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What Do Liberals Want?

By Matthew Yglesias  

"What Do Liberals Want?"

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One annoying recurring feature of talk about the present political situation is the presumption on the part of the centrist members of congress who’ve been driving the legislative agenda that the left has, in fact, been driving the legislative agenda. It’s worth reviewing the mainstream liberal policy agenda for the 111th Senate:

— A $1.2 trillion stimulus.
— The forcible breakup of large banks.
— Universal health care with a public option linked to Medicare rates.
— An economy-wide cap on carbon emissions, with the permits auctioned.
— Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
— A path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
— An exit strategy from Afghanistan.
— An end to special exemption of military spending from fiscal discipline.
— An independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
— The Employee Free Choice Act.

None of these things have happened. And it’s worth emphasizing that the White House hasn’t even seriously attempted to do the vast majority of these things. I, personally, am a Great Big Sellout and think that it’s generally made sense for the White House not to expend much time or energy on futile fights. But the fact is that the fights could have been picked, and weren’t. Had the fights been picked, you could reasonably blame “the base” for whatever problems ensued. Had the agenda been enacted, you could reasonably blame “the base” for whatever backlash ensued. But the White House hasn’t been doing this. Instead, with the exception of the CFPA and not much else, they’ve been fighting for what they regard as a more feasible agenda that comes pre-trimmed to suit the demands of centrist legislators.

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