**UPDATED: Barack Obama and the myth of the progressive ‘majorities’

To progressives who complain about Barack Obama “squandering” the progressive majorities he supposedly had going for him when he was elected president, I refer you to the following chart (from Wikipedia):

What the chart shows is the actual number of Democrats and Independents in the Senate from the time Obama was sworn in, in January 2009, through the present, when Democrats hold a slim, 53-47 majority in the upper chamber.

Of the 56 Democrats and 2 Independents caucusing with the Senate majority when Barack Obama took office,  (there were two seats unfilled, due to a disputed race in Minnesota that wasn’t resolved until July, and the former Obama Senate seat in Illinois) — 17 represented red or red-leaning states:

  • Majority leader Harry Reid (Nevada)
  • Max Baucus and John Tester (Montana)
  • Ben Nelson (Nebraska)
  • Mark Begich (Alaska)
  • Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas)
  • Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampshire)
  • Kay Hagan (North Carolina)
  • Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan (North Dakota)
  • Tim Johnson (South Dakota)
  • Evan Bayh (Indiana)
  • Jim Webb and Mark Warner (Virginia)
  • Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefellar (West Virginia)
  • Claire McCaskill (Missouri)

Another 27 represented blue or blue leaning states:

  • Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (California)
  • Chris Dodd (Connecticut)
  • Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez (New Jersey)
  • Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall (New Mexico)
  • Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (New York)
  • Ted Kaufman and Tom Carper (Delaware)
  • Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley (Oregon)
  • Daniel Inouye and Danidel Akaka (Hawaii)
  • Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
  • Dick Durbin and Roland Burris (until November 2009, when the seat flipped to Republican Mark Kirk)
  • Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders (Democrat and Independent, respectively, from Vermont)
  • Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (Washington)
  • Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin (Maryland)
  • Ted Kennedy and John Kerry (Massachusetts (Kennedy died in August 2010 and his seat flipped to Republican Scott Brown in February 2010)

The remaining 12 repped swing states:

  • Michael Bennett and Mark Udall (Colorado)
  • Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
  • Bill Nelson (Florida)
  • Bob Casey (Pennsylvania, plus Arlen Specter who switched parties in April 2009)
  • Tom Harken (Iowa)
  • Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold (Wisconsin)
  • Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow (Michigan)
  • Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • *Al Franken didn’t come on board until in July 2009.

In addition, there was Joe Lieberman, who by January 2009 was a reliable vote for the red state caucus on key legislation like healthcare, despite hailing from blue Connecticut.

Even if you generously put all of the swing state Democrats into the “progressive” group, and that’s stretching it when it comes to certain votes, that puts the president at minus 18 reliable “progressive” votes in the Senate.

And because Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear from the start that he intended to have his caucus use the filibuster on every piece of legislation, and vote as a bloc, forcing Democrats to always need 60 votes to pass anything, those numbers really matter.

[Sidebar: In the House, Democrats had both a stronger majority and a stronger progressive majority, with the progressive caucus outnumbering the blue dog caucus by something like 83-54 in 2009 (the blue dogs lost half their numbers in the 2010 elections.) That's why the House was able to pass something like 400 bills, including lots of progressive legislation, fewer than a third of which ever made it to the Senate floor. The House is where ideological ideals live -- on the left as well as on the right (witness the amount of right wing legislation that the tea party caucus, also about 83 strong, has passed, but which has gone nowhere in the Senate). The Senate is where they go to die, and actual law is made.]

Despite the myth-making on the left, Democrats actually held their tenuous 60-vote majority for only five months in 2009: from July of that year, when Al Franken was finally sworn in after winning the recount against Norm Coleman, through November 2009, when Democrats lost Barack Obama’s old Senate seat in Illinois to Mark Kirk. Then in a special election the following January, Scott Brown won Teddy Kennedy’s old seat, and was sworn in on February 4th.

Could Barack Obama have somehow rammed through the entire progressive wish list in five months? I find it hard to see how, given the unreliability of the blue dog Senators. Could he have convinced the conservative Senators to put a vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell through, at the same time they were struggling to get a healthcare bill done? Could he have gotten them to add DOMA to their task list, given the knock-down, drag-out healthcare fight and with the rising tea party town hall rebellion brewing? Maybe, but I doubt that, too.

