Monday, October 31, 2005

Bush Has Exhausted His "Political Capital." It's Time For Democrats To Speak Out For An American Majority

Last November, President Bush celebrated a successful re-election campaign by telling reporters: "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it."

In barely a year, that political capital has been exhausted. While the Republicans still have the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress, the party no longer has iron-clad control. It's time for Democrats to speak out on behalf of an American majority, and become equal partners in Washington once again.

How did Bush fritter away his political capital? Let's take a look back at the last year:

The president earned his capital by waging what Al Franken calls a campaign of "fear and smears." Under the guiding hand of Senior White House Advisor Karl Rove, the Bush team was able to convince Americans that John Kerry (D-MA) was soft on terrorism, misleading the American people with their "wolves in the woods" advertising campaign, speeches by Bush and Vice President Cheney, and the conservative noise machine. Kerry wanted to cut intelligence spending in the 1980s, the Bush spin team cried, conveniently forgetting that Arlen Specter (R-PA) proposed similar cuts in the Senate, and Porter Goss (R-FL) proposed deeper cuts in the House. Kerry got smeared. Goss got promoted to CIA chief.

After the election, Bush pushed a number of ideas, notably Social Security privatization. Americans were told that Republicans were the party of ideas, and Democrats were the "all-criticism, no-solutions" party. But this empty conservative spin was on its last legs.

As JABBS pointed out in June, the house of cards was falling. Republicans broke ranks on judicial filibusters and U.S. treatment of Guantanamo detainees. As Rove and others became further embroiled in Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the administration suddenly seemed to struggle with spin.

The wheels started coming off the bus -- and Bush's popularity sank to new lows -- with the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Conservative Sens. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Trent Lott (R-MS) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) withheld their endorsements, while pundits like Bill Kristol called for Miers' withdrawal. At the same time, there were other embarrassments, like the slow federal response to Hurricane Katrina, and the scripted teleconference between Bush and U.S. soldiers stationed in Tikrit, Iraq.

Soon thereafter, Fitzgerald indicted Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, while leaving open the possibility of future indictments against Rove and others in the administration. Some have suggested Cheney himself may be in trouble.

***

Yes, it's only been a year. But then again, when you build a house of cards -- a house built on fear-driven, smear-driven spin -- you have to expect that house to fall.

President Nixon won re-election in 1972, in the midst of a war, with a unified party behind him. His electoral mandate was far greater than Bush's. But Watergate overwhelmed the administration, and ultimately, members of Nixon's own Republican Party told Nixon that the votes were there to impeach him. Nixon instead resigned.

President Reagan won re-election in 1984 in the same lopsided fashion as Nixon. But it wasn't long after that the Iran-Contra Affair took center stage, and Reagan's appointed commission, led by former Sen. John Tower (R-TX), uncovered wrongdoing in the administration and its National Security Council team. Reagan had lost the broad support of the American people, and his second term was ineffectual.

Bush doesn't have to travel the same road.

Unlike Nixon and Reagan, Bush's party has control over both Congressional houses -- at least until November, 2006. Unless Plame-Gate becomes Watergate -- with Republicans agreeing that impeachment is necessary -- Bush's presidency is safe.

But the balance of power has clearly shifted. Just as 14 moderate Senators -- seven Democrats and seven Republicans -- joined forces to sidestep the administration and its lackey, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), and preserve the filibuster, it's time for Democrats to join their moderate Republican friends to speak out for the majority of Americans who want their government to work for them.

There are more than enough sane Republicans in the Senate. And even the fringe Republicans -- like Santorum -- are distancing themselves from the Bush spin machine and its ever-shrinking coattails. Bush's popularity has never been lower, even among party faithful.

For conservatives, now is the time to move to the middle. For moderate Republicans, now is the time to make friends across the aisle.

Democrats have not led as legislators under Bush's helm because they haven't controlled the House or Senate -- or the decision-making on what legislation is voted on and when. When Democrats have brought forth legislation, they have had two choices -- find a Republican co-sponsor, or be ignored. Bush's spin team has spent five years saying Democrats have "no ideas," even though they knew better.

