Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

The Democratic Party's Senate Problem, Political Will and ENDA

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | January 26, 2010 7:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

The Democratic Party is in trouble. It appears to be unable to move, curled up in the fetal position and bawling at the top of its lungs. Health care reform, the economy and jobs are all problems that, as of right now, Thumbnail image for crying_baby.jpgthe Democrats have not effectively addressed.

ENDA, supported by a majority of the American people, as well as the rest of the LGBT agenda, is completely stalled. Why is this happening and how do we dry the Democrats' tears and get them playing with blocks again? How do we rejuvenate the political will of the Democratic Party?

There are a few home truths that need to be repeated until both the people and the politicians understand.

At the top of the list, in Number 1 position: The fault is not the fault of the Republicans. The job of a Republican is to be a Republican. I don't like their agenda, but the key fact is not that they oppose us, but the fact that we are in the majority and we have failed to carry the ball forward. This needs to be brought home to Democratic politicians, particularly in the Senate, but also in the House of Representatives and in the White House.

Bringing it home means they take some action, instead of letting every news cycle be dominated by stories of their failures, paralyzing and alienating supporters who cannot bear to see the same sad story day after day.

The more the Democrats wring their hands, pointing fingers at the Republicans, the more paralyzed and alienated the Democratic base becomes. Losing teams do not fill stadiums, no matter how many excuses they give for poor performance. Inactive political parties that do not produce results do not fill voting booths, no matter how many excuses they give for inaction. Inaction in the legislature produces inaction in the polling places.

Prescription for the Democratic Party: Stop analyzing, get out of your heads, and start taking control of the legislative process.

As Innocent As Lambs

As far as I am concerned, the Republicans are as innocent as lambs. They are being Republicans, and I suppose that is their job. I don't like what they're doing, but my party is in the majority. My party has the power to put its agenda through. Of course, in order to do so, one needs the political will to do so, and not curl up into a fetal ball in the corner because the mean Republicans oppose them.

"Political will" can be expressed more colorfully in many ways, but the important point here is that the Democrats have strong majorities in the House and Senate and they have the White House. But they have spent all of their time, while in this position of dominance, letting smaller, weaker opponents bloody their noses over and over again. If this were my son or daughter being bullied around like this every day, I would teach them something about martial arts. I am strongly against violence, but strongly in favor of self-defense.

It has come to this: our elected Representatives of the People are almost powerless in the face of the Senate. The Senators, representing entire states whose populaces are dominated by easy-to-manipulate TV watchers with few critical thinking skills, are largely supported by megacorporations that want a return to the laissez faire politics that allows them to tilt the playing field towards capital accumulation in a relatively few hands.

Laissez-Faire Fatcats

When will we get rid of the nonsensical 60 vote rule in the Senate, or at least reduce it to manageable levels? The high number of votes required for action is nothing more than a tool of laissez-faire fatcats. And the fault is not the fault of fatcats, whose job it is to be fatcats. Nor is it the fault of Republicans, whose job it is to be Republicans.

This is the fault of the Democratic Party, which was elected to clean up the mess created by Republicans and their fatcat friends, and which they have almost entirely failed to do. The party is also guilty of pushing Senators in conservative states, like Evan Bayh and Mark Pryor, more and more towards the mushy center. If I were Bayh or Pryor, I would do the same thing, faced with a Party totally unable to produce anything useful, leaving me to fend for myself the best I could. Of course I would pander to the center. (Well, actually, no I wouldn't and that is at least one reason why I'm not a politician.)

The Party's unopposed melt towards the center is guaranteed to make the midterm elections more hellish, as the centrifugal force increasingly paralyzes the Democratic base and the independents that elected the Democrats to DO SOMETHING. Each time I hear that ENDA can't move because the Democrats are still working on health care, oh, and then they need to move a jobs bill next, which will take who knows how long, I become more and more alienated.

Democrats! Stop trying to be the popular high school rock star!

Start using your power! Or lose it!

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As Lewis Black once said: Republicans say "I have a shitty idea!" and the Democrats say "I can make it shittier!"

The lack of political action on even the most basic of progressive issues, combined with incompetence on both healthcare and image control, has destroyed my limited faith in the Democratic party. If the Conservatives would shake off their social values wing I'd consider giving them my vote instead. It's _that level_ of incompetence.

As Lewis Black once said: Republicans say "I have a shitty idea!" and the Democrats say "I can make it shittier!"

The lack of political action on even the most basic of progressive issues, combined with incompetence on both healthcare and image control, has destroyed my limited faith in the Democratic party. If the Conservatives would shake off their social values wing I'd consider giving them my vote instead. It's _that level_ of incompetence.

