Difference Does It Make?
by D. Hawk
As Tom Daschle and the Democrats take control of the Senate,
he and the rest of the Democratic Leadership must be prepared
to answer the fundamental question: what difference does it
make? Whether - and how - they answer this question is the
key to both the immediate and the long-term success of the
We've all heard ad nauseum how Tom Daschle must be cautious
so as not to alienate the Blue Dog faction, or harm the chances
of certain Democrats who are thought to be vulnerable in 2002.
Well, if these senators consistently vote with the Republicans
anyway, what difference does it make what party label they
wear? Oh, that's right, it determines who gets control of
all the committees, and thus determine the Senate's agenda,
which nominations reach the floor, who and what comes under
Senate investigation, etc. Really? Unless Daschle & Co. show
more guts, imagination, and political acumen than they have
so far this year, they will continue to get bludgeoned into
submission by the Bush-Cheney-Rove troika. And we liberals
(I'm not ashamed of this label) will continue to ask: what
difference does it make?
Let's face it. No matter which party controls the Senate
in the 107th Congress, the conservatives will always have
a voting majority. It will be impossible to get any liberal
legislation through the Senate, the House, and signed by Bush.
But aggressively pushing a liberal (okay, "progressive" for
the squeamish out there) agenda is exactly what the Democrats
need to do! This is the agenda that Al Gore won with, and
is what most Americans still support. Kowtowing to the Blue
Dogs may result in a net gain of 1 or 2 seats in the Senate
in 2002, but the Democrats would still face a conservative
voting majority, would still be very insecure in their "control"
of the chamber, and still be unable to effectuate any real
or lasting good for the American people. So what difference
does it make?
While playing an obstructionist role to conservative initiatives
and blocking objectionable appointees does have some merit,
merely doing this and also going along with the Blue Dog strategy
of "Me too, only with some moderation" will only guarantee
that Democrats remain in the minority for a long time to come.
Ask the Republicans. That strategy is what kept them in the
minority for four decades. So what if the Blue Dogs all bolt
and become the Republicans that they already are? They really
can be replaced if we liberals (progressives) start showing
the American people exactly what the differences are between
our agenda and that of the conservative forces of darkness.
We must proclaim those differences clearly, truthfully, loudly,
repeatedly, and (above all) with passion. And we must be willing
to endure the short-term pain of losing control of the Senate,
if that happens.
However, forcefully proclaiming our differences with the
Republicans is the real key to establishing long-lasting liberal
(progressive) control of both houses of Congress, and the
White House. This is the only way to rally the Apathetic Majority
of non-voters to our cause. As we all know, when asked why
they do not bother to vote, most of them reply "What difference
does it make?" They see no real difference between the Democrats
and the Republicans. (Which is why Ralph Nader was able to
garner enough support to cost us the election. Had all his
votes gone to Al Gore, the resulting landslide would have
buried Bush so deep that he would have discovered a new source
of oil)! But does anyone seriously doubt which side the vast
majority of people prefers on such issues as a patients' bill
of rights, a prescription drug program, universal health coverage,
etc.? It is up to us Democrats to make the public see the
differences between our agenda and that of the Republicans.
As recent history shows, we cannot rally the majority to our
side with long, reasoned, well-thought arguments, presented
in a calm, thoughtful way. We can leave that activity in the
capable hands of liberal (progressive) intellectuals and think
tanks. The rest of us are going to have to get our hands dirty!
We must go on the "talking head" TV shows, the radio talk
shows, and here on the Internet and make our points truthfully,
loudly, repeatedly, and - always - passionately! We should
also create our own version of "Harry and Louise" (remember
how they sank the Clinton universal health insurance program?)
in TV ad campaigns to make sure our message reaches the Apathetic
Majority. And when the conservative forces of darkness respond
with their attacks and their scurrilous schemes, we must expose
their lies, hypocrisy, and despicable nature - by any means
necessary! And we must do so LOUDLY, repeatedly, and (you
guessed it) passionately. So if Daschle & Co. lack the stomach
for conflict, or the courage to proudly stand up for what
really is right, then it falls to the rest of us Democrats
to answer the question: What difference does it make?