This morning, the always brilliant and ever-sensible Ezra Klein wakes us up with this:
The 111th Congress refuses to go quietly into that sweet night. Friday, of course, saw the $850 billion tax deal sent to President Obama. On Saturday, the Senate broke the filibuster protecting the Don't Ask, Don't Tell rules. On Sunday, it passed the food safety bill. Those three accomplishments — all of them significant in their own right — now join the 111th's other achievements: Health-care reform, the financial-regulation bill, the stimulus, Ted Kennedy's national-service bill, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program and student-loan reform, just to name a few. And the 111th may not be done: Chuck Schumer wants them to stick around to pass a bill giving health benefits to the Ground Zero responders.
That is not to say it hasn't failed on at least some of what it promised to do.
But for now, spare a thought for the 111th, the most productive Congress we've had in decades.
Ok, so that said…
And without even a sip of coffee to help me get off on what may prove an epic rant for a Monday morning, does THAT sound like the miserable, anti-progressive Congress and Administration that a few very vocal bloggers have been telling you it was for the past two years? If it does. you're contributing to a reckless, never-satisfied, never-realistic, and never-reasonable ideological framing that is as destructive to this nation as the Republicans are trying to be every day.
No, there is nothing wrong with "criticism," as so many of the complainer-apologistas need to hear to feel validated, if not exonerated from their complicity in helping to drive down Congress's approval ratings, widening the "enthusiasm gap," and turning the House back over to the Republicans. But there is a lot wrong with making those criticisms so relentless, so vicious, and so irrationally intense that it merely fuels Republican message machines, dominates the media narratives, and tears down a very fragile relationship with those center-to-right leaning independents who still control our elections. We are already suffering from all that, and the 112th hasn't even begun yet. And when it has, the "it's not progressive enough, good enough or fast enough" crowd will be blogging away as if they had nothing to do with the disemboweling of a painfully brief period of Progressive governance; one that miraculously intervened after 8 years of hideously incompetent conservative governance, which itself followed 20 years of mostly ruinous conservative hegemony. Despite their frequent carping to the contrary, those perpetually dissatisfied critics very much did play a role in that evisceration. And anyone watching the past 18 months knows it. They've been rabidly gnawing at the fabric of this administration since being denied a grossly overrated "public option"—something which was always little more than a hacked-out consolation prize that the purists used to mollify and outrage the Single Payer hopefuls who never EVER had a prayer of success with the Blue Dog coalition and Conservadems in control of Congress.
The loss of a single policy failure, combined with the disappointment that comes with realizing that one Presidential election cannot possibly undo years of conservative operatives and policies buried in our Federal agencies, courts, state department, military, and local governments, became the defining attitude of the day. And the results, as the midterms just demonstrated, have been positively wretched. Hope has turned to horror. And not because it was inevitable. But because Obama never had the real majorities so many imagined that he did, and rather than work diligently to build them, progressives largely sat back as a few petulant voices controlled the media narratives and destroyed whatever leverage we may have had to move forward. Was Obama and his team blameless in all of this? Of course not. They've made many tactical and spiritual blunders. But every administration does. Just as every administration in our history has been criticized for not delivering on some of their promises. That's just the nature of our system, if not modern politics everywhere. No president can just reverse all that the previous president did wrong, or all of politics is nothing but a circular road to nowhere. It takes time, and the consistently expressed will of the people to make real and lasting change; a populist will that must be expressed by larger movements than mere parties can muster. The teaparty just proved that. Now the progressives must prove it again.
We are where we are, and it's not a pretty place to be. But there is still a chance to improve that place. Retaking the House in 2012 is a long shot, but it must be a key goal of a real and more potent progressive movement that we must build, and starting now. Because without the House, and a stronger Senate, we have no chance of any President fixing anything in the short or long term. And if the "I want all the ponies I was promised" ideologues (and the stealth right wing operatives gleefully building atop their mawkish malaise), whose controversies are critical to their publishing revenue, continue attacking this current administration with the same intensity they have deployed thus far, then the productive 111th Congress will not be the last casualty. The next victims will be the 2012 Senate, and probably the White house. And that will thrust our fate into the hands of these Teapublicans, a political class of know-nothings unseen in our history. A group that might not even be legally sane, let alone able to govern a diverse and complicated nation faced with an almost unmanageable number of complex issues.
The likely outcome of that transfer of power will be catastrophic. It will thrust new dead-weight atop a plunge already in progress; a dive so fast and steep that this nation is rapidly sinking toward a new depth that will feel like a dark age tinged with a backlit media glow. By not coming together and giving President Obama a more unified base of progressive support that can help him chip away at the plutocratic excesses and religious conservative zealotry that forge the political plasma he was elected to work within, we are risking one of the most colossal nation-state meltdowns in history. We will find ourselves deep in a new abyss, the contours of which will be defined by leaderless, science-less, reasonless, and totally senseless ignorance, malfeasance and greed.
At risk is nothing less than a complete dismantling of most liberal policies and achievements that made America the model of a modern nation that it has been—or at least pretended to be. And from that tragic and unnecessary gutting of our modern heritage, the American experiment will probably never recover. If that happens, our lack of health care and other progressive issues will pale in comparison to the even uglier, and probably totalitarian country we will have to become in order to appease a desperate, ignorant and myopically gullible Fox-fed public that will accept any solution that keeps our pathetically antiquated trains running anything close to on-time.
By pretending that perpetual dissatisfaction is the same as constructive criticism, and thinking every interest group can get every prize it thinks it deserves without first working with every other group to achieve a real and lasting control of this government, the entire game will be lost to a ruthless and unrelenting conservative-corporate enemy. For want of a better and more perfect pony, and right this very minute, America will lap the entire pack of empires that stumbled and fell, and be reduced to one more also-ran in the horse race of history.