Even without the "social values" wing Conservatives are not going to give you much in the way of health reform or equality legislation that extends past the government itself.

True. However, even with a fillibuster-breaking majority the Democrats were frozen with stage fright. I may not agree with all their policy choices but there are some things about the other side of the aisle that I could get behind.

Perhaps the better way to say it is "either way you go, you have to hold your nose to do it." Both parties stink something horrible right now.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | January 27, 2010 9:28 AM

The Democratic party doesn't have a Senate problem, they have a spinal problem.

Amen, Margaret. Amen.

Great post, Jill. Now if only all Democratic Congressmembers would read it.


BTW, both Rachel Maddow and John Stewart expressed similar thoughts the day after Brown won in MA.

I never expect much from the Democrats or the President given how centrist he and many of them are (at least in my opinion). But, I never expected them to be so willing to avoid prolonged conflict at nearly every turn with the rabid Republicans.

Jesse Monteagudo | January 27, 2010 10:15 AM

Republicans are political sadists, and Democrats are political masochists.


I love what you write, but I'm going to have to disagree a little on this one. You wrote:

The job of a Republican is to be a Republican.

No, that's not correct at all. The job of a Republican most specifically is NOT to be a Republican. Also, the job of a Democrat is NOT to be a Democrat.

Let me pose an alternative view:

The job of any human being in a position of public service is to serve ALL the people of the United States. Elected officials take an Oath of Office which places this responsibility above any other responsibility they think they may have. This is an unarguable commitment and there is no defense against failure.

Any person who presumes to legislate on behalf of the nation and does not put aside every consideration of prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, party, family, religion, wealth, etc. in service to the nation commits TREASON against the people of the United States and should be appropriately prosecuted by all possible means.

In the final analysis there is no meaningful difference between the jobs of Republican and Democratic lawmakers. They are the same, and many on both sides fail grievously to shut their worthless pie holes and do their fucking jobs.

We are through taking this crap from any other person on the planet and call them all to final judgment.

Putting party before country violates the oath of office and the public trust, but it is not treason. The Constitution defines treason as waging war against the United States or giving aid and comfort to their enemies.

The democrats have rolled over without the republicans having to pay a price for their obstruction of many things. The dems shoud let the republicans filibuster on everything if they want. This scene of filibusters on bill after bill broadcast nationwide on C-span and on the news each day will get the message out to America where the problem lies. Obama and the dems in Congress must quit trying to be so bi-partisan. In health care, Lieberman ended up calling the shots, and he threatened to filibuster. We ended up with a bill that is anti-progressive, and like welfare for the insurance companies. Yet Lieberman is allowed to caucus with the democrats. The dems need to be willing to stand up for principles, including ENDA. If the filibuster comes, so be it. The bill may always be reintroduced in another session.


Don't forget ENDA enjoys bipartisian support in both the House and Senate, and support of 89% of the American people.

So, what's the problem. Seems like a no brainer to me.

We need to peel away the shroud of inaction on this Bill and find out who or what powerful force is truley behind this stall out.

I don't blame the Dems. That is what our opposition wants-- us to fight amongst ourselves as they stay powerful in the shadows. Free of detection.

Democrats have finally replaced the Republicans at the top of the political food chain. But, after so may years of being bait to be devoured at will, Democrats don't know how to be sharks instead of minnows. They've gotten so accustomed to sitting back, waiting for the Republicans to stumble, so they could point the finger of blame at them. Now they're so afraid of stumbling themselves, and having the finger of blame pointed at them, their to petrified to do anything. Being the Kings and Queens, (no pun intended) of the Capitol Hill Mountain, they seem to have no clue on how to rule the kingdom. They had better learn to create the change the American people voted for, expect and demand they to produce. Promises made must be kept, let us not forget where, "Read My Lips, No New Taxes" resulted in Bush 41, being a one term wonder. The loss of Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, should serve as a wake-up call. If the Democrats continue to flap their gums and do nothing, their reign as the powers that be on capitol hill, will end as quickly as it started.

Dan was right on the money. Whether a Democrat or Republican, once elected it's their responsibility to fulfill the oath of office they swore uphold, which is to represent all the constituents of their districts equally, not one more than the other. In the our party vs. their party syndrome continues to flourish, nothing will ever change. If all the effort, energy and time put forth fighting between parties and blaming each other for our countries woes ended. If Lawmakers put party affilation aside, work together instead against each other, we just might see positive change toward resolving the problems Americans face.