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Tom Daschle

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The Representatives from K-St.

Members of this Shadow Congress — not all of whom are registered lobbyists — hail from 41 of 50 states (Texas has the most, with 17) and they’re almost as likely to be Democrats as Republicans. Some, like Tom Daschle and Bob Dole, were powerful congressional leaders, whose presence on K Street has drawn scrutiny in the past. But far more are low-profile back-benchers we’d never heard of and we doubt you had either:

TPM’s Justin Elliot and Zachary Roth try to ascertain a head-count of the representatives from K-Street: “We’ve compiled a close-to-comprehensive list of former members of Congress currently working on behalf of private interests in Washington’s influence-peddling industry. We count 172 of them — almost one-third the number of current members of Congress.” (They deem them the “Shadow Congress,” but I think that name is, quite frankly, far too awesome to be used in reference to a bunch of bought-and-paid-for-lobbyists. See also: Shadow Broker, Shadow Proclamation, etc. etc.)

The picture above, by the way, is Joseph Keppler’s The Bosses of the Senate, from the January 1889 issue of Puck. Consider also David Graham Phillips’ “Treason of the Senate” from 1906, and the problem of corporate control over our republican institutions is sadly not-so-new. But back then, alas, they were just getting warmed up.

Public Service Announcement.

Here’s one to grow on: If you’re looking to represent the little people by taking on a cabinet position in our nation’s government, please deign to pay the taxes you owe on your chauffeurs, nannies, sinecures, and assorted other luxuries. Thanks much.

Also, for what it’s worth, I guess it’s possible that Tom Daschle was really God’s Gift to Health Care Reform, as he was recently made out to be when his nomination tanked. (His ideas seem solid, but, his book aside, we didn’t see that much of that side of him when he was Harry Reid 1.0 for years and years.) But I think it’s just as likely that his strong lobbyist ties would’ve made him ineffectual in the post, and the Daschle-friendly administration — a lot of candidate Obama’s core people were Daschle hand-me-downs — wouldn’t ever have been able to cut him loose. So, all the recent teeth-gnashing aside, this might very well have been a blessing in disguise.

To Our Health. | On Daschle.

“‘Some may ask how at this moment of economic challenge we can afford to invest in reforming our healthcare system…I ask, how can we afford not to?” At the announcement of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as HHS Secretary yesterday, President-elect Obama makes clear health care reform is still very much on the table despite the economic downturn, and is working with Congress to bolster health care provisions in the current stimulus package. “‘It’s hard to overstate the urgency of this work…It’s not something that we can sort of put off because we’re in an emergency,’ he said. ‘This is part of the emergency.’

Among others, Senate health czar of sorts Ted Kennedy has applauded the Daschle pick. (Apparently, some of Daschle’s positions on health care reform are causing consternation in some corners. They sound alright by me.) “Exceptional challenges call for exceptional leaders, and Tom is an ideal choice to meet the urgent challenge of health reform. His integrity, intelligence, experience and commitment to the American people have won him friends and admirers on both sides of the aisle.

Permission to Come Aboard.

Since the birth of our nation change has been won by young presidents and young leaders who have shown that experience is not defined by time in Washington and years in office. It is defined by wisdom and instinct and vision…The only charge that rings false is the one that tells you not to hope for a better America. Don’t let anyone tell you to accept the downsizing of the American dream.” Barack Obama picks up a few more endorsements in Sen. John Kerry (and more importantly, his voter list and organization), South Dakota Senators Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, and Congressman George Miller (which some see as a nod from Speaker Pelosi, although Pelosi clarified again today that she plans not to endorse anyone.) In the meantime, while a new poll has Obama up 12 in South Carolina (not that polls mean much anymore, of course), South Carolina’s leading Democrat (and my old congressman) Jim Clyburn still hasn’t officially picked his candidate. “Clyburn, continuing to be coy about his endorsement, often tells reporters that he’s made up his mind, but never offers a name. Most signs, though, point to Obama.

Update: “To call that dream [of an Obama presidency] a fairy tale, which Bill Clinton seemed to be doing, could very well be insulting to some of us.” No official word yet, but Clyburn suggests again he’s leaning Obama now, in part because of the Clintons’ dismaying behavior in New Hampshire. Speaking of Senator Clinton’s enthronement of LBJ as the civil rights ideal: “‘We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics,’ said Mr. Clyburn, who was shaped by his searing experiences as a youth in the segregated South and his own activism in those days. ‘It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.‘”

Update 2: I posted more about Clyburn’s remarks — and Clinton’s view of history — here.

Rock the Vote.

The Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by former President Jimmy Carter and longtime Bush consigliere James Baker, delivers a set of proposals for fixing our tottering election system. Among the recommendations included are the adoption of a standard photo ID [which former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) has likened to a “modern-day poll tax,”] full electronic voting paper trails, free TV time for political candidates, the implementation of a regional primary system, and the non-partisan administration of future elections. Well, I’d like to see more strictly campaign-finance-related initiatives here, but, if nothing else, these sound like a good starting point for debate. After all, it should be clear to all by now that the current system has major issues, to say the least. (Just ask Ohio.)

Chimp Nation.

Hope is on the…wait, what’s this? Oops, sorry about that. Turns out Hope took a wrong turn and got lost somewhere back there in Idiotville. Welcome to Despairtown, baby.

