The Case for Retribution

Kevin Drum nicely breaks down the options facing a potential Democratic congress (or even one house of congress) into two ideal types:

(a) acting as the party of moderation and focusing on bipartisan "good government" proposals, or

(b) using the subpoena power of Congress to investigate the hell out of what's been going on in the executive branch for the past six years.

I think Kevin goes wrong in saying that which should be preferred "depends on whether you think there are lots of moderate, centrist voters in America who will respond positively to Ignatius's wholesome message." At the end of the day, I think Democrats should pursue an agenda of aggressive, albeit focused, efforts to root out malfeasance even if such an agenda has less appeal than the alternative. The crux of the matter is that public opinion, while obviously important, has only a limited and attenuated relationship to policy outcomes. Structural factors matter and, in particular, the presence of a real and palpable rot within important quarters of the conservative movement matters. Rooting that rot out is crucial to the long-term health of the country and the long-term prospects for progressive change -- more important than pre-positioning for the next election cycle.

To get a look at what I mean, one of the noteworthy factors about the current situation is the extent to which the malefactors are people who really should have been permanently driven out of public life for sins committed long ago in the 1970s and 80s. But instead of being so driven, they were merely pushed out of office only to return, like zombies, eventually accruing more power and influence than ever before. This needs to stop. No set of tactics is going to prevent "the Republicans" from winning future elections and regaining control over the levers of power at some point. That's how two-party politics work. But it is possible to imagine a future in which specific individuals can never take office again, and the networks that bind them to each other are utterly disrupted.