Capitulate to Austerians? Invoke the 14th? Or Time for New 3rd Party Movement?


Many people, myself included, believe that the current turn of democratic party ideals to one of austerity in the face of crippling unemployment and vastly widening wealth inequity represents a capitulation to right-wing hysteria over the deficit.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi puts the cap on most dem’s credibility in Congress by appeasing the clarion calls for austerity:

“It is clear we must enter an era of austerity; to reduce the deficit through shared sacrifice.

The arguments against austerity in the time of crippling high unemployment are legion. But our Congress continues to fall victim to hostage negotiations over the kidnapping of the economy by right-wing ideologues. And Congress is willing to submerge the country in an economic ideology that has no basics in reality–that is that our country suffers from a crisis in confidence due to the level of its debt, instead of focusing on the real crux of our economic crisis, which is lack of consumer demand and it’s companion raging high unemployment levels.

But it isn’t my intent here to derail my post with “peripheral” economic arguments. It is to raise the question: is President Obama ready to man up to the right and invoke the 14th Amendment clause intended to prevent the country from defaulting on its debt? Or is it game over? And if it is game over, what are lefties going to do in a political era that has left them no mainstream representation?

While some Democratic party leaders are signaling their capitulation, as both Obama and Pelosi have done, others like Sen. Clyburn:

If Congress can’t reach a deal on a long-term debt limit increase by August 2, Obama should “sign an executive order invoking the 14th Amendment,” said Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

and Bill Clinton are calling on Obama to invoke the 14th:

Former President Bill Clinton says that he would invoke the so-called constitutional option to raise the nation’s debt ceiling “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me” in order to prevent a default, should Congress and the President fail to achieve agreement before the August 2 deadline.

FWIW, I’d rather our president have threatened the right by invoking the 14th, instead of distancing himself from progressives by putting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table and showing his true conservative creds.

Then again, I think that historians will view the Lesser Depression as a time of consolidation between mainstream republican and democratic ideology. As evidence, we have the democratic party’s main economic policy achievement under Obama being the passage of a health insurance reform bill conceived by the Heritage Foundation, implemented in Massachusetts by a republican governor, and written by the health insurance industry.

Plunging the country into a misguided era of austerity dictated by a tyranny of minority tea partiers when alternatives like the 14th Amendment exist just cements the consolidation of a conservative political movement in America. Republicans have won–it’s just that the tea party won’t let them celebrate just yet, until more damage is done.

Robert Borosage gives us a nice view of this:

[on]…money politics and the passivity of the Democratic base: As campaigns grow more expensive, and labor grows weaker, big money plays a greater role in the Democratic Party. A whole New Democrat ideology has been developed to marry corporate economic policies — financial deregulation, corporate trade, privatization and more — to social liberalism. When Pete Peterson and others used the crisis to drive a new focus on deficit reduction, corporate Democrats saluted. The president moved to deficit reduction — and established his deficit commission — long before the Tea Party made its presence known. With Republicans captured by the far right, the President could embrace a conservative agenda on economics, confident that his own base had no place else to go [emphasis added].

Yep, “no place else to go.” Well, that assumes that a good chunk of the president’s base weren’t somewhere else to begin with–that they came out of the woodwork in an attempt to sweep Bush era policies aside in ’08.

And lefty independents still have hope that a third party movement can challenge the consolidation of American politics around corporatism, crony capitalism, financialization of our banking system,  and a campaign finance system increasingly dominated by corporate “personhood” provided via a politicized Supreme Court and its attendant monetarized “electoral” politics.

Borasage continues:

Progressives need to learn not so much from the Tea Party as from their own history and build an independent movement to stand with working Americans. Unlike the Tea Party fringe, a progressive movement has the advantage of mobilizing Americans around values and the policy priorities that are supported by a broad majority. It can organize to hold legislators in both parties accountable, demanding that they stand up for the many, not the privileged few…

There is much talk about new centrist third parties, about the need for bipartisan compromise to get things done. But when the Democratic position is to embrace $2.7 trillion in cuts from discretionary spending, divorced from any demand for progressive tax reform or any growth strategy that will rebuild the middle class, the “center” has been wrenched so far to the right that it is at odds with the common sense of most Americans. We need a citizen’s movement willing to challenge money politics, clean out the corrupt stables in Washington, and demand a politics that works for working people. [emphasis added]

What about that 14th Amendment solution? Eh, Mr. President?

