"Exhibit A" On Why We Don't Have Any Paul Wellstones - Joe Biden
As Mary’s fine post below indicates, there were many House Democrats yesterday who sent a letter to Speaker Denny Hastert "asking" him to bring the bankruptcy bill to a vote, and that vote is now likely as early as tonight. Now we all know that this bill does nothing to stop predatory lending or credit card solicitation practices, nothing to reinstate usury limits, nothing to treat medical and military debtors with any compassion, and still allows the wealthy and their corporations to abuse the system to their benefit. Yet these House Democrats, calling themselves the New Democratic Coalition, tell Hastert that they support "common sense bankruptcy reform" and want this bill brought to a vote in the House right after the Senate passes it this week.
Sure, I can go ballistic on these folks for selling out the consumers in their districts, but as some have mentioned elsewhere, for House members who are up for election next year and can still be battered by their home-state credit and banking interests for being against industry jobs, there is some twisted but unsustainable logic behind their support here. I think it is garbage, and I'd like to see how Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota (who got into Congress with the help of blogs last year) can justify helping Citibank while harming her family farming constituents who may no longer be able to hold onto their farms when this bill becomes law.
But the folks I am more incensed at aren’t the representatives from South Dakota and Delaware, where the banking and credit card industries are major players, but rather the representatives from other states that have higher ambitions, or the Democratic senators with 2008 ambitions who will vote with the GOP on this bill.
For starters, can someone tell Harold Ford of Tennessee that no matter how bad we may want a Democrat to take Frist’s seat next year, his whoring for the industry and the wealthy against consumers means he can kiss off help in that endeavor? Why would blogs or consumer activists in the party work for Ford’s election next year?
Second, note that the top 11 states where bankruptcy filings were the most prevalent are all red states in the last election, and ask yourself exactly what harm any Democrat thought they would do to themselves by voting with those home-state consumers against the corporate interests. It is an interesting sidelight that once again, we find that most of the top 20 states where bankruptcy is prevalent are red states, yet Bush and the GOP are pushing something that benefits his corporate check writers against the interests of his base voters.
Furthermore, take a look at the list of Senators who voted with the GOP to cut off amendments and debate yesterday through a cloture motion so that this bill can be brought to a vote, and note which ones fancy themselves as rising stars in the party or possible 2008 presidential contenders (per Max Sawicky):
Biden (D-DE, whoring for MBNA and others)
Byrd (D-WV, up for reelection in 2006)
Carper (D-DE, up for reelection in 2006)
Johnson (D-SD, whoring for Citibank and others)
Kohl (D-WI, up for reelection in 2006)
Lieberman (D-CT, up for reelection in 2006)
Nelson (D-FL, up for reelection in 2006)
Nelson (D-NE, up for reelection in 2006)
Salazar (D-CO, just elected on 2004)
Stabenow (D-MI, up for reelection in 2006)
Yes, Joe Biden is on that list, as is Blanche Lincoln, both of whom fancy themselves as 2008 material, and in the case of Lincoln already has websites calling for her election.
Joe Lieberman has already lost his way, and Salazar in his short time in the Senate has turned out to be a closet Republican. Carper probably feels he needs to keep MBNA happy for his election next year, but does he really think that MBNA and the RSCC won’t run a Republican against him next year anyway?
Yet the bigger picture is this: I have been ranting over the last several months that the Democrats need to turn the moral values argument against the GOP, and this bill, as well as the tort reform, budget and tax policies, and entire Bush agenda lend themselves perfectly to such an attack. But the Democrats no longer have a Paul Wellstone around to be a moral conscious of the party who is willing to put a competitive seat on the line for the sake of principle. Despite Harry Reid’s best efforts to date, he has no party unity like Karl Rove has been able to exert over Bill Frist. And what you now see is a cadre of Democratic senators more interested in self-preservation and future ambition than they are in standing up to corporate interests on behalf of their constituents. Democratic arguments against the morals of the Bush administration would ring hollow if a large number of "New Democrats" in the House, or a block of self-described centrists in the Senate throw consumers and military families overboard tonight by voting for this bill.
Votes like this on the bankruptcy bill and the recent vote on tort reform, coming after a number of Democrats voted for Condi Rice and Alberto Gonzales (who has since reverted to his pro-torture roots) call into question the backbone, but also the moral values of these Democrats as well. I can rant all I want about the moral values of Republicans, but if my own party is morally bankrupt and just as craven in pursuing corporate support and cash at the expense of its own base as the GOP is, then why shouldn’t red state voters stick with the GOP devil they know who panders to them and then sells them down the river. It’s not like the Democrats are offering them an alternative that aims to protect their interests.
A last word on Biden: It’s not like the Republicans or MBNA would be able to take him out next year if Biden actually stood up tonight and led the Democrats against this bill. How strong of a message would it send to red state voters if they saw MBNA's home-state Democratic senator tell the Senate and the country that although he has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from MBNA and other predators over the years, he could not throw consumers overboard for this latest piece of corporate greed? How effectively would such a move by Biden highlight the moral bankruptcy of GOP votes in favor of the industry against their own constituents?
And wouldn’t Biden suddenly be a major player in the 2008 race by doing so, as a champion of consumers? Yet what chance do you think there is of such Wellstonian courage and bravery tonight?