Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Morning In America?

Look, I'm massively cynical about our political system. Perhaps painfully and counter-productively so. So don't begrudge me my morning of jubilation, okay?

Before yesterday, in my darker moments (becoming more and more frequent, and a major reason I stopped talking about politics in this space) I was wondering whether the American Experiment hadn't irretrievably failed. The Torture for Commissions Act was the last in a long line of straws by which we seem to have sacrificed our essential Americaness at the altar of...hell I have no idea what the purpose was unless I'm going to be completely cynical and say at the altar of political gain. To steal a quote from the (fictional) Jay Landsman, we did not cast off our ideals lightly. We hurled them away with great force.

And it's not like these actions were the result of a popular mandate. The President is unpopular, and has been almost continuously since America more or less decided he didn't suck quite as badly as does John Kerry - and the fact that it's even a question is a rather sad commentary on whatever conventional wisdom got JK the nomination in the first place. Giving massive new powers to a guy no one even likes that we know or at least suspect that he has no idea how to actually use constructively = bad times.

The rest of the world was watching, and this felt like out last chance to convince them that the worst things said about us aren't accurate.

It was in this frame of mind that I started hearing about various shenanigans yesterday morning. Being both a Red Sox fan and having only really followed politics since 2000, I was already expecting the worst. And then, it happened. I really can't describe it any other way than that. I guess the turning point for me was the first batch of Senate exit polls followed quickly by the canaries falling like dominoes in Indian, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and upstate New York. After that I felt pretty ok - the early reports of voting problems were overblown, and I was perhaps a little bit paranoid.

And now, with the human gift for turning history into narrative, I can see the TfT act as being the nadir, and maybe we can bring it back. I'm actually feeling a bit optimistic today. But that doesn't mean it's time to rest on laurels. The Dems may or may not have "had a plan" before today, but now they need to get on it, toot suite.

To go back to "The Wire" well, "gettin' clean is the easy part. Now comes life." Last night was the easy part, the new Congress has a mandate for change. Not for "change," but to put the work in and do it right. When it comes down to it, I think that the public is going to demand competence above anything else at this point. I'm prepared to accept (some) policy outcomes I don't like as long as we the people get what we pay for.

I don't know exactly what this "competence" means substantively, because that's above my pay grade. But I know what it doesn't mean, and that's more politics for politics sake. I'm all for investigations, but not witch-hunts. It's no longer enough to talk about how the current administration and previous Congress got it wrong. Show me something better, don't just tell me about how great it would be if you did.

So, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid, and the presumptive '08 candidates, you're on the clock. Don't let us down.

Update: See also, Ogged:
For as long as there have been liberal blogs, there's been a dastardly Republican majority in both houses of Congress. The blogs are voices of anger, opposition, and witness. So now what? Those things aren't the things we need anymore. I can't be the only person who looked at Eschaton this morning, saw that the Wanker of the Day was Rahm Emanuel, and burst out laughing. But I won't be laughing for long if the blogs don't adapt, and we have the activist blogs turning their anger toward moderates, and the wonky blogs having good faith discussions about precisely how to calibrate the COLA.


Kaiser said...

Excellent post Senor Pooh. Couldn't agree more with everything you said...

Mr Furious said...

Ditto. (we can use that, too, right?)

Icepick said...

Sorry, you're moment of jubilation ends now. Pelosi is already showing that she doesn't mind corruption, and that competence takes a back seat to paying off backers and punishing dissidents. Plus, that corrupt so-and-so Murtha is standing by his decision to challenge for the number two spot in the House. That's standing up for good government!

Pooh said...

You're going to need more than an equivocal piece from Insight Mag (and you should just hear what they say about Darth Nancy in freeperville...) to knock the grin off my face, damn you...

Seriously though, if the Dems interpret their win as based on dissatisfaction with current foreign policy, doesn't it make sense for them to make sure that the ranking members of relevant committees aren't on record as backers of the failed policy? "Punishing dissidents" is a bit strong...

Icepick said...

Uh, that's fine, Pooh, but appointing one of the six federal judges in US history to be impeeched and removed from office to that position doesn't exactly look like she's taking it seriously, either. (And this story has been swirling around for some time.) Or do you think that's a good thing?

