Some people, among them unfutz’s ed fitzgerald, are encouraging the sort of stalwart opposition we seem to be seeing from the Democrats, particularly in the Senate. I’m just hoping it doesn’t come back to bite us. A principled opposition party, such as many of us yearn to see the Democrats become, has to be just that, principled. I worry that the Democrats could lost the ‘purple’ counties by appearing to be merely partisan. ‘Just say no’ makes the opposition seem more, rather than less, like Republican-lite, for those whose political memory goes back far enough that they recall how Clinton was treated. And there is no doubt that, with a Machiavellian genius like Rove at the helm, the Republicans will milk every bit of mileage they can out of a track record that looks like pure obstructionism. The Senate Ethics Committee, for example, is dangerously close to that already, with the Democrats refusing to convene to do the committee’s work because of the rule change that threatened to prevent the investigation of Tom Delay’s latest indiscretions. If the government is morally bankrupt, make that a central plank of a boldly stated platform rather than just refusing to come to work.
If the Democrats don’t base their desperate obstructionism on a platform, then they will be repeating one of the major mistakes they have made in the last two unsuccessful bids for the White House. More use should be made of the more principled spokespeople in the Senate like Obama and Boxer, who can articulate firmly what lines are being drawn in the sand and why. Battles should be picked, and I think the main criterion ought to be to distinguish trivial concerns that will do circumscribed damage and be reversed as soon as the Democrats take power again from those (unfortunately too numerous) policies that lead to irreversible damage to the US and the world. For example, while I think the Bolton nomination is about to go down in flames of its own accord, having him represent the US in the UN is not going to lead to the dismantling of the UN in the three years maximum he would be there, and his asininity is certainly not going to adversely affect the US standing in the international community, which is under no illusions that could be assuaged by any amount of diplomacy about the outrageousness of our foreign policy. It might be good to have Bolton there; have an asshole represent the assholes.
I think the three looming issues around which the opposition should muster are, on the domestic side, the threat to the integrity of the courts; on the international side, our saber-rattling provocations of Iran; and, environmentally, the self-serving Republican stance on global warming. I know readers probably have their own lists; my point is that battles should be picked on principle rather than willy-nilly for the sake of the fight.
And, in his next post, fitzgerald argues that there is no possibility of bipartisanship or the normal business of politics now, because the current political process has nothing to do with policy-making any more. That, and the perception (which I share) that the Republicans are trying to reverse a half-century of social progress and roll the country back to a pre-New-Deal state, is the basis for his paean to obstruction, obstruction, obstruction. But I am not arguing for working with the Republicans, I am talking about working with the voters. Asking that we choose our battles is not about being strategic about which ones can be won on the floors of the House and Senate but which ones can be won in the arena of public opinion. It is far more important to be far craftier in that sphere than the back-room machinations.