Since I wrote this column, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows approval for Congress at an extreme low. Will voters toss out Democratic incumbents as well as Republicans, or will they wave break for the Dems?
Thanks for your comments about the national elections this year. In a very narrow and limiting sense, it is a correct observation. However, if there is any hope for our nation, we must wrest ourselves from the kind of morose pragmatism that underlies the logic you laid out. Essentially what you say is that, though things are awful right now, there is no hope that they can be made better.
Looking at this year's elections in the beginning of 2006, many Democrats pondered what the world would look like if George W. Bush and the Republicans continued to do so much strident damage to our country and the world that the people in charge of the national Democratic Party, by default, were placed into control of Congress.
What would change?
The answer, as your own reasoning aptly points out, is that very close to nothing would change. If the Democrats in Congress actually have had different ideas for how the direction of America, why were they not showing it? What is the Democratic platform, really?
I can tell you what I want to achieve as a Democratic state legislator in Connecticut, like health care for everyone, decent education for all and stopping the middle class and poor from taking the unfair weight of our regressive state tax system. But these are not just things to put on campaign advertisements and then, like the national Democrats do, give up Democratic principles in an effort to be "pragmatic" enough to "win the moderate vote." Democrats, like me, in the Connecticut legislature are actually working to get them done.
What is the sense of electing Democrats who will put a different face on much the same policies? That is what the primary in Connecticut was all about. Joe Lieberman was the Democrat who helped to defeat universal health care the last time we had a Democratic president, he is the most outspoken pro-war "Democrat" and, most important of all, he was a creator and leader of the Democratic Leadership Council — the corporate-funded organization charged with making the Democratic party almost the same as the Republican Party. I note with interest that it was only after Joe Lieberman was put and risk of losing his own party's nomination in his own state that national Democrats have started to have the courage to stand up to George Bush on the war and occupation in Iraq.
There is a depth to the present political events in our country that simply does not lend itself to the kind of superficial analysis you have made. For real change to occur to America, for the Democratic Party to step beyond just being the "other party" when the Republicans are so clearly bad, Democrats of principle must stand up for what we believe in. And we must stand up to national Democratic political operatives whose own "be moderate to win" logic has cost us the last two presidential elections, control of Congress for a decade and a right-wing Supreme Court for a generation.
This is not just about having politics with a conscience. In the real world most people want a real alternative when they are going to vote. Contrary to the false reasoning that Democrats may either have our principles or win, we will only win if we work to make America better by sticking with what we believe.
TIM O'BRIEN, State Representative (D-New Britain/Newington, CT)
I think you may be right that after the November election, the status quo may remain. However, the reason for it may be, in addition to the dirty tricks of Rove and company, many democrats are just fed up with their spineless leadership and decide to stay home. Also the voters have only herd Democrats whine about the wrong policies of this administration and Republican dominated congress. They have not seen any plan to solve the nation's problems. Why should a voter vote for an unknown?
You have described the painting but you have not described the painter or his motives. The Democrat Party has split. But they have been on the verge of splitting for years, so why now? Because campaign finance reform, McCain-Feingold, has found for the left an independent source of funding, the 527's, which allow the left to exercise its own agenda without the need for the consensus decision of moderate Democrats. And the voice of the hard left has never been acceptable in America. That is why Democrats will not only not gain traction in 2006, but will probably lose more ground.
I love your political columns and agree with most of your opinions.
If Democrats were to gain control of the Senate, with supeona power, I do think that meaningful investigations into corrupt Bush actions would ensue and could significantly change a great many things (and perceptions) in this country.