Would it have made progressives happy if he had made a vocal, visible show of trying to do those things, and spoken out like a true liberal lion, lambasting Wall Street, calling for the heads of the banks on a platter or even ordering the Treasury Secretary to seize and privatize the big banks, and demanding that gay marriage be made the law of the land without delay? Sure. Would that have helped any of those things pass the Senate? Nope.

So what did Obama and the Democrats accomplish in the window between January 2009 and January 2010, when they both gained, and lost, their 60 vote majority? Here’s the list:

And each of those bills had to get through a Senate which at any given time, had a “progressive” wing that at most, contained 44 Senators — not 60.

Remember: the Recover Act (a/k/a the stimulus bill) passed the Senate in February 2009 (before the country descended into the healthcare wars) — not with “60 progressive votes” – but with 57 Democrats, the two independents, and two Republicans: Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine. Roll call here.

Healthcare reform finally passed on Christmas Eve, 2009, with exactly 60 votes, including the 58 Democrats — 17 of whom cannot be considered progressives — the two independents, and NO Republicans. This following a virtual war both inside the Democratic caucus (remember when House blue dogs threatened to blow the bill up over abortion?) and with Republicans and their newly minted tea party town hall mobs owning the news cycle, and only after Harry Reid agreed to strip out the public option to prevent Joe Lieberman from filibustering the bill. Even with the special election looming in January, right up through November 2009, the administration was still trying to bring Lieberman and about a half dozen other moderate Republicans and Democrats around. But once it was clear they weren’t even going to get one of the Senators from Maine, giving in to Lieberman was the only way to get to 60.

It’s arguable that it was a mistake for the administration to leave so much of the work of passing healthcare to Congress, and especially to the Senate Finance Committee, led by blue dog Max Baucus. I’d probably make that argument myself. And maybe, somehow, the president could have hypnotized Lieberman into supporting a public option. But the fact is, whatever was going to pass had to get through a Senate that never had a 60 vote progressive majority, but rather a cobbled together 60 vote Democratic-Independent majority, with anywhere between 4 and 18 conservatives holding sway over it, and the clock running out. The president and Harry Reid did what was pragmatic, to get a foundation laid down that can always be added to and improved. Compromise is part of the legislative process that progressives have to come to terms with, unless they put 60 progressives in the Senate (and with so many red states, that’s gonna be a tall order.)

Lastly, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal Act passed in December 2010, with 55 Democrats, the 2 independents and 8 Republicans. Remember, DADT was a law, which could only have been repealed by Congress. The Executive Branch had no power to undo it by fiat, and to simply stop obeying that law would have been unconstitutional, and probably impeachable.

As for the notable failures?

Closing Gitmo: Denied.

In May 2009, only six Senate Democrats voted against denying the president the funds the administration requested to close Gitmo:

Durbin (D-IL)
Harkin (D-IA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Reed (D-RI)
Whitehouse (D-RI)

Who’s not on that list? Russ Feingold, a hero of the angry progressives, and even Bernie Sanders, who some progressives would like to see primary Barack Obama next year. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were ill, and Jay Rockefellar abstained. Everyone else sided with Republicans.

Was it any better in the House? Nope. There, Democrats rejected the administration’s request for $80 million to begin closing Gitmo, too. And Democrats have also blocked the funds the administration would need to try KSM in the U.S. It’s easy to blame Obama for failing to keep a campaign promise there too, but without Congress’ consent, it cannot be done.

And while we’re at it, Reid has never been able to muster the 60 votes needed to pass card check, climate change legislation, or the DREAM Act. The votes simply aren’t there, nor have they really ever been.

Given the situational unreliability of much of the Democratic caucus (who, in fairness, represent more conservative constituencies and interest groups in their states than Senators from New York or Vermont or Massachusetts), it’s a wonder the president, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi got anything done at all, let alone the incredible volume of work they did. With all the challenges, the 111th Congress was the most productive Congress since the 1960s (just as the 112th Congress is shaping up to be the least.)

Progressives can be disappointed that lawmaking requires so many compromises, and I guess they can quibble with the fact that Barack Obama doesn’t talk more like Bernie Sanders (though if he did, he’d get even LESS done, since highly partisan, ideological rhetoric doesn’t deliver Senate votes, and doesn’t square with the moderate majority among the American people.) But they can’t claim there was some giant, wasted, “progressive” majority in the body that counts — the Senate — because there never was. The 60 votes was a great moment for Democrats, and a great media story. But it was never a guarantee that progressives would get the legislation they want.

Related: Politifact tracks Obama’s campaign promises

Endnote: a lot of conservatives felt the same way about George W. Bush, who for much of his two terms (until 2006) held the golden triad of the White House and both houses of Congress, but failed to fulfill his campaign promises to conservative Christians, like pushing through a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a legislative or judicial end to legal abortion in America, or the conservative goals of privatizing Medicare and Social Security, shrinking government and reducing federal spending, while pursuing a more humble foreign policy. In fact, Bush did quite the opposite.

Bush, too, has been accused by the people on the right of having squandered congressional majorities, of spending too much money and embracing too many big government ideas like Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind, and increasingly, of wasting his post-9/11 mandate on an unnecessary war in Iraq and an unfocused one in Afghanistan. So I guess for presidents, disappointing their most ideological supporters comes with the territory.

And yet, the myth that Bush somehow rolled Congress to enact The Conservative Agenda is part of what fuels progressive anger at Obama, but like the rock solid 60-vote “progressive majority of 2009″ — it IS a myth. Bush did implement a broad, NEOCON agenda, but that’s almost the opposite on what he ran on, and certainly not what he promised either his supporters, or the country. As with anything, a little perspective helps.

UPDATE: an earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Amy Klobuchar as a Senator from Minnesota. Thanks to reader Dave B for catching the error. Also, Roland Burris’ tenure ended in 2010, not 2009. Kudos to TRR readers who are always on point!

UPDATE 2: a MUST READ by Steve Benen: wouldn’t FDR have drawn a left wing backlash? A clip:

I’ve mentioned this before, but I often think about Social Security at its origins. In 1935, FDR accepted all kinds of concessions, excluding agricultural workers, domestic workers, the self-employed, the entire public sector, and railroad employees, among others. And why did the president go along with this? Because Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to cut deals with conservatives, even in his own party — many of whom were motivated by nothing more than racism — in order to get the legislation passed.

When delivering red-meat speeches in public, FDR saw his Republican critics and “welcomed their hatred.” When governing, FDR made constant concessions — even if it meant occasionally betraying his principles and some of his own supporters — in order to get something done.

Obama’s focus on the Huffington Post is probably misplaced — there are far better examples — but the larger point seems persuasive to me. Wouldn’t FDR have faced a bitter backlash from the left? Wouldn’t Lincoln have drawn howls for compromising on the greatest moral crisis in American history?

I suspect we’d see and hear plenty about donor boycotts, talk of primary challengers, supporters lamenting how disappointed they are, columns about a lack of “leadership,” “failed opportunities,” “unmet expectations,” etc.

History and hindsight, I suppose, tend to round some of the edges over time.

Read the whole thing. Well worth it. And then, there’s this inconvenient truth for those constantly drawing comparisons between Obama and FDR, saying the latter was the better progressive:

Four years into Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential term, the worst of the Great Depression seemed behind him. Massive jolts of New Deal spending had stopped the economic slide, and the unemployment rate was cut from 22 percent to less than 10 percent.

“People felt that there was momentum,” U.S. Senate historian Donald Ritchie tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. “Finally, there was the light at the end of the tunnel.”

So Roosevelt, on the advice of his conservative Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, decided to tackle the country’s exploding deficits. Over two years, FDR slashed government spending 17 percent.

“All of a sudden,” Ritchie says, “after unemployment had been going steadily down, unemployment shot up, the economy stagnated, the stock market crashed again. And now it seemed we’d come out of the Hoover Depression to go into the Roosevelt recession.”

Similar decisions Roosevelt made about spending and austerity are being discussed at the White House right now. In the long term, both political parties say they agree that austerity is a good thing. But what about in the short term, while unemployment remains high?

In other words, today’s emo progressives would have been savagely attacking FDR the same way they’re attacking Obama now. And they would have had more grounds, between the internment of the Japanese, FDR’s initial failure to respond to the slaughter of innocents by Adolf Hitler (it was the Japanese we ultimately went to war against) and his ongoing refusal to address issues of racial segregation, lynching and discrimination against African-Americans, including in the armed forces. That and the compromises FDR accepted as part of the New Deal, including explicitly keeping racial parity out of the equation, would have made Roosevelt as great a villain to the purist progressives of today as Obama has become. And their disappointment would have been just as great.

