Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Democrats' Notions of Dealmaking

As appalling as was the discourse surrounding the efforts to raise the debt ceiling, I am far more appalled by the dialogue that I’ve been witnessing since the bill passed the House. It disgusts me when I see this measure referred to as a “deal,” and I’m positively sickened when it’s referred to as a “compromise.” I know by now that to expect Democrats to stand up for a cause, to be proactive and take an aggressive lead in lawmaking would be asking too much, but is it really unrealistic to imagine that they might come away from one of their terrific capitulations and express a little outrage, a little anger, or even just a little definite opposition?

Instead of any of that, virtually all of the Democrats I’ve seen commenting on this 100% Republican plan talk about it as if it’s a good thing. They use those words, like “compromise,” implying that both sides gave up a little something for the greater good. But the reality is an increasingly familiar story, in which the legislators who present themselves as being a little bit closer to sharing my views give up the very essence of their position, and all of the preceding debate and rancor comes to look like nothing more than an elaborate show designed to maintain the illusion that there is an opposition party. Why doesn’t that illusion instantly fall apart when we consider that that would-be opposition party still holds control over the majority of the government, but none of the policy discussions?

Only six Democratic senators voted against a debt ceiling increase that includes trillions in spending cuts and absolutely no revenue increase. How can that be explained other than by supposing that they either tacitly accept the positions of the Republican party or that they just don’t care enough about their contrary views to fight for them or even to register them publicly. Republicans have no qualms whatsoever about casting purely symbolic votes. Why do Democrats refuse to do the same, opting instead to demonstrate complete support for legislation crafted entirely by their so-called opponents? Twenty-eight Tea Party Republicans voted against this bill, and that suggests that there are nearly five times as many senators in the minority party who are in opposition because the completely conservative measure is not conservative enough than there are Democratic senators against it because no aspect of it is liberal in any way, shape, or form. Does the Democratic Party stand for anything whatsoever?

My representative in the House voted in favor of the bill, and his subsequent remarks reflect an unwillingness to so much as discuss what went wrong, or to acknowledge that this was anything less than the best thing for the country. Representative Brian Higgins has said that what is important now is moving forward and addressing job creation. I wonder if he believes that the two issues are unrelated. I agree that job creation is of paramount importance, but I think it was important before this fiasco was completed. As a matter of fact, that’s a significant part of the reason why the means by which we raised the debt ceiling was so important in the first place. If legislators continue to push for cuts without revenue, the support apparatus for the unemployed and impoverished can’t escape the chopping block forever, and the government will have no means by which to institute genuine job creation measures. Now that a lack of compromise has been turned into a bipartisan congressional act, it’s not appropriate for Democrats with an active conscience to leave it at their backs and call the issue settled. It’s not appropriate to forget that this is a terrible deal, and to suppress anger and avoid blame. And it’s not appropriate to describe this as a compromise, as even the President has been doing.

I’m pleased that one of the senators from my home state of New York, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, voted against the Budget Control Act, but given the fact that her voice is such a small, ineffectual minority in the party that controls her chamber of Congress, she is one of the very few major party candidates who retains my support after the passage of this act. This is a breaking point for me. I never considered myself a Democrat, but naturally I voted that way more often than not. From this point on, however, I will vote for neither Democrat nor Republican unless I have a damn good reason to believe that that label does not fit the particular candidate. The very best thing that can be said of Democrats in recent years is that they’ve attached such high value to compromise that they’ve made an ideology of capitulation. I’m not interested in voting for congressional representatives whose primary legislative goals are to present an image of bipartisan agreement at all costs. I want representatives who will fight tooth and nail to pass laws that they, and hopefully by extension I, think are best for the country. Is that too much to ask?

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