Anyway, I thought the Dems won because of corruption? If that's the case, how does appointing guys like Hastings or Murtha to leadership roles do anything but make your party look like just another goddamned bunch of crooks and liars? You've had fun bashing the Republicans for the likes of Delay, but you've got no problem with the asshats in your own party. I guess winning cures all ills, huh?

And punishing dissidents is not at all too strong a term for it. Or have you forgotten about the EX-Democratic but still current Senator from Connecticut?

Pooh said...

So "losing a primary" = "being punished for dissent"? Interesting inversion there. Last time I checked, Holy Joe still has his seniority (FWIW, I would have booted him out on his ass. Not for his positions, which he's entitled to, but the sheer selfishness of getting beat in the primary and taking a do-over...)

I'm not sure I ever claimed the dems would be lily-white. In fact I'm sure I didn't. How about this, when/if we find out corporate lobbyists are writing legislation while Congressfolk are off in Macao on a junket, I promise to get just as angry as I did this time, deal?

Pooh said...

Further, you're entitled to your opinion that this will be a Bad Thing, net. Frankly, I don't see how that's possible, but you're entitled to it. You're not entitled to project your concerns about the Terrible Things That Will Happen (click the link, you'll smile...) into factiness.

Damn you, let me have my week or so of jubilation before I get pissed off when the DCCC chooses not to throw Bill Jefferson under the bus in his run off or whatever stupid thing they do first, will you?

Icepick said...

It official, Pooh. The purges have started:

Hoyer poses a competing power base to Pelosi, and they have not had warm relations. "She wants to purge the leadership of people who disagree with her," said a Democratic official with a front-row seat. "It's about people she can personally control. Hoyer is an excellent public face for the party. She's more a behind-the-scenes player."

As for bad things happening, Hillary is once again talking about nationalizing healthcare, Congressional leaders are now calling for retreat and surrender in Iraq, Pelosi wants to give a tax break to people making $500,000 per annum and call THAT a middle class tax break, and I'm now officially poor because I make less than $100,000 per annum. (Nancy's tax breaks are for the 100k to 500k earners - you know, the middle class!)

I still don't know how I went from being rich to being poor over the span of one Tuesday, but it's happened. I guess it'll be government cheese for me from now one....

Pooh said...

Well, I like UHC, so I got no problems there. (Well, tactically, I'm not sure it's wise, but substantively I think it's the correct policy, though why in god's name we'd want Hillary to be the face of that. It worked out so well the first time...)

I don't really have a dog in the Murtha/Hoyer thing - I don't particularly like either of them. Murtha is socially conservative and puts the focus rather too squarely on Iraq. Hoyer is a bought and paid for corporatist. Ick.

Is "Retreat and Surrender" just polysyllabic "Cut and Run?" Yeah, thought so.

So wait, now tax cuts are a bad thing? For them before you were agin them?

Icepick said...

I'm against hypocritically complaining about Bush's "tax cuts for the wealthy" and claiming that that they will work for the little guy, and then the first thing they do is give tax cuts to upper bracket types. I'm fine with revising the AMT, as such things need to be adjusted periodically, but don't feed me a bunch of BS about how you're helping the middle class out when you do that.

And sorry, I forgot to toggle "pithy". Yes, they're the same thing, but the longer version more accurately refelects the situation.

And when I'm talking about Murtha, I'm specifically not talking about his Iraq position. I'm talking about hypocrisy on the corruption issue. Hell, even one of Soros's groups thinks Murtha's a crook. So now we're swapping Delay for a guy who's at least as bad, and probably worse. And it appears Harman is definitely out. Can Alcee's ascension to chairmanship be far behind?

Instead of sweeping a new group into power, we've put the same group of crooks from 25 years ago back in office. Fan-TAS-tic!

Icepick said...

Instead of sweeping a new group into power, we've put the same group of crooks from 25 years ago back in office. Fan-TAS-tic!

The good news is that at least I won't have to learn new names. I can probably go read old newspapers, too. SSDD.