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August 30, 2007

Comments

This whole business leaves me filled with disgust and shame that America has fallen so very far.

I think that as much as anything, I'm baffled by the Democrats who think that if they find the right things to do, the Republican machine won't attack them. This is so utterly out of touch with reality that I don't understand how it can be sustained except by really thorough, rigorous denial of reality.

The second most baffling thing for me is the refusal of the leadership to take some clear critical ground when it comes to dissenters. Most Democrats are voting pretty well on this stuff, as you point out, hilzoy. I'd like to hear Pelosi and Reid calling attention to that and criticizing those toadying the administration line as unrepresentative of the party as well as no friends to the republic. The public out there wants to find someone to support; the leadership could meet them easily.

The Democrats believe folks will think they're wimps if they don't "stand up to the terrorists" by standing with the President.

But people actually think the Democrats are wimps because they won't stand up for the Constitution and they won't stand against the President.

I have some moments when I wonder just how many of the strange political decisions of this generation will turn out to have been driven by blackmail. It's not like the conservative machine lacks either resources or fundamental willingness; it's a matter entirely of how much someone in the machine actually acted on the possibilities.

I'm as annoyed by this stuff as anyone, but I also think that reality-based consideration of the political situation in a member's district isn't all that simple. It doesn't matter what national polls say about thinking on one issue or another; what matters is how the representative's constituents feel about an issue. Can I say that voters in some guy's district in Tennessee are more upset about his failure to stand up to the President than they would be about a failure to pass legislation that the intelligence professionals say is necessary? Nope.

And while it's true that Republicans will attack Democrats as weak on terror, it's also true that a vote on something like the FISA bill is something a congressman can point to. If the Republican challenger is trying to demonize Nancy Pelosi, the incumbent can say 'well, we're not lockstep.' And there are districts where this sort of thing is make or break.

Again, I'm pretty dispusted about where we are right now. The lack of spine, though, is not exclusively the condition of the politician, imo, but is widely shared by the populace. And this is the most important point: this condition is not uniformly distributed about the country, but rather people farther from actual danger seem to be the most scared.* If some politician with an electorate that skews scared looks in the mirror and decides that he/she isn't going to be able to talk them out of it -- well, who am I to say that the calculus is incorrect.

* Maybe this is unfair, because I'm lumping people motivated by bloodlust in with those motivated by fear.

The Dems, like Americans in general, are notoriously bad risk-assessors - they are afraid of thing that aren't likely to happen, like actual democracy.

Our [cough, cough] representatives dance with who brung'em, and that'd be the monied lobbyists... big tobacco, big pharma and big God, among others.

All we did was vote. They pay the swine.

Figure out that if there's no principle for which you would willingly lose your office, then you don't deserve to hold it in the first place. The liberties enshrined in our Constitution matter more than your political careers.

Well stated, but you've touched on the very point. To elected officials of both major parties, the Constitution plainly doesn't matter more than their political careers.

Back in the halcyon days when I thought the House impeachment managers actually did care about the rule of law*, I recall Henry Hyde giving a stirring speech about some principles being worth losing one's office. Of course for a Republican in a strongly Republican office, impeaching a Democratic president isn't one of those principles that tests one's will to set aside career concerns. But it still made a nice speech.

Pity that neither Republicans nor Democrats believes it. Pity that our system is so broken that the simplest solution -- if Democrats don't get the job done, don't elect Democrats -- can't be taken seriously. Pity that no one talks about fixing the system so that more than two parties can thrive.


*I have to note the honorable exception of Bob Barr, who apparently did really care about it enough to leave the GOP.

The Dems, like Americans in general

Not to pick on Mr. Wolf, but this kind of thing is as unreality-based as the President's latest fantasies about Iraq. Let's say that of 41 Dem representatives who voted for the FISA bill, half are right about their constituents' likely reactions, and half are overreacting. I'm making up the number -- maybe it's 70-30 in favor of right. Whatever, this leaves Mr. Wolf's statement as '10% of the Dem caucus is mis-estimating the threat to themselves.' It lacks the cachet of 'the Dems lack spine' but going the hyperbolic direction on this kind of thing is objectively bad: it plays into the Rovian 'spinelessness' message, and at the same time the Naderite 'there's no difference' message.

