05 January, 2008

No More Feel Good

David J., commenting over at the King of Drunkblogging:
I’m still trying to figure out how Hillary can claim to have been an Agent of Change for the last 35 years. I mean, she can’t even claim to be the wife of the Agent of Change for the last 35 years. I mean, he was an incumbent in there a few times, and that doesn’t translate into Agent of Change status, does it?

I would still take her over the other Democrats, but that’s just because I think she would do the least harm of the bunch.

Sorry to Teh Zomby, but I have to disagree somewhat. For a given value of "somewhat", that is. After all, a slight disagreement in theory isn't quite what causes a volcanic spit-take, you know.

Regardless of who wins in November, nothing will actually get done and nothing can actually change unless and until the New Do Nothings, with the charming [snark] Nancy Pelosi on lead vocals, start actually accomplishing things and stop the self-congratulation for winning control of Congress.

It's been a year now and they've done... [Cricket-cricket-cricket] Yeah. Pretty much sums it all up. Their greatest efforts of last year seem to be with non-binding resolutions and Sense Of The House votes that fail to do anything but make the rabid fanatic progressives happy that someone is "raising the consciousness" regarding certain issues. That is precisely the problem with the theory behind non-binding resolutions: they don't mean anything.

Majority Leader Reid has at least made some effort to move forward, trying to get bills on the table that could possibly accomplish something. However, he is faced with an opposition that possesses a masterful control of parliamentary procedure. Anything that the Republican minority doesn't like, they block. What they can't block, they delay. What they can't delay, they obscure. What they can't obscure, they dismantle. What they can't dismantle, they pass through and let the President veto.

(As much as I hate to say it, I have to hand it to the Republican leadership in the Senate. They are playing the game of the minority better than the Patriots are playing the game of football. Well done.)

Regretfully, the only thing that will change after this political season is in the record books will be that the GOP minority in the Senate won't have a Republican President standing behind them with the veto pen.

How to fix it? That should be the next question on your minds, right? How do we accomplish the merely possible: getting away from simply re-building the consensus that we already have and move towards wielding it like Hacksaw Jim Duggan's trusty 2x4, stomping the terra and becoming what the social-conservatives have feared ever since the Gingrich Revolution stalled in place.

First, and this may seem like an idea from the politically oblivious, stop talking about what the other team is doing and start talking more about what your own team is doing. Exhibit A: The website of the Democratic Party's Recent Legislation page. Glance through this for a moment and you will notice one obvious fact. They talk more about what the Republicans are doing, specifically President Bush and those vying for the nomination, than they do of their own accomplishments. (Plus a good four entries in the gotcha politics surrounding the Graeme Frost flap from last year.) Of course, this leads directly into the next point...

Second: Where were the goals? You know, that handy-dandy 6-Point Plan from the start of the 2006 session? Let's see here. Honest Leadership and Open Government? The only actual advancement on this front came primarily from Republican Tom Coburn, with Barack Obama as his co-sponsor, introducing the Federal Funding Accountability And Transparency Act, with the rest of them being along the lines of show trials and public humiliation. (See Point Four below for more on this.) Energy Independence? All signs point to "no". Health care? They made the effort, but it got blocked by the veto pen and humiliated by the aforementioned Graeme Frost debacle. Real Security? Maria Cantwell got the Coast Guard Authorization Act through, which tries to keep the boys and girls in CG blue at current levels, for they are the ones that really stand on the front lines for the safety of Americans at home. Economic Prosperity and Educational Excellence? Well, first they failed for tossing two different points into the same bullet, and then they failed by not being able to accomplish either of the above. Retirement Security? [Cricket] Yeah, sure.

So of their 6(but-really-7)-Point Plan, they got 2.5 points, and that's being generous. In the words of the LOLCat: FAIL. If they were serious in trying to create changes in the capitol, they would have put much more effort into crafting bills that effected the way the country is run and less effort putting together photo opportunities like the various feel-good non-binding resolutions.

