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Sat

20

Oct

2007

The difference between the Republicans in Congress and the Democrats in Congress is striking.
Saturday, 20 October 2007 13:00
by Dave Lindorff

The Democrats are in the majority in the House, and are a narrow majority in the Senate, yet they cannot pass any consequential legislation. The one thing they tout as an accomplishment in nine months of controlling Congress is a pathetic “raise” in the federal minimum wage which, first of all, is so small and belated that in most states it will go unnoticed because it’s lower than most state minimum wage laws, and in any case it’s below what the market is providing, and secondly, they only passed that measure by attaching it to an obscene $120-billion funding bill to continue the Iraq War.

The Republicans, however, in House and Senate, though in the minority in both Houses, have managed, by asserting their unity and collective strength, to block a bill that would somewhat restrict spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, to block a bill putting a deadline on the US occupation of Iraq, and to uphold a presidential veto on a bill expanding subsidized health insurance for children.

Say what you want about Republicans being cold-hearted, child-hating, war-mongering, domestic spying advocates. At least they fight for the crap they believe in!

Democrats, on the other hand, claim to be against the Iraq War, but they continue to support funding it, to the tune of over $300 billion since they took control of Congress.

They could stop this war in a heartbeat if they acted like Republicans and just refused to introduce a war funding bill in the House, or if 41 of them would filibuster any war funding bill to death in the Senate. (Or a senator could have just put a "hold" on the war funding bill, as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) just today put a hold on the NSA spying bill.)

They could stop NSA spying the same way. If they can’t muster the votes to pass a law outlawing warrantless spying by the agency, they can just hold the NSA’s budget hostage until Bush agrees to their terms.

They could get S-CHIP—the child health insurance program—expanded the same way—by holding something else the Republicans want hostage until Republicans agree to override a presidential veto of the program.

Democrats could also put a stop to presidential trashing of the Constitution by voting to initiate an impeachment inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee under John Conyers, giving him full subpoena power to go after the people and the documents his committee needs for its investigation of high crimes and misdemeanors by the administration.

There’s no need for more dead-end investigations by various gutless House and Senate Committees. The Bush/Cheney administration has made it clear that it is simply going to stonewall those investigations and refuse to honor any subpoenas—if the Democrats even have the ganas to issue subpoenas. But an impeachment panel would be something else. It’s pretty hard for a president to stonewall an impeachment committee, since unlike other committees of the Congress, an impeachment committee is a Constitutionally sanctioned body—one which would likely win the backing of any sincere “constructionist” jurist on the bench. Moreover, in an impeachment inquiry, a president could not make a supportable argument of “national security” or “executive privilege.”

But the Democrats in Congress know all this. They know that they could do these things, and yet they are not doing them.

Only the Republicans are playing hardball. The Democrats are playing wiffleball.

Why is this the case?

Progressives typically attribute it to spinelessness. But this misses the point. The Democrats are no more or less spineless than Republicans.

What they are is devoid of principle.

The party leadership, with the backing of most of the rank-and-file members, has decided in its “wisdom” that the only important thing is winning in 2008. Pious rhetoric aside, they could care less about the lives of American men and women trapped in the bloody quagmire of Iraq. They could care less about the children of the uninsured poor and middle class. They could care less about the privacy of Americans’ phone and computers. All they care about is the November ’08 election. And they have decided that the best way to win that election is to do as little controversial as possible, and to keep the war perking along. They also want to try to pass as much nice sounding progressive legislation as possible. If those bills are killed by Republican maneuvering, fine. They’ll blame the Republicans and say we need to elect more Democrats. If some of those bills pass, and then get vetoed by the increasingly unpopular President Bush, fine, too. They’ll blame the Republicans and their president for intransigence.

But it’s all a lie, because, in the majority, they have the power to stop the war, to stop the Constitutional violations, to win health insurance for kids who don’t have it, and to impeach the president.

They just won’t use it. And no amount of phone calling, letter writing and protesting is going to make them do it. They lie and claim they need 60 votes in the Senate, or even 67 votes, but look what the Republicans can do with just 49.

There is only one way to get the Democrats to act properly, and that is to threaten their dreams of a 2008 victory in the Presidential and Congressional elections.

How do we do that? By letting them know that they no longer can count on the automatic support of progressive voters.

If progressives, African-Americans and trade unionists—the whole base of the Democratic Party and the core of its support — were to rise up and quit the party to become independents, there would be such a scramble to the left side of the Capitol building that the domed structure would tilt on its foundation.

Note: these core Democratic constituencies wouldn’t need to decide how they are going to vote next November. Individuals can each make that decision on Election Day. But by cutting that tie to the party, they will put the fear of death on the incumbents in Congress and on the leaders of the Party, who will worry that they’ve lost their grip on voters that they have taken for granted for decades.

Nor do people have to give up voting for progressives in the primaries. In many states, you don’t need to be in a party to vote in that party’s primary, and in the other states, people can just re-register in time to vote, and then quit again.

We progressives cannot wait until November 2008 to elect more Democrats to Congress and to elect a Democratic president. People are dying in Iraq every single day that we delay. The Constitution is being destroyed line by line, article by article, every day. And besides, we have seen just this past November what happens when we just give our votes to the Democrats without demanding anything from them.

They just turned around and screwed us royally. We’ll end the war, they said, and then turned around and funded it through the rest of Bush’s second term. We’ll defend the Constitution, they said, and then threw in the towel and gave Bush permission to spy without a warrant. We’ll fix the mess in New Orleans, they said, but New Orleans is still a dying city.

It’s time for progressives, for African-Americans, for unionized workers, for feminists, to all let these devious hacks know that we’ve had it. Our votes are no longer in their pockets. We are no longer Democrats. We are democrats!

If they want our votes in November 2008, they have exactly 12 months to prove to us that they will fight for those votes. If they want our votes next year, they’ve got to end the war NOW. They’ve got to start impeachment proceedings NOW. They’ve got to get health care for poor kids NOW. They’ve got to stop the NSA spying NOW. They’ve got to fix New Orleans NOW.

Otherwise, next year we may be going elsewhere with our votes
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Jimmy Montague said:

Jimmy Montague
Bullshit.
"Otherwise, next year we may be going elsewhere with our votes."

"May be going elsewhere," eh? And Pelosi is asking herself, "Where else can you go?"

It's clear enough to anyone who reads this nonsense that the reason Democrats don't do what you want is that YOU don't have the means or the guts to make a credible threat. OOOOPS! I'll put it your way: "You maybe don't have the means or maybe the guts to make a credible threat, maybe."

Maybe you'll vote third-party. And maybe pigs will fly. Maybe. Pelosi ain't scared of you. Why should she be afraid?
 
October 22, 2007
Votes: +0

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