How The Lame Duck Session Moved The Overton Window To The Right

If the health bill leads to a revolutionary reform of health insurance and health care delivery in the United States, history will consider Barack Obama to have been a very successful President. That's how history works. (I'm of the opinion that the health bill, while progressive in some aspects, such as expansion of Medicaid coverage, is not meaningful reform and does not contain elements that will lead to reform (I'm no fan of the exchanges.))

But the issues I care about the most right now - economic growth, the foreclosure crisis and income inequality, were not addressed adequately in the first two years of the Obama Administration and almost certainly won't be in the next two years, And indeed, to read the year end stories about the Lame Duck session of Congress, it is amazing how the Overton Window has moved well to the Right in the first two years of the Obama Presidency. Take, for example,TPM's Brian Beutler's listing of winners and losers of the Lame Duck session:


Here's a list of the lame duck's big winners to help you sort it all out.

1. Barack Obama: The President didn't get everything he wanted out of the lame duck. Most notably he didn't get an omnibus spending bill, which would have helped him implement the health care law, and he didn't get the DREAM act, which remains a top priority for Democrats. But even if you just count the big items -- his tax cut plan, START, Don't Ask/Don't Tell repeal, and the 9/11 first responders bill -- he walked away with a lot.

(Emphasis supplied.) Stop for a moment and consider this paragraph carefully. the President got nothing on spending in the next fiscal year, leaving it vulnerable to massive slashing by the GOP, he did get, an amazing achievement apparently, extension of the Bush tax cuts.

Other big "achievements" were passage of a noncontroversial START treaty (controversial only because the GOP decided to fight even nonc0ntroversial issues to throw red meat to their base and a noncontroversial (at least it used to be) 9/11 first responders health bill (a bill whose merits, from what I could tell, was a noun a verb and 9/11.)

This amounts to winning for Democrats these days. To me that says it all. Progressives can not win when winning is defined on these terms.

Indeed, Beutler defines Bernie Sanders, who lost on EVERY issue, as a winner too. Here's Beutler's thinking:

5. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): Though the Senate's most progressive member couldn't actually derail the President's tax cut compromise and swap it out with something less friendly to the wealthy, Sanders made a name for himself: Filibernie. For 10 straight hours he held the Senate floor, to remind voters and people in the media how deferential the government is to the wealthy.

A win for progressives now amounts to being able to make a speech. (Important caveat: DADT repeal is a real progressive achievement.)

That is how the middle has been defined in the Obama Era - conservative policies get enacted, progressives get to make speeches protesting conservative policies.

Isn't it wonderful? Why aren't you celebrating, you progressive ingrate!

Speaking for me only

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    DADT (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 10:59:41 AM EST
    Aravosis says DADT wasn't really repealed:

    A lot of the media is talking about how today DADT was repealed. It wasn't. Today we gave the President, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Secretary of Defense the ability to get rid of DADT if they so choose at some point in the future. So DADT won't be repealed until the President, along with DOD, decides to do just that.


    So the greatest progressive achievement may or may not be an achievement at all...You'll have to judge whether he's right, since I earned my JD from matchbox university.... ;-).  Personally, I think given this choice, our rightie Prez and the guys at defense aren't going to repeal anything.

    does this mean (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by CST on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 11:06:56 AM EST
    when the president does repeal it - the "credit" will be all his?  (IMO - no - but your argument would certainly suggest as much).

    Cmon now.  This isn't new news.  But you can't honestly believe this isn't going to happen.  They had all those hearings/studies/votes on this issue just to kill it once it finally passed?  I don't think so.


    Yep (none / 0) (#7)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 11:44:37 AM EST
    I honestly believe that it isn't going to happen -- unless Obama needs distraction from something else.

    Doesn't impact profits (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by waldenpond on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 11:38:41 AM EST
    DADT repeal has no impact on the oligarchy and it's ability to extract wealth from the economy.  If they could have monetized the issue, they would have .... then they would have fought and won.

    Repeal had nothing to do with the power structure.  It will happen.


    DADT still in effect (none / 0) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 11:09:23 AM EST
    Despite President Barack Obama's signing of a law repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent a memo to troops warning them that it remains in effect until 60 days after the government certifies that the military is ready for implementation.

    The Pentagon says it does not know how long the certification process may take.

    In the meantime, Gates is essentially telling gays and lesbians serving in the military not to come out until 60 days after that determination is made. link

    To the best of my knowledge there is no time requirement on when government certification must be made. So I agree with Teresa, this is just kicking the can down the road and may or may not actually result in gays being able to serve openly in the military.


    Obama's Wet Dreams (5.00 / 0) (#15)
    by norris morris on Tue Dec 28, 2010 at 04:24:06 PM EST
    The likes of TPM, Kos,etc have given credit to Obama for accomplishing......WHAT???

    DADT is not enacted by certification, the economy which Obama ignored for 2 years will remain sluggish at best with disastrous reesults for those who run out of unemployment insurance. The HCR bill is a sellout and a mess. Sibelius is still in the wings, and the GOP will do everything to stop Obama.

