Haiku for a failed democracy


Barrett Brown

I am the founder of the distributed think-tank Project PM and a regular inactive to Vanity Fair and Skeptical Inquirer. My work has also appeared in The Onion, National Lampoon, New York Press, D Magazine, Skeptic, McSweeney's, American Atheist, and a couple of newspapers in the U.S. and Mexico as well as a few policy journals. I'm the author of two books and serve as a consultant to various political entities and private clients.

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96 Responses

  1. Avatar mark boggs says:

    Never have so many worked so hard for so little.

    But I like your Haiku better.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    I do hope the quite-independent-from-Republicans Tea Parties eventually find themselves satisfied by the service of Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).Report

    • Avatar Barrett Brown says:

      @Michael Drew, I just chuckled at that one, and I’m not usually the chuckling sort.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      @Michael Drew, Not chuckling myself yet. It’ll be a while.Report

    • Avatar Katherine says:

      I am not in a chuckling mood at all.

      The tea parties are not libertarians or small-government conservatives and I will never consider them as such. They have just removed the strongest champion of civil liberties the United States had.Report

      • Avatar Barrett Brown says:

        @Katherine, Ironically, this clears the way for Obama to continue to wield unprecedented executive power.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          Well, then you’re just going to have to butt-kick the other 52 or whatever Demo Senators into doing something about it then.Report

        • Avatar Katherine says:

          You know the system’s broken when the opposition party insist that the president has to expand his powers to violate civil liberties.Report

      • @Katherine, At least Rush Holt survived here in NJ (albeit barely).

        But along with Holt, Feingold was (and is) one of the select few in Congress whose significance goes far, far beyond his vote for Speaker/Senate Majority Leader. His departure really is saddening. Even if that departure was caused by a wave that restored divided government (an unqualified good, IMHO), it wasn’t necessary or right that he get caught up in it.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          @Mark Thompson, How do we judge that it wasn’t necessary according to the particular dynamics of this wave? Clearly it was. If it had skipped over the Industrial Midwest, then it wouldn’t have been nearly the wave it was, would it?Report

          • @Michael Drew, I wasn’t trying to suggest that the wave could have skipped over Wisconsin. But clearly the wave wasn’t as strong on the Senate side as on the House side (and certainly not strong enough to flip the Senate). And it’s not as if every Dem in a tight race ultimately lost – ferchrissakes the utterly worthless Harry Reid held on (albeit against a peculiarly awful candidate, but he also didn’t have the backing of any prominent libertarians or Republicans, as was the case with Feingold).

            Of course, maybe I’m just guilty of wishful thinking.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              @Mark Thompson, I agree on the Senate side. Sitting here it just feels like this is where the main floodtide came ashore. Russ seriously never had a shot since Sept. It’s just the essence of what happened last night – this place is emblematic of the entire dynamic, it seems like. Last night wouldn’t-a been last night otherwise. Huge overall state-wide voting turnover in two years, etc. But I’m probably guilty of location-centrism. I don’t know what to say about Reid: the power of machine politics.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              @Mark Thompson, You need to remember how bad Russ pissed off his base when he neutered financial reform with his withheld vote. He was a magnificent pain in the ass but a pain none the less and he’s occasionally really hurt the good in pursuit of the perfect.

              Still sad he’s gone tho.Report

            • @Michael Drew, Would you believe that it took until now for me to realize that you actually reside in Wisconsin? I knew you weren’t in NYC anymore, but for some reason I was entirely convinced you were still in the Mid-Atlantic.

              @North – I’m increasingly convinced that we need more politicians willing to make the perfect the enemy of the good. But I also question the extent to which that stand really hurt him with turnout – Feingold’s bread and butter has always been being a proud liberal first and a reliable Democratic vote second.

              Here’s hoping he makes a comeback of some sort in 2012. I’ve said in the past that I can count on one hand the number of politicians from either party for whom I have actual respect. Obviously, Feingold is one of them.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              @Mark Thompson, Hey, no reason for you to know – I haven’t really mentioned it much.

