Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why are Democrats So Bad at Math?

Because they think 45 out of 100 is a majority.

David Sirota has an excellent post on the flaws inherent in the Democratic leadership’s “strategy” of refusing to engage Republicans head on. He fears that Democrats in Congress have become “so afraid of their own shadow, so self-absorbed and comfortable in the minority, that they are afraid even to bait the GOP into doing what they should want them to do.” The Republican’s may be the party with a culture of corruption, intones Sirota, but the Democrats, by refusing to counter Republicans on Iraq, National Security, or illegal domestic spying, are quickly cementing themselves in our minds as the party with “a culture of weakness.”

As EJ Dionne of the Washington Post put it, “Democrats are so obsessed with not looking 'weak' on defense that they end up making themselves look weak, period, by the way they respond to Republican attacks on their alleged weakness."

Both Sirota and Dionne believe that the Democrats in Congress are now out of touch with their party’s voters, and not because leaders are too far to the left, but because they are too far to the right. “The party’s rank and file is, on the whole, more dovish than its congressional wing,” say Dionne.

William Greider, writing in the Nation, is also astonished by the Democrats’ ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Greider writes of Russ Feingold, sarcastically calling him “an embarrassment to the US Senate” because he “gets up and says out loud what half the country is thinking.”

Greider is talking about Feingold’s contextually bold move to introduce legislation to censure the president. (I say “contextually,” because saying that the president needs to be held accountable for admittedly breaking laws—specifically ones that require congressional and court oversight of domestic spying—should be a no-brainer, but, based on the reaction of his fellow Senators—Tom Harkin excluded—it seems Feingold is really sticking his neck out.) Greider is astonished by the lack of support for Feingold in a time when Bush’s poll numbers are so low, and he is as disgusted as I am by the sending forth of the “Anonymous Democratic Strategist” (as quoted in the Washington Post) to question the wisdom of Feingold’s move.

When Democratic strategists carp about strategy, when Democratic representatives try to shoot the middle in these polarizing times, they make the debate about the debate and play right into the hands of the Republicans. Feingold’s attempt at censure, whether bound for success or failure, was at the very least a way to keep the administration’s abuse of domestic spying and disregard for the rule of law above the fold after Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee thought they had put the issue to bed with their refusal to allow hearings. We all should be talking about what the president did to cause a senator call for censure, not the political wisdom of Russ Feingold, but with most Democrats failing to show support (or, as in the case of Joe Lieberman, offering an open smack down), the Republican frames of “cheap political trick” and “unpatriotic in a time of war” are allowed to control the narrative.

What can it be that the Democratic “strategists” and electeds are thinking? At a time when Bush’s approval rating is in the low 30’s and even his handling of the war on terror is now considered by most to be unfavorable, how risky would it be to call his crimes illegal? With American’s now saying that the trait they most associate with Bush is “incompetence,” how hard would it be to call his leadership unsound? With Democratic congressional candidates now leading Republicans by 16% in a generic ballot, how hard would it be to be, um, Democrats?

You do the math.


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