For roughly three decades, Democrats have been counseled that this was a center right nation, and that those who wanted to succeed had to be flexible with the Republicans.
These are the Senators we have to deal with. Perhaps it was only appropriate to expect these people to change with the times. It was also unrealistic. These are Democrats who have fairly little experience with being part of a majority.
We do need Democrats who couldn't give a crap less what the Republicans wanted, who voted together on procedural issues, but those kinds of Democrats are not yet there in the Senate. If our aim is to get our way in the political arena, we will have to accept this truth: that it will be a difficult slog in the next few years ahead. Only when we accept this, ironically enough, do things become easier.
When it comes to politics, I'm a strategic thinker. What do I see out there? I see the Republicans trying to win back Congress by essentially strangling our ability to make policy, and pounding at our morale and at our credibility and reputations.
They want to make themselves the alternative by making us unacceptable, unremarkable. They don't care about straight logic. What they want to do is influence feelings, and drag people's rational minds along by those feelings.
They're dragging us around by the nose, don't you see? We're getting frustrated by the obstruction. We're focusing white-hot anger at our own, failing to recall that without the solid wall of Republican "No" in the Senate, those twits would be relatively irrelevant. Lieberman is only crucial because some Republican hasn't switched places with him to vote Cloture. The moment one does, He's got no power over us.
Every Republican that crossed over would be one less Democrat we needed for sixty. It is only by their rock-solid party discipline that they can achieve this. Thing is, I don't think they can keep this up forever, if it doesn't bear results. Sooner or later, they will realize, like we did, that they are a minority.
But that moment is not upon us yet. So we are stuck in this frustrating position. Our ability to endure this, and not despair, will be the test of wills that defines how severe the obstruction will be.
If, worst case scenario, Congress falls in part, or in whole, back into Republican hands, then Democrats in Washington will once again be explaining to us the virtues of Republican's policies. Liberalism will be seen as a bridge too far, by those folks up there. Liberals will be seen as an inconstant, inconsistent presence.
Giving into the Republican's plans only encourages them to do more of the same.
We have to stop reacting to things, the way we did when Bush was President and there was next to no hope of actually doing something. It was easy then to be perfectly principled because we could take comfort in the ideals in our minds. But things of the real world are not so easily or simply influenced.
The Real world puts up a fight. The special interests put up a fight. The entrenched power structure puts up a fight. Our political rivals are not sitting things out like we'd hoped two election defeats in a row would convince them to. Things are getting harder, more complicated, more painful.
And we're faced with a choice here: Give in? Get Out?
Or maybe do something different?
Maybe the way we deal with these things can't merely be spoken of in one word. I think the way we should be going is not towards some principle, but rather towards achieveable goals, and the fight to win those smaller fights.
This is not about incrementalism versus just boldly pushing forward. This about the strange territory in between, where we don't settle for inching forward, but do not insist that every goal is met in one bound.
I think we had an incredible stroke of good fortune with Barack Obama, to have an election we almost couldn't lose, a candidate who was wonky, but not woody, charismatic, but also contemplative, somebody who could at least lay out the tired old cliches of politics with fresh rhetoric and a fresh perspective.
Blinded by our success, we forgot something critical: We haven't had to actually change policy before 2008, in order to maintain our power.
I know, people talked about it, talked about the need to do so in a philosophical sense, but they really haven't come to grips with what the difference is between proposing those reforms to the public, and pushing those reforms through a government that is only now at the inflection point of the change between the dominance of the GOP, and the dominance of our party. The curve is only just beginning to swing in the other direction.
Too many of us built our expectations built on being able to achieve everything the minute we landed on the shores of our dominance.
Would have been nice. Instead, I think we might have to get strategic about this, instead.
Strategic. As in start breaking down the big goals into smaller goals we can concentrate our full strength on. I know some are saying we shouldn't have to do this. They're right, in that it's awful that we should have to compromise our push like this. That doesn't prevent the effort from being necessary.
Let's treat whatever compromise we get into in the Senate as the groundfloor, the beginning. Then we we start fighting for small improvements of different kinds, pushing for them publically. Reform the reform. With the victory of an actual reform bill, we can say, first and foremost, that something has already been done, and that what we need to do is fine tune it. And as was done with medicare and medicaid, and other programs, we'll expand these things at the margins.
If the Republicans efforts land flat, if Democrats do not self-destruct in despair, if we decide we're in this for the long run, we can expand the protections and the benefits for the average American in a way that it will be difficult for them to oppose successfully. Rather than concentrate all our hopes in one easy to hit basket, we should make multiple pushes. We don't have to win them all, just some.
I know things are bad, but we will have to face a bitter truth here: that between getting nothing done for the sake of a dream plan, and having to wait too long to get something done through smaller and more limited pushes, the better alternative is to let go of the dream plan and try and make some progress.