Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Conservative Democrats Scared of Pelosi, Clueless about Politics

Politico's main story this morning declares that weaker Democrats are trying to distance themselves from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. This will supposedly protect them from "charges that they are beholden to the unpopular House leader and supportive of the ambitious national Democratic agenda."

Okay, two things.

First, Nancy Pelosi is the only reason the Democrats have a successful agenda. She doesn't begin with the weak assumption that the GOP is going to help; she welcomes their input and support, but she doesn't cave to their demands. As a result, millions more people will have longer and healthier lives and not be taken to the cleaners to pay for outrageous health-care bills. As a result of Pelosi, we got financial regulation reform for the first time in, what, seven decades? As a result of Pelosi, the government has reigned in some abuses of the student loans system. As a result of Pelosi, the government prevented a Great Recession from becoming another Great Depression. Yeah, run from that "ambitious" record if you want, but since your Republican opponent is already running against it, you've already lost your re-election, Mr./Ms. Conservative Democrat.

Second, this just makes me think that too many Democrats simply don't know how to be politicians. They think it's an office job (with lots of fundraising dinners). They forget that it's a matter of convincing people – hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions – that they are worth supporting, that their prescriptions for laws are worth supporting.

The Republicans, of course, know it's a pitched battle, and they have played their weak hand absurdly well. It is hard to imagine a party and ideology that were still viable despite having been as discredited as the Republicans are now, following the failure of their economic and foreign policies (policies which have hastened the relative decline of this country – so much for country first). It's like Kaiser Wilhelm making a triumphant return to Berlin in 1923. Michael Foot moving into Number 10 Downing Street in 1983.  It's like Mikhail Gorbachev becoming Russian Federation president in 1992. But the Republicans are currently up in those generic congressional polls that measure basic public feelings toward the two parties, so some Democrats are losing their heads. They shouldn't. They should embrace their ambitious agenda and actually sell it. If they're politicians, that's what their supposed to be able to do.

But too many of the Democrats are clueless about their chosen profession. These are the people, after all, who were blindsided by the manufactured fury of the health-care town halls from August 2009, with only Rep. Barney Frank having the guts and brains to go face-to-face with a crackpot protestor. They should look to Pelosi's legislative success for answers to their cluelessness. They should look to Barney Frank (and senators Feingold and Franken and others) for alternatives to their flailing around. Because if the Democrats lose control of either house of Congress this year, it'll be a major self-inflicted wound, not of too much ambition, but of too little brains and guts.
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