The Washington Post has an interesting piece on how the Democrats have lost momentum due to the Iraq issue. While Congress and the President fights over war funding, the Democrats have been unable to advance their own agenda:
But now that initial progress has foundered as Washington policymakers have been consumed with the debate over the Iraq war. Not a single priority on the Democrats’ agenda has been enacted, and some in the party are growing nervous that the “do nothing” tag they slapped on Republicans last year could come back to haunt them.
“We cannot be a one-trick pony,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), who helped engineer his party’s takeover of Congress as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “People voted for change, but Iraq, the economy and Washington, D.C., [corruption] all tied for first place. We need to do them all.”
Rep. Emanuel is right on one thing: the Republican defeat in the last election wasn’t due solely to the Iraq issue. Iraq was certainly a major part of that defeat, but it was certainly not the only one. Republican voters stayed home because the GOP lost its conservative principles. The GOP lost independent voters because they couldn’t lead. Now the Democrats are repeating the same mistakes.
The approval ratings for Congress are hardly much to crow about — they’re only marginally better than the President’s. What have the Democrats accomplished in the last few months? They didn’t get their “New Direction for America” passed. They didn’t get their “Six for 06” agenda passed. They haven’t done anything to stop the war, and for all the bluster about how they’re going to force the President to back down, it would be political suicide for the Democrats to refuse to fund our troops in harm’s way. Instead of getting their agenda passed, their single-minded fixation on Iraq is leading the party into gridlock.
Now, in terms of the effect on the country, gridlock’s a good thing. The less Congress does, the better for everyone — especially this Congress. If Congress doesn’t pass another bill for the rest of the session, it will have been better than what the last Congress did. However, politically, the Democrats have to do something or they will get tagged as a do-nothing Congress just like the GOP did. Competence still matters, and it’s hard to argue that the Democratic Congress has been any more competent, any more judicious, or any less partisan than the one before it.
The Democrats are acting in the same way the Republicans did — focusing so much on their agenda and playing rough-and-tumble politics that they’ve neglected the vital center. Congress’ poor approval ratings are no coincidence. The American people are looking for leadership, and a party that can’t keep its promises and seems more interested in partisan bickering than getting things done won’t be successful. The Republicans already learned that lesson in the last cycle — the Democrats may learn it in the next.