[Marxism] 4 Ways Progressives Are About to Have Their Hopes Dashed

Tristan Sloughter tristan.sloughter at gmail.com
Mon Dec 10 08:42:03 MST 2012

I found it interesting all that this leaves out. Particularly
the surveillance state, drones, Iran, Israel, all the other wars...
Have progressive really gotten completely on board with all that since it
is Democrats now?


Ever since Election Day, the left has been riding high. Not only did
President Obama and Democrats across the country win big on Nov. 6, the
president has gratified his base with his tough talk on the fiscal cliff
negotiations, and the new Congress looks to be substantially more
progressive than the last.

But how long will the second honeymoon last for President Obama and the
Democrats? Chances are, it won't be long until the left's hopes are dashed.
Here are four possible letdowns on the horizon.

1. Entitlements: Obama has talked very tough on tax rates for income over
$250,000, but you don't hear nearly as much strong rhetoric from the White
House about progressives' other ironclad fiscal-cliff demand: protecting
Social Security and Medicare. Back in 2011, during Obama and House Speaker
John Boehner's failed attempt at a big deal on the debt ceiling, Obama was
theoretically open to the kinds of changes Senate Minority Leader Mitch
McConnell is now advocating, such as raising the eligibility age for
Medicare from 65 to 67 and increasing premiums for recipients with higher

If a fiscal-cliff deal gets made, chances are it'll include some
concessions along those lines. Obama's opening offer to Republicans
included $400 billion in deficit reduction from unspecified changes to
entitlements. Suzy Khimm has a helpful rundown of what entitlement changes
Democrats have signaled a willingness to consider.

Thus far, defenders of Social Security have been gratified to hear White
House Press Secretary Jay Carney say changes to the program are off limits
in the negotiations, and even the $400 billion in the president's offer
isn't too alarming -- that savings could come from reducing payments to
pharmaceutical companies rather than changing eligibility or benefits, says
Jeff Hauser, spokesman for the AFL-CIO, which has been campaigning hard
against entitlement-benefit cuts. "Our red lines continue to be clear:
December 31 should be the last day of the failed Bush tax cuts for the
richest 2 percent, and there is no need for middle-class beneficiaries of
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to contribute to deficit reduction
for a deficit they did nothing to cause," Hauser said. But while the group
would loudly protest any proposed cuts to benefits, he said, "we are open
to improvements in the cost-effectiveness of our health-care system."

2. Elizabeth Warren: The liberal rock-star senator-elect from Massachusetts
has the hopes of a movement riding on her shoulders as she prepares to move
into the Capitol. Progressives seem to think she'll immediately become a
major force in Washington, a triumphant, one-woman populist crusade that
will quickly bring the big banks and corporations to their knees. Warren
has already reportedly been promised a spot on the Senate Banking
Committee, a gesture of respect on the part of Senate leaders for her
cachet with the base, despite heavy pressure from Wall Street to keep her

But if Warren wants to be a player, she'll shun the limelight and put her
nose to the grindstone, Senate veterans say. And those expecting her to
shake up the institution are sure to be disappointed. "I understand my
friends on the let have some high hopes that senator-elect Elizabeth Warren
is going to come in and immediately change the place," said Jim Manley, a
former longtime aide to Majority Leader Harry Reid and self-described
institutionalist. "The fact is, that's not going to happen. The fact is,
the Senate is much larger than any one individual. ... A freshman on the
banking committee is on the end of the dais, the last one to speak, the
last to question the witnesses. Star power is great, but the only way to
affect change in the Senate is studying briefing books, attending hearings,
getting to know your colleagues and carefully choosing your spots."

3. Filibuster reform: After years resisting the idea, Reid now says he
supports making changes to the Senate rules, which have increasingly been
used as a tool of universal obstruction by the minority. (Read David
Graham's excellent primer on filibuster reform here.) This has the left,
for whom ending the filibuster is a cherished priority, very excited. But
"ending the filibuster" is a pipe dream -- any changes that do get made are
likely to be minor; the leading candidate is ending procedural filibusters
on "motions to proceed," while continuing to allow them on other votes. And
while Reid is clearly on board with changing the rules in theory, there's
another big question: Would he go as far as to try to change the rules with
a simple majority vote on the first day of the Senate session in January, a
constitutionally questionable step opponents have called the "nuclear
option"? Or is he only willing to try to get it done with 67 votes under
normal circumstances? Getting 67 votes for anything controversial in the
Senate is a heavy lift.

4. Climate legislation: The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy inspired
a fresh wave of interest in efforts to combat climate change. Notably, it
brought New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg off the fence in the presidential
race, inspiring him to endorse Obama just a few days before the election.
The buzz around the issue, which was last seen dying in the Senate in 2010,
was enough to get Obama asked about it in his post-election press

But Obama's answer was rather noncommittal, and while the ensuing weeks
have seen a parade of Republicans rushing to support immigration reform,
there have been no notable defections when it comes to environmental
legislation. Environmentalists say they've seen no indication the political
calculus has changed since the election. "Ultimately, we're going to need
climate legislation," said David Doniger, the policy director for the
climate and clean air program at the National Resources Defense Council.
"But that's not going to happen in this Congress, in our judgment, given
the approach the Republican House in particular is taking" -- that is,
trying repeatedly to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its
regulatory authority.

Instead, environmental activists are focused on getting more out of the
EPA. This week, the NRDC issued a report and called on the agency to use
the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The group
considers Obama's move to increase vehicle fuel-economy standards the
biggest environmental accomplishment of his first term. "Environmental
organizations are putting our emphasis on what President Obama and his
agencies can do using laws already on the books," Doniger said. For those
looking for action on climate change, that's probably the most realistic

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