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Lotus 1-2-3 and the Politics of 1992

Who’s that knocking at my door?

Where were you in 1992?  Right Said Fred scored a big campy hit with I’m Too Sexy.  Lotus 1-2-3 was the most popular spreadsheet program.  Bill Clinton distinguished himself from the sclerotic Democratic Party by criticizing a comment by a mostly unknown African American rapper to signal to the rest of America that he was a different kind of Democrat, willing to run from the party’s base to govern from the center as a pragmatic, Southern (white) man.  His genius was he could do this while still being hailed later by novelist Toni Morrison as the "first black president."

As Jane pointed out yesterday, some Democrats are still trying to play obsolete Lotus 1-2-3 politics in 2006.  Roots Project members from New York got a lesson in old school, 1992 Democratic politics last week. . .and they have it on an awesome, must-see video.  Welcome to the digital age, senators!

Roots Project New York members had been trying for over a week to make an appointment to meet with staff in both of their senators’ offices.  Here’s their summary of their attempts on April 21st to visit the people who ostensibly work for them:


The intrepid four were:  Lee, Jay, Sari, and Julie.  Julie had her camera. 


All visitors in Senator Clinton’s office building must be announced.  We told the security guard that we wanted to go up and meet with her staff.  We did not have an appointment despite our efforts to try and get one.  There was much give and take.  Finally, the security guard called Clinton’s office and told us to wait. 

We waited 10 minutes, and then called ourselves.  The young woman who answered the telephone told us that we could not come up without an appointment.  I explained that, beginning on April 11, we have requested appointments, but have received a run around about getting one.  Out of frustration, we are in the building to meet with someone.  The young woman insisted we needed an appointment, apologized for the run around, and offered to have someone come downstairs and pick up any written material.  She also stated that policy issues were handled out of Washington.  My response to that was it is unacceptable that I, as a constituent, must travel to DC to meet with my Senator to discuss policy.  Again, she apologized.  

Finally, she took my name and telephone number and assured me that someone will call.

Frankly, I won’t hold my breath. 


Visitors at Senator Schumer’s building also had to be announced.  We were immediately whisked to his office.  We met with the Sam Schaeffer, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.  He was expecting us as our press release had appeared on the AP Daybook.  Schumer himself had asked about us that morning as a result of the Daybook entry.  We thanked him for meeting with us without an appointment.  We informed him that the group came together electronically.  Schaeffer wanted to know about the group and its structure.  We informed him that we do not have a group, per se, but were seeing him as constituents brought together via Firedoglake. 

We stressed two points:  Congress must demand pre-authorization prior to any military intervention in Iran.  Schumer must sign on to the censure bill.  He pointed out that Schumer has a bill to put the eaves dropping program before the Supreme Court.  Jay agreed that was an important step.  No response to the censure endorsement. 

There was also something we said that hit home.  We pointed out that every single senator, from Schumer to Orrin Hatch knows that the president is breaking the law and violating the separation of powers.  And we said to Sam that he knows it too, whether he can say so or not. 


I strongly recommend that constituents go to Clinton’s office and demand face time with an aide.  It is ridiculous to go to DC, unless of course you are planning to go.  That we cannot discuss ‘policy’ questions in New York is the height of arrogance.  I also recommend posting your experiences at the blog of your choice.

Schumer’s people are responsive in that they will meet.  Whether anything comes of the meeting remains to be seen.

Lotus 1-2-3 politics don’t work anymore.  They’ve been supplanted.  The Republican Party has adjusted to the Democrats’ DLC/1990’s playbook and has been winning ever since.  Why do so many Democrats and donors to Democrats insist on an approach to politics that has manifestly failed, having created a party that, to the wider public, stands for nothing?

Chuck Schumer is no lover of the grassroots, but he does love to manage his press, and it’s no accident New Yorkers got a warm reception from his office after putting out a press release about their intended visit the night before.

His obscure, go-nowhere proposal to bring SCOTUS review to the NSA warrantless wiretapping program was designed to give him the appearance of action while undermining Feingold’s censure motion.  Schumer is on the record in his desire for Democrats not to fight too aggressively before the midterms, so as not to provide a target for Republican attacks.  He is afraid of waking up the Republican base but confident the Democratic base requires no attention. Moreover, he was  personally furious with Feingold for deviating from the team script at the time he dropped the censure proposal, even though the Ports Dubai story had already run out of steam.  Schumer’s office  warmly received his New York visitors, and for that, he deserves credit for having his people do their jobs.  But Chuck Schumer is still practicing outdated Lotus 1-2-3 politics.

