Warren Matthews

The Huffington Post just posted a link to a very interesting interview of Chris Matthews talking to Elizabeth Warren:

http://www.upworthy.com/chris-matthews-made-elizabeth-warren-angry-on-air-probably-shouldnt-have-done-that

The reason this interview is so interesting is because it perfectly sums up the main problem on the left today and as a consequence, the main reason why a lot of progressive and even moderate issues that polls time and again show that a majority of the American people support, cannot be signed into law and implemented even with a Democratic President and only 45 Republicans Senators (i.e. a majority of Dems in the Senate).

As a progressive myself, I cannot but strongly support and stand behind everything Elizabeth Warren was saying we should do in this interview: we need to start acting based on the fact that the trickle down social experiment started by the Republicans in the 1980s has been proven wrong, we need to reinvest in our education and infrastructure and jobs again, we need to stop passing one law after the other shifting even more money from workers to the wealthiest stake holders, etc. And as Matthews himself admitted at the end: Elizabeth Warren is a fine Senator.

All these things we progressives know, and it’s not what made this interview so very interesting.

Just like when a conservative is interviewed by Fox News, Warren was clearly preaching to the choir. She knew from the very beginning that Matthews would agree with her on everything when it comes to policy, as well as most of the people watching the show.

What was so interesting, however, is the fact that on one point, Matthews and Warren were constantly talking past each other. Matthews would ask his question again and again, becoming each time more aggressive, while Warren responded by being even more fired up but nevertheless not answering it, and almost not addressing it directly.

And that question was perfectly clear: why is it that with a Democratic President and Democratic Senate, all the important job bills that are so urgent aren’t getting passed, even when many Dems are constantly telling us how important they are?

Today, four and a half years after Scott Brown became Elizabeth Warren’s predecessor and replaced Ted Kennedy as Massachussets Senator, Chris Matthews still asks this kind of question and many people (as polls show) agree which confirms that when it comes to the most important aspect of how a democracy works, Progressives, who adore to believe that they’re much smarter than conservatives, remain completely illiterate. And that illiteracy, much more than any power that the 1% could buy in DC, is the most important cause of the fact that the Congress that a majority of the American people elected, year after year sees its approval rate go down to historic, single-digit depths.

Of course, every cause is itself caused by another cause, so I’m not trying to blame one or the other group here. I’m just focusing on one specific element in the chain of causes, which is the blind spot in how many progressives tend to see politics and as such is risking to make the entire system dysfunctional. Changing this one specific element could take Congress – and as a consequence the country – into an entire different direction, if people accept to at least start talking about it.

So, what is that one single issue, that is crippling ordinary citizens’ power in DC?

What Warren repeated over and over again during the interview is correct: people have to start realizing that the solution that the GOTP continues to defend, will not create jobs and we need this awareness in order to build a grassroots movement that can convince those Americans who still believe in the trickle down myth or still hope that some day in the future, the trickling down will finally happen. But that’s a conversation we Progressives and moderates need to have, on a grassroots level, with those who still believe this kind of myths. Warren is right, having this conversation is absolutely crucial.

But it’s only one thing. What Chris Matthews was showing, is that we urgently need to have a totally different conversation, especially (but not only) among progressives, about a totally different issue that is not about policy (on which most of us agree) but on strategy: How do we use our constitutional power, as citizens of a constitutional democratic republic, in order to obtain new laws that correspond to what we want?

Of course, Warren knows the answer to this question, but Chris Matthews clearly not. How do we Progressives want to obtain any progress, if we can’t answer it? And how will we become a little bit more politically literate, if Democratic politicians (and ordinary, politically literate citizens) don’t see explaining the answer to this question as one of their biggest priorities?

Here’s the answer in a nutshell: in a democracy, the three branches of government are entirely independent. A President has no direct power on Congress, it’s his job to implement (= execute) the new bills Congress passes and the bills previous Congresses have passed, whether he likes those bills or not. He can negotiate with Congress, and try to find a compromise. But if Congress refuses to compromise, he’ll have no bill at all, or he’ll have to veto the bills Congress sends to his desk. Congress, on the other hand, has two houses. A bill has to get a majority of at least 50% in the House and the Speaker of the House has to decide to allow a vote on it, in order for the bill to get passed. The same bill also needs at least 50% in the Senate, and the decision of the Majority leader to start voting on it, and, as a third condition, the absence of any single Senator filibustering the bill, in other words, blocking the vote in itself. In case of a filibuster, 60 Senators have to support voting on the bill before the voting can start again.

