Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Question for Liberals

Think back to what you were thinking in November 2008, and in January 2009.  As the 111th Congress winds down, what's your biggest disappointment of the things you expected to happen?  Not your wish list, but the things you really expected to happen.  What's your biggest happy surprise? 


  1. In retrospect it was obviously folly, but I expected a bigger push for Card Check

  2. Disappointments: A toss-up between cap-and-trade and Gitmo.

    Biggest happy surprise: The back-from-the-dead nature of the passage of the HCR and DADT bills, though that's only in retrospect; I would have hoped both had gone more smoothly.

  3. I expected that card check would pass—that was basically killed by moderate Democrats refusing to vote for cloture, right? (On the other hand, I'm a former NYU grad student so I know that the composition of the NLRB makes a big difference even without card check. The sad thing is it seems the state of labor law will remain unstable through the next several changes of administration.)

    I also expected a much bigger push for climate change legislation. I'm not surprised that it failed, but I would have like to have seen Harry Reid force some debate and get the Ayes and Nays on the record—this would be a useful record for the condemnation of future generations—instead of letting it get pocket vetoed by Lindsay Graham and the rust belt Democrats.

  4. I honestly think in terms of policy the 111th met and exceeded my expectations in most areas, except for the Bush tax cuts for over $250K (cap-and-trade doesn't qualify b/c I didn't really expect that to be something that happened in the 111th). Looking back, the area where my expectations were most let down is in the political arena. Back in jan 09/nov 08, I really wouldn't have expected the 2010 midterms to turn out as bad as they did. I would have thought that there was a good chance for a 1934-type scenario. In retrospect, I overestimated the extent to which the economy would be recovering by this point in time.

  5. The messaging was terrible throughout the process, but in the end, what a series of accomplishments.

    If you managed to avoid the blogosphere or the talking heads, and just paid attention to the results, this was easily the most progressive and productive sessions since LBJ.

  6. As far as legislation, I don't think cap and trade was ever feasible, so ... ENDA (which I always figured was by far the easiest sell among the civil rights for LGBT Americans proposals)? It's been a remarkably successful Congress by many measures. Was the last one this successful during LBJ's administration or Nixon's?

    My biggest disappointment, by a big, big margin, is how few presidential appointments got through the Senate. The pace of judicial confirmations, and those to the Fed, has been especially abysmal.

  7. Closing Gitmo.

    I also would have liked to see filibuster reform (that's a longshot, I know) and the DREAM Act to have gone through.

  8. I agree with most of the comments above. Given the political realities of a republican caucus unified in opposition to everything, and a few too many conservaDems who help policy hostage to fake "centrist" ideals and a media that leans too conservative, I'm amazed at how much was accomplished. Biggest disappointment was to see confirmation that the republican party is now utterly controlled by their radical base, which prevents any reasoned discourse on huge problems like climate change.

  9. My biggest disappointment would be no cap-and-trade, or really, a comprehensive energy bill of any kind. Obama had defy itely indicated that energy would come first, and I figured at least if we dumped a bunch of money into R and D, the EPA could do the rest.

    Gitmo is a huge disappointment, too, but I guess I feel like that failure lies more with Obama than Congress.

    And yeah, the messaging has been terrible. Obama and the Dems have, in many ways, enacted new governing philosophies for the nation, but you'd hardly know it. And if no one knows it, is it really much of a new philosophy? The "results will speak for themselves, what's next?" ideal is laudable, but probably more trouble than it's worth.

    It's hard to pick a biggest pleasant surprise. The scope of Hcr was unexpected. Certain elements of finreg were surprisingly bold. Parts of the stimulus are residing the economy in ways we won't fully understand for a decade.

    But the more I think about it, the thing that makes me the happiest and seems to have worked out the best was Sonia Sotomayor. Of course, I'm a SCOTUS junkie, but still, her questions and opinions are far bolder than I expected. Shes going to be a worthy heir to Stevens and Ginsburg, even though she succeeded Souter.

  10. Gitmo is my biggest disappointment, because that was entirely under the control of Obama.

    Health care, while not as big of a priority for me as some sort of climate change legislation, was the happiest surprise. While DADT is civil rights legislation, in the grand scheme of things, we were talking about a not-too-huge number of people being told they can't be in the army, vs millions dying earlier or living in pain.

  11. My worst surprise was probably the renomination and reconfirmation of Ben Bernanke, which I hadn't remotely expected going in. My best surprise was health care reform, of course, especially in combination with possibly non-terrible (I'm no expert and the experts didn't seem sure) financial reform; but getting a Consumer Protection Agency with teeth (?) and getting two brilliant, wry, outspoken women on the Supreme Court were pretty nice too. Because it's kind of weird and creepy that it took until 2010 for the Supreme Court to be 1/3 women. You know?

    I would have been quite disappointed had DADT survived. It will be strange starting to see people in military uniforms on campus now. Feels ominous.

