It's official: The Dems don't know what they stand for anymore

The vote today on the Medicare reform bill clearly shows that the Democratic party has totally lost its way. Admittedly, Democrats have always been a coalition of viewpoints, much more so than Republicans. However, when 11 Democratic Senators vote to re-write the basis for social legislation, and two of the Democratic Senators refuse even to record a vote (one of them a leading candidate for the nomination by the party for President!), over the objection of virtually every old-line Democrat involved in the creation of the program in the first place, you know that the party has lost its way. Too many Democratic politicians no longer have the stomache to oppose the Republican party when it pretends to populist sentiments.

It is instructive to note that there were Republicans who at least stuck to THEIR guns, voting against the legislation on the basis it was too costly. And you’ll note that Tom De Lay didn’t back off his support for the MBTE exclusion in the energy bill, even when pressed to do so by the White House.

Can you imagine what Dean will do with this next time he and Kerry face each other? Does Kerry have any spine left? Can the Democratic Party find itself a moral compass and actually offer to the people of this country an alternative to the party that uses its moral “high” ground to cover its position as the party of big business?

It’s not that I’m a Democrat or a Republican. But I do like it when there are actually TWO parties to choose from. And SOMEONE has to start advocating the needs of those the Republicans rate less important. Don’t they? :confused:

You may now pile on… :wink:

By your own reasoning, the Republicans are just as severely split and/or immoral. A number of them opposed the bill, roughly as many as the number of Democrats who supported it. So why aren’t you demanding a pox on both parties?

Could it be, Horatio, that this bill was actually a compromise (an ugly one, yes, but there’s been damn few of them lately)? Something that gives everyone something but no one everything? Something that gives everyone as many things to endorse as to denounce? Or is your worldview too partisanly Manichaean to accommodate such a possibility?

That post was far too rantish and incoherent for GD, but not nearly rantish and incoherent enough for the Pit. Pick a forum and try again.

I for one am encouraged to see the politicans will still vote their minds and follow their best judgment on certain matters, rather than “voting with the party.” I don’t know if their reservations are sound or not; time will tell, I guess. I know that partisan voting is a good way to get some bills through the process, but who wants a bunch of party automatons in DC?

ElvisL1ves, had you actually read what I said, you would have noted that I applauded the Republicans who stuck to their moral guns and voted against the legislation, NOT for the reasons that liberals would choose, but rather because they don’t think the government ought to spend the money at ALL. The Republicans aren’t split, nor have they lost their way, because this legislation arguably does exactly what you’d expect Republicans to do: throw a sop to the liberal social conscience of the middle class while throwing the door open to allow big business into the business of providing a social entitlement program. Pretty consistent Republican philosophy.

And I’m not advocating “party” voting by any means. But I DO think that, if you are going to call yourself a “Democrat”, you ought to act like someone who isn’t a Republican with some sort of nagging social unhappiness. Kerry and Lieberman were in Washington, rather than out campaigning, specifically so they could work to oppose this legislation in its current form. Yet, when they had to actually put their names in front of a position on the actual bill, they couldn’t bring themselves to do it! Are they so afraid of standing before elderly voters and explaining that a program designed to initiate the destruction of their entitlement should be opposed even if it offers some limited coverage for prescription drugs?

When the voice of the downtrodden in your party becomes Al Sharpton, and your party is a populist party, you’ve got (or is it gotten? :wink: ) real troubles.

I’m personally splitting the difference with ElvisL1ves and DSYoungEsq here – from my understanding, the Medicare bill was a compromise, one that managed to get a few Republicans off the bandwagon because they didn’t felt it was destructive enough. :wink: On the other hand, I agree with DSY that the apparent spineless nature of the Democratic Senators was embarassing, particularly the no-votes from Lieberman and Kerry. I get the feeling that the Dems who voted for the bill will have it bite them in the ass when they get called on it from their constituents.

Sigh But then, that seems to be a problem with the Democrats these days; it’s too rare these days when they get enough fire in their bellies and take a stand, come hell or high water. George W. Bush wouldn’t have gotten away with half the stuff he’s shoveling if the Dems hadn’t been playing milquetoast all these years…

“The Republicans aren’t split, nor have they lost their way, because this legislation arguably does exactly what you’d expect Republicans to do: throw a sop to the liberal social conscience of the middle class while throwing the door open to allow big business into the business of providing a social entitlement program. Pretty consistent Republican philosophy.”
This is a pretty odd interpretation. The bill is the biggest expansion of the US welfare state in decades; hardly the stuff of Republican philosophy. Its patchwork nature makes it quite likely that it will be expanded some time in the future. While there is a greater role for the private sector some of it is well into the future; private plans will compete with Medicare only after 2010 for a period of six years.

