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What Difference Does It Make?
June 14, 2001
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 Democrats.

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?

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