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“Progressive” Democrats Unmasked: Why Cantor is Laughing

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By Paul Goldman

Grow up progressives and face facts. UVA Professor Larry Sabato is right: Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor at least has the courage of his convictions. That’s more than progressives have right now, given how many are rushing to say good things about the McConnell/Reid proposal (Democratic Senate majority leader has apparently joined on).

This column will explain why the progressive movement would destroy itself and its legacy by helping Senate Minority leader McConnell pull off the greatest hoax since the Trojan Horse, by getting Democrats to back his “solution” to the current debt-ceiling debate. President Obama tried to make that point yesterday. But since avoiding default is his top goal, Mr. Obama needed to make the point subtly, since he knows Congress is leaning toward the McConnell/Reid plan right now. FDR, HST, JFK, and LBJ are turning over in their graves at the thought. But what is the President to do if the choice is McConnell vs default?

This is why Mr. Cantor is laughing at so called “progressive” Democrats right now, so many eager to back the McDonnell/Reid debt ceiling proposal. Cantor knows it would destroy progressivism as it is now known, so he has been careful to restrain his admiration for the Senate Republican’s audacity. The fact is, Mr. Cantor knows a short-term budget deal is the best course of “progressive” Democrats. He further appreciates the irony of how “progressives” attacked his willingness to back a short-term deal. Mr. Cantor didn’t propose a short-term solution to help Democrats: rather, he did it because at the time, it was the only way to get his conservative troops off the hook. This is what makes agreements in politics: opposing sides seizing the moment when their interests align.

As the builders – FDR, HST, JFK and LBJ – of the progressive political philosophy at the heart of the Democratic party understood, social Darwinism is accepted as mankind’s nature even by those who believe in creationism. Or Gordon Gekko famously said in the movie Wall Street:

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

The genius of those 4 Democratic Presidents is that they understood how to use this impulse to the advantage of the greater good. So successful were they, that not a single Republican President in the modern age has tried to dismantle their legacy despite what they promised in their election campaigns.

That is why Mr. Cantor is laughing: he is watching “progressives” gut their own legacy, something out of the Michelle Bachmann platform. Is her husband running a special at his Clinic?

As they say on the police shows, copy this:

The McDonnell/Reid proposal, in the words of President Obama himself, would require a Democratic President to propose the effective dismantling of the progressive legacy. That’s right, read the transcript of the President’s press conference yesterday. He said that to make the cuts demanded by Mr. Cantor’s original $2.4 trillion, no-net revenue, long-term debt-ceiling deal (the one already rejected by Mr. Obama) would require cutting into the bedrock of that legacy.

The President said no self-respecting Democrat sitting in the Oval Office could possibly agree to make such a level of cuts even with a revenue raising deal. Even the President’s “grand bargain” didn’t go as far as McConnell-Reid.

Yet, the McConnell-Reid proposal gaining traction among Speaker Pelosi and others would require a Democratic President to propose $2.5 trillion in pure budget cuts, more than even Mr. Cantor knew he could say with a straight face. Moreover, the proposal gaining traction among alleged “progressives” allows Republicans to vote their disapproval of these cuts even though the President has to tell the American people they are, in his judgment, necessary and proper.

So, let me see if I get this right: “Progressives” want a Democratic President to be on record tacking a meat axe to the Democratic legacy and saying it has to be done not only to save the country financially but in keeping with his sworn word when signing the debt-ceiling legislation! And meanhile, Republicans get to vote NO on certain specific cuts so they can have it both ways?!?

You can’t even get that in Nevada, where everything is legal.

Why have two political parties when Democrats want to be Cantor on steroids?

Let me make sure I am clear here: The McDonnell-Reid proposal requires Mr. Obama to make $2.5 trillion in real cuts in direct spending, there is no provision for asking for even the elimination of an ethanol-type handout which both parties now concede is costing America far more than it can afford!

So let me recap why Cantor is laughing at those who call themselves “progressive” Democrats. They want the party to back a Republican plan that legitimizes the very actions that even Eric Cantor knows he has no chance – as in zero – of ever getting enacted into law.

But progressives say: Under the McConnell plan, Mr. Obama only has to propose a list of $2.5 trillion in cuts, he technically doesn’t have to actually do them.

This is why Cantor is laughing. Yes, legally the President and Democrats can use the budget process to stop the cuts, McDonnell knows that as does Cantor.

