Look, I understand that it will take time for media types to sluff off the spoon-fed GOP framing memes and for reporters and pundits alike to start thinking on their own for a change, but the "liberal" framing under the "naughty/bad/out of touch with America" nonsense has got to stop. You know why Democrats won in the last election cycle? Because we are all — ALL — sick to death of the real problems in America getting shoved to the side for partisan posturing and KStreet negotiation advantages, with real people being squeezed out of the process at the margins, and real problems getting tromped further and further down the Congressional "to do" list. This election cycle was all about accountability — because we couldn't get the rubber stamp Republican Congress to stand up and do their jobs for the rest of America.
David Sirota has it exactly right this morning:
Dobbs-style populism, along with opposition to the Iraq War, was the overwhelming theme of the 2006 elections. There is no denying it. In the last few days, there have been a barrage of right-wingers and DLCers trying to hide this very simple fact. They have said the election was about Democrats pretending to be Republicans, citing people like Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb – even as Webb himself has appeared on Dobbs’ show to give voice to the very kind of economic populism many of us have been pushing for years. And, of course, even in the face of the New York Times’ own news page admitting the rise of populism, we are asked by the Establishment revisionists to simply forget about the election of red-region economic populists like Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester, Heath Shuler, Nancy Boyda and others.
Writers like Tom Frank, Chris Hayes, Matt Taibbi, Bill Greider and I have for years been pushing this brand of politics, and for our efforts we have all been attacked by Washington insiders and Big Money interests. I remember vividly the DLC attacking me for publishing The Democrats’ Da Vinci Code back in 2004 that proposed a populist national campaign strategy, citing real-world examples of how this strategy works in red regions of the country.
But we have stuck to our guns because polls show populism (aka. challenging economic power) is the “center” position in the public, even though it may not be the “center” position in a K-Street-owned Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, the true “center” won out over Washington’s faux “center” – whether our status quo opponents in Washington’s think tanks, cocktail parties, congressional cloakrooms and lobbying firms like it or not….
But all in all, there is no denying that if Democrats want to hold a governing majority for the foreseeable future, they cannot continue to deny the populist outrage seething all over the country and highlighted by Dobbs book. They cannot continue to listen only to the former Clintonites now on K Street. They cannot continue to listen only to executives on Wall Street. They cannot continue to openly brag about how close they are to corporate lobbyists. They must see election 2006 for what it was: a mandate for economic populism and a battle cry against the hostile takeover of our government and against the War on the Middle Class.
The liberal versus conservative framing is so last election cycle. Let's try "real world versus Beltway fantasy" on for size and see how much more appropriate that is. Matt Taibbi's palpable disgust in his election night tour de force expresses how fed up we all are at the DC spin machine and the unreality of the Beltway crowd. (And it's a darn good read — some exceptional snark in there!)
The NYTimes just doesn't seem to get it this morning:
But in interviews with nearly half of them this week, the freshmen — 41 in the House and 9 in the Senate, including one independent — conveyed a keen sense of their own moment in history, and a distinct world view: they say they were given a rare opportunity by voters, many of them independents and Republicans, who were tired of the partisanship and gridlock in Washington.
Now, they say, they have to produce — to deal with long-festering problems like access to affordable health care and the loss of manufacturing jobs, and to find a bipartisan consensus for an exit strategy in Iraq, a source of continuing division not only between but also within the parties.
Many of them say they must also, somehow, find a way to address the growing anxiety among voters about a global economy that no longer seems to work for them. There is a strong populist tinge to this class.
In general, they set themselves an extraordinary (political veterans might say impossible) task: to avoid the ideological wars that have so dominated Congress in recent years, to be pragmatists, and to change the tone in Washington after a sharply partisan campaign.
“I see myself, hopefully, as a bridge builder, a consensus person,” said Harry Mitchell, 66, a longtime state senator and former mayor of Tempe, Ariz., who defeated Representative J. D. Hayworth, an emblematic member of the class of 1994. “I can’t be a rabid partisan Democrat and represent this district.”
Nancy Boyda, who defeated Representative Jim Ryun, the legendary track star, in a district in Kansas that President Bush carried by 20 percentage points in 2004, summarized her mandate this way: “Stop the gridlock, stop the nastiness, get something done. People are tired of excuses.”
Here's an idea: what people want, all across America, no matter their political leanings or personal philosophy, is for someone on the Hill to take their job seriously, for a restoration of Constitutional governance and checks and balances and adults running the show instead of the arrogant free-for-all to which we were subjected under the Tom DeLay KStreet ATM excesses of the last few years and the Karl Rove rabid partisan divide and…well, and lose anyway strategy.
Here's the idiocy of the whole "liberal versus conservative" meme that the media keeps pushing: the frame is all wrong. It ought to be Beltway Insiders and Power-grabbing Status Quo Pushers versus the rest of the real people who live their lives, working their butts off every single day in the rest of the country outside that unreality Beltway bubble.
Why? Because most of America wants some solution to health care, some form of universal access and something better than what there is now. Most of America thinks Iraq is a mess, and blames the idiots in Washington, regardless of party, who got us into the mess without asking questions that needed asking in the first place. Most of America is sick of slick, arrogant insider-ism, and they want accountability and honesty and actual governance.
Most of America wants their members of Congress to actually, you know, WORK instead of runnning around sucking up special interest money like a Hoover in order to maintain their hold on the status quo.
Which puts all of us squarely in the center of most of America.
I know this is going to change framing as we go forward, and that I need to be patient and take it one day at a time. But that's tough, considering I live outside the beltway and all and that I spend my life talking with real people who have real problems that need to be addressed: heating costs, fixed incomes, Medicare-D donut holes and having to decide between groceries and medicine; disappearing pensions after corporate bankruptcies while CEOs still ride off their golden parachutes; kids in homes that wouldn't be safe for a cop with a taser to live in; and on and on and on.
This one day at a time crap comes at a price — and the GOP just paid for their arrogant decision to ignore the needs of the people. This election was all about reminding folks in Washington that they work for us — not the other way around — and we are damn well going to keep reminding them until they listen. Here's hoping that the Democratic leadership really got the message.
And a note to the Beltway crowd: try getting out of DC, away from your staffer-established fundraiser events and sheltered, hand-picked audiences. Serve some dinner at the local shelter for Thanksgiving and really talk to people instead of just having a photo op. Go to the local union hall or the armory and meet with real people facing a lot of really tough choices. Next time you are eating at a restaurant, talk with the waiter or waitress and the person clearing your table about how they are making ends meet on tips and two other jobs while trying to keep their kids safe and in school with no real options for child care. You know, put yourself in someone else's real world shoes. Get out of the cozy Congressional gym and see how the other half lives. Head out to Walter Reed and really talk with the families of soldiers whose lives and bodies have been shattered.
And then, pop over here and talk to folks who really care about finding solutions. The American people are looking for some good answers to a whole host of problems. And we are willing to meet you more than halfway — but it's going to take good faith and honest work…and less name-calling and ego positioning to get there. We want you to succeed, but you have to remember who it is you are working for in order for that to happen.
The lesson of the GOP loss: don't get cocky. You work for us, please do your job. And for the media folks out there: that goes double for you.
Say it with me, gang: one day at a time…
(TVGuide cover courtesy of BlogWay Baby.)