This may not be popular in some quarters, but I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em. We wanted Senate Democrats to filibuster, but I guess that wasn’t in the cards. Still, 33 Democrats in the Senate and 160 in the House voted against the so-called antiterrorism bill — thereby voting to oppose torture and the indefinite detention of suspects without legal recourse. They didn’t oppose it as early, as forcefully or as diligently as many of us would have liked. But in the end the vast majority of congressional Democrats did vote against it.
And, yes, that does mean something.
At least in this one sense, they stood up for the constitution against a wholesale Republican attack against it. And almost certainly, many of them did so at least in part because they knew how strongly the Democratic base felt about the issue. And now, because of it, every one of them, to at least some degree, has a big target painted on his or her chest.
The gunfire has already erupted: This from a Bush fundraiser (what else?) in Alabama, “Five years after 9/11, the worst attack on the American homeland in our history, Democrats offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing,” Bush said. “The party of FDR and the party of Harry Truman has become the party of cut and run.”
As mad as many of us have been at the congressional Democrats in recent days, it’s time to suck it up. We can’t afford to let the GOP get away with this. Most obviously, another two years of undivided Republican rule would cause this country incalculable damage. But even beyond that, if having taken a stand for constitutional rule (be it a depressingly halfhearted one) congressional Democrats now end up getting smacked for it at the polls, we won’t stand a chance of ever getting many of them to take such a stand (let alone a stronger one) ever again.
There’ve been a lot of complaints online that the netroots don’t get the respect, support and opportunities for coordinated action we deserve from the Democratic Party establishment — objections that, in my opinion, are very well taken. Well, here’s our chance to begin changing all that — an opportunity to prove once and for all that in addition to Crashing the Gates, we can also play a crucial role in defending them against the GOP.
This is a time of testing for the reform wing of the Democratic Party. We demanded, righteously and passionately, that our representatives in Congress stand up for the United States Constitution, and that they do so even at some risk to their political scalps; and they responded, not to the degree we would have liked, but enough to put them in the line of fire of the right wing attack machine. What’s more, there are apparently troubling early signs from focus groups that some of the bullets may be finding their targets.
This then is the opportunity for the netroots to prove once and for all that we can do more than complain — that we’re ready, willing and able to put our brains, our brawn and our hard earned cash where (for many of us) to this point only our mouths have traveled.
The big dog progressive blogs, like Daily Kos and Eschaton, are already doing yeoman’s work raising money for promising new Democratic candidates; this work must continue. But we need to do more: The netroots also need to take the lead in countering the evolving Republican strategy of attacking all Democrats as being soft of terrorism.
It’s the sort of work the Internet was born to do: For one thing, progressive blogs and websites, including The Last Chance Democracy Cafe’s parent site, BuzzFlash, must continue their great work in acting as a truth squad, laying bare GOP lies and flooding both local and national media outlets with demands that they speak the truth, rather than just repeating Republican lies.
But that’s also not enough. I suggest we also need to take the lead in quickly forming a high profile committee, preferably, given the diminishing time available, under the umbrella of an existing organization like MoveOn.org, dedicated to one and only one purpose — making the shameful way the GOP has been using the war on terrorism as a political weapon to divide Americans a major issue in the campaign.
As I’ve said before, of all the despicable acts committed in the last five years by Bush and the Republicans, none has been worse than the way they deliberately threw away the great sense of national unity that existed after the Sept. 11 attacks, choosing, instead, to use the issue as an instrument for partisan political gain.
It’s a crime, and a particularly ugly one at that. And this is the year to start bringing them to political justice.
Happily, doing so also happens to be the best way to refute unfair GOP charges that Democrats are weak on fighting terrorism. It’s an issue the netroots should claim as our own.