The Democratic Party in Congress, and indeed the leading candidates for the party's presidential nomination, are all dead men and women walking.
They look alive. They may even think they're alive. But their political futures are close to moribund.
Faced with grave moral issues--a criminal and unpopular war that is costing the country the lives of thousands of its young people, and hundreds of billions of dollars a year, a president who treats the Constitution like so much toiletpaper, and an economy that is being hollowed out like a Halloween pumpkin, these Democrats are doing nothing.
Repeatedly offered chances to stand up and act, they have ducked each time instead. Twice already, President Bush, himself backed by only one in four Americans today (a lower level of public support than even Nixon had after his resignation in disgrace following the impeachment vote against him by the House Judiciary Committee) has come to Congress requesting another more than $100 billion in funding for his war in Iraq, and Congress has rolled over and given it to him.
Bush has responded to the resignation in disgrace of his lying, cheating attorney general, former White House lawyer Alberto Gonzales, by nominating a man, former Federal District Judge Michael Mukasey, who refuses to condemn torture and who insists that the president is not bound by the Constitution or the law. Congressional Democrats could, and should, refuse such an outrageous sycophant to power for the nation's top law enforcement office, but instead, they look like they plan to okay him for the job.
Over the summer, the President asked for legislation retroactively sanctioning his illegal National Security Agency wiretapping program, which has enlisted the help of the nation's telecom firms to help them spy on you and me and hundreds of thousands- perhaps millions--of Americans. Congress could have said no and won the respect and gratitude of Americans across the political spectrum, who are alarmed at the dramatic erosion of American liberty that has occurred in seven years of Bush/Cheney administration Constitution trampling. Instead, they gave Bush what he wanted--a "temporary" bill that endorsed the secret, warrantless spying, and even gave retroactive sanction. Now the Democratic Congress is on the verge of making that sanction permanent, while extending immunity from civil litigation to the phone companies that have been going along with the spying.
In all this, the Democratic Party leadership and its minions in House and Senate have not been cowards. Rather, they have apparently decided that they can gain power in November 2008 not by playing the part of feisty and principled opposition, but by playing dead for two years. The idea appears to be to pass no controversial legislation, indeed to do nothing of consequence, and to leave the massively unpopular Bush in power, while allowing his massively unpopular Iraq War continue along its bloody way.
They will complain about the constitutional violations, and complain about the war, but when presented with golden opportunities to act, and to bring an end to those crimes, they have done nothing, and will continue to do nothing.
The American public is seeing through this Machiavellian strategy, however, which is why the Congress is now supported by only 11 percent--a figure that is less than half Bush's anemic favorable rating, and only within the margin of error of Cheney's 9 percent support base.
The joke is that in the end, this strategy, if it can be called that, may end up backfiring.
Americans traditionally have a pretty low opinion of politicians. They may not be very good at spotting hucksters, but when they do feel that they are being played, they are quick to punish.
I think the public has caught on to what the Democrats are doing, and may well decide next November that they'd rather go with Republicans who, while crazy and bad with checkbooks, are at least willing to act on their wacky beliefs, than with Democrats, who just cynically sit back and watch, hoping to win by default.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olashansky, is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now out in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net