    Can't say I really expected that any executive power overreach would be wound down, or that we could get more than say one and a half of hcr/e&e/financial reform through -- or that labor would get anything much beyond appointments, though I did think things like food safety, banning guns for people on terrorist watch lists and no-fly lists, and 9/11 responders funding -- you know, things that are small and that the mind boggles to hear anyone attack -- would get through easily, and I was wrong there. I thought Dawn Johnsen would eventually be confirmed -- hell, I thought Tom Daschle would be confirmed. Let's not even get into Judd Gregg ......

  12. the classicist:

    banning guns for people on terrorist watch lists and no-fly lists . . . things that are small and that the mind boggles to hear anyone attack

    Boggling minds or not, I assure you many Americans would consider this a very big infringement of an important civil liberty. They would challenge it in court and, in light of recent decisions, might succeed.

    Raising the gun control issue is probably not a political winner for Democrats.

  13. The public option; some of us would prefer not to have to buy health insurance from the for-profit companies that have not looked out for our interests.

    Biggest surprise? DADT. Total awe, there, and thanks my Sen. Collins for her role in it. Don't often like what she does, but she done good this time.

  14. Personally, I don't think anyone should be allowed to serve in our perpetual killing machine so I'm only luke warm that gays can finally do it openly.

    For the rest, it's been an unmitigated disaster:

    HCR enshrines government enforcement of the profligacy of monopolistic private enterprise

    Continued secret rendition, torture, military tribunals and the weakening of Habeas Corpus trash our constitution as well as our international treaties

    Two separate systems of justice for wealthy and average Americans is making a joke out of our judicial system

    Continuation of perpetual wars is harming our young, creating a military class of society, fostering authoritarianism and deeply draining us of financial resources.

    Constant increase of government secrecy on the one hand, and government spying on it's own citizens on the other is turning us into an subservient fear driven society very much at the mercy of propaganda.

    Finally, the fact that the goal posts have been moved so far to the right that most folks see these things as dirty communist hippie talk.

  15. Several people blamed Gitmo on Obama. I seem to remember the congressional dems cutting his knees out from under him on funding.

  16. DADT's demise shouldn't have come as a surprise; the writing was on the wall as soon as the Pentagon was commissioned to do the study. The overwhelming support for repeal among servicemen was a foregone conclusion, and plenty of senators were waiting for those results as cover. If the tax cut expiration hadn't preoccupied the GOP's mind this month, they would have voted on it much earlier.

    Losing Cap & Trade and DREAM were disappointing to me, but didn't surprise me either.

    Most disappointed in not getting the public option; it was popular enough in polling, and I feel like it could've been pushed through eventually, save for a certain Connecticut senator.

  17. DT: what I meant was that I had assumed that within this one extremely narrow category, everyone would agree that security had a strong, strong claim to trump liberty, and that I was shocked to learn that I had been quite wrong. I absolutely did not mean to take a stand on gun control generally and what civil liberties are involved there, and I apologize if I sounded dismissive of something I in fact take seriously.

  18. I expected the Democrats to use their moment in power to re-authorize the big bills (transportation, education), so they could leave their five-year mark on the legislation, and was surprised that they abandoned this so they could focus on big bills that may or may not pass (e.g., cap-and-trade).

    This isn't really in the "little thing" category, but I was pleased that both Pelosi and Reed kept their eye on the ball and attended to the needs of their members, rather than the needs of the media. Given the tabloidization of the political press generally (like Politico), it's nice that Democrats had leaders that refused to give into it, even if it cost them their personal popularity.

  19. It's either card check or major infrastructure spending--both important and needed, and still waiting.

  20. Overall, I haven't found myself surprised by the Obama administration policy-wise.

    The big upsets were in politics -- in the slowness to appoint executive positions, the reluctance to push hard on comprehensive energy legislation (even in the face of a massive oil spill), that sort of thing

    Biggest Policy Upset (by Democrats): I really did expect some more pushing on energy and infrastructure overhaul, but was annoyed to find congress wouldn't even seriously consider raising the gas tax. Yeah...

    Biggest Upset (overall): The Zadroga Bill... filibustered. In terms of policy, this may be the lowest I've ever seen the Republicans sink...

    Biggest Victory: HCR -- though, even in its darkest days, I don't think I ever saw it dying. Like I said, few surprises...

  21. I expected that by mid-2009, almost all federal judgeships would have been filled, with a bunch of new liberals and moderates.

  22. Considering Obama and the Dems' 11th hour heroics on DADT and ACA, isn't this discussion premature? :)

  23. Biggest disappointment: Energy/climate legislation. Expected this to be Obama's first order of domestic policy business. Instead, the administration did a poor job of handling it when it came around to trying to get something through the Senate.

    Biggest surprise: HCR. Did not expect this to be tackled in such a comprehensive mannder in an Obama first term. Most of the griping is off base, in my view. I think the administration did an outstanding job in shepherding this through.

  24. Without a doubt, the complete capitulation to the Cheney faction on torture. I really expected more from Obama and the Congressional Dems.

  25. #1 dis: Obama and Democrats haven't been progressive enough to maintain their overwhelming majorities.
    #2 dis: Obama's collaboration in ceding Teddy's Senate seat to a Republican.

