It's time to target the right wing incumbents who are ready to "fall off the vine" and retire-- to make them so miserable in their job, that they don't want to come back, that they'd rather sign up for a cush job in the private sector instead..
It's already begun. Denny Hastert is quitting. Deborah Pryce is quitting. Charles "Chip" Pickering is retiring. Virginia Senator John Warner, 80 years old, is considering retiring.
Do you think a pattern is developing here. It's a whole different way to make a living when you're a minority member of the congress. Lobbyists don't treat you the same, especially since the ethics rules have changed.
Think of all the Republicans who WERE committee chairs, who USED TO wield incredible power, who are now relegated to observer status, forced to accept the gavels of the Dems who they used to rule over. They have to watch as the Dems make policy.
How many more right wingers do you think are teetering on the edge, thinking that now is the time to call an end to their career in congress. I wonder how many are already feeling that going another two years in the minority is not going to be fun, is even going to be worse, as the Dems pick up an even stronger majority.
Nancy Pelosi, Stenny Hoyer, Harry Reid, Rahm Emanuel, Chuck Schumer, are you listening? It seems that you have, probably dozens of incumbent right wingers who are not exactly enthusiastic about coming back to work in 2009, not looking forward to taking minority positions on committees, not enthusiastically expecting to cruise to victory in states or districts which they used to take for granted. They are going to have to fight tougher and hard, raise more money than they have in years.
These potential retirees will almost certainly be facing working in a congress with both houses controlled by Democrats, with a Democratic president. It's not going to be fun for the minority party legislators.
The time is ripe to do things to maximize the ripening process, to make those minority members WANT TO LEAVE, to bring them to the point where they conclude that it's not worth it, running again, that staying in office just won't be fun, won't be profitable, will even be miserable.
The Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are in the position to do that in the coming months. It won't be pretty, but it WILL be symmetrical-- meaning it will be comparable with the way the former majority leaders- the Republicans-- acted when they were in power. That will mean that when Democrats rule committees, they do so with an iron hand, especially with the targets of this "retirement campaign."
First step should be to identify the incumbents, besides Hastert, Pryce and Pickering, who have already announced, who fit the profile of likely to be inspired to retire-- older, weakening bases, falling funds, former committee chairs-- people who have tasted the sweetness of power and who have since, tasted the bitter pill of living in its shadow since the Dems took over in Jan 2007. Some of the "contract with a new America" people, who were swept into office with Newt Gingrich, back in the mid nineties may be ripe for falling off the incumbent "vine." Things are certainly a far cry from what they started out being accustomed to. Then there are the more senior members-- with decades of membership in the "club congressional."
Next, the Dems have to start turning up the heat on these "targets" for ripening off the vine. That means making sure that the targets become acutely aware of their minority status on committees, experiencing shart flashes of reality, in the form of minimized time, minimized input-- always respecting the rules, but not providing much if anything in the way of largesse.
These targets need to know early on that their states, for senators, and their districts, for house reps, are already being targeted more aggressively, extra early , with higher funding and more third party PACs and other organizations going after them.
The whole idea is to get these "targets" to start thinking, as early as possible, about retiring. It won't even hurt if pundits and bloggers start writing about the possibilities, doing articles specifically targeting individual candidates, discussing the hows and whys of their retirement, even exploring possible post-retirement jobs the incumbents will enjoy.
During this summer break, local activists might help the "ripening" process by holding vigils at the legislators offices, or near their homes. Now's not the time to be nice to these legislators. It's time to be clear that you don't want them to come back-- if you see them in public, time to speak up, not to be kind and friendly and polite.