The Real Lesson of the 2010 Elections
Well, it seems that the Democrats have learned their lesson: sticking to your principles at any cost; never compromising; saying "no" as often as it takes gets you nowhere in politics except the scrap heap.
But, wait a minute... isn't that precisely what the Republicans have done for the last 2 years and didn't they just win the biggest Midterm election victory since WW II? Of course they did: any one who just lived through this period knows that unless you happen to be The Media or The President.
And didn't Obama, Reid and Pelosi bend over backwards so often in attempts to "reach across the aisle" that they looked like circus contortionists? And didn't they just get a "shellacking" at the polls? Of course they did though neither of that hapless threesome seems to have been paying attention.
The real lesson of this week's election is that compromise in the name of statesmanship, in the interests of governing or for any other reason is a losing strategy. THAT is the lesson that Democrats need to learn IMMEDIATELY.
It's not that there weren't plenty of opportunities to learn it in the last two years. Almost from the start of Obama's administration, many smart people tried to tell him that the stimulus plan wasn't too big, as the Republicans were claiming, but was actually way too small. But he and his advisers felt that proposing an even larger stimulus bill would doom the entire plan to oblivion on the Senate floor and so they created the first and most politically devastating of the compromises he would undertake in order to get something done. The woefully inadequate stimulus, as predicted, left the nation mired in a 9.5% unemployment rate almost 2 years after its enactment and left thousands of angry voters expressing their outrage at the polls.
Time after time, Obama surrendered Democratic principles to obtain his Health Care, Wall Street and Credit Card reforms. And as a direct result of that compromise, the impacts of these laws were stunted enough that Republicans could claim, with some justification, that those efforts were a failure and, by extension, that all government economic activity is useless or worse.
If any other evidence of the unimportance of compromise is needed, let us remember the previous "watershed" election of 2006 in which the Republicans lost their majorities in the House and Senate. What was the main response of President Bush to that turn of events? Did he compromise? You betcha not!! He quickly began planning the Iraqi "surge" involving the dispatch of even more troops although the Congressional election results were widely seen as a repudiation of Bush's entire Iraq policy.
Following the Republican Example
I have to hand it to the Republicans. In their darkest hour in decades, the first months following the election of Obama, they must have been under enormous pressure to sacrifice some of their basic principles in order to "stay relevant" or "have a seat at the table". They resisted what their leaders rightly saw as a false temptation, realizing that the fastest way to oblivion was to let the Democrats accomplish anything of significance. If they were to have any chance to implement their principles, they needed to win in 2010 and 2012 and to do so required them to prove the ineffectiveness of the Democrats. The simplest and only way to do that was stay true to themselves. Not only would this weaken their political opposition it would also motivate their base and provide a beacon for dissatisfied independents. I may not like what the Republicans stand for but I clearly understand it since they are remarkably consistent in adhering to them.
Let all Democrats acknowledge the political skill of the Republicans even while vehemently disagreeing with their policies. Let us reject compromise as a political tool. Democratic Senators should be prepared to filibuster all Republican proposals that violate Democratic principles even if that means exceeding the Republicans unprecedented use of that tactic in the current Congress. And they should take as a compliment any and all accusations of being "obstructionists". The President should be prepared to veto any bill that somehow escapes the fate of the filibuster and reaches his desk containing anti-Democratic policies. And he should say "thank you" when anyone calls him a "divider not a uniter".
The Democratic Principles
Above all, the Democrats should state their core principles daily to each other and to the world and be proud of what those principles represent. And they must never, EVER betray them, even if it means watching as Republicans try to shut down the government or even shutting it down themselves, if necessary.
So let's repeat the Democratic Principles together:
- The little guy and gal matter, not just on election day and not just as exploited fodder to make others rich, famous and powerful, but ALL the time.
- Unbridled corporate power is the greatest threat to individual rights in this country. Left uncontrolled, corporations will destroy our privacy, our earning power and, ultimately, our nation's sovereignty.
- Government is the only effective means by which the Average Joe and Jane can resist corporate power. On our own, even when we band together in private groups with millions of members, we are no match for the financial, strategic and logistical prowess of Big Business. Without government as a counter-force, all but a few in the pay of these corporations will soon find themselves enslaved.
- The American economy is capable of behaving like a fusion reactor: part of its output is more fuel for input. The right investments (investing in new technologies for instance) will create more total wealth for everyone, not just concentrating existing wealth in a few greedy hands. Only the government is willing to take on these risky investments (and make sure the resulting contracts and jobs go to Americans). Private corporations would much rather sell products made overseas at slave wages because it is a safe and proven method of making gobs of money.
Since old habits die hard, what should we Democrats do if our party leadership winds up actually trying to fulfill their pledge of working with the Republicans? Simple: we true Democrats will vote Obama, Reid and Pelosi out in the primaries and replace them with individuals who have some.... cajones.