Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are the Democrats Trying to Lose?

From what they're doing, it would certainly appear so. Michael Tomasky comments on the party's idiotic decision not to vote on a middle class tax cut in advance of the election. He quotes a "senior Senate Democratic Aide" as arguing that it's a winning argument for the Democrats, "why muddy it up with a failed vote" based upon an expected Republican filibuster?
I suppose that aide could be right. But what he or she doesn't understand is that not having a vote just looks like surrender. It's not fighting for anything. Because everyone watching this debate understands that a vote after the elections is guaranteed to extend all the cuts and really embarrass Obama, because he's going to be put in a position of vetoing cuts for the middle class or signing a bill including all cuts, and he's obviously going to have to do the latter. It's short-sighted. It's selfish. It's weak. It's pathetic. And it's all too typical. Shall I go on?
All of that applies - selfish, weak, pathetic, typical. But I'm more cynical about this than Mr. Tomasky. I suspect that the real reason the Senate doesn't want the vote is because they fear that they actually might get one or two Republicans to vote for tax relief - and that they will be countered by having Senators like Joe Lieberman join the remaining Republicans in a filibuster. Yes, I know that when put on the spot Joe backed off of his prior suggestion that he would join a filibuster, but I can see him helping Republicans block or delay the vote, and I can see him breaking his word. And he's not the only unfaithful member of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

It sounds a lot better to offer excuses that make you seem selfish, weak, and pathetic, than to have to explain on the eve of an election why members of your own caucus blocked a tax bill that would otherwise have passed.

Seriously, Bill Clinton had to remind the Democratic Party that it should offer some ideas - a plan for what it might do in the upcoming term that will benefit the voting public. What are the party's ideas for improving the economy? Generating jobs? Anything? It's not enough to respond, "But the Republicans have no ideas". When people aren't happy with the status quo you don't need ideas as the opposition, because you'll naturally get the protest vote.

But there's not one single idea the Democrats can advance in anything but the cloudiest of terms without at least one of its Senators declaring, "No, I can't support that." This is more than a "big tent" problem - it's a problem of being beholden to special interests. The same thing is true in the House, but there it matters less because bills pass on a majority vote. In the Senate, a promised agenda can by stymied by a single Senator. Maybe the dissenters can be convinced to keep their mouths shut until after the election, although I doubt it. But what happens in the next election if every single item on the offered plan has been stymied with the active complicity of Democrats?

Tomasky appropriately comments,
It's just so incredibly lame. I'm close to thinking let 'em lose, serves 'em right. Then I see the Bedlam inmates running on the other side and I remember the stakes. But honestly.
Frankly, for the past two years we've seen the Democrats act like a party that wants to lose. (The problem extends beyond two years, but it's been manifest since President Obama took office and various Democrats have engaged in the systematic undermining of his agenda.) They're not acting like a party that's fit to govern. Tomasky motivates himself by contemplating what the Republicans might do with a legislative majority, but the enthusiasm gap can be explained in no small part by the fact that most voters are neither as attuned to the issues or as partisan as Tomasky. They see an ineffective Congress that is not willing to commit to anything, and... who wants to vote for that?

Update: Can I find a voice anywhere, excluding Democratic politicians and their employees, who believes this is a good idea for the Democratic Party? The operative word among the party's supporters seems to be "idiocy".

Update II: All this and the continued taxpayer financing of worthless degrees from crappy for-profit colleges?

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