And I’ll leave this post with a nice little ditty from my youth:

  1. Steve W

    The problem is that currently third parties have no legitimate space in our political system. Functionally, third parties can only operate as spoilers, or wanna be spoilers.

    Until we address that structural defect we will never have the opportunity to benefit from a third party.

    • JC

      The history of the U.S. has shown much change in political parties. What’s to say that we aren’t at the crux of another change?

      In any case, the existence of a third party can always be useful as a way to pull politics in a desired direction. Hence Van Jones’ American Dream Movement.

      And if/when the corporate/centrist wing of the dem party continues its metamorphosis into neoliberalism/republicanism, then a third party stands to move into the major second party roll by subsuming what’s left of the democratic party faithful.

      • unfortunately it is the democratic party faithful who stand in the way of a meaningful third party creation. the faithful view this as splintering the vote and fight this concept of a third party much more vehemently than they do the republicans who are surrounding them and forcing them to capitulate their principles while they slide to the right due to their own elected leader’s cowardice and complacency as pete said.

        • JC

          Well, it’s not those who stand in the way of third party movements that will stop them. Au contraire, it is third party movements that make party faithful irrelevant.

          The only question is how long will it take for dem party faithful to realize their irrelevance as the dem party continues to slide to the right and consolidate around republican and conservative ideas?

          • i’m thinking maybe one more election cycle with increasing unemployment should do the trick. at this point i have faith that either party would accomplish this, judging by their mutual trajectory of driving this country into the open maws of hell.

        • i’m not sure that is entirely correct… i think somewhere in the Constitution is a default 2 party system. One of the things that Madison and Jefferson were most affraid of as time went on… but somewhere its spelled out enough to make a Third pty illigetitimate even thou it would be corrupted as the current two are in short order without eradicating Capitalism.

      • Steve W

        (To JC) I’m for anything that increases political pluralism in political parties. Attempting to shove everyone into two chutes isn’t working for the majority of people.

        The problem is if we keep the same structural set up, then it won’t matter for very long at all if a new party becomes one of the legitimate 2.

        The reason we don’t have legitimate 3rd parties is because it’s currently set up to make 3rd parties illegitimate.

  2. first rule of the woods: never show weakness. once the dems capitulated on health care reform the GOP knew what they were dealing with and are simply acting as predators do by nature. surrounding the herd, cutting off avenues of escape and going in for the kill.

  3. Pete Talbot

    So where’s this third party going to generate the millions of dollars it takes to win big ticket races? That’s how elections are won these days — focus groups, marketing, a massive field campaign and huge media buys. These all take big bucks.

    I appreciate the conversation here, just getting cynical in my old age. Plus, my experience with third parties in the past led to less than successful results.

    • a third party started for idealistic reasons is much different than a third party started out of sheer frustration and it should actually use internet media (free) rather than paid advertisements. (much like the egyptian revolution.) if it were started right and if it actually did have bylaws which rule out corruption it would be embraced by a populace which is tired of the same old lies and corruption from both parties now.

      • Pete Talbot

        That great Senator from the land of 10,000 lakes, Paul Wellstone, used to say, “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.”

        Just a thought: can a progressive takeover of the Democratic Party succeed in the same way as a progressive third party? Is a takeover even possible?

        Unless one thinks that the Democrats have completely lost their “brand” and can’t be salvaged, it would be a simpler task than launching a third party.

        I find it interesting that the Republicans, although somewhat begrudgingly, have embraced the Tea Party. Democrats, with a few exceptions, seem to spurn any real progressive candidates or reform.

        So maybe my question is moot but I’d entertain comments.

        • there is too much of the herd mentality in the democratic party right now pete. cowardice and bending to the right has always worked for them so they keep doing it. this behavior won’t stop until they lose at the polls. i am hoping that the american people will suffer enough to shake off the apathy to answer the call to join a party that represents them instead of corporations.

          a good example in montana is the baucusization of jon tester. jon has been anesthesized and cocooned by the party leaders subserviant to baucus. if schweitzer manages to shake things up in 2014 i can see some real possibilities for a third party forming around a schweitzer like politician or even perhaps the montana democratic party taking the lead in bringing the party back around to its abandoned principles again.

