Monday, September 7, 2009

537. Long Entry for a Short Week

Okay folks, it is the second week of September. At some point this week K-Mart and Walmart will start dragging out Christmas trees and wrapping paper. Summer, the season of leisure, is coming to an end. Time to get serious.

Using that last line as a backdrop, let us review what's ahead on the national agenda in this holiday-shortened week. The week starts with the 535 legislators elected to the Congress returning to their respective Houses to do the people's work, earning their minimum of $174,000.00 as the elected representatives of the people and the states. In the United States Senate, of the 100 members there are 58 Democrats, 39 Republicans, and two Independents, one siding for the Ds and the other for the Rs. And there is one vacancy due to the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, a vacancy which will no doubt be felt in great measure for the next few years. In the House, of the 435 members, 256 are Democrats and 178 are Republicans. There are no Independents and presently one vacancy, in California. There are also six non-voting members representing the various colonial holdings of our Republic.

One would think that with such margins of control, the Democratic Party, led by the President of the United States of America, could move legislation through the Congress at whatever pace it determined to be appropriate. That may be true for some legislation such as the naming or renaming of a post office, or the declaration of this week or next in honor of this cause or that cause. However, there are two issues presently before the Congress which seem to be at something of a standstill: healthcare and the War in Afghanistan. The latter will eventually be referred to as Obama's War. He talked about its importance during the election and his actions have placed him not only as the de facto but also the de jure Commander-In-Chief of that war. He is gambling on that matter, gambling that the voters who elected him on a get-the-troops-out-of-Iraq platform won't turn on him as he sends more and more of them into Afghanistan. If I were a gambling man with money, I'd wouldn't bet on the president's side.

The other issue is healthcare. We've lived through a month of complaining about the various healthcare bills before the Congress. It is time for the Congress to come together and vote on one. During the Town Hall debates, Democratic congressmembers across the country endured what was essentially bitch-sessions, often populated by those who, by a vote of the people in November, 2006 and another one in November, 2008, lost control of the Congress and the presidency. But, they apparently haven't lost control of the country or this matter would be far more advanced that it is. It amazes me that a president, a House, and a Senate, all controlled by one Party cannot address the very serious problems surrounding healthcare.

Part of the problem has been messaging. With several different bills, the message of any good work such as reform might do was lost in cacophany of opposition who picked and choosed [pardon the language] bits and pieces of the bills with which they disagreed. Or, in some instances, such as that of former Governor Sarah Palin and her comments on "death panels," they just plain lied and did so intentionally. There hasn't been one clarion voice on the matter, making clear the proposal and making clear the mandate the Democratic Party received in the two preceding elections. We won. I've written that before. Why aren't we acting like it?

I'm tired of the hit-or-miss leadership from the Speaker of the House on this matter. I had been told there was an opportunity for our own congressman to be one of the voices on this matter, addressing the issues lucidly and coherently. For whatever reason, that didn't happen. Over in the Senate, with the loss of Senator Kennedy, there are no voices of courage or conviction, notwithstanding the fact that 58% of the Senators are Democrats. All of this must change and soon.

Such change might come this week. The president was just up the river in Cincinnati, Ohio addressing a labor day gathering of mostly friendly laborers on a wide variety of topics, inclduding healthcare. He joked that he might need to save his voice for Wednesday night, when he is scheduled to address the country on the matter in what might be his last shot of taking control of a country which numerically gave him control ten months ago in an election. If he does any compromising, something I usually believe in but in this case do not, he will have lost the passionate support of many of us who passionately supported him through much of 2008. If he does that, life - meaning reelection - will get much more difficult for certain Democrats in 2010.

For the record, I'm not presently concerned about the reelection of my congressman here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. He will be challenged, but he should also easily prevail. If the president doesn't come on board soon with some strong language though, the story may be different over along the Right Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, where the voters returned Baron Hill to Washington mostly because he wasn't a Republican like his opponent, former Congressman Mike Sodrel. However, as part of the Blue Dog Caucus of Democrats, now and then Hill seems to be more of a Republican than a Democrat. My friend Ken says "Blue Dog" is French for "chicken-shit." People like Hill enjoyed the support of the national Party and its allies in 2008. But now that they need him, he is, well, a Blue Dog. If Hill fails to support the national Party on this matter, there should be some serious consideration to letting Indiana's 9th Congressional District fade from their financial radar screen. And Congressman Hill is not the only one in need of such an attitude adjustment.

Taking such action presumes the Democratic Party leadersip is willing and able to do so. Back in 2006, I had the opportunity [notice I did not use the word pleasure] of meeting then-chairman of the DCCC, then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel. Every thing I had heard about him he proved to be true. When President Obama tapped him as Chief-of-Staff I was pleased knowing that there was a bulldog on board to shepherd those things through Congress which might need a bulldog to get them through. I saw him as something of a Master of the Senate in the mold of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Emanuel could serve that purpose for the House just as Vice President Joe Biden could do for the Senate, having served there for more than a few generations.

Well, gentlemen, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, and Mr. Chief-of-Staff, the time has come to do something. This week.


But first, the president wants to talk to our nation's schoolchildren. No-brainer you might say. Not so. People, mostly white people in places where Obama did not win in November, places such as Kentucky, don't want the elected black president speaking to their young-uns. Why? Oh, he's a Socialist, a Muslim, a Commie, and a Democrat. And he is black, although that is not the words many of them use. Honestly, it is embarassing to think that our political divide is such that the president can't talk to school children. But, this isn't a political divide. This is a racial divide. The people opposed to the president addressing the nation's schoolchildren may hide behind political and economic arguments. They may as well be hiding under a sheet with two holes cut out for eyesight - they might even own such a sheet. They are racists, pure and simple. And as bad as that is, it is also pitiful. These people should be pitied. They are what is wrong with America. One would have thought their day was past. Theirs is a political ideology founded in the politics of Strom Thurmond and continued in that of George Wallace, both of whom made people believe the Civil War had been won by the Confederacy. In the 1960s, the sentiment went mainstream; Nixon adopted the Southern Strategy and became a "law and order" man, code words aimed at lawlessness, some of it remnant of the riots of the summer of 1968. Reagan borrowed the ideas, as did, surprisingly, old man Bush, with his Willie Horton ads. The "official hate" is back, now found in the words of right-wing talk show hosts and politicians such as the aforementioned Palin. It is mainstream Republican politics. But it, like the Republican Party itself, is anything but mainstream.

Remember, 53% of the people voted for Barack Obama. 58% of the Senate is Democratic. 59% of the House is Democratic. Mr. President, it is time to use your bully pulpit and keep the promises of 2008 and you can not allow the Democratic Congress to be in your way.

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The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.