Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Why the CAFTA Vote Mattered

I've been pretty critical to Democrats of late who break ranks with the party, especially Melissa Bean. I just don't understand why Democrats as a party continue to fail to realize opportunities to weaken the Republicans that opposition presents. CAFTA might not have been all that terrible of legislation, and Democrats like Bean might have not felt all that much desire to oppose it. Letting it pass while currying favor in their conservative districts might seem to them an easy way to boost their individual political capital back home. But in thinking like this, Bean and the other dozen or so Democrats who broke ranks with the party failed to see the opportunity it presented and weakened the Democratic party as a result.Kevin Drum sums it up:
Aside from demonstrating strength and resolve and a variety of other positive character traits, there's another thing that Democratic unity on CAFTA would have accomplished: it would have forced Tom DeLay to put the screws to a dozen more of his people than he otherwise had to. This would have forced him to use up political capital, and it also would have forced some Republican congressmen in weak districts to vote for CAFTA whether they liked it or not. As things stand, though, a dozen Republican congressmen in districts that are anti-CAFTA were able to vote against it.

If, instead, they had been forced to vote for it, they would have been more vulnerable in 2006. This is Politics 101, and Democratic congressmen who don't understand this really shouldn't be in politics. If you want to become a majority party, you have to do things that weaken the opposition, and playing hardball on CAFTA would have done just that. It was an opportunity missed.

When wolves hunt they separate individuals from the pack. An individual is much easier to bring down on its own than one within the pack. The Democrats seem to want to play as individuals rather than as a pack. And as such, the GOP wolves will continue to pick them off.