rather, government can, and often will, be used for evil, and that's why it's up to us to do our best to prevent that as much as we can, and to do what we can to get government to do go, insofar as we can incrementally make agreements amongst ourselves by, at least, working majorities, since few things are subject to consensus, human beings being disagreeable and opinionated sorts, and coming from many different subcultures and points of view and differing beliefs about all sorts of matters.

But we really have no other choice in the matter.

One can, of course, choose to walk away as far as possible from the system, but that doesn't get you out from under it; it just means you're choosing, for better or worse, to accept no responsibility for trying to improve it.

There is, of course, a viable argument that improvement in government is so difficult that it verges on impossible, and thus the only responsible response is to walk away from it, if not actively rebel against it, in one form or another.

I don't think our government in America is nearly bad enough to warrant armed rebellion, myself. Nor do I even believe that incremental improvements are impossible; I think we've seen them, along with periodic retrograde steps, throughout our history. I believe we can continue to make such two steps forward, one step back, one step forward, two steps back, improvements.

But it's a long, hard, slow, frustrating-as-hell, downright infuriating, depressing, process, that most people can't take for every long without suffering either terminal cynicism or burnout, if not outright corruption.

(Corruption is arguably a product of cynicism and burnout combined, assuming there was any idealism there to start, which isn't, unfortunately, always a safe assumption; there's something to be said for the fact that government is also a form of power, and attractive to many people who wish to exercise power of one sort of another for reasons that are not what I, at least, would deem a good).

I wish more radical change were possible far more quickly. But even I have a limit on how radically I'd want things to change, and how quickly: people are inherently conservative, in a non-political sense, and understandably suspicious of change. And people are fallible and not gods, and the Law Of Unintended Consequences is always there. This is why I think some of the original principles of old-fashioned conservatism, as well as those of liberalism, are also valuable, at least to consider, and maintain some balance between the poles of necessary change, and change that is too ill-thought-out, that might wind up making matters worse.

But I'm back to still wanting more radical change more quickly than we can get, within the above stated caveat. I don't seek a communist revolution. I don't seek a revolution, in the classic sense of any kind. Not any violent one, god knows: they eat their young, and endless numbers of people suffer, as in any war, no matter the ideal originally sought, or even ultimately gained.

I wish there were a way to have my cake and eat it, too: to have what one might oxymoronically call "moderately radical change reasonably quickly."

And that brings us back to the boring, frustrating, mind-numbing, horrors and frustrations of being incremental.

If anyone has any better suggestions, that don't involve arms, I'm all ears. More Gandhian protest over issues such as torture, perhaps. More education, always. I think blogging is a public good. There are all sorts of little things we can do in our daily lives: small steps. Talking to our neighbors and co-workers and friends and relatives and people on the internet. Volunteering in organizations whose goals and efforts we support. Those who have money can contribute. We can all try to contribute where we can.

But now I'm wandering into the banal, so it's time to stop.

My sum: we try what we try, and it's necessary we try, and best of luck to the anarchists and extreme libertarians who think they can more or less make it on their own, or more to the point, that we all can.

I'm sorry that my attempt to describe Pelosi's reign as House Speaker and her oversight of her democrat colleagues with a little hyperbole didn't take. I never intended to assert that our American democratic process is in any way totalitarian in spirit.

Well this doesn't make much sense either. Hyperbole is, of course, an exaggeration of something that one believes is essentially true. So if you never meant to assert or imply that our American Democratic process is in any way totalitarian in spirit, then you weren't engaging in hyperbole and your apology doesn't scan.

In any case, you clearly did mean to suggest that there was something fundamentally wrong with facing Ross with a primary and if it isn't that such a tactic would be anti-democratic in any way, as you are now saying, then you still haven't specified what exactly that is.

I agree almost entirely with your 6:27 post, Gary. I think we need to play the hands that we are dealt, and often they aren't very good hands. I do think, however, that we need to be honest with ourselves about what cards we're holding.

Like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football and being ever surprised by Lucy's pulling it away, progressive Democrats seem forever shocked at their party's unwillingness to behave like a progressive party. I don't have a magic formula for progressive change, but one of the foundations for such change must be a determination not to be surprised at Democrats behaving like Democrats.

