Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Where the Democrats go from here

At this point there aren't many people left who are undecided on George Bush or his presidency. If, after all the revelations and the cronyism and the incompetence and the fabrications, a person still supports Bush, then there is nothing more that will change their mind, save for the president performing an abortion in a church before marrying a gay man and moving to France. It's just not going to happen.

The administration has shaved off as many 2nd-tier employees as it could, and hoisted as much blame and guilt on their often willing shoulders as possible. You don't get much higher than removing Donald Rumsfeld from power without instigating a constitutional crisis, and Bush does not have near the small amount of integrity that allowed Nixon to resign, even if Nixon's sole goal was self-preservation.

Bush does not second-guess himself or his decisions, and Rove, Cheney and Rice have no modivation to persuade him to do otherwise. That leaves the fate of the country in the hands of the Legislative branch, which just happens to now be controlled by the Democratic party after what can only be called a historic election, despite often vehement objections of such from supporters of the party recently voted out of power.

Let's face it: conservatism only works as a campaign slogan. Once conservatives get into power their constituents expect them to use the resources of the federal government to help them and their communities. In other words, pork and welfare. While I personally don't mind that some of my tax dollars go to help Americans in other states, I do wish they wouldn't criticize me to my face while taking my money, but hypocrisy has been part of the heart of man as long as any other trait. It's certainly not going to disappear during my lifetime.

The Democrats have two years to sell the current generation of voters on liberalism. Many conservatives disagree with liberalism in principle while greedily utilizing the benefits that liberalism provides in practice. What we must do is get past the spin and create our own; to unite Principle and Practice. Democrats need not change all the minds of the predominately conservative voters. Just enough to continue their status as a congressional majority will do.

Much of the conservatives' pre-election campaigning seemed to consist of the "but the democrats are worse" mantra, especially as the realities of the Bush administration and their congressional republican lackeys permeated the mentality of average voters more and more. It would have been great if it had worked, but in failing to continue the republican majority in congress this "democrats are worse" mantra has actually backfired. It has set the bar for the Democrats so low that all they have to do is go the next two years without setting the building on fire for 2008 to be a successful year for them.

The Democratic party has a chance to act like Democrats. The Bush presidency is basically over, and his stubborness and lack of inflection will make the tough choices Democrats will face all the easier. Democrats can act like Democrats, or the can become Republican-lite. Pandering to the religious vote will yield only modest vote gains. The power of the religious right will fade as the realities of the impossibility of their turning America into God's Kingdom gets buried ever deeper under the weight of Supreme Court rulings. They will never, ever vote for the godless hippies and the time and money spent trying to court them is time and money that could be spent courting moderates.

Democrats might as well go for broke in the 110th Congress. It wasn't just Iraq that gave them the majority. It was cronyism, imcompetence and the sheer narcisism of an administration that told half of America they were traitors for the sin of questioning authority. Any number of items are available for Democrats to focus on that would be both good for America and good for Democrats, not the least of which is New Orleans. Nancy Pelosi's 100 hour plan is great, but she, Reid and the like had better have some ideas for hour 101 or their status as majority leaders will be short-lived.

This nonsense about it not being good for the country or the Democrats if they choose to investigate how we got into Iraq in the first place is just that: nonsense. The William Kristols and Bill Bennetts may not want to focus on those pesky constitutional restrictions that keep America from becoming an Empire and keep Bush from snatching Caesar's crown, but it is vital that this country set out clear guidelines for how it goes to war and how the greatest military in the history of Man is unleashed. If Democrats don't go for the jugular of every republican mis-step and legal ambiguity put forth the past six years the republican machine will pick up right where it left off in 2008, no doubt with St. McCain at the helm.

Democrats might as well spend the next two years being Democrats. They may win in 2008, but they may also lose, and they will be better for having lost pushing legislation and policies they believed in than for having lost tiptoeing over the Beltway norm and trying not to hurt the White House's feelings. No such niceties would granted them if the political roles were reversed. The past six years have proven as much.


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