Two weeks ago in this space, I wrote about how the Democrats appear to be totally incompetent at ballyhooing their own successes. And make no mistake, there have been numerous legislative triumphs over the last year.
Really. No, seriously. Stop laughing. There have been.
They rescued the economy. They set new emissions standards. They protected two million acres of national forest. They passed legislation to help unemployed Americans to afford COBRA health insurance. They expanded affordable health insurance for children. They passed historic hate crimes legislation. They passed the largest middle class tax cut in American history. They’re tantalizingly close to passing health care reform. All of this despite a record number of Republican filibusters by the crackpot minority party.
So I have to ask: H-H-Hello? Anyone home?
Two events this week have served to illustrate my point about the ongoing failure of the Democrats to self-promote.
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 went into effect. Major Democratic triumph. At long last, some of the most predatory and nefarious scams orchestrated by one of the most predatory and nefarious industries have been officially banned. Of course the credit card companies will come up with new, cruel and unusual ways to screw us hard, but this was a major victory in the effort to reform the financial sector. No more random interest rate hikes. No retroactive rate hikes. Fair warning. Transparency.
But you’d never know it based upon the silence from Capitol Hill and the White House. It’s truly confounding. Where are the Democrats? They ought to be bumrushing everyone with a camera and a fake law library backdrop — thumping their chests about how this bill will make our lives just a little bit less complicated and costly. And holy hell, it was a totally bipartisan vote in the Senate, too. 90 to 5. The lawmakers who are scrambling to prove they’re “reaching across the aisle” and all that happy crappy glad-handing — all of the pandering to the voters who tell pollsters there’s too much partisan bickering, then turn around and vote along straight party lines — these Democrats ought to be the loudest and proudest of the bunch.
Hear that? Crickets chirping.
It gets worse.
All but five Republicans, this week, voted to continue filibustering the jobs bill. Not just any ordinary omnibus bill, by the way. It’s a jobs bill in midst of 9+ percent unemployment, and it’s a jobs bill that’s mostly tax cuts. The Republicans, in other words, filibustered jobs and tax cuts. Tax cuts! The words that Sarah Palin wrote on her hand. This is like Jesus filibustering the Gospels.
Now, the Republicans were unsuccessful in their attempt to block, you know, tax cuts. (They tried to block tax cuts!) The Democrats were able to corral five Republicans to help break the filibuster. A weak bill that’s just a little more than the amount the Bush administration misplaced and forgot about in Iraq — a bill that’s loaded with tax cuts — and this very, very center-right jobs bill wins five moderate Republicans. A Republican bill wins just five Republicans.
Based upon this theorem, I sincerely hope no one in the Democratic Party, from the White House to the Hill, seriously expects a single Republican vote on health care reform. Even if the Democrats were to start over with the exact specifications of the Republican plan (tort reform, selling across state lines and no more tanning bed tax for John Boehner), they might win over Snowe, Collins and maybe Scott Brown. The bill could be written by Mitch McConnell on the back of napkin and as soon as the bill were to be introduced, McConnell and a chorus of wingnuts would slam the bill as a government take-over and filibuster the thing — blitzing all of cable news about how Obamacare is moving too fast.
And the Democrats would respond by assembling another bipartisan blue ribbon commission to study how everything went all askew. Am I wrong?
Back to the jobs bill.
If you were just a casual observer of politics, flipping through the cable news networks, you’d think the Republicans — not the Democrats — passed a jobs bill. A jobs bill that was somehow written, introduced, sponsored, co-sponsored, passed and signed by President Scott Brown. Naturally, my inclination would be to blame the easily distracted, superficial cable news people. And they’re partly at fault here, but it’s mostly the absent, muted Democrats.
Why wasn’t the entire leadership contingent from the Senate, along with the entire West Wing staff, all over television condemning the Republicans for trying to filibuster/block/obstruct a jobs bill stuffed with tax cuts for businesses? Is this not a midterm election year in which the Democrats are sure to lose a couple dozen seats? Have they seen the projections for the Fall?
Maybe I’m feeling especially crotchety today, but I’m beginning to think they actually want to lose their congressional majorities. Couple their baffling silence with their inexplicable reluctance to re-embrace the very popular public option, and we have to wonder if they simply prefer playing the role of the feckless minority party. No more pressure to govern, I suppose. No more meany Republicans saying mean things about them and making them cry out: “Why oh why is governing with large majorities so hard, Mommy?!”
The Democrats have proved themselves capable of accomplishing big things. Regardless of whether or not you agree with their politics, you have to admit that their record is pretty solid. In fact, President Obama has been able to usher through more of his legislative priorities than any previous post-FDR chief executive. I believe his record is something like 96.7. But really, you wouldn’t know it based on what you hear — or don’t hear — from Washington. It’s no wonder the Republicans and talk radio can get away with such flagrantly dishonest, contradictory lies. No one appears willing to stop them.
So where’s the noise, Democrats? You have the palmarès. Start now. Start loud. And don’t let up.