              Definitely agree on the finreg break for Feingold. If anything, that vote should have helped him here – more anti-bank than the Dems, and breaking with them, which has indeed been key to his survival (though it’s completely fair for the party to be irked by that). I’d say the buggest thing that happened here is that Russ could really no onger stand outside his party. he just got caught up in the wave of feeling that, while I think was fueled by the economy, was certainly consciously directed at the Dems’ policies. He believes in stuff like HCR, and since it happened he ad to defend it, and by extension much of what’s been going on in Washington, and that’s not the position that got him where he got to. He went down fighting for what he thinks, though.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          @Mark Thompson, I guess you’re just saying the narrow goal of restoring divided gov’t (to at least one House) could in theory have been achieved without this result. That’s true. BUt I think this race was right in the wheelhouse of what went on yesterday. The real kicker is Reid winning in a redder state with twice the unemployment. Johnson >> Angle as a pure candidate.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        Oh, and given that Feingold was massively out-spent by private donors who all backed his opponent, I consider this event as proof of the deep harmfullness of the Citizens United ruling.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          @Katherine, Well in fairness Katherine, Feingold did instruct all of the would be donors on his own side to stay away which is one reason he was so badly outspent. Principled to the end.Report

        • @Katherine, I’d challenge those assertions. To be sure, Feingold was the beneficiary of virtually no outside expenditures, while Johnson was the beneficiary of about $3-4 million (either pro-Johnson or anti-Feingold) in such expenditures according to OpenSecrets, about half of which came from the Super PAC American Action Network or from the Chamber of Commerce.

          However, it also appears that Feingold’s direct campaign expenditures were about 50% greater than Johnson’s, and as of October 13 Feingold had raised over $18,000,000 compared to Johnson’s $12,000,000 (which included his self-financed contributions). It’s hard to view that additional $4,000,000 (which appears to be a final number rather than a number dated to October 13) as having a particularly decisive effect on the race – even after factoring it in, you still wind up with Feingold having an overall advantage in spending.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      @Michael Drew, FWIW, this is honestly a sincere comment. IF Johnson were to turn out to be closer to the (more principled of the) Tea Party enthusiasts in Wisconsin who encouraged him to run and less like a boilerplate Wisconsin conservative, I would prefer that outcome in all sincerity. Alas, I have my doubts. He is a lifelong Wisconsin Republican.Report

  3. The name of the clown may change, but it’s still a circus.Report

  4. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Methinks I hear the soft wimper of hurt feelings and defeated leftists. Barrett, dude, we’re supposed to be living in a Constitutional Republic not a ‘Democracy.’
    My commie-Dem congressman, Charlie Wilson, was defeated…Praise the Lord! and God bless the TPers!Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    Come now Barry, failed Democracy? Hyperbolic much? Look at the silver linings; they didn’t get the Senate and now that they have the house they’re actually going to have to try and govern.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

      @North, I’m thinking in not getting the Senate it will be difficult for Barry to blame the GOP for stopping his statist legilation. I’m thinking they kinda got lucky on that one considering how big a political tsunami this was. Now the righteous conservatives can clean the dog-RINO’s out of the House and Senate, vote for legislation designed to humilate the Gifted One, and prepare for ’12.
      It’s all good….if they have the knuts to live up to conservative principles…we’ll see. Nice to see you still with the remnant at the barricades, North. You’re true to your principles..to bad Barry flew away.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        @Robert Cheeks, Obama wasn’t going to go out on a limb for the party Bob. You must have gotten all the hope and change glitter in your eyes or something. Turns out the man is just a politician like all the rest of em. All the rainbows and unicorns were just branding.

        As for getting stuff done? Well that remains to be seen. Obama and the Dems actually achieved all their realistically attainable legislation. If they don’t pass a single additional bill they’ll still have been highly productive. The GOP on the other hand can’t just vote no anymore, they’ll have to actually put stuff on the table. And by themselves with no Democratic assistance the GOP can accomplish just about bupkiss. Between filibusters and vetoes they’re not going to do anything big unless the compromise but if they compromise the very tea partiers who swept them into power will eat them alive.

        It should be entertaining to watch.Report

        • Avatar 62across says:

          @North, entertaining to watch in a house fire kind of way, no doubt.