The problem isn't the lobbyists and, for the most part, it isn't the politicians. It's mostly the public that sends them here.

Here's something I think would be a really interesting little project. Really, I'd do it if I had time. Take the 41 Dems, and look at the presidential vote in 2004 in their districts.

Unfortunately for those of us who care about minor issues like the rule of law, due process of justice, and respect for the Constitution, this Administration and its enablers have one huge psychological advantage going for them, IMO, in the public mind - which hilzoy articulates as follows:

"... if Democrats can't figure out how to make a winning issue of keeping the government from being able to throw you in jail without having to explain themselves to anyone..."

The problem, as I see it, is that only a minority (probably quite small) of American citizens can/would/do conceive of the issue as "being able to throw YOU in jail" sans process; but rather are only too happy to accept the Administration's formulation that the issue is one of throwing "terrorists" (abstracted, dehumanized foreign bogeymen, and largely overseas at that) in jail without "rights" - and that any abuses of the system don't (and are hugely unlikely to) affect the average citizen at all.

Concerns for the rule of Constitutional law are fine intellectual concepts, but fears for one's personal safety (which are far more easily manipulated by politicians) are much more primal emotions: I hate to have to remind all that it is no contest which idea works better in campaigns.

Let's not forget that the Republicans are supposedly the party of "The scariest nine words in the english language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.'"

Although I guess that doesn't necessarily mean that they're not fine with "I'm from the government, and I'm here to throw you in prison without due process of law and then torture you in violation of the 8th amendment." Actually, now that I think of it, I'm sure they're exactly fine with that see, e.g., opposition to Miranda, opposition to public defenders, fast-tracking the death penalty, etc.

Charley, I agree with you about the 41, but the bigger problem it seems it with the leadership who allowed the Republican version of FISA bill to come to the floor in the first place. If Republicans had been put in the position of voting for the Democratic bill or nothing, things might have been different. Admittedly Bush would have vetoed it, but the politics of that would have been trickier.

It's not specifically the 2004 presidential vote (the Cook PVI is based on the 2000 and 2004 elections), and it's missing a few of the 41 (since it includes only those who also defected on an Iraq vote), but Chris Bowers has stats on the "Bush Dogs" that Charley and others may find interesting.

The Dem "leadership," at least Pelosi (my congresscritter) is scared shitless of these wobblers. She built a career on becoming caucus boss, not "leading" in any particular direction. She got hers, she is devoted to keeping hers -- she whines "isn't that enough?" "Give me a veto-proof majority."

They must face Vader. If they're going to get this vulnerability behind them, they have to stand up, take a risk, and fight. It is the last task remaining before becoming a, um, Jedi.

Well said, Hilzoy. Time to clean house.

The overall Congress has a Nixonian approval rating (~19%) not because Republican voters are dissatisfied with a new Democratic Congress. One expects a low approval rating for those folks. Low approval ratings for Congress stem from the fact that the Democrats have not stopped the nonsense you mention, nor have been effective in steering a new policy in Iraq. Hence, Democrats and Independents are not happy with the new Congress. Time is of the essence. It is a matter of life and death.

Anyone counted the number of Friedman units until the next election?

The polls on these issues are not great, but they are consistently, consistently not as bad as Congress' actions. And this with virtually no Democratic leadership to speak of.

Anyway, not every unpopular vote is going to lose you the election. There's a simple working assumption on the part of the Democratic caucus that the American public is stupid & selfish & behind their opponents. They don't wait for the polls to come in to come to the conclusion: they assume it's true, and then only if the polls show that the Democratic position is more popular do you have any hope of concluding otherwise. If the polls are neutral, they'll keep on keeping on.

