(Please cut and paste this if it will be useful elsewhere.)
Dear recently elected Democratic Federal Office Holder:
How’s it going? Have you caught your breath? I know elections are chaotic things–I’ve only worked on a few, and they take a lot out of me. I can only imagine what it’s like to have to actually run. It must be exhausting, and I can certainly understand wanting to take some time off afterward.
But, I wanted to make sure you were aware of something, because you and your colleagues seem to be slightly confused on one point.
You won. You won big, on a national scale.
You might have noticed that there were a lot of people on the Democratic side of the aisle after the swearing in ceremonies. In the House, the aisle has been crossed, not out of bipartisan good will, but because there aren’t enough seats on one side of it. You might have had tickets to the big party today.
Like I said, I know you’ve been busy. You might have needed to ebay the tickets to cover some loans. You might not have noticed that things have changed. You might not have had time to think of the implications of this, but there’s one really big one, and it’s important that you are aware of it.
You really don’t have to compromise that much.
I know, it’s hard to shake the habits of being in the Minority. Certainly, while Democrats were in the Minority, you needed to cut any deals you could to take the worst edges off of what the Bush administration and its puppets were trying to push through.
But now, you’ve got the leverage. Now, you can set the agenda. You don’t have to wrap every piece of legislation with useless, or even counter-productive, tax cuts for businesses. You don’t have to water down proposals before you even make the Republicans go on the record as opposing things like improved health care for children, or body armor for soldiers. You don’t have to let them beat you about the head and shoulders with votes “against” body armor, just because you wanted it to be paid for instead of financed by deficit spending.
For better or worse, governing is as much political theater as it is legislation and voting. The Republicans have kept control of the stage and run rings around the Democrats, even as a frustrated public gives Democrats bigger and bigger parts.
That has to change.
You won. You can control the stage. You might not get everything we want, on the first vote or the tenth. You might have to compromise on some things. But you have to show the American public what you truly want for this country. What you truly think is best. You have to show us that you want something fundamentally different and better than what we’ve had for the last eight years.
If you keep compromising out of the gate, supposedly out of necessity, or in a spirit of “bipartisanship” that the Republicans have abused for years and show every sign of abusing still, we’re going to have to assume that the compromises are what you actually want.
They’re not what we want.
Everyone says that this was an election about change. We want something different than what we’ve been given. We want a better world, and a better life, for all people, in this country and others.
You need to at least try to deliver that, before knuckling under to political realities. You need to force the Republicans to knuckle under from time to time. You need to show us that you want that better world, and that you’re going to use every tool we’ve given you to bring it about. Or, at least, try.
Because if you don’t, we’ll find people who will use them.
Congratulations on your win, to you and all of your Democratic colleagues. You are the realization of our hard work. You are the embodiment of our hopes and dreams for a better world.
Be worthy of them.