The bottom line: Roosevelt was no less a great president — even a great liberal president. But being president requires compromises, often unpleasant ones, and there is no “perfect” example of caution to the wind liberalism for the purists to point to. They can feel free to demonize Obama, but not with the weight of history on their side.

 

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92 Responses to **UPDATED: Barack Obama and the myth of the progressive ‘majorities’

  1. Darin says:

    Flo,

    You are right, that too is not helpful or acceptable.
    I had not seen that. This whole digression is very disappointing

  2. Kerry Reid says:

    On Election Night in Grant Park (I was there), Obama very clearly said “We won’t get there in one year, or even one term.” He has consistently talked about how this is a long hard slog. I don’t know why so many people thought he could turn everything around in 100 days. If nothing else, I appreciate this president for pushing back against the goo-goo magical thinking that characterizes too many of my fellow Americans — if you just BELIEVE and TALK LOUD ENOUGH, you will achieve whatever you want without any disappointments whatsoever. That kind of blinkered view of reality was a hallmark of the Bush years — we’ll be greeted as liberators, etc. It’s no less disturbing when people on the left play the same game of believing that simply spouting red-meat rhetoric equals “leadership” and will change deeply entrenched patterns in our government and society that have been in place for decades.

    Or, as Roy Blount Jr. once put it, the attitude of the average American voter may be summarized as follows:
    1) I am entitled to everything.
    2) Taxes are BAD!

    War is easy to sell — again, especially after what happened on 9/11. Is it shameful so many Dems went along with it? Sure. But since the GOP was able to turn Max Cleland (of all people!) into a terrorist-loving wimp, it’s also not surprising that a lot of Dems fell into place (including the one-time populist hero, John Edwards).

    But selling complex reforms of healthcare and financial industries that have their tentacles deeply embedded in every aspect of our economy was always going to be a much more difficult job. I too am amazed it happened at all. Look at it this way — if it were so easy to pass universal healthcare, why didn’t that Master of the Bully Pulpit LBJ do it when he had his majorities, instead of JUST focusing on Medicare and Medicaid? (Important and sweeping though both programs are — neither was universal.)

  3. Preet Bharara says:

    Well anyway. I’m just waiting for the concession speech, and the slither into corporate lobbying.

  4. bmull says:

    Well now we’re on to a completely oft-had discussion, which boils down to whether FDR could have done better than Obama has done. He certainly would have had a different approach. FDR was far more partisan than Obama and had a much more coherent progressive vision. He compromised when he thought he needed to–and usually got most of what he wanted–whereas Obama seems to compromise for the sake of compromise.

    My imperfect rule for judging Dem presidents is whether government is more progressive than it was at the end of the last Dem administration. By that measure only Kennedy makes the cut in the post-FDR era, while the jury is out on Obama pending the resolution of the Bush tax cuts.

  5. Rupert says:

    Good luck with that Mull; just keep in mind the huge Democratic majorities FDR had in Congress, and the 67 Democratic senators LBJ had to pass progressive legislation, etc. I see enough righties trying to rehabilitate Hoover (Bush vs. Hoover?) these days, but I think your FDR-BHO comparison is way premature, because it’s 3+ terms to less than 3 years so far. Jon Alter’s book on FDR’s first term is worth a look.

  6. Len says:

    JFK more “progressive” than Truman or LBJ? Kennedy got dick done. I guess, people really do prefer words over actions.

  7. Rupert says:

    @bmull… I confess I just now saw the Update 2 above; so my last comment needs that context; and I guess I have to go read Benen’s piece; he’s often worth it.

  8. Len says:

    In addition, just on the basis that there is no Dick Morris or Mark Penn in Obama’s government his administration will wind up being more “progressive” than Clintons. I hated those two bastards.

  9. jreid says:

    Sorry, BMull. JFK won’t pass your purity test, either.

    http://blog.reidreport.com/2011/07/jfks-liberal-heresies/

    Back to pushing for a third party you go, or whatever it is you, Jane and Glenn are up to these days.

  10. Doubting Tomasina says:

    Amazing..pundits. Not one of you worked as a member of the Cabinet of the U.S. Not one of you have inside information from various sources to be able to make a comparison of any President’s intentions. You may write “logically” about illogical assumptions. You know what happens when one assumes? You make an ass out of u and me.

