What will the Democrats do now?
By Robert E. Meyer
There is much speculation about what congressional Democrats will do over the next two years. My column will be one of pure conjecture as well--I don't know with certainty--but I will give my rationale for each position I take.
First, the Democrats won't try to impeach the president. There are many good reasons for not doing so. The attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton did not sit well with the public, so the Dems won't want to take the chance of messing up their slim advantage going into the '08 presidential campaign. They must create the perception of bringing the country together. Long drawn out investigations would create the same voter fatigue which contributed to the GOP's defeat this November.
Investigations against Bush's reasons for going to Iraq will probably be inconclusive, and at worst exonerate his motives for invading Iraq. It worked better for the Dems to cast aspersions on Bush during the election season, than it will to actually perform an investigation that would do little to harm the already plummeting opinion polls that Bush is enduring. Such inquisition could look like a witch hunt, with Bush becoming the hallowed martyr. As the next election approaches, the Dems can spin their temperance as an act of goodwill: “We all know Bush is guilty of dereliction of his duties, but for the good of the country we spared America a second coming of Watergate.” Presto! The Dems are the "white hats" riding the high moral plateaus.
Next, I doubt we will see much in the way of changes to the income tax structure. Democrats know that the economy has rebounded since the 9-11 recession. The Dow Jones is setting records almost monthly for the first time in since early 2000. Unemployment is extremely low, inflation is in check, oil prices are falling, and the deficit is being reduced through increased revenues, etc. Bush got no credit for this good economic environment, which means the Dems are poised to take credit for the bright economic future already baked into the cake. We will suddenly discover that the economy isn’t as bad as previously projected by the media, all due to the recent election of course. Also, with the housing bubble having finally burst, the Federal Reserve will likely have to go full astern on their current strategy of raising interest rates. The Dems might say they are going to eliminate "tax cuts for the rich," but that is a slogan of class envy, more than a statistical reality.
We will get an "amnesty bill" rather than genuine immigration enforcement. The president can better work with a left of center Congress on this issue. No fence on the border will be built. The Dems will gain votes from the Hispanic community, countering anything forfeited in mainstream America.
No troop withdrawals from Iraq will take place during the first year. Dems want this to be an issue for the '08 campaign. That will infuriate the wild-eyed internet radicals who backed them. The moderates within the party know that simply withdrawing troops will be a disaster. No matter how badly things go, they will still be able to hang the millstone around Bush's neck, anyway. They only have upside on this issue unless they pull out too soon and America is attacked shortly afterward.
The Dems can move against certain aspects of the Patriot Act with the blessings of most citizens, specifically those tenets authorizing surveillance of telephonic communications. Both leftists and staunch conservatives alike, emphasizing civil liberties, have sold this program as "domestic spying," and that impression has stuck. Say that you aren't worried about the administration using Gestapo tactics on private citizens, and you are instantly branded a Neocon.
Democrats can breathe easier about vacancies on the Supreme Court, but they aren't out of the woods yet. If a opening were to emerge, all they could really do is block a Bush appointment, rather than gain an ideological soul mate. The president could force the Dems to filibuster a particular nominee that would make them look bad in the process.
The American people have made a blind date for the ball with the Democratic Party, and they had better hope the coach doesn't turn into a pumpkin at midnight. It is true that the Dems won by running "blue dogs" against GOP incumbents, but these conservative and moderate Dems have by default put liberals in charge of congressional committees. We will see who whips who into shape. Remember though, when Gore chose Lieberman, it wasn't Gore who moved right, but Uncle Joe who side-stepped to the left.
That is the primary reason why today's voter has to vote for a platform more than an individual. In 1960, nobody would have batted an eyelash about a conservative voter who selected Kennedy over Nixon. Today, the specifics of the platform argue that there is more than a dime's worth of difference despite bilateral corruption in the political process.
With the Democratic Party in power again, the phrase "Good night and good luck," has suddenly taken on a new urgent meaning.