  26. Classicist/David: I didn't read that as a black-and-white, security vs. liberty issue... What people didn't like is the terrorist watch list is constantly updated and never 100% reliable, and doesn't add anything useful to mandated background checks already in use... Being on that list doesn't mean you were convicted or even charged with anything, so it shouldn't be used as a legal basis to deny someone's rights. The whole idea was highly problematic, just on a practical level.

  27. I really expected SOME sort of cap-and-trade bill to pass. I figured it would be a mess of a bill, half-gutted and with a Christmas tree of barely related stuff to placate Senators whose votes were needed. But I expected SOMETHING in the way of cap-and-trade to make it to Obama's desk.

    So that's been my big disappointment. Especially because, barring filibuster reform, the GOP has essentially run out the clock on meaningful action to address global warming.

    Due to the composition of the Senate classes of 2012 and 2014, the Dems have no chance of emerging from those elections with more than 57 Senators, even if the Dems get 60% of the vote in both elections, and both of the ladies from Maine get successfully primaried by teabaggers.

    So 2017 will be the Dems' next opportunity to pass a climate change bill, and that will really be too late.

    Why do the Republicans hate our planet?

  28. Three things jump out at me:

    - After the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, I would have expected a much more far-reaching and punitive financial reform bill to have been enacted that would have shrunk the financial/gambling sector and raised revenues with new financial transaction taxes.
    - I expected some kind of energy bill that would have put at least a modest price on greenhouse gases to pass. EPA regulations are, I suppose, better than nothing assuming the GOP doesn't hold them hostage during the debt ceiling fight or other battles the next 2 years.
    - I expected at least some portion of the Bush tax cuts on the rich to be repealed or allowed to lapse especially the estate tax. It's astonishing that Republicans can get away with forcing lower taxes on the estates inherited by children of billionaires.

  29. My biggest disappointment was no climate/energy legislation and no big infratructure bill, especially for increased funding on high speed trains and other forms of mass transit. The failure to pass the DREAM Act was a minor disappointment but not a surprise. I would have preferred a general amnesty, which I realize is an impossibility. Another disappointment, somewhat related to Congress, was the number of liberals/progressives that really under appreciate the Obama administration and the work of Reid and Pelosi.

    DADT was the biggest surprise, I thought that the Democrats would have given it up in light of the vehemit opposition among Republicans.

  30. Energy (cap-and-trade and comprehensive), Bush tax cuts, and DREAM.

    In retrospect, I would add card check but I can't say it was, rightly or wrongly, lower on my personal priorities list. Same with GITMO -- it was almost a foregone conclusion for me that it would be closed.

    DADT was a big surprise for me. As important as it is, it directly affects a very minuscule part of the population. I am thrilled it was appealed but the energy behind it that was LACKING for Cap-and-Trade, GITMO, and a lot of the other things that were left undone or half-done is disappointing.

  31. Thomas: you're absolutely right -- like every other very public TSA and most public HHS affairs, the watch lists are run incompetently. But I'd expected Republicans to embrace them anyway, and was surprised by how -- well, how unconditionally mistrustful of government force of any kind some of the reactions sounded -- in a way I'm more used to hearing from liberals terrified that the government wants to be able to stop you on the street, declare you a terrorist without trial, remove your citizenship rights on that basis, and move you to Guantanamo Bay. -- but many of the people who opposed keeping guns away from people on watch lists support that. Not David or you, I'm sure. But GOP Senators. And I wouldn't have expected people who scoff at some terrors to indulge others of the same sort but dramatically less severe (albeit somewhat more widespread). That's all I was saying.

  32. I did not expect Obama to be all that good on civil liberties -- I had *hoped* he would be, mind, but his vote on retroactive FISA immunity left me thinking he'd be Bush Lite.

    What has been my biggest disappointment (out of many) and my biggest negative surprise is that he has gone even beyond Bush in arguing that he can legally order the assassination of U.S. citizens without charge or trial. I did *not* see that coming, and I've called for his impeachment for it.

    Good surprise? As much as I thought the ACA sucked, I also thought it was better than the status quo, and I didn't think that ANYTHING would pass that would actually be better than the status quo. So there's that.

  33. My biggest disappointments are GITMO and the Obama administration's covering for Bush-era torture and surveillance policies; and the lack of a public option. I honestly believed very strongly in Obama's commitment to the former, and am sorry that the HCR bill didn't deliver such an important piece of policy as the latter.

    Happiest surprise, by far, was DADT repeal. I know we're still incredibly close to the event, but I am just overjoyed and deeply surprised.

  34. Biggest pleasant surprise: Nancy Pelosi. Not only historic for being the 1st woman Speaker, in the 111th she was a serious force, and many of the best parts of important legislation survived because of her leadership. She may be one of the most successful Speakers of the House ever.

    Biggest disappointment: Conservative Dem Senators putting themselves above history and hobbling not just the President's agenda, but also their party's reputation and electoral prospects going forward. What an ugly, petty mess, and what a shame.


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