The big picture is that on the issue of government spending you could argue that the GOP has essentially thrown in the towel. They have largely abandoned the anti-government rhetoric of Reagan and Gingrich (what happened to closing down the Education Department?). On a practical level domestic spending as a percentage of GDP is higher today than during the Clinton years particularly the last few Clinton years.

Of course the GOP is still agressively ideological about cutting taxes but it will be difficult to sustain that in the long run if they don’t have the appetite to restrain spending.

Ah, so you know what “The Republicans” define as moral conduct, and what to them is simple expediency. It must be comforting to be so sure.

Are you serious? The thing the Senate Democrats, led by Kennedy, have been pushing for for years is drug coverage under Medicare, which would benefit the poorer elderly more than anyone else. But here too, you know that “The Democrats” only want to make themselves feel good, not that they could ever be sincere about wanting to help anyone other than themselves - nsharing that feeling yourself, you can’t acknowledge that anyone else sincerely could. THAT is, in your words, “pretty consistent Republican philosophy”, isn’t it?

That is, unfortunately, the tenor of your OP, to the extent it’s coherent, that is. Note your sideslipping on the question of the Republicans, McCain most notably, who voted against it without incurring your moral wrath - again, why?

Another, related fallacy - that party labels should determine beliefs, not the converse. Your lack of understanding of a sense that we’re all in a community and that we all must take care of each other is apparent in that sentence, as well.

That admission of the bill’s purpose, on the part of the Republicans, was quite candid. But it doesn’t follow necessarily that that “slippery slope” will be slid down, or even that it slopes. Perhaps the thinking was that this bill institutionalizes prescription coverage, a good thing, while not doing anything structural that can’t be undone, or that won’t fall of its own weight in the future if it’s that bad. Perhaps the people you’ve conditioned yourself to despise are a bit subtler and more thoughtful than you’d like to credit them with?

Yeah, and Hillary’s going to be the nominee. How about some fire, Scarecrow?

rjung, I share your exasperation, but don’t limit it by party. Seems like the bill was written, and most votes cast including Kerry’s and Lieberman’s, based on 2004 electoral calculations. It’s hardly a new problem or a particular party’s one, though, but DSY seems to be overlooking that possibility as well.

CyberPundit, you brought up something else inconvenient that the OP overlooks - the fact that there is no longer any evidence via their actions that the Republicans are serious about fiscal responsibility. Yet DSY somehow thinks they’re being philosophically consistent.

They stood for something? I thought they were just one side of a boring football game. Often hear politicians talking about education. It is something they can tax us for without too much protest. Everybody is in favor of education.

When have the Democrats said accounting should be mandatory in high school. When have the Republicans said the same?

If everybody knew it then it might be harder for politicians to scam us. Must keep the suckers ignorant.

Dal Timgar

I think that the Dems are just pissed that the Pubs have gotten closer than ever on a subject that they ever have in the past.

On NPR this morning, John Kerry was quoted in a sound bite as saying, “This is another attempt at George Bush to cater to the Special Interests…”

Immediately upon hearing this, two WTFs popped into my head:

  1. The elderly and needy are “Special Interests” now, according to their Saviors, the Dems?
  2. If he was alluding to the vast profits that the drug companies are going to reap because of this legislation, then, “no shit!” Where did they expect these drugs to come from? Did they expect to get them for free?

Personally I see the bill as a nice compromise from both sides, although I’m against bureaucracy as a policy, atleast no one fully got their way.

Chicago, it is my understanding that at least part of what Senator Kerry was offended about, and the “special interest” he was talking about was that the bill forbids, enjoins and prohibits the Social Security Administration from effectively bargaining for drug prices. With the buying power split between the SSA and health insurers the leverage that you might expect the SSA to have if it were the only buyer for Medicare recipients is just not there. It is, as I understand it, that buyer’s leverage as the sole payor that has kept the price of pharmaceuticals comparatively low in Canada.

At the same time and on a related topic we have the Food and Drug Administration refusing to open up the border for the flow of cheaper Canadian pharmaceuticals into the US. The argument seems to be that we cannot be sure of the safety and effectiveness of drugs from Canada, even though my pharmacist says that they are the same stuff he is selling, made in the same plants by the same people from the same stuff with the same quality and purity controls and inspections.

Now, is the present bill and improvement in the system? Sure it is. Is the present bill all that it could have been? The answer is obviously no, it isn’t. There was more that could have been done that should have reduced the cost of the bill but it was not done because it would have deprived the pharmaceutical industry of its potential power to continue to make big bucks (I almost said “gouge the public,” but thought better of it). The split on the Democratic side is between the people who are willing to take half a loaf and those who are not. The split on the Republican side is between those who are willing to take a half loaf and those who don’t want to pay for half a loaf. There is a lot of posturing going on, but that is the nature of the game. I suppose we will all get briefing papers and talking points from our various national committees.