The ball remains in Bush's court -- the luxury of having majority rule in politics. But the rules of the game have clearly changed.

It's time for the Democrats to be a unified party, and speak out for an American majority. The Bush spin team won't have the "capital" to stop them.

9 Comments:

Anonymous ananda said...

What capital?
Bush has never had any political capital at all... except that in his own intelligence-starved, deluded unreality-based mind.

Sue

12:07 PM  
Anonymous elehhhhna said...

Dems shoudl speak for the majority. A novel concept who's time has come.

If they DON'T, we'll know exactly who they ARE speaking for.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous Paul DePo said...

Democrats speak for the majority? What a joke. Maybe it would be possible if the party hadn't alied itself with MoveON.org freeks, Gays and the Communist Worker Party. The American Majorty doesn't take Democrats seriously anymore, so why would it listen to them. Get a clue

12:23 PM  
Anonymous ash said...

Paul's selective condemnation is the real joke. And not even accurate. I'll take any one of these organizations - legitimately connected to liberals or not - over the Wingnut bozos aligned with conservatives.

Dobson, anyone?

1:54 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

Paul isn't based in a factual universe. He doesn't want to admit that 61% of the country thinks the Bush presidency is failing.

He'd rather live in a world in which infantile name-calling can be substituted for actual debate. He doesn't really care about the future of the country, unless "his side" is winning.

And that's the problem. Too many conservatives, drunk on the power of controlling Washington, a majority of governorships, local school boards, etc., have placed party before country. It's sad.

I agree with JABBS. But will the Democratic Party stand with one voice? That's a tough one.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

No, no, no. The only reason the redneck right can exist is the fact that Democrats keep protecting America from them. We've become their enablers. But guess what? America voted these crooks in and if the Democrats had any guts they would all stand up and walk out of the voting chamber and leave the Republicans to pack the court with their fascists.

Let's all be honest here. When safe and legal reproductive rights are destroyed, it won't be us liberal elites who suffer. We can always get our lattés to-go, and drive our limousines up to Canada, should the daughter ever need an abortion.

Let 'em have their good-old-boy guvment. I'm sure they'll be very happy living in a Pentecostal theocracy (do you suppose they'll wear their burhkas in white?). The blue states should be working on is a plan to secede. We'll keep New England, California and any blue states that want to come along. Oh, and we call dibs on the Grand Canyon.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Cartledge said...

Perhaps your Democrats would be wise to shut up for a while and allow the Republicans an opportunity at full self destruction. (BTW An interested Australian writing) Given the growing cynicism towards the body politic, any push now could well backfire on the Dems. The self destruction is well under way, with a raft of scandals still unfolding inside the white House and Congress.
Isn't it so true that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely’?

3:54 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

Cartledge -- welcome aboard!

The Dems have watched as the GOP self-destructs. But then you get the spin that the Dems have no new ideas, as articulated by JABBS.

That's the problem with fighting a spin machine. You're damned when you fight back (you become labeled the "angry left") and damned if you don't fight back (you become labeled the party of "no ideas.")

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a good post. Accurately describing the downfall of the reppublicans that is underway. Incredible how they just dont know how to handle power. Seems to be a cycle--the dems in the 80s and 90s in congress and now the republicans.maybe its human nature. That aside, the more interesting point is whether the dems should act or stand in the background. While I see the chance for backlash, I vote for acting not waiting. Waiting allows the republicans the possible chance of regrouping, recognizing the faults etc... and they have proven to be resourceful in the past (although there are lots of different things going wrong for them). Here is the big problem--its not that the dems dont have any ideas, its that the party rarely stands behind moderate centrist ideas that republicans would possibly join with them on. It is my belief that most in america would be satisfied with a government that governs somewhat honestly from the center. If the dems continue to scream from the far left and the republicans continue to be governed by the far right.....i think the resuult of that is an overall weakened government no matter who wins. Time for the dems to stand up together. Find some centrist spokesmen/women and have Dean and Kennedy (who rightly or wrongly are associated with the I hate Bush movement) back off. There is a window of opportunity here and the dems should take it. Time to fight for the center. The American public is ready for a change. The smarter stronger party will stand up now and offer that change.

5:21 AM  

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