The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Remember November, 2006? The Democrats won a sweeping victory in Congress, ousting the Republicans and promising a new age—a time when things of importance would be accomplished. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was hailed as the first woman to head the august body, Harry Reid took over the Senate, and all of us expected good things. Well, some of us, anyway.

Two years later, Congress’ RCP average approval rating is 17.3 percent, the lowest ever recorded. President Bush, for all of his problems, has a RCP average approval rating is 28.5 percent. Hmmm.

To call this Democrat-lead congress “do nothing” is to overstate their accomplishments. It appears that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are more concerned about keeping the public mood as dark as possible so that it hurts the Republicans in the November election.

Real and very serious problems face us now, and the congress does exactly … nothing. To be fair, many of those same problems faced the earlier Republican congress, and they did exactly … nothing. But that in no way leaves the Democrats blameless.

The current congressional majority seems so consumed by Bush Derangement Syndrome that they appear to believe that anything they accomplish will somehow reflect positively on the President. And that is an absolute no-no. Bush's reign must be a complete failure, and it appears that the Democrats are doing everything possible to ensure that it is.

Among the most egregious failures of the current congress is its inability to address the energy crunch in any meaningful way. Gary Andres writes:
The House majority leadership has pulled out all the stops to block votes on measures aimed at increasing domestic supply. The entire appropriations process has virtually ground to a halt because of Democratic leadership concerns that Republicans might offer amendments aimed at expanding energy resources. The majority has canceled markups in committee and restricted the types of bills the House considers, using its considerable procedural power to exclude amendments and other legislative ideas from consideration.

All of these efforts are aimed at blocking one thing: congress working its will. Lawmakers could come together on legislative proposals aimed at more domestic production, expanding refining capacity and investing in renewable resources. But these days, the House is more likely to name a post office than pass energy legislation. It is a pattern that reinforces Americans' worst stereotypes about the institution.

House Republicans feel emboldened by their successes so far. "This is the most unified and energized I have seen our members all year," a senior Republican leadership aide told me.

The House Democratic leadership is making a common error: failing to produce legislative achievement by compromising with the minority. In today's polarized environment on Capitol Hill, party politics is a zero sum game. If Republicans develop a popular new idea, Democrats bury it. The notion of sharing political accomplishment is not in the congressional leadership's lexicon. A former Democratic senator once told me, "Party leadership now approaches legislation like the Super Bowl; there's only winners and losers." Lawmakers found a model for legislative success earlier this year with the bipartisan economic stimulus legislation. The economy needed a boost; Congress came together to do what it could. If Democrats reached out and repeated this pattern several more times - on issues such as energy, for example, voters would take notice. That would boost congressional popularity and probably solidify the Democratic majority.

I’d like to pat Nancy Pelosi on the head (why not, she often acts like a small child) and tell her, “Nancy, it’s okay to compromise when the interests of the country demand it. It’s okay to be bipartisan when the economic health of citizens across this land is in jeopardy. It’s okay, Nancy, to admit that sometimes, fanatic special interests (in this case, the environmental lobby) in your corner can’t always get what they want. It’s okay, just do the right thing.”

But she won’t, nor will Harry Reid, or the democratic majority. Hence, they may soon look back wistfully at the 17.3 approval rating.