Since Obama became president, the GOP Senators systematically filibustered the most important bills the American people wanted, but in 2009 Democrats and Independents together had the legal power to break a filibuster. As soon as Scott Brown was elected (Jan. 2010), however, Republicans also got the number of Senators needed to make it impossible to break a filibuster and start voting on a law, and they also used that power systematically. One of the most outrageous examples is the fact that they’ve blocked a vote on a gun control bill, even when more than ninety percent of the American people and a majority of their own base supported it.

There’s absolutely nothing illegal in doing so, even if it’s totally unprecedented. They’re still respecting the system and the way a democratic Congress works. So in this sense, you can not blame the Republicans for the fact that Congress is not doing what the majority of the American people want them to do. Once elected, every Senator and Representative has the legal right to do this.

It also doesn’t make any sense to blame the elected Democrats, however, as Chris Matthews continues to do (and as the HP often does too). As soon as you analyze the legal power the system gives them, you cannot but observe that they cannot possibly do more than writing bills that correspond to what the majority of the American people want, and try to start voting on it. In this country, a minority can legally block the majority from doing its job, day after day. All that is needed is a minority that has at least 41 Senators, and the decision to block the majority day after day.

Realizing this is crucial, because if we continue to blame Democrats for the fact that nothing happens, concretely, we are actually giving the GOTP a perfect reason to continue to block all bills, especially when a majority of the American people support those bills. Indeed, the more the GOTP blocks voting on such a bills, the more people will imagine that it’s the Democrats who ‘refuse’ to do something, as the Democrats control the White House and the Senate.

Realizing a second fundamental fact is equally crucial: we, ordinary citizens, have, already today, the constitutional power to change this absurd situation. And it’s only we who will be able to change is. How? The solution is simple: if we want the bills that Elizabeth Warren just mentioned to be signed into law and implemented, we urgently need to vote for a Senate where 60 Senators support the bills the majority of the American people support. As long as we continue to give the Democrats and Independents together less than 60 votes, we are not giving them the legal power necessary to pass a bill, even when Democrats control the White House.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth Warren did not focus on this issue. She rapidly mentioned it at the end of the interview but if you want to correct the error Matthews and so many other people have been making for years now, you will have to stop talking policy for a moment and start explaining strategy and the way a democracy is basically functioning. And Warren should do so not only during one ten minute interview, but time and again, until a majority starts to understand it, especially when she’s being interviewed by a Progressive and when repeating our ideas about policy means not telling anything new and merely preaching to the choir. Yes, the battle Warren is fighting is important, but it’s a battle that has as its main goal to inform ordinary citizens, and first of all non-Progressives, of the necessity of certain policies Progressives support. A totally different battle, however, is the battle among progressives themselves, in order to stop the horrible political illiteracy that characterizes many of us, so that we can finally start using our constitutional, democratic power, and learn how to write those policy ideas into law.

We still have four months to go.

Let’s hope that especially people like Warren will start to get it, and use their outstanding rhetorical talent and intelligence to fight against the most important form of illiteracy in our time.

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PollyTicsPete GellermonicaangelaKillgoreTroutrepearwo Recent comment authors
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PollyTics
Member
PollyTics

Matthews is a Progressive?

Pete Geller
Member
Pete Geller

The one thing you forgot to mention is that both parties are beholden to corporate money. We need to reverse Citizen’s United and get the money out of our political system! http://www.wolf-pac.com

monicaangela
Member

@kesmarn,

You wrote: And that’s the wonderful thing about living in this country (or at least it has been so far 🙁 ). We can each and all choose our own path, our own beliefs — or none at all. What a fantastic idea the founders had there, no?

