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December 21, 2007

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I think that if the Dems were only suffering from lack of foresight, they would eventually learn from their mistakes and develop some foresight. The fact that they keep making the same mistake over and over and over and over indicates that there's something else going on here.

I believe we should give serious thought to the Blackmail Hypothesis.

How do you plan for Dick Cheney setting fire to the Vice President's office to destroy evidence of his own criminal activity?

i'm sticking with : they ain't a-fighting cause they be likin the results.

The Republicans are (near) perfectly united and disciplined in large part because there are external factors: money in politics, media that never met a facist they didn't adore, a base thats strongly motivated to take action when they see something they don't like.

With the Democrats all the above factors are working against us. The Republicans are only about as far right as the public will let them get away with. If the Democrats were the width of a human hair more to the left they would be losing campaign contributions, and getting bad press to no good purpose. There isn't any reai reward for making people like us happy.

they ain't a-fighting cause they be likin the results

I get why it seems that way, but I doubt that's right across the board, though there are individual Dems of whom I'm sure that's true (Feinstein for instance).

For most of them, though, why go to all the trouble of being a Democratic politician, if not because you actually want to do progressive things? While I don't want to oversympathize, it really is a tough job -- getting reelected every two years (for many of them), constantly dialing for dollars, frequently being publicly criticized, all for a lower salary than a lot of them could get in the private sector. I know I'd hate the job with every fiber of my being (though being a staffer might be interesting, I'd imagine). So it seems to me only fair to imagine that many of them are doing this unpleasant job for the right reasons, because otherwise they'd be doing something else.

Which isn't to say they're doing it well. Publius's thoughts on strategy seem insightful to me.

I'm with Tom. I think it's both. We need to find those who "be likin" and "be gettin them gone". It's finding the Bush Dog DINOs, exposing them and fighting them.

We may be aided by a complete crumbling of the Repubs singular facade into neo, theo, eco-con pieces, which may scare away those who side with them for cover.

This is an interesting piece, but I think the choices publius presents are not quite accurate.

Compromise occurs when both sides make concessions to find some less than perfect but mutually agreeable middle way.

To my knowledge, no compromise on any important topic has ever been put on the table by Bush. There's only what he expects of Congress, along with a consistent refusal to accede to any form of Congressional oversight.

The choice Congress faces is either to draw a hard line, or to concede to Bush's intransigence. Not compromise, concede.

Given that choice, the only reasonable option I can see is to draw the hard line. You're either going to be an obstructionist or sleevelessly weak, so you might as well go for obstructionist. At least you might win a few.

The Democratic Congress' most amazing achievement, IMO, has been to make Bush's petty, perhaps criminal, truculence seem like strength.

I don't think it's a lack of planning, I just don't think they had the stomach for Bush's particular game. That's not suprising, most folks would rather cooperate if they can. But "cooperate" is not in the Bush MO.

They should have cut him off at the knees, early and often, or gone down swinging.

Thanks -

Re: ‘Cavemen’ aka ‘Another Lesson from 2007’

I’d like for someone to explain to me why our Democratic congress, looking out for the little guy, voted against banning federal farm subsidies to those farmers with incomes of over $750,000 per year. If you believe Bush, he wanted to set the ban at $200,000 per year (I’m not sure he was serious either). Why are waitresses subsidizing multi-millionaire farmers? Why did congress vote against the cutting of government subsidies to people making millions per year? I’m pretty far right, but this is just wrong.

Central America is an interesting political place. There is usually a handful of men who run a country (Mr. Citrus, Mr. Seafood, Mr. Bottler, etc.). There are democratic elections where everybody gets to vote. And whoever wins the election gets to cut a deal with the guys who run the country. I like to call it ‘demoligarchy’ ©. Demoligarchy requires an uninformed electorate.

In 1789, when the Founding Fathers set our ship on its way; around 12% of American citizens were allowed to vote. There were taxation and property requirements to meet. Non-Citizens and 88% of Citizens had no political voice. But those 12% who did get to vote managed to elect leaders that guided this Country to the point where it’s poorest Citizens’ biggest health concern today is obesity.

In my opinion, universal suffrage is leading us to the point where our elected representatives, both Democratic and Republican, are just shadows on the wall of the cave. Just like Central America. Don’t get me wrong, Central America is really nice, if you have money.

I know it's fashionable to blame Bush, the Senate Republicans, and or the Octopus-like grip of corporate America on politics for the failure of the Democratic Congress to do anything of note, but I think it's incorrect to overlook the role that incompetent Democratic leadership plays in the equation. Pelosi and Reid can't even propose meaningless, symbolic legislation without making themselves and their party look bad (the Armenian Genocide condemnation flap) - how are they going to adopt and enforce a party wide legislative strategy?

If I were the Democrats, I'd focus on battles where the public is completely on their side for now - for example, raising the minimum wage. No Dem, not even the blue dogs, are going to be vulnerable to Republican attacks if they vote for that. As far as the Iraq War goes, I'd like to see it ended as much as anybody, but it ain't gonna happen while Bush is still in office and setting the strategic agenda, and failing to "support the troops" by continuing to fund it WOULD be an electoral catastrophe for Dems in conservative-leaning districts. Given that that's the case, I don't understand why the Democrats keep shooting themselves in the foot by grandstanding about de-funding it when they should know that's impossible for the time being. Hang on another 12 months and they won't have a problem if we've got President Obama or Edwards running the show (not sure about Hillary, though.)

