I’m not sure I entirely understand Brian Beutler’s argument here. The point -- familiar enough -- is that Congressional Democrats suck. But to support this conclusion, he offers up the failure to override the SCHIP veto. I’m not attacking Beutler (he’s one of the good ones), but I’m frankly tired of this line of argument. Democrats can’t alter the laws of mathematics. If they lack numbers, I don’t understand what exactly they’re supposed to do.
Democrats can’t transform Republicans into non-Republicans. Yes, Democrats control Congress, but not by much. For practical purposes, the parties basically have 50/50 support. The Senate, however, requires 60/40 support, while overriding a veto requires 2/3 support. So again -- what exactly are Democrats supposed to do differently?
In the face of inferior numbers, there’s only one thing to do -- politicize issues and tee them up for the next election. And on that front, the Democrats were wildly successful. What makes Beutler’s argument somewhat puzzling is that he praises this very strategy (the ones the Dems pursued), but ultimately dismisses them anyway. I mean, I guess the schedule of the RESTORE Act wasn’t a stroke of genius, but I don’t see how it changed anything on the SCHIP front. (Remember that everyone had already voted once -- why would you expect Republicans to change for the override -- flip-flop anyone?).
From a glass half-full perspective, the Dems have had weeks of positive coverage on quite possibly the most favorable, sympathetic issue of the entire congressional session (children’s health care). That’s all you can hope for. When the time comes, future Democratic candidates (especially the presidential nominee) can bang the opposition over the head with it. Again, Beutler notes all this, but still concludes the Dems failed miserably.
We’re seeing the exact same dynamic with the war and the Webb bill. The Democrats are being blamed by Democrats for Republican votes. But if Republicans continue voting this way, there are going to be fewer and fewer Republicans in the next session. It’s not ideal -- the ideal would be to end the war, to pass the Webb bill, to enact SCHIP. But the Democrats lost the 2004 election. If you want to blame someone, blame the American people. Blame Republicans. But I don’t understand why the Democrats keep getting so much blame. At the very least, they are catching a disproportionate amount of crap. I mean, good God, just look at what they’re at least trying to do -- through bills and hearings -- as compared to the last Congress.
Granted, FISA is a different story. I strongly disagree with the leadership, but I also recognize it’s a much thornier political issue in the swing districts and swing states that determine political power.
But blaming Dems for lacking numbers just isn’t fair. And, frankly, it will ultimately lead them to embrace Broderism in the hopes of “doing something.” Sometimes, though, it’s better to do nothing if it ultimately leads to better and more progressive policies down the road.
Think chess, not horse races.