But politically, the fact that a Democratic President has to tell the country he agreed to make the cuts, and has to then propose them, changes the debate forever! Moreover, the President can’t campaign on a platform that he won’t keep his word to the Congress.

How can Democrats criticize Cantor et al for wanting to make the cuts a Democratic President himself said was necessary to help fix the nation’s finances?

As I have written in OPED pieces for Politico on several occasions, a short-term budget cutting agreement lasting say until early next year, tied to job-creating tax cuts consistent with Cantor’s net revenue-neutral maxim,  was always the best choice for the President, given the options. Tim Kaine, Mark Warner and Jim Webb support one such credit, along with Cantor, that would create 1,000,000 jobs and pump $100-150 billion in private capital into the economy without raising taxes or increasing the long-term federal debt.

President Obama said it best yesterday: don’t make me take a deal I just said is bad for America because it is the only way to avoid the far worse result of a default.

But you say: A short term deal requires multiple votes, something the President doesn’t want in an election year. That’s true, but so does the McDonnell-Reid plan!!

But you say: A short-term deal as discussed in my Politico piece only kicks the can down the road. That’s true, but at least it doesn’t require Democrats to step on the can and crush their legacy!

Bottom line: The McConnell-Reid plan is calculated to make Democrats rat out their own progressive legacy for all time. The President said, if I remember correctly, that the McConnell-Reid proposal may wind-up requiring him to make more draconian cuts than the Paul Ryan budget!!

Democrats should be campaigning on JOBS, JOBS, JOBS — a growth agenda. Instead, we keep saying we have to pivot towards jobs, but all we do is let the GOP call the tune once again.

The American people want jobs which mean they want a growth agenda first: fiscal responsibility is thus a means to this end, we need to get our finances in order, but not at the expense of job-killing policies!

As they say in New Orleans, the Mardi Gras is over “progressives”: if you support the McConnell/Reid plan, you are unmasked forever. Don’t expect those of us with a real record of achieving historic change to take you seriously again, at least in your lifetime.

  • KathyinBlacksburg

    don’t look now, but you wrote a post which KathyinBlacksburg mostly agrees with.  I have actually agreed with you before, BUT you’d be hard-pressed to know it, given the antipathy you previously expressed for KathyinBlacksburg.

    But, seriously, you make a good point that the Cons have conned so-called progressives in Congress Big Time.  I use so-called because there is a progressive caucus, which proposes something else entirely.  Thier progressive budget would actually solve the deficit problems we hav and not hurtAnd I think you blurr that group with the Reid-McConnell-ites.  

    I think Obama has been playing his own game. And though there is a chance Lawrence O’Donnell and others are right that this is a rope-a-dope, planned by Obama, I don’t think so.  Besides, if that were true, where is the good result for Americans?  I do not see us Americans at large, or Democrats in the trenches, as winners in this at all. They seem to be going around gleefully threatening us with “pain.”  Obama is dealing a loser of a deal for us.  The Congress is as well, only more so.  But ALL the proposed deals stink, except the progressive caucus budget.  There are some other ways we might disagree…

    First, one had to know when Obama said he would not “slash” benefits that he was saying he would make big cuts.  You could smell the sell-out.

    Disclaimer: I don’t want to kick the can down the road since we would have to go through this hell over and over. However, I would rather have a short-term deal than the bilge either the president or Reid-McConnell are cooking up. Harry Reid isn’t milk-toast for nothing.

    Right now, we would be better off if the Democrats (and enough “moderate” GOP senators) packed up and went home.  I have never seen such desperate howling at the moon in support of the deficit wolves by Democrats in Congress.  Let the president invoke the 14th Amendment and lift the debt ceiling.  And let’s cut the garbage about getting a “Big Deal,” just so Obama can claim he is doing “big things.” Good God!  We are not in preschool.  As for the Cons, the PoS have manufactured a deficit “crisis” and threatened to crash the  economy for only one reason, to screw the American people while the Cons’ benefactors laugh all the way to the  bank.

    We also don’t likely agree that a certain senator has an acceptable plan at all. You elide over the fact that he is regurgitating Peter Peterson and Deficit Commission tripe.

    Finally, the way Democrats in Congress and the President are are behaving (selling us out behind closed doors day after day) is such a violation of the public trust.  It is hard to know what to say.  

  • cvllelaw

    Paul, the folks who call themselves “progressives” are split among themselves, and quite badly.  So which ones are you fussing at?  I haven’t heard of ANY “progressives” praising the McConnell (not McDonnell, as you say a number of times) plan.