Democratic Leaders Who Know What They Are Doing
For the first time in many years, we have National and Congressional Democratic Party leaders who know how to lead and know how to win elections. Yes, the voters were angry at Republican hubris and corruption, yes, they were very angry about the Republicans conduct of war in Iraq, but that does not automatically translate into an election plan to defeat them. Somehow, five Democratic Leaders with dissimilar ideas of how to run a campaign came together at least enough to secure victory. Howard Dean, Chuck Schumer, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid deserve a tremendous amount of credit for running great campaigns. The results are a vindication of the leadership of all five of them.
In particular, Nancy Pelosi faced a lot of national attention and criticism from the Republican Party and dozens of Republican candidates. She faced that head on and with dignity and confidence and instead of being the bogeyman the GOP portrayed her to be, most Americans decided they genuinely liked and admired her.
I think Pelosi is the new Iron Lady of American Politics and like the British woman who held that title in the UK and ruled for 11 years, Margaret Thatcher; Pelosi is going to be a powerful and nearly irresistible force on the American political scene for a long time.
I and many other people owe an apology to Howard Dean. Many of us thought he did not know what he was doing. We thought his 50 state program was too ambitious and costly. Dean was instrumental in making the party competitive everywhere and thus he also deserves a lot of credit for making the right choices from the very beginning. Howard, I apologize, you were right!
Republicans Showed who they really are in attempting to stave off Defeat
When you see likely defeat coming around the corner in politics, you can go one of three ways, you can give up, which I don't recommend, you can fight harder using the best of what you have, or you can fight harder using the worst you have to offer. With the impending blue tsunami that was election 2006, too many Republicans chose to fight with the worst they had to offer.
Race baiting, general bigotry, attacking spouses, lying about opponents records, robo-calling, denigrating someone with a debilitating illness all of these and much more was employed by one or more Republicans in an all out effort to eke out a victory. If your party was going to surrender control after 11 years in the majority, is this the last thing you would want people to remember about your party's days in power?
When you talk about character, one of the things that stands out about a person's character is how they behave when things are not going there way. Anyone can be a great guy when success is around every corner. But when you are facing defeat right in the eye, that is the test of character. In Election 2006, Republicans failed this test badly.
Progressive Democratic Organizations Options Limited after Nov 7th
A group I have been following for some time, Progressive Democrats of America or PDA needs to reassess their strategy after this last election. The one thing I would change right away is the ability of regional and local factions of PDA to determine their own policies and strategies.
The New York branch of PDA in particular has started to run amok. NY PDA's running of Jonathan Tasini against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Senatorial Nomination is one of several costly progressive Democratic mistakes of this campaign. NY PDA recently held a progressive conference attended by various area progressive groups where the main consensus reached was that America was largely progressive and the Democratic Party is not serving these needs because they are not running Progressive candidates and pursuing Progressive programs. We can see through the results of this last election what kind of Democrats appeal to most Americans right now. The inability of Progressive groups to see reality reminds me of their ideological opposites the Freepers as we see below.
Recommendation #2 to Progressive Democrats of America and similar groups (i.e. The Greens, etc.) is, if you want to make a difference, find the best speakers and debaters and send them on a continuous tour of the country to change the minds of Americans so they want progressive policies. Just to be clear, when I say Americans, I mean all regions, not just the northeast and west. This isn't as easy or as fun as spewing typical Progressive demagoguery du jour like "Democrats are the same as Republicans", etc., but the difference is, this strategy will work and actually means something. If such groups do not do this, they will be condemned to standing on the sidelines, holding 2% to 6% max of support nationwide and will continue to have no credibility and no influence over the political process and this makes total sense. If the people of this country are not demanding progressive policies, neither party will make it their business to deliver them. It is that simple.
The Freepers over at Free Republic made for interesting theatre on Election night and beyond
The evening began at Free Republic, http://www.freerepublic.com with Freepers predicting that Republicans would not only keep the house and senate, but that they would WIN ADDITIONAL SEATS! If you do not follow the Freepers as I do, I know this probably seems insane (and in a way, of course, it is) but to Freeper logic it makes perfect sense. In the Freeper mindset, the Main Stream Media as they call it, or MSM for short, is this organized and unified entity out to get conservatives and Republicans. As such, no information coming out of the MSM can be trusted, certainly not polls that show the Republican party trailing.
