Glenn Greenwald is seeing “signs of life” in the House Democrats.
Fully recognizing it may not last any longer than a couple of weeks, it’s actually necessary to give some credit where it’s due — to the House Democratic leadership. Nobody expected that they would ever allow the Protect America Act to expire, yet they did. And nobody expected, especially after the meek and incoherent appearance of Silvestre Reyes on CNN last weekend, that they would ignore the barrage of Terrorist-Lover accusations from the President and unveil yet another bill that is actually decent and refuses to bestow lawbreaking telecoms with amnesty, but they now have.
Add to that the fact that they actually seem serious about pursuing a court battle to force Josh Bolton and Harriet Miers to comply with their Subpoenas, and one detects a possible change in their approach. There is perhaps a stirring of recognition among House Democrats that there is no political cost to standing against this President on vital matters — even ones involving the magic Terrorism word — and there might even be real political benefit.
His skepticism about the abbreviated length, not to mention depth, of Democratic political courage is of course justified. Time and again in the past year-and-a-half we have seen this same scenario played out: House Dems take a tough stand; Senate Dems revolt, demanding concessions identical to the ones Bush and the Republicans want; House makes a lot of noise, threatens to stall negotiations and/or hold firm; Dem leadership has meeting after which Speaker Pelosi forces House Dems to concede.
It’s important to note two things here with regard to my thesis that the Dems are no longer worth supporting – that they aren’t on our side and won’t be again any time soon.
The first is that I think the House Democrats who consistently defy the White House and the Senate are sincere. It isn’t a dumbshow or a trick or mere kabuki. They mean it, by and large, and they fight pretty hard to get their point across.
The second is that IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT THEY DO as long as they’re unwilling to defy their own DLC-sponsored leadership with the same fervor which characterizes their defiance of the President. The Democratic Kabuki we’ve all come to know and loathe is the result of a tussle between the House Dems and the Senate Blue Dog/DLC Cabal in which the House tries to fight for justice and the Senate BD’s fight for the GOP. The DLC leadership, clearly in the GOP camp, has to keep its renegade House in the fold so they pretend to back them and blame the Senate Pubs when nothing happens.
I explained some time ago that this is an old tactic used with great effect in Massachusetts by long-time Mass Senate Pres Billy Bulger.
I don’t know if the technique was developed here is Massachusetts (wouldn’t surprise me if it was) but I’ve watched it play out for a couple of decades now, and for the last few years I’ve seen it taking hold in the national party. It’s a concept of “party discipline” that allows individual pols to vote in ways that will make their constituencies happy on issues important to them as long as those votes don’t harm or deviate from the overall strategies and goals of the dominant party mechanism. When there are too many votes in favor of something the party leadership is against, they twist just enough arms to ensure that the issue/bill/amendment/whatever will be defeated.
So it didn’t surprise me that the House Dems stood their ground for a while. The question is, what will happen when the Senate BD’s press hard for immunity and dropping the contempt charges in the name of “bi-partisanship”, as Obama calls it. (Others of us call it “surrendering to the GOP”.) At this point it seems safe to say the House will most likely give in when Nancy explains to them, once again, that they don’t have the votes in the Senate to avoid another make-believe Republican filibuster.
But it’s important to remember that there is a third element to the Kabuki: it throws us off-balance by fostering the impression that the Democrats are going to do things they aren’t actually going to do. That keeps us hanging on with hope, clinging to a belief that One Day the Dems will be Democrats again. And that in turn keeps us working for them when, in truth, we get almost nothing from our support.
It’s a savage strategy, but it’s working. We get behind them, tell ourselves we’ll take what we can get, that they’re better than the GOP. We fight for what we believe is right and in the end are disappointed time and again when, after the dust from the Kabuki clears, the GOP has once more gotten exactly what it wanted.
So let’s dispel the fog and cut to the chase. For those of you who insist on believing the Democratic party can be rescued from the BD/DLC Alliance, here’s what you have to do:
Break the power of the DLC.
If you can’t, NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE.
(Next: Can the DLC be broken?)