It’s all rather sad, actually, because these people don’t yet understand what Joe Lieberman is rapidly learningI’m Too Sexy may get some laughs at the karoake bar, but its day has come and gone.  The new, Democratic politics of definition – standing for things like fairness, opportunity, the common good and investment in the future – is taking off through the grassroots all over the country.  The time for barricading the gate is over.  Proposing barricades on the border is a sloppy attempt to create a Sister Souljah issue, and one that will likely backfire.

Regular people – constituents, like those who comprise the Roots Project – are poised to overwhelm tired old hands like Mercenary Mouthpiece Mike McCurry and the soulless consultants who counsel Lotus 1-2-3 politics.  Glenn Greenwald writes about this today, and it’s worth a full read (why not preorder Glenn’s book, How Would A Patriot Act?): 

As for Feingold’s explanation, it is easy to see exactly what he is describing. Democratic consultants attacked and tried to kill his resolution even after it was announced and had been widely publicized. Is there any doubt at all that had he consulted in advance with Democrats, all that he would have confronted would be efforts to dissuade him from doing anything?

As Crashing the Gate chronicles, and as Feingold implied, the Democratic Party has all but turned itself over to highly risk-adverse, overly calculating political consultants who have drained the party of ideals, passion, energy and life. Almost all of them inspire nobody, because they so transparently lack any governing principles or passion about anything. They embrace only those ideas which are guaranteed in advance to be popular, and they run from ideas they believe in and that are right whenever they are told — by the bookish, soul-less consultants who dominate them — that those ideas are risky or unpopular. And everyone sees this and knows this.

People are getting together to overturn the politics of vacuity in many ways, but if you’d like to join your own in-state neighbors in the Roots Project, send an email to stateproject at gmail dot com with (only!) your home state in the subject line.  If you can, please include your blog commenting name or kos user name in the body of your note.

Your neighbors look forward to hearing from you. 

UPDATE:  Now here’s an example of a fighting Dem.  More of this please, Minority Leader Pelosi!  When you, our representatives, step out and lead, we will be more than happy to praise and support you. 

UPDATE II (11:50 AM PST 04-27-2006):  Members of the New York Roots Project inform me that, following the publication of this post, Senator Clinton’s New York office has indeed contacted them to arrange a meeting to discuss constituent concerns.  The locals are delighted this has occurred, and hopefully the future will bring us more good news on the New York front.  An aside to national politicians dealing with Roots Project members and the blogosphere:  to get good buzz on blogs like this one, the best thing to do is show responsiveness and genuine engagement with constituents.  Here at FDL, we don’t intend to print statements from political offices relevant to Roots Project action, since the Roots Project is not run through this blog.  Roots Project chapters create their own agendas and communicate their progress to us for publication consideration.  At this blog, in cooperation with Crooks and Liars and Unclaimed Territory, we simply provide resources and ideas (i. e., this blog is not "the decider.").  I, for one, want more than anything to report good news.  The update directly above about Leader Pelosi’s recent words is but one example of our eagerness to report when Democrats show strong leadership. — Pachacutec

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Pachacutec did not, as is commonly believed, die in 1471. To escape the tragic sight of his successors screwing up the Inca Empire he’d built, he fled east into the Amazon rain forest, where he began chewing lots of funky roots to get higher than Hunter Thompson ever dared. Oddly, these roots gave him not only a killer buzz, but also prolonged his life beyond what any other mortal has known, excluding Novakula. Whatever his doubts of the utility of living long enough to see old friends pop up in museums as mummies, or witness the bizarrely compelling spectacle of Katherine Harris, he’s learned a thing or two along the way. For one thing, he’s learned the importance of not letting morons run a country, having watched the Inca Empire suffer many civil wars requiring the eventual ruler to gain support from the priests and the national military. He now works during fleeting sober moments to build a vibrant progressive movement sufficiently strong and sustainable to drive a pointed stake through the heart of American “conservatism” forever. He enjoys a gay marriage, classic jazz and roots for the New York Mets.