Even in red states--Ken Salazar was not going to lose his Senate seat in 2010 if he voted against Gonzales. That's absurd. People excuse Ben Nelson all kinds of appalling votes because he's from Nebraska, but the Democratic Senators from the Dakotas are far better. This is to say nothing of people like Emanuel, who is far worse than Illinois' two Senators elected statewide. The Republicans don't seem to have much trouble mounting unpopular filibusters and surviving, either.

It's just not a priority for them. Staying the majority is their priority, and they will trade a huge cost as far as actual policies for a tiny, uncertain possibility of electoral advantage (not that they're all that good about that--witness the current approval ratings).

Well, fine: funding their re-election campaigns is not a priority for me. If I'm interested in preserving the Constitution, or protecting human rights, a donation to the ACLU or Human Rights Watch (or some smaller & more struggling organization) is far more efficient.

This isn't very complicated. We don't have habeas corpus to protect criminals and terrorists. We have habeas corpus to protect innocent citizens. Underline that. To protect innocent citizens.

The cost of protecting innocent citizens is that we have to protect the guilty as well. That's a pretty low cost.

This could be said a 30 second ad! Why it isn't is beyond me.

"The cost of protecting innocent citizens is that we have to protect the guilty as well. That's a pretty low cost."

Not to the victims of crime.

And certainly not to the political Establishment which has profited so much for creating the mindset (on a national level) that we are all victims.

As Fearless Leader says: "Get some calcium!"

Dammit, Hilzoy, your punctuation is too subtle for me. At first I read the title as Democrats Grow a Spine.

No such luck.

The colon should probably be a comma, since as it is it looks like the Democrats might be the ones saying "Grow a spine". Imagine a headline reading "Bush: Iran must be stopped".

Sadly, I'm Not sure that requires much "imagining" KC.

Striking statistic, noted in the comments to the openleft.com post KCinDC linked:

Only 2 of the "Bush Dogs" are female. One-quarter of Dem Representatives are women, so we should expect that 9-10 of the Bush Dogs would be.

Why are men so much more spineless than women on this issue?

Well, imagine him saying something that restrained, rather than talking about "confront[ing] Tehran's murderous activities", as he's doing in reality.

Maybe it's not a difference between men and women but a difference between districts that elect women and districts that elect men.

KC --

You're probably right. That Bush Dog list is definitely tilted toward a few border states: Tennessee & Indiana are hugely over-represented, the Northeast isn't there at all.

The Senate has already passed, 97-0, a measure that, as far as I can tell, will 'justify' whatever Iran war insanity the Cheney criminal syndicate decides on. Not a whole lot of dissension from the "opposition" party in that tally.

Given this last year (not even a year), does voting really even matter any more? I'm in Maryland, one of the more liberal states in the country. BOTH of 'my' Dem senators have rolled over. One of them is the gutless apparatchik Cardin, quoted in the main story. ALL they care about is keeping their jobs. That's it.

I've voted in every election since '76. I can't think of a persuasive counter-argument to, 'Why bother?'

Sglover: The unglamorous committee appointments. Judges, ambassadors, and other executive postings calling for approval. The budget. Not spending investigation time on Republican pet projects. All the stuff of representative government outside the spotlight, basically.

"What about the 30-second spots?" they ask. Someone needs to very gently explain to them the notion of sunk costs. I.E. you are going to be on the receiving end of a nasty 30-second spot BECAUSE YOU HAVE A "D" after your name. So trying to avoid these ads by making nice is just stupid.

Sglover: The unglamorous committee appointments. Judges, ambassadors, and other executive postings calling for approval. The budget. Not spending investigation time on Republican pet projects. All the stuff of representative government outside the spotlight, basically.

Maybe it's time to stop worrying about the broken Constitutional forms and rituals, and start looking into other kinds of arrangements entirely. What those might be, I couldn't say just now. But the lesson I draw from recent history is that this political system is wrecked beyond repair. It put a disastrous empty suit in charge of the fiercest military arsenal in human history. The '06 election was almost universally recognized as a broad-based reaction to that. But everyone who turned out to express their fear and revulsion, to finally check the Cheney crime syndicate, has been betrayed. There is no other way to put it. And there's a little more going on here, I think, than merely the absence of a couple more 'good Democrats' -- whatever the hell that means, any more.

