Friday, September 22, 2006

There aren't too many former posts of mine I'd want to reread, much less want anyone else to read, but I penned this on June 30 of this year, and was reminded of it when I visited David Sirota's blog today:

In this clip, CQ’s Craig Crawford has it pegged - there are still too many Democrats in Washington drunk off the “arrogance of power” (although, in reality, it is just the trappings of power, not actual power - in the House Minority, you have no power; you are a glorified lobbyist for your district). Crawford says many Democrats in Congress “still act like they are the majority party.” That is in contrast to conservatives who, as Sid Blumenthal famously noted, “refuse to adopt the psychology of an establishment” even when they control all three branches of government.

Oh sure, people like Emanuel pay lip service to “change” - but what they are really referring to is change for themselves. That is, they want to change their own titles, upgrade their offices and get more trappings of power - and they are happy to use their positions to prevent real change on economic or Iraq war policy in order to achieve those selfish fantasies.

Oliver Willis is similarly frustrated:

For the sake of the Democratic party, the party's long-term viability, and America's long term existence I sort of hope the Democrats lose this November. A win this Fall would be an endorsement of the party's ridiculously idiotic posture and would reward its sniveling cowardice with power. A Democratic win would put a rubber stamp on the feckless leadership and push the party to keep it going into 2008, where we would lose yet again for the third time out of the last four elections.

The Democratic Party apparently has no clue. It seems to believe that 1994-present is just a temporal hiccup, and all they have to do is wait for the Republicans to self-destruct and naturally inherit the earth and the congress. The party is like the child who refuses to learn its lesson, even though the results of 2000, 2002, and 2004 show us that simply wishing is not a good enough strategy for winning.

The bottom line is the Democratic Party in Congress still acts as if it is still in power, or when it remembers that it isn't, thinks that its current status is the fault of the media or the economy, or the war, or malevolent Republican mechanizations. There's obviously some truth to the idea that institutional trends and structures are working against Democrats. But Democrats in Congress, particularly, maybe expecially, those who were there before 1994, don't seem to realize that (a) they aren't in power; (b) they are out of power on merit; and that (c) the country is worse off for it.

Anyway, here is what I wrote on June 30:

New Democratic Leadership needed in Congress

Win or lose in the fall, Democrats need new leadership in Congress. Nancy Pelosi has been in Congress for almost 20 years and Steny Hoyer has been in Congress for 26 years.

Both Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader, and Hoyer, the Democratic Whip were members of Congress "back in the day." Back in the day, that is, when Democrats ran the joint. Old hands can be useful in a parliamentary sense, but as the public faces and obstensibly as the policy and political strategists of the party in Congress, Pelosi and Hoyer have been around too long, in Washington, D.C. too long, to give the party the direction and energy it needs.

One of the key motives driving Newt Gringrich and Tom DeLay back in the 1980's and 1990's was the long drought their party had experienced in Congress. The Republican revolutionaries of 1994 were desperate and driven, "hungry" in the parlance of sports teams. Pelosi and Hoyer probably still think either Democrats are a majority in the House or that replacing a Republican Speaker with a Democratic Speaker wouldn't fundamentally change their performance or purposes.

It's been over ten years since the Republicans regained control of Congress for the first time in forty years. While I recognize arbitary-sounding datelines shouldn't necessarily be locked in stone, it's time for Democratic leadership to start passing to those members who've arrived in Washington after 1994, who realize the implications of being the minority party and possess the ideas and energy needed to change the institution and implement new policies.

Thankfully, relatively new members Tim Ryan of Ohio, and Debbie Wasserman-Shultz of Florida have taken assertive speaking and organizational roles in the House. Along with other new and youngish members of Congress, Ryan and Shultz are a part of the Thirty Something Democratic workgroup in the House. Ryan and Shultz in particular often appear on C-Span afterhours, attacking House Republicans for acting as administration "rubber stamps" and for being generally "unable to govern".

Apparently the "Thirty-something" workgroup was a brainchild of Pelosi's and Hoyer has recognized Shultz's abilities by recruiting her as the party's Senior Whip in the House.

But Democrats in the next Congress, win or lose, should act to put the party's best and freshest faces, such as Ryan's, Wasserman Shultz's and Stephanie Hersheth's, forward in leadership positions where they'll have the responsibility and public exposure the party needs to succeed in building a new party with new ideas for a new generation of Americans.

In the meantime, the party should put it's thirty-something members up front, as examples of the type of Democratic leadership voters can expect to see in the next Congress. It goes without saying that Republicans hope to stir up fear, at least among the media elite, of old time members like John Conyers and John Dingell heading committees. Democrats should respond by showcasing it's newest and most articulate members, contrasting them with the corruption-tainted and interest group beholden Republican majority. And when the next Congress opens, showing it's future-oriented approach by elevating its youngest members to important leadership posts.

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