Answer: Yes, it is wonderful, yes it is fantastic, especially now that all of us can enjoy it, it wasn’t that way when they wrote it. A lot of people have suffered and died to make the powers that be extend that capability to everyone in this nation.

kesmarn
Admin

A thumbs up on that one, Monica!

repearwo
Member
repearwo

Your expectation of a TV show is highly inflated. In Fact, your article did no more to enlighten the audience than did the interview. One has but to look at History to see that the Democratic Party died in 1968 on the streets of Chicago and has never been rebuilt. In 1972 McGovern rewrote the Rules for the selection of candidates for Office and shut down the smoke filled rooms. We have not had an insider Democratic President since. Carter, Clinton, and Obama are all outsiders that never really got along with Congressional Democrats, who really do not get along… Read more »

KillgoreTrout
Member

Welcome to the Planet repearwo. If the democratic party no longer exists, then who’s been passing all this legislation since 1968?

Would you have any links to any facts that might support your opinions? If so, I would love to see them.

I say we should NOT be like the republicans and all march in lock step. Marching in lock step is a big reason the GOP has no new ideas. They are told what to think and how to vote, almost strictly along party lines. Is that the sort of political party you would really want?

AdLib
Admin

KT, exactly, the absence of links to objective sources that would validate such an ambitious proposition undermine it. When one can document all the successes of Dems since 2008, one would expect at least a little legit documentation for such a dubious claim.

When so many here have worked hands on with fellow Progressives and Dems and achieved goals, it is kind of surreal to hear the claim that the Dem Party doesn’t even exist. Frankly, it sounds more like wishful thinking for some reason.

AdLib
Admin

A very interesting POV, repearwo but no need to disrespect another’s post to assert your views. The post did indeed provide more enlightening information about our democratic process than the interview, your claim to the contrary is bewildering. I don’t see the disruption of the smoke filled rooms or “outsider” Presidents as bad for the Dems. For that to be true, it would have to be the case that Dems in Congress are more Progressive as a whole than Dem presidents and considering how many moderate and Blue Dog Dems there are, that would be difficult to document. Yes, the… Read more »

KillgoreTrout
Member

BINGO!

monicaangela
Member

Exactly AdLib, I believe a lockstep group of people who would be responsible for representing progressives in this nation would be just as detrimental to the electorate as the lockstep group of people who represent the conservatives.

sillylittleme
Member

Excellent article. But this MA native and lifelong resident needs to point out a few things. First, let’s start with Elizabeth Warren. To date the most proud I have ever been to cast a vote. But you term her a progressive. She is not. She is a populist. She can see the merits of both real conservatism and true progressivism. She works for the majority opinion. She knows what needs to be done and if the Senate is retained by the Ds in November, she should put in a bid to oust Mr Harry “I can get along with everyone”… Read more »

KillgoreTrout
Member

Great comment slm! I completely agree. EW’s pragmatism and courage are a rare thing in DC these days. Some want her to run for president, and I think she would makes a great president, but not in 2016. She herself has said she took on a job and fully intends to perform her duties as best and as honestly as she can. Matthews is just another symptom of the disease that runs through our corporate owned media. All the talking heads have their own “style,” and his is to be aggressive and not let his guests get the opportunity to… Read more »

sillylittleme
Member

I too would like to see her serve a full term. I think she can do a lot of good in the Senate. And even though she is definitely presidential material she, like the President, would be hamstrung unless she had a solid D in both houses of Congress.

monicaangela
Member

Spot on sillylittleme !!

monicaangela
Member

Excellent article Beatriz09, I know that it appears simple in the eyes of many when you discuss elections and how to improve our government through electing those that best represent the people. I have to say though, electing democrats and independents isn’t quite the right thing to do unless you can be sure those democrats and independents don’t happen to be folks like Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu or Ben Nelson just to name a few. Is voting for these DINO’s better than voting for a republican? In my opinion it is just about the same thing as voting for a… Read more »

sillylittleme
Member

So with you on the Fairness Doctrine. Take back our airwaves and we take back the discussion.,

monicaangela
Member

With those two things implemented, we can have a discussion. What we have now is politicians talking past each other, or expressing their one sided views. As we know, the country is ideologically separated and many who watch Fox News, or during some times during the day MSNBC, only get one side of the issue, it is time to have our politicians back up what they are saying, the Fairness Doctrine would accomplish that, not only over our airwaves, but also in newsprint etc.

