Jonathan Chait is all upset at the Democratic Party. Hs is damning their eyes for not blindly accepting every extremist, left-wing idea that President Obama would like to implement. Chait is wailing that Congressional Democrats are standing athwart Obama’s radical agenda just when he assumes we are at a “once-in-a-generation chance for the Democratic Party to reshape” the country.
Chait is right, of course, that Congressional Democrats are not bending over blindly for Obama’s agenda and many elected officials are jealously guarding their privilege is true enough. He is also right that Obama has faced some obstacles within his own party — and it is probably coming as a surprise to the president, too. But he is wrong to assume they are doing it for spite, mere power or necessarily for personal aggrandizement. In fact, Chait has a major misunderstanding of the very country that Democrats represent. You see, Chait thinks that just because Obama won a 7 percent majority of the vote the whole country is ready to become a radicalized, socialist, anti-religious, and virulently anti-capitalist nation. Chait makes the major mistake in thinking “the people” of the United States of America are just like him.
Chait does a fine job in The New Republic chronicling what he sees as the unexpected and unwarranted resistance by many Democrats to the Obama agenda. He talks of arcane Senate rules and recalcitrant coalitions. He decries the many times that Democrats have thrown up minor road blocks to Obama’s “reshaping” of the country.
However, Chait seems completely unable to fathom why this is so. He wonders why Republicans found it so easy to implement Bush’s plans and marvels at how Bush moved full speed ahead after the 2000 election when so many from the chattering classes imagined that he’d have to scale back his agenda. Why can’t Democrats do this, he moans?
Chait ends up deciding that these failures prove that Democrats are “congenitally” unable to govern. (Incidentally, the same thing is often said of Republicans. This might be a hint that the checks and balances inherent in our system exist for a reason, eh? Not that Chait grasps this concept.)
His main lament is close to the end of the piece:
Democratic partisans constantly complain that their leaders in Washington fail to display the same partisan unity as Republicans do. And, in many crucial respects, they are correct. Even when they control the White House and both branches of Congress, Democrats have not displayed the parliamentary-style cohesion Republicans managed under Bush.
But Chait makes a mistake to imagine that Republicans are better at party unity. The mistake he makes is based on where he and those “Democratic partisans” stand on the political spectrum. Naturally from the extreme left it will look like Democrats aren’t far enough left and aren’t supporting the correct ideas in a unified way.
Apparently, Chait thinks that just because the Democrats have a majority that the extreme left should prevail. And here is his problem, here is why he completely misunderstands why not all Democrats are dutifully lining up under the banner of the Mau Tse-tung wing of the Democratic Party. You see, not every Democrat is a bomb-throwing, worker’s party member wannabe. Most Democrats are average, center left, Scoop Jackson sorts of Americans, not beret-wearing, sandal sporting, protest sign carrying Code Pinkos.
The reason that Bush found his agenda far easier to get through Congress, mandate or no, is that his ideas were far closer to the center than Obama’s, or Clinton’s initially turned out to be or Carter’s were. Most Americans are center left/center right and not extremists to one side or another. But, for sure, they are far closer as a whole to the center right than the left. This country generally sports a traditional, conservative mind-set, Democrats and Republicans alike.
So, when Obama comes sweeping in proposing to devastate businesses with card check laws, a radical takeover our national health care system, and a massive bloating of the federal government, those center right constituents of many Democrats begin to get a little uneasy. They begin to call their Congressmen and Senators to urge a little cooling off time. And, therefore, Congressional Democrats begin to pull back from Obama’s radical agenda.
Sure it looks like the party isn’t unified. But it isn’t because Democrats don’t want to be buddies in a gauzy world of happiness and wallowing in moments of kum-bye-yah harmony with each other. It’s because they are getting push back from the people that put them in office.
Remember that whole “representative” part of a representative republic, Mr. Chait?
The fact is the country DOES NOT agree with the extremist, left-wing agenda that Chait thinks Democrats should be able to push through just because they have a majority. He completely misses that this is why his ideas don’t get passed.