The Trouble with Tea Partiers as Legislators

(cross-posted from It's A Free Country on WNYC)

The Republican majority moves into the House of Representatives today, fueled by the energy of newly elected Tea Partiers who arrive declaring that they’ll shake things up, undo Obama’s victories and change Washington.

My prediction: they will cause some commotion, get a good deal of attention, undo nothing and Washington will survive yet another push to transform it, for better or for worse.

There’s no doubt that the antics of members of the Tea Party Caucus will cause a stir. Their candidates proved successful at getting media attention, aggravating progressives and injecting ideas (at times toxic) into public discourse — there is every reason to believe this can continue.

But while theatrics make a successful campaign, they don’t pass legislation – you need a different set of skills for that.  As Mario Cuomo is often quoted, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”  Angry rhetoric got the Tea Party this far. Are they ready to find a new temperament for this new role?

January 05, 2011

Conservatives Use Blizzard to Plow Ahead with Anti-Labor Agenda

(cross-posted from It's a Free Country at WNYC)

You have to hand it to the right-wing: they stick to their principles — at least when it comes to the principle of detesting organized labor. The conservative War Against Work rarely misses an opportunity to blame unionized workers for something, regardless of the truth.

Following our recent blizzard in New York, the conservative messaging machine spewed so much hot air, I’m surprised it didn’t help melt the snow.

We New Yorkers know what happened.  A monstrous blizzard hit us hard and fast. City officials may have made some poor choices as the storm approached. Entire neighborhoods experienced unplowed roads and rising anger, as the Department of Sanitation scrambled to get the city up and running again.  And the mayor held himself accountable for the poor response.

Yet if you were watching Fox News, you’d think that sanitation workers sinisterly planned an intentional slow-down to teach their fellow New Yorkers a lesson. While Fox’s website reports the other side – that the Commissioner of Sanitation and President of the Sanitation Officers Association both saw no evidence of this – their on-screen interview with New York Council Member Dan Halloran wasn’t quite as “fair and balanced.”

January 04, 2011

Ten Reasons Liberals Should Toast that 2010 is Finally Over

(cross posted from WNYC's It's A Free Country)

Prepare to pop your champagne corks and warm up your vocal cords to belt out the lyrics of Auld Lang Syne. New Year’s Eve is upon us. For some, it’s a time to look forward to a new chapter. For others, a chance to reflect upon the accomplishments of the past year.

For liberals, let’s just toast that 2010 is over at last.

Yes, we can point to reasons for liberals to cheer. Young insurgents David Carlucci and Gustavo Rivera will be joining the New York State Senate. In a down-to-the-wire sprint in DC, we saw success on a nuclear treaty and the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."  This was a year of historic legislation, from healthcare reform to financial regulation. And Jon Stewart not only rallied to restore sanity, but more effectively rallied to shame conservatives into passing the Zadroga Bill for 9/11 responders.

Liberals can cheer those achievements. Now, if you’re looking for the feel-good end-of-year piece, stop reading here.

For all the successes, 2010 has been an overall rough year for those on the left side of American politics. If we’re going to get off the mat and go into 2011 fresh, let’s just spend one cathartic “Top 10” list spewing out the remains of 2010. Here are 10 lowlights from the past year – all reasons I’ll be toasting that it’s finally done. (PLEASE - add your own in the comments thread. This isn't the "top 10" — these are just "my 10" — I know there are many more.)

December 30, 2010

Snow Plows: The Government Bailout We Can All Get Behind

(cross-posted from WNYC's It's A Free Country)

A massive snowstorm is coming! Twenty inches of snow will blanket our city!  Did we remember to pay our private snow-clearing insurance to plow our street?!

That last exclamation wasn’t heard in the commotion and clamor leading up to NYC’s latest Snowpocalypse. We don’t need to pay for private companies to open up our roadways because we – like many Americans – rely on local government to handle the job. 

That’s right: we depend on, and are largely served by, Big Government Snow Plows. Or, as The Tea Party and its friends at Fox News may call it: “Government Takeover of the Snow Removal Industry."

December 28, 2010

WWGBD: What Would George Bailey Do?

(cross-posted from WNYC's It's A Free Country)


Over the holidays, it can be tempting to take a break from political conversations for a few days while you curl up by the fire and watch classic Christmas movies with your family.  Fortunately, you don’t have to choose one or the other if you watch It’s A Wonderful Life America’s greatest liberal holiday film.

