The "For Something" Trap

I'm rapidly losing patience with the "Dems need to stand for something" trope, the one usually offered by kindly conservatives in the context of well-meaning advice. This week, the guidance was proffered by QandO's Dale Franks, and it's springboard is a Christian Science Monitor editorial that worries itself sick over the Reid-led move towards opposition party. The criticism follows the usual trajectory, a graceful arc from sadness over the failing opposition party to invocation of the now-unemployed Tom Daschle who, the writer predictably writes, would be glad to tell you how well this opposition party stuff works out. Too bad such a fun to write post is so intellectually bankrupt.

Tom came from a crimson state that voted for President Bush in overwhelming numbers, so maybe if you're from Dubya country you might not want to be the nation's highest profile opponent of his policies. And I'm sure that's exactly what he'd tell you if you went to his door and asked, rather than simply imagined the conversation onto your keyboard. As for Reid and the Dems? They don't stand for anything? Really? Not even the 10 Leadership Bills that they unveiled last week as the centerpiece of their legislative agenda? Or did you just not take the time to look?

If the Dems really were a bunch of idealess naysayers whose only use in life was implying things about Bush's nominees, I'd wholeheartedly jump on the "they suck' bandwagon. But it's just not true. What is true is that they are a minority party subject to the whims of a hyper-partisan majority that has choked off every opportunity for the Democrats to put forth an affirmative agenda. The evidence of the Republican Party's near-despotic rule over the House, and to a lesser extent the Senate, is voluminous and outrageous. Democrats can't bring bills to the floor, Hastert won't put legislation up for vote unless a majority of Republicans support it (a stark contrast with the bipartisan vote-counting of certain Clinton-era policies), Democrats are denied the judicial courtesies they offered Republicans, DeLay regularly augments egregiously conservative portions of bills when he finds they gain too much Democratic support, and so forth. This is a public strategy aimed at painting the Democrats a wholly negative, unproductive party. But, as with so many PR efforts, it's relation to the truth is creative.