The New Democratic Nonsense

Robert Borosage

Left Out in the Cold

The thrill is gone. Now it’s recrimination time. Who is to blame for the end of the romance?

A lot of stuff and nonsense will be served up over the next days in the wake of the Massachusetts debacle, but it will difficult for anyone to top Lanny Davis, the idiot savant of the New Democrats, for the most inane commentary.

As the polls closed in Massachusetts, Davis was scurrying into the Wall Street Journal to place the blame on the left, “the strident purist base of our party.”

Let’s see. Obama packs his White House and economic team with former Clintonistas, devotes one-third of his stimulus plan to ineffective tax cuts, rescues the banks without reorganizing them, wastes months seeking bipartisan support on health care, jettisoning the public option along the way and insisting on taxing health care benefits rather than the wealthy – and the “left” is to blame?

The blithering stupidity of this argument gets worse as Davis expounds on it. He says Obama went wrong by straying from the successful New Dem formula championed by Bill Clinton: “balanced budget fiscal conservatism, cultural moderation and liberal social programs administered by lean and mean government. (by which he must mean embracing the Gingrich plan to repeal welfare, while outsourcing government to private profiteers.)

Great. So if Obama had sought to reduce the deficits – and presumably let the economy collapse – Democrats would be in better shape?

The way back for Democrats, Davis argues is to “meet halfway with conservatives and Republicans even if that means only step-by-step reforms on health care and other issues that do not necessarily involve big-government solutions.”

What planet is he on? Republicans moved to the right after Obama’s victory, not the center. They chose lockstep obstruction even as the president sought bipartisan allies. Not one vote for the compromised stimulus bill in the House. Not one vote for the compromised financial reforms. Not one vote for health care, with supposed moderate Charles Grassley embracing the lie about “death panels.”

New Dems wanted a smaller stimulus with more tax cuts, argued for less financial reform, opposed the public option and top end tax cuts to pay for health care. They wanted more money spent on the wars abroad and less invested in the country at home. They got much of what they wanted – and Democrats are paying a severe price for it.

Lanny Davis is a burlesque, but the New Dem argument poses a real threat to Democratic prospects.

Move to reduce deficits now and the jobs crisis will get worse. Move for bipartisan cooperation on financial reform by jettisoning the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and the public will grow more angrier and more cynical. Abandon health care and voters will punish Democrats for getting nothing done.

The New Dems don’t get it. The Wall Street wing of the party can’t see the fury that is building across the country. Americans are scared and angry. They see big banks getting bailed out while they are losing jobs and their homes are underwater. They are disgusted with backroom negotiations with conservatives of both parties over health care. The public option and taxing the wealthy are far more popular than the compromised plans. Big governfment is unpopular not becuase of its size but becuase it seems to be serving the big banks and big business.

Americans want to know what side the administration is on: Wall Street or Main Street, the insurance companies or the citizenry? Democrats need to push hard on jobs and on reining in the big banks. They should be assaulting the conservative policies that drove us off the cliff – and offering voters a clear direction and a clear choice. Use the Wall Street Journal and Lanny Davis for comic relief, not political advice.

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