A Jerking Knee Is No Substitute for a Thinking Brain

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Congress, Democratic Party

This Think Progress post is mildly interesting, but the comments bum me out. Here’s the post:

National Review’s Rich Lowry:“Was talking to an influential Republican strategist who thinks if Iraq looks the way it does now in September, Bush will lose about 25 Senate Republicans on a bill with some sort of timetable for withdrawal.”

Now, if true, which is a big if, that would be grand news. Twenty-five Republican senators is more than enough to make a veto-proof (two thirds) majority in the Senate, even giving away Joe Lieberman. We’ll see.

But the comments worry me — here’s a selection:

Sounds great, but I’m not getting my hopes up again. Even if 25 republicans do switch over, (which I doubt) what is to say the dems won’t just hand him a blank check again?

* * *

As a Democrat, the biggest problem in Washington is the Democrats.

* * *

We can’t even get Democrats to vote for timetables. Why would we think 25 Republicans will?

* * *

Bush has just said he wants a South Korea style presence – superbases and fifty years. What makes anyone think he’ll listen to 25 Republicans?

* * *

Fcuk the Republicans and Fcuk the Democrats. Two hemorrhoids, both part of the same a$$hole.

Some of these comments reflect serious ignorance of the issues. For example, We can’t even get Democrats to vote for timetables is just wrong. An overwhelming majority of Dems did vote for timetables. House Dems voted for the appropriation bill with timetables (H.R. 1591) by 216 to 14. Most of the 14 were from the House Progressive caucus, who voted no because the timetables weren’t strict enough. Senate Dems passed the timetable bill 49-1 (guess who?), with one (the ailing Tim Johnson) absent.

Last week Bob Fertik wrote
,

Unfortunately, there are simply not enough Democrats and Republicans in Congress who are willing to join them in standing up to Bush.

What are the numbers? We know them exactly because the Senate and the House just voted on setting a deadline for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.

  • In the Senate, the Feingold-Reid Amendment was defeated 67-29, with all Republicans voting no along with 20 “Bush Democrats,” while 29 progressive Democrats voted yes.
  • In the House, the McGovern Amendment was defeated 255-171, with all but two Republicans voting no along with 59 “Bush Democrats,” while 169 progressive Democrats voted yes.
  • The Feingold and McGovern amendments both provided that a troop redeployment out of Iraq begin within a set number of days after the passage of the bill. These were tougher than the timetable bill, in other words. In the Senate, 29 out of 51 Democratic senators voted yes. In the House, 169 out of 233 Democrats voted yes. A glorious total of two Republicans in the entire Congress voted yes.

    Yet some twit commenting on Think Progress wrote We can’t even get Democrats to vote for timetables. Unfortunately, I think this notion is common among a large lump of people who passionately hate the war but aren’t paying close attention to what’s actually happening in Washington to end it.

    Further, the concept of overriding a veto seems to elude some people. Bush has just said he wants a South Korea style presence – superbases and fifty years. What makes anyone think he’ll listen to 25 Republicans? If 25 Senate Republicans voted with the Dems, that would be more than enough to override Bush’s veto in the Senate. By law, Bush would have to comply if Congress overrode a veto. If he didn’t — well, that’s never happened before. It could get interesting.

    I agree there’s plenty of reason to criticize the Dems, but it worries me when large numbers of “progressives” develop knee-jerk antipathy toward the Dems. This is not helpful.

    There’s a middle way between mindless boosterism and mindlessly assuming the worst. This middle way has two steps: First, be informed. Second, think.

    I get the impression that some people think it’s “cool” to run down the Dems or to declare that they’re just like Republicans. Certainly, when Dems do something stupid, speak up. But at the same time, give credit where credit is due. How many people out there really don’t understand that the Dems did vote to end the war? How many don’t understand that the timetables didn’t become law because Bush vetoed it, and there aren’t enough Dems to override a veto? Given the way Dems and Republicans voted on the recent appropriation bills, anyone who says the biggest problem in Washington is the Democrats or that the two parties are Two hemorrhoids, both part of the same a$$hole is being a big-time asshole himself. He’s also standing in the way of the only hope we have of enacting real progressive policy sometime in the future.

    Remember: It’s not about our supporting the Democrats; it’s about training the Democrats to support us. We’re not doing that by treating all Dems as the enemy, indistinguishable from the Republicans.

