The Perils of Playing Safe
Posted on September 12, 2008
I have written about this before but it bears repeating.
When Congressional majorities choose to run out the clock rather than get their work done, they lose seats.
Democrats have chosen this year to do pretty much nothing.
They have squandered their majority, bickering over a war they know they can’t stop, stalling on energy legislation when energy prices are the number one issue facing the voters, refusing to act on bipartisan health care reform, failing to act on more accountability in education, failing to do anything to help ailing manufacturing industries.
As a result, the popularity of Congress is about two touchdowns below that of President Bush. Keep in mind that Bush has the lowest approval ratings of any President in history. And still the Congress is less popular.
It is nice that Nancy Pelosi has been able to make history as the first female speaker. But if she is not careful, her job might be history in the next Congress.
Gallup reports that the wide gap in approval between Congressional Republicans and Congressional Democrats has closed considerably. For most of the last two years, Democrats have trounced Republicans in favorability by 15 to 20 points. But according to the latest polls, the Republicans are closing fast.
“A potential shift in fortunes for the Republicans in Congress is seen in the latest USA Today/Gallup survey, with the Democrats now leading the Republicans by just 3 percentage points, 48% to 45%, in voters' "generic ballot" preferences for Congress. This is down from consistent double-digit Democratic leads seen on this measure over the past year.”
When Haley Barbour was the RNC Chairman, he used to say that if you aren’t on offense in politics, you are on the run. Well, over the last three months, the Republicans have been on offense and the Democrats have been on the run.
It all started when House Republicans spent August protesting high energy prices in a darkened House chamber. That protest, the modern equivalent of the Boston Tea Party, broke through to the American people, despite the din caused by the Beijing Olympics.
Pelosi and her allies were caught flat-footed and defensive. Pelosi is strongly against any increased oil drilling any where in the U.S. A nice position for the very liberal person, but a very dangerous position for a leader of the Congressional majority, especially when oil prices are so high.
And as the Congress returned from its break, House Democrats were confronted with a series of ethics problems, most troubling from Charlie Rangel, the House Ways and Means Chairman and an important leader of the Democrats. Rangel’s job is to write the tax laws of this country, but he is accused to not paying taxes on income he got from property he owned in the Dominican Republic. Rangel’s excuse is that he didn’t know that he had to pay those taxes, a curious defense from somebody who writes the tax laws for the nation.
If corruption and inaction on energy are bad, getting nothing done legislatively is equally bad. The Democrats haven’t done their work on spending bills and it shows. Members can’t take credit for the things they have accomplished back home, because nothing is getting done. As a result, the American people take one look at the Congress, and all they see is a bunch of do-nothing Democrats.
The American people don’t pay a lot of attention to what Congress does or doesn’t do on a daily basis. They don’t follow how many appropriations bills or reconciliation bills the Congress completes. But they instinctively know when a Congress is effectively getting its work done, and when it is dysfunctionally failing to get the job done.
These latest poll numbers are amazing. John Boehner and his team ought to be proud.