Written by William Rivers Pitt
I am beginning to strongly suspect the Democrats in Congress would vastly prefer to lose their majority status come November, rather than continue to carry the apparently onerous burden of being in charge. The number of alternate explanations for their behavior of late is becoming sparse. Sure, yeah, there are plenty of people who will tell you there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans, especially on Capitol Hill. Both parties are beholden, for the most part, to the same corporate paymasters, and so Democrats acting like Republicans is no big surprise.
But the thing is, the Democrats aren’t acting like Republicans. Republicans, for all their myriad flaws and faults, always play to win.
They go for the throat every time, are not shy about saying or doing whatever is required to win the day, and have a knack for turning a sound bite into a stiletto and jamming it under the fifth rib of whatever opponent happens to present themselves. When the GOP held majority control for the first six years of the George W. Bush administration – minus that little interregnum that came about when Jeffords woke up on the left side of the bed – they absolutely bulldozed the Democratic minority just about every single time they wanted something passed. You remember, right? There were little pieces of Democrat all over the place after virtually every vote. They were relentless.
Of course, the GOP eventually blew it by 2006, thanks to an avalanche of scandals and the final national realization that a dunderheaded war freak was sitting in the White House. The fact that they lost their majority control, however, didn’t change the way they operated. Quite the contrary, as we have seen. They vote en masse even against legislation they approve of if it means beating the Democrats. They roll boulders into the road to thwart everything, and do so with neither shame nor remorse. I disagree with virtually every aspect of Republican philosophy, and my disagreements have gone even deeper since the GOP became the Far-Right-Teabagger-Birther-Taliban-Christian-Nutbag Party, but I will say this: if the Democrats had acted more like Republicans when they were in the minority, there would almost certainly be a lot less dead people in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this country would be a lot less broke.
But they didn’t do that, of course, and since gaining the majority in Congress, the Democrats have been as limp and useless as a dead jellyfish, and never more so since Obama took office. The last two years have been agonizing to watch on any number of levels, mostly because these people can’t seem to get out of their own way. They’re not acting like Republicans, except when they vote for legislation that serves their dual paymasters, of course, but that’s not what I mean. They don’t play to win, ever. They don’t seem to know how to do it. If you listen closely, you can hear Tip O’Neill spinning wildly in his grave; under no circumstances would that grand old Speaker have tolerated the kind of dishwater spinelessness evinced by this current crop of Democrats.
I really do think they want to get beaten in November, so they can return to the safe, responsibility-free environs of the minority. There are very few other explanations, especially now that they have right in front of them the biggest no-brainer tactical move in the history of the universe: repealing the Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. The issue is a big fat meatball floating right over the plate, and it seems all too evident that these nimrod Democrats are just going to watch it as it sails by.
The numbers on this issue are staggering, and Congressional Democrats have had it explained to them in Technicolor by one of the heaviest pollsters in the game. Stanley Greenberg, of the polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, was invited to speak to members of the Democratic caucus several days ago, and he laid it out as plain as could be. According to his numbers, only 38 percent of Americans favor keeping the Bush tax cuts for rich people, and if the Democrats vigorously embrace repealing them, they stand to make tremendous gains nationally against the GOP in what looks to be a rough midterm season. After Greenberg was finished, Speaker Pelosi followed up with a plea for the party to dive into this potential boon headfirst.
First of all, it blows my whole mind to think these people actually needed to have such a simple concept explained to them by an expert with bar graphs and pie charts. Beyond that, however, is the staggering fact that, after having the data spoon-fed to them, they still don’t seem to have a stomach for the fight. It would be one thing if they just agreed with the GOP and wanted to keep those tax cuts in place. It would be sickening, but it would make sense. There are some Democrats who do agree, but you’d think a desire to win elections and maintain majority control would trump that, especially given how bleak the prospects are for November.
Junking the Bush rich-folks tax breaks would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years, which sounds like pretty spiffy fiscal responsibility given our current economic situation. It would maintain tax relief for the middle class, which desperately needs the help. It would be a fork in the eye of the same GOP brigands who passed the damned things in the first place. And it would show the American people that Democrats actually stand for, well, something.
The fact that they actually have to sit down and think this one over tells me more than anything else that Congressional Democrats are either trying to lose, or don’t have the stomach to fight for something that will help millions of people, because the GOP might be mean to them.
I really do think they want to lose. If they fail to embrace this issue with both arms, that’s exactly what will happen.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.
There are some good progressive Dems in Congress (too few, of course), but the majority seem to have bought into the constantly-repeated Washington myth that this is a ‘center-right’ country and it’s dangerous to go too far left. (‘Too far left’ these days being an Eisenhower Republican of 50 years ago.)
Since most of the Dems are ‘Rahm Emanuel’s’ and get their money from the same sources as the GOP, they are playing ‘Good Cop’ publicly but privately making sure they don’t offend the wealthy or corporate interests. I think this is the true reason for their supposed timidity — it’s all about the money, and why should they care if we Great Unwashed think they’re wimps? We really don’t count for much, in the final analysis.
To be cynical for a moment (what was he being before?), politically, it might not even be a bad thing for Obama to have GOP majorities in Congress for the next two years. The idiots are sure to screw up, and Obama can then campaign against the inept GOP Congress in 2012. (If he isn’t impeached and removed from office first.)
We need a Tea Party movement for progressives that can intimidate the Dems into working for the people, but our side doesn’t have the Big Money to mount such a campaign and elect progressive candidates.
Short of that, we’ll just have to wait until the GOP completes it leap off the cliff and hope enough remains to build a future on.
If the Teabaggers lose big in the coming elections, I think you’ll see the GOP ‘moderating’ its ‘just say no’ stance and purging the worst of the wingnuts from the party just to stay in business. Then it’s possible there will be some progressive changes, but nothing major — it will take another, and more disastrous, economic collapse to spur that.