    Sure there are Dems I’d like to replace. Sure there are times they fall short. Sure they need their feet held to fire sometimes. But when we treat them all like the enemy — even the ones who have worked for issues we care about — then we’re training them to keep ignoring us.

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    23 Comments

    1. James  •  May 30, 2007 @10:11 pm

      Agreed; it’s as if the wingnuts are not the only ones among us with critical thiking skill deficits. The details DO matter; and letting a “story” alone dictate attitude is for the losers.

    2. Swami  •  May 31, 2007 @12:53 am

      As an Independent… my only hope is in the Democrats, so you won’t find me being critical. I think it’s strange that I want for the Democrats what I detest in the Republicans…the ability to stand united by surrendering their independence to the party, but if they surrendered their independence of thought they no longer would be Democrats.. they’d be brown shirt Republicans who call themselves Democrats.. sorta like Joe Lieberman..but actually, he’s an Independent political chameleon.

    3. Greg  •  May 31, 2007 @6:41 am

      maha:

      I’m a pretty conservative guy. I’m also a free thinker. I’m also the kind of guy who wants to DO something, as opposed to just blowing off steam. With that in mind, I have an idea that I thought I’d bounce off you. Keep this in mind, I’m serious.

      As I see it, the Democrat establishment is screwing you, and those like you who want to end this war. They are playing you for suckers.

      Also, the Republican establishment is screwing me, and those like me who want to stop illegal immigration. They are playing me and those like me for suckers.

      Since I want to do something that matters and not just blow off steam, and since my side and your side are ignoring us and our concerns, something drastic has to be done in order to get their attention.

      My side wants a border fence and real enforcement of the immigration laws. Your side wants to end the war. If enough of your side’s base and mine can agree to work together on these two objectives and issue a real credible threat that those who are in power won’t address these concerns will be defeated in their next election, then maybe that could be the something that can get their attention.

      Mind you, this includes impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

      The way things are going, nothing is going to change. If you believe otherwise, then you are just kidding yourself.

      Just think about it.

    4. maha  •  May 31, 2007 @8:00 am

      ’m a pretty conservative guy. I’m also a free thinker. I’m also the kind of guy who wants to DO something, as opposed to just blowing off steam. With that in mind, I have an idea that I thought I’d bounce off you. Keep this in mind, I’m serious.

      As I see it, the Democrat establishment is screwing you, and those like you who want to end this war. They are playing you for suckers.

      Of course. “Our side” figured this out a long time ago. That’s where a lot of the rage against the Dems comes from. The party as a whole has not represented liberalism and progressivism for a long time. Democratic politicians make liberal noises in their speeches, but we send Dems to Washington and they turn into Republican Lite. That’s why there’s virtually no support for Hillary Clinton on the leftie blogosphere, for example, because we do not trust her not to sell us out. She’s done it before. You can put Joe Biden in that box, too.

      Also, the Republican establishment is screwing me, and those like me who want to stop illegal immigration. They are playing me and those like me for suckers.

      And they’ve been doing that for years, too. Read Thomas Franks’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? sometime.

      Since I want to do something that matters and not just blow off steam, and since my side and your side are ignoring us and our concerns, something drastic has to be done in order to get their attention.

      You are almost caught up to where I’ve been for a long time. Congratulations.

      My side wants a border fence and real enforcement of the immigration laws. Your side wants to end the war. If enough of your side’s base and mine can agree to work together on these two objectives and issue a real credible threat that those who are in power won’t address these concerns will be defeated in their next election, then maybe that could be the something that can get their attention.

      Mind you, this includes impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

      Before pseudo conservatism came to dominate American politics and turn our governing processes into one big partisan pissing contest, that sort of bipartisan cooperation on specific issues was actually the norm. Interesting that it’s become a radical idea.

      Let me repeat a point I made in the post: It’s not about our supporting the Democrats; it’s about training the Democrats to support us.

      The ultimate goal here is bigger than just ending the war in Iraq. It’s about healing a sick political culture in which even discussing issues in a rational way has become impossible. It’s about restoring the basic republican principles of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It’s about expecting government to perform the basic functions of government.

      Even if we end the war and kick Bush out of office, if the political status quo remains intact we will have failed.

      Most of us liberals are extremely concerned about illegal immigration already, especially in regard to maintaining jobs and wages for citizens. A lot of us are highly suspicious of Bush’s “guest worker program” and think it’s just mostly about importing people who will work cheap. We also share national security concerns about controlling the borders. So you’d think it would be possible for liberals and conservatives to find common ground on this issue. Yet this doesn’t seem to be happening.