    I am not ingesting any of it. The world is complex, and there are hidden meanings, and plans beneath plans, secrets and personal biases churning when decisions are being made and quid pro quo.

    Americans really think they know it all, really they do. Without the use of profanity, I ‘d like to add that your speculations belong in a bag by the curb.

    That’s like a pundit going down a list of presumptions of why I make the decisions that I do, because they read somewhere that I think a certain way, or they took a comment out of context, or they just write from their personal experience and then project that assumption .

    Everyone here can just consider themselves a bunch of mindless sheep. Notice I didn’t say stupid, but you share a herd mentality rolling in the deep with anyone that massages your ego and make you feel good. None of these want to be expert comments have a thing to do with how Barack Obama thinks.

  11. Kerry Reid says:

    “None of these want to be expert comments have a thing to do with how Barack Obama thinks.”

    Where did anyone present that as the topic of conversation, Enlightened One? This is a post about what the president and the 111th Congress did or didn’t do in terms of passing legislation and policy and what the make-up of the Congress was during this time and comparing it to the record of FDR. That is not a matter of “speculation.” That is a matter of public record.

    And you do realize that making your own speculations about how anyone else thinks when you don’t know the first thing about any of us makes you look kinda stupid and self-righteous, right? But thanks for the startling insight that the world is complicated and stuff. Boy, never knew that! You should definitely get that Doctorate in Thinkology from the Wizard!

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  13. Len says:

    Nice title by the Alternative News Report! I’m appreciating the mainstream more and more each day if this is the “alternative”.

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  15. FG says:

    While your table is correct, you’re off on Kirk’s election. Kirk was elected in November 2010 along with everyone else. But since it was an open seat, he joined the Senate for the lame duck session of 2010.

  16. LAC says:

    Can anyone tell me what BMull’s job is? Greenwald’s ball cleaner? There is not a smart progressive site his “Oh hum, the President’s accomplishments? Well, I voted for him to yell at Cheney and walk on water over to Gitmo to close it so I am not happy” speel is not on.

  17. Elizabeth Sholes says:

    Progressives and pundits who claim the health care reform was just Romney Lite are dead wrong. It as far from that as one could get without going into single payer for which there were only about 85-100 votes. You NEED 535 between the two houses. single payer supporters would do well to READ the bill and find out what it offers – it did away with the worst aspects of the MA plan by eliminating the $5000 deductible used to keep government subsidized premiums very low. The deductible keeps people from using it to prevent illness – they put off treatment because they STILL can’t pay. Federal reform piled on huge numbers of tests and other measures that did NOT have to be paid from a co-pay that is vastly less anyway. When it kicks in fully in 2014, rates up to 400% of the federal poverty level ($88,000) will be on a SLIDING scale targeted to your family income – 1-9%. Ironically, that is EXACTLY what the CA single payer cost was thought to be in the first incarnation of expenses. And federal reform allows states to regulate rates be regulating increases. Wow. So no – it’s not yet single payer and does build on private insurance – just as France, Germany, and many other single payer nations do. Time to get off the soap box of ideology and live in the real world. This president has accomplished huge things for us – if we don’t get so snotty about perfection that we keep handing ourselves the means to destroy what has been accomplished. The Left always has shot itself in the foot. That’s why the Right gets so powerful.

  18. Elizabeth Sholes says:

    Correction – you need 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate (if you get past filibuster) to pass anything, and single payer did not even come close. Sorry – writing too fast. The point is – we did not have the votes because we who support single payer did not convince others of its merits. We have WORK to do – we don’t just have great ideas that ooze into public awareness.

  19. RoughAcres says:

    THANK YOU. Great piece which I will share widely.

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  21. Bud says:

    Im curious why everyone talks about the government like there are only the two parties…have any of you checked the real numbers of political parties there are in this country…hell even Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist and HE should run as one and make the race interesting.
    The accomplishments are great and yes some would argue that some could have been done by anyone but they would never have been done by any Republican I have ever heard of or are looking at running now

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  29. Please. Obama and/or Reid could have called McConnell’s bluff the first “paper filibuster” he threatened. And should have. Harry Reid should have, for PR, had a stack of cots outside his office. And, on health care … and some other things … where was the budget reconciliation process? (Frank, you may have to “re-like” this … FB forced me to delete the original rather than re-editing.)

