Tinsel Wing

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Okay, Nancy, let's see how Grover enjoys being date raped

There's been some grumbling in the left blogosphere over the open hand of bipartisanship Nancy Pelosi extended today to Chancellor Bush. They naturally want to see her become our own Iron Lady, the embodiment of Kos's "fighting Dems." But though their fears of wimpitude to come may prove prophetic, the fact is that for now not-yet-Speaker Pelosi is playing her cards exactly right.

We won this election because the country no longer trusts the GOP, not because they trust us. Poll after poll shows the public has no idea what Democrats stand for - even in those simple, plain cases where our (unreported) votes ought to have made it plain as day. At the same time, they no longer automatically believe the old right-wing demon liberal caricatures. The fact that we've brought a new broom brings this bonus, that our slate is swept clean.

The weeks between now and Speaker Pelosi's first gavel fall will be spent trying to inscribe an identity on that tabula rasa. The Republican talking point will be to type us as angry partisans intent on wasting the country's next two years on vindictive "witch hunts" (formerly known to civics texts as "oversight".) Pelosi has just struck a pre-emptive blow against that tactic. The kid glove demurely encasing her mailed fist, combined with a unified message hammering home her first 100 hours agenda, will prepare the field to our advantage for the memetic war to follow.

Once in power, the Democrats need to display themselves, quickly, as the party that stands up for ordinary working Americans. There's very low hanging fruit, like raising the minimum wage, removing the negotiation ban on Medicare part D, allowing Canadian pharmaceuticals in. Things even Bush won't dare to veto. We've already settled on this opening salvo.

Quiet investigation, preparatory to public hearings, can go on in parallel.

The second thing the Dems need to do is to brand themselves as bipartisan on the war. Here "bipartisan" has nothing to do with playing pattycake with Bush. It has to do with playing pattycake with the Baker commission, and with the growing body of Republicans who would rather not have ongoing carnage in Iraq necklacing their Congressional chances in '08.

The Dems must impose bipartisanship on the GOP as the precondition for bailing them out of Dubya's Excellent Adventure. Only with Republican signatures on the dotted line does the war end. This means, first, that the pundits and right wingers will not be able to claim afterwards that "We would have won in Iraq, if only the Democrats hadn't forced us to cut and run." Or at least will not be able to make the claim pass the general public's laugh test.

And it means, second, that Democrats will get credit (even among some of the punditry) for bipartisanship and changing the tone. It may even become part of the brand. And that will further strengthen them when the investigations are unleashed.

Finally, they should brand themselves as cleaning up the corruption. Rather than a single bill, they should introduce each reform as a separate bill, with its own ballyhoo. March it through and dare the Republicans to obstruct it. A lot of that can be done as chamber rules, not even subject to presidential veto.

When all that's done, the public will have a reasonably fair notion of what the Democrats stand for, concerning which they are just now clueless . Just bulling full steam ahead with all the overdue oversight, without defining our new identity first, could forestall it all.

Pelosi's initial politeness doesn't worry me overmuch. I'm going to see how it goes.

[Adapted from a comment on Greenwald's blog.]

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