President George Bush is not the only politician facing the wrath of voters. The Democratic majority running things on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue appears to be wearing out its welcome as well.
Connie Manes was your average Midwestern Democrat from a reliably blue state, who one day found herself sufficiently angry to start writing letters to the local newspaper. "At first," Connie explained in an e-mail she sent me, "I thought it was me." But she quickly realized that other equally average Democratic voters shared her frustration and complaint: the Democratic Party is not taking charge of Congress.
Attracting other voters who think the Democratic officeholders they elected are walking away from fights on the war, taxes and protecting our privacy, Connie formed a blog that noted: "They are more than willing to stand in front of a camera and say tough things, threaten to stand up against Bush and the Republicans. But when push comes to shove, they always back down."
Judging by the increasing number of "Connies" writing to me with the same complaint, perhaps it's time for Democratic leaders to look at themselves and ask some tough questions. For instance, why are liberals so frustrated that they have permanently parked themselves outside the front door of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home in San Francisco?
Those who don't understand why better wear asbestos clothing on Election Day because the Democratic base is on fire, ready to get rid of elected officials who won't fight for party principles.
Senate Majority leader Harry Reid recently decided to place on the backburner a bill that would levy higher taxes against millionaire private-equity managers. Stunned, I fired an e-mail to Reid's office to get some clarification, certain that the media had the story wrong. Turns out, the only thing wrong was Reid's political judgment. "As anyone following the Senate knows and as Reid has been saying for some time now," a senior Democratic staffer told me, "the fall schedule is tight and we are not going to be able to do everything we want to do."
Sounds like a copout to me. Sounds like the big boys and girls of Capitol Hill don't want to take on the big-money venture capitalists who have bankrolled the party elite with loads of cash, not to mention potential campaign dollars for the all important 2008 electoral season.
Democratic activists and true believers are tired of hearing that their leaders don't have the time or the votes to get something done. They are tired of hearing these leaders whining about procedural delays. They are tired of hearing about the obstructionism of the Republican minority — who can't seem to find their way back to principles that once guided their legislative path when they ran things in Washington. And, yes, they are tired of seeing the president ignore their plea to end the war in Iraq, set a timetable with a date certain for troop withdrawals, and find a way to impose sanctions against Iran that are tough enough to end its nuclear program without America having to resort to a military strike against it.
Don't misinterpret all this to mean that the Democrats have gotten nothing done. Since rolling into power on a wave of public dissatisfaction after the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats have accumulated a respectable win-loss record that includes raising the minimum wage, restoring pay as you go, making college loans more affordable and cleaning up its own house with strong ethics reform. Nevertheless, at a time when both the party base and the general public is desperate for change and true leadership, Democrats are playing the game with all the confidence of the chubby kid picked last in dodge ball game.
It seems as though the Democrats still haven't realized that they're in the majority. The base recognizes that with 51 votes, Senate Democrats can't strong-arm their way into much of anything. They can't override a veto or force a cloture vote, but that doesn't mean they can't lead. And we need Democrats to lead if they want to win an even larger majority next fall.
Americans respect the will to fight. Cowards don't get anyone's vote, and their fears often force them to the sidelines. While 51 votes may mean that the Democrats lose more battles than they win, at least they'd be fighting for what's right for America. Sometimes you have to "fight the good fight" whether or not you can win everything. Making wealthy investors pay their fair share of taxes and opposition to the Iraq war falls into that category.
Democrats may not have the votes to impose their will over presidential opposition, but they certainly have the votes to block the imposition of his will. I am hoping the Republicans will think twice and vote with Democrats to give every child a "healthy start in life."
Bush is plain stubborn, but he ain't exactly the meanest dude on the planet. As Connie Manes writes in one of her most recent postings: "The Democratic Party's principle stand has always been (that) we protect all of the people all of the time. The Republican Party's principle is, we protect some of the people some of the time. It's time for the Democratic Party to start protecting all of the people again."
Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, and former campaign manager for Al Gore.