The rap on the Democrats for a couple of decades now – and I’ve been as guilty as anyone on this – was that they were spineless wimps whose historic loss to Nixon in ’72 made them forever after afraid to challenge Republicans. Clinton’s two DLC-led wins in the 90’s, despite vicious Republican attacks accusing him of everything evil up to and including murder, seemed to confirm that the only way Democrats could win was to steal Republican issues and sell them to the public in a more palatable way, that they had become Republicans-Lite out of fear.
A few days ago I suggested that we’d better start looking at the possibility that maybe the Dems aren’t operating out of fear but have been so thoroughly captured by conservatives that a majority of them have actually come to believe in a sort of benevolent dictatorship that does the same disemboweling of the Constitution as the Cheney Administration advocates but doesn’t take it quite as far quite as fast.
A lot was riding on the final form of the FISA bill, as far as I was concerned. They were clearly going to pass one. The only question was, would they include Constitutional protections or not? The answer was unambiguous.
The final version of the wiretapping bill is an unConstitutional abortion of cherished American values and legal precedents in exactly the same way the Military Commissions Act was, and it is simply no longer credible to keep claiming that these votes were some sort of “accident” or the result of political cowardice. Faced with the choice of passing a law that didn’t even need to be passed – there simply is no reason for it, no “emergency”, no “threat” – and that would hand to an untrustworthy administration enormous power to spy on US citizens without warrants or oversight, or adding to it provisions that would check that power and require judicial approval and independent supervision, they fell all over themselves in the rush to do the former.
Yet even Glenn Greenwald, who wrote just this past Saturday denouncing the Democrats as “enablers” of the “Bush radicalism” and citing evidence of their responsibility for it, can’t bring himself to face the now-obvious fact that the Democrats are acting with deliberation and purpose. In today’s post he re-iterates all the standard excuses for the Democrats’ odious vote in the course of debunking the supposed Democratic belief that they mustn’t buck Bush on the security issue or they’ll lose elections.
When the NSA scandal was first revealed, the conventional wisdom in Washington immediately solidified — among Washington pundits and Democrats alike — that Democrats had better not dare challenge Bush’s illegal eavesdropping or else they would doom themselves to electoral defeat. One of the most eye-opening experiences I have had since I began blogging was when, in February of 2006, I met with various Senate staffers for Judiciary Committee members (including ones from the blue-est of states) as they were planning to question Alberto Gonzales for the first time about the NSA scandal, and all they could do was sit there petrified, quivering and saying things like (this is more or less verbatim): “we are just so afraid that if we get too aggressive, they’re going to accuse us of giving away our playbook to Al Qaeda.”
Greenwald’s debunking of this myth is overwhelmingly convincing – the evidence he cites isn’t even marginally ambiguous.
How did that big, bad, scary “Soft-on-Terrorism” strategy work out? The Democrats crushed the Republicans in an historic election, re-taking control of both houses of Congress, protecting every single one of their incumbents, and vastly increasing their hold over governorships and states houses. Democrats won in every region of the country outside of the Deep South. Karl Rove’s strategy of accusing Democrats of being “soft on terror” due to their opposition to warrantless eavesdropping, lawless detention and torture was a complete failure on every level.
Following along with Rove’s scheme, numerous incumbent GOP candidates attempted to exploit Democratic opposition to warrantless eavesdropping in order to save their campaigns. Connecticut’s Nancy Johnson, a 12-term incumbent, repeatedly ran an ad accusing her challenger, Chris Murphy, of being weak on terrorism because he opposed warrantless eavesdropping. After 24 years in Congress, Johnson lost by 12 points. Murphy, who proudly opposed warrantless eavesdropping, is now in the U.S. Congress.
Despite this evidence he himself came up with, he doesn’t acknowledge the compelling and inevitable conclusion: the Democratic party understands the numbers, knows full well what the people want to hear from them, run their elections based on that knowledge, and then ignore it when it comes to a vote.
Elementary logic says that if you’re truly afraid to say something because you think it will hurt you, you don’t then run right out and shout it from the rooftops expecting to be rewarded. Political logic says that if you win running on a certain position, you don’t then start excusing your sudden stand against that position because it’s a losing one in an election. That makes no sense.
To support this line of argument is tantamount to claiming the Democrats are insane, that even though they know perfectly well what’s in their best interests, they will act in those interests when campaigning but counter to those interests when voting. That’s absurd.
The only possible, legitimate, logical, realistic conclusion is that the Democrats are hypocrites. They are running on issues supported by their base and a majority of the center but it’s a campaign trick. They’re giving Bush inordinate and unConstitutional powers because they intend to take the presidency and then those powers will belong to them.
IOW, the Democrats have become exactly the same kind of authoritarians the Republicans are. They have sold the soul of the party to corporate oligarchs and conservative autocrats, and they have every intention of continuing the wrecking of the Constitution in order to get and maintain power. It’s childish and naive to think anything else at this point.