It’s been nearly a year since Democrats stormed into Congress with campaign victories all across the board in the 2006 midterm elections. By picking up 30 seats in the House of Representatives and five seats in the Senate, the Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994. Furthermore, the Democratic Party gained control of the majority of governor’s mansions and state legislatures for the first time in a long time. So you would think that after all those years of impotence, all their newfound power, and a craving to get back at George W. Bush, Democrats would get some things done in 2007. Instead, with only a few months remaining in the year, they’ve done essentially nothing.
Aside from passing most of their 100-Hour-Plan in the first week after taking control, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the Democrats just haven’t had much of a positive impact on the country. The few things that they did accomplish (federal minimum wage hike, student loan interest rate reductions, lobbyist legislation, and “pay as you go” laws) never really grabbed the interest of the American people. Although, most of the legislation in the 100-Hour-Plan was positive, its impact on the public has yet to be felt. With a 26 percent approval rate (Associated Press, 9/13/07), the Democratic-led Congress is not just treading water, they are sliding down a slippery slope.
As it looks now, the Democratic Party is going to have very little impact on the most important issue facing our country — the Iraq War. It seems that they won’t be able to pass any meaningful legislation on the war until after the presidential primaries occur early next year. This is because most Republican lawmakers have continued to support President Bush’s Iraq strategy — despite predictions from the left — and aren’t likely to cross party lines until after the primaries end next June. John Murtha (D-Pa.), a Vietnam veteran and war critic who chairs the appropriations subcommittee overseeing defense spending, recently predicted that “as soon as the primaries are over, you’re going to see Republicans jumping ship.” Even if this prediction holds true, it does not matter; for if the Bush administration can hold down support until late next summer, they will have succeeded in handcuffing the Democratic Party and in getting the war support they want and need.
Obviously Democrats have tried to pass legislation to bring our troops home and effectively end the war. However, because of the President’s power of the pen, the party in power has been rendered essentially powerless. So although they like to blame the GOP for stopping their efforts, Democrats should only blame themselves for failing to work in a bipartisan manner. Had they proposed sensible legislation on the war, Republican lawmakers would have been more than happy to join hands with their colleagues across the aisle. If you don’t believe me, just check the numbers. President Bush’s approval ratings have been holding steady in the low 30’s for awhile now, so being offered a way out from Bush’s hole, would be a gift for most Republicans looking to be reelected. The other issue with war legislation involves conservative and moderate Democrats who are unwilling (or unable) to speak out about their disdain for the war, because of fears that their conservative constituents would see it as abandoning the troops and Commander In Chief in a time of trouble. Despite the fact that most Americans want us out of Iraq, there are still people (mostly in the Midwest and South) that believe we should stay the course and continue fighting until we achieve total success.
The fact is the Democrats are struggling and it should come as no surprise to anyone. Their leadership is disliked by the majority of Americans, GOP members, and even congressional Democrats. Party members are torn over how to fix the mess in Iraq, and legislation coming from the left has left much to be desired. Furthermore, liberal groups like MoveOn.org are doing nothing to help their political party of choice by purchasing ads in the New York Times that question General Petraeus’ integrity. And finally, the majority they hold in Congress is so slight, that they don’t have the power to play the bully. All of this, plus the upcoming presidential elections have hurt the image of the Democrat-led Congress, or at least made us all forget about them.
Whatever political progress the Democrats can scrounge up over the next few years will be too little, too late if they can’t find a way to stop the war. The majority of Democrats in this country believe the 2006 midterm elections gave them a mandate to stop the war, and they have yet to see their elected officials take advantage of that position. Thus, although the Democratic Party has led the way on a few important bills, and may do some good work in the future, they are still, and will continue to be, the Do-Nothing Democrats.