Let me explain.
If you assume that the Democratic Party leadership is not a bunch of idiots, then the only alternative theory has to be that they think that we are.
How else to explain this continuing failed “policy” of so-called progressive Democrats in Congress of passing terrible legislation and claiming that they will “fix it” later?
The approach seems to have first been developed early in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton came up with his disastrous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for gays in the military. Everyone knew it was a shameful climbdown from his campaign promise to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military, but the claim, and that the policy was doomed to failure, but Clinton and his supporters claimed that they’d “at least” get that lousy policy adopted and then they’d “fix it” later.
They never did.
The same approach was taken to welfare “reform.” Everyone could see that throwing people off of welfare after one five-year stretch in an economy that had no jobs and no childcare to offer was going to create more poverty and hardship, but Democrats promised that before that dire day came, they’d “fix it.”
They never did and poverty rates have soared in America.
Likewise with the Clinton-era “Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act,” which pandered to right-wing clamor for get-tough laws after the Oklahoma City bombing by undermining habeas corpus. “We’ll fix it,” the liberals promised.
They never did, and it paved the way for the vitiation of habeas under President Bush.
Democrats in Congress since 9-11 have continued with this cheap ploy, hoping that by voting for crappy legislation, they can get “cover” from attacks from the right, while hanging on to liberal support with the false promise that later they will “fix it.”
They did this when they provided their overwhelming backing for the USA PATRIOT Act and for its extension. They did it with the Military Commissions Act that seeks to retroactively legalize torture,
And now they’ve done it with the revision—destruction really—of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
In a sense, the Democratic backing for full funding of the Iraq War and occupation through September was the same kind of thing. “We’ll fix this in October,” was the mantra, as they provided Bush with all the money he wanted to keep the slaughter and killing going through the summer.
What makes this “strategy” (if it can even be graced with such a name) so shameless and deceptive is that the Democratic leadership knows that with their slim majority in House and Senate, they don’t have a chance in hell of passing any corrective legislation, any more than they did when they were in the minority. Even with their small majority, if they could manage to pull together enough Democratic and liberal Republican votes to pass a bill, for example, to “fix” the FISA law and bring presidential spying under some kind of oversight, that bill would be vetoed in a flash by the president, with no chance of an override.
And even if, by some miracle, they could assemble a veto-proof majority for a “fix,” this president would simply issue a “signing statement” invalidating the corrective legislation, as he has done now 1200 times to laws passed by Congress.
If Democrats really wanted to stop the accelerating slide into fascism, war and economic peonage for average Americans, they could do it, but only by behaving like a genuine opposition.
In order to put a dictatorship into place, and to further crush the American people into submission, Bush and Cheney need laws passed that increase their power ever further. Congress does not need to pass those laws.
If, instead of passing bad legislation (and pretending that they’re going to “fix” things later), Democrats in Congress used their majorities in the two houses to simply refuse to pass bad legislation, the administration would be stymied.
This would have been true in the case of the war, it would have been true in the case of changes to FISA, and it would have been true for changes in the Insurrection Act and the undoing of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Of course, the sticky point is that to do that, Democrats would have to take a stand on principle—something few in the party have the spine to do, even if the do have principles to stand for.
It is getting pretty late in the game for Congress to call a halt to this march towards dictatorship, but it could still be done.
Americans need to tell their representatives that “fix it later” is not a strategy. It is capitulation and it is a lie, and we are not fooled.
Americans, and especially progressives, need to let these quisling Democrats know that passing bad bills will mean no support in 2008. We simply cannot afford any more of this cowardly behavior by our supposed “leaders.”
Better to see the Democratic Party go down to defeat in 2008, than to simply allow it to be a willing enabler of Republican tyranny, the role the party is playing today.
As President Bush once famously said, “Fool me once…uh…shame on you. Fool me again…uh…”
Well, you know how it goes.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based investigative reporter and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net