Conservatives are considering sulking at home during the upcoming midterms. Apparently, two rightwing appointments to the Supreme Court and an evangelical crusader in the White House are apparently not enough. Meanwhile, the Democrats are, for the first time, actually looking at a fighting chance to take over Congress, according to a front page story in Sunday's New York Times. A simultaneous rebuke to Bush from the right and the left may break the Republican stranglehold on government this fall. But dramatic political change is not necessarily at hand.
Even if the Democrats gain a majority in Congress in 2006, it won't be a progressive majority. The party leadership continues to promote caution on withdrawing from Iraq, criticizing the President, or taking a stand against the aggressive and unconstitutional policies of this administration. The conventional wisdom--that taking too clear a position might get in the way of letting the Republicans hang themselves—is only strengthened by the fact that the Dems' chances are looking better in the polls now, even as they shy away from appearing to be too strong an opposition.
If stalling is a viable strategy, why be surprised that some Dems are even promoting losing as a winning prospect? Really. Last week Tony Coelho told Adam Nagourney that NOT gaining majorities in the House and Senate might be better for Democrats, since then they won't be blamed for the mess the country is in. "The most politically advantageous thing for the Democrats is to pick up 11, 12 seats in the House and three or four seats in the Senate but let the Republicans continue to be responsible for government," Coelho, a former House Democratic whip, told the Times. "We are heading into this period of tremendous deficit, plus all the scandals, plus all the programs that have been cut. This way, they get blamed for everything."
So when, exactly, can we expect a change of direction? When the Republicans start governing responsibly, ending the deficit, reforming government, restoring domestic services, and rolling back the Bush tax cuts? It will be a cold day in Hell before the Democrats judge it a safe time to step up to the plate and take over.
And if they manage to stumble into power, what are the chances that the Democrats will take bold steps to rescue the country from all the bad policies this Administration has brought on us? Not much, judging by the nervous attitude of the current leadership.
Howard Dean incurred the wrath of House and Senate leaders when he declined to direct funds to the Congressional campaigns of the suddenly viable Democratic contenders, who are counting on the anyone-but-Bush-and-friends vote to get them into office. Instead, the DLC chair insists on continuing to fund state-level party-building activities. That sort of long term thinking is not particularly popular. But it might help cure what ails the Democrats. By bringing some grassroots candidates up through the ranks, it is possible that, in a few years, the party might actually have some candidates willing to take a chance on leading the country. Imagine.
Ruth Conniff is the political editor of The Progressive.
© 2006 The Progressive