CC: Take the 41 Dems, and look at the presidential vote in 2004 in their districts.

That's been done, and more. The Open Left site is researching which among the 41 'Bush dogs' are worthwhile projects for intensive, let's call it consciousness raising and possible primary challenges.

Oops, I see KC already noted that. And I'd like to support wholeheartedly his point that the leadership is far more seriously to blame for the FISA debacle than individual Dems who voted wrong. That's something far harder to fix.

They're deeply corrupted, and in the current setup anyone lasting long enough to get into leadership gets that way by the time they take the reins.

rarely, has a politician been willing to put principle over retaining their office. in fact, i would say it's more the exception than the rule.

without sustained and irresistable public pressure to withdraw from iraq and defend our civil liberties, congress will continue to do nothing.

we are getting there, but public pressure influences politicians slowly when it does so at all.

david-sullivan.blogspot.com

Nell & KC, I'm not sure that the House leadership could have prevented the FISA bill business. If the 41 were determined to leave for recess having voted for the Administration's bill, that's enough to force the hand of the leadership. They didn't have the votes to prevent amendment of a Dem bill, and they didn't have the votes to pass a rule that would preclude amendment. Maybe they could've played the cards better -- I'm not a proponent of Pelosi/Hoyer infallibility. And the end of the day, though, there just aren't the votes for some of these things, and I still think that the problem lies outside Washington.

SG: I thought the other side wildly overplayed the mandate card from 04, and I think we should be realistic about it as to 06. I voted for affirmative checks on the crime syndicate, but plenty of other people voted for other stuff, and have little or no interest in the insider agenda.

I think it'd be great if you could get people in Indiana and Tennessee to convince their representatives that stronger stands in favor of constitutional rights are not only right, but safe. I don't think this goal is accomplished by complaining about Pelosi, Hoyer, your congressperson, or mine.

BTW, when has Sen. Cardin last heard from you?

The colon should probably be a comma, since as it is it looks like the Democrats might be the ones saying "Grow a spine". Imagine a headline reading "Bush: Iran must be stopped".

Oddly enough that headline would also work with a comma "Bush, Iran must be stopped"

The difficulty of explaining to Joe Six-Pack the danger of overriding citizen's constitutional rights even if there are scary evil terrists out there (or maybe right next door!!! booga-booga) mainly comes from the fatcthat since time immorial a significant portion of any population will, when afraid turn to the closest authority figure and look to them for guidence and reassurance. This works on smaller levels too like crime stories on the local news.

Sglover, I agree that we need some serious institutional changes, in a big way. But we also have to have someone making decisions tomorrow, and nxt year, and so on. So I don't see an opposition in these concerns.

mainly comes from the fatcthat since time immorial a significant portion of any population will, when afraid turn to the closest authority figure and look to them for guidence and reassurance.

Which explains, of course, Rudy's candidacy.

Charley, what actually would be evidence that the problem lies *inside* Washington? If national polls don't do it because of district pressures; district polls don't exist; and a vote going badly is taken as a sign that the leadership didn't have a choice...

I'm probably not reasonable on these issues. But Christ, what would be an example of the Democrats in Congress voting badly that WOULD be their fault and not just imputed to their constituents?

Hilzoy -

Your explanation for Congrssional Democrats' recent behavior -- fear -- is not very compelling. As you note, "this is not a moment when you need to be afraid"; so one suspects that the Democrats have other motives.

No doubt many Congressional Republicans would dearly love for their Democratic colleagues to end the war in Iraq right now (e.g., by refusing to fund it). Then the Republicans could put this unpopular war behind them, whilst blaming the Democrats for "losing Iraq just as the President's plan was starting to work."

But if the Bush administration gets everything it asks for, and the debacle nonetheless continues for another year, then the Republicans will pay a heavy price for their blundering in the 2008 elections.

Which must sound pretty good to the Democrats.

The Democrats are not spineless. For the most part, they are fascist authoritarians at heart - just as the Republicans are. They *agree* with what BushCo is doing. Sure, some sense they should at least pretend otherwise.

