December 18, 2006

Advice for the Democrats

As the election grew closer and signs showed that Democrats had a very good chance to take at least one chamber of Congress, a number pundits provided advice and warnings about what the Democrats should and should not do. Many warned that Democrats should be extremely careful about being seen as too partisan. And there have been more than a few pieces that have worried that Democrats could hurt our country by spending too much time and energy on “partisan witch hunts.” Some even told the Democrats that it was their duty to stop the nasty polarization and, for God’s sake, muzzle those rapid activists on the left. After all, Americans don’t like partisans and they really don’t like liberals. Time Magazine put the issue thusly: Democrats have to decide if “the next two years are about revenge, or governing….”

For example, in mid-October, Nancy Pelosi was featured on 60 Minutes because if the Democrats take over the House, as the leader of the Democratic House, she will become the Speaker of the House. During the interview, Leslie Stahl asked Nancy Pelosi to explain how she would bring about a more civil Washington when Pelosi has made some very sharp attacks that have led to an uncivil Washington. The subtext of the interview was that Nancy Pelosi is a major reason that Washington is so divisive these days. Of course, one wonders if Ms. Stahl had ever asked this question of Tom DeLay or Newt Gingrich when they led the House and implemented scorched earth tactics which created a House that totally disenfranchised Democrats (and a majority of the American public) to push their extreme policies. One thing Leslie Stahl accomplished was to make Pelosi take a pledge that the Democrats would not try to impeach the President because that would be terrible for the country. Congresswoman Pelosi agreed that Democrats would not hold impeachment hearing because as she said she thought impeachment would be a waste of time right now.

After being told over and over again by the chattering classes that Democrats must behave and work with Bush because he is the President and Americans will never approve of Democrats being obstructionists or “partisan”, it is interesting to read the following from the same article in Time Magazine (emphasis mine):

White House press secretary Tony Snow says Bush may take the same bypass [as Clinton used] around Capitol Hill. "He told all of us, 'Put on your track shoes. We're going to run to the finish,'" Snow said. "He's going to be aggressive on a lot of fronts. He's been calling all his Cabinet secretaries and telling them, 'You tell me administratively everything you can do between now and the end of the presidency. I want to see your to-do list and how you expect to do it.' We're going to try to be as ambitious and bold as we can possibly be."

In fact, when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."

Evidently, even if the Democrats took their critics advice and tried to play nice with George W. Bush it wouldn’t work, because he’s planning to spit in their face and kick them in the gut every chance he gets. Nevertheless, I bet the pundit class will wring their hands about how unseemly it is that the Democrats haven’t figured out that it’s their fault that relations in Washington are so poisoned.

Of course, when the Democrats take over it will be because the majority of the country wants to stop the incompetent and delusional Mr. Bush. No matter how the pundit class and the Republicans want to paint this election, it is clear that people have had enough of the corruption, the wars, the wasteful spending, government sticking its nose into their personal lives and letting Republicans continue to take the country down the wrong track.

So when Democrats reflect on what this election means for the voters, they should recognize that it says Americans are angry that the Congress has been operating as a rubberstamp for Bush. They are angry that George W Bush took us into an unnecessary war and then made such a debacle of it. They are angry that the “good economy” has been so poor for them. And they are angry that their problems: their wages, the price of education, the job market and their health care are only seen as a mechanism for providing a huge give away to the plutocrats.

Paul Krugman had a column in October advising the Democratic leadership Don’t Make Nice where he specifically said it is critical that Democrats realize people want to change the direction of the country. They want to have someone who will back them and not the corporations. They want to know how much was stolen in the contracts were given to rebuild Iraq. A majority want to understand how our country went to war so we can prevent this type of disaster in the future. And he notes that to truly promote bipartisanship means they can’t simply play nice with the Republicans because it is the Republicans who are using divisiveness to gain and keep power.

The reason we have so much bitter partisanship these days is that that’s the way the radicals who have taken over the Republican Party want it. People like Grover Norquist, who once declared that “bipartisanship is another name for date rape,” push for a hard-right economic agenda; people like Karl Rove make that agenda politically feasible, even though it’s against the interests of most voters, by fostering polarization, using religion and national security as wedge issues.

As long as polarization is integral to the G.O.P.’s strategy, Democrats can’t do much, if anything, to narrow the partisan divide.

As Krugman says, the Republicans have decided that nothing works better to get and keep power than demagoguery. Witness what happened after 9/11 when the country came together and gave the President overwhelming support. What the Republicans did then was to take that support and demonize Democrats as soft and not trustworthy in order to elect more Republicans. And during the election President Bush said “if Democrats win, the terrorists win.” This is a despicable thing for any President to say about his constituents and he has well and truly forfeited the good will and support of millions of Americans.

We deserve to have our government work for us. And the only way we are going to be able to do that now is to have a Democratic Congress and Senate oversee the executive branch so we can stop the rapacious and criminal theft of our treasury and our future. We need our representatives to bring back transparency and accountability for the institutions of government. And we especially need our representatives to pledge to solve the real problems that face our country with as much wisdom and intelligence they can bring to the table. It is time to get serious about making government work once more for the country, and not the kleptocrats.

[Ed: this was a piece I wrote for Vox Populi Nebraska just before the election but I think my (slightly revised) advice column still works.]

Posted by Mary at December 18, 2006 08:19 AM | Elections | Technorati links |

What the President said was right. When Democrats win, the enemies of the United States and the Constitution win.
Liberals are enemies of this country. Conservatism and capitalism built this country. Liberalism is trying to tear it down and defeat it.
If you want socialism, there are dozens of countries in the world you can go and live. They are not super-powers or even functional simply because they are liberal.
Liberals turn a blind eye to their ideals failing every time they are tried - just like appeasement to enemies that want to kill you.
Advice for liberals open your minds or get the hell out of the country.

Posted by: Hank Dagny at December 18, 2006 01:19 PM

Strike while the iron is hot,these aren't republicans or even conservatives but a vile radical oligopoly bent on wrecking the republic.

But they are so damnably sleazy and dumb, they will probably end up wrecking the residue of the old real GOP and implode horribly leaving a few disturbed angry little white men to brood in some alcoholic stupor fueled by bloated noise from the bellowing gas bag circuit, Billious O'Biley and that washed up junkie, Limbaugh.

So they Democrats should run with this huge mandate loud and proud but thoughtful and finish off the neocon horror TO HELP the real and half buried GOP survive.

And the craven press has been handmaiden to this foul usurpation all along because the media owners are oligopoly constituents.

Posted by: Chris Rich at December 18, 2006 04:09 PM