An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Money for Nothing?

The big debate today in the House is over the Iraq supplemental spending request of $87 billion. I really don’t get the argument of those who oppose it. Do they really think that we should pull out of Iraq and leave everything that has been accomplished, and the lives and money that have been expended, to fall back into the dust? Surely not. Surely they want a change of policy that places more emphasis on working with our allies and giving authority to the Iraqi’s, and less on unilateralism. Surely they want to protect our soldiers, use those funds for important efforts at home, and force the President to develop a plan that a majority of Americans can rally behind. But cutting off all funding hardly seems the way to go about it. This effort smacks of unhealthy isolationalism.

One cannot help but be morbidly interested to learn that staff for some Members are betting on the vote count on the Iraq supplemental, however.

Political parties are supposed to exist so that politicians of a more or less coherent ideology or program can gather together and work to achieve power, while voters can properly identify leaders with whom they agree and vote accordingly with as little thinking as possible. In some countries, particularly parliamentary democracies with some amount of proportional representation, this does occur. Unfortunately, the American voters are not similarly served by our two lumbering giants of political parties, as so ably illustrated by Sen. Zell Miller (GA) in today’s Roll Call (www.rollcall.com) when he lets loose on Dem presidential candidates for being too liberal. You can agree with Sen. Miller, especially on his point that too many politicos pander to their bases, while still seeing the foolishness of attacks like this.

So let’s trade, sort of a political version of picking teams. The Republicans should clearly get Mr. Miller on their team, and probably Sen. Ben Nelson (NE), Rep. Ralph Hall (TX), and Rep. Ken Lucas (KY). On the other side, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (RI) is already a Democrat in all but name, and Sens Collins and Snowe (ME) should both be, as well. Reps Sherwood Boehlert (NY) and Nancy Johnson (CT) would clearly be more comfortable among other liberals in the Democratic party. One cannot help but wonder about another dozen or so on each side who might want to change teams if we are redoing the lineup. That would help voters to know what the parties (if anything) really stand for, and to vote accordingly.

Of course, the other solution is for the conservatives and moderates to continue beating each other up within the Republican party and thereby electing Democrats in swing districts, and for the liberal Democrats to continue to feel disaffected by most of their leaders and stay home during even important elections (Al Gore and onetime candidate for governor of Maryland Kathleen Kennedy Townsend can speak to that). Maybe Nader's Green Party and Buchanan's conservative legions will continue to gain support...