Why are Dems such wimps?

During much of the Clinton presidency, he was constantly under attack by the Republicans in Congress for indiscretions large and small.

Yet we now have a Republican president apparently determined to prosecute an offensive war based on less than clear evidence, which risks damaging our international relations. Where is the outrage by the Democratic members of Congress?

I am often disgusted at the way politicians “play politics” over every matter, whether large or small. And I seem to recall stormy debates over the committment of troops on smaller scales in the past. Why no such debate now? Does this suggest that the Dems agree with the Repubs as to the justification/desireability of this action? Or is “war” on this proposed scale too “big” of an issue, such that the good of our nation requires that our government present a “united front”? Or do the Dems fear the war will be “successful” (however measured) and they don’t want to risk taking a firm position they will later regret?

29 Senate Democrats for, 21 against.

Some of the Democrats have tried to stake out the seemingly impossible middle ground: voted for it then, against it now.

My impression is that war is usually accompanied by a lot of mindless patriotism, and Democrats are too afraid of backlash from the mindless patriots.

One reason is that we’re not listening. Senators Byrd, Kennedy, and Levin have all spoken out against going to war without a UN resolution. Why isn’t this being more widely reported? Hell if I know. Blame the bloodthirsty–but still liberal–media. Or the fact that the Republicans control every facet of our federal government and can now shout much louder than the Dems can.

Another reason has to be that the President is doing a bang-up job of torpedoing his own administration. His reelect numbers are beginning to look poor; his job-approval rating is also steadily declining and may dip below 50% any day now.

Historically, when a President’s approval rating is low or dropping in the year before an election, some wild-ass usurper from his own party crashes in and tries to steal the nomination: Reagan v. Ford, Kennedy v. Carter, Buchanan v. H. W. Bush. Sometimes it can trash the election for the incumbent. Right now (according to that first poll I linked above), 38% of voters surveyed would vote to reelect Bush; 37% would definitely vote for someone else. (Interestingly, John McCain pulled in 37% of the popular vote in the last presidential primary cycle. I doubt that means anything, though.)

This war and the next election are the President’s to lose. I think a lot of Democrats believe that Bush is doing a very good job of losing. (Personally, however, I don’t think that way.) In a situation where you are comparatively voiceless and powerless, why not be the loyal opposition?

In this morning’s Chicago Trib, I read some effective congressional criticism of presidential justification of war as:

"from beginning to end, the sheerest deception. [The president would have] gone further with his proof if it had not been for the small matter that the truth would not permit him. … Let him answer fully, fairly, and candidly. Let him answer with facts and not with arguments. … Let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation."

Unfortunately, the Congressman quoted aham Lincoln, speaking in 1848 to criticize President James Polk’s justification of military response to alleged Mexican aggression.

The same commentary quoted ex-President Theodore Roosevelt’s challenge of President Wilson’s crackdown against dissent following US entry into WWI:

**“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by thhe president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Where is that much vaunted liberal media when we need it?

Curiously enough, last night’s Daily Show had an interview with Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media? I haven’t read the book, but Alterman had an interesting thing to say, which I will attempt to paraphrase accurately:

The Conservatives had a case for a liberal media up to the 1970s, but since then they’ve been like an angry basketball coach who managed to get a call reversed–now they cry “bad call” at any play they don’t like, in hopes of getting another reversal.

It’s an interesting point of view, but I can’t help noticing that Alterman himself seems quite left-leaning. Maybe that’s all the conditioning from the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

I started a similar thread the other day:


I really don’t know why Dems are such wimps…maybe because we generally look at things intellectually and don’t immediately feel the need to punch the lights out of anyone who disagrees with us. However, I think I’ve reach the point that I want to kick the shit out of these wild-eyed war mongers…

DMark, that is funny, because just this morning I was thinking, as NPR was playing clips of Republican congressmen saying the time for dissent is over and we must all support the troops [meaning the war], “You know what, I am a Democrat and traditionally preferred the Socratic method of leading people to a conclusion, but I am now ready to bitch slap these silly, non-thinking bastards.” I don’t know if this process would work as a national strategy, or is being typically felt by other lefties, but I think the lessons learned from Carville’s campaign(s) are: “Don’t take shit. Come back and kick 'em in the nuts.”

Most of our Democratic leaders at present are wimps. I disagree that we should allow Bush to bury himself. We tried a strategy of non-confrontation during the mid-terms, and the end result was unsatisfying. I say pit Bush and pile the fuck on.

  1. Dems/liberals were (with some justification) accused of being anti-American over Vietnam and communism. In retrospect, the attacks on “militarism” that became indistinguishable from attacks on the conscripted 19 year olds came to seem really tasteless. It seems that those who identify themselves as liberals now have a kneejerk need to be seen to, at a minimum, “support the troops.” In this war (as in others, I suppose) lack of support for a particular geopolitical strategem can be (and has been) cast as lack of patriotism (even when most would concede that there is no imminent threat to U.S. sovereignty). The two betes noir for Dems at this point are probably being accused of lack of patriotism and being soft on crime, and you’ll notice that most Dems will find a way to signal that they are “tough” on these issues.

  2. Congress as a whole is chicken. Declaration of war is constitutionally entrusted to Congress. For a variety of reasons, diplomatic as well as political, Presidents have found it more handy to use military force by executive fiat. Congress has too often been more than happy to punt on the issue of war so they can have it both ways – a perfect example is the current situation; Congressmen were way too wishy washy ever to want to vote for war (what if it went wrong?), but by voting to give the President war-making powers contingent on his getting approval from the UN (which last we checked wasn’t the constitutional source of U.S. war powers), Congressmen have an out no matter what. If war goes well, they’re patriots who supported it. If it goes badly, they warned him he should have gotten UN approval.

