The Shortcomings of Power Politics

“Democrats Bow to Bush’s Demands in House Spending Bill”

“Senate Passes Energy Bill Without Oil Tax Increase”

It’s been a hard couple of days for the Congressional Democratic leadership:

Republicans chortle as they block Democratic initiatives — and accuse the majority of being unable to govern. Rank-and-filers are furious that their leaders can’t end the Iraq war. President Bush sits back and vetoes at will.

Worse, Democrats are starting to blame each other, with those in the House wondering why their Senate colleagues don’t force Republicans to engage in grueling, old-fashioned filibusters. Instead, the GOP kills bills by coming up with just 41 votes. Senators defend themselves by saying that their House colleagues don’t understand how the august “upper” chamber works these days.

A few quick thoughts.

  • It’s darned hard to practice power politics, shoving bills down the throats of your opponents over their objections, when you have a one-vote majority.
  • Obstruction on the part of Republicans is no more fun for the Democratic majority than Democratic opposition was to the Republican majority.
  • It’s darned hard to convince your opponents that you’re a reasonable interlocutor when you make stupid statements about how awful they are (even if you really believe them).
  • Democrats will run in 2008 on increasing their majority to make it easier for them to get things done.
  • That case will be much harder to make if the Democratic majority keeps playing the “bait and switch” rhetorical games they’ve been playing for the last year.

I also note, drawing on Illinois’s, Cook County’s, and Chicago’s experience, that single-party dominance from top to bottom of government is no guarantee that you’ll be able to get your programs passed and, especially, it’s no guarantee of good governance.

Frankly, I think that cities, counties, and states without robust two-party systems don’t prepare politicians adequately for determined opposition. And purging the centrists from both parties makes it that much harder to find common ground.

2 comments… add one
  • Great post, agree completely.

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