The Summer of Discontent
In the last two months, the Democratic leadership in Congress dramatically let down their supporters and the majority of the American public through their egregious and inexcusable actions on the abominable warrantless wiretapping (FISA) bill and by caving on Iraq to Bush and his extremist, serial-filibustering, rubber-stamping Republican minority. They caved despite the fact that the GOP lost Election 2006 resoundingly on the topic of Iraq and despite the GOP's attempts to paint Democrats as "soft on terror" on the topic of legalizing Bush's criminality (FISA violations). Not surprisingly, therefore, approval of Congress has plummeted - largely because Democratic voters - and arguably like-minded Independents - are very unhappy that Congressional Democrats caved to Bush and the GOP rather than standing for change and accountability. Further, a lot of progressives - especially on the web - are justifiably angry at Harry Reid (notwithstanding the remarkable Senate Democratic unity he has otherwise brought as Majority Leader) and Nancy Pelosi and at the seemingly perpetually afraid minority of Democrats in the House - nowadays known as the Bush Dogs.
Here is my view on all of this. Some positive change has been engineered by the Democratic Congress but lasting change takes time and effort. Even though the majority of the American public and Democratic politicians have become more progressive since 2006, there is a minority in the Democratic party that is regrettably misguided and is resisting needed change partly because of the corrupt anti-progressive elite that unfortunately guide their decisions and partly because of their fear of the GOP machine. This minority is giving the majority a bad rap. In other words, I do believe that the majority of Democrats in Congress are generally delivering on their promises to the people but we need to reach out to and seek to change the minority that are not. It will obviously take a lot of hard work and sustained focus to keep the progressive transformation of the Democratic party going. How do we end the "culture of caution" amongst this Democratic minority? Former Clinton administration official and progressive Mike Lux has some interesting thoughts on this at Open Left, but in the short term, you can help by participating in Open Left's Bush Dogs campaign (more here) to profile these Democrats, maybe reach out to them and keep them accountable to their constituents who elected them to bring about major changes.
If the Democratic minority and the Democratic leadership team continue caving to the GOP and Bush repeatedly, it is more than likely that the public approval of Democrats will not recover meaningfully. But this is not just a matter of opinion polls. The future of the Democratic party and its ability to make a lasting positive impression on the broader public is in their hands. We are indeed at a historical moment today - a moment in which they can act to dramatically change the American public's view of the Democratic party in a very positive way perhaps for a generation to come. I say that because majorities of Democrats and Independents still have hopes (but not as much patience) that Democrats will eventually deliver promised change. Despite their deep unhappiness with the Democratic Congress, they are still investing their support in Democrats - with the expectation that they will deliver sooner rather than later. Why do I say that? Well, because:
- The percentage of voters who directly identify as Democrats or lean Democratic continues to be strong and at historically high levels (even as more voters are classifying themselves as Independents rather than as Democrats or Republicans)
- More voters continue to trust Democrats over Republicans on virtually every important issue
- The fairly credible Democracy Corps reported earlier this month from their battleground polls that:
The gridlock and partisan battles in Washington are hurting the Republicans, with no evidence here of lost prospective support for Democrats. Republicans own the mess in Washington as voters in both Democratic and Republican-held districts blame the President and Republicans more than the Democrats for the gridlock in Washington - by 19 and 13 points respectively. And this has electoral consequences. By 52 to 38 percent, voters in these battleground districts say the gridlock in Washington makes them want to see more Democrats elected to the Congress. That same dynamic is at work even in the Republican-held seats. [emphasis mine]
More Democracy Corps findings on the large Democratic advantage in Presidential and Congressional races here. Even Rasmussen says the Dems continue to have a 10-point advantage over Republicans in the generic Congressional ballot.
- Democratic Congressional Committees continue to resoundingly beat their Republican counterparts in fundraising and unprecedentedly, the DCCC+DSCC+DNC together have a net cash position (cash - debt) of ~$36M v. the NRCC+NRSC+RNC's ~$20M. More on the record-breaking Democratic Congressional fundraising here.
- Democratic candidates for President have massively outraised their Republican counterparts in the first half of 2007. According to Open Secrets, Democrats raised approximately $178M to the Republicans approx. $118M and Democrats had ~$111M cash on hand (CoH) (& ~$4.5M debt) as of end-Q2 compared to ~$38M (& ~ 11M debt) in the case of Republicans. In fact, Hillary Clinton alone had more CoH overall than all Republicans combined and Barack Obama had almost as much CoH as all the Republicans combined.
- At a time when Bush's fund-raising prowess has declined rather noticeably, Hillary Clinton raised more money in Arkansas (a solid red state where she has a great favorability rating) in a single day than former Arkansas Governor and GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has been able to raise in Arkansas in 6 months (Jan-June).
- Republican House retirements seem to be rising at a time when Democratic freshmen are significantly outraising Republican freshmen (data)
- Republican efforts to enlist top-rated contenders to challenge incumbent Senate Democrats have not been particularly successful to date (more here)
So, Senator Reid, Rep. Pelosi, and all Democrats in Congress - this is a historical moment. Will you take the opportunity to change the face of America and bring positive and progressive change? Or will you squander this opportunity just like George Bush did after 9/11? The world is watching.