Friday, April 29, 2005

Demise of GOP Power Part III: The Strong Democratic Minority

The Republicans have found themselves in a political quagmire in recent months. The paradise that was Bush's Inauguration sponsored by Citibank, Bank of America, Texaco, Amaco, and Shell, seems like a distant memory. When you have a majority in both houses of Congress, the White House, and a conservative-friendly majority on the Supreme Court, anyone should be able to get things done. Somehow, the Republicans have screwed this up.

But as Mister Bling mentioned in his comments yesterday, the purpose of our discussion is not simply to point out that the Republicans' agenda has been an abysmal failure. What are the Democrats doing these days? After all, there are two whole parties in our political system that's meant to represent our entire country of 600 million people.

Mister Bling and others have expressed concern that the Democrats haven't really been doing anything to put themselves in a better position, given this series of missed opportunities for Republicans. On this point, I will disagree. While I think the Democrats have many things that need to be accomplished in getting our country headed in the right direction, I am particularly proud of the Democratic minority delegations in each house of Congress, that have created some serious headaches for Republicans, despite what looked like a very very bad situation in January.

In the House of Representatives, Democratic members of the House Ethics Committee basically forced the committee to a grinding halt after Republican members of the House pushed through rule changes that would have spared Tom DeLay an ethics investigation. Nancy Pelosi deserves high marks for her ability to bring the issue to the media, exert pressure on House Republicans, and force them to play by the rules. Republicans acted like there was some giant conspiracy against DeLay from the left, but if DeLay is innocent, why change the rules to avoid an ethics investigation? If DeLay is innocent wouldn't you WANT an investigation to clear his name? Public opinion on this issue shows that most people agree with the Democrats and want DeLay to go through an ethics investigation. Check out this link for recent polling data.

In the Senate, Democrats have held their ground on protecting the filibuster, again with strong support from the general public. Harry Reid (D- NV) has done an outstanding job clarifying the mess Bill Frist and other Senate Republicans have made of the issue of Bush's judicial appointments. As we pointed out earlier in the week, Bush has had no problem getting the vast majority of his judicial nominees appointed through the Senate Judiciary Committee. Fortunately, public polls cited above show that the general public understands that the Democrats are not doing anything that is historically unprecendented by threatening to filibuster certain judicial nominations. The public also understands that Senate Democrats are doing the right thing by blocking some of Bush's nominees.

Frist and other Senate Republicans have painted a picture as though this is an extreme measure, and that the Democrats are being unreasonably difficult, but the irony is that the Republicans are the ones who wish to change the rules to push through their nominations. YOu decide which seems more extreme.

I'm not trying to paint a partisan picture here and tell you that the Democrats can do no wrong, and that all Senate Republicans are to blame for their present problems. Reasonable Republicans, such as John McCain and Chuck Hagel, have spoken out in favor of compromise and against eliminating the filibuster. What seemed like a certainty only a few weeks ago, has dwindled into a PR problem, and all because the Democrats aren't bending over and taking this abuse.

The Democrats do, however, need to strengthen their political "vision" or mission. From a policy standpoint, many of their legislative ideas have been lost in the shuffle. Several months ago, we discussed the Democratic alternatives to President Bush's Social Security Reform Plan. We've heard nothing of those proposals, and the Democrats need to define what they can do for the country, instead of just opposing what Republicans have proposed. There are good ideas out there from both Democrats and Republicans, including some bipartisan plans. The Democrats should focus more attention on those alternatives, so the American public can understand that they do have some choices, aside from being with the President or against him.

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