Friday, May 25, 2007

You Gotta Be In It To Win It

Technorati Tags:

Barbara has a point here. Quoting Jonathan Alter in Newsweek, she writes:

Although I disagree with Jonathan Alter that “Democrats in Congress had no choice but to proceed the way they have this week on the war in Iraq,” I suspect he is right when he says “what’s going on inside the Democratic Party now is a family argument about tactics, not principle.”

I’ve seen many assumptions that the Dems folded because they don’t understand War Is Bad or that they secretly support the war and intend to keep it going. But I think Alter speaks for the Dems (and note that I think the Dems are mistaken) when he writes,
The whole “support the troops” meme has become a terrible problem for Democrats. Even though, as Glenn Greenwald has argued in Salon, cutting off funding doesn’t mean soldiers will have their guns and bullets and armor taken away in the middle of a battle, Americans have been convinced that it does. They want to end the war and support the troops at the same time—i.e., send back the food and still eat.

This is not a figment of some spineless Democrat’s imagination but the reality of what he or she will face back in the district over Memorial Day. Democrats who vote to cut funding not only risk getting thrown in the briar patch by Republican hit men in Washington; they also might not be able to satisfy their otherwise antiwar constituents at home.

Barbara links to yesterday's New York Times poll, which shows that although an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the war and want a timeline for withdrawal, or performance benchmarks, most Americans do not want the troops to lose their supplies and equipment -- and that's what they think will happen if Congress rejects war funding legislation:
Note: Only 13 percent want Congress to cut off funding for the war. Dems look at those numbers and assume that cutting off funds would be political suicide. That, folks, is motivation. That’s why the supplement bill passed both houses yesterday.
I think if the Dems had made an all-out effort to go to the American people and say Bush is bluffing about the troops running out of money. If you want us to end the war we need you to support what we’re doing in Congress, then they could have put up a better fight and rallied more of the public to their side.

But the Dems aren’t good at doing that. They don’t have the infrastructure of media, “think tanks” and astroturf organizations that the Republicans use to pound their talking points into peoples’ heads. Plus, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has been dominating national politics for so long that only the very oldest Washington politicians remember those long-ago days when they weren’t quaking in terror under its shadow. Old dogs, new tricks, and all that.
I’m not saying that the Dems couldn’t and shouldn’t have put up a better fight. I’m saying this is why they didn’t.

I support efforts to target Steny Hoyer and the Blue Dogs generally in next year’s primaries. Dems need to learn they have more to fear from their base than from Faux Snooze.

But adopting an "A plague on both your houses" attitude is not the answer, either. And on this point I agree with Barbara wholeheartedly:

The truth is that if you want to have a say in what goes on in government, you have to do it through party politics. And another truth is that there’s not going to be a viable, national third party in my lifetime. Maybe there’ll be one in yours if you are very young, but in any event bolting to a third party is no remedy to our current problems. The practical reality is that our only hope of effecting a progressive agenda in the U.S. in the foreseeable future is to take the Dems into hand and mold it into a party that responds to us.

It’s not about our supporting the Democrats; it’s about training the Democrats to support us. It’s going to take more than one or two election cycles to accomplish this. I’ve been saying that all along.

No comments: