Thursday, February 24, 2005

"I'm not a member of any organized political party; I'm a Democrat."
--Will Rogers, Jr.
The downside of being a progressive is that we're all such believers in individual rights that getting us organized is like herding cats. The Republicans, now, they've got that stick-to-the-party-line issue nailed down: you stray, you pay.
Here's the last installment from the Jan.24 issue of The New Republic on "What Democrats Can Learn from the Gingrich Revolution":
It's time for Democrats to adopt George Bush's motto: You're either with us or against us.
Of course, that will require intense party discipline. Here Democrats could learn something from the current House GOP leadership, which last week announced that it was ousting House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Christopher Smith merely because he complained about proposed cuts in veterans spending. By contrast, at virtually the same time, Democrats announced that their new ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee would be Minnesota Representative Collin Peterson--one of the most Republican-friendly Democrats in the House. In 2003, Peterson cast a heretical vote for the GOP prescription-drug bill. He has often failed to pay his caucus dues and has even been the subject of recent party-switching rumors. Democratic leaders gave him the prized committee post anyway, claiming that he had promised to be a "team player" in the future. "Democrats are wimpy about holding each other accountable," grouses one House Democratic leadership aide. "There's always a lot of talk ... but there are no repercussions."
Finally, Democrats should reconsider their parliamentary options. While they enjoy nothing comparable to the filibuster power of senators, Democrats can bring the House to a temporary crawl for a day or so at a time via constant procedural votes. Some Democrats complain that party leaders don't pursue such nettlesome tactics for the simple reason that they're inconvenient. For instance, during the infamous 2003 Medicare vote, which House Republicans staged in the middle of the night, when few reporters were awake to see them browbeat holdout members, some Democrats proposed calling for delaying votes to extend the politically vital debate--which began past midnight on Friday--through the weekend, creating a newsworthy surprise for the media and forcing Republicans to twist arms by the light of day. "But everyone complained about plans, schedules, and plane tickets," says a Democratic staffer. Something similar had happened earlier that year, when Pelosi, responding to a series of particularly egregious GOP diktats, promised to inflict a "week from hell" upon the House. But apparently Pelosi's fellow Democrats weren't so enthusiastic about constant votes at odd hours, and the promised onslaught amounted to just a handful of delays. "The crass reality is that the members' own convenience trumps" such tactics, says the Democratic aide.

Another fly ball dropping at Edmonds's feet.


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