I supported Obama last November because he was quite clearly the lesser evil. If anything, I'm more optimistic about health care reform now than I was then. Last fall, I would have said that there was no chance whatsoever we'd get meaningful health care reform. Now I think it's unlikely, but possible.

I won't try to re-cover the ground Gary did in his last comment. There are clearly lots of things one can--and should--do to make things incrementally better even given the limitations of our system. Part of getting such things done, however, is to take full stock of that system and its limitations.

"I don't have a magic formula for progressive change, but one of the foundations for such change must be a determination not to be surprised at Democrats behaving like Democrats."

I'd add -- and I believe you know this perfectly well, but I simply wish to make it as explicit as possible -- that this is why I believe it's absolutely necessary for "progressives," or idealists, or whatever you want to call the people who believe in the goals we presumably largely share -- and the methods we largely share, which are just as important, which in short are to be democratic (in the small "d" sense), fair-minded, as transparent as possible, and as fair in process as possible -- to work as hard as we can to press the Democratic Party towards being more progressive, to be more alignment with our goals, while simultaneously keeping what we try to achieve, overall, at any given moment, within the bounds of reality as to what the general populace will be willing to go along with, when educated as much as possible as to why what we propose is actually a good idea (and it goes without saying that what we propose jolly well needs to be a good idea, and not a half-baked one), so as to make the political system continue to work for us, rather than simply to push ourselves sufficiently out of the mainstream in exactly the manner and down the road which the contemporary Republican Party is traveling, which is to seek such ideological purity as to turn themselves into an electoral minority, overall, for the foreseeable future until such time as they come to their senses, and realize that being pure and purely out of power really doesn't accomplish very much until such time as they can get themselves back into power.

Now, mind, history teaches us that temporary self-removal from power, however involuntarily unsought at the time, and bad for it in the short term, can be good for it in the long term: that's the great lesson of the Goldwater years. 1960-1968 were years when Republican power went to nil, but slowly grew again, as they found issues to, in my view, demagogue, but undeniably to win their way back to public popularity, and if not for Watergate and Nixon's general collapse, would have led directly into Reagan conservatism, without the temporary moderate interregnums of the Ford/Carter years.

So I think all that is part of taking full stock of the system and its limitations, too.

And as part of that: counting on the Republicans for being down and out for all that long, no matter how down and stupid and self-defeating they seem right now, simply would be idiotic.

It's all too easily within the power of the Democratic Party, partly for the reasons we've been discussing, which among other things is to say that large parts of the Democratic Party are corrupted by big money, corporate interdependence, interdependence with the military-industrial-complex, and the general Political Establishment, indeed, making up a crucial, essential, part of it and the ruling class, to fail, and to fail soon, and to lose power quickly.

And, yes, that's why it's important to get done what we want done as fast as possible. Just as the Republicans have always tried to get done what they've wanted as fast as possible. This isn't, as Brett maintains, some special case of not wanting to let the people in on the horrors any political party intends to have waiting to inflict upon them. It's simply the nature of politics that things move in cycles, that momentum is crucial, that election years make it very difficult for Congress to accomplish things, and that, yes, major issues, once dealt with, failed or succeeded, but particularly if an attempt to pass legislation fails, won't be successfully brought back up for reconsideration for years, or even decades.

That's all part of taking full stock of the system and its limitations; I agree with you. Bem Alpers. (As I geneally do.)

And I'd like to add that I'd like to hear Nell's perspective on this.

'He needs a primary challenger. It's better to lose the district to the Republicans than to continue to have a fake Democrat sabortaging our agenda from the inside. We have anough of a majority in the House that we can stand to lose jerks like Ross.'


brent, you can work over my wording as much as you like, and I admit the above is oblique and unclear, but I didn't anticipate getting anyone so exercised. My comment was not meant to be regarding free exercise of our electoral process but rather a reference to my perception of Pelosi's policing of her fellow party members for loyalty to the progressive agenda. That's all.

