One way to blackmail progressives in office — put a hostage in the bill

I’m working on a longer post (as usual) on “How to blackmail progressives in office” — for example, the members of the House Progressive Caucus (CPC) or self-defined Senate progressives. That post identifies about six blackmail methods, any or all of which are available to the Neoliberal manipulators, depending on the progressive (or “progressive”) in question.

Methods include: Appeal to do-gooderism, appeal to ego, appeal to ambition (party-climbing), appeal to inexperience (“Let us pros tell you how to operate”), and appeal to the fact that you’re lying about being a progressive.

Hostage, terrorist, prisoner, sequester, sequestration, budget

Terrorist via Shutterstock

But one of the most common blackmail methods is hostage-making. If you want progressives to pass a bad bill (and give “progressives” great ground cover for voting wrong-with-an-explanation), just put a hostage in the bill. For example:

▪ A Chained-CPI bill that restores cuts to Food Stamps
▪ A corporate-giveaway health care bill that extends coverage to dependents (yep, the ACA)
▪ A bomb-the-Somali-villagers bill that funds animal shelters

You get the idea. The answer to the classic Neoliberal gambit …

“Which hostage you gonna kill, the kittens or the Somalis?”

… has to be …

“You’re the perp. You built the bill. Those dead kittens are all … on … you. (Same with the Somalis, by the way.)”

If you, the progressive office-holder, don’t say that every time it’s tried, you’re going to be voting for dead villagers and predator profit the entire time you’re in office.

Alan Grayson on hostages in bills

This week has given me a prime example of that hostage technique. Chained CPI, if it comes to the floor in either house, will come with hostages in it. Alan Grayson, one of our best congressmen (and one of the best writers in office), has considered this.

Here’s Mr. Grayson from a recent letter to supporters. Note the way he reasons through how he could be “persuaded” (my emphasis and some reparagraphing; his bracketed inserts):

When we first put this [“”] letter together, I thought hard about the promise that it makes. And let me read it to you verbatim:

“We are writing to the President to let you know that we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

I gave it a lot of thought before I signed off on this letter, as to whether I really meant it, whether that was my “red line.” I tried to think about all the different possibilities that might come up, the things that might go into a bill that would cut [benefits], what would be appealing to me.

Honestly, I thought, ‘What if they had said they were going to end the war in Afghanistan? ‘ [in a bill that would cut Social Security] — that’s something very important to me.

But I realized in the end that I had nothing. I couldn’t think of a single thing that could be put into a bill that would make me willing to break our promise to our constituents, for something they earned and so badly need. They paid for it. They need it. They want it. They deserve it. It’s that simple.

Yes, it’s that simple. Grayson adds:

And I understand the difficulty that many people may have in this Congress, in predicting what might come up and making a commitment, making up their minds. A lot of people always want to keep their options open.  But I think this is a fair test.

There are a lot of reasons progressive office-holders want to “keep their options open” — and anticipating the next Neoliberal hostage is only one. (If you’ve got eyes on climbing the House leadership ladder, for example, the hostage might just be a backroom offer; tempting, especially if your cover story can be that hostage in the bill.)

But drawing a line means drawing a line. As Grayson says, “It’s that simple.” When a progressive draws a line, it has to be the line. When progressives draws a line and then back down, they look like fools.

The blackmail is also that simple

The blackmail is that simple as well. A few extra million for food stamps is Neoliberal chump change in trade for hundred of millions (or billions) in untaxed cash for the predators, men and women feeding on the dying middle class and purchasing those same Neoliberal politicians — during their careers and after it — by the bucketful.

Want to get progressives to vote for lax enforcement for oil spills? Try adding a duck refuge, or funding for clean-air inspectors. Want to get progressives to pass benefit cuts to Social Security? Tell them the alternative is the Sequester — closed airports and bad roads — and it’s their fault that planes might crash.

One of those last two hostage scenarios is happening as we speak.

To counter the blackmail, re-perp the perp

For a progressive in office whose only vulnerability is blackmail, the solution is also simple — rehang the perp tag on the actual perp. Obama wants you, Senator Goodheart, to take the blame for the Sequester disaster in your state. He wants you to feel like the perp. All the good senator has to say, on TV and in the newspapers, is:

“Hey, I didn’t design the Sequester; I didn’t vote for it. You, Mr. President, created this choice. If you want out, get yourself out. Get your friends to pass HR 900.”

Shorter Senator Goodheart: “You’re the perp; you deal with it.” Of course, that takes courage, but that’s what uncompromised progressives do. They act with courage. When the Neoliberal leader shoots a hostage, they remind him who’s holding the gun.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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