You Do What You Can

It seems to me that as of one day before Election Day 2006, progressives had a solid grasp of what good things would flow from winning congressional majorities. In brief:

  • No more domestic agenda for George W. Bush.
  • Oversight hearings.
  • Control of the agenda to rame issues in ways favorable to the Democrats for 2008.

Sometime in December, however, people seem to have gotten it into their head that something else would happen. That narrow congressional majorities were actually going to seize control of American national security policy in the face of determined opposition from the President of the United States supported nearly uniformly by his copartisans in congress. Thus, Matt Stoller includes on his list of "groups and individuals" who are "blocking real progress on Iraq," "Harry Reid, who failed to get a vote on a non-binding resolution in the Senate, and doesn't think his original war vote was wrong. It's Bush's fault apparently that Reid voted for the war. Like with his stance on Alito, Reid is giving the impression of action, but not the teeth."

Well, no. Look, Matt Yglesias leading a caucus of 51 Democratic Senators that includes Joe Lieberman, Bill Nelson, and Tim Johnson couldn't get much done in these circumstances either. Nor could Matt Stoller. It's not Reid's fault that there aren't 60 votes for a non-binding resolution on Iraq in the Senate (except in the sense that the "nuclear option" fight was mishandled way back in the day, and Democrats should have tried to abolish filibusters altogether). Blame Lieberman. Blame Jeff Sessions. And, again, ask yourself: If Reid's resolution is so useless, why is the GOP so determined to defeat it? And if it's so difficult to get 60 votes for this measure, what would the point be in proposing something more far-reaching that would only fail by a larger margin? The sad reality is that what Matt and I would like to see the Democrats accomplish is, under the circumstances, very difficult to achieve. Progressives should keep the pressure on for action, but we need to understand that objective circumstances matter. This is a slow boring of hard boards kind of situation, and it's extremely frustrating, but it's also George W. Bush's fault, not Reid's.