        • Given the right situation and timing, a progressive takeover is possible (think Tea Party but with the Dems). To do this, you would have to appeal to the moderates and independants the same way the Tea Party did – by addressing their immediate concerns in a way they would understand. You won’t do it by claiming “Corporations are bad”. You might do it by saying “Corporations are keeping you out of work and they are buying politicians to make sure you pay all the taxes for Government”. The key is the message. That is how the Tea party takeover occured in the Republican party. It started with “The government wants to run your life” in responce to ACA and went from there. They were successful with the message (engaging the majority of the voters – workers fed up with losing their jobs, paying “too much” taxes, etc. The message wasn’t even true but it had enough truth to it that the “common person” fell for it. Once they were in office, they could do what they wanted because – Like Liberman with the Democrats – they could hold the Republican Party hostage. Now Republican Congressmen don’t dare go against them for fear of not being elected, and since getting re-elected is the only thing that matters to them, they fall in line, even if it means that the US economy tanks.

    • Steve W

      I thought taking over the city council and electing some New Party friendly legislators was pretty good for a few years of work. If the US Supreme Court hadn’t screwed us on the right of free political association, I’m betting we’d be bigger and better than ever right about now.

      • Pete Talbot

        Yeah, Steve, except that once the Dems and Repubs figured out what was going on, they both beat on us pretty bad. The Supremes didn’t do us any favors but the Dems were as bad as the Repubs in quashing the New Party.

        I guess that answers what I suggested above about a progressive takeover of the Democratic Party — the Dems are even less welcoming to progresives than moderate Republicans are to the Tea Party.

        I could be, and hope, I’m wrong, though. If the economy and employment don’t pick up, the Democrats are going to need all the friends they can get if they hope to keep the Presidency and the Senate.

        • Pete – You remember the “Progressive Democrats” don’t you? They didn’t exactly try to take over the party, they just tried to organize a wing that held some semblance of what Democrats used to stand for. And they fell apart at the seams in frustration, isolation, and despair.

          It’s not hard for me to remember the demonstrations two summers ago against Max Baucus’ terrible health bill that were attended by hundreds of people, including Eric Feaver, speaking for 18,000 MEA-MFT members. And you know what? Baucus not only never attended a single event to talk to us, at one noon event in Helena his office actually locked the doors. So here are all these people trying to get in his office to let him know where we stood on supporting Single-payer and/or public option and what we got was a locked door.

          Demo loyalists never tire in their endless excuse-making for the lame performance of their party officials. Not to point a finger at other blogs, but it’s not hard to recall how bitterly those of us who argued for a single-payer plan got treated by those Demo loyalists over the Baucus health bill. We thought we were doing our job by standing up and voicing what we believed would be the best solution to the nation’s health quandary. Instead, we were told we didn’t understand politics, that Baucus was deep into game theory, that single-payer was “off the table” because it had to be and we were too dumb to count votes. All 100% bullsh*t spewed by those who were on the Demo machine teat and hence, became the first line of defense against their own progressives. Unless that changes, the idea of “reforming” the Demo party from within is sheer fantasy.

  4. I would love to see a third party, but to be successful, it would have to take a centralist/labor view. The hard right is already represented by the Tea Party and they have driven the right into the arena of rigidity and uncompromising insanity. This left behind an entire generation of rational conservatives (they actually appear progressive in today’s political spectrum). Further, there is a wide swath of the Democratic Party that is disenfranchised as well. If these two groups were to unite under the banner of rational economic policy, ending the corporatism so rampent in our political and economic lives, social progressivism, and compromise within their own group, they could easily dethrone either party at this point. Sadly, it would take a strong leader, lots of activism and outreach and an insane amount of money. The media would try to sabotage them (the corporate media that is), they would be targeted by every pac sponsored by the very coporations that have taken America hostage and they would be attacked by both the Hard right and the rigid partisan Democrats. For those reasons, I doubt even another election cycle will change much – even if the Republicans do win a majority in both House and Senate next year and do away with the last of the benefits of the New Deal.

