But a split-party vote on censure will confirm what everyone (even, in their heart of hearts, most Democrats) think about Democratic politicians: that they are wimpy, wampy, wombly pols with no allegiance to principle, no sense of organization or party loyalty, and insufficient testosterone levels: if we can't even challenge an arrogant, partisan, low-polling President who admits breaking the law, how the hell are we going to protect our nation from terrorists? A party that can't even bring itself to censure Bush (never mind impeach him) is not ready to govern; it probably would screw it up almost as badly as the Republicans if it did take power, and America desperately needs something better than "not as bad as Bush."
Yet the people who actually control the Democratic Party are preaching exactly that lackluster, lackprincipled approach:
There is a vacuum in the heart of the party’s base that Feingold fills, but at what cost? His censure proposal looks like a stunt, “the equivalent of calling for a filibuster from Davos,” says Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. To win in ’06, he says, “Democrats need to take the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm.”
In other words: to win, says the organization that has led the Democrats to their weakest Congressional position in 100 years, Democrats shouldn't change a damn thing.
Such elitist, unprincipled defeatism is, of course, amplified by the yellow press. With more Americans supporting censure than opposing it, "journalists" like Eleanor Clift continue spreading the
The broader public sees it as political extremism. Just when the Republicans looked like they were coming unhinged, the Democrats serve up a refresher course on why they can’t be trusted with the keys to the country.
(1) More Americans support censure than oppose it.
(2) Two out of three Americans think Bush is doing a bad job, even on national security (the issue Democrats supposedly are "weak" on).
(3) Since the Democratic Party started running to the right, it has consistently lost elections.
(4) Copying the successful Republican strategy for victory doesn't mean moving right like them, it means moving LEFT -- moving, as they did, back to the base and shifting the center of discourse in the direction that our party, and demonstrably not their party, is recognized as representing. As I wrote below:
The Republicans won complete control of government not by running to the center, but by running to the right and persuading the media and the American public to shift right with them. They don’t tolerate defections from the party line; they stick to centrally-distributed talking points and abide by rigid party discipline enforced by a man nicknamed “The Hammer.” They don’t fall silent when discourse turns discordant; they trot out the Big Lie and repeat it so often that it becomes Truth in the same way that big mountains create their own weather. They won by doing the exact opposite of what the DLC crowd preaches we need to do to win.
It’s as if the Democratic leadership doesn’t understand how mirrors work: the key to Republican success wasn’t in the fact that they ran to the right (and that we similarly must shift right if we want to win); it’s in the fact that they ran AWAY from the center -- became more extreme -- and in doing so earned both the support of their base and the trust of centrist voters, who respect people who can articulate and adhere to principles even if they don’t agree with all of them. Copying the Republican formula for success doesn’t mean becoming more conservative, it means becoming more liberal and being proud of it. Articulating, and expecting some reasonable degree of adherence to, a unifying party platform is a good way to articulate principles and win elections, and if that means tossing one or two enablers like Lieberman overboard, good riddance; they're dead weight anyway.
What's frustrating about all this is that the Democratic Party is so much better than this. The Bush Republicans are endangering and bankrupting our nation; Democratic policies could restore our fortunes. But to regain power, and to make a positive change if we do achieve power, we need to be both liberal and courageous -- i.e., act like Democrats instead of DLCers for a change.
Feingold's censure resolution is only a "gift to the Republicans" if the Democrats splinter. If they hang together, it would be tossing the drowning President a brick: a Democratic party unified against Bush would look, for a change, like a party of unity and principle, and the President and his party would come across as the bad children they are, scolded by grownups for doing wrong and told to straighten up.
Feingold's resolution is the path to both power for the Democrats and good government for the nation. Why can't anyone inside the Beltway beside Russ Feingold and Karl Rove recognize that simple fact?
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