    Beyond that? As Ron Suskind’s new book shows, Obama is FUCKING INCOMPETENT. Period. Regardless of his political ideology.

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2011/09/obama-incompetent-and-democrats.html

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  31. Vote for Obama! He’s crippled by Congress!

  32. Bill Michtom says:

    This all sounds good on the face of it, but you neglect a very important part of that history: Obama made the bills he passed as conservative as he could by coming to the negotiations having already thrown away the most progressive positions (health care: no single payer, restrictive positions on choice (“I’m pro-choice, but I think we also have the tradition in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care”)); never used his power as the leader of the party to apply pressure to the right-wing senators and representatives as he did to the Progressive Caucus when it threatened to vote against more war funding.

    And printing another list of “all the great things” that were passed by Congress, is not going to refute Obama’s inherently right-wing politics.

    Like so many other pseudo-progressives, you leave out the corporate-friendly thrust of everything that Obama has done since he took office. The health care bill is a huge gift to the medico-industrial complex that was passed not because of this fiction: “Harry Reid agreed to strip out the public option to prevent Joe Lieberman from filibustering the bill,” but because Obama and the insurance industry agreed behind closed doors (see Tom Daschle’s book) to remove a public option in July of 2009 and then lied about it for the next nine months. Obama also cut a closed-door deal with the pharmaceutical industry to not negotiate for reasonable drug prices.

    Also, believing that Obama and Lieberman were working at cross purposes is unbelievably naive. Obama did nothing to remove Lieberman’s seniority and chairmanships after Lieberman campaigned against him in ’08. Also, Obama had campaigned for Lieberman in the 2006 CT senate primary against real Democrat Ned Lamont.

    You are about the thousandth Obama defender to run this line of crap at progressives and you are no more convincing than the other 999.

  33. Dennis says:

    Concerning your update “correction,” Amy Klobuchar is one of my senators, & I live in Minnesota.

  34. Ironically, Martin Luther King described getting the same excuses from the Kennedy administration:
    ____________________________

    Part of the blame must be laid to the Administration’s cautious tactics. Early in the year, the President backed away from the Senate I fight to amend Rule 22, the so-called filibuster rule; had he entered the fray, the amendment would probably have passed and the greatest obstacle to the passage of civil-rights legislation would have been smashed. (Despite this experience, the President again remained aloof, under similar circumstances, in January of this year, and again the amendment failed to carry.) True, 1962 was the year of the Cuban crisis, which understandably tended to dwarf all other issues. Yet even in the shadow of Cuba, such issues as trade legislation and tax reform took the play away from civil rights in editorial columns, public debate and headlines.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/157763/archive-bold-design-new-south
    _________________________________

    It was incredible to see how creative the Bush administration could get about ramming their agenda through. Obama doesn’t have to go to the illegal extremes they did, but if he played just within the limits of law, including strong arming some of those blue dogs in the Senate, pressuring the Senate to change the filibuster rule, or simply looking for ways to work around them and make them irrelevant, he would do a lot more good and have the respect of all the progressives who voted for him.

    And the composition of Congress was no obstacle to prosecuting Wall Street fraud or Bush era war crimes. If anything, a vigorous public trial of top Wall Street execs would have put pressure on the blue dogs to stop carrying water for corporate sociopaths or chased them out of office.

    We need a Democrat who fights as hard for doing good and Republicans do for doing us harm.

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  36. I love you, Bell Thomas. I have been trying to explain this to the progressives that I know. You, on the other hand, have laid it out in no uncertain, well-documented, and clearly analyzed terms. Thank you. I knew you were tenacious and smart. Now I know you are brilliant and wise as well.

  37. martin says:

    My deepest appreciation for this article and all the research that went into it. Everything else has been said.

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  39. Robert says:

    It is not the Senators but the Congress. We elect people to serve and be civil. Remarks of wait until 2012 by the Speaker should tell us what kind of government we have. The truth is coming in January when China will dictate policy. Our military will be one half and no money. The Republicans are still fighting the Native Americans. With all the bickering, I think time has run out and the great decline will begin. Which will be faster since in this modern era of global economy.

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    Hi Joi,

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