Third (and this is where any progressive still reading will file me to the right of Bill O'Reilly): Get rid of the feel-good politics of Nancy Pelosi. She is much better served as being the party's Whip in Congress, keeping people in line and putting votes on the tally board. For that, I can give her all the kudos and salutations in the world. Yet the substantive policies and efforts seem to be lacking. Listening to Pelosi talk about policy is like listening to a certain South Carolina beauty queen talk about policy; they just don't get it.

Running a government is not all about looking good for the cameras and giving good sound bite for the talking heads. Given the state of American politics, some of that must certainly come into play, just as the Gingrich Revolution taught us. Yet beside the photo opportunity must sit the actual substance, which is also what the Gingrich Revolution taught us. A photo-op for the sake of a photo-op is useless. (Exhibit B: Teh Dubya) It may make your base feel good, but feel-good doesn't accomplish anything. (Unless you are actually living in an Orwellian society. But if you were, then you would be outsent to an unfree facility in Greenland just for reading this doubleplusungood unpatriotic drivel.)

Fourth: When you put someone on the ropes, you don't let them stand back up again. Look at all the investigative hearings that happened over the last year: Gonzalez, Schlozman, Doan, Taylor, Sampson, and far too many more to list before dawn. And what really came of them? One significant resignation in Alberto Gonzales, one resignation of a man that outlived his political usefulness in Karl Rove, a bunch of personnel shuffling behind the scenes at the DoJ and DoD and OEOB and the rest of the alphabet soup, and tons upon tons upon tons of feel-good photo ops.

And what did we do afterwards? Nothing. Congressional Democrats had the ball, were charging for the goal line... and dropped it at the 2-yard line to have themselves a premature celebration. Fortunately, not all of them took the time to pat themselves on the back so hard that they sprained a shoulder. Henry Waxman has pounced on the loose ball and kept it from being a turnover. Given the constant and consistent train wreck of fiscal (and personal) irresponsibility coming from the White House these days, there isn't enough time for a Democratic Congress to rest on their rather limited supply of laurels.

Fifth, and potentially the most damaging: When you say you are against something, do not then turn around and act like you are for it in order to score political points. See: Iraq "war" funding. After the 2006 elections, the huge talking point coming from Speaker-Select Pelosi's office and every other Democrat in Washington, D.C. was that the electorate had issued a mandate against the Mess In Mesopotamia. Yet what have we continued to do? Vote for it. Fund it. Give the President his special appropriations. What have they failed to do? Anything and everything they claimed they had the support of the people to accomplish. Why? Because it would not be feel-good. It would be hard. It would be difficult. It would make people not like them. And, least important to us talking heads but most important to them as political actors, it would be held over their heads. Simply talking about the possibility sent them onto the sound-bite defensive. And in feel-good politics, being on the defensive means you aren't doing what is right, simply because you're doing something that someone does not like.


Congressional Democrats need to realize that, regardless of what they do, the GOP will not be their philosophical allies. They need to realize that doing the right thing, the good thing, the thing they swore up one side and down the other that they would accomplish regardless of all opposition, is not something that will win friends and influence people across the spectrum.

All Democrats need to realize this, whether they are running for the House, the Senate, or reaching for 1600 Pennsylvania. If they want to get something done that is difficult, they have to be willing to take the hits.

But hits don't feel good. And that is why the politics of feel-good have to be set aside, right alongside their champion in the House: Nancy Pelosi.

Feel-good works with the progressive base of the Democratic Party, the Atriots and Kossacks and FDL'ers and TAP'd. Feel-good does not work when trying to bring about the very changes that you claimed were the reasons why you retook the majority. Feel-good does not beget change. Feel-good is the comfortable, the traditional, the (Dare I say it?) conservative position.

Democrats are not conservatives. So why be feel-good when that is precisely what the other side wants you to be?

[Linked to by Teh Zomby aforementioned]


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Well said.

Off Colfax said...

Wow. You normally disagree with me whenever I have a post like this, Andrew. I must have said something right for a change.