(Photo of coffee and a cinnamon vanilla sugar honey brioche donut via Chodta.)
I’m not sure what is less surprising this morning — that Paul Wolfowitz has a new wingnut welfare gig at the American Enterprise Institute or that Stu Rothenberg and David Broder have characterized listening to the grassroots of the Democratic party (and in Broder’s case, listening to pretty much anyone who takes a position with which he disagrees) as tantamount to capitulating to…well, capitulating to the will of the people who elected you to office in the first place.
Here’s a refresher: members of Congress and the President are elected by the people and, as such, they are expected to look not only at the long-term and short-term implications of various policies and possible actions and make up their minds based on reason and facts. But they are also obliged to listen to their constituents (i.e. the people who elected them in the first place), and not the select group of persons we call “pundits” — whose understanding of what people outside the Georgetown cocktail party set wants is pretty much nil.
Rothenberg’s piece, in particular, is a disingenuous example of a consultant trying to tell his clients what they want to hear — and missing the point entirely. Let me illustrate this with Rothenberg’s own words:
Congressional Democrats apparently were surprised by the base’s reaction to the bill’s passage. They shouldn’t have been. Have they been living under a rock?
We’ve seen grass-roots Democratic anger for the past few years directed at the White House, and the animosity and invective aimed at Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) during his bid for renomination and re-election should have warned House and Senate Democrats that even they are not immune to attacks from left-of-center bloggers who see any cooperation with the White House on Iraq as perfidy.
Increasingly, the Democratic left is acting much the way the Republican right has acted for decades, measuring Capitol Hill behavior against a standard of ideological purity that treats pragmatists as traitors and those who compromise as worse than the enemy.
These voices have always been around, mind you. It is just that they now have a megaphone with the Internet, much as angry conservatives did when talk radio burst on the scene more than a decade ago….
Maybe Democratic leaders could have done a better job preparing angry party activists for the passage of the spending bill, possibly sparing Hill Democrats the nasty e-mails and angry comments on liberal blogs, but I doubt it. Democrats have spent so many months cranking up the volume on Iraq — making it a major issue in the 2006 elections and since then increasing their attacks on the president and his policies — that it would have been very difficult to persuade grass-roots anti-war activists to accept a deal with the White House that funded the war for even another week.
So, to re-cap Rothenberg: Americans who believe what politicians promise as a foundation reason for securing the votes of their constituents are just fooling themselves, and none of us should dare try and hold said politicians to account for failing to live up to those promises. So we should all just lie back, take what we get and think of England, and how dare we expect more. Does that about cover it?
Yes, how dare we, people who actually live in this nation outside the Beltway, expect Democratic politicians to…you know…act like Democrats.
The bit about Lieberman is truly the telling nugget: in Rothenberg’s mind, challenging Lieberman was an act of extremism. Here’s a clue, Stu — it was an act of disgust at Turncoat Joe’s constant capitulation to the Bush Administration’s policy aims, his use of his position in the Democratic party as a means to undercut every strategic and principled policy initiative of the party leadership. If Rothenberg wants an example as to why an enormous grassroots fight was initiated against Lieberman, he need look no further than the finger-wagging “[i]t is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war, we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril” crap that Lieberman launched just in time to try and deflate the strengthening Democratic party position with regard to Iraq.
Lieberman is a one-man, whining-voiced, finger-wagging Trojan Horse for the GOP. That Rothenberg refuses to admit that publicly and, instead, attempts to blame grassroots voters for calling a shill for what he is just illustrates even further how far the inside the Beltway crowd is out of touch with the rest of America.
Apparently, expecting Democratic politicians to act like Democrats is exactly what the Beltway pundits don’t want. And expecting them to have some backbone about the issues that matter to a majority of Americans? Fuggetaboudit. Given how wrong and how off the mark the Beltway pundit crowd has been about the Bush Administration and politics in general the last few years, what this says to me is…what in the hell are Democratic politicians waiting for? Wake up and smell the obvious.