Why Democrats Make Me Crazy

One of the few points that Right and Left agree on these days is that the Democratic Party is seriously screwed up. We disagree as to how and why it is screwed up, yes. But even the party’s most loyal supporters can be driven to despair by what passes for Dem Party leadership.

Robert Kuttner’s opinion piece in today’s Boston Globe illustrates a part of the problem. Kuttner quotes Harry Reid singing the praises of Senator Russ Feingold:

”An example of how people really appreciate your standing up for what you believe is Russ Feingold, the only person [in the Senate] to vote against the Patriot Act — the only person. The Republicans in 2004 spent tons of money going after him on that one issue, and it didn’t matter because people believed that Russ Feingold did it because he thought it was the right thing to do.”

How nice. But, Kuttner writes,

Now, the Patriot Act is about to be extended, with only the most trivial sops to civil liberties. And guess who is all alone, yet again?

Senator Russ Feingold.

When Democrats agreed to support an extension making only superficial changes, Feingold vowed to filibuster. On Thursday, the Senate voted to end debate. Exactly two other senators voted with Feingold. One was octogenarian Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who carries a copy of the Constitution around in his pocket. The other was the flinty former Republican Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the Senate’s lone independent.

Reid, who so admires Feingold’s courage, left Feingold all alone yet again.

This reminds me of what the Dems did with Congressman Jack Murtha. Murtha had the courage to stand up and present an alternative to the Bushie “stay the course” Iraq policy. Once the inevitable personal smears of Murtha, including slanders of his service record, picked up steam on the Right, it seems to me most Democrats retreated behind cover and left Murtha alone and exposed. This in spite of the fact that Murtha’s proposal polled well, as Chris Bowers explained at MyDD last month. Chris wrote,

People want to hear alternatives on Iraq, and they like what Murtha has proposed. Republicans would rather slander a veteran. If only we had an administration in charge of this country that was willing to listen to strong, pragmatic, and popular approaches to policy, rather than one that is hellbent on theory, ideology, and national division. If only we had a Democratic opposition that was willing to support strong, pragmatic, and popular ideas on troop deployment in Iraq when those ideas arise from within their own ranks. Right now, I don’t think we have either.

I’ve written before that the Dems in Washington are so snakebit by the VRWC that they won’t stand up for progressive policy proposals even when polls show strong popular support for those proposals. Makes me crazy, I tell you.

Feingold didn’t pay a political price for voting against the Patriot Act. “Indeed, last year, when John Kerry carried Wisconsin by a bare 12,000 votes, Feingold sailed to reelection by more than 330,000 votes,” Kuttner says.

So what are the Dems afraid of?

Kuttner continues,

What better moment to reign in Bush’s extra-constitutional power-grab than when the Patriot Act is up for review? But, no. That might seem ”un-Patriotic” (get it?). As Feingold declared,”If Democrats aren’t going to stand up to an executive who disdains the other branches of government and doesn’t worry about trampling on the rights of innocent Americans, what do we stand for?”

Good question. As Harry Reid correctly observes, Bush can wave the bloody shirt of 9/11 all he wants; voters don’t punish legislators such as Feingold who stand up for principle. One such principle, surely, is that this nation must remain a constitutional democracy. That notion is also good politics. It has been since 1789.

Feingold’s courage needs to be honored, not by celebrating him as a brave loner, but by following his leadership. Legislators of both parties need to preserve our liberties, despite ominous claims of permanent war and unchecked power. If not, God save the Republic.

I think a large part of the Dems’ problem is that too many influential Dems — Hillary Clinton comes to mind — won’t lead, won’t follow, and won’t get out of the way.

If you google for “what’s wrong with democrats” you are treated to a wealth of opinions. The answer is economic populism, says one. Or they need to have vision. They need think tanks like the righties’ think tanks. They need to pay attention to the base. They need to ignore the base. Whatever.

I’m thinking that Step One might be to learn to watch each others’ backs. Until they learn to do that, I’m not sure “vision” will help them much.

See also: Michael Grunwald, “In Defense of Finger-Pointing

21 thoughts on “Why Democrats Make Me Crazy

  1. “Won’t lead, won’t follow, and won’t get out of the way.” You have hit the nail on the head. The reluctance that dems have for “watching each other’s back” is something painful to watch.

    I thought I was hearing things on my news radio this morning. I thought the announcer said that Rumsfeld said we were losing the war to the terrorists. What! I thought? He’s actually admitting it? But no, I misheard. We’re losing the war on propaganda.

    Watch out Feingold.

  2. It’s the old if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.
    The US is now falling for the image of a old geezer with a shotgun- the new manliness. Why the US is so afraid of boys on trains with backpacks? I do not know. We now will have an SS that operate anywhere and throw people in jail w/o charges. Does anyone know if the new patriot act has a sunset date?

  3. Another part of the problem is the “gotcha” style of many MSM pundits. They do not take the time to fact check, they just make snarky judgments about how Dems behave.They are plain lazy. (And I probably do that too, at times, because it is easier and quicker). The public has become so oblivious to journalists setting a standard that has little to do with content and much to do with form.
    You are correct that behaving in concert would help. Dems have enough trouble just being in the minority. They need the help and support of everyone who cares deeply that things change. There is so much wrong that it is easy to stray off message, to be anxious about being wrongly savaged in the press, etc. They are human, after all.

  4. The Democratic machine elders seem to enjoy their permanent status as the “Alan Colmes” loyal opposition. The only thing that will upset that co-dependent apple cart is if a viable progressive third party starts to catch on. I mean really catch on. Just fantasize for a moment what would happen if Jeffords, Murtha, and Feingold went for a third party with gusto. Reid, Clinton and Colmes would just wet their pants.