    Just by the numbers, a republican takeover of the Senate is likely. There are more Democrat Senators up for election next year than there are Republicans. Given the almost unilateral dislike the general public has for the performance of the people in office, even “secure” Senators will be facing serious challenge. The only question (in my mind) is whether the Republicans can hold the House. Given the generally poor view that 66% of Americans have of the way the Republicans have handled themselves this term, the Dems have a chance to take back the House if they don’t blow it completely. A lot will depend on what happens in the next two weeks.

  5. Escapee

    I’m not hearing it, not feeling it. This is triangulation at its very worst. As to what’s going to happen next week, I’d stake a small wager that nothing happens. There’s too much risk involved, and leaders of both parties know this. It’s a Kabuki Dance.

    Ed Kilgore had an insightful pieces yesterday at Salon, basically saying that Obama knows that liberals are going to vote for him no matter what, and that it is only the “liberal elite” who have left him. I love the way we are branded as elite for merely demanding not even that act like a liberal, but that he stop working with the other party against us.

    Obama also knows that no matter how badly he performs, liberals will vote for him out of fear of the other party. So two 1) Bad behavior brings no backlash; and 2) Bad behavior fills up his bank coffers, assuring his reelection.

    For us, it’s lose-lose.,

  6. Unless Bob Kelleher comes back from the great beyond, the third party will always be anarchy. Our political system is based on a prosecutor and defense where the voter is the jury and has no place for another party unless we adopt a parliamentary form of government.

  7. ladybug

    The majority has formed. It is the they’re-all-liars-i-refuse-to-vote party. The slightest disruption in “lifestyle” could touch them off. Patience, change will come, it always does.

  8. Escapee

    There’s no secrets here. There should be no need for a petition to run as a candidate outside the one-party-two right-wings structure. But the deck is stacked in every state, Montana not among the worst. This is no accident.

    Ever since Greenwald mentioned this, it’s become painfully obvious to me. The tame media does not cover anything beyond the “two” parties so that anything they agree on, which is most everything, is not discsussed.

  9. lizard19

    it’s a full court press. turn on the sirens and slash. but never the war budget. war profit is too sacred.

  10. It’s Not the Party that is the problem. It’s the System. Capitalism will purchase any Green just as they did the Repugs and Demoslime.

    The Capitalists especially NEW Cong Critters ~ they’re so much easier to own than say Sanders’ or the Kucinichs’ essentially a new party would be another wing of the Capitalist party given a little bit of time.

    The Capitalist Swine have all the money and idiots like ALL Repugs who have zero critical thinking abilities and All Repugs are Narcississtic Authoritarians but worse than a Repug/Neo-Con is a Neo-Liberal like ObamanationInc. i digress.

    i’m not saying don’t start or get one rolling – i’m sure to be a part of it… but another party WILL NOT change the system…if the Green or Prog party could just stay clean long enough to manifest Campaign Finance Reform then there’s a chance. Otherwise things will be as they are We are all Slaves’ of Capitalists.

    • we need to shorten our elections – or publicly fund them – to cut the cord capitalism has around the system.

      It’s all about money.

      And anything that allows multiple parties. Probably getting rid of the electoral college is a start.

      • i’m not sure that is entirely correct… i think somewhere in the Constitution is a default 2 party system. One of the things that Madison and Jefferson were most affraid of as time went on… but somewhere its spelled out enough to make a Third pty illigetitimate even thou it would be corrupted as the current two are in short order without eradicating Capitalism.

        Also National Public Vote (google it) would be incredibly important for specific votes: on going to illegally invade foreign countries that didn’t and couldn’t invade usa, President, etc

  11. Ingemar Johansson


    More popcorn, please.

    • Steve W

      get your own popcorn, Inge, I need mine.

      Boehner Delays Vote.

      ha ha, He’s toast. I’m hoping some crazy freak like Michelle gets the speaker-ship. It would be a good platform for her White House run, and provide economic stimulus to working comedians everywhere.

      • JC

        I think Cantor has his eyes on the gavel, and many think he’s set up Boehner to take a fall.

        Get me a hot dog and a soda!

  1. 1 And now we know why “The Stimulus Failed” « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] of course, austerian economics in the face of an even bleaker economic look back is only going to amplify the […]

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