Democrats Continue To Appear Divided genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Despite Nancy Pelosi's efforts to offer an all encompassing Democratic message on Iraq, pressures within the various Party factions threaten to unravel the attempts to portray the Party as unified. The Hill has the full story here.

A series of recent internal disputes have sown discontent in some quarters of the House Democratic caucus, threatening to disrupt the unified front Democrats have used to frustrate Republicans in the 109th Congress.

Such tensions were in full display yesterday morning at a caucus meeting on Iraq where three members of the Out of Iraq Caucus clustered around a microphone to berate House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) loudly for failing to take a stronger stand on leaving Iraq.

“The whole thing was a circus," a Democratic aide said. “The reaction of most people was to leave."

The following statement, in my opinion, is the crux of the Democrat's problem. While I may fully agree that the Democratic approach of allowing a "diversity of ideas" is far better than the "top-down, rubber stamp" approach of the Republicans, it has simply proven to be an albatross around the necks of Democrats at election time. The problem with such statements is that they don't work with the voters and Democrats need to acknowledge as much or be forced to offer the same explanation each time they fail to win an election cycle.

Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said, “The House Democrats are unified, organized and disciplined. They’re keeping their focus on winning the House in 2006. Unlike the Republicans, the Democratic Caucus promotes diversity of ideas, and they come from the bottom up, unlike the top-down, rubber-stamp approach that Republicans use."

I understand passion and I appreciate principled positions, but it seems to me that Democrats have an obligation to the Party and their voters to reach some semblance of consensus in anticipation of each election cycle. To the contrary, it unfortunately seems that each election cycle brings dissention within the Democratic Party to the surface in ways that troubles many voters. As I see it, discipline is a part of any organization...whether that is a sports team or a corporation or an advocacy group.

It isn't unreasonable for voters to expect some discipline from their political party and despite the above statement; many observers don't believe that Democrats are "unified, organized, and disciplined". When the words that are used to describe the Party don't match what is being witnessed, the attempt to define it otherwise is viewed as futility wrapped in folly. Any entity that fails to find some cohesiveness around which to coalesce will struggle to be effective and those outside of the inner circle will struggle to conclude that the organization can be successful.

I often hear netroot Democrats complain that the mainstream media is predisposed to critical reporting about the Democratic Party. In fairness, I believe there are instances of obvious bias but I think that happens to both parties’. I would equate the critical reporting about the Democratic Party with what one might see with a city's struggling sports franchise.

An example might be helpful. The best analogy I can think of would be the Oakland Raiders football team. The team has a long history that has had periods of great success as well as periods of inconsistency and failure. At the same time, most observers would say that the team has always had a lot of talented players. However, they have on a number of occasions demonstrated a lack of discipline that has led the team into chaos and controversy such that opportunities have been squandered. Those who report on football now have a tendency to criticize the team based upon its propensity to self destruct. Not unlike many Democrats, many of their fans feel they get a bad rap from reporters...and while there may be some truth to the assertion, the core problem is with the team’s performance.

The Democrats, like the Raiders, provide the media with ammunition and examples that defy logic. How can a team or a Party that is poised for success and then suddenly self destructs be taken seriously? They become the whipping boy because those who are the observers (journalists, pundits, reporters) conclude that these organizations have ultimately refused to learn from prior mistakes and they look to be foolish gluttons for punishment. Whether this conclusion is fair or not, they become the butt of the joke. Human nature is such that people who make mistakes through no fault of their own are given the benefit of the doubt...but people who self destruct as a result of repeatedly demonstrating bad decisions or bad behavior become the object of heightened scrutiny and criticism.

I can offer one other item to support my assertion. All comedy has an element of truth at its core...and if one looks at the prevailing joking about Democrats, it is completely consistent with my argument. Most jokes about Democrats today focus on the fact that Democrats are poised for victory but will find a way to screw it up. Of course comedy takes each situation to its extreme...but the core truth remains essential because a joke will not succeed if the underlying premise is without substance. I encourage readers to pay attention to jokes about politics and particularly the Democrats as we approach the November elections and see first hand what I am suggesting.

Unless the Democrats are able to make their actions match their rhetoric and begin to actually present a unified, organized, and disciplined image, they will likely continue to be the butt of the joke...but far more important, they may fail to capitalize on this tremendous opportunity to resume a position of power. It is high time they demonstrate that they have learned from prior mistakes...or as with any sports team, attendance (voting) will decline and the boo-birds will soon emerge.

Daniel DiRito | June 16, 2006 | 9:48 AM
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