  3. Dems and liberals are stereotypically (and probably really) motivated in part by idealism (the cynics call it loony wishful thinking). They believe that everyone around the world shares, or ought to share, their soccer mom view of things. To the extent they don’t, they ought to be chastised and made to be proper suburbanites who play by the rules. After all, it worked in our seventh grade Model UN debates, right? Thus, the use of force is surprisingly acceptable to a substantial portion of the “Left,” despite its nominal embrace of pacifistic ideals, as a means to making people behave in our image. Think of mom swatting the little kid in the interest of making him play nice. There could be a whole other thread on what’s unkindly referred to as the “chickenhawk” phenomenon, but suffice to say we’ve seen a fair number of nominal liberals (Blair, Albright, etc.) frothing at the mouth to bomb various disobedient nations back into the Stone Age.

  4. The interesting thing about the “neoconservatives” who have animated the Bush Doctrine on the Mideast is that (apart from the military strategy), they’re not particularly conservative by nature or even background, and many have a foot in both party camps (and/or are former Dems.). Thus, while the Dems. don’t have, say, much of a fifth column within their party militating against Roe v. Wade, they probably do have members/contributors/supporters/lobbyists/strategists who are receptive to the same Wolfowitz/Perle arguments that have found an ear in the Bush administration.

One quick question: Aren’t soccer moms more typically conservative?

A slower observation: Aren’t conservatives just as likely to think that everyone else shares their view, and if they don’t, well they just better or they’ll get what is coming?

Partly it’s because the Democrats have no authority, or even influence anymore, in controlling what issues get debated in Congress at the moment. Hastert and Frist are by no means going to allow any debate that might embarrass a GOP administration for any reason. The supplemental budget request for the war will be an opportunity, though.

Partly it’s because the party that lacks control of the White House also does not normally have an identifiable leader who can set or influence the agenda that party’s leaders discuss. The Republicans during the years the Democrats held Congress while Clinton was President also looked utterly feckless due to divided leadership, if you’ll recall.

Partly, perhaps, it’s because
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

  • W.B. Yeats

Most of us tend to “project” our beliefs and assume others think the way we do. As far as soccer moms, I don’t have a clue.

I don’t believe Democrats are wimps. They are anti-Bush. Many of them hate Bush. That is their right.

And also, don’t forget the insane campaign fund raising requirements faced by almost all members of Congress. To a large degree, the Democrats in Washington seem to have been bought out by the same forces that pull the Republicans’ strings - eventually, they may not even be fully aware it’s happening.

I’m thinking they’re stereotypically passionate moderates – don’t like conflict or nastiness or controversy (the paradox comes up when this is used as a justification for violence to impose a “play nice” approach on others).

Re: Congress’s abstention (not just the Dems, GOP too) from taking any risky positions on this issue:


Soccer moms are swing voters therefore they rule the world.

Best quotation in months.

Posted by Barbarian man:

One quick question: Aren’t soccer moms more typically conservative?

Sounds like an unresolved soccer mom fixation hidden there somewhere.

A slower observation: Aren’t conservatives just as likely to think that everyone else shares their view, and if they don’t, well they just better or they’ll get what is coming?

“just better or they’ll get what is coming?”… is that a threat, from a Barbarian, no less? Soccer moms, beware…
The world has room for all on the political spectrum.

posted by: DMark

However, I think I’ve reach the point that I want to kick the shit out of these wild-eyed war mongers…

Now you got it. Lets start with Bin Ladin and Saddam and anyone one else who funds international terrorism and anyone else who won’t help the USA with our war on terror. You are either with us or against us. You are our freind or you want to kill us.

I wonder if a pacifist really has the heart to try and hurt me. I bet it is just talk.

Brilliant observations. Absolutely. Not only are you unable to see the source for my question about soccer moms, but you are also unable to parse my second statement to understand that a: it has nothing to do with soccer moms, and b: the threat in the statement is not from me.

Eventually you may even figure out how to click on the quote button.

This morning I received an e-mail entitled:


I thought the sentiments expressed were pretty good.

*We stand at a pivotal moment in history. Millions of Americans are proclaiming their opposition to President Bush’s proposed unilateral invasion of Iraq as are millions more across the globe.
This past weekend saw massive rallies all across the land, the largest preemptive antiwar movement in history. Yet only a handful of voices in the Democratic Party have dared to speak out in a way that represents our deepest concern. Many of us voted for you as an alternative to the arrogant militarism of the Bush
Administration, only to be disappointed and angered by your
unwillingness to stand up to and challenge this President, who is hell bent on war no matter the cost.

As Senator Byrd stated so eloquently in his February 12th
Senate Floor Speech, there is no debate, no discussion, nothing coming from most of you, only silence. Your silence amounts to acquiescence and that is not only unwise, it is dangerous at a time like this. Well, enough is enough! Put aside your fear of “unpatriotic” labels and take the real pulse of the American people. You will find that the majority of people who voted you in
are against this war, and we ARE NOTICING THAT YOU ARE NOT

Stand up and say that to preemptively strike out when an
act of aggression has not been committed by our “enemy” is to set a dangerous precedent that is in direct opposition to what this country should stand for. Now is not the time to be silent.

Now is the time to say that you have heard our voices: that
the overwhelming majority of your constituents want peace! It is the patriotic duty of every American to oppose the misguided policies of their government. And it is your duty too! Now is not the time to be silent. Now is the time to voice your opposition to a policy that is thrusting an already dangerous world into an even more dangerous crisis.

We need you, our elected representatives, to end your silence in the halls of the Senate and Congress and to convey the will of the people in a way that will make President Bush take heed. We need you to do what you were elected to do. Open your mouths and represent us!*

More info available here:

http://www.petitiononline.com/notwar77/petition.html -