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The Difference Between Republicans and Democrats

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By Dave Lindorff

The difference between the Republicans in Congress and the Democrats in Congress is striking.

The Democrats are in the majority in the House, and are a narrow majority in the Senate, yet they cannot pass any consequential legislation. The one thing they tout as an accomplishment in nine months of controlling Congress is a pathetic “raise” in the federal minimum wage which, first of all, is so small and belated that in most states it will go unnoticed because it’s lower than most state minimum wage laws, and in any case it’s below what the market is providing, and secondly, they only passed that measure by attaching it to an obscene $120-billion funding bill to continue the Iraq War.

The Republicans, however, in House and Senate, though in the minority in both Houses, have managed, by asserting their unity and collective strength, to block a bill that would somewhat restrict spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, to block a bill putting a deadline on the US occupation of Iraq, and to uphold a presidential veto on a bill expanding subsidized health insurance for children.

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Say what you want about Republicans being cold-hearted, child-hating, war-mongering, domestic spying advocates. At least they fight for the crap they believe in!

Democrats, on the other hand, claim to be against the Iraq War, but they continue to support funding it, to the tune of over $300 billion since they took control of Congress.

They could stop this war in a heartbeat if they acted like Republicans and just refused to introduce a war funding bill in the House, or if 41 of them would filibuster any war funding bill to death in the Senate.

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They could stop NSA spying the same way. If they can’t muster the votes to pass a law outlawing warrantless spying by the agency, they can just hold the NSA’s budget hostage until Bush agrees to their terms.

They could get S-CHIP—the child health insurance program—expanded the same way—by holding something else the Republicans want hostage until Republicans agree to override a presidential veto of the program.

Democrats could also put a stop to presidential trashing of the Constitution by voting to initiate an impeachment inquiry by the House Judiciary Committee under John Conyers, giving him full subpoena power to go after the people and the documents his committee needs for its investigation of high crimes and misdemeanors by the administration.

There’s no need for more dead-end investigations by various gutless House and Senate Committees. The Bush/Cheney administration has made it clear that it is simply going to stonewall those investigations and refuse to honor any subpoenas—if the Democrats even have the ganas to issue subpoenas. But an impeachment panel would be something else. It’s pretty hard for a president to stonewall an impeachment committee, since unlike other committees of the Congress, an impeachment committee is a Constitutionally sanctioned body—one which would likely win the backing of any sincere “constructionist” jurist on the bench. Moreover, in an impeachment inquiry, a president could not make a supportable argument of “national security” or “executive privilege.”

But the Democrats in Congress know all this. They know that they could do these things, and yet they are not doing them.

Only the Republicans are playing hardball. The Democrats are playing wiffleball--as in, it's a fake game.

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Why is this the case?

Progressives typically attribute it to spinelessness. But this misses the point. The Democrats are no more or less spineless than Republicans.

What they are is devoid of principle.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...)
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