      A big reason for this is that we part company on the issue of what to do about illegal immigrants who are already here. Most on the Right seem to want to round them all up and deport them. We on the Left are more inclined to allow for some kind of legal documentation of people already here, especially people who have been here a while and have friends and family who are citizens. We’d rather provide for amnesty than bust up families. I think there’s too much hysterical jingoism and racism on the Right to compromise on this point.

      A bigger reason for this is that righties have got it into their heads that we liberals support illegal immigration, for some unfathomable reason. This has happened because the Republican Party came to dominate American politics mostly by stirring up fear and outrage against the Left. It doesn’t matter that they can’t govern their way out of a wet paper bag; the Right maintains power by jerking its base’s chains.

      The way things are going, nothing is going to change. If you believe otherwise, then you are just kidding yourself.

      Oh, son, stuff always changes, sooner or later. The question is not whether there will be change, but whether that change will be for the better or for the worse. We’re in a fight to save the nation as a functioning representative democracy and see to it that future generations will still enjoy the rights and privileges guaranteed them in our Constitution. That’s the real issue. Iraq and immigration are sub-issues.

      Just think about it.

      I already did. Your turn.

    5. yeranalyst  •  May 31, 2007 @1:49 pm

      Some twit said the Democrats voted 49-1 in favor of time tables, then it was vetoed so they turned around and gave Bush everything he wanted. Deny that twit. It doesn’t take much to fool you does it. You keep the faith baby. I’ll vote Green henceforth.

    6. Batocchio  •  May 31, 2007 @3:13 pm

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I get terribly sick of false equivalencies such as “The Democrats are as bad as the Republicans.” Of course they’re not. I’m disappointed by the recent bill, but there’s no way in hell the Republicans are going to get anything productive done. It’s important to keep the pressure on the Dems, but also to encourage the folks who do vote the right way. It’s similar to dealing with the media. Yes, there are plenty of hacks out there, but there are also some fine reporters, and it’s important to highlight and applaud the good stuff. The knee-jerk “they all suck” mentality plays right into the establishment’s worst stereotypes of the blogosphere, whereas most of the liberal blogosphere in my experience is about active citizenry, keen analysis and intelligent activism.

      As for the bit about why the Republicans think Dems favor illegal immigration… hell, it’s just more routine demonization, which plays well with the Republican base. Dems also love terrorists and hate America, didn’t you get the memo? 😉

    7. pinhead  •  May 31, 2007 @5:48 pm

      as someone who has succumbed to frustration and the whole “they all suck” line it feels good to hear someone say “…they do not!!” for a change. i perhaps may be slightly less pessimistic about the whole thing…but i’m still voting kucinich or gravel! ONLY!

    8. mick  •  May 31, 2007 @6:26 pm

      The Democrats have nobody but themselves to blame for this reaction. It was a set-up.

      *All Harry Reid’s tough talk about if Bush vetoed the bill they’d send him one even more restrictive and then when he does veto it, they fold and give him a blank check.

      *All Pelosi’s tough talk about cleaning up govt and tying the lobbyists in knots and then they kill the bill and we find out the Dems are all on the same gravy train with the Pubs.

      *All the tough talk about making the upcoming trade deals include labor and environmental protections for the first time in a decade (at least) and then the leadership holds secret meetings together followed by secret meetings in the White House and emerge with a secret agreement that, once again, hands Bush a blank check to do what he wants. He turns it over to corporate lobbyists who brag publicly about how they’re writing it and are going to make sure that any labor or trade protections they include – if they deign to include any at all – won’t be enforceable.

      This isn’t knee-jerk. It’s a perfectly rational response to a DLC-controlled Republican-Lite Democratic party that just in the past week – the past week – has sold us down the river three times. And looks ready to do it again on health care.

      So I’m gonna need a much stronger argument than numbers, here. The Dems have some muscle and the majority and still the Pubs are winning. I’m gonna need somebody to explain that to me without reference to their spinelessness before I will give them one more inch.

    9. maha  •  May 31, 2007 @7:20 pm

      The Dems have some muscle and the majority and still the Pubs are winning. I’m gonna need somebody to explain that to me without reference to their spinelessness before I will give them one more inch.

      I’m going to keep repeating this in the dim hope that some of you notice it:

      It’s not about our supporting the Democrats; it’s about training the Democrats to support us.