I thought it was pretty friggin’ clear the Democrats are as united as ten cats in one sack as soon as I saw how many of them are running for president. This is NOT a group that can agree on a whole hell of a lot, I think…

No. I am sure he was talking about the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, and such.

Yes, we must placate the drug companies and do nothing to try to control drug prices lest we cut into their huge profits and they take it out on us by withholding our fix. “And, look at how costly all this research is…Okay, so we group market research and other marketting into ‘research’…”

Traditionally there have been three wings to the Democratic Party.

The progressives or liberals, who are called left wing Democrats. The reactionary, ultra conservative wing, once called Dixicrats, then Reagan Democrats, now just called Republicans.

Then there are the weather vane Democrats. They determine the most popular view at the moment and vote that way. They are referred to as the spineless Democrats.

I’d note that Nancy Pelosi seems to be doing a better job than Tom Daschle. The House vote was a down-to-the-wire, twist-arms win for the GOP. The Senate vote, despite the vaunted efforts of campaigners giving up their campaigns to be there, in the end was no fight at all.

The GOP is demonstrating an amazing amount of internal discipline (or concerted jackbooted thuggery, if your prefer, although the emphasis is on “concerted”). The Democrats do not have a unified position on Mr. Bush’s tax cuts, or on his education policy; their lack of organization on his Medicare inititiave is hardly surprising.

(By the way: the tax cuts DO seem to have stimulated the economy!)

Here’s an admission from a guy that mostly votes Republican (I hesitate to identify myself AS a Republican): the Republicans stole the Democrat’s best idea. Although this isn’t an admission you’re likely to hear from the RNC, it’s the truth - Medicare has been the Democratic baby since its birth. Republicans have stolen it, filed off the serial numbers, and will be taking credit for it in 2004. While I’d prefer to find a party in which such admissions were made as a matter of course, I realize that’s fantasy-land.

In short: I think the OP is right. Unlike the OP, I have to confess I’m not too saddened by the news.

  • Rick

What the hell kind of ignorance are you spreading now, Bricker? The “unified” Democratic positions you claim don’t exist are:

  1. Bush’s tax cuts: Bad idea, adds to national debt, do not stimulate economy, so get back to balanced/surplus budgeting.
  2. Education policy: What Bush policy? Vouchers? NOT fully funding Head Start? Dem policy: Fix “failing” schools, don’t starve them, and fund the childhood programs that have the most benefit long-term.

Good Gawdamighty, man, just because you don’t care enough to find out what someone else’s views are doesn’t mean don’t have any. One might have thought that obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

As for DSY or anyone else who’s singing along with the OP, apparently you’re not going to explain how the Democrats who voted Yes are spineless and unprincipled, but the Republicans who voted No (McCain included) are somehow not. Pity - it would have been interesting to read that from someone who’s so articulate and proud of it.

It’s a good thing you put unified in quotes. How many Democrats voted for the tax cuts?

I already established that those Republicans who voted against the bill did so because they don’t think it worth the cost to obtain the gain of partially privatizing health care for seniors. They believe in their principles, and simply have a dispute with their leadership about the importance of seeming to help senior voters while obtaining the far more important (to the Republican Party) step of infiltrating a government entitlement program with privatization.

There were, of course, Democratic senators who also stuck to their guns, for instance, Ted Kennedy, who helped CREATE Medicare, as you’ll remember, and who views this inroad as a disaster. Look carefully at the changes the bill underwent from the version the Senate did pass early in the year (with, as I recall, Teddy’s vote) to understand this difference.

But more than 25% of the party’s senators crossed lines to vote for the legislation.

Why does this matter? Can’t they disagree?

No. Sometimes legislation has to be viewed from the standpoint of basic core issues. I find it ridiculous that the Dems were able to stay more focused on the energy bill, a far less threatening piece of legislation to traditional core Democratic values. Medicare is a central hallmark of the whole concept of Democratic politics since the Depression. It exemplifies the best of Rooseveltian/Kennedy Democracy. AND, unlike other contemporary social legislation (can anyone say Welfare?), Medicare has generally worked, without any real complaint.

The main area where Medicare has failed to work is the lack of coverage for prescription drugs. This is a serious flaw; many seniors take a disproportionate share of such drugs in our ever aging society. Understandably, Republicans have been unwilling to simply hand over a prescription drug program because of the cost; Republicans don’t like entitlement grants that use up what they consider scarce tax dollars. Democrats have been trying to overcome this resistance for years.

