There is great concern that the Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives and even possibly the Senate in the 2010 elections. While most prognosticators are predicting huge wins for the Republican Party, their current seat deficit is so great that if they do win back the majority in the House, it will likely be by less than a dozen seats. If Democrats do manage to hold on to the House, it will likely also be with a very narrow majority. While I’ve been told with much hand waving to be very scared about the prospect of Speaker John Boehner, what no one in the Democratic party has legitimately explained to me–or the rest of America–is why we should care. . . be it Republicans or Democrats with narrow control of the House.
For the past two years, Democrats have at every turn repeated the completely fictitious “you need 60 votes in the Senate” myth to duck accountability and justify their wasteful corporate giveaways. Even if the Democrats do manage to hold on to the House and Senate, they will have only tiny majorities in both. With only 53 Democratic senators, there is no hope that Democrats can pass anything substantial–things on which they have already failed to act –as long as they are committed to giving the Republican minority some sort of quasi-parliamentary veto power.
On the flip side, there is no way Republicans can win the House and a 60-seat majority in the Senate (let alone the 67-vote majorities they would need to override an Obama veto). I’ve been told for two years a mere 59 Democrats in the Senate are powerless due to the filibuster; by this same logic, we have nothing to fear from Republican gains because they will never be able to get anything through a Democratic filibuster, and even if they do, Obama can veto it.
Democratic voters have no reason to vote for Democrats, or even much reason to vote against Republicans.
The Democratic leadership has made it clear that they can’t promise anything, even if voters do turn out to support them this November. And the last two years of accountability-dodging propaganda also makes fear mongering about a Republican-controlled House seem silly. Democrats in the Senate can (theoretically) stop legislation, either by majority vote or the much ballyhooed filibuster, and if not, Obama can veto it. Talk of how a segment of Republican candidates favors privatizing Social Security or eliminating Medicare does demonstrate that they are out of touch with mainstream America, but in all honesty there is zero possibility that either move would come about as a result of Republican action alone, with or without winning narrow control of the House.
There needs to be a tangible reason to support Democrats this cycle, and there just isn’t.
Where is the Democratic platform–the core values, the themes, the proposals–combined with a commitment to Senate rules reform that would ensure such a platform were actually enacted? Where are the awesome new laws Democrats promise to pass if we return them to power? Where is their workable plan to fix our crippling unemployment problem? So far, the silence deafening. I haven’t heard Democrats promise one big thing they would pass using reconciliation if they manage to maintain a majority in the House.
Given the Democrats’ Congressional paralysis of the last year, and Obama’s veto power, the fear mongering over sweeping Republican changes is baseless. I’ve heard only two legitimate policy cases for why a Democratic base would really not want Republicans to take the House this year. The first is that Obama is a secret conservative who will happily join a triumphant Speaker Boehner in passing the Republican platform. (Note: claiming your president is secretly excited to work against the party’s own platform is not a good way to increase base enthusiasm.) The second is that if Republicans control the House, Obama won’t be able to take a piss without Darrel Issa subpoenaing the urinal, making it impossible for Obama to get anything done. Sadly, this argument would resonate better if Obama had used his powers during some part of the current session to bypass Republican obstruction and advance progressive goals (like quickly putting Elizabeth Warren in charge of the CFPB, for instance).
No wonder there is a huge enthusiasm gap. Not only is the economy in terrible shape, but I’ve yet to hear a single Democrat articulate a solid reason to support the party as a whole. . . and if I haven’t heard a good reason for why Democrats should turn out this year, I can assure you, neither has the base.
So, Democrats should not be surprised when many of the enthusiastic voters of 2008 don’t go to the polls this year. They might be warning voters about the real possibility that Republicans could take control of the House, but Democrats have utterly failed to explain to Americans why they should care.