Could, woulda shouda had an energy bill with carbon controls …. but Claire MCCaskill and the Democratic brown dogs killed it.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda had a public option … but Max Baucus, and the blue dogs killed it – and Claire McCaskill breathed a sigh of relief.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda had a bigger stimulus … but Claire McCaskill and the other conservadems were too afraid Granny Gumboil back home wouldn’t understand.

You get the idea – and if you’re like me, it makes you damn mad. You didn’t canvass, phone bank, dig up the shekels so this could happen.

And you see it happening all over again with Robin Carnahan – although, because she’s the one in the arena right now, facing the prince of dirty fighters, Daddy Blunt, you kind of give her the benefit of the doubt. When you can be bothered to think about it that is – which, I think, is what they mean when they talk about an enthusiasm gap.

But those of us who espouse the operant conditioning school of political thought are still conflicted – we know that if we reward bad behavior, we’ll just get more of it. That’s the way progressives get dissed over and over again, right?  

But maybe we need an attitude adjustment. James Vega at The Democratic Strategist gave me something to think about:

Progressives: we’ve forgotten (or maybe just never learned) the ideas of “critical support” and “strategic voting” which European center-left voters have applied for years. It’s how they defeated conservatives many times in the post-war period.


These voters did not feel “betrayed” or “taken for granted” because even as more left-wing voters in some districts had to support candidates to their right, centrist voters in other districts supported candidates to their left. Both sides understood that their common interests would be better served by cooperating than by their acting alone.

Many of us actually do understand this – and lots of the cooler heads among us act on it – but some of us are mad and it’s hard to act like a grown-up when you’re feeling betrayed. Vega reminds us, though, that in the past the other guys in our coalition have had to swallow hard and keep on keeping on just like we need to do now:

I mean, come on. Did you really think all those Irish guys sitting around the taverns in Southie for the last 40 years were just peachy-keen thrilled with Teddy Kennedy’s position on about 500 different liberal social issues or that the guys in Al Gore’s old district were slapping “save the whales” bumper stickers on their pickups?. No, they were doing a New Deal version of “critical support” and “strategic voting”.

Well, he’s partially right, at least. Quite a few of those blue-collar guys became Reagan Democrats. And some of those Irish guys who voted for Kennedy did it just because they believed he was one of them, their own Irish-American royalty.

But still it’s true enough. And it’s worth remembering right now when the Congress is at stake. Vega paints the picture in broad, but true to life strokes:

If we want Nancy Pelosi to keep being the Speaker of the House, it ain’t gonna happen because we sit at home and stew because the Democratic candidate in our district is too conservative for our tastes. You vote for whichever Democrat won the primary because that’s how you support Nancy Pelosi and Alan Grayson and Al Franken and all the other Democrats who you do like. That’s the meaning of strategic voting and critical support.

I, for one, stand reproved.