      This is going to take several elections. The midterms were just a baby step.

      The bottom line is that nothing gets done in Washington outside of party politics, and in U.S. history there has never been a third party competitive on a national level in spite of the fact that people have been struggling to create such a party since the 1830s.

      This means the only reasonable hope we have of enacting progressive policy is to take over one of the existing parties and work our will through them. The Dems seem to be up for grabs.

      There’s plenty of reason to be angry and frustrated with the Dems, but this is not the time to take your ball and go home.

    10. GDAEman  •  May 31, 2007 @8:17 pm

      Jesse Jackson came to the same conclusion, about working within the Democratic Party. It wouldn’t be too hard to take over a local party office; Jim Hightower has advocated this tactic.

      The Democrats have the power to influence Iraq. They’re simply too risk averse to use that power. They could have exercised the No-Legislation Option that Kucinich has suggested. But then they would be blamed for the chaotic outcome, and risk their 2008 cake walk.

      The Democrats are also worried about the Iran factor: Leave a vacuum in Iraq, and Iran will fill it. Bush has created facts on the ground, Maybe he’s dumb, and maybe not.

      Meanwhile, kids are dying and wealth/power is being further consolidated (maybe he’s not). We need to focus on re-distributing that wealth. for doing that. Maybe we can get the Democrats to help.

    11. maha  •  May 31, 2007 @9:35 pm

      GDAEman — I am adamantly opposed to the “no legislation” option also. It is absurd and naive to think a stunt like that would force Bush’s hand to bring the troops home. He’s a sociopath, and he’s not going to order troops home no matter what happens. Without appropriations he’d just move money around from other parts of the budget, which is mostly illegal, but he’s done it before. And this would likely throw the Department of Defense and the military generally into huge disarray. Not good.

      We’re in a hostage situation. The troops are the hostages, and Bush is the hostage taker. As long as this is the case, Congress has to proceed carefully.

      I don’t believe the troops can be brought home as long as Bush is in the White House, frankly, but I would like to see what he’d do if a veto-proof majority of Congress ordered it. I think he’d refuse, and I don’t believe any such thing has ever happened before. It would bring our constitutional crisis to a head.

    12. Greg  •  May 31, 2007 @10:06 pm

      Maha:

      Time doesn’t permit a long discussion. I had a long day today. My regrets.

      I made a suggestion in order to find common ground on a couple of issues. I figured to try it as an experiment in order to see if the idea would grow into something.

      With respect to the immigration issue, it would have to grow very very fast. This bill is being fast tracked. To stop it would require some fast footwork. I realized this and was hoping to make this bill more palatable. Maybe to slow it down too. It’s probably too late to stop it.

      Finally, at the risk to starting an argument, which is something I try to avoid, I’ll say that you really didn’t get the drift of what I was suggesting. You’ll have to think outside the box, but you are not willing to do that. You’ll have to think the unthinkable. Conventional approaches aren’t working. But that’s just my opinion. Like everything else, we probably have a difference of opinion on that.

    13. maha  •  May 31, 2007 @10:40 pm

      I’ll say that you really didn’t get the drift of what I was suggesting. You’ll have to think outside the box, but you are not willing to do that.

      Son, you’re the one who’s still in the box. I climbed out of it a long time ago. I understood what you’re proposing, which isn’t radical at all. The problem is that our current political culture is so poisoned and radical that conventional approaches have not worked for some time. It’s hysterical to me that righties are just now noticing this. Welcome to reality.

      What you propose is what “conventional approaches” used to be. Those days are gone. Long gone. Many years gone. Glad you are finally noticing.

    14. Doug Hughes  •  May 31, 2007 @10:57 pm

      Good Blog. First, You hit it right on the head when you advocate Dems take on the responsibility of being informed and THINK. The midterms did not give the Dems a magic wand, just a bare majority. We took away the rubber stamp that the Congress had for all Bush policies, but in a conflict, all we have is a stale-mate. Bush can & will veto, unless Republicans change side. (Thy are and they will change their stand on Iraq.)

      I have been critical of the Dems, not for ‘selling out’ but for playing politics with the war. Smart politics but VERY cold-blooded. There’s a reason I write. Some heavy-hitters (or associates of) read this blog; I know who Barbara has lunch with – occasionally. They need to know that the GIs in Iraq are not pawns in a game to me; they are family to all Americans. At the current rate of carnage, Bush might squander 1 or 2 THOUSAND more. It’s cheap politcs to prolong the war to make a killing in ’08.

