Loyalty

In comments to my post about the Bush administration’s noise regarding Iran, Dave from Chandler points out Bush has continued his conduct even given a Democratic majority in Congress. The Democratic majority is not able to stop President Bush because 1) the Republic minority is remaining loyal to the president in upholding his vetoes and 2) The Democratic majority is not willing to bring everything to a screeching halt by unfunding everything until the president discontinues his immoral ways.

I think if anti-war and anti-poverty advocates were as politically loyal as anti-gay and anti-abortion advocates the Democratic majority would have more confidence in taking bold action. But I don’t know what I think about political loyalty.

Question: How does one strike a balance between loyalty (“I know they shut down the government, but I believe Harry Reid & Nancy Pelosi are doing what they need to do for the country and they have my support.”) versus integrity (“I’ve always been a Democrat, but if they can’t stop Bush from torturing people, I can’t vote for them.”)?

13 thoughts on “Loyalty”

  1. I don’t believe it’s a lack of loyalty from anti-war and anti-poverty constituencies that keeps the Democrats from opposing the President. It is rather that these groups don’t reflect the views of all Democrats. The unfortunate truth is that the Democratic majorities won in Congress in 2006 did not come from gains on the “leftist” wing of the Party but rather largely from gains on the “centrist” wing. Thus only a plurality of Democratic voters oppose the war and support substantial increases in anti-poverty efforts. This is why, for example a majority of Democratic presidential candidates do not hold such views.

    If the entire Democratic caucus opposed the war there are other options available to them besides the rhetorically challenging “not supporting the troops.” They could, for example, fund full operations by cutting funding from other Department of Defense programs, like procurement of next-generation figher aircraft and submarines, rather than continuing to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through “supplemental” appropriations which for seven years now have protected the DoD procurement budget from any cuts.

    Such a position would be rhetorically powerful because it would remove from the President the false argument that any cut in military spending hurts the troops. So we must ask ourselves why the Democrats don’t do something like this. Unfortunately, the ugly truth is that too many of them–and their supporters–benefit from spending on the local defense plant or military base in their area.

  2. They could, for example, fund full operations by cutting funding from other Department of Defense programs

    Wouldn’t the President have to sign that budget? So, again, the Congress would have to be willing to not pass a budget at all. And, without the unwavering support of 25-30% of the population that Repbulicans enjoy, I think such actions are much riskier for Dems.

    I agree that the centrists have more sway in the Democratic Party than the Republican Party right now, and it has been for a long while. I stand by my assertion, however, that this is because the left is not loyal to the party.

    Liberal reporters do no overtly prop up Democratic politicians. Liberal voters are quick to oppose their candidates if they don’t get what they want. And, I believe there is a lot of defection from the Democratic Party to the left. (See e.g. Green Party’s impact in 2000.)

    Of course, that may ultimately be good, or it may be a necessary trait of liberals.

  3. “Wouldn’t the President have to sign that budget? So, again, the Congress would have to be willing to not pass a budget at all.”

    The President would be very hard pressed to refuse to sign a budget that had full-funding for the toops in Iraq and Afghanistan yet cut some big-ticket weapons systems–which are useless in Iraq–to pay for it. It would entirely switch the nature of the public discussion.

    “And, without the unwavering support of 25-30% of the population that Repbulicans enjoy, I think such actions are much riskier for Dems.”

    I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head here. The Democrats are too unwilling to “risk” losing having their handles on the levers of power to be serious about changing course in Iraq. What’s a few hundred more dead American war-fighters and a few thousand more dead Iraqis when you can be Chair of your favorite congressional committee?

  4. “I stand by my assertion, however, that this is because the left is not loyal to the party.

    “And, I believe there is a lot of defection from the Democratic Party to the left. (See e.g. Green Party’s impact in 2000.)”

    I simply don’t believe that’s accurate. The anti-war and anti-poverty left is perhaps the most trustworthy consituency in the Democratic Party.

