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When Harry Met Harry: Reid Finally Starts Channeling Truman Instead of Dukakis

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Message David Michael Green

Progressives have spent years and decades now lamenting the woeful lack of political courage on the part of the Democratic Party in Washington, the supposed ‘leadership’ of the supposed ‘opposition’ party.

They – we – have been right to do so, because the performance of this crowd has been abysmal, and the cost of their coopted indifference has been astronomical. If you need any proof of that you could ask the one million dead people of Iraq who were decimated while the Democratic Party was asleep at the switch. Except, er, for one minor problem. Did I mention that they’re dead people?

That, of course, is only the most egregious example. Since Ronald Reagan rode into town a quarter-century ago on a horse which could somehow miraculously produce bovine excrement, ‘dem DC Dems have mostly been cowering in the corner, making deer caught in headlights look powerfully proactive by comparison. Of course, it all got far worse when the Little Texas Terror came to Worshintuhn six years ago, dripping with entitlement and all the emotional maturity of a junior high prom spiked with vodka and Hawaiian Punch.

What always floored me – both with Reagan and especially L’Enfant Terrible – was how little it took to roll the pathetic Democrats. On almost any given issue, these bullies never had public opinion on their side. They never had truth on their side. No one ever accused either of these monsters of being smart. So what, then? Were Democrats charmed into submission? Were they wooed into dropping their drawers by a smooth-talking ... George W. Bush? (Eeeewwwww.)

No, they were mugged by straw men, all while carrying lighter fluid in one pocket and a box of matches in the other. "But I could show my prowess, Be a lion not a mowess, If I only had the nerve..."

It’s been a pathetic sight to see. Leader after leader of the party has donned the seemingly requisite costume – effete manner, soft-spoken delivery, poor-posture, wire-rim glasses – and duly offered up themselves (and us) for slaughter. Who amongst us wasn’t ready to go to the ramparts for cheerful Dick Gephardt? What an inspirational sight Tom Daschle made, meekly whispering his dissent, eh? What a call to arms has been Harry Reid’s measured tones of disagreement with the White House, no? Who wasn’t inspired by Nancy Pelosi’s capitulation before she was even sworn in?

You know, there’s no shame in getting beat up. The shame (in spades) is in getting beat up by a punk like George W. Bush, wielding a handbag as a weapon. Without even fighting back. With truth watching your back, and the public holding your coat. Now that is shameful.

Progressives have rightly and angrily denounced these failures of leadership in the only party they can reasonably hope could be a vehicle for a semi-sane politics in the American empire. And so it is only fair that we also recognize the Democratic leadership when they occasionally get it right. Not that fairness, mind you, has much of a role in the game of politics as played in Washington, and not that finally showing up after a million people are already dead and another four million have been turned into refugees constitutes getting it right anywhere but in Washington, of course.

But just as it’s important to show encouragement to children and household pets in order to reinforce desired behavior, so we will have to potty-train our Democratic leaders until they finally get it right, mixing scolds in response to mistakes with praise and cookies when they manage to do the right thing.

In the former category is Cindy Sheehan’s threat to demolish Nancy Pelosi in her own home district if the Speaker fails to impeach Bush and Cheney.

In the latter is this article, in which I am sending Harry Reid a very big cookie for finally learning to play even moderately hard ball against the viciously destructive Republican death machine.

After the harrowing and disgusting capitulation of Reid and Pelosi to Bush’s incredibly weak hand in the Iraq war appropriation matter a month or so ago, I and other critics berated the Democrats for not even using the institutional powers available to them as the majority party in Congress to exact a toll from the GOP for their murderous intransigence. We lambasted the Dems for failing even to force Republicans to own the consequences of their war policies, let alone for not articulating a cogent alternative.

Well, apparently somebody was listening, because this week Senator Reid began to get it right.

I have to hand it to him. When he demanded that Republicans actually carry through on their filibuster threat this week by remaining in session through the night, he did a multitude of necessary and helpful things all at once.

First, he is making them sacrifice for their intransigence. Literally. Republicans could no longer phone it in. They had to be there, not out partying at Jack Abramoff’s bar and grill or raising desperately needed funds to try preventing what already has all the makings of a landslide blow-out in 2008.

Second, by making this move, Democrats go on the offensive. They stop reacting to Rovian tactics, always getting broadsided, always looking and acting defensive, always choosing from the lousy alternatives Rove has left them. They generate a newsworthy event, and win control of the news cycle. And they do it on their terms.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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