Frank Capra’s beloved tale of George Bailey and Bedford Falls is a political story that resonates today. The good guy: a community lender who supports his neighbors, puts others ahead of himself and helps folks build homes and live out their dreams. The bad guy: the big banker in the town whose greed knows no bounds.

Sound familiar?

December 24, 2010

A Liberal To Senator Gillibrand: I'm Sorry

(cross posted from WYNC's It's A Free Country)

Senator Charles Schumer is famous for his Sunday press conferences, but it was New York’s junior Senator – Kirsten Gillibrand – who was in the media spotlight this Sunday.  The lead articles on The New York Times website about the historic repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" featured a photograph of the Senator who had championed this legislation in DC, over the airwaves and over her own email list for months.  Right below was an article on the final push for a meaningful action to support the health of the first responders on 9/11…and the article led with quotes from Senator Gillibrand, who has been working to pass this legislation through the Senate.

New York is full of big personalities, but on this issue, Senator Gillibrand proved herself as vocal and visible as our billionaire Mayor, media-savvy senior Senator and even her predecessor, the current Secretary of State.  What matters even more to New Yorkers than her ability to make headlines may be her effectiveness.  It’s not a done deal yet, but the Senator is hoping for a "Christmas Miracle."

So speaking on behalf of at least some New York liberals, let me say: "Sorry – we were wrong."

December 21, 2010

Liberals Get Their Game Back

(Cross-posted from WNYC's It's a Free Country)

Liberals shouldn't be in a festive mood.  The sweeping, game-changing realignment promised by the 2008 election got re-realigned in 2010. The Tea Party grabbed the headlines as it won the hearts of a small, passionate, activist population.  Meanwhile, progressive champs like Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson went down.  At least, they went down swinging -- many other Democrats went down running.

So you'd think that this holiday season would find Tea Partiers toasting eggnog by the Christmas tree and liberals sulking alone near the mistletoe. 

Not in New York. In New York City, the local Tea Party club — Tea Party 365 — sent an email to its members, explaining that only two special guests, out of 48 invitations, had agreed to attend their holiday social.  Due to lack of interest, the Tea Party canceled its party. 

Meanwhile, the progressive holiday calendar has been packed, and groups like the Manhattan Young Democrats, Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century, the Drum Major Institute and Greater NYC for Change have partied like it’s 2008. 

December 17, 2010

No Labels? No Movement

(cross posted from Its A Free Country)

Why did the launch of “No Labels” – a new “movement” to become for the political middle – receive such extraordinary attention on Monday? Unlike MoveOn, which earned its attention by giving millions of regular Americans an opportunity to express their frustration with the start of the Iraq War in 2003, No Labels doesn’t have a committed membership. Unlike the Tea Party – another analogue that was invoked during the day-long kick-off – No Labels hasn’t seen its followers organize around town hall meetings across the country.

Instead, No Labels seems to have become an instantly faddish phenomenon due to its high-profile attendees – and the love affair a certain set of elites has with claiming the middle of the road.

Despite the movement’s name, there were plenty of labels to go-around: “independent,” “centrist,” “moderate,” “post-partisan,” “trans-partisan” were a few of the self-declared non-label labels.

December 15, 2010

America's Liberal Tribe

Pundits obsess with elections.  Will the Democrats hold both houses of Congress?  Will Obama voters return to the polls in the midterms?  Do recent primaries send a warning to incumbents -- and if so, what warning: that they should move left, right or center?

Around the country, though, the politically-minded population has had more than election cycles on their mind.  They care about the systemic structural issues in the Senate and the temperament of the administration, issues which won't change with a single vote.  They are equally obsessed with local transit and neighborhood redevelopment.  They exchange book and move recommendations and argue over favorite news anchors and comedians.

These people belong to America's Liberal Tribe: a growing community of people who share attitudes and culture rooted in common values that transcend single election cycles.

And good news America: the liberal cause is growing.

August 12, 2010

I've Heard This Story Before

"I wasn't really that political," said Tom, sitting across from me at the Covington, Kentucky Drinking Liberally.

I was in disbelief.  Sure, plenty of non-political folks come to DL -- but how many are on their Democratic county committee?  Tom's a member of the party trying to beat the odds and pick up a seat or two in this year's county races.

So I asked him how he went from being non-political to a "party boss" and his answer sounded familiar.

August 03, 2010