    (Your point about Nader’s vote in 2000 is a red-herring. If you look at those districts where Nader polled the highest percentages–about 5% of the vote–they were overwhelmingly areas with exceptionally-high per-capita incomes. The liberals on the Vineyard, and in Marin County, and on the slopes in Vail–or in college towns like Amherst, Austin, and Madison–who voted for Nader in 2000 are not the “anti-poverty left.” Rather, they’re the folks who are so affluent it matters little in their own lives who is in the White House or Congress.)

    The unfortunate truth is that a solid majority of “centrist” Americans do not hold many key “liberal” values–and yet the Democrats need support from these centrists to be in power. So, the problem isn’t with George Bush, or the GOP, or even the Democrats. The problem is with a majority of our fellow Americans.

  5. We just disagree about the political posture of the American citizenry. A solid plurality, if not a majority, of Americans support withdrawing from Iraq, funding children’s health care, caring for the environment, eliminating torture, and other liberal values. I think it would be easy to get polls to show this.

    We are in Iraq, not funding children’s heath care, no fighting global warming, and torturing people because of George W. Bush and the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

    Your answer for why the Democrats have not been able to stop him is that the American people don’t want him stopped. But that is not currently true.

    The Democrats cannot ignore the fact that their constituents are fickle, not only because they would lose the “the levers of power,” but because is so losing it things would get much, much worse. So, they have to compromise and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  6. Liberal reporters do no overtly prop up Democratic politicians.

    I do think that liberals are less loyal to the Democratic Party than conservatives are to the Republican Party, but media is skewed in both directions.

    I know you and I disagree about this. Just recently, the NYT gave a discount to MoveOn.org for the most valuable print ad space in the Western Hemisphere for the most partisan ad of the last decade. That’s as supportive as the NYT can get besides direct endorsements, and you know the stats on the NYT and endorsements.

  7. “The Democrats cannot ignore the fact that their constituents are fickle, not only because they would lose the “the levers of power,” but because is so losing it things would get much, much worse. So, they have to compromise and not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    My goodness! How much worse than illegal pre-emptive war, decades long occupation, and torture as official policy can it get?

    I think as long as a majority of Democratic voters continue to make excuses for their leaders’ inaction and lack of resolve we shouldn’t expect to see any changes in policy. I wonder how many years into the occupation under the next Democratic Administration we’ll still be blaming the catastrophe in Iraq on Dubya. . . .

  8. Matt,

    My point was that liberal media sources do not support Democratic candidates the way conservative media sources support Republican candidates.

    “Just recently, the NYT gave a discount”

    The NYT says that it mistakenly gave MoveOn a standby rate rather than charging for the specific rate. The rep who gave the reduced rate didn’t see the ad. The NYT could be lying, I guess. NYT correction

    “to MoveOn.org for the most valuable print ad space in the Western Hemisphere”

    MoveOn.org is not a Democratic candidate, and in fact is about to start targetting Democrats that are not liberal enough for it.

    “for the most partisan ad of the last decade.”

    Why is it partisan? It advocated getting out of Iraq, well, it advocated for the General to tell the truth. Did he? Don’t know, we had to be upset about MoveOn.org making fun of his name.

    “That’s as supportive as the NYT can get besides direct endorsements,”

    Selling ad space? What about running stories as news to support the organization?

    “and you know the stats on the NYT and endorsements.?”

    I do.

    Is there as much liberal bias and conservative bias? No, but we can disagree on it. I recognize that I have personal biases that make me see bias where there is none.

    But, does FoxNews give the same support to the Republican Party Candidates as NYT does to Democrats? Come on. There is no way. How did CBS treat Clinton compared to FoxNews’ treatment of Bush.

    Do you really think that liberal media supports Democratic cadidates & politicians in the same way FoxNews supports Republican candidates & politicians?

  9. David,

    I wonder how many years into the occupation under the next Democratic Administration we’ll still be blaming the catastrophe in Iraq on Dubya. . . .

    Shouldn’t we let Hillary get elected before we start making this argument? I mean, I know that the way it works is that Democrats have to have the country’s problems as soon as they take their hand off the Bible, but I think etiquette requires you to wait until then to blame.

    The truth is, not giving the Democrats a chance can indeed make things worse. Off the top of my head, Iran. Wire tapping could be home searches. Unrepresented foreign combatants can be unrepresented citizens. I don’t think by being named America we are immune from becoming a dictatorship. It would be wrong to think that continued neo-con rule would not change things.

    So, here’s where we may agree: those of us who care about the country need to stay or get involved in politics. We should use our political involvement to express our values.

    I take it you do not think liberals should be more loyal to the Democratic Party?

  10. “Shouldn’t we let Hillary get elected before we start making this argument?”

    That would be the candidate who voted to authorize the invasion, has supported it consistently throughout her Senate career, continues to refuse to make any campaign pledges to end the occupation, and recently voted to support the President’s sabre-rattling against Iran? This is who you want/expect to be the next President?

    (I agree Sen. Clinton is likely to be the next President but if so it is unlikely we will see any substantive changes in Iraq policy.)

    “I mean, I know that the way it works is that Democrats have to have the country’s problems as soon as they take their hand off the Bible, but I think etiquette requires you to wait until then to blame.”

    We have had a Democratic-controlled Congress for nearly a year now and still Democrats blame the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq upon Dubya. By the time the next President takes office we will have had Democrats in control of the Congress for two years!

    Would the Democrats have taken control of the Congress in 2006 if their campaign slogan had been something like, “Vote for us for ‘steady-as-it-goes’ in Iraq for the next two years”?

  11. “So, here’s where we may agree: those of us who care about the country need to stay or get involved in politics. We should use our political involvement to express our values.

    “I take it you do not think liberals should be more loyal to the Democratic Party?”

    Well, I think it’s uncharitable–and ill-informed–to imply that only those who agree with us “care about the country” but, yes, I agree greater political activism is essential if genuine liberals want to see national policy more in line with their views.

    On the other hand, I see no value whatsoever in supporting Democratic candidates simply because they’re aren’t Republicans. You can rest assured, for example, that if Nader had captured say 20% of the vote in 2000 the Democrats would have run “to the left” instead of “to the right” in 2004 and 2006. Indeed, if the Democrats had nominated an explicitly anti-war candidate in 2004 they would still have lost the election but that candidate would be unbeatble–which Sen. Clinton seems to be–and anti-war–which Sen. Clinton most definitely is not–in 2008.

    There are reasons why someone like Sen. Russ Feingold, the only Democratic Senator to vote against the invasion of Iraq, did not choose to run for President this time around and those reasons are tied directly to the willingness of genuine liberals to support someone like Sen. Clinton despite the fact that she is perhaps the most conservative candidate seeking the Democratic nomination.

  12. David,

    As is often the case, near the close of a political discussion, I have some things to point out for the record:

    Hillary is my fourth choice for President right now. She is very corporate and very conservative. I also think she is very close to having the nomination wrapped up.

    I think religious progressives need to do a better job of expressing their values that underpin their political beliefs. But, I include conservatives in the group of people who care about our country and need to participate in politics to express their values.

    And, I think your point about if Nader pulled 20% is provocative. It is a good example of how less loyalty to the party would be better for the country.

  13. “And, I think your point about if Nader pulled 20% is provocative. It is a good example of how less loyalty to the party would be better for the country.”

    Which is what Nader meant when he asked people to “vote your hopes, not your fears.”

    I think part of the problem is that too many Americans have a short political horizon. Few people considered how their vote in 2000 might affect the 2004 election. (Or how their tolerance of Bill Clinton’s anti-feminist behavior might affect the 2000 election, for that matter. Imagine how Al Gore might have fared in 2000 if he had resigned the vice presidency when it became clear that his boss was a workplace sexual predator.) Few people considered how their vote in 2004 might affect the 2008 election and so we now have no credible anti-war candidate.

    As long as people continue to believe–and politicians continue to foster the belief–that what happens “today” is what’s most important we will continue to see Democrats compete endlessly for that marginal “centrist” voter while never challenging the underlying assumptions of our political milieu.

    This is a global tragedy in an enormously powerful society that overwhelming supported the invasion of a much weaker adversary (no matter how disillusioned we’ve become now that “the going’s gotten tough”).

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