Monday, January 03, 2005

By Jove...
I think they've got it:

Since the GOP has no interest in compromising or courting Democratic support on much of anything, Congressional Democrats have no option other than to operate as a full-throated opposition party, which could have the added political benefit of enabling all of us to finally shed the Party of Big Government label.

But Democrats should be smart and selective about their strategy for opposition, projecting a positive message of reform even as they do everything possible to stop the more arrogant Republican excesses. On the domestic front, that means calling constant attention to the Bush-engineered fiscal crisis; to the strong odor of corruption and special-interest coddling arising from the GOP Congress; and to the wide array of national challenges, from skyrocketing health care costs to our dangerous dependence on imported oil, that Washington's Republican rulers are ignoring. It also means carefully picking the right fights on judicial nominations, opposing unqualified and right-wing-activist judges and defending the Constitution, but not opposing each and every lower-court nominee who is simply a standard-brand conservative.

As the last election convincingly showed, the current administration and its allies has deliberately chosen a strategy of maximum polarization because it is the only atmosphere in which their extremist views can secure majority support. That has not changed in this New Year. Nor has the Democratic imperative of becoming an opposition party that stands for a clear alternative agenda for a country in dire need of real leadership.

Perhaps this will be the test of whether "the party" is really as attentive to the DLC as that organization's critics always claim. Of course, if they don't listen to them this time, when the DLC and the "reform faction" seem to be one and the same, one almost has to wonder if there's any point to the Democrats at all.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting debate on dailyKos, prompted by the proprietor's evident frustration with the faction of Democrats that believes the irregularities in Ohio--about which there doesn't seem to be much doubt--were sufficient to tilt the election to Bush. His point, with which I agree, is that the real goal needs to be election reform, and that by presenting the question in a charged partisan context we hurt the (perhaps already dim) prospects of achieving that reform. My response:

...cries of "fraud" obscure the much more significant question of what is "allowed" under our horrendous election system: strategic placement of voting machines, built-in biases against poor and minority communities, transparent contempt for the whole notion of equal protection. Calls for reform are both justified on the merits and unimpeachable as politics: not even Tom DeLay could say with a straight face that the current system is fair and equitable. And the stink of the same officials responsible for elections serving as campaign chairs for candidates should be so foul that even the idiots on CNN wrinkle their noses. What we need to really achieve reform is to take the partisan politics out of this issue.

As it is, we make it too easy for the press and public to draw parallels between Republican cheating and Democratic whining; both seem outcome-focused. Thus, the chattering classes tacitly accept the partisan premise that the ends--Republicans in power--justify the anti-democratic (small d) means of tilting the electoral playing field.

Update: Forget what I wrote--this analysis of the real significance of Ohio and the debate over misdeeds, "fraud" and how we push back is superb, and heartbreaking.

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