Pictured above: an erudite metaphor.
Democrats have once again caved to our historically unpopular President. Politely feign shock.
In this post I revisit something I explored in Useless Democrats Explained and The Democrats' Master Plan: the false notion that Democrats have done something politically expedient, offered up as either an excuse or a rationalization to soften the blow of another Democratic failure.
Weakness is Not a Virtue
The primary narrative employed against Democrats is that they are weak-willed appeasers standing in stark contrast to tough manly Republicans. Against that backdrop it's not political savvy to take actions that predictably lead to headlines like "Senate bows to Bush, approves surveillance bill." Although media narratives of Democratic weakness are often contrived this one is entirely accurate. Once again they have "caved", "capitulated" and "rolled over."
I was looking for examples of heroic behavior to contrast against Democratic actions and remembered the "Kneel before Zod" scene from Superman 2. Per wikipedia:
With this, General Zod's revenge on Jor-El seems complete, as he commands Superman to kneel before him, take his hand, and swear eternal loyalty to him. But Superman has not lost his powers a second time; instead, he has stripped Zod, Ursa, and Non of theirs while he remained safe in the molecule chamber. As he takes Zod's hand, he crushes it and then overpowers him, throwing him into an icy crevasse, where the general disappears into the mist.
I googled "kneel before Zod"+clip for a video clip of that scene to use here. The second result? The gloating Kneel Before Zod | Redstate about the most recent FISA capitulations, which presumably casts Republicans as the menacing Zod and Congress as those who compliantly kneel.
When Democrats and Republicans go head-to-head that is nearly always the presiding tone, that Democrats allow themselves to be dominated even though they have numbers and a mandate.
Democrats Turned Strength into Weakness
A typical explanation for Democratic capitulation is that if a terror attack occurs they will be blamed -- but they will be blamed regardless of their actions. Remember that Republicans blocked Democrats from extending the Protect America Act, an act Republicans previously argued was vital to our national security. Democrats were in a good position to make political hay off of a terrorist attack. (If you're into that sort of thing) Rather than push for an extension to the PAA while portraying Republicans as dangerous obstructionists Democrats instead decided to seek a "compromise" with existing Republican plans and painted themselves as the security lollygaggers.
Politically Savvy Actions Lead to Politically Favorable Results....Right?
The most obvious problem with the argument that Democrats cave due to "political realities" is that there is no evidence that these savvy actions are producing good political results. Here is the polling data for Congressional approval ratings. A graph would make a fun sled ride. Divining meaning from those numbers is difficult but they certainly aren't evidence of success. At Salon the Editor in Chief's current blog entry is "Betrayed by Obama", which runs on the front-page as "Obama's unforgivable FISA sellout." In various places Obama is being correctly labelled a dreaded flip-flopper for saying he'd filibuster any bill with immunity and then voting for this one. Most of the Democrats invested in this issue are strongly opposed to telecom immunity; Obama's actions here have induced a strong negative buzz that threatens to reduce voter turnout, donations and positive word of mouth. Meanwhile it's difficult to imagine anyone of any political persuasion donating more money and ethusiasm to his campaign thanks to this "compromise."
It's absurd to watch people argue that constant Democratic failures are a great strategy even as they generate mountains of negative press and dismal approval ratings, both among the party faithful and among the general public.
Once again Democrats have validated the narrative that they are soft and weak. They've squandered a politically favorable position that made Republicans look like irresponsible obstructionists and recast themselves as behind the curve on security. They've generated negative press and tarnished the image of their Presidential nominee. And despite protestations to the contrary there is no evidence that the Democratic master plan of kneeling before Bush is winning politics.
I suppose it's possible that without these constant capitulations Democrats and Obama would be doing worse in the polls. Given how sullied the Republican brand is though it's difficult to believe that rolling over for Republicans is good politics and I've seen no evidence that it is -- and not for want of looking.