Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Schiavo and the Democrats

I understand that some think the Democrats played this thing pretty well, allowing Tom Delay to take the heat from the 7 in 10 Americans who oppose the Schiavo bill. I also understand that by agreeing to the bill Frist produced in the Senate, Reid was able to limit the debate to Terri Schiavo and not to a whole class of right to die cases as the House wanted.

But herein lies the problem: Congress is not supposed to act on behalf of a single individual in cases like this. And to the extent that Democrats lead by Reid enabled the narrow focus on Terri Schiavo without raising an objection, they are just as guilty of trampling on the constitution as the Republicans.

Even more important, most purveyors of Conventional Wisdom in Washington will take from this that Democrats are scared shitless when ever an issue is defined as a "culture of life" issue by the Republicans. To that extent we can expect lots more analytical mumbo-jumbo discussing the "problem" with the Democrats along the lines of The Note this morning:
    To some extent, though, the silence reflects the condition of the Democratic Party. Many are scared of their own shadows (and unsure of their own instincts) after losing three national elections in a row. When the DeLay-Frist-Bush political machine labels something as in the cause of "the culture of life," Democrats these days tend to run and hide. Anything that strikes Democrats as a "moral" issue triggers the joint that makes their mouths shut quickly.

    "We are terrified by a fear of a backlash," says an aide to a Democrat who privately has grave doubts about it. Backlash from whom is a more complicated question, because Democrats don't need the evangelical conservatives who oppose removing the feeding tube.

    It is also testament to the Internet Age, in which an energized minority (no matter how small) can generate waves of grassroots activism (phone calls, e-mails, blogs, talk radio chatter) that can give public officials a warped sense of where public opinion stands. Republicans have heard from their most loyal and intense supporters (the "base"), and not much from what appears to be a more "silent" majority.

    Rush Limbaugh, still the voice for millions of conservatives, spent an hour on his broadcast Monday lambasting Democrats and liberals on this very issue, ignoring the majority who voted in favor of the bill and calling those who did political hypocrites. And big media abetted the hot soup by nourishing it with round-the-clock coverage.

    That's not to say that some Democrats don't want the party to fight; to use this to portray the GOP leadership as captive to a small minority in the country that panders to pro-lifers and turns off moderates in both parties. Some in the party think the entire affair is unseemly and that Republicans have poisoned their own well by grandstanding. Democratic silence, this theory goes, will pay off in the end.

    But so long as the party has a perception (and self-perception) problem with life issues broadly defined — even among many voters who might support them in this instance — reticence, lack of clarity and weakness are the orders of the day.

...David Sirota has more
...so does Liberal Oasis

No comments: