The Final FISA Sellout and My One Last Desperate Push for Sanity

The capacity of the Democratic Leadership to destroy the party will never cease to amaze me. In 2006 the Dems ran to take over Congress on a platform that included, among other things, ending illegal wiretaps on Americans. Now, the same Democrats propose to grant immunity to the telcos who cooperated with the Administration on a theory that — and I kid you not — if we don’t immunize the telcos for breaking the law this time, they might not break the law for us next time. Alternatively, some argue we should not “punish” companies whose only crime was that they cared so deeply about the safety and security of the United States that they “stepped up to the plate” when the President asked them to break the law and spy on people for their own good. Of course, these same selfless, patriotic, noble companies refused to implement judicially authorized wiretaps because the DoJ neglected to pay the fees. But it appears that Republicans, and now a sufficient number of Democrats, understand that we cannot expect patriotism to extend to things that actually cost megacorporations money. You can read this shameful betrayal of everything the Democrats pledged in ’06 here, with EFF’s analysis here.

What makes this more astounding is that there is not a single, rational reason for the Democrats to do this, and every reason not to do it. The Republicans tried to scare monger and make this an issue for them. That tactic failed miserably. You may recall how back last winter when the Republicans pulled out all the usual stops about how this was about national security and blah blah blah. No one bought it. The magic deadlines lapsed and nothing happened.

So either the Democratic Leadership continues to suffer from a pre-11/06 mentality, or they think they can continue to abuse their active base and collect corporate contributions as well. After all, the thinking goes, it’s not like the mainstream electorate cares about this and its not like the netroots are going to vote Republican. So why not treat them the way we’ve treated unions, African Americans, and unions over the years? i.e., talk tough, but cave when it counts because we know there are no consequences for it.

I’ve already made my impassioned plea based on the ideal of the Rule of Law. Now, in a last desperate effort, I shall make my plea based on practicality and — in what is apprently the universal language of party leadership — cash.

Democrats, meet me below . . . .

So, Democratic leadership in Congress, how ya doin’ this evening? Well, judging by your fundraising numbers, not so great. Most people would find it peculiar that at a time when the party is all “energized” and experiencing a massive influx of new members — as well as the increase in corporate donations that comes from being the majority party — your fundraising is way down. In fact, your committee for the DNC National Convention in Denver is $11 million short of its goal. Yeah, yeah, you blame it on people giving directly to Obama and and Clinton and neglecting the poor Democratic Party. But here’s the funny thing. If you look at the combined fundraising of Obama and the DNC, and McCain and the RNC, they come out about the same. So its not just about candidates. It’s people not giving to the DNC when they will give to the RNC. Why do you suppose that is?

Allow me to explain for you folks stuck in your old pre-11/06 mentality. The electorate has changed dramatically. Fundraising is now most effective when it is distributed among millions of small donors. That only happens when you have an engaged, passionate netroots base that cares deeply about the issues like, say telco immunity for domestic spying.

So to translate, the internet is not a cash machine, nor are the people you are counting on to deliver you the election in November the sort of easily satisfied folks who will give on the grounds that they hate Republicans and want to end the War (which, allow me to add, is another issue where you’ve proven yourself a big honkin’ disappointment). Your cash inflow is down because the people who would give you cash are increasingly disgusted with you and seeing very little difference between you and the Republicans on issues that really matter to them. Just as the Republican evangelicals stopped turning our for the Republicans when the Congress of ’05-’06 failed to deliver on issues critical to them, so to will the progressive netroots drop off their support if you keep dicking them over. Oh, you’ll still win the presidency. But don’t think the Obama magic can suddenly turn it all around. These people can tell the difference between a candidate and a party. Nor are they the naive fools you take them for. You are seeing the leading indicators now. You ignore these at your peril.

For those who think I know not whereof I speak, I will observe that in the past few hours since this news broke, the good people over at Firedoglake have raised over $200K for the sole purpose of punishing “Steny Hoyer and the Sellouts” (which, regardless of your ideology, makes a cool name for a rock band, kinda like Draco and the Malfoys). While you may poo poo the notion that any size war chest will seriously threaten Steny Hoyer or other Democrats in safe districts, consider the enormous waste. If these progressive bloggers can raise over $200K in a matter of hours to campaign against Democrats, what could they have done to raise money for Democrats? Worse, consider how many more potential donors who are not pissed off enough to give to punish the Democrats will simply no longer give at all.

Tomorrow morning, I intend to call my Representative and explain that if this bill passes, I will never give another dime to the Maryland Democratic Party or to the Democratic National Committee. I suggest other progressives do the same, rather than try to explain to your representative about freedom and the rule of law and stuff. Perhaps that will break through the pre-11/06 mentality and convince the Democratic leadership that the times really are a’changin’.

Stay tuned . . . .


  1. Political parties in general are corrupt. They are, essentially gangs which war for power. Not wanting to live in a country that is run by gangs, I do not support either party and am registered as (proudly!) independent.

  2. I have been a registered democrat. I am now changing to independent. I told the DNC to stop sending me email, and will do the same for Obama if he doesn’t step forward. I will only be sending money to progressive candidates and causes, except for “strange bedfellows”, which correctly places the constitution above other policy stances.

  3. Harold,

    Thanks. I called Delahunt yesterday (at both Cape Cod and Washington DC offices) and talked about constitution and rule of law. Today I’ll call with your message. Maybe that will get their attention.

    Patrick, I’m with you. If this bill goes through today I’m going to ride my bike down to town hall and change my registration.

  4. Matthew G. Saroff

    A couple of notes:
    * Credit where credit is due, <a href=”…“>Glenn Greenwald</a> is more of a driving force on this than FDL.
    * There is an <a href=”…“>Act Blue Page</a> that has already raised $245K to punish these guys.
    * One of the worst <strike>Bush</strike> blue dogs on this has been John Barrow, who has a primary challenge from Regina Thomas, who is a real progressive.
    * Ms. Thomas is black, in a district where 70% of the Dem primary vote is black, so she can win, and part of that $245K could be used to help her.

    The primary is in July and Ms. Thomas’s Act Blue page is <a href=”…“>here</a>

  5. I did my part and left messages/comments with the 4 I needed to: Hoyer, Pelosi, Obama and Van Hollen (my rep)

Comments are closed