With One Hand on the Brass Ring, Pelosi Slaps the #CBC with the Other [Updated 12/10 ] | Centrism on Blog#42

With One Hand on the Brass Ring, Pelosi Slaps the #CBC with the Other | Centrism on Blog#42

History is being repeated as we speak, complete with waves of articles and opinion pieces on how the Democrats have swung too far left. All the major news organizations were chock full of such pieces as factions were jockeying for Nancy Pelosi’s attention in exchange for support for her candidacy as the next House Speaker.

The part about factions negotiating is perfectly normal in a party that is diverse. What isn’t normal, however, is that cycle after cycle, particular moneyed interests successfully close off all avenues for progress even before the leader is elected and seated. This is what is happening now, not only on policy issues that poll at maximum voter interest and support, but also in predetermining who will be allowed to chair committees in the future and stripping chairpersons’ power.

The oligarchy smelling blood among voters, is refocusing its efforts by tightening its grip on the leadership of the left. As Lee Fang explains in The Intercept, dictates from these so-called centrist groups (they’re really Republican wolves in Democrats’ clothing) is how we went from President Obama’s original healthcare proposal to an ACA that excluded the public option.

By “the oligarchy smelling blood,” I am referring to the same rich people who’ve been financing Republican causes. Fang describes how James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son, has been financing these Blue Dog Democrats. He also reports on the support these wealthy donors continue to provide to Donald Trump, as they finance the right wing of the Democratic party.

This game has been played by corporation and rich single individuals for decades, financing both parties, in exchange for policy concessions until, finally, they took control of the GOP. Now, they’re taking control of the Democratic party.

During the 2016 Democratic primaries, when it looked as if Senator Bernie Sanders might prevail over Hillary Clinton, billionaire Mike Bloomberg let it be known that he was considering running as an independent candidate if Sanders won. Now, we’re told Bloomberg has invested millions in supporting Democrats in the 2018 midterm, in advance of a probable run for president as a Democrat.

Why is this of import at this particular time? Throwing all caution to the wind by grasping at the brass ring even before she’s secured the House Speaker’s gavel, Nancy Pelosi slaps the Congressional Black Caucus with the other. The Hill reports that:

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) on Thursday threw cold water on a Democratic proposal to limit the tenure of committee chairmanships, just hours after Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she is open to the idea.

“I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s awful timing, and I think it’s a hell of a reward for all these chairmen who went out there traveling the country and busting their behinds to get Democrats elected,” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said by phone.

These changes would apply to the Hispanic Caucus as well. Could this have anything to do with the concessions La Pelosi made to No Labels a couple of weeks ago in order to secure their members’ votes? Apparently so, based on the reporting of The Intercept’s Lee Fang, just before the first round in the leadership nomination battle:

“The newly ascendent [sic] centrists flexed their muscle this week when a bloc of moderate lawmakers imposed a set of rules on Rep. Nancy Pelosi in her bid for speaker of the House, forcing the California Democrat to accept parliamentary changes that are designed to give the GOP greater access to floor votes and amending legislation.

The rule changes were proposed by the Problem Solvers Caucus — a nearly 2-year-old group affiliated with the organization No Labels that consists of 24 House Democrats and 24 House Republicans. Many of the members of the caucus were elected with financial support from Bacon, the billionaire hedge fund manager, along [with] other wealthy donors with a long history of giving to Republicans.

When the House was previously under Democratic control, the Blue Dogs and New Democrats helped industry lobbyists kill health care reforms designed to lower costs and expand public insurance options. Earlier this year, the same bloc sided with House Republicans to repeal financial reforms on medium and large-sized banks.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-Wyckoff, describes the agreement Democrats reached Nov. 28, 2018 to let more bipartisan ideas get votes in the House. Herb Jackson, Washington Correspondent, @HerbNJDC

Such rule changes and other promises to which Pelosi has agreed would rob the minorities of the hard fought progress they  have worked for, for decades. They would also create the kind of ill-will that Democrats can ill-afford going into 2020. It is thanks to the Black vote that the Senate seat was snatched from Roy Moore in Alabama. For the first time in a very long time, in Mississippi, there was a Democratic Senate candidate who was even relevant. Mike Espy got pretty close in the Mississippi special election. In Florida, Democrats had Andrew Gillum, a progressive candidate in a state that has been blood red for quite some time. That race was close as well. In Georgia, if that election had been free of irregularities, might Stacey Abrams have won? That race was very close as well.

These kinds of behind the scenes maneuvers depress the Democratic vote. Democrats should be riding on the wave of energy  the 2018 mid-term elections have generated, not easing back on the throttle.

In a recent column in Time magazine, There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground, author Tayari Jones wrote:

I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we “meet in the middle,” as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse.

The middle is a point equidistant from two poles. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon.

How far to the right have Republicans moved since John Boehner and 2010? Nixon? Reagan? How about Democrats? According to Nick Hanauer, billionaire, in a recent op-ed in Politico Magazine:

Imagine lining up every person in America on a yardstick, with the poorest person standing to the far-left edge of the stick (zero inches) and the wealthiest person standing to the far right (36 inches). Assuming that people are equally spaced, and that there is no correlation between wealth and weight—if you could balance that yardstick on the tip of your finger, the fulcrum would fall on the 18-inch mark, the exact center of the yardstick, with exactly half of all Americans standing to the left, and the other half standing to the right. Clustered on and near that 18-inch mark are the median American families—the middle-middle class—the majoritarian center of the American electorate, at least from an economic perspective.

Now imagine that very same yardstick with every American standing in their very same spots—only this time, rather than balancing people, we are balancing their personal wealth, stacked up in $100 bills. But because 2 percent of Americans (of which I am one) own 50 percent of the nation’s wealth, to balance this yardstick you’d now have to slide your finger nearly all the way over, beyond the 35-inch mark, just inside the far-right edge. This fulcrum balances the interests of capital, not people. And unfortunately, this is the yardstick of our current ideological center—a centrism informed by the bad economic theories that have guided the policies of both parties for more than 30 years.

Imagine, indeed… The media has been full of articles warning about the left’s sharp turn to the extreme and the need to move back to a center that is good for everyone. The political ground this nation has been standing on isn’t ground at all. We’ve been on quicksand all this time and we’ve sunk so low that we are now buried up to our nostrils. Take it from Hanauer, all that centrist talk is propaganda designed to keep the power firmly in the hands of the ruling class.

12/10 Update:

The negotiations to pave the way for Nancy Pelosi’s return as Speaker of the House of Representatives are ongoing. Today, a pair of articles appeared in the media. First, Politico published its reporting on the current status of negotiations having to do with setting term limits for both leadership and committee assignments.

“While Pelosi can’t bind Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn (S.C.) or other senior Democrats to such a measure, her support — or even benign neutrality — could be a major plus for term-limits backers inside the Democratic Caucus.

The reality is that Pelosi, at age 78, might not have any real worries with a term-limit requirements of 10 to 12 years, (five or six terms), which is under discussion. Hoyer, 79, and Clyburn, 78, might not have any trouble with it either, which also goes for some of the older prospective committee chairs.

Other sources with knowledge of the talks pushed back on the length, saying any deal between the two sides would not include limits as long as 10 to 12 years, although they declined to get more specific.

However, younger committee chair hopefuls and powerful factions within the caucus — such as the Congressional Black Caucus or Hispanic Caucus — might object to the proposal, no matter the length of the term limits.”

The Washington Post follows up with its own take on the leadership rules maneuvering:

“Veteran members of the Congressional Black Caucus were especially opposed, crediting the traditional seniority system with allowing minority lawmakers to amass power that they otherwise might never be granted.

But, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions, the infusion of new blood after this year’s midterm elections could change the politics surrounding term limits. Fifty-nine new Democrats are set to be sworn in next month, and 46 of them signed a letter calling on Pelosi and other senior leaders to give freshmen a greater say in how Democrats run the House.”

What is curious about the tack of this WaPo article is that it is written from the point of view of the effort being made by Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter. According to his interview for this Washington Post article, he isn’t interested in being a part of the leadership, but is concerned about the lack of young blood at the top. Not one paragraph is devoted to Perlmutter’s political stances or the fact that he is a member of the New Democrats Coalition. In other words, just as Lee Fang wrote, he is a member of the centrist groups that are conditioning their support of Pelosi in exchange for the relinquishment of power to the center right. Perlmutter is a 65 year old centrist Democrat who is currently serving his fifth term in Congress.

“The negotiations surround the prospect of term limits for both committee chairmen — something Pelosi and other Democrats have debated — as well as term limits for party leaders themselves, the Democrats said. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), a leader of the critics’ group, has been shuttling proposals back and forth between Pelosi and the larger group.

Those familiar with the talks said a deal would be unlikely to win support of all the roughly two dozen Democrats who have stated opposition to Pelosi. But the expectation, they said, is that enough could be persuaded to allow Pelosi to be elected speaker in a Jan. 3 floor vote while allowing more than a dozen freshmen who spoke out against Pelosi during their campaigns to vote against her.”

OK. When you click through to the linked “leader of the critics’ group,” you will find this passage:

“Perlmutter has been similarly insistent about the need for a shake-up, but he has kept lines of communication open with Pelosi in recent weeks and said he has already had “several conversations” with her about a potential settlement.

When Pelosi visited a meeting of the centrist New Democrat Coalition before Thanksgiving, she approached Perlmutter and hugged him as she left the room — an embrace that perplexed some observers given his public opposition. Perlmutter said it was simply a gesture of friendship.”

While one can imagine that Nancy Pelosi found Perlmutter at that meeting because he is a member, the article doesn’t specifically tell the reader one way or another. In this case, knowing about the actors’ affiliations is a must, if one is to understand the motives behind each group’s maneuverings.

Back to today’s WaPo article:

“Veteran members of the Congressional Black Caucus were especially opposed, crediting the traditional seniority system with allowing minority lawmakers to amass power that they otherwise might never be granted.

But, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions, the infusion of new blood after this year’s midterm elections could change the politics surrounding term limits. Fifty-nine new Democrats are set to be sworn in next month, and 46 of them signed a letter calling on Pelosi and other senior leaders to give freshmen a greater say in how Democrats run the House.”

Not one word is written about the wishes of these incoming members of Congress and their wishes. Not one word is written about the intersection of the Congressional Black Caucus and the incoming class of members of Congress, many of whom are very young and members of one or more minority or marginalized constituency.

Most of the pushing for term limits is being done by conservative Democrats. This is happening in tandem with preparations for 2020 by establishment Democrats, as well as left-minded (centrist, really) oligarchs. Watering down the power of the left is essential to the success of the latter group, as the new DNC rules dictate that, in order for Senator Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or any other progressive running in the 2020 primary to be defeated, they must have enough superdelegates to force a decision in a second round of voting. In such an event, superdelegates would then have the power to nominate the Democratic candidate in a presidential election.

There’s always a reason for the way things happen. We’re not always explicitly told what that reason is…

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