"My comment was not meant to be regarding free exercise of our electoral process but rather a reference to my perception of Pelosi's policing of her fellow party members for loyalty to the progressive agenda."

I'm curious: do you believe that Pelosi does this for the "progressive agenda" more than Tom "The Hammer" DeLay did it for the "conservative agenda, or than Newt Gingrich did, or Denny Hastert did, or than John Boehner does?

Do you believe that Pelosi is in some manner of either process or ideology more hard-line than her conservative predecessors and counterpart? Or about the same? Or less? Or what?

Are you aware that there's been a large progressive movement in Pelosi's district to oust her on grounds of her weak ideology and lack of commitment to progressive goals? Do believe her to be, in some fashion, more radical in her goals than, say, Tip O'Neill was, and if so, how?

Now I got Gary going!

No, about the same, no, no.

Maybe Boehner has fewer mavericks to try to round-up.

Thanks, Gary

My sum: we try what we try, and it's necessary we try, and best of luck to the anarchists and extreme libertarians who think they can more or less make it on their own, or more to the point, that we all can.

If I might be indulged in nitpicking a rhetorical flourish as if it were more rather more than that, I'd emphasize that only the right-wing anarchists think they can make it on their own, or would even want to. Now, yes, there is the matter of movements leaning towards large-scale disengagement (i.e., anarcho-primitivists), but there are also those who take the lesson of '34 to heart. Not all who seek the perfect will reject the good in its pursuit, or even the lesser of two evils.

(Basically, the nitpick comes down to libertarianism meriting a qualifier that anarchism was denied.)

My comment was not meant to be regarding free exercise of our electoral process but rather a reference to my perception of Pelosi's policing of her fellow party members for loyalty to the progressive agenda.

Yes, it was a reference to something being particularly wrong about an elected leader of the Democratic party using the democratic process to achieve a progressive agenda. If there is, as you say, nothing in the particular spirit of totalitarianism in this approach, then you have yet to identify what exactly the problem with it is supposed to be.

A political party is not just a place for people to hang out and discuss their ideological differences. Its a coalition formed with the goal of achieving a particular set of goals. The party elects leaders and votes on its agenda and when one joins the party, as they do of their own free will, they are agreeing to support that agenda in whole or in some significant part. If a party member is working against a major part of that agenda, it is a party leader's role to address the issue to the extent he/she feels its necessary in order to achieve the shared goals of most of its party members. Sometimes that may mean going back to the electoral process to support a member who is more likely to support the shared agenda. In some cases that may mean using the committee process to diminish the members ability to effect the agenda. In most cases, it means forging some compromise with the member on some other part of the agenda in order to gain agreement on the one in focus.

If Ross has any issue with any of this, he has plenty of options. Among them, he can

1. try to change the agenda

2. try to change the leadership

3. join a different political party

4. continue to work against that agenda and roll with whatever consequences he feels its worth.

In a democracy, that is how every political party works. Indeed that is how democracy itself works for each and every one of us. Neither Pelosi's leadership or the primary process work outside this simple and entirely common democratic framework. So again, what exactly is your complaint?

As far as whether I am "exercised" by this discussion, that is not how I would characterize my reaction at all. I would say that I am mildly irritated because, too often, this sort of vague attack on any especially aggressive approach to progressive politics, attempts to delegitimize as somehow, for some mysterious reason never explained, anti-democratic. So when someone suggests that using the primary process to strengthen the progressive agenda smacks of totalitarianism, and then says, well they didn't really mean that at all, my question is: Well what exactly did you mean? What precisely is your criticism of the quote you cite?

Maybe Boehner has fewer mavericks to try to round-up.

This seems a quite reasonable assumption, actually; he has a smaller caucus, and one that presumably has been tempered to some degree.

Plus, more of the center-right mavericky no-man's land has been claimed by Blue Dog Democrats.

That's all ill-thought-out off-the-cuff impressions, though.

"Now I got Gary going!"

I wasn't exercised; just curious as to your perspective. Contrary to whatever impression I may have given you with various critical, and even at times somewhat insulting, remarks, GOB, I respect your opinion, and value your input (while reserving the right to mock you when you don't support your opinion with facts).