    Sure, this would probably spell electoral defeat for the next few cycles, but with the milquetoast democratic enablers currently at the helm that will happen anyway. At least there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Go Bull Moose! Go Green! Go None-of-the-Above! Just GO!

  5. Dear Maha: I agree. In my experience, most Americans are not ideological. Their political thoughts work on a more linear plane. When Domocrats don’t stand up for each other, they naturally figure there’s no chance they’ll stand up for them.

  6. I think you have to be Practical to win in politics. You need to choose your fights carefully. It’s not easy to be against the Patriot Act or citizen/terrorist surveillance for that matter.

    The goal now is doing well in November 2006, not 2008.
    There are probably no more than 50 contestable races. The Democrats need to concentrate on the races they can win.

    Regarding high moral principles, the American electorate IS what it IS. frankly, the key swing voters area very fickle bunch and easily swayed by Karl Rove. We need to deal with his arguments.

  7. whatever. the dems have been at this long enough to know better.
    i’m not buying that unorganized, spinless excuse anymore. there is something else at work here. these people are not stupid. they got elected didn’t they? your telling me that once in office they all took stupid pills?

    they know the game, they know thier role. it’s a shell game and the hapless mark is always you and me. if that’s not your assumption then it ought to be because the alternative is to keep siting around and wait for the dems to get thier shit together.

    it ain’t gonna happen.

  8. spearNmagicHelmet is right, the Dems in Congress got themselves elected, but I’m wondering about the money, not the (alleged) smarts. Where do their loyalties lie? I would bet it’s with the bigtime contributors. No different from the Repugs.

  9. Where do their loyalties lie? I would bet it’s with the bigtime contributors. No different from the Repugs.

    Yeah, that’s the trap they’re in. They need the big bucks contributors to run elections, but then the big bucks contributors own them and they don’t serve the needs of the people.

  10. I’m at a loss to figure it out. It’s disgraceful how the democrats bend over for the administration. I can only assume that I’m missing something in the big picture. Was the Invasion of Iraq a deceit against the American people? I can’t understand how it’s possible to proceed until that question is settled in an open forum. How can the democrats overlook that question without becoming complicit in the deception. I see most democrats acting like a prison bitch for Bush administration.

  11. “these people are not stupid. they got elected didn’t they? your telling me that once in office they all took stupid pills?”

    Well, Dubya got himself elected (allegedly) and nobody had to hand out stupid pills to him.

  12. The Republicans present simple for/against arguments to the American people. They are against abortion, for national security, against crime, for family values, etc., etc.

    Any thinking person knows that all these concepts are much more fluid and nuanced than the way in which the Republican party presents them.

    To have an abortion is a sad decision, but one that many women make and are relieved to make. Better sex education and birth control availability would help a lot but that would seem anti-“family values”, so the Democrats are afraid to stand up and be counted on freedom of choice.

    National security is of paramount importance but the war in Iraq has made things much worse, not only in Iraq, but throughout the world. However, saying that the war was a terrible mistake smacks of “spinelessness” so the Democrats can’t take an intelligent stand against one of the stupidest military decisions made in recent history.

    Everyone’s against crime, but throwing people in jail without any rehabilitation programs and not funding youth programs that would give young people a chance to live productive lives rather than joining gangs are expensive, long-term projects that don’t yield fast “results”. If you’re against concepts like “three strikes you’re out”, you’re “soft on crime”, so once again the Dems don’t seem to be able to do anything but follow the Republican lead.

    A significant chunk of the population believes that “family values” preclude the eminently sensible idea of sex education and decent, readily available birth control. If such programs were funded and expanded, the U.S. would be overrun by raging gays, invading city halls and demanding marriage certificates or lazy welfare mothers demanding bigger cheques as their bellies grow. Or so says the Right and the Democrats say nothing because they don’t want to be branded anti-family.

    As long as the Democrats fear their shadows and fear standing up for anything that the religious right and the economic right abhor, they can only meekly follow the Republican lead. I don’t know whether the Democrats could garner a majority by standing up for what they believe, but I don’t think there is any other choice for them. The fact that Russ Feingold speaks his mind honestly (unlike the mealy-mouthed Hillary Clinton) and succeeds in being re-elected with large majorities should stand as a lesson for the lily-livered Democratic party.

  13. I think the left needs to stop fearing the right’s smear em and scare em machine. When you think about it, for all the efforts on the right to ruin people, who is most vulnerable now? DeLay, Libby, Rove, Cheney, Robertson’s looking pretty stupid, Ney, Frist, hopefully Bush…need I continue?

  14. I think the we should make the right’s sheep like behavior the issue and be proud of our being as difficult to herd as cats. When the dems start passing out kool-aid I’m leaving.

  15. I understand Reid & Schumer cut Paul Hackett off at the knees.

    I do not know what the national Dems stand for. Who else is there to vote for?

  16. Pingback: The Antipath » Why the Democrats Lose

  17. The Republican base has traded in the Bible for science, with all that implies for reality based decisions.

    Why did angry Moslems fly planes into office towers? God’s angry about lesbians and feminists. New Orleans floods? God’s still angry about those lesbians and feminists. Ariel Sharon has a stroke? God was angry about something else.

    And God chose George Bush. And no lack of 100’s of ton’s of WMD, no amount of torture photos, no hundreds of billions of dollars poured down a rathole called Iraq is going to change their minds about it.

    How do you expect Democrats to be able to compete with that?

    The Republicans have 40% locked in no matter what their candidate does. If photos of Bush and an intern surfaced this evening, tomorrow Fox News would spend the day with analysis of the benefit to national security from having a president who doesn’t have a lot of sexual tension.

  18. After further thought, if one of them is willing to apologize for being shot in the face by The Leader’s right hand man, then just what would it take for him–for any of them–to get angry?

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