    After sweetening the GOP pot with extending the tax cuts for those who don't need it, the most
    incredible sellout was Obama's cave on the Estate Tax which only happened because of Obama's inherent weakness and inexperience as a leader.

    His obsession with Reagan is pathetic. Obama yearns for acceptance and where he can get it most, even if conservative positions are part of the deal.

     START started a long time ago and is a no brainer.  Obama and Co. continue the doublespeak, and just watch this giveaway to private insurance, with penalties for all who resist.

    It seems a lot more will be kicked down the road.


    Well (none / 0) (#16)
    by jbindc on Tue Dec 28, 2010 at 06:00:13 PM EST
    He IS reading about his hero while he is on vacation.

    I am optimistic that (none / 0) (#9)
    by KeysDan on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 12:28:29 PM EST
    DADT will be certified and subsequently repealed.  However, my optimism is weakened by the absence of a clearly stated timeline for certification as well as a stated presidential moratorium on enforcement until such certification. Moreover, the following statement of Secretary Gates (in the referenced link) is curious: 'There will be no special bathroom or housing facilities to accommodate homosexuals, except in special cases.'  Special cases, now what would that be?

    I hope your optimism is warranted (none / 0) (#12)
    by MO Blue on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 02:44:32 PM EST
    If I were one of the activist or members of the community who wrote and told Obama and the Dems no contributions, no work or no votes until DATA was repealed, I would definitely tell them that I would be happy to contribute, work and vote the minute the certification was complete and the 60 day waiting period had ended. IOW when gays could actually serve openly in the military and not a minute before.

    IMO now is not the time to let up on the pressure and let the politicians and the military procrastinate on the certification.  


    Oh, I agree Blue, (none / 0) (#13)
    by KeysDan on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 03:15:49 PM EST
    we are not yet out of the woods on this.  My optimism is tempered as mentioned in my above comment as well as with the new pressure on Obama by not just the gay community but by  a preponderance of the general populace.   The Act to enable repeal was passed by taking the nice words of the president and running with them as old-fashioned activists (chaining to fences, disruption at events) and modern-day "supporters" who  withholding or threatening to withhold money and other support until they land the promise.

    it's especially ironic (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by CST on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 11:09:18 AM EST
    that Bernie Sanders is a "winner" for opposing the same bill that - in passing - makes Obama a "winner".

    In other words, you win when you win, and you win when you lose.

    Too bad we are all really losers with this one.

    It would be nice if someone (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by KeysDan on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 11:15:02 AM EST
    listed winners and losers in terms of the policies enacted rather than the people who are enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame for their enactment.

    Beutler's winner #1 probably can't believe his good fortune.  Personally introduced with sheepishness, inferences of extortion and analogies to hostage taking, the Bush tax cut extension, after being macerated  in White House spin and Media apologia, became a master stroke and cause for celebration

    And, almost lost in the win was the "temporary" estate tax exclusion of $5 million not to mention the billionaire friendly tax rate of 35 percent The gift benefits are also there to help out.

    Moreover, there were a lot of business tax credit extensions including the ethanol tax credit and the railroad track maintenance credit to give "small" railroad companies a 50 percent deduction on infrastructure investments.

    Of course, there was a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits and a  one-year reduction in employee FICA of two percent, although this win is likely to soon become a loser when it will be pointed out that social security has been contributing to the deficit.

    If a political win doesn't translate into (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Anne on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 12:18:40 PM EST
    a real-life results win for the greater public good, why the heck should I be jumping around with pom-poms?

    Is that all we're supposed to be now - cheerleaders for politicians?  Regardless of how what they do affects the lives of ordinary people - because all that matters is making sure they keep their jobs, even if they're doing little to make sure we have jobs and can keep jobs?  Even if they're too cowardly to enact real reform of the insurance industry?  Or make sure that all this "historic" legislation has actual funding sources?

    Honestly, the victory lap on DADT repeal grates more than a little bit when I consider that almost no one ever mentions that it has a big condition attached to it - the government's certification that the military is "ready" - and then there's a two-month waiting period beyond that.  

    Seems pretty sad when the two most "popular" cheers are "Hurry up and wait" and "it could be worse!"

    A mystery to me why Pres. Obama (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by oculus on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 02:05:14 PM EST
    gets kudos for doing anything during the "lame-duck" session, given he had the same people in Congress since his inauguration.

    this reminds me . . . (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by The Addams Family on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 02:09:43 PM EST
    conservative policies get enacted, progressives get to make speeches protesting conservative policies

    of an old maxim - the winners write the history, the losers write the songs

    this is the vile insidiousness of obama (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by pluege2 on Mon Dec 27, 2010 at 10:20:59 PM EST
    obama inherited the opportunity to move the window to the left - the people were begging for it. And instead, obama threw it away and worked tirelessly to accomplish the impossible: rehabilitating republicans after 8 years of bush in JUST 2 YEARS!