I'm reminded of the scenes of English Parliament from "Amazing Grace". Only an unreasonable few (Shehan, Lee, Kucinich) had/have courage to stand against the slave trade. Business interests and conventional thinking were too strong. Ultimately slavery was abolished. This time around, slavery will be reinstated.

The Democrats *agree*; they do not oppose. They only pretend to oppose.

Beware the Ides of September.

Katherine, I take your point, and feel your frustration. But do you think that those reps from Indiana and Tennessee are misreading their constituents? If so, what makes you believe this?

I'm willing to believe that there have been in the past, and are now, representatives that are seriously out of step with their constituents. But telling me that the 2006 congressional elections was some kind of national referendum, that leads to a mandate against the war -- would that it were so, but I don't think the reps who read their own election a different way are necessarily (a) crazy or (b) dishonest.

Of course I wish we had representatives in such places who could, by example and rhetoric, lead their constituents to a greater appreciation of the constitutional issues at stake. I wish everyone on the Red Sox was hitting .400. From the backs of ponies.

I've got no problem with people targeting their efforts, and I think concentrating on issue advocacy, rather than candidate support, is a fine solution for you. Someone is going to have to support the candidates, lest we get a Republican in the seat, but it doesn't have to be you.

Katherine, I don't think Charley is saying it's entirely the fault of the constituents. He seems to be saying that at least some of the 41 are to blame. The difference is he's less willing to blame the leadership.

I admit that I don't know enough about the details of congressional rules to fully understand whether there might be a reasonable explanation for what the leadership did with the FISA bills, but it seems pretty fishy to me. Nevertheless, like Charley, I do lose patience sometimes with the people who apparently thought everything was going to turn on a dime immediately after Democrats gained nominal control of Congress -- control that depends on Lieberman and a host of conservative Democrats. The leadership don't have mind control rays.

I had very low expectations for anything much happening on Iraq, because it requires getting lots of people to wholeheartedly embrace a course of action that will probably lead to disaster (since all available paths lead to disaster at this point, the only choice is which leads to the smallest disaster) and because I can't really imagine any viable way of forcing Bush to leave, especially if the congressional Republicans keep clinging to him.

The MCA and FISA votes I found much more disappointing that any Iraq votes.

And I see that while I took a surprisingly long time to post that comment, Charley spoke for himself.

I'm not buying any of this blame-the-constituents stuff wrt the FISA bill, because they/we never got a chance to weigh in.

The leadership had made the crucial decision before the issue ever hit the press, four days before recessing: they were committed to passing some "FISA fix". They bought a line of stale, smelly 1998-2004 conventional wisdom on what constituents would think, and they let Mike McConnell operate unchallenged on their caucuses.

It would have been a completely different ballgame if Republicans had had to choose between no bill and a Democratic version that gave the regime only what they claimed to need.

From a distance, it's easy to brush off Webb's vote by saying, "well, you know what Virginians are like." But the man who made one-third of his platform rolling back overreaching executive power knows full well that his vote to gut the fourth amendment "temporarily" betrayed the very people who were absolutely crucial to his election -- the ones who evangelized, raised money, and knocked on doors. The ones who believed that he believed what he was saying.

I don't especially blame the leadership. I like Reid. I like Pelosi. And Durbin is in my Senatorial top 3, so we're pretty lucky he's in the leadership. It's a collective feeling about the caucus, which is actually more depressing because "replace Gephardt and Daschle" is no longer the obvious solution.

Are they misreading their constituents? If they truly believe these votes are necessary to preserve their seats a Democratic majority, yes. I don't think that's the problem--I just don't think they care, at all; it's simply not a priority, and even a minimal political risk is deemed not worth it. They note correctly that there will be attack ads--but there are always attack ads; the counterargument is easy; but a large % of them are not even minimally informed about it & show no interest in becoming so.