Also, I'm very glad to have my desktop computer working again (even at the loss of an external hard drive, two USB slots, and the ancillary loss of the sound on my tv, and Phil's donated X-Box), and am glad to be back in contact with folks again; I find typing on and using that MacBook very painful until such time as I have a lot of practice learning its idiosyncracies and differences in keyboarding.

"Basically, the nitpick comes down to libertarianism meriting a qualifier that anarchism was denied."

Fair point; I was too lazy to go into a list of the varieties of anarchisms, and wouldn't even be able to do it off the top of my head without a reminder cheat-sheet, in any case. But certainly the differences can be major indeed.

The Blue Dogs are basically cheap opportunists in the manner of Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter. They position themselves as swing voter in Congress for the purpose of forcing the White House and the Democratic leadership to come begging for their votes.

When somebody like Rep. Mike Ross wants federal funding for a bridge to nowhere in Bumfuck, Arkansas, he can simply whine and threaten not to support Obama's healthcare initiative, and guess what? He gets his bridge.

"When somebody like Rep. Mike Ross wants federal funding for a bridge to nowhere in Bumfuck, Arkansas, he can simply whine and threaten not to support Obama's healthcare initiative, and guess what? He gets his bridge."

I have to note that there's nothing singularly evil about this; that's how politics works: through horse-trading. It can be frustrating, but it's absolutely SOP and the norm.

What's important to differentiate is whether that bridge (to use that example) actually benefits the representative's constituents, or the represenative's donors.

'Well what exactly did you mean? What precisely is your criticism of the quote you cite?'

'He needs a primary challenger. It's better to lose the district to the Republicans than to continue to have a fake Democrat sabortaging our agenda from the inside. We have anough of a majority in the House that we can stand to lose jerks like Ross.'

Nothing wrong with the first sentence since Ross is not supporting the progressive agenda and the commenter and other progressives desire that. I doubt the district will be lost to a republican or even that a progressive candidate will do well against Ross in a primary. Ben Alpers in an earlier comment supported the notion that the Democratic Party is not a Progressive Party although it contains progressives and that Ross is behaving very much like a real democrat and so maybe he is not a fake democrat. I agree with Ben Alpers on that. I don't know what was meant by 'our agenda' but likely the same conclusion as above that the Democratic Party platform or agenda and the 'progressive' agenda are not the same thing. Maybe progressives do have a majority in the House but not enough of a majority to enact their agenda, so I suppose if one is acting much like conservative democrats always have as Ross is on healthcare, he is now a 'jerk' and the 'Progressive Party' can stand to lose him.

I understand the emotions if not the language but, in reality, much as they might like to lose Ross, it will be an uphill battle for a progressive candidate to unseat him.

Forget that I brought Pelosi into my comment. I regret that.

Publius -- Has someone broken into your comma locker? Just look at the penultimate sentence of your post, which is but one example of the problem: "We need you to return the favor buddy." What is a "favor buddy," and how would I return one?

I'd comment on the substance except that I agree with you completely.

GOB: Maybe having a primary challenger wouldn't lead to Ross's defeat. But just the threat of a primary challenge from either side can force the incumbent to move that way to try and cut off the challenger's political oxygen, and at least satisfy the voters there enough to vote for him. So even a failed primary challenge can have the effect of pushing a politician in the direction of the challenge. Witness the Republican Party's hard-line stance on taxes, learned over years of primary challenges from the Club for Growth.

So even if the primary challenge fails in defeating the incumbent, in can succeed in terms of issues, because then the incumbent can't just take the votes of their "base" for granted and play to get the "moderates". Which is a Good Thing, otherwise politicians would entirely ignore large sections of voters in every election.

"The Blue Dogs are basically cheap opportunists in the manner of Joe Lieberman and Arlen Specter."

Am I the only one who remembers when Lieberman was considered so very mainstream that he could be nominated for vice-president? And this was after the Clinton polarization.

Well, even then he wasn't really a great choice. What with his crusades against video games and such. But Lieberman didn't really go off the rails until the war in Iraq, when he decided being McCain's Bestest Buddy Ever was the Most Important Thing.

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