Sunday, November 12, 2006

My dour pills - email excerpt

A friend and I were conversing about this week's election results via email. I wrote a reply to her about some stuff that was bouncing around in my head this week. The reply is pretty good and was written this morning around 4AM. I reprint it here with some changes made to protect the innocent. I do so in part because I want to get it off my mind and because I'm too tired right now to change it into a different format for publication:
Funny thing this past week. After the election, while a great number of friends were celebrating (and, I admit, there was a part of me celebrating as well), I was accused by one or two of "taking my dour pills" (as one of them put it). Now, this was beyond the "B.D.'s typical cynicism" chant. See, many of them wanted to just bask in the glow of finally having a Congress that would be in opposition of the Commander and Thief, but I was not having it. Sure, the morning afterwards, I was basking in the same showers of light. But then I got to thinking about the Democrats and how they have voted as part of the minority of this country and suddenly, those showers seemed more golden than light. As I recall, the Democrats authorized the spending for the war in Iraq and gave Bush the power to invade (passed House: 296 - 133; Senate: 77 - 23). Some Democrats have renounced that decision (Kerry, for instance, but only after his 2004 run) while others have not (Cantwell, from Washington, for instance which became one of the reasons that I did not vote for her during this election - I voted Libertarian). Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the Patriot Act (passed House: 357 - 66; Senate: 98 - 1). Democrats voted with Republicans in high numbers for the Patriot Act renewal (passed House: 280 - 138; Senate: 89 - 11). Democrats, albeit in smaller numbers, voted to support faith based initiatives (passed House: 233 - 198; Senate: 58 - 33). And while Democrats have opposed the President significantly on some legislation (torture resolutions, for instance), they haven't exactly pursued the President about those signing statements everyone whines about. More so, Democrats have done this with a large support of the American public.

Many of my progressive friends see this election as a rebuke of the most egregious policies of the Bush administration, but I doubt it. I wish that it were so, but there's no evidence of that. Sure, support of the Patriot Act and the War are waning, but not necessarily because they were bad policies as much as the feeling is that the administration has been incompetent in handling those policies and Congress has been at least as incompetent and corrupt when overseeing the policies. Do any of my progressive friends really think that the vote would have gone this way if King George and his Humpty Dumptys had been able to achieve a less volatile outcome in Iraq? Say, for instance, that a semi-stable government held and that much less chaos ensued. The policy would have been the wrong one in the first place, but the American public would still have been much happier with it. That didn't happen, of course, and onto it was piled the corruption, the torture, the continued lies, and the lack of oversight which eventually weighed heavily against Republicans.

And, I ask my progressive friends, exactly how do they think the new Democratic Congress is going to respond in Iraq? Near as I can tell, it's 1972 all over again: no one wants to admit defeat and no one is sure where to go. A draw down of troops seems inevitable to most of us, but many Democrats are hedging their bets almost ensuring that more people will die as we draw this out for months and maybe years to come. Bush is still saying that the next President will be the one to make that decision.

Impeach? Ha! That's a good one. I'd LOVE to see it happen. We'd have to get Bush and Cheney, though, to make me feel good about it. The Democrats have only a slim majority in the Senate, making it even that much more difficult. Plus, as noted above, the Democrats were complicit with some of the worst decisions (hell, they've even papered over the torture rules with the latest version of the so-called Patriot Act).

So, yea, I may have taken my dour pills, but I remind my progressive friends of the votes taken. I remind them that Democrats achieved this election success in part due to new, conservative Democrats joining their ranks. And I remind them of the slim lead in the Senate. Then, I ask the difficult questions: Sure things will be different, but given the past, exactly how different and where are we headed? Will the American public support it? Will Bush be dumb enough to make the mistakes it will take to sway the public to demand a trial (or will his father's people: James Baker, Bob Gates, and Kindasleazy Rice - she's always been more of a supporter of BushCo, than W - prevent such missteps)? Has the country really changed all that much? I don't think so, but I'd love to be proved wrong.
As I've often said, the country tends not to vote on issues, but rather on gut feelings. There was a lot for America to feel bad about by the time they began to look at the election (usually about September). There was incompetence, a feeling that we were being ripped off in Katrina and the War by corporations padding their bills, corruption in Congress via Jack Abramoff as well as the Foley scandal, incompetence in managing the war in Iraq, lack of oversight by Congress, a Congress that met fewer days than any other since 1950, a Congress that accomplished little and bickered more rather than work to resolve issues for America, and a feeling that the economic gains were not trickling down to the average American while health care costs were rising and pensions were being cut. America did not feel good about itself, so it voted out the leadership of Congress, speaking in the only way it can in this election year.

Democrats will crow about the "meaning" behind this election. Some will say our ideas won over the Republican ideas. Some will claim that the Democratic party has regained the mantel of moral values from the Republicans. Some will claim single issues like the war in Iraq were the focus. Like the Republicans of 1994, 2000, and 2004 (remember when Bush declared that he and the Republican Congress had a mandate? - should that have been "man-date"?), the Democrats will be caught in the delusion of their own self importance.

The people who debate such issues are like many of my friends (some are my friends) in that we care about issues. We keep up on the current topics. We follow politics, culture, and their intersection. We also tend to think that everyone shares these same interests, even fleetingly, and tends to keep up in the ways we do. The fact of the matter is that in America, we're in the minority. People don't follow along. That's why they have a representative government. They vote their instinct about who is a good leader, agree to disagree on one or many issues, but trust that the person they send to Washington will, along with the others, do a good job of keeping America safe and prosperous. In these people's minds, representatives are sent to become experts and vote and that's why we put our trust in them every 2 years. In that mindset, we don't have to follow or understand the issues.

