Initial reports about the quick flip-flop of the Republican House on gutting its independent ethics commission over-emphasized Donald Trump's twitter comments and under-appreciated the effect of the thunderous public reaction to a shameless act.
Yes, Trump (or someone in his name) did send out message on Twitter; but it did not actually object to the the changes per se but only to the timing and the mishandling of the process. And public reaction was already intense before Trump jumped in front of the crowd to make it look like he was leading it.
This was followed by interviews Tuesday night on Rachel Maddows MSNBC show with Chuck Schumer (new House Minority Leader) and Bernie Sanders. Schumer will be directing the Democrats' attempt to shape legislation from the minority position. And he has appointed Sanders to a new position: Director of Outreach for the Senate. At first this sounded like a courtesy position to a loser; but hearing Sanders' description, it may be the most important part of the opposition the Democrats will mount.
Sanders is already directing the organization of grass-roots protests. The first event is to be January 15th and will involve asking senators and representatives and governors to attend rallies in their home districts to work for progressive policies -- and ultimately in coming elections to elect progressive office-holders from local school boards up through the U.S. Congress.
It will also be the basis for putting grass-roots pressure on Congress, just as was done more spontaneously and bipartisanly over the ethics debacle. Both Schumer and Sanders emphasized their focus on holding representatives accountable for their acts. Calling them on their very first act of trying to weasel out of accountability by gutting the ethics act was a great start.
The sponsor of the amendment, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) tried to sell it as an improvement, claiming that it "builds on and strengthens" the current system. That is a pure lie and an insult to the intelligence of voters. As Jay Bookman wrote in the AJC:
"Politicians don't strengthen ethics laws in secret, without warning or public debate. They act that way only when they're ashamed of what they're doing, and this time they got caught."
This is the most hopeful thing we've seen since the election defeat. Both Schumer and Sanders are signalling that the Clinton era is over. The Democratic centrists have lost, and the progressives are in ascendance. Another indication of that was (Clinton supporter) Howard Dean's quick withdrawal from the race for Chair of the DNC. Sanders' candidate is Rep. Keith Ellison, clearly in the progressive column as a Sanders' supporter in the Democratic primary. It's a big field, including several very capable people, such as Labor Secretary Perez. Who wins will be another signal of which way the party is heading. At this point it looks like the progressive wing has the momentum.
What'a needed, which was missing in the Obama era, was a true 50 state strategy. Howard Dean has always advocated that, but his ties to Clinton were perhaps too strong for this time of a new direction. Ellison or Perez would supply that.