David Ignatius has written an interesting column, “A Party Waiting to Pounce,” over at the Washington Post. It is hard to follow the argument; at times, Ignatius approves of the current Democratic strategy:
If you’re a Democrat, life is good right now. The Republicans are mired in Iraq and domestic political difficulties. The White House is rearranging the deck chairs. For now, Democrats can sit back and watch the GOP self-destruct: “They’re on fire,” says one party strategist. “Don’t say anything. Let them destroy themselves.”
Yet at other times, he takes issue with this approach:
They think more about winning than about governing. Some strategists even see a virtue in the party’s lack of a clear agenda or leader — since it denies the Republicans easy targets. This strategy may not serve the country in the long run, but for angry Democrats this year, there is only the short run — taking back control of Congress in the midterms and the White House in 2008.
The question, though, must be asked: does this strategy serve the country in the long run, or doesn’t it? Ignatius identifies one piece of the puzzle:
Meanwhile, America is struggling with big problems, from Iraq to immigration. Will Democrats help the Bush administration find solutions? In the age of Karl Rove, are you kidding?
He fails, however, to place that piece in a larger context. The Democrats have no power to govern under the current Congress. The Republican majority has redesigned committee and procedural rules to diminish minority power. They are prepared to use