Now, the political pressure to pass drug coverage has reached such a level that Republicans concede the neccessity of accomplishing the goal. Further, they WANT to do so, in order to try and capture traditionally Democratic votes in 2004; they understand the lesson of 2000 all too well. But they can’t just suddenly sponsor a massive increase in government entitlement; to do so would be contrary to their core values. So, what they do instead is concede a coverage that won’t cost more than they can manage to afford and still round up votes for (BARELY in the House, you’ll note), and to make it palatable, they wrap it around the beginnings of a dismantling of the basic program itself.

Government entitlement programs of the 20th Century aren’t supposed to be an opportunity for big business!!! It was distrust of big business, and the economic factors to which it must pay attention, which lead to the development of the types of programs fostered under the Roosevelt and later Kennedy/Johnson administrations. Like them or not, the point to such programs is to ensure that the vicissitudes of economic cycles and the imperatives of supply and demand don’t end up affecting the common man. The whole point is to take profit motives OUT of social programs. Democrats have staked 70 years of politics on this concept.

Republicans have for most of that 70 years opposed the underlying principle of such legislation. Current efforts include the Medicare bill just passed, the various attempts to privatize Social Security, efforts to change welfare from an entitlement program to a back-to-work program, the efforts to infiltrate public education with privatized programs and choices, etc. It is a massive, co-ordinated assault on the hallmark of the Democratic party. It’s goal is to reduce as much as possible the government’s involvement in the direct transfer of funds from those who have more than an average amount to those who need more. If it can be done in such a way that big business reaps a windfall, so much the better.

Opposed to this effort one would think would be the Democratic Party. At some point, you have to draw lines in the sand, and say, beyond this point, you will not cross. Hell, that is exactly what the Dems DID do with the energy bill, and over something arcane like MBTE litigation. But when the core of the liberal wing of the party tried to rally the party to stand behind a line drawn over Medicare, they couldn’t manage to stop it, EVEN WITH A WING REVOLT FROM REPUBLICANS HELPING THEM.

And when it actually came time to vote, to put their names on one side or the other of the issue, two of the party’s contenders for its nomination for President wouldn’t even vote. Clearly, Kerry and Lieberman don’t want to face seniors in the coming election having appeared to oppose drug coverage (the drumbeat Republicans would raise), but can’t bring themselves to face seniors angry about a vote in favor of dismantling the programs basic roots. Spineless chickens, if you ask me.

Now what does 2004 have in store for the Dems? A President from the other party able to: 1. proclaim that he solved the drug issue, 2. paint the Dems as recalcitrant foot draggers on energy problems. The Dems will be able to 1. Concede that they allowed Medicare to be changed, and 2. argue they saved for people the potential right to sue over MBTE poisoning of groundwater.

And everyone wonders how it is that someone like Dean is doing so well…

DSY, you’re still not getting the point of the question, or are trying to obfuscate it. You give credit to line-crossing Republicans for principled, thoughtful conduct, but condemn line-crossing Democrats as unprincipled opportunists. I already gave you boiled-down versions of why the same assessment may well be true for all of them. You sidestepped the suggestion that adding prescription coverage has been a Democratic issue for quite some time, and even a flawed coverage that can be implemented beats no coverage. Is it really beyond your comprehension that anyone could possibly be motivated by anything but short-term self-interest? If that’s true, it’s sad. But you can wallow in lip-foaming, ignorance-wallowing partisanship, right next to Bricker, if you like; it’s clear to any reader if not to you.

But perhaps there’s hope for you, as shown here: "Government entitlement programs of the 20th Century aren’t supposed to be an opportunity for big business!!! " True. But that’s today’s “principled” Republican Party. Face it and deal with it.

The Republicans may want to think twice before embracing this Medicare law as an election platform; So far it’s been blasted by those writing letters to newspapers and posting on message boards.
Todays (Friday) Newsday alone has 7 letters, all quite negative toward the bill/law, and to AARP for supporting it; most letters bring up very good points (such as preventing the government from using it’s buying power for cheaper drugs; not legalization [re]importation of drugs; the now infamous coverage ‘donut’; pilot privatization programs; and so on) - OK, Newsday is biased, but I’ve seen many other viewpoints as those from other sources, and not too many rave reviews around.
Hmmm, this puppy may very well turn out to be a damn big (ah crap, what the hell) turkey…

Just a minor, somewhat related point.

I’m not really sure that Medicare should be considered an “entitlement” since most people have actually paid money into the system while they were working. There are a few exceptions, but general eligibility requires 10 years of working and paying for medicare.

It seems like more of a disbursement program to me.