So, that’s that, then…the Idiot Wind blows anew. The American electorate has spoken and — despite all the shadiness and incompetence of the past four years — has given Dubya and his cronies the imprimatur to go hog-wild. 51-48%…this is pretty much a mandate, folks. (Big of those Red Staters to ensure that we will be woefully unprepared for the next terrorist attack on a Blue State.) Y’know, H.L. Mencken‘s whole Tyranny of the Booboisie schtick has always grated on my lefty sensibilities, but at this point I have to admit he may have been on to something.

Ugh. I’m too young to remember 1984 very well, but I’m curious as to how last night and this morning compared for America’s Left. (I’ve since been reminded by several people I trust that 1968 and 1972 were much more grievous blows.) Thing is, 2004 started out with such promise over here. But, right around the time I ended up on crutches in May, events personal and political took a nasty turn, and the past few months have been some of the most dismal I can remember. Now, it seems, I may just look back on this time as relatively calm and worry-free.

But, ok, enough wallowing…let’s start taking it frame-by-frame. Given the war, the economy, and Dubya’s obvious incompetence, how on Earth did we lose this election? Well, give credit where credit is due…all this exit-talk of “moral values” proves that Karl Rove pulled off his gambit: He got the extra 4 million evangelical votes he was targeting, partly, it seems, by judiciously invoking rampant anti-gay hysteria. Yet, for some reason or another — a lousy ground game, perhaps? — the Dems inexplicably didn’t counter with extra votes of our own.

Where do we go from here? The Dems are facing an ugly Rule of Four…We lost four seats in the Senate, at least four seats in the House, and likely four seats in the Supreme Court. Whatsmore, we now appear officially dead in the water in the South and Midwest. And, with Kerry and Daschle gone, our standard-bearers now appear to be Hillary Clinton (about whom the country has already made up its mind), John Edwards (whom I still admire, but he couldn’t carry his home state), and Barack Obama (who’s probably too inexperienced to make much headway in 2008.)

Obviously, it’s now well past time for the serious party overhaul we should’ve began last cycle, when Al Gore had an election stolen from him that he should have won hands down. Daschle & Gephardt are already in the dustbin of history, and Terry McAuliffe should probably follow them there. I for one don’t think Howard Dean was or is the answer, but he’s one of the only people injecting new blood and enthusiasm into the party right now, so he should have a seat at the table. Right now, I think Edwardsian populism is our strongest ideological card, but as I said, it didn’t seem to make much headway last night.

Silver lining? Yeah, right. Well, as this Washington Monthly forum noted in September, second terms are notoriously scandal-prone (Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica), partly out of press boredom, and Dubya’s ilk seem particularly scandal-worthy…perhaps we’ll finally hear a little more about Halliburton. I’m sure there’ll be no shortage of horrifying policy decisions emanating from this administration that’ll keep lefty blogs like this one in business. And, on a purely selfish note, my likely dissertation topic on the fortunes of progressivism in the twenties is now seeming much more sexy in the wake of last night’s 1928-like cultural divide. Of course, none of these are really any consolation at all.

At any rate, I generally believe that America tends to get the president it deserves. So, God help us, we’ve brought this upon ourselves. And now, for we 48%, the hard work begins…we have to lick our wounds, get our act together, and figure out how we can best combat the rightward drift that’s afflicting our nation. Alas, I fear Dubya will do much of the heavy lifting for us, by running the nation further into the ground over the next four years. Still, we gotta keep on keeping on, y’all. I do not believe this darkness will endure.

The waiting is the hardest part.

Well, fuck. Here we go again. At 3:10am, Ohio is still up in the air, and may well be for days, as we wait for the provisional ballots to be counted. Right now, Dubya’s up by 140,000 votes with 99% reporting, which means Kerry has to run the table with those 175,000 provisionals to go over the top. Doable, sure, but we’re definitely running really low on ammo at this point.

I’ll save the real post-mortem for when the winner’s declared (and I’m less tired), but obviously both my earlier confidence and most of today’s exit polls were, um, somewhat off. So, more tomorrow. For now, I’m off to bed, where I’m going to try not to dwell on the future of the Supreme Court.

Update: 3:49am…Oof, there went Daschle. I think it’s safe to say at this point that our party is in disarray. Still, given that 51% of the electorate signed off on four more years of Dubya tonight, despite the arrogance and incompetence displayed by this White House since January 2001…well, perhaps we Dems are destined to remain a minority party for some time to come.

No Child Left Behind?

Surprise, surprise. Dubya and the GOP’s new tax cut leaves out an increased child tax credit for the nation’s poorest Americans. After all, gotta keep the priorities straight…Some families out there might want a second SUV.

No Representation with Taxation.

While still desperately in denial about the nation’s exploding debt, the GOP has, as expected, gone to war against its own moderate wing and threatened to sink the budget, in the hopes of preserving Dubya’s $726 billion tax giveaway. This is despite the fact that the Daschle Dems have in essence already capitulated again, agreeing to pass an equally wrong-headed compromise plan half that size. Sigh…the Dems really have to get it together. At any rate, hopefully moderate Republicans will take DeLay’s budget blackmail for the desperate, dangerous gamble it is and call him on it. Nothing screams GOP these days quite like a government shutdown.

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