|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
My background is like probably the majority of staffers I know. I came to DC, from a far superior climate and quality of life, because I wanted to save the world. I arrived, and took a job in the House, at what I still view as the nadir of Congress - in 1996. Republicans had recently taken over Congress and had 230 seats in the House and 52 in the Senate. Democrats were in a state of shock and we watched (because that was essentially all we could do) in horror as they systematically went after nearly every institution of civil governance culminating in nearly removing the President from office via an entirely trumped-up charge. They had destroyed the Democrats in 1994 because they simply couldn't deliver - the BTU tax went down, health care went down, and finally the Crime Bill failed because it had such laughably wacky ideas as "midnight basketball" as a crime prevention measure (something with is widely approved of today and is completely noncontroversial). As a young LA, it was amazingly dispiriting. Literally nothing we proposed could get passed - we couldn't even get votes. Every bill came to the floor under a closed rule so we couldn't propose amendments and our Senate colleagues faced a full amendment tree on every bill such that unless they had Republican patron they couldn't get votes either. Kennedy fought like hell for things like minimum wage and sometimes could arm-wrestle a procedural vote win out of them but things would just die in the hands of the Hammer in the House. Eventually, my boss got fed up and retired and I went over to the Administration where I thought I might be able to get more accomplished.
It was disheartening when it seemed that Reid was allowing McConnell's disingenuous narrative of "it's always taken 60 votes to get anything done" to take hold, but we were later even saved from that when Specter switched. But it seems we've spent the entire year moving our own goalposts farther away. Things have gotten so bad that in roaming the halls today it feels exactly as if we lost the Majority last night.
The worst is that I can't help but feel like the main emotion people in the caucus are feeling is relief at this turn of events. Now they have a ready excuse for not getting anything done. While I always thought we had the better ideas but the weaker messaging, it feels like somewhere along the line Members internalized a belief that we actually have weaker ideas. They're afraid to actually implement them and face the judgement of the voters. That's the scariest dynamic and what makes me think this will all come crashing down around us in November.
I believe President Clinton provided some crucial insight when he said, "people would rather be with someone who is strong and wrong than weak and right." It's not that people are uninterested in who's right or wrong, it's that people will only follow leaders who seem to actually believe in what they are doing. Democrats have missed this essential fact.