          Alas, Bob’s got it right here, in that the GOP won’t be putting anything on the table that’s sole purpose isn’t to stick it to the Gifted One. They don’t have anything they really stand for, so they won’t have any agenda beyond defeating Obama in ’12.

          Where Bob’s got it wrong is in imagining it’s even possible that the GOP have all of the sudden grown the knuts needed to walk their talk. They won’t, because they can’t live by principles they don’t have. And, the orange-faced John Boehner is now the face of the Republican party. That can’t be good for them.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            @62across, Maybe that will be so 62across… but I am skeptical that the TP will settle for a couple meaningless gestures towards fiscal sanity from a GOP in control of congress. If the Tea Party is as intent of fiscal conservatism as some say it is then such behavior from the GOP should deepen the rift between the two of them. And if the Tea Party isn’t truly fiscally conservative then all this energy should dissipate and then what will the GOP run on in 2012?Report

            • Avatar 62across says:

              @North, either of these scenarios with the TP is plausible given that group’s incoherence. Sadly, it will take a couple of years of name calling and finger pointing, to the exclusion of all else, for one of these possibilities to play out. In the meantime, unemployment remains high and the deficit looms.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @North, I think it’s all about the vote to raise the debt ceiling.

              Who’s likely to vote for raising it?

              Would it be controversial to say that Obama would sign a bill raising it?

              Would it be controversial to say that the Democrats in the House would, for the most part, vote for a bill raising it?

              Which brings us to the Republicans and Tea Partiers… Boner is the type to vote for it. He’s establishment through and through.

              What about the TPers? They strike me as nutzo (and, of course, I mean that in the “awesome!” sense of nutzo rather than the critical sense of the word). They’re going to fight to make that vote not happen and, failing that, they’re going to fight to publicize the ever loving crap out of it and embarrass the establishment types who do… which may result in the ceiling not being raised.

              We’ll see what happens, of course, but *THAT* is the debate to examine.

              If the TPers get in line and explain that raising the ceiling is as important as TARP because, without this vote, the country as we know it would be destroyed and the living would envy the dead…

              Well. We’ll see.Report

          • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

            @62across, There’s much wisdom in your words (shit!), especially when you pee in the GOP punchbowl and insult their castrated existence. Yet, in the crepuscular light of day, when the sky is a deep and rich pink, I wistfully ponder the possibility that the TPers will re-attach the knuts to the doddering GOP establishment types, including the orange Boner. That is my hope…can’t I have my little yearnings?
            BTW, the line about the “orange” Boner is the line of the month..I snorted coffee on that and nearly expired.Report

    • Avatar Barrett Brown says:

      @North, I’m not talking about a particular party, but rather the processes involved in the election itself.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        @Barrett Brown, Ah, well then I’m further confused. Do you feel the voting has been rigged in some manner? Or that voting in general is pointless?Report

        • Avatar misantroper says:

          I think voting when these are your options really is close to pointless.

          As I keep saying, at least the amdendments requiring fair and competitive redistricting passed. So even if our cops all get laid off and our teachers’ pay cut to that of Wal-Mart greeters, we’ll still have a chance of turning things around by then.

          Unless, as I half expect, Governor Medicare Fraud just pockets the money rather than actually fixing the budget.Report

  6. Avatar Francis says:

    Hats off to the conservative wing of the GOP, I suspect that they will find the getting was a lot more fun than the having. Cut spending? Where?Report

  7. Experience says:
    Despite new voter demands,
    The debt will increase.Report

    • @Transplanted Lawyer, I somehow managed to drink enough of Bardstown, Kentucky’s finest product last night to stomach watching Eric Cantor for 2 minutes, during which he was asked what the Republicans intended to do to reduce the debt. His response? Roll discretionary spending back to 2008 levels, plus implement the cuts put forward on his “YouCut” website (about a whopping $600 million) dollars. Because, y’know, the debt’s not structural or anything and is entirely the result of discretionary spending. In essence, what Cantor’s saying is that the GOP won’t do another stimulus bill (which probably wasn’t going to happen anyway) and will save the nation by implementing cuts that wouldn’t even be enough to buy the least-valuable NFL franchise. That’s right, the new Republican leadership is in effect suggesting that the nation’s debt problems, which were largely the impetus for their return to power, are so modest that they could be resolved if the NFL created a new expansion franchise and donated the proceeds of the sale to the federal government.

      And this is what they’re saying after they’ve clinched a return to control of the House, two years from the next election, and thus at a time when there is minimal political risk attached to being honest about what needs to be cut to ease the debt burden.Report

      • Avatar 62across says:

        @Mark Thompson, so are you hedging on the divided government is an unqualified good thing?

        Me, I’ve decided to pull for a Republican super-majority in the House and Senate with DeMint in the WH. I mean, if they don’t have to compromise to get even a single vote like they did from 2000 to 2006, then they’ll live up to their conservative principles. Right? Then it’s FREE MARKET here we come.Report

        • @62across, Not at all – as terrible as the Republicans would be with control of both elected branches, and as completely unserious as they are with control of just one elected branch, at least that unseriousness will be a powerful counterweight to Obama, who will in turn be a powerful counterweight to them. Maybe, just maybe, Obama will even try to embarass them by offering meaningful cuts to defense and then making them hem and haw about how whaling history subsidies are all we
          need to cut to balance the budget. Maybe he gets his party to go along with this as a useful political cudgel, and maybe just enough of the handful of GOPers who actually are serious about the debt sign on to get them passed. Well, I can dream, can’t I?Report

          • Avatar 62across says:

            @Mark Thompson, I admire dreamers and I think I share your vision in the end. However, the empiricist in me would sincerely like to have the data that would come from having government in the hands of the pure and principled from each party for a time. Give the whole of government to a single party, with the Supreme Court nominally neutral as a safety valve, for successive terms and carte blanch to enact exactly what their principles tell them. Measure the results by collecting statistical data and surveying the people on how it’s worked for them. Then switch to the other party for a couple more successive terms and measure again. I’m confident the country would survive the experiment.

            When the promised utopia doesn’t materialize in either case, we have data to back up telling the purity trolls to piss off and the pragmatists can actually get to work on fixing things.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        @Mark Thompson, Cantor’s first appearance with the MSNBC crew last night was kind of genius. Matthews led with “So, what’re you gonna do?” (kind of a fair question…), and Cantor’s response litterally included “C’mon!”, as in, “Dude, c’mon, this is teh awesome!” Eric Cantor is just a stone-cold idiot, as far as I can tell. Boehner is not, though. Paul Ryan either, though I think he doesn’t have everything thought through as much as people give him credit for.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I am forced to say
    this, without hyperbole
    These are the Last Days.Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird says:

    The worst part is how awful the American People have become in the last two years.

    Two years ago, we knew that the American People had finally awaken from their long slumber of not agreeing with people like us and had finally chosen the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. It was the dawn and hope of a new day and we knew that, finally, we were on the side of God.

    Now they have proven themselves to be worse than Hitler. Now, I compare a lot of people to Hitler but the American People are the worst people that I have ever compared to Hitler.

    It’s like Alfred said.

    Some people just want to watch the world burn.Report

  10. Avatar Good Grief, The Comedian's Incompetent says:

    Our government is once again divided.

    The Dummycrats cannot run roughshod over the people.

    So, of course, the Dummycrats are now sitting around writing columns like this, just like they sat around posting “we’re sorry” pictures to the world when that incompetent dolt John Kerry lost in 2004.

    I have no sympathy left for you people.Report

  11. Avatar Koz says:

    The Demo’s defeated
    But they are here, lingering
    Hard to kill vampiresReport

  12. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    I think this is my favorite League comment thread of all time.Report

  13. Avatar North says:

    Republicans win
    But now they have to govern
    Good luck with that dudesReport

  14. Avatar Scott says:


    It sounds like sour grapes b/c your side lost. Aren’t the Dems always taking about people power until the people vote them out of office and then they can’t understand why the people would do such a thing? When the people voted O into office then people power was great but I guess not so much now.Report