Who Matters

August 2, 2010

Last night at Virtually Speaking, nyceve and emptywheel had an interesting discussion about Afghanistan, the opportunity costs of continued military action in Afghanistan, where every soldier costs $100,000 to maintain. Funding that soldier apparently required not funding teachers in American schools, as the Democrats failed to force through a measure that would have tied funding the war to funding teachers in the US.

You can listen to the entire broadcast either at BlogTalkRadio or Itunes.

One point of discussion near the end involved what the members of the netroots, of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, can do about what has been a fairly disappointing collection of policy decisions, in the areas of health care, job growth, Afghanistan, Iraq and civil liberties. Some people have been particularly disappointed by the role large corporations are playing, as “partners” in policy making, while others point to the impressive list of accomplishments racked up by Democratic leaders in Washington. (Last week, Ian Welsh discussed how these issues played out at Netroots Nation in some detail.)

Eve asked Marcy where she stood on this question, about whether we should accept that the administration and the Congress have accomplished all that could realistically be expected, or whether we are justified in being disappointed. Some of the ensuing discussion turned on whether the administration would follow through, and appoint Elizabeth Warren as the head of the new banking consumer protection agency, as a real voice representing ordinary Americans. Did Warren’s nomination represent a line in the sand? Moreover, should even those who are disappointed suck it up, and work for a President who is unquestionably worlds better than any possible Republican replacement?

In this context, Marcy wanted to make one thing very clear–that we are not talking about firebaggers vs Obamabots. We are really talking about the people who voted, many for the first time, for this President:

Jay, I worked Detroit election day. I worked the polls in Detroit, I was a poll watcher in Detroit. I can tell you that those people haven’t gotten much out of voting for the first time. Some of them were 50 some of them were 18. And frankly, again, Michigan probably has gotten the most from this administration, of any state, just because of the auto bail out.

It’s not about you and me, it’s about the people without jobs. It really is that simple. Until we start making those people a priority; I don’t see how Democrats win. It isn’t about a guy named Barack Obama or a women named Elizabeth Warren.

Until Democrats begin putting those people at the forefront, until Democrats begin really attending to the needs of those 10% who don’t have jobs and the even larger percent who are under employed – part-time workers, what have you. Until they start paying attention to that, we don’t win. That’s not how Democrats win. We win by taking care of people; of the people who don’t have any other help. And that’s where we’re at right now.

My issue is civil liberties, but that’s not what will make or break the next election. It’s about whether or not people continue to leave their homes in record numbers, it’s about whether people get back to work.

Are the netroots the pragmatists here? Is it, once again, “the economy, stupid.”