Accept The Fact That Consultants Don't Want A Replay Of 2002
There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth in the center-left blogosphere of late about the perceived timidity of Beltway Democrats in taking principled stands against Bush and the GOP in another election year. But this has been accompanied recently by a sustained attack from the corporate media and now the right wing blogs and punditocracy against the center-left blogs, by branding us as angry extremists that the Democratic Party needs to stay away from. There is a method to the GOP’s madness here, in that the GOP is trying to marginalize the center-left blogosphere and separate the power of the netroots from the usual crew of risk adverse Beltway Democrats, and it is working.
Digby had a post today reaffirming what many of us have been hearing for weeks: the Beltway Democratic consultants and strategists have convinced Senate and House Democrats not to make a principled stand against the White House on the NSA spying issue, because the GOP would use this to make the Democrats look weak on national security. Digby’s point was that the reason why voters haven’t thrown more support to Democrats is because of precisely a situation like this: voters have no idea what the hell the party stands for anymore, and would rather see us take a stand on a clear cut issue of constitutional liberties and executive branch oversight and lose, than roll over and say “me too, Mr. President” once again. Digby of course is correct, and this mirrors what we have been saying for several years here as well. But even though Digby is correct, we are deluding ourselves that any of this will happen anytime soon.
Simply put, Senate and House Democrats have decided, based on the advice of the consultants, not to have any replays of 2002. If there is any issue of national security this year, other than Iraq, that is a 50-50 issue where Democrats can risk any losses by taking a stand, then the lesson the consultants have taken from 2002 is that it is better for the party to not let Bush move to their right. The consultants apparently have convinced the Capitol Hill leadership that it was too risky for Democrats to mount an all-out offensive on the NSA spying issue if the polling numbers were no better than 50-50 and if there was any chance at all that Rove would succeed at doing what he clearly said he was planning to do this year: ram national security down our throats this fall. So as a result, there will be no frontal challenge to Bush on the NSA issue this year because the Capitol Hill leadership has decided to play it safe and try and gain parity this fall in both houses by running a cautious and yes, conservative campaign that doesn’t get caught flat-footed on national security again like they did in 2002. I’m not saying its right, and I’m not condoning this, but it is now clear to me what game is afoot between now and November.
Republicans are worried that the center-left blogs, having demonstrated recent successes in beating up the media, and pressuring the Senate Democrats to stick together on Alito and the House Democrats on the budget vote, would have pushed the caucuses into a frontal challenge against the White House during the summer that would have damaged the GOP’s chances to hold both houses this fall. So the quickest way to deal with that threat was to use its media allies and the compliant members on the Hill to adopt and spread the “crazy bloggers” theme in an effort to marginalize the netroots and push the Capitol Hill types away from the blogosphere and back into the warm and potentially lethal embrace of DLC “Me-To-ism”. Throw in a dose of Paul Hackett’s overreaction and mistake in Ohio, and the overreaction of some in the blogosphere to what went down there, and now you have real anger and real marginalization within our ranks.
Let it go. Waging war on our own Senators and representatives between now and November is just what the GOP wants. Sure, we feel the Democrats are potentially making another big mistake this year by not challenging the GOP and White House, but the decision has been made and the consultants have gained the ear of the leadership once again to play it safe and hope the six-year itch will turn out the GOP through a cautious campaign based on “culture of corruption” and “we’re not a rubber stamp.” Will it work?
It might, if the Democrats stick to Bush on national security at least through November, taking away Karl’s club. But to ensure that it will work, Democrats need to show voters that not only are we a safe and steady hand on national security, and not only is electing more Democrats better for oversight and accountability, but doing so is also better to address real problems in this country that are not being addressed after six years of GOP one-party negligence and neglect. Would I prefer that we already have our own well-developed and easy to understand principles on national and economic security, civil liberties and constitutional rights, and a forward-looking agenda? Sure, but we don’t, due to a combination of being out of power and not having a platform to push through the corporate media filter that assists the GOP. This won’t happen until the party pulls into parity this fall.
It would help a great deal if the Democrats on the Hill, now that they have been convinced to check their balls at the door by the consultants on national security this fall, decided to show voters how we are different on a couple of eye-opener issues where the GOP cannot compete. May I suggest that the party push universal health coverage (not single payer), and in answer to the culture of corruption, the public funding of congressional campaigns? Let the GOP attack both of those ideas this year, so that we can shift the argument on these two issues onto turf more favorable to us while we act like we are joined at the hip with Bush when it comes to monitoring Al Qaeda.
We might even get the chance to remind folks that unlike Bush, we would actually find Osama, Zarqawi, and al-Zawahiri, and kill them.