      It’s also possible that a ‘deal’ in Congress will free Republicans to vote their conscience in Sept based on the reports of progress. That’s not a deal between Dems & the WH, it’s my speculation on a deal between the Dems and the GOP in Congress that MAY lay the groundwork for a defection by GOP Senators worried about re-election. In that light, a 4-month delay is reasonable because it could open the floodgates to end the war AND impeachment.

      Since I don’t know what is said behind closed doors, I can only speculate best & worst-case scenarios based on what I DO see. For the moment, it’s foolish to assume the worst (they sold us out) and proper to warn Dems not to adopt the ethics of the administration. And it’s WAY to early to call the outcome; a race may be won or lost in the pits and bloggers are the pit crew.

    15. janinsanfran  •  Jun 1, 2007 @3:07 am

      I’m mad at the Dems because as far as I can see, they won’t fight to end the war. They just play politics as usual. Appropriations have to originate in the House. Don’t originate ’em = no money = equals Bush gets the choice of getting the military massacred or gets out.

      At the very least threaten this. It’s constitutional, which is more than can be said much of the behavior of the Bushies. But no — they whine about needing a veto proof majority — and on Tuesday I listened to Pelosi’s local office director tell me and other peace folks “getting a veto proof majority is up to you.”

      Bush painted a target on our military by announcing we should stay 50 years yesterday. Democratic can put out in a unified, forceful way that if they ever take power the US will hold NO permanent bases, implant NO residual forces. But they won’t. Too many of them think they could have managed the occupation better and won the oil if they’d been in charge.

      And truth be told, I do agree with you -= working on the Dems is our only practical alternative. But I can sure as hell despise them for the worthless opportunists they are while I’m doing it.

    16. NYT  •  Jun 1, 2007 @5:20 am

      Last week the Democrats voted for the war, this week they voted the funds for torture. They are a disgrace.

      From todays NYT
      “WASHINGTON, May 31 — The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday questioned the continuing value of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret interrogation program for terrorism suspects, suggesting that international condemnation and the obstacles it has created to criminal prosecution may outweigh its worth in gathering information.

      The committee rejected by one vote a Democratic proposal that would essentially have cut money for the program by banning harsh interrogation techniques except in dire emergencies, a committee report revealed.

      But the committee stopped short of using its budget authority to shut down the program. In a closed session on May 23, two Democrats, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dianne Feinstein of California, proposed barring spending on interrogation techniques that go beyond the Army Field Manual, which bans physical pressure or pain. Under their proposal, the only exception would have been when the president determined “that an individual has information about a specific and imminent threat.”

      The amendment failed when Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, joined all the Republicans in voting no.”

      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/01/washington/01intel.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1180689403-DcHZBhkqjgqB6C4p5+YKPg

    17. maha  •  Jun 1, 2007 @5:41 am

      Don’t originate ‘em = no money = equals Bush gets the choice of getting the military massacred or gets out.

      I’m getting really tired of explaining why this is a stupid idea. Perhaps if you’d care to contemplate the sentence above you’d see the flaw in your “logic” without my having to explain it to you.

    18. maha  •  Jun 1, 2007 @5:50 am

      NYT — Your sloppy thinking is going to ensure the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy rules America forever. First you say “The Democrats” voted to fund torture. Then you say “Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, joined all the Republicans [on a committee] in voting no” to an amendment that would have banned torture.

      Think. THINK, sir. “The Democrats” did not vote no. ONE Democrat and a bunch of Republicans voted no. “The Democrats,” in fact, voted yes, save one. Why is your wrath aimed at “The Democrats” and not “Bill Nelson” and “the Republicans”?

      I’ve been stunned at how much stupid I’ve been seeing on the Left lately.

    19. NYT  •  Jun 1, 2007 @6:05 am

      Maha,
      First thing I’m not of the left. I just happen to believe the Geneva Conventions have proven to be a good thing over the years. And since this is a treaty that the US has ratified then it ought to abide by it.

      Secondly, I think in this case anger at the Congressional Democrats is justified and correct and not just at Bill Nelson. Why? Because he will face no sanctions from his colleagues over his actions, no opprobrium for enabling torture.

      Imagine if a Democratic Senator denied the holocaust or made a racist remark and refused to apologize. Would there be the mute reaction that Sen. Nelson got from the Democrats?