I'm not about to start voting third party or claim that there's no real difference. That's manifestly not true. But if they care more about maintaining their own power than these issues--well, people who do care about these issues are naturally going to question whether devoting their efforts to putting & keeping the Democrats in power is really the best means of changing things. I don't think it is. I identify less with the Democratic party now than at any point since October 2002. They are going to get a lot less money from me than when I was in law school.

The Republicans LOST the election. They lost. Yet they are more willing to filibuster bills that poll very well, than the Democrats are to simply *not pass* a bill where the poll results depend on how you phrase the question (you would think those thirty point swings would tip someone off that public opinion is not fixed in stone, but no). The President simply proceeds on the assumption that Congress will cave, and they inevitably do. There's nothing inevitable about this, and judging by Congress' approval ratings, nothing particularly politically beneficial.

I'll vote for the Democrats because I believe in voting, and to keep things from getting worse, and maybe slightly improve them. But I doubt there's going to be much change in the overall trajectory--they won't undo the damage of the last 8 years (even the parts that could be fixed); they won't prevent the next Republican President from driving us over the next cliff. If things dramatically change for the better, I doubt it will be because of the Democratic party in D.C.

That pessimism has much more to do with Washington & the Democratic caucus than the current state of public opinion. I guess you can partly blame things like rural overrepresentation in the Senate, but the main thing I blame is a Democratic party that really doesn't care so much about most issues that are most important to me, or much of anything but staying in ofice & staying in the majority for its own sake.

Nell is right. How many times are we going to see this?

--We need a bill to fix pressing problem A.
--The Democrats propose a bill to fix pressing problem A.
--The President proposes a bill that fixes problem A, and also gives him powers B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I and J. He says he will veto any bill that denies him powers B-J, and the Democrats will be to blame for not fixing problem A.
--The Democrats decide that they cannot risk the negative campaign ads about their failure to fix problem A. They give the President what he wants.
--The President has every reason to keep doing this.

As far as legislation that Democrats propose, it's equally predictable but a lot simpler:

--The Democrats propose a bill the Republicans don't like.
--The Republicans filibuster it.
--Failing that, the President vetoes it.

There's less to be done about this, but it's equally infuriating: it reminds me of all the awful things that the Democrats did not even seriously consider filibustering--we were lucky to get over 35 no votes, let alone an actual filibuster.

a Democratic party that really doesn't care so much about most issues that are most important to me

Well, that's where I've returned to my roots. I knew that from 1967-1976 and 1977-2001, but managed to suppress the knowledge to deal with what appeared to be an emergency. But we move from frying pan to fire so relentlessly now that even if the party were changing, it probably wouldn't be fast enough to make much difference.

So, speaking of issues that are most important to you, Katherine, have you read Scott Horton's post on the Jordan verdict? Masterful summary of a lot of material. He's also impressive on the APA's decision to compromise itself.

Nell, what this comes down to is, we despise the party leadership but are unwilling or unable to offer an alternative. Seems to me, an awful lot of party policies are set by the people who bother to show up. My problem is, I can't support my family and pay back my debts if I take five years off to take over the local Democratic Party establishment. I don't even have time to see a movie these last 6 months, much less do politics. So, a shameless plea:

Anyone on this thread who doesn't have a full-time career they can't leave, please go ahead and start working for the party now. It almost doesn't matter what you do, if you show up regularly and keep advancing through the ranks. Sooner or later, if you can stomach the work, you WILL be in a position to set policy.

Oh, don't get me started on the Jordan court martial.

Jordan, Mr. "I didn't know anything about interrogation," was the guy who helped coordinate the MPs' holding ghost detainees for the CIA & special forces task forces. As far as I can tell from the press accounts (admittedly, they could've missed it), the prosecution never so much as *mentioned* this fact. Most of the damning evidence about Jordan would probably raise embarrassing questions about people higher than Jordan, so...

As to the other stuff, I don't want to go overboard--I'm conscious of probably being more bitter about the Democrats than is probably actually warranted. An actively good President would make a pretty huge difference, and there is a real chance of that.