Some argue that this opinion is cynical. Some argue that my view portrays Americans as dumb or lazy. It's an old argument. Sure, I think people should be involved in the issues and follow them as much as possible. I'm a political and cultural junkie, though. People should be willing to take the time for democracy to work as efficiently as possible. But, my view is not the only one and it is outvoted time and again. That's OK...I'm grown up and can take it.

I also don't see that Americans are dumb and lazy is a sound summary of my point. There is wisdom in the collective. For all of it's faults, this is the way America has functioned for quite some time and while there have been pitfalls, we've steadily moved forward as a society. We've become wealthier. We've become more liberal (not nearly as far or as fast as I would like, but it's happened). We wrestle with policy and our role in the world and generally rebuke drastic changes. It may not always be this way and my opinion of how democracy works may one day win out. However, that doesn't lead to Americans being dumb and lazy as a portion of my argument because the evidence clearly points to the contrary.

We've got a great country. At the moment a portion of it is run by the Democrats. If they set aside their egos and attempt to run it well, then we're going to be well served by this election. Unfortunately, it is just as likely that they'll be Republican-Lite which will provide some modest gains in certain areas, but will continue down into the morass of foreign policy and economic failures of the past Congress.


Causal said...

So, Democrats would rather win elections than do what's right for the country? Doesn't sound that different than what we just replaced. I hope you're wrong.

Newsweek's recent poll shows 51% support for Impeachment.

People think things are better because we improved the make-up of our law-making body (Congress). But the whole point is that Bush is BREAKING LAWS. So, it doesn't matter how many laws they pass if they don't serve ther OVERSIGHT duty (they swore to defend the Constitution) by impeaching.

How politically advantageous will it look when the Democrats show themselves equal to the Republicans in how they were complicit in Bush's behaviour?

Not to mention, Bush can still do a lot of damage to our troops, Iraq, Iran and our Supreme Court.
Impeach Bush Yourself...

B.D. said...

Interesting concept - begin an impeachment process through citizen petition.

Pelosi is running around already stating that Democrats will not begin impeachment; that they have too much other business of running the country to do.

The bright light in this may be Rangle and Dingel who, as senior House members, chair committees that can investigate possible impeachable offenses. They also have such power that it will be difficult for Pelosi to reign them in.

Albatross said...

To paraphrase the best Secretary of Defense since the Ford Administration (grin), "You go to war with the opposition party you have, not the opposition party that you wish you had."

Sure, the Democrats include a large portion of sellouts, cowards, spineless centrists, and losers too lame to be accepted in the Republican party. But this election, they were all we had, and they got the job done.

The world isn't going to be perfect, but Rumsfeld IS out, and Mehlman IS gone, and subpoena power may actually be put to use for the first time in six years.

Meanwhile the Democratic party is split between Blue America style liberal progressives, and Hillary Clinton style conservative business-as-usual bureaucrats. Hopefully the Democratic progressive movement will continue to gain power and move that party over towards where normal people live.

Meanwhile there are opportunities to push for change. The single most important change, in my view, is to come up with some kind of real-live campaign finance reform that features public financing of elections. A close second is instituting Instant Runoff Voting, hopefully as part of an election reform act that eliminates electronic voting machines that lack verifiable paper trails.

IRV could bring us viable third parties whole political input could help lead the country back away from the neofascism of the current system. Like campaign finance reform it is a pipe dream of sorts, but then so was reclaiming Congress during this election.

So no, the Democrats aren't going to save the world, and a lot of them would be happy to become K-Street cronies just like their Republican counterparts. But they're still populated with more idealists and populists than the near-zero count of the Republican party. And while they share responsibility for post-911 Iraq authorizations, they don't share complicity for the war profiteering incompetence of the Republicans who architected that botch up.

No, it's a fresh start - or at least, a fresher start than we would have had if the Democrats hadn't retaken all of Congress.

So I say start with oversight and investigation. Let the committees gather the evidence and raise the awareness of the general public of just how traitorous and greedy the Republicans have been. Then when Bush's numbers are down in the teens, that's when you impeach the pair of them. Don't start with the impeachment, end with the impeachment, right before the 2008 elections, when there's been enough time to set the stage in even the most skeptical citizens that these guys are as guilty of war crimes as Saddam Hussein.

B.D. said...


I'm even less optimistic than I was after reading that Murtha has the support of Pelosi. While Murtha does support getting out of Iraq within 6 months, there are many reasons not to particularly care for this candidate. To top it off, I'm not convinced that it matters if Congress supports leaving Iraq. After all, the President commands the troops and Congress is not about to have a snit and cut off funds at this point. Unless Bush can be convinced that the public will have his head on a stick, I don't see the situation changing soon. It doesn't sound like the President is warming to the scolding he's going to get from Daddy's men - Baker and Gates.

Murtha: the anti-campaign reform, anti-abortion man who in an expose of him last month was portrayed as the horse dealer of vote traders, ensuring Republican passage of certain legislation by assisting the purchase of Democratic votes in return for support for pork barrel programs. That's nothing to be crowing about. His main qualification is that he's an ardent supporter of Pelosi. His ability to "work" with Republicans over the past 6 years might be of assistance in skimming Republican votes for tight legislation, but that remains to be seen.

Color me still skeptical, or dour. I do appreciate the idea that we have a chance at a new beginning, but I've been invited to that dance once before and often found myself standing in the corner with no partner (Clinton). It's a better set of people to begin with and they profess to embrace a more inclusive agenda, all of which is welcome, but the verdict is still out.

Scott said...

I laughed at the dour pills. So, is b.d. a glass half full sort of fellow? Maybe, sometimes, but that's okay as long as he doesn't carry around that "The World Ends Tomorrow" sign too often.