Following up on yesterday's call for some progressive organization to begin an online database stating where every representative and senator stands on Social Security, a short update.
It turns out that one individual had already taken the initiative on Saturday to set up a blog to compile the data. And I've already heard from a few TPM readers with technical expertise in doing this sort of thing eager to volunteer their time. So far, though, none of the progressive groups that come readily to mind seem interested.
Or, at least, I haven't heard anything about it if they are.
That's too bad. Because without aggressive, outside-the-box thinking and action, this will all go very badly. The same-old-same-old mix of press conferences and reports and 'coalitions' won't amount to anything.
And there's another thing to consider as well.
In politics as in life, victory or success is seldom entirely within our control. As we noted a few days ago, the Democrats can't win this legislatively. They don't have the votes. The GOP has the White House and solid majorities in both chambers. If they can hold their troops together, they can write the bill, pass it, and sign it into law before anyone gets another chance at the ballot box. But, as important as winning is in this case (and I'm a good deal more optimistic than many of my friends and colleagues seem to be), winning isn't everything.
If Democrats have to lose this, they must be sure to lose well.
Do they spin and shuffle and whine and sputter on about how bad the whole thing is? Or do they make this into a clear choice -- where Democrats support Social Security for a clear set of reasons rooted in values and policy, and Republicans oppose it?
If the lies about the program's unviability are volubly refuted, the party division made clear, and the reasons why Social Security is good for America are ably argued, then let the chips fall where they may. But if it's all tactics, the outmoded bag of tricks and risk-aversion, playing at the margins and wringing of hands, that will truly be unforgivable.
Late Update: In response to the above, a reader writes in the following: "I think it's possibly all to the good to have independent operatives doing stuff like this: wasn't the use of arms-length surrogates a hallmark of the other side's tactics? Why does everything have to come from Party Central? is that a Democratic value I am missing? Oliver Willis' Brand Democrat effort is similar: he didn't ask permission, only provided minimal guidance and a banner to stand behind."
First, there's a lot here that I agree with. In fact, mostly I agree. These folks won't be moved or forced to change but from the outside. And I hope that continues to happen. At the same time, they have money. They have organizational infrastructure. They have media contacts. As much as I don't want those resources put to ineffectual uses, I also don't want it to go to waste since it's not like there is an excess of resources to go around.
To the extent that energy and insight is bubbling up from folks who haven't been involved before or new blood is coming up in the ranks, great! Frankly, that's the only hope. But I want those folks to start groups, get funding, get office space, get folks who can go on TV. Institutions and infrastructure matter. It's as simple as that.
Let me be as frank as possible. I know a lot of the people we're talking about. I also know very well that almost all of them have devoted a lot more of their lives to fighting for things that I believe in than I have. But I've also seen from the inside how many of the methods and approaches simply don't get the job done -- to put it mildly. But they have strengths and resources that would be foolish to ignore. And why not put them to use?