Sunday, May 7, 2006

Retribution May Not Play All That Well

It looks like Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority-Leader, may be setting up a Newt Gingrich style Democratic ‘Contract With America’ for the fall mid-term elections. Republicans in 1994 cashed-in on an electorate that was worn to the bone from 42 years of Democrats. People wanted new blood or, failing that, any kind of blood.


There’s something very American about that.


Nancypelosi_1But whether or not Nancy’s strategy will play well this fall is an interesting question. We have a very wounded administration, an unpopular war and a Congress that’s arguably more up for sale than any time in history, on both sides of the isle.


It’s axiomatic that the side in control gets the blame. That’s the way the blame-game works in Washington.


Jonathan Weisman writes in the Washington Post that

“Democratic leaders, increasingly confident they will seize control of the House in November, are laying plans for a legislative blitz during their first week in power that would raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls.”

The good news (if you’re a Democrat) is they’re finally laying out some kind of program upon which to oppose Republicans, now that the election is seven months away. The questionable part of Pelosi’s strategy is what comes after the blitz; that a Democratically controlled House

“would launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration, beginning with the White House's first-term energy task force and probably including the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.”

She claims impeachment is not on the menu, but certainly it can be had by arrangement with the kitchen.


It will be interesting to see if America is up for that.


Several circumstances auger against retribution, and I don’t know what to call ‘series of investigations’ if not retribution. The Al Gore told you it wasn’t going to work crowd are probably going to come out in force, no doubt about it. Bush supporters are disappointed in their candidate and the way he’s run things, but any threat of investigations that might lead to impeachment are entirely another matter. Pelosi, by implying that, will bring right-wingers who might have stayed home out in considerable force.


Which leaves the middle.


It’s the middle, that storied and undependable centrist mass every candidate panders to, that will make the difference. In fact, they are always the deciding factor, which is why conservatives and liberals spend so much time bumping into each other and saying the same banal things over what each claim are core values.


VotingWhat makes mid-terms different is that they are far more local. The current national anger and disappointment may not play out well in local contests. Polls (and pols) suggest that voters are angry at the House of Representatives, but not with their Representative. They’re incensed at the Senate, but not with their Senator.


Politics, both Democrat and Republican, has worked for decades now to sit very deep in the national saddle. Each party, when it was in control, worked to redistrict in order to make their candidates bullet-proof and has unfailingly supported the money-side of free speech. The legacy of that is very little competition for elected officials and the most partisan practical politics imaginable.


Newt Gingrich brought Republicanism with a vengeance to Washington. It failed its Contract With America and became intensely corrupt in record time.


Democrats, without a clue how to end the Iraq war and even less idea about damming America’s river of debt, without a national leader to encourage the electorate, are putting their bets down on pointing Nancy Pelosi’s shaky finger in the direction of retribution.


And it might work. The country is very tired of Washington and more than a little confused. They keep voting bad-guys out and getting different bad-guys for their trouble. What they hunger for is leadership in the mantle of someone who will tell them hard truths, work with the opposition to make things better and stop everlastingly lying to get elected.


What they will get and how they will get it in November is anybody’s guess.
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More about politics in America at my opinion columns web site.