      Do you think that enabling torture and an illegal war is less wrong than racist remarks?
      So if its ok to be a Democrat but be for or against the war, or be for or against torture then what do they stand for?
      They’ve been given a mandate in both houses and after six months what have they got to show for it after six years of a rogue administration? A change in the minimum wage? That’s their core value? Thats it?

    20. Greg  •  Jun 1, 2007 @6:25 am

      Maha:

      Again, time does not permit me to answer this and do it justice. Or perhaps that’s just an excuse, eh? Whatever.

      I’ve to got to do this fast, because I have got to go to work to pay some bills.

      To make it short and sweet, I’m sure you have forgotten more about politics than I know. I’m an amateiur. So, maybe I got into it over my head by saying you don’t get it. Well, I stand corrected. I’m sure you do.

      Secondly, hearkening back to the “Good ol’ days” has a nice conservative ring to it. Real good appeal to a conservative guy like me. I can certainly relate to a few things that I think that have gone badly wrong over the years. I may be an amateur, but I wasn’t born yesterday.

      Nice chattng with ya. See ya round.

    21. maha  •  Jun 1, 2007 @7:11 am

      Because he will face no sanctions from his colleagues over his actions, no opprobrium for enabling torture.

      Representative democratic government is not supposed to work that way. The only people who are authorized to “sanction” Bill Nelson are his constituents.

      So if its ok to be a Democrat but be for or against the war, or be for or against torture then what do they stand for?

      That does seem to be up for grabs,doesn’t it? But remember,

      It’s not about our supporting the Democrats; it’s about training the Democrats to support us.

      If you thought one midterm election would solve the problem of Dems as Republican Lite, you were naive, and your expectations were unrealistic. One midterm election is a baby step. It’s going to take several elections before we clarify in Dems’ minds what they stand for.

    22. NYT  •  Jun 1, 2007 @7:28 am

      Maha,
      Firstly I think you are incorrect that there are no sanctions that Democrats could apply. Sen. Nelson may be in the Senate due to representative democracy but he is not on this Committee because of that. In addition, there are I’m sure fundraising could be a lot more difficult for Sen Nelson, should the other Democrats choose to make it so. Do you really think the Republicans vote in lockstep for purely philosophical reasons.

      I understand your position but I do not agree with it. In the first place this has been a very radical government which has trashed the rule of law, human rights, the role of Congress in government etc. If these are not immediately repudiated they become practise. In this you must move fast if you want to rescue what the U.S. used to stand for. If not, I think the U.S.may end up like the Philippines, which has American political structures but not a true democracy.

      In the second place it is unusual to win both houses as the Democrats did. If you do not use it to advance your agenda then you are likely to lose it.

    23. maha  •  Jun 1, 2007 @9:58 am

      In addition, there are I’m sure fundraising could be a lot more difficult for Sen Nelson, should the other Democrats choose to make it so.

      Oh, absolutely right, the party should not hesitate to back a new candidate in the primaries whenever a problematic senator is up for re-election. That’s the reason a lot of us backed Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman last year, and right now I bet a lot of Dems in Washington are wishing they had listened to us.

      But by “sanctions” you seemed to mean that the other Dems on the committee should have hauled Nelson out into the cloakroom and applied “secret interrogation” methods to force him to change his vote. And I’m saying no one should force any member of congress to change his vote, or punish him (outside of the election process) because of how he voted, no matter how heinous that vote might be. They can try to reason with him or bargain with him or even threaten to withhold support in the next election (which is not something that would be done in public, so we don’t know that didn’t happen). But they can’t force him to change his vote. If they could, that’s what we call “tyranny.”

      Then you say,

      Do you really think the Republicans vote in lockstep for purely philosophical reasons.

      and

      I think the U.S.may end up like the Philippines, which has American political structures but not a true democracy.

      The Republicans’ voting in lockstep has a lot to do with why we’re already not a true democracy any more. The ultimate goal is to restore democratic government to America. Ending the war in Iraq is a sub-goal.

      We cannot restore democratic government using tyrannical means. That makes as much sense as spreading peace through waging war. Like it or not, it is enormously important to apply lawful and constitutional political processes to our problem, even though those processes are slow and often frustrating, because the ultimate goal is to restore the integrity of those processes.

      In the second place it is unusual to win both houses as the Democrats did. If you do not use it to advance your agenda then you are likely to lose it.

      I’ve made the same point many times. They’ve got to do a better job of pushing back at Bush this year or risk losing ground back to Republicans next year. There’s no question about that.

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