The Difference Between Hacks and Real Progressives

Today, President Obama met with labor leaders and threw the opening salvo at the Republicans regarding the upcoming negotiations on ways to avoid the fiscal cliff (or slope, or whatever term you want to use): $1.6 trillion in new revenue through higher tax rates and closing loopholes for the top income earners. But as these negotiations begin, there is a marked difference between real progressive and labor leaders who plan to back the president up and the loud, screeching professional whining hacks. Here's what Leo Gerard of the United Steeleworkers had to say last night on Ed Schultz's television show:

Leo Gerard: I'm wearing my shirt tonight and I'm telling our members and the whole world, the steelworkers are ready to go... Ed, we're not going to make the same mistake that we made last time. The last time, we should have been out on the street with the president on the stimulus bill, we should have been out the street with the president on the Affordable Care Act, and we let him down, I think. We sat on our hands. Well, we're not going to do that this time.
Thank you, Leo Gerard! Finally, someone gets the biggest failure of the progressive movement during the President's first term: the failure was the movement's, not the president's. The President stuck his neck out and fought for us, and he got big things done, while too many on the Left concentrated on turning it up to 11 on the whine scale on minute details instead of getting the president's back while the Republicans were smelling blood. While the Left was b*ching about a bigger stimulus and the public option, the president was left in the field alone. And that was a mistake. No more.

It's not just Leo Gerard. This time, the entire labor movement is mobilized to back up the President.
“We expect to have the president’s back on the agenda that the voters just declared support for,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which spent $75 million in backing Mr. Obama and various Democrats this year. “The president has always said he needs a movement behind his mandate.”

Mr. Obama has talked of going beyond the Beltway to stir up support for his plans, including increasing taxes on households with incomes of more than $250,000. Union leaders have made clear that they are happy to turn out the troops to — in a tactic from the Franklin D. Roosevelt era — “make him do it.” Union members held rallies in 100 communities last Thursday as a first step in promoting the president’s budget plan.

Bill Samuel, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s legislative director, said, “We agree with the president that tax rates for the wealthiest 2 percent need to go up to provide revenues to invest in jobs, education, infrastructure and training.”
This is why organized labor is the backbone of the Democratic party (and the middle class of this country). They understand the tactical mistakes the Left made by abandoning this president last time as soon as he got elected at the behest of some ideological nitpicking. They understand that President Obama has the best interest of working people in heart and on paper, and that if President Obama is successful, working America will thrive.

Now, take this, and compare to the attitude of the hacks on the high-horse media culture. I pointed out in my piece yesterday that this group, lead happily by their General Paul Krugman, is looking for bloodletting rather than solutions. Krugman openly advocated for harming this country should it also mean hurting Republicans.
More important, however, is the point that a stalemate would hurt Republican backers, corporate donors in particular, every bit as much as it hurt the rest of the country. As the risk of severe economic damage grew, Republicans would face intense pressure to cut a deal after all.
His buddy Robert Reich is busy day-dreaming and "suggesting" to the President that he propose a pie-in-the-sky 55% tax rate on millionaires.
Why not go back sixty years when Americans earning over $1 million in today’s dollars paid 55.2 percent of it in income taxes, after taking all deductions and credits? If they were taxed at that rate now, they’d pay at least $80 billion more annually — which would reduce the budget deficit by about $1 trillion over the next decade. That’s a quarter of the $4 trillion in deficit reduction right there.
Why not, why not, why not. Oh, I dunno, Mr. Reich, maybe because the President didn't campaign on it? Maybe because the President campaigned specifically on returning the top rates to the Clinton rates while working to find a better, more progressive solution to fix the tax code? And oh, I dunno, because starting where you suggest will end all hopes of any solution actually being found. The only thing dumber than stupid ideas are "good" pony ideas that have no chance in hell of actually ever passing.

This is what I mean when I talk about hacks. These types of suggestions, drudging up scenarios under which  all of the potential $4 trillion in deficit reduction would be paid for by raising various taxes on the rich (see me about that when we have 300 Democrats in the House and 75 in the Senate), are not only unhelpful, they are meant to start up a brand new whinefest instead of working to find practical solutions.

This type of hackery is being echoed all over the place in the "progressive" blogosphere, bandied as if it's the holy grail to save America. Hacks don't get it. It takes work to win elections - work other than throwing tantrums, crying foul, and demanding ponies. It takes work to turn election victories into policy realities and to move the country in our direction. That's not done by demanding various rainbow-farting ponies, either.

The real work is done by pragmatists. It's done by patience. It's done by people who are willing to do the hard work to back up the President who is working for us. The work is done by those who realize that the President needs back-ups, not back-stabbers.

The biggest failure of the Left over the past four years has been the failure to back up the president when he needed the Left. When the President needed us to push for passing the stimulus, way too many on our side instead whined that it wasn't big enough. Well, did the whining make it any bigger, smarty pants? When the president needed progressives to unite and back him up on health reform, you would think the sky fell from the reaction of some Left ideologues. Did screeching on a chalkboard with your nail get you your pony? It didn't. Instead, they risked the once-in-a-century chance to take on health reform and get it done once and for all.

A lot of the Left has been doing that. The difference between the hacks and the real progressives is that real progressives and labor now realize their mistake. They realize that abandoning and dumping on the best progressive president since FDR was a mistake, and they aren't about to do it again. Real progressives - people whose goal it is to move public policy in a more progressive direction - know, as Leo Gerard's mea culpa put it, the Left let the President down, not the other way around. The hacks? They are happy to continue to cry wolf and demand ponies.