Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An obvious Democratic strategy

The Democratic strategy for dealing with Iraq, especially given the importance given to withdrawal by the electorate in the 2006 elections, should have been obvious. The question is, why wasn't this strategy, or something like it, pursued?

First, put pressure on Bush himself and keep it there. Don't let up. Articles of impeachment, censure, special prosecutors, investigations, throw everything but the kitchen sink at the guy. This is the most unpopular and worst President that we've ever had. The Republicans and conservative Democrats will vote down or otherwise obstruct these measures, but keep the narrative simple: "The problems in Iraq are due to Bush's lies getting us involved and his incompetence in prosecuting the occupation. And he's gutting the Constitution in the process." Whatever happens in Iraq is Bush's fault, either directly or by virtue of the buck stopping at his desk. Keep the narrative focused on Bush himself; don't put the spotlight even on Cheney (except to impeach him as well).

Second, put pressure on the commercial media. Have press conferences and talk about every lie, every distortion, every misstep. The commercial media will probably back off and become more neutral, or they will be exposed indubitably as conservative shills.

Step 1: Fail dramatically; construct a narrative.

Introduce a bill asking for everything: "Here's $10 billion, get all the troops out in 90 days." Pelosi & Reid can force it out of committee, even if a Democrat doesn't support the bill: "Although I don't support this bill, because of its importance, Speaker Pelosi/Majority Leader Reid has asked me to release it from committee so the full House/Senate can debate its merits." It gets voted down, but now the progressives have a strong tool to use against conservative Democrats in the 2008 primaries. Let the Republicans blather, and keep the narrative simple: "We're trying to end the war in Iraq. Period. The illegal/immoral/incompetent occupation prevents any other means from achieving progress."

Step 2: Ju jitsu

When things get financially critical, use ju jitsu: Tell Bush he can have anything he wants for six months, let him write the bill, and make sure it passes without debate. The narrative is then, "We weren't willing to sacrifice the troops. Bush obstructed our efforts to end the war and forced this bill down our throats using our soldiers as hostages. Anything bad that happens is his fault." Once the bill passes, nitpick every fault in the conduct of the war, past and present.

Keep up the pressure on Bush personally. Use the narrative of "holding the troops hostage" to sway fence-sitting Democrats and moderate Republicans concerned about how their support of Bush will look. Who knows, Bush might stumble so badly writing his own bill that impeachment might actually happen, or, even better, force a resignation.

Step 3: End the war

Repeat step 1. Now the narrative is even more compelling: "We tried to stop the war, we were stymied only by Bush holding the troops hostage, we have to stop the war now and any bad consequences are Bush's fault." It'll pass. Keep up the pressure on Bush personally; even if Bush hasn't resigned, the pressure will have rendered him ineffective.

End result: The Republican party is marginalized. The right-wing commercial media is neutralized. Conservative pro-war Democrats are undermined. The war in Iraq ends early in 2008. The 2008 election gives us a Democratic president (whichever of Clinton or Obama who fought most strongly) and a solid progressive Democratic majority in the legislature, which outweighs the right-wing domination of the Supreme Court.

This is not rocket science. I'm writing this now instead of eighteen months ago just because I'm not a political analyst. It's still pretty obvious, Negotiation 101 stuff. So why didn't the Democrats pursue this strategy? Why is congress's ratings so low? Why is there still some chance that fascist Giuliani or yet another damn Republican actor might be elected President in 2008? Why are we talking about Edwards' haircut and Clinton's cleavage?

I can't do much more than speculate, but here are my speculations.

One reason is the historical structural disorganization of the Democratic Party. As Will Rogers said, "I don't belong to an organized political party: I'm a Democrat." The Republicans pick up most of the authoritarian, traditionalist sheep; The Democrats get the most of the splintered counter-cultural idiots and the people who use logic and reason. Logic and reason are much more difficult to sell than conservative, traditionalist dogma.

Another reason is the role the pro-Israel* lobby, such as AIPAC, has in the Democratic party. This lobby clearly wants a hot war with the Middle-Eastern Islamic nations, thinking (erroneously, I suspect, but at least a bit more rationally than Bush & Co.) that war will enhance Israel's status and power. No Democratic politician can mount an effective bid for President without their support, and if the Democratic candidates for President don't support a political strategy, it's doomed to failure.

*Unless Israel declares itself something other than a secular democracy, pro- or anti-Israel has absolutely nothing to do with pro- or antisemitism. Most Americans who are Jewish oppose the war in Iraq. I don't know about Israeli Jews, but last I heard the U.S. government doesn't represent them.

Another reason is the love that progressives, especially progressive political bloggers have for inside baseball. Strategy and tactics, demographics, the details of political horse trading; progressives love to talk about this stuff. The progressive movement is chock full of armchair quarterbacks. The rank-and-file Republicans, and the conservative, right-wing bloggers, on the other hand, push a moral narrative. It's a rotten moral narrative, full of lies, distortion and bullshit, but it's always about good and evil, not how to squeeze out a few more votes. Progressive moralists, such as Arthur Silber and Dennis Perrin are more or less marginalized. Compare and contrast the TLB "higher beings" and the difference is obvious.

Fundamentally, though, I think the biggest reason is that most Democratic politicians are supported by the same economic elite that owns the commercial media and supports the Republican party. This elite supports Democratic politicians so as to give the appearance of dissent, not to have them actually change anything.

And both Democrats and Republicans have their eyes on the second largest oil reserves in the world.

I'm appalled by the sheer evil and suffering in Iraq, and I'm very pessimistic about the political situation here. I think if a Republican candidate is not elected outright, Clinton or Obama will eke out a narrow victory, compromised by support for war against Iran and tepid opposition to the war in Iraq. Democrats will not obtain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. At best, we'll withdraw half our troops from Iraq, leaving tens of thousands (and tens of thousands of mercenaries private contractors) acting as a permanent political irritant. Even a Democratic President will probably start yet another war in Iran, if Bush doesn't get there first.