Last night, in response to the myriad of comments in Lisa Lockwood's diary about "shutting it down", I posted a diary with possibly the least catchy title ever regarding certain realistic and feasible options and alternatives to shutting down the government.
And even though it got some good comments and recommends, I think that I may have not really articulated what I really wanted to say - not just to us here at DKos, but also to our elected leaders. Last night's diary was more of a means to an end, but really the message is the same:
We have been facing a constitutional crisis like none I have seen in my lifetime (and I was a wee tot in 1974) and this country needs leadership. The pendulum is swinging back, but that is not enough. The time is now to seize the agenda, seize the tone of the conversation, to seize the moment and take back the country. Not after November, NOW. And it
canmust be done, even if the Democratic Party is currently in the minority.
We have seen Senator Kerry post diaries here saying that "enough is enough". We have seen House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declare that "the gloves are off" and declare "not on our watch". Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Senators Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold and Barack Obama as well as a number of House members have posted many diaries here as well.
But the thing is, it IS happening on your watch. The gloves are not off. Enough has been enough for years now. And the time is now, even from a defensive political standpoint to take control and show this country not only why this Republican culture of corruption and crime is no good, but why and how the Democratic Party will do better. The country is outraged, as evident by the 29% approval ratings for Dear Leader.
People have to pawn their possessions just to pay for gas. There are 46 million people without health insurance. The public's confidence in Congress, and Republicans in general is at a low point. More and more Republicans are being indicted, asked to "step down" or are being linked to scandal after scandal. However, the general consensus is still that the Democrats aren't much different, don't have a plan (even if it was officially released and is on their website), aren't "strong enough" or whatever else is out there in the public conscience.
It is very easy to steer the agenda and conversation. But it is imperative that this is done immediately and not after November. People like to see strong leaders. They don't like wimps. Look no further than the 2004 election - Chimpy was seen as "strong" even though that is laughable. Kerry was not, despite the fact that he was the one that served in Vietnam. Tough words and tough actions will make November a landslide victory for the Democrats. Not empty rhetoric and token actions.
There are two very simple ways to accomplish this, and they must BOTH be used. Control the Congressional agenda and control the public "war of words". I'll discuss both briefly below.
In my diary last night, I talked about controlling the congressional agenda. Not by shutting down the government like the Republicans did in 1995, but by using the Procedural Rules to grind Congress to a crawl and force debate on the issues that matter to people.
Late last year, Sen. Reid threw the Senate into a closed session by invoking Session Rule 21 for the first time in 25 years. By doing so, Reid was able to take control of the agenda and force debate, ableit for a short period of time, and had the Republicans agree to a probe about the administration's handling of pre-war intelligence. Of course, we were all happy at the time, but it was a short lived happiness as the Republicans didn't do anything in this area and we were back to the business of screwing We the People royally to the benefit of extremely wealthy and well connected cronies.
However, there is no reason why Sen. Reid can't do this every single day for any of a number of reasons. Pick one, two, or five - as long as the message is clear. Illegal NSA wiretapping, today's news of data mining, CIA leak investigation, criminal negligence with respect to Katrina, lying to Congress regarding Iraq, aluminum tubes and yellowcake uranium, even going back to "Phase 2" of the Iraq prewar intelligence probe or whatever else....Certainly there are enough crimes and violations that public opinion is on our side for.
Filibuster is another thing that can be done - clearly there are calls here to "filibuster everything". However, this may cheapen the use and while I don't subscribe to the "keeping our powder dry" meme, there are more effective things to do that I don't think the Democrats need to go down this road for each and every bill.
The other thing that can easily be done is to suspend unanimous consent. A few people have proposed doing this and I think it is a great idea. By doing so, each vote or motion would require a vote on everything and slow down the agenda. It would also be much more likely to have public approval since most of the Republican agenda is completely self serving and hurts Americans.
Who is going to complain, other than the Republican whiners if billions in tax cuts don't go to the ultra-wealthy? If pharmaceutical companies aren't protected from gross negligence? If illegal wiretapping is investigated? If pre-Iraq war lies are investigated? If gas price gouging is investigated? If health care protections for citizens aren't gutted further? If crimes and ethics violations are investigated? If a serious debate about keeping and making us safer at home occurs?
And that leads to the second point - the debate must be controlled by the Democrats. This should be easy, but in a world where grandstanding and "look at me, listen to me" is more important that taking back our country it seems to be tougher than it needs to be.
Look at all of the warring factions in the Republican Party - but their message is clear and unified. We have a golden opportunity in a few weeks at YearlyKos when Senators Reid and Boxer as well as Rep. Pelosi (and hopefully more) of our leaders will be in attendance. Only a strong, clear, and simple consistent message to be repeated over and over and over can show the public that the Democratic Party is looking out for their interest.
Every Sunday morning talk show should be about this message. No defensive questions about Hillary Clinton and Rupert Murdoch. No questions about Patrick Kennedy's car accident. No being painted into a corner about the agenda of the RWNM.
The message should be this simple: We are here to let you know why we have taken the steps that we have taken. Why we are using whatever tools are available to us as a minority party to show that we are serious about taking back this nation. We simply will not stand for declining healthcare, for skyrocketing gas and oil prices, for declining educational standards, for lies, cronyism and corruption that are killing our children, our brave soldiers and bankrupting our country. This must stop, and since the Republicans in Congress and this Administration do not care about the American public and are not acting as leaders, it is our duty as Democrats to do so ourselves.
A simple message. A powerful message. Hold weekly press conferences on the Capitol steps.
Some examples always help as well. Talk about the pawning of jewelry to pay for a tank of gas. Give an example of someone whose loved one couldn't afford their medication as a result of the Medicare D(ebacale). Show how people earning over $1,000,000 get an average of $43,000 in savings from this latest tax bill while Americans earning under $75,000 will see a savings of $100. And then mention all of the programs that were cut as a result of these windfalls.
Sure, Tweety, Mr. Potato Head and the other talking meatsticks will try to steer the conversation back to whatever drivel they want to spew, but don't take the bait. Look no further than the good Dr. Dean or Senator Feingold for this.
The public is waking up. They are craving leadership out of this horrific nightmare. And it can easily be done. It just takes leadership, a few bold people and a strong message.
It takes more than words in a few diaries on our website. It takes action. Strong action. And the country will welcome it with open arms. Despite what the right wing noise machine will tell you. Their time has passed. Let's hammer the nails in the coffin. And that means NOT taking impeachment off the table (do you hear that, Rep. Pelosi?).