Did you know there’s an actual “Progressive Caucus” in Congress? It has House members and Senate members (well, one Senate member). It’s led by Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison. They actually carry the name “progressive” and they actually espouse progressive policies:
According to its website, the CPC advocates “universal access to affordable, high quality healthcare,” fair trade agreements, living wage laws, the right of all workers to organize into labor unions and engage in collective bargaining, the abolition of significant portions of the USA PATRIOT Act, the legalization of same-sex marriage, US participation in international treaties such as the climate change related Kyoto Accords, strict campaign finance reform laws, a complete pullout from the war in Iraq, a crackdown on corporate welfare and influence, an increase in income tax rates on upper-middle and upper class households, tax cuts for the poor, and an increase in welfare spending by the federal government.
That’s a lot of progressive values. I love progressive values, so I’m really glad we have our own progressive caucus.
Our own progressive caucus does things.
One thing our caucus does is issue statements, calling on people to do things. Here’s one, from just this week (my emphases everywhere):
Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), today joined advocates in New York, Washington, D.C., and Southern California in calling on Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to write down mortgage principal amounts for struggling homeowners.
“Twelve million Americans owe more money than their home is worth,” Grijalva and Ellison said. “The American people have been duped, lied to, and kicked out of their homes, and now it’s time for Mr. DeMarco to stand up and do right by them.”
Combined, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own or guarantee more than half of all mortgages in the country. DeMarco has faced calls for his resignation for refusing principal reduction, sometimes called “debt forgiveness,” for Freddie and Fannie mortgage holders.
I hope it works. I would be a happy man if it works. I would also be a very surprised man if this progressive “action” — if “calling on” Obama’s mortgage chief to reduce the net worth of every mortgage-holding bank in the nation, in an election year no less — actually works.
On the odds-of-effectiveness meter, I eyeball “calling on” at about Zero. But hey, you never know until you ask.
So that’s one thing our own Congressional Progressive Caucus does — they make statements calling on other people to do things.
Our Progressive Caucus also issues statements about what they will do.
July 31, 2009
Dear Madame Speaker, Chairman Waxman, Chairman Rangel, and Chairman Miller:
We write to voice our opposition to the negotiated health care reform agreement under consideration in the Energy and Commerce Committee.
We regard the agreement reached by Chairman Waxman and several Blue Dog members of the Committee as fundamentally unacceptable. … Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates – not negotiated rates – is unacceptable. … In short, this agreement will result in the public, both as insurance purchasers and as taxpayers, paying ever higher rates to insurance companies. We simply cannot vote for such a proposal.
Raul Grijalva, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus
Lynn Woolsey, Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus
[and 58 others listed here]
Oh good. A threat that attempted to achieve an outcome. My effectiveness meter reading just went positive.
So I took that list of 60 threateners, then I brought up this great interactive chart on the HCR House vote, sorted the names alphabetically, then went down the list of courageous progressive letter writers, looking for their vote on the non-public-option HCR bill.
I stopped at Number 16 on the letter list. I couldn’t find one No vote in the first 16 names (out of 60). The names I checked included such luminaries as:
Pelosi needed 216 votes, and got 219. That means just four people could have stopped the bill that they swore needed a public option to secure their vote. With this kind of muscle, this much leverage, getting a “public option” should have been a piece of cake. Heck, if they swung it right, they might even have gotten “Medicare+5%”, an even-more-popular (but only among the people) single-payer option.
Instead, we failed. And by “we” I mean “they,” our statement-making “progressive caucus.”
It not that I think this caucus, as a caucus, is insincere. It’s that they’re almost entirely ineffective. It’s that when they have the power, they refuse to use it. (David Swanson has a similar letter from 2007 about Iraq war funding. Lots of the same names. Wonder how
that one went…)
Our caucus is not totally ineffective, however. They do statement-making very well — just like I showed you at the start of this post. I’m proud of their statements, and I’m very glad they make them. But I think they have a name problem.
So I’m going to rename them — The Progressive Statement Caucus.
There. And I entirely support their … statements.
(I told you I’d be writing about effective progressive coalitions. This is just a start. Do you think the phrase “party loyalist” is going to turn up? And not in a good way?)