December 22, 2007

Democrats – Use your Power

Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership say that impeachment is “off the table”. They say that it would distract them from passing all this great new legislation. Despite almost a year in the majority, they have not gotten much done. They blame Bush for vetoes and Republican Senators for filibustering. Guess what? The Republicans are still in charge of the agenda.

Everybody talks about this mysterious 60 votes needed to pass anything in the Senate “for procedural reasons”. What they mean is that the Democrats allow the Republicans to obstruct any bill they want without a fight. The significance of the 60 votes is that they need that many to force an end to debate.

The filibuster is a proud Senate tradition that allows a determined minority to continue debating an issue endlessly to prevent it from coming to a vote. Jimmy Stewart played a Senator in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” who uses a filibuster to break the power of the political bosses. But he paid a price for it. In order to keep his filibuster going, he had to keep talking day and night. It was tough work.

Democrats don’t explain why they didn’t use the filibuster when they were in the minority and they don’t explain why they give in so easily to filibusters now. After all, they could force the Republicans to actually debate around the clock until they give up in exhaustion. Even if they do win some, this strategy would put Republicans on the defensive and show them up for the obstructionists they are. That doesn’t go over well at the polls. At the very least it would make them pay a price for their behavior. The Republicans didn’t hesitate when the balance of power tipped the other way.

As it is the Bush Administration is bragging about how they are still moving their agenda, while Democrats in Congress get the blame for doing nothing. The press is still buying his spin ( See this AP Story: 2007 is ending on a high note for the president.)
“…What began as a troubling year for Bush, facing a new, energetic Democratic Congress, ended in triumph for the president as frustrated Democrats nursed their losses. Democrats failed in their No. 1 objective to stop the war in Iraq and bowed to Bush and his veto threats on tax policies, energy legislation, children's health insurance and general spending.”
Triumph? You have got to be kidding. Bush is still in disgrace with the voters. Just look at the polls. But the AP is right up there peddling his line. Just take a look at the next paragraph in the same story to see their source for this so called triumph.
“After months of bitter fights, Bush said the year was ending on a high note.”
You have to watch out when the Administration, echoed by Republicans and right wing pundits, spins this hard. The press amplifies the spin so much that it can make you dizzy.

To hear them talk we are winning the (expletive deleted) war in Iraq. We are even starting to bring the troops home, they say. No matter that troop levels are going down a little for now because they were pushed up to a level that the military simply can’t sustain for long. The “surge” was always explained as a temporary increase. Well, its getting to be time for the levels to go back to where they were before the surge. Personally, I’ll be surprised if they get all the way back to the pre-surge level but in any case, nobody is talking about getting out. Don’t worry, we’ll be there for years.

The infamous Move-On “Petraeus Betray Us” ad may have been an easy target for the pro-war crowd but if anybody got past the headline, it did talk about how the Petraeus Report on the war seriously misrepresented the situation. It is this misrepresentation that the Republicans are depending on when they say how great things are in Iraq.

The Republican spin machine has been crowing that the polls show even less support for Congress than for the President. However, what they don’t tell us is that the reason people are mad at Congress is that Congress is not standing up to the President strongly enough. Democratic support has eroded among anti-war voters as it has become clear that Congress is not going to do anything to end the war. And if Congressional Democrats get low marks, Republicans poll even lower.

The Democrats are suffering politically because they are refusing to confront the issues that the voters care about most, the war and impeachment. People don’t just disapprove of the President’s policies, they are hopping mad. With a large majority against the war, Americans just don’t understand why nobody in power will do anything to end it. After all, that is the mandate the voters gave Democrats with their 2006 victory. And they are furious that the Constitution is being shredded in front of their eyes with Congress just sitting there, or even worse, collaborating.

Pelosi’s strategy of ignoring the elephant in the room isn’t working. The Republicans with their mini-filibusters and Bush with his veto have so demoralized the Democrats that they just give in on issue after issue with a whimper.

I truly fear for the Democrats in next year’s election. With Bush dragging down the Republicans it should be a slam dunk. But the Democrats seem to be on the verge of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Left wing voters may just stay home in disgust and the middle of the roaders may decide that at least the Republicans stand for something.

With that prospect, Speaker Pelosi, why not try standing up to Bush for a change? Impeachment hearings could go a long way towards mobilizing the country and putting the President on the defensive.

Give it a try.

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