In a post on Salon today, Glenn Greenwald reveals to readers the essential tactic of the Democratic Party leadership. It's not trying to get Republican support, it's not filibuster reform, it's not registering people to vote. It's much more manipulative than that.
It is an explanation for the "lack of spine" that Democrats are often said to have - which, we can now see, is merely a convenient illusion for prominent Democrats. It is a scapegoat that they can use so that progressives will continue voting for them even though we get nothing that we ask for, and instead have to take whatever crumbs are given to us.
So what is it?
This is what the Democratic Party does; it's who they are. They're willing to feign support for anything their voters want just as long as there's no chance that they can pass it.
Democrats in Washington don't just pretend to support things. It's not as simple as lying. They actively manipulate their base of supporters in a few ways.
Just look at Greenwald's inspiration for the piece, Jay Rockefeller. On October 4th, the headlines read, "Jay Rockefeller on the Public Option: 'I Will Not Relent.'"
Jay Rockefeller has waited a long time for this moment. . . . He's  a longtime advocate of health care for children and the poor -- and, as Congress moves toward its moment of truth on health care, perhaps the most earnest, dogged Senate champion of a nationwide public health insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies.
"I will not relent on that. That's the only way to go," Rockefeller told me in an interview. "There's got to be a safe harbor."
And now: "Rockefeller Not Inclined To Support Reconciliation For The Public Plan"
"I don't think the timing of it is very good," the West Virginia Democrat said on Monday. "I'm probably not going to vote for that"
This is not something to be blamed on one Senator, though. It is representative of some larger strategic moves by Democrats.
The primary tactic in this game is Villain Rotation. They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.
Now, it's a common tactic on Capitol Hill (not to say it's a good thing at all) to introduce bills that have no chance of passing in order to gain support with a certain group of people. If a Congressperson were to introduce the "Gun Freedom Act" that allowed everyone to have whatever gun they wanted whenever they wanted it without any restrictions at all, they would probably become a hero of the NRA and their ilk. However, the congressperson could probably introduce the bill without it having a chance of passing and having to face the real world and political repercussions of it.
Recently, though, Democrats have been taking this to a whole new level. I'll let Greenwald explain.
This is why, although I basically agree with filibuster reform advocates, I am extremely skeptical that it would change much, because Democrats would then just concoct ways to lack 50 votes rather than 60 votes -- just like they did here. Ezra Klein, who is generally quite supportive of the White House perspective, reported last week on something rather amazing: Democratic Senators found themselves in a bind, because they pretended all year to vigorously support the public option but had the 60-vote excuse for not enacting it.
They won control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections by pretending they wanted to compel an end to the Iraq War and Bush surveillance and interrogation abuses because they knew they would not actually do so; and indeed, once they were given the majority, the Democratic-controlled Congress continued to fund the war without conditions, to legalize Bush's eavesdropping program, and to do nothing to stop Bush's habeas and interrogation abuses
So be skeptical of politicians, even those who you trust. And don't let the Democrats fool you into taking their bait. After all, they are politicians looking out for themselves. As Howard Zinn said,
If you’re a citizen, you have to know the difference between them and you—the difference between what they have to do and what you have to do. And there are things they don’t have to do, if you make it clear to them they don’t have to do it.
I almost forgot...H/T to my friend Dave Schwab for showing this to me.
Update: Marcy Winograd, candidate for Congress in the primary against conservadem Jane Harman, commented and I think you should check it out ('cuz it's freakin' awesome):
I agree, enough of the charade. We need representatives who are real and genuine, who vote yes when they mean yes, no when they mean no -- not when it's safe because the outcome is predetermined.
That's why it's so important to send progressives to Washington who will work with their base in an honest way, who are committed not to just voting to end the occupations but who organize within Congress, within the Progressive Caucus to get others on board for the duration.
Lastly, I want to thank you for phone banking for my campaign, Winograd for Congress 2010, and for blogging about our grassroots people-powered challenge. Your support means a lot to us, Rossl.
If others reading this would like to phone bank, as well, I encourage you all to contact Bill@WinogradforCongress.com Bill will set you up with an account, so you can talk to voters in the 36th congressional district about taking a new direction!
Please check out her website if you don't know who she is and please donate or phone bank or something else! She is someone who would end this nonsense, just like she says.
Also, while I'm on the rec list (thanks, btw), I should let you know about some good news on the real health care reform front. In PA, a bill has been introduced in both legislative chambers for an economic impact study of statewide single payer, which is a huge step toward enacting it. In the Senate, it only needs four more cosponsors and it will have more than half of the Senate cosponsoring it. Please help the campaign (and contact your representatives, if you're in PA!!!) by visiting this website.