I know it's fashionable to blame Bush, the Senate Republicans, and or the Octopus-like grip of corporate America on politics for the failure of the Democratic Congress to do anything of note, but I think it's incorrect to overlook the role that incompetent Democratic leadership plays in the equation. Pelosi and Reid can't even propose meaningless, symbolic legislation without making themselves and their party look bad (the Armenian Genocide condemnation flap) - how are they going to adopt and enforce a party wide legislative strategy?

If I were the Democrats, I'd focus on battles where the public is completely on their side for now - for example, raising the minimum wage. No Dem, not even the blue dogs, are going to be vulnerable to Republican attacks if they vote for that. As far as the Iraq War goes, I'd like to see it ended as much as anybody, but it ain't gonna happen while Bush is still in office and setting the strategic agenda, and failing to "support the troops" by continuing to fund it WOULD be an electoral catastrophe for Dems in conservative-leaning districts. Given that that's the case, I don't understand why the Democrats keep shooting themselves in the foot by grandstanding about de-funding it when they should know that's impossible for the time being. Hang on another 12 months and they won't have a problem if we've got President Obama or Edwards running the show (not sure about Hillary, though.)

Publius: As the year winds down, I would be remiss in not noting that I think you are a great addition as a front-pager here. Obviously we don’t often agree, but you make me think about things, and that is the most important thing. Welcome, and I hope you stick around…

One could regard the inability of the Dems in particular and liberal/left in general to agree upon a strategy as a feature rather than a bug. I agree completely that I wish they would get their s**t together, especially now, but I tend to think that a left/liberal worldview *generally* invokes a bottom up notion of power relationships, and the necessary result of viewing relationships like that is a certain lack of focus.

Finally, just to echo OCSteve's compliment, kudos for all your work here.

Being prepared means planning for contingencies -- even for horrible contingencies. The thing that worries me most about the Democrats in general, and the Democratic presidential candidates in particular, is their apparent lack of planning for the worst possible contingency: "the next 9/11".

Anyone who thinks we have invaded enough countries, tortured enough suspects, tapped enough phones, and hassled enough airline passengers to prevent "the next 9/11" is unfit to be President of the United States. Therefore, anyone who IS fit to be president must have a contingency plan for responding to "the next 9/11". In particular, any serious Democratic candidate for president ought to be prepared, now, to handle "the next 9/11" if it happens before the election.

The Republicans have it easy: if "the next 9/11" happens before the election (i.e. on Dubya's watch, again) they will proclaim that brave, steely-eyed Dubya's only fault was that he did NOT invade enough countries, torture enough suspects, tap enough phones, or hassle enough fliers. Rudy McRomney will assure us that they will rectify this shortcoming. Huckabee may promise, in addition, to pray harder to Jesus. Politically, the Republicans are ready if "the next 9/11" comes to pass in the next year.

Now, what about the Democrats? You'd think they could make the obvious response: all that invading, torturing, phone-tapping, and airport hassling DID NOT WORK, did it? But that's a logical argument. You can't get anywhere with logical arguments AFTER a nation goes, justifiably, nuts. So you have to make the logical argument NOW. You have to get the GOPers to declare, today, whether they believe "the next 9/11" will require more invading, torturing, tapping and hassling. Make them nail their colors to the mast now, while the country is marginally sane enough to grasp the absurdity of the GOP line.

It worries me that none of the Democratic candidates is making this point. It's almost as if they think we really ARE safer from al Qaida now than we were on 10 September 2001.

The risk, of course, is that the American electorate is NOT sane enough to handle talk of "the next 9/11", even today. But if that's true, then the Democrats are good and fucked already, and planning ahead is beside the point.

-- TP

"If I were the Democrats, I'd focus on battles where the public is completely on their side for now - for example, raising the minimum wage."

The minimum wage was raised back in May.

Good post, publius. Merry Xmas.

Some pure speculation follows:

I think the problem is ultimately due to gerrymandering. Which, given the last Supreme Court decision on the subject, means there's no solution until a much bigger crisis hits and makes the public pay attention. Simply put, most incumbents will not pay a price for doing nothing much. Sure, a few Dems get voted out because the party as a whole looks ineffective, but that's pretty random and arbitrary -- you're a lot more likely to lose by looking soft on crime/terrorism/gays, and that's still not much. Our incumbency rate is better than Soviet Russia's because we are so good at gerrymandering (and because our electorate does not pay much attention).

So, vote by vote, case by case, incumbents learn to sit back and not push hard. They can't do very much anyway until they build up seniority, and by then they and their staff internalize the timidity of the leadership. The only downside to not getting much done is that they don't get much done. And even that never really hits home, because they get lots done, it's just that very little of it makes a big change. It's probably very easy to get lost in the minutiae, even for a politician who started out as a devoted progressive. I'm sure most of them feel like they're fighting important battles when really they're just rearranging the deck chairs.

By the time they have enough seniority to matter, they've settled into the routine: they run full-time for reelection, reflexively avoid unsafe fights, and bury themselves in trivia. And they probably feel good about themselves because they're not using the same tactics the Republicans across the aisle are to get re-elected.

So, why work so hard at strategy, why pull together? Their jobs are pretty safe, they feel busy and virtuous, and nothing much is going to change anyway. Right?

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