Senate Democrats are way behind the times. They won’t advocate and vote on their own budget because they are afraid of the Tea Party. The New York Times complains that “a good plan by the committee chairman, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, was deferred by Senate leaders, who feared that the plan’s tax increase on millionaires would make Democratic senators ripe targets for Tea Party attacks. … President Obama has not given the chamber much political cover, acting more as a high-level conciliator than a forceful advocate for increased revenues and against ideologically driven cuts.”
But the Tea Party is a spent force. They were never a big movement even when they received major boosts in the Murdoch-controlled media, with other media outlets following suit. Their role consisted in swinging independent voters in the 2010 elections with misleading propaganda. This did not mean these voters endorsed Republican policies of cutting welfare benefits to zero. They mostly made a protest vote against the Obama administration’s bailout of big banks and the super-rich with taxpayer dollars.
Now the tide has turned and the Republicans are frantically trying to negotiate the fallout from their own Ryan elder-impoverishment plan – despite having voted for it in both houses. Voters are turning away in droves from governors who are implementing Republican policy: Walker in Wisconsin, Kasich in Ohio, Scott in Florida and just about everywhere else. They are backing candidates like Kathy Hochul in NY 26 who pledge not to cut Medicare and Social Security.
According to Public Policy Polling, “Ohio voters are having some serious, serious buyer’s remorse about voting for Kasich. They now say if they could do it over again they’d vote for Ted Strickland by a 25 point margin over Kasich, 59/34. Our final poll before the election last fall, which hit the results on the head, found Kasich winning independents by 18 points. Now they say they would vote for Strickland by 16.”
But Senate Democrats are so removed from this changing mood that they are fighting the last elections – not the ones coming up. And it doesn’t help that the Obama administration is covertly squeezing Medicaid and telling the Supreme Court not to allow legal challenges to state cuts.
“ ‘I find it appalling that the solicitor general in a Democratic administration would assert in a Supreme Court brief that businesses can challenge state regulation under the supremacy clause, but that poor recipients of Medicaid cannot challenge state violations of federal law,’ said Prof. Timothy S. Jost, an expert on health law at Washington and Lee University, who is usually sympathetic to the administration.”
The Congressional Democrats have realized that campaigning against the Ryan plan is their key to electoral victory next year. However, they are viewing it purely opportunistically as a campaign tactic, and have not taken on board the growing social movement to hold the line on the social contract. When are we going to see some Democrats with the backbone of the Wisconsin 14 in the national Democratic Party and the Senate?