One Reason Why Dems Fail: Concern over Procedure Versus Outcomes

Or as I like to say–people have to like this crap. Two events over the last month, the reappointment of Bernanke to Fed Chairman and some Senate Democrats’ new-found opposition to using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform with a public option, highlight one reason why Democrats lose elections: rather than focusing on outcomes, they focus on the process, on the ‘atmospherics.’ Consider the reappointment of Bernanke. It’s pretty clear that he’s more concerned with keeping inflation ludicrously low, which will fail to combat massive unemployment–which is one of his legally mandated charges; he’s also not going to do much on the regulatory side either. Many Democrats didn’t want to reappoint him, yet rather than doing what it would take to actually stop him, enough Democrats, even the ‘good ones’, were more concerned about short term process and appearances than outcomes:

Whitehouse told HuffPost after the vote that it would have been hypocritical of him to filibuster the nominee, because he’d been critical of his colleagues who abused the filibuster in the past. “I’m for moving through cloture on this stuff. I’ve been annoyed by the Republican cloture blockades and I’ve been critical of members of my caucus who’ve denied the leader cloture. It would be highly inconsistent to vote against cloture,” he said. “I hope that my vote against him will help send a message to economic leadership that they need to pivot and they need to back off the record of, ‘Banks win every dispute with consumers and the public.'”
Franken expressed a similar sentiment. “While I voted for cloture because I believed this nomination deserved an up or down vote, I couldn’t in good conscience support it,” Franken said in a statement after the vote, after declining to talk to a HuffPost reporter in the hallway.

I’m sure, as hard money policies lead to unnecessary unemployment (and all of the fun results of that), your unemployed and underemployed constituents will be thrilled to hear that you weren’t inconsistent. That, no doubt, will be very consoling as they file off to the unemployment office. Do either Whitehouse or Franken really believe that, if unemployment were to drop to six percent, that anyone would give a shit if they were ‘inconsistent’ about a Senate procedure?
As a politician, you have to be able to make the argument that the jobs of your constituents and the health of the economy are more important than consistency on an arcane Senate rule, that you would gladly do it again, given the choice.
If you can’t defend this, then you need to get out of politics, because you’re doing it wrong.
Then let’s look at Senator Nelson Rockfeller’s recent opposition to using reconciliation to pass healthcare reform with a public option. You could say he was for it before he was against it:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) threw a wrench into Democratic efforts to get a public option passed through reconciliation, saying that he thought the maneuver was overly partisan and that he was inclined to oppose it.
“I don’t think the timing of it is very good,” the West Virginia Democrat said on Monday. “I’m probably not going to vote for that, although I’m strongly for the public option, because I think it creates, at a time when we really need as much bipartisan[ship] … as possible.”

Again, I’m sure his constituents will be very glad he stuck to the principle of bipartisanship (which is actually a stupid principle–parties differ because they believe and do different things) as more of them get sick, die, and become bankrupt than would otherwise needs be (and being forced to pay for private insurance will go over like a lead balloon). If it’s a good policy, if it’s the right policy, then pass it.
Until Democratic politicians realize that, for them anyway (if not Republicans), good outcomes are what will get them re-elected, they are headed to a lot of trouble in 2010.
And the rest of us can’t really afford that.

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3 Responses to One Reason Why Dems Fail: Concern over Procedure Versus Outcomes

  1. hibob says:

    I think they are focused on outcomes – their own immediate outcomes, as defined by lobbyist and peer pressure, support for pet projects, etc. Even if they did push for (and implement) a public option, and then manage to remove all of the inevitable poison pills that would be added to it, none of their constituents would be receiving its coverage before the 2010 or 2012 elections.
    The purpose of the public statements on these issues isn’t to explain the actual reasons why politicians are changing their minds ; the purpose is to deflect criticism from the actual reasons. When someone famous steps down from a public or private office and cites “to spend more time with my family” as the reason – how often is that the real reason ?

  2. JasonTD says:

    If it’s a good policy, if it’s the right policy, then pass it.

    It could just be that Rockefeller and other wavering Democrats have realized that they’ve failed at convincing the electorate that it is good policy. Now, he is just looking to save face.

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