Thursday, March 10, 2005

No Apologies Accepted

Kos offers a very reasonable, albeit half-hearted, defense of House Democrats who will almost certainly vote for the bankruptcy bill that will soon head their way.

Vote against a bankruptcy bill destined to pass anyway (remember, the GOP has its majorities) and you get very little political benefit while losing one of your main sources of election cash. The less cash-on-hand you have heading into the election season, the more likely you are to face a well-funded opponent. So why would a House Democrat vote against the bill? They won't. And while some of you may blame them anyway, that won't jibe with the reality on the ground.

He is, though, wrong for both political and philosophical reasons.

It is, first, politically myopic. As Atrios points out -- and let me point out, I think he's slowly coming out of his post-election stupor -- any appearance of bipartisanship on such a bill effectively negates the potential to use it as a battering ram against the majority party in the 2006 congressional elections. Any benefit an individual Representative gains is, in the end, nullified by the fact that the minority party loses a key national issue; and, as Atrios says, 'if we don't nationalize the congressional race in 2006 we will lose once again.' Exactly.

Second, its utilitarianism is philosophically languid. Although he is not addressing this issue at all, Adam Kotsko's comments about the 'wimpiness' of Democrats in the face of electoral / rhetorical failure is especially pertinent here:

Democrats simply become conservative in the best sense of the word here, trying to prevent the Republicans from undoing the basic structure of society -- Social Security, but more especially the basic democratic structure that will allow the people to come to their senses if they have in fact taken leave of their senses. I tend to think that Al Gore's acceptance of the fraudulent election results stems from a conservative impulse like I've just described: better to let Bush take office in somewhat shady circumstances than to undermine people's trust in the system altogether.

[. . .]

The problem I see here is that calling the status quo a democracy -- in the face of an inadequately educated electorate, a lazy and corrupt mainstream press corps, massive lack of participation in the political process, as well as concrete instances of voter intimidation and outright fraud -- as though we have already arrived at the ideal of popular sovereignty, is dishonest. I don't doubt that Bush is the legitimate president, that he came to power through legal means (even in the first election -- since the Supreme Court decides what is legal in the final instance). But I just think that the fact that Bush came to power through the legal means of the electoral system speaks poorly of that system. We can do better.

Similarly, in the end, Kos is far too conciliatory to the system that rewards votes with financial remuneration and the increase of political capital, inasmuch as it practically serves only (a) to maintain the status quo (i.e., keeping the House under GOP control), and (b) to belie the (moderate) liberal illusion of not playing the same game as conservatives. Taken together, it is a recipe for political disaster. The fact that this has become all the more evident (to me, anyway) by way of bankruptcy legislation, is only too fitting.