The Best Lack All Conviction

If you want a pristine example of why people view Democrats as feckless wimps, here’s Obama’s statement from yesterday on what the Dems should do about health care reform following Brown’s Massachusetts victory:

“Here’s one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. People in Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.”


“It’s not enough that the rules make it difficult to pass legislation. We’re also going to make sure we don’t take full advantage of the rules. In fact, we’re going to make up nonexistent rules, like having to delay a vote until a new guy gets seated, and impose those nonexistent rules on ourselves. We wouldn’t want anyone to think we don’t fight fair; accordingly, we’re going to tie one arm behind our back and fight that way.”

Can you imagine Republicans doing this under like circumstances? Of course not. GOP leverage of the filibuster is the very reason Brown’s election has stymied the Dems. I don’t like the way the GOP has used the filibuster (I think the rule should be eliminated regardless of which party has a majority), and I don’t think the rule is good for the country or that it’s been used in good faith, but hey, Republicans are just exploiting the rules to what they see as their advantage. Something Democrats are obviously themselves afraid to do.

But neither the surface maneuvering, nor the substance of the underlying argument, is what matters politically. What matters politically is this: voters sense Republicans are effective; Democrats, fearful. Republicans, unafraid of what people think of their tactics and focused on results; Democrats, obsessed with being liked. The comparison is not flattering to Democrats.

I just finished reading Rory Miller’s new book on violence, tentatively entitled “Seven” (I’m writing the foreword). Rory talks about how criminals don’t see their victims as humans, but rather as resources, and how difficult it is for a normal person to understand this criminal perspective. We’re deeply invested in believing in our common humanity, in the power of reason and the presence of empathy… and it’s hard for us to accept that, with certain people, we can negotiate as effectively as we could with a hyena.

The Democrats are in a similar state. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they remain in denial — still clinging to the belief that with enough compromise, enough compassion, they can placate their Republican enemies and negotiate the passage of some sort of compromise. They don’t understand that Republicans don’t want something passed. They don’t want anything passed. They want to “break” Obama and the Democrats and inherit the ruins after.

Yes, a political strategy aimed primarily at breaking a party rather than at building the country is irresponsible, reprehensible, disgraceful, etc. But until Democrats start acting like they understand the nature of the fight they’re in, voters will continue to look at them and wonder, with reason, “Jeez, if they can’t handle a bunch of bully politicians, how can they handle Ahmadinejad (or any other officially designated boogeyman)? What will they do, complain to Ahmadinejad that he’s not being fair?”

It’s one thing to show your belly if there’s a reasonable chance submission will result in mercy. But when submission repeatedly results in your opponent attempting to disembowel you, you might want to consider another strategy.

Unless, of course, you just really like submitting. With the Democrats, you have to wonder.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity

Indeed. One party is harmful and knows exactly what it’s doing; the other is innocuous and doesn’t have a clue. One party’s inept; the other, insane. Welcome to America.