EXFANOFARIANA
Member
EXFANOFARIANA

Great article, Beatriz.Yet if memory serves me correctly, it was also the progressives who begun throwing tantrums like spoiled children, when the President could not advance his goals, due the worst Congress in the history of your country.Shall we start with Glen Greenwald?? Going on HuffiPuffie and other blogs and TV shows constantly criticizing President Obama for not doing much for the Progressive party? What did they expect? Obama to walk on waters? Exactly what you referenced to: maybe it’s time for the progressive party to become more literate as how your democracy works.Congress, Senate and the W.H. itself. As… Read more »

Nirek
Member

Beatriz, excellent article! It seems to me that we need to educate the voters and get them fired up to VOTE for Reps. and Senators on the Democratic side. How do we get that done. I talk with my friends and relatives and even offer to drive folks to the polling place. But it seems I live in Vermont and we always vote the correct way. How can I help with states that don,t vote the correct way?

sillylittleme
Member

This MA resident agrees. And thank you for Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy.

Nirek
Member

SLM, Bernie is the best and Pat is pretty good, too. Elizabeth Warren is also awesome. We could use many more like them.

kesmarn
Admin

Thanks for a clearly written and genuinely informative article, Beatriz09. A while back I had a very “brisk” (to use a polite adjective) discussion with a long time friend over these same issues. He’s not stupid (has a PhD) and he’s not a conservative. But all I was hearing from him was that the President was “weak” and the Democrats in Congress were “spineless.” He was “fed up with all of them.” By the end of the argument (during which I asked many times for him to define precisely what he wanted the President and the Congressional Dems to do… Read more »

James Michael Brodie
Member

I have to stop and say this: I am truly in awe of the intelligence of the discourse on Planet POV. Beatriz09, you have hit on something that has bothered me for years. Progressives know what is the right thing to fight for. Most Americans agree. But time after time after time, we get bogged down in big words and clunky phrases that do more to make people feel left out than anything the 1 percenters can dream up. We need to talk to real people — not just about them as part of our speeches, but be engaged. When… Read more »

kesmarn
Admin

I hear you, Michael. These right wing fundamentalist churches use the same tactics (although that may be a harsh term for it). When a new potential member shows up, that person is greeted with a friendly smile and shown to a seat. Asked to stand and be recognized during the service. Applause. There will be offers to get coffee and/or a snack. The church offers child care during the service. There may be a food pantry, family counseling services, addiction treatment groups, welcoming in-home bible studies. Some churches even have car repair “ministries” for single struggling moms. Suddenly, you feel… Read more »

monicaangela
Member

LOL !!! Excellent analogy Kesmarn!!! 🙂

kesmarn
Admin

Thanks,Monica! I do consider myself a Christian. But I don’t think these particular folks would bring out the welcome wagon for me — once they got the picture as far as my politics go. I don’t worship at the shrine of unregulated capitalism the way they do.

monicaangela
Member

I was also taught the value of Christianity, but have yet to recognize what I was taught in any church I have attended. For years I thought there must be something wrong with me. After having the opportunity to study other religions, I realized that religion Christianity or otherwise is a guideline, something to ponder/contemplate. I find that like all other religions Christianity has to be scrutinized. I realize through nature that I believe more in spirituality than organized religion. Oh yes, I know, Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some, it’s about participating in organized religion: going to… Read more »

kesmarn
Admin

And that’s the wonderful thing about living in this country (or at least it has been so far 🙁 ). We can each and all choose our own path, our own beliefs — or none at all. What a fantastic idea the founders had there, no?

James Michael Brodie
Member

You nailed it. And we need to get back there as well. At the high point of the Civil Rights Movement, what you described is just what the Black churches did. They were involved, not just for votes, but for real change, living change. The Panthers, CORE, CNCC, NAACP, even HOI, did more than just talk. They were there.

kesmarn
Admin

Exactly, Michael! Our side needs to be there for people.

And we won’t even have to tell them how to vote, because we know that they’re smart enough to figure that out for themselves!

Nirek
Member

Brodie, that is why you can find me here often. The discussions are intelligent and civil. I never fail to learn something from the people here.

choicelady
Member

Thank you for this thoughtful assessment, Beatriz09. I agree that understanding useful strategy is critical to success, and in this respect far too many self-styled ‘progressives’ fail. It’s heartbreaking to listen to people demand outcomes that are proffered illegally and un-Constitutionally simply because they want them. I would argue, partly as a lobbyist myself, that policy also matters. The content of what we want is crucial as well. It serves us poorly to insist on things that are fundamentally never going to be part of a democracy or to ignore the way our economy, polity, and society are organized to… Read more »

RSGmusic
Member
RSGmusic

HI Beatriz09, Yea i like your article it is refreshing to see you here and your correct. To many people have no idea how congress works, the presidents power and the supreme courts roles. As for Chris Mathews, He is a closet republican saying he is a progressive. He does not know how the congress and filibusters work. Filibusters are expensive and because the GOP use them so much NOTHING gets done. Now i do not profess to know everything and how it works but if you have an obstructionist party. nothing gets done. The Democrats need to get 60… Read more »

choicelady
Member

One caveat – by the new standards of measurement, it is CALIFORNIA that has the highest rate of poverty in America. Prices so outstrip income that the capacity for self sufficiency is gutted. And progressives tolerate a governor who has become an enemy of the poor. He is a traitor to labor, to working people, to those teetering on the brink of disaster. He eliminated a funding line in our budget that was ENTIRELY PAID FOR BY THE CALIFORNIA ENDOWMENT to enroll more people in Medi-Cal because he does not WANT more people in Medi-Cal. Progressives will not call him… Read more »

RSGmusic
Member
RSGmusic

OK, i did say there where exceptions but California debt at 350 billion dollars was mostly accumulated under Reagen and the terminator governor. SO where did the GOP call them out. Texas is going to poor house ! http://ballotpedia.org/Texas_state_budget state debt $282,558,281,000[8]Texas’s total debt per capita was $11,178.30.[9] Bush 2 and Perry accumulated this. NJ debt grew $6.6 billion in 2013, Christie administration says | NJ … http://www.nj.com/…/nj_debt_grew_66_billion_in_2013…? New Jersey On-Line Feb 20, 2014 – TRENTON — New Jersey’s long-term debt rose to a record $78.4 billion in … Chris Christie and state lawmakers, coming just days before the …… Read more »

choicelady
Member

The issue of debt is obvious. The issue of debt used as a political weapon to cut social spending is NOT so obvious. When the ‘debt maniacs’ wring their hands and rend their garments, it’s all for show to force (they think) cuts in welfare for the perilously placed folks. We are hip to this manufactured crisis. We aren’t playing anymore.I have been ‘warned’ about the national debt since I was in 7th grade – and that was a very long time ago. And America is still here. But that is a very different issue from poverty and the way… Read more »

RSGmusic
Member
RSGmusic

Hello ladychoice. Actually the measure of the state debt is not what matters as far as the state citizens salaries being low. California’s salaries are much higher then Mississippi and the 10 red states. OH you can say brown is not much better but he does have a surplus now. Since you are in California i think you have a better idea of how he has done. Who do you want in that state as governor? a republican or democrat generally. SO my question is are you voting dem in California the next cycle. National the debt has no meaning… Read more »

choicelady
Member

RSG – I think we’re talking different points. I’m not disputing what you say but adding a different dimension. I’m a lobbyist for a justice oriented non profit w 1.5 million members. I do policy analysis daily including the budget and its impacts. Of course I’d vote for Brown – did so against the execrable Meg Whitman. But I think we need not to be taken in by a bad Dem when good Dems exist. We have far better alternatives than Brown at least this time. But we’re too knee jerk about him, letting him rest on laurels from 40… Read more »

AdLib
Admin

Thoughtful post, Beatriz09! And important because it is crucial to be self-critical to improve oneself or one’s group. To begin, I agree that the majority of Americans including a majority of Democratic voters still don’t understand the way our government works. Emoprogs are deluded into thinking The President is a dictator who can pass laws and do whatever he wants to do while poorly informed voters just throw their hands up and blindly claim both parties are to blame for what is in actuality, the Republicans blocking any progress. I’ve referenced the Pew poll from last week that showed 60%… Read more »

monicaangela
Member

LOL !!!! PERFECT. 🙂