The only news that can be trusted, of course, is Fox News and similar organizations like the New York Post. Incidentally, midway through the night, Fox News decided they did not like the results coming in via the exit polls, proclaimed them to be biased in favor of Democrats by at least 8% or so, and vowed to only make predictions when sufficient amounts of actual votes were counted. Well, Fox, or should I say Faux news, the counts are in and they matched the exit polls. What are you going to say now?
Getting back to the Freepers, as the night wore on, various Freepers posted how this member or that member of the conservative media or the GOP had let them know that the early returns would favor the Democrats, but later the GOP candidates would all win. As CNN or AP or CBS or another organization would call a state or district for a Democrat, a whole thread would open up on Free Republic making fun of the calling organization and its prediction.
Finally, as reality began to sink in, many of the Freepers became upset. A popular picture on the site had four panels showing Islamic extremists celebrating. Freepers said the Islamic Extremists would welcome a Democratic Victory.
If President Bush really wants to reach out to Democrats, the first thing he should do is deprogram the base of his own party from the lies and propaganda they have been steadily fed. People really believe garbage like that the Democrats will not fight hard against terrorists. It's unbelievable.
My Suggestions for Initial Direction for the Democratic Congress
Democrats have a lot of challenges and work ahead in congress and will need to prioritize issues they want to fast track. Democrats in Congress should keep in mind this acronym I've come up with, TOIL which stands for:
Take Charge Take charge means set the agenda both in the media, reaching right out to the voters, and in the capitol. Decide which efforts are important and schedule hearings and/or votes on those right away. The Democrats already seem to be off to a quick start on this. I understand that an increase in the minimum wage is being fast tracked along with several other important items.
Oversight Be on top of the President's actions and be ready to step in and say no or hold hearings if necessary. This administration needs adult supervision badly.
Investigate Not since Nixon has any recent President's actions been begging for investigations more than this President. Pelosi has ruled out impeachment hearings and I think that is a good idea. The problem with the pledge is that she may not be given a choice by the people. Once investigations are conducted into several areas in particular, I have a feeling the people of this country are going to demand that Bush and Cheney be impeached and removed. Here are a couple of key investigations that must be undertaken:
1. Investigation of Cheney's energy policy meetings. Cheney has refused to reveal who attended these meetings and thus helped him shape American energy policy. The American people deserve to know what he has been hiding.
2. Bush has issued more than 750 signing statements, much more than any other President. A signing statement is a clarification, alteration or outright refutation of a law passed by congress. Remember, the President is not supposed to create laws, only congress can do that. But with liberal use of signing statements, a President can actually substantially alter or even create laws more to his liking. Here are examples of some actual Bush signing statements excerpted from an April 2006 article in the Boston Globe:
Aug. 8: The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.
Bush's signing statement: The president or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.
Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.
Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ''as advisory in nature."
Dec. 17: The new national intelligence director shall recruit and train women and minorities to be spies, analysts, and translators in order to ensure diversity in the intelligence community.
Bush's signing statement: The executive branch shall construe the law in a manner consistent with a constitutional clause guaranteeing ''equal protection" for all. (In 2003, the Bush administration argued against race-conscious affirmative-action programs in a Supreme Court case. The court rejected Bush's view.)
Oct. 29: Defense Department personnel are prohibited from interfering with the ability of military lawyers to give independent legal advice to their commanders.
Bush's signing statement: All military attorneys are bound to follow legal conclusions reached by the administration's lawyers in the Justice Department and the Pentagon when giving advice to their commanders.
Aug. 5: The military cannot add to its files any illegally gathered intelligence, including information obtained about Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches.
Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can tell the military whether or not it can use any specific piece of intelligence.
Nov. 6, 2003: US officials in Iraq cannot prevent an inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority from carrying out any investigation. The inspector general must tell Congress if officials refuse to cooperate with his inquiries.
Bush's signing statement: The inspector general ''shall refrain" from investigating anything involving sensitive plans, intelligence, national security, or anything already being investigated by the Pentagon. The inspector cannot tell Congress anything if the president decides that disclosing the information would impair foreign relations, national security, or executive branch operations.
Other Presidents issued signing statements, but only a small percentage of Bush's in terms of total numbers of statements. Congress needs to investigate why Bush so frequently refuses to obey laws as passed by congress and how serious the breaches of those laws are.
Lead It's sometimes difficult to define leadership, but Democrats need to provide it for themselves, their constituents and even the party opposite. When I say lead or leadership, I mean completely embodying the traits of a leader. That includes honesty and ethics. That includes thought leadership where congressional Democrats go out and convince people of the right thing to do where the Democratic Plan or Agenda was in play.
I think Pelosi will provide this leadership and will really keep the new Democratic Congress in order.