There are three phases to think about: (1) the lame duck session, (2) the new Congress, and (3) the 2012 campaign (which starts now).
The Lame Duck Session
It’s likely that nothing big will happen, although it should if Democrats believe in their agenda. Yesterday was no mandate for the Republican party, which is still held in low esteem by the public. Furthermore, Democrats who lost their seats yesterday are now free from re-election concerns, those who held them are not facing an electorate for at least two years (six in the Senate) and there are still other Senate Democrats who either have four years before another election or may not be planning to run again.
Add the fact that whatever Democrats do will be overshadowed by 2012 by what the Republican House does, the state of the economy and the presidential candidates and you get the perfect conditions to build a railroad:
1. Repeal don’t ask don’t tell. Ending a serious injustice, improving military readiness, and supporting a reliable Democratic voting block makes for good policy and good politics. Note to Carl Paladino and Dick Armey – America has moved on. We’re post-Will & Grace. Ellen is wholesome, popular and funny..and gay. Dan Choi is a military role model…and gay. And the homophobe of all homophobes just tripped over his baseball bat in New York. Enough already.
2. Extend middle class tax cuts for two years while letting those for income over $250,000 expire (saving $750 billion on the giveway to the rich alone and most of the $4 trillion price tag of a ten year full extension). Let the Republicans mark their line in the sand. If they cave, we save huge money on the deficit and take pressure off working families. If they don’t, all the tax cuts expire anyway and the Republicans look like the corporate-owned subsidiaries they are. Good policy, good politics.
3. Employee Free Choice Act: let workers know who really stands with them and who stands against them. Republicans will filibuster and will not let this pass, but we should fight for it anyway so workers can identify where each member stands. This will not be brought to a House vote by the Republican House so it’s now or never. No member should leave town without having to take a stand on worker rights. Of course, Rand Paul opposes any federal mine safety regulations so it’ s no mystery where at least one newly elected Republican stands. Pray to Aqua Buddha that Democrats bring it to the floor!
4. Misc. Whatever changes you want to make on taxing and spending issues: let loose. Reconciliation is specifically designed for such things and Republicans will not have the votes in the Senate to repeal whatever you do.
The New Congress
1. Above all else, reform the filibuster. Republicans used it and its threat to stop the changes we needed to ensure a strong economic recovery, health care for everyone, the Employee Free Choice Act and stronger Wall Street Reform. The filibuster has never been used as frequently in history and is not in the US Constitution. It has been reformed before and should be used only to lengthen debate where one side feels it has not had its say, wants more time to pull votes to its side or needs time to study amendments. An ideal rule would be a three day delay on a vote where 60 members fail to vote for a cloture (or to start debate), another three day delay where 55 fail to vote for cloture (or to start debate) and finally a simple majority would be required. Someday the Republicans will do this to avoid Democratic obstruction and Republicans will filibuster everything anyway (including Obama nominees for anything requiring Senate confirmation). Beat them to it.
2. Immigration. Corporate interests that want to retain or hire foreign workers will pressure Republicans to come to an agreement. Republicans in more heavily Hispanic districts will also be under pressure to reform the system to create a path to citizenship for law-abiding workers who pay their taxes, learn English, and pay a fine. It made sense to wait on this until after the midterms because unlike health care, the stimulus, credit card reform, and Wall Street reform, Democrats and enough Republicans can actually get this done together. Politically, this will be a wedge issue within the Republican party since the xenophobes and isolationists will be at odds with their corporate funders.
3. Fight them on the numbers. Let’s just wait to see the first Republican House budget. They will either sorely disappoint their teabagging zealots or cut everything that benefits the middle class, seniors, children and the poor. As long as the good guys have the Senate and the White House, none of it can pass and all of it will become a political target for progressives. All these months of failing to say what spending they’d cut will end when the have to put pen to paper….and contrast it with tax gifts for corporations, estates of over $3 million and earnings over $250,000. As Rev. Jim Wallis says, “a budget is a moral document.” The good Rev has apparently never seen a Republican budget, which is anything but moral.
4. Use what you built! Obama still controls the regulatory agencies. While House Republicans kill anti-pollution legislation, the EPA can undertake enforcement actions and pass regulations to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases. While Republican legislative kisses are blowing toward hedge fund managers (only to die in the Senate), Elizabeth Warren’s financial consumer protection agency will be revving up to stop some of the abuses that lead to the crisis. Health care implementation, tobacco regulation, and education reform can also go forward.
5. Pass the Disclose Act in the Senate and keep pressuring Republicans to bring it to a vote in the Senate. Americans don’t like corporate money in their elections. They like secret foreign corporate money even less. Make the Republicans defend the US Chamber of Commerce, which has solicited foreign corporate donations worldwide. According to a GRIT tv report, an entity set up by the Chamber is both receiving foreign contributions and spending on US elections. The organization’s tax i.d. number is the key to making the connection between its overseas and domestic activities. That is flat out illegal.
6. Investigate non-profit corporations that are engaging in political campaigns. One benefit of having non-profit status under the IRS is the ability to avoid paying taxes, in exchange for not advocating for or against political candidates. That rule has almost certainly been broken and all such organizations should lose their non-profit status.
7. Resolve Iraq & Afghanistan. A tall order, but the right thing to do and it is an area where some Republicans (even Rand and Ron Paul) may be of some use.
8. Campaign, campaign, campaign. That’s about it. The Republican takeover of the House means nothing else gets done for the next two years. No legislative progress on anything until late January 2013 at the earliest. That’s what Fool’s News viewers, those demoralized by lack of progress due to Republican filibusters (of which most are unaware), and those enthralled with the latest spasm of American xenophobism, understated racism, 2nd Amendment terrorism, and false populism voted for. That’s what they’ll get. A tw0-year campaign is the only option left if we are to restore the American dream.
The 2012 Campaign
Republicans will compromise on almost nothing. The new Speaker said so just days ago. Last night he said that the President is still sets the government’s agenda. Translation: if the US economy fails over the next two years, it’s on Obama. Consequence: “we Republicans will do all in our power to make that happens to the extent that it doesn’t do too much damage to Exxon, the Kochs, and the like since that the surest way to achieve Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s stated “#1 priority” of making President Obama a one-term president.”
The primary defect in Obama’s White House has been failing to fight hard enough for the reforms that would improve Americans’ lives. The stimulus, health care, and Wall Street reform all fell short of progressive objectives and are less effective than they should be for it. That can’t be changed now.
But aggressive implementation can change lives as well as aggressive messaging can win a second term.
While the media are perpetualy entralled with the various characters that make up what they suppose is the Republican base (Mama Grizzlies, NASCAR dads, guys driving pick-ups with gun racks & the battle flag on the back, teabaggers…all shorthand for fearful, middle-aged white people), they largely ignore the real Republican base: corporate donors.
They also ignore the only base that ever threw a modern presidential election: the Nader-voting progressives of 2000. That base needs to be motivated to take on the real Republican base, the one that drives the crazy gravy train of Republican corporate politics.
And exposing that gravy train so everyone can get a whiff of it will have a spillover effect on those suffering Republican Stockholm Syndrome. It could even put congressional Republicans and their presidential candidate in the unwelcome position of defending the gravy train from thousands of charging, hungry Mama Grizzlies.