Democrats Can Truly Be our own Worst Enemies at Times
By Randy Abraham
Now that a Democratic president is past his honeymoon period, I guess it’s time for an endless winter of discontent.
Seriously, I can understand President Biden’s frustration at being portrayed by the online insurgent Left as a craven centrist unwilling to challenge the status quo and take the fight to Republicans.
After all the battles he’s fought throughout his career on behalf of working and poor people, and all he has accomplished this year in recovering from an economic collapse and the worst pandemic in a century, he still is forced to prove himself every day to people demanding instant gratification and simple solutions to complex and entrenched problems.
And the litany never stops.
The Covid relief package was too small, the Build Back Better bill is too small, Biden’s Attorney General is letting Trump and his accomplices slide, Biden’s letting Republicans suppress the vote, and now, Biden failed to keep his “promise” to waive all student loans.
Forget for a moment that Biden never promised to unilaterally forgive all outstanding student loans, nor for that matter to fully forgive student loans. Biden indicated that he would support forgiveness of $10,000 in student loans — I believe only for undergraduate loans — but that he would need Congressional approval for such a forgiveness program.
But for people who have been following with the student loan forgiveness program, Biden has actually been quite active:
Since becoming president, Biden has cancelled more than $11.5 billion of student loan debt, which is the most of any president. This includes:
· $5.8 billion of student loan cancellation for student loan borrowers with a total and permanent disability;
· $1.5 billion of student loan cancellation for student loan borrowers who were misled by their college or university and got student loan forgiveness through borrower defense to repayment;
· $4.5 billion of student loan cancellation for student loan borrowers seeking public service loan forgiveness, including $1.7 billion automatic student loan cancellation and at least $2.8 billion of additional student loan cancellation.
Now, I’ve come to expect baseless attacks from the Republicans, but the treatment Biden gets from some of his own “base” is disgraceful. Every decision is second-guessed, every goal post is regularly moved, no credit is ever given for a tough battle fought and achievements secured, and every successful compromise has been derided as an inadequate half-measure.
And again, I will use the example of the last Democratic president to illustrate how self-defeating our side can sometimes be.
When President Obama urged Congressional Democrats in 2010 to vote to separate the middle class tax cuts from the Bush tax cuts for the rich and make them permanent, and let the upper-bracket Bush cuts expire, Congressional Democrats were too scared to make that move, and too scared to campaign on their stimulus, auto rescue, healthcare reform, or banking reform victories, because of “elections.”
They lost the House, and then the Professional Left base bitched because Obama was forced to deal with newly empowered bad-faith Republicans and negotiate the best deal he could get before January 2011, when a Republican majority would be installed.
The base bitched about the 2010 tax-cut extension, but never acknowledged what Obama got in return: he was able to break Republican opposition to extensions in unemployment insurance and payroll tax cuts, clean energy grants, and $313 billion in new spending, as well as START II, emergency assistance for 9–11 first responders, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in exchange for nothing more than a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for upper-bracket income — in effect, an estimated $858 billion stimulus package.
And they ignored the reality that in presenting himself as a president who was willing to negotiate in give-and-take with the opposition, Obama was able to regain momentum after the disastrous 2010 midterms and win the support of moderates and independent voters ahead of 2012.
They attacked and cynically mischaracterized historic healthcare reform as nothing more than a corrupt backroom deal with insurers and pharmaceutical companies meant to foreclose on their fantasy of a single payer plan that has no parallel in the world, one which features zero co-pays, zero deductibles, and zero monthly premiums and all paid for through taxes on the “fat cats.”
They similarly attacked from the left against Dodd-Frank — the most significant banking regulation passed in 75 years — by decrying President Obama’s “failure” to break up the big banks and jail the Wall Street “banksters,” never mind that Dodd-Frank does authorize the government to unwind failing banks at no cost to the public if they are big enough that their collapse could damage the broader economy.
And never mind that, according to the Office of the Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) set up in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008, as of July 2, 2019, the government has charged 428 individuals in the finance sector — including bankers who were criminally charged with fraud — secured 369 convictions, sentenced 283 to prison, and recovered billions of dollars.
Others were either awaiting trial or awaiting sentencing as of that time.
What’s more, over $100 billion in fines and penalties were levied against corrupt and predatory financial institutions as well as ratings agencies that corruptly rubber-stamped toxic financial products as triple-AAA rated investments and enabled them to be sold to an unsuspecting global public which included pension funds, government agencies, and private and institutional investors.
Also under President Obama, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established to root out fraud and abuse and stood up by the brilliant banking reform advocate Elizabeth Warren, who then passed off administrative duties to the bulldog prosecutor Richard Cordray, a former Ohio Attorney General.
And so, while prosecution of these complicated crimes has been difficult — partly because three decades of financial deregulation have legalized much of the activities relating to mortgage-backed derivatives that led up to the Crash — progress has been made in the area of fraud.
They bitched when Obama threatened military action against Syrian use of banned chemical weapons, bitched about action taken in Libya — Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich even talked impeachment — and concern-trolled about the surveillance issue after Ed Snowden emerged with his hair-on-fire grandstanding and misrepresentations, even though Snowden’s irresponsible and indiscriminate release of classified documents mostly dealt with foreign surveillance.
They bitched when Obama:
- Appointed Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff;
- Appointed Tim Geithner to Treasury instead of Paul Krugman, even though Krugman said he was not interested;
- Re-upped Defense Secretary Bob Gates from the Bush administration; even though Gates served as a realistic corrective to the disastrous Rumsfeld;
- Prioritized rescuing the economy and financial system over disappearing Jamie Dimon to Gitmo and carpet bombing Wall Street to ashes and then salting the earth beneath it;
- Re-upped Ben Bernanke at the Fed, even though Bernanke served as a voice of reason while the Republicans were urging disastrous austerity and tight-money policies;
- Signed a healthcare reform bill that didn’t include a public option because of the need to get to 60 votes;
- Signed a bank reform bill that didn’t authorize the government to break up a bank for no other reason than its bigness, because of the need to get to 60 votes;
- Signed a too-small stimulus bill, because of the need to get to 60 votes;
- “Caved” on the closing of Gitmo, despite a veto-proof opposition;
- “Caved” on the public option, and on breaking up the banks (remember when Jane Hamscher of Firedoglake teamed up with anti-tax hawk Grover Norquist to “Kill the Bill” and when MSNBC’s Ed Schultz told viewers to skip the 2010 elections to send Obama a message?);
- Refused to consider minting a magic $1 trillion platinum coin, evoking the 14th amendment, or resorting to some other dubious means to break the 2011 stalemate in raising the debt ceiling;
- Supported HHS Secretary Sebelius in refusing to take up the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to make the emergency morning-after pill available across-the-counter to underage girls (remember when some accused Obama of setting women’s rights back by 50 years with this “patriarchal” edict?). The fact that that policy went through relatively incident-free and with very little hand-wringing after the 2012 election was apparently lost on the hair-on-fire anti-Democrat “progressives”;
- Told the Congressional Black Caucus to “kick off your bedroom slippers and put on your marching shoes”;
- Decoupled the Bush tax cuts at $400K instead of $250K, even though it meant a larger slice of the upper middle class kept their tax cuts and the more important — as far as addressing economic inequality — capital gains tax was raised from 15 to 20 percent;
- Declined in 2011 to augment regulations on ozone emissions, even though the regulations were scheduled for review anyway in 2013, and would have fueled Republican criticisms of “job killing regulations” during the 2012 election season. That Obama also enacted tougher rules on mercury — an actual poison — went largely unnoticed and unheralded by some progressives who seem afflicted with selective memory and selective outrage;
- Pragmatically endorsed the use of natural gas — admittedly, a fossil fuel — to replace the more problematic use of coal in power plants as a transitional energy source until the eventual widespread adoption of renewable clean energy sources;
- Agreed to provide air cover for a multilateral response in defense of Libyan citizens facing slaughter by strongman dictator Qaddafi — a response demanded by Libyans and endorsed by the United Nations and the Arab League;
- Attempted a new approach to international trade agreements by making enforceable, verifiable standards on human rights, labor rights, and environmental protections a condition of favorable trade terms with the world’s largest economy; and
- Prosecuted a drone war — rather than continue a carpet bombing campaign that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians — in an effort to bring Bush’s unwinnable wars to an end;
And the end result of the maximal positions the inflexible hair-on-fire polemicists have taken has been a complete disaster.
They again ran away from President Obama in 2014, and again got clobbered at the polls, but still, too many Democrats felt the need to demonstrate their purity by “standing up” to Obama, failing to choose their battles wisely, and succumbing to media-driven polls, clickbait, sensationalistic headlines, and optics.
I’ve never seen a more feckless bunch of pants-pissing, finger-pointing crybabies than the self-righteous online insurgents who insist against all evidence that they and they alone are the true Democratic base, and as far as I’m concerned, President Biden as well as President Obama — the most successful Democrats in a generation — have more than earned their own “Sistah Souljah” moment.
I have engaged with these performative progressives, and they have at times demanded that I apologize for what they consider ad hominem attacks when I pushed back against their attempts to mischaracterize Democratic leadership and demoralize the base.
So here goes:
I hereby apologize to any and all internet revolutionaries and insurgents if my sometimes blunt criticisms of your incessant trashing of Democratic leadership makes you feel an unwelcome and wronged victim of centrist group-think.
I’m sorry that you equate your baseless trashing of Democrats with constructive principled criticism intended to make for better candidates and more viable policies.
I’m sorry that you feel the need to create litmus tests and punish Democrats who were forced to make tough decisions — with the equivalent of a gun to their head — that you didn’t agree with.
I’m sorry that your notion of vigorous debate leads you to save your most vicious criticism for the Democrats and not the Republicans.
I’m sorry that your unexamined and unchallenged notions lead you to believe that both parties are all too similar.
I’m sorry that your inability to persuade the rest of the Democratic coalition, let alone the population at large, of the merits of your policy positions, and your strategies to achieve them, has led you to believe that we are not a big-tent party that shares many of your beliefs and goals.
I’m sorry that you mistake a difference in tactics and strategies with a difference in policy directions.
I’m sorry that this disagreement has led to a situation where you feel your vote is being taken for granted, and that the best remedy is to threaten to withhold your vote in an effort to achieve concessions that can open fault lines and hurt the party’s electoral prospects.
I’m sorry that your habit of sometimes taking maximal and simplistic positions on complicated problems can cause you to lose perspective and a sense of proportion.
I’m sorry that you too often fail to choose your battles wisely and succumb to optics and purely symbolic victories at the expense of the larger battle.
I’m sorry that on the verge of an enormously consequential election you are all too willing to eat your own out of a need to settle scores for perceived slights.
And I’m sorry I even have to say any of this.