This post is in honor of Seeing the Forest’s 20th Anniversary.
As the country dissolves into fascist turmoil, it’s useful to look back at How We Got Here. 2009 was The Year Democrats Could Have Done Something, but chose not to.
The W Bush Years
‘W’ Bush lost the 2000 election but was appointed president by the Republican Supreme Court. The Bush years were terrible for the country and ended in absolute disaster. He oversaw an administration of lies, corruption, enrichment of the rich, scams targeting the poor… The Bush administration ignored warnings so we were attacked on 9/11 Republicans used the attack to polarize the public into an illegal war for oil.
“People like you are still living in what we call the reality-based community. You believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
THAT was how the nation was “governed.” The Bush response to Hurricane Katrina and the financial collapse showed the public how that sort of “governance” works out for them.
And the voters knew it.
2008 Election – The Public DEMANDED Change
The public understood how bad the Bush years were and in the 2008 election the voters DEMANDED change.
Barack Obama, campaigning on progressive promises to renegotiate NAFTA, codify Roe v Wade, support the pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA” or “card check”) won big. Barack Obama was elected with BIG Democratic House & Senate majorities.
2009 – The Year Democrats Could Have Done Something
Democrats came into office in 2009 with All The Power. Voters gave them the House, Senate and Presidency and a mandate to change the country.
After taking office Obama publicly reversed his position on renegotiating NAFTA and codifying Roe, along with so many other things. His administration introduced the “Obamacare” health care plan that, while it did help millions of Americans, did so by propping up private insurance and pharma company profits. Bankruptcies continue, insurance companies profit, pharma still charges massively excessive rates, and America’s health care system remains one of the worst in the world.
And in response to the 2008 financial collapse caused by Wall Street fraud, his Justice Department refused to prosecute even a single Wall Street executive, bailing out Wall Street while refusing to help homeowners. (Later, after leaving “public service,” top Justice Department and other administration officials, including Obama himself, received lucrative Wall Street positions, “Speaking fees,” etc.)
The Biggest Failure – Not Killing The Filibuster Rule
All of this was, of course, bad, but the biggest failure was Senate Democrats refusing to kill the filibuster rule. Republicans filibustered pretty much everything Democrats tried to do, and Democrats let them do it. Democrats could have just changed the rule allowing filibusters. Instead, they kept the rule, requiring them to get permission from Republicans to do anything. And that permission never came.
By 2012 Republicans had filibustered 380 bills. 380 bills! In my 2012 post, The Terrible Cost of Not Fixing the Filibuster Sooner, I wrote,
Here are just a few examples — just a few out of 380+ filibusters — from Dylan Matthews in the Washington Post, in 17 bills that likely would have passed the Senate if it didn’t have the filibuster,
DREAM Act DISCLOSE Act Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) Public option Paycheck Fairness Act Permanent middle-class Bush tax cut extension Rescinding of the upper-income Bush tax cuts Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act Emergency Senior Citizens Relief Act Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act American Jobs Act The Buffett rule Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011 Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act “Shared Sacrifice” Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011 Burmese import restrictions Appointments – [click through to see the whole list]
Again, those are just a few of the things that We, the People want and need, that were blocked by Republican filibusters. JOBS. The public option. Stopping tax breaks for outsourcing. Ending the huge tax breaks for the oil companies and the billionaires.
These examples were JUST SOME of the things blocked – yet still Democrats would not kill the filibuster rule. Other things Democrats could have done, that seem relevant as hell today:
– Codify Roe v Wade,
– Ban assault weapons and require permits to own a gun,
– Address climate change – which has become the climate crisis,
– Address campaign rules and campaign finance rules, including banning corporate money from campaigns,
– A “public option” in the health care bill was killed by one Democrat from Connecticut – the insurance company state – saying he’d filibuster if that was in it,
– So, so much more…
And Here We Are
When you think about ALL the things Democrats could have done after the public DEMANDED change, putting Obama into the presidency and delivering HUGE majorities in the House and Senate – but chose not to – you can see why things are the way they are today.