Ironically, part of my problem these days is that I can't get completely off the fence for either Edwards or Obama; if there was just one of them in the race, I'd probably be committed to him in the primary, & I'm always happier when there's someone to root for. I think I'd be happier to support a doomed Feingold campaign too--I have a romantic streak about politics that I probably should've outgrown by now.

Katherine, I wouldn't dare to project motives on you - you're dealing with stuff I can scarcely imagine - but I know that I find myself entertaining the occasional romantic, idealistic streak these days for the simple reason that pragmatism has so blatantly and frequently failed lately. Turns out that pragmatism only works for people who have a lot of clues and sound judgment; in the hands of fools it's at least as bad as most of the alternatives. So envisioning a certain freedom from that seems, well, practical, actually, at least as a leavening in forming my own judgments.

Hi Everyone,
I love reading your comments. They are entertaining and punctuated so well. I am a poor speller who is always in too much of a hurry to use spell check and as far as punctuation, let's not even go there.

The whole thing with this FISA bill is quite simple. Since when did terrorist ever use the phone, email or the USPS to communicate anyway? And what makes anyone think that now that it's all over the place that the government (and apparently the authority has been give to local law enforcement as well) will be spying on all those phone calls and emails - what makes anyone in their right mind assume that the terrorist WILL start using these modern day communication systems - instead of the ole safe and trusted courrier system that they have always used - or so I hear (and so the local authorities nor the government WON'T hear)?

I sent a courrier with a message to my Congressperson and my Senator with only one word to deliver: "THINK" and well - I think they killed the messenger!

@trilobite: I'm talking about leadership positions in the U.S. Congress. No amount of starting now will get any of us (except possibly Katherine ;>) into that situation in our lifetimes.

I've already spent four years doing party work locally; thanks to the smallness of the pond (combined with skills I picked up in bigger ponds), I'm reasonably influential -- with local Dems.

But in my experience legislative and Congressional staffers have far more influence over policy than any party pols except at the very highest levels (state chairs, etc.). Young, driven policy wonks who get involved with campaigns and have politically connected parents, go to the right schools, major in the relevant stuff, and do a couple of helpful internships will end up with much more say over how issues are framed.

Nell, if you ran for Congress, I'd support your candidacy.

Well, the other side proved that local reform eventually trickles up. Too bad their idea of "reform" was "theocracy." But the method works.

And, btw, Thanks! for participating so much. I feel guilty all the time for not doing more. Mostly I throw money at the problem, whenever I can.

Thanks, CC, but no one with my FBI file is electable! ;> Much less in my district, where some of the counties have Republican voting performance in the 70% range -- even in a good year for Dems.

The good news for our CD (VA-6th) is that we have an actual Democratic candidate for 2008(at least one), who announced early and has been working hard for the last nine months. He's pushing single-payer health care. A nice change for a district with a Republican rubber stamp who's been unopposed for three cycles...

John Warner just announced he's not running for reelection, so Virginia politics is going to get even more interesting.

Having someone to vote (and work) for in the Congressional race will be a nice distraction from the utter worthlessness of the leadership. I'm more disgusted than I was after the FISA collapse, just not as surprised and too jaded to be angry: Just read that Harry Reid is caving on Iraq withdrawal, and Schumer/Feinstein and maybe others on Judiciary are making soothing noises about a decent AG nomination taking the steam out of the DoJ and warrantless spying investigations.

On the plus side, John Warner just announced he won't run again and I just got a call that former Gov. Mark Warner will be leading our Dem contingent in the Buena Vista Labor Day parade. Yesssss.....

Nell is right. How many times are we going to see this?

But nobody could have anticipated that the dems would spend the last 6 years proving Nader right. I feel that there are serious systemic problems with our federal government that no one want to address. The needs of the people are not being addressed but corporate interests and the military industiral complex are well taken care of by both parties. Bankruptcy reform, that stupid Iran resolution, wiretapping, habius, iraq funding, "free trade", legalized torture.

That's just a small list of things that have passed with significant bi-partisan support that do not benefit the average citizens of this country. We were lucky to have FDR in the 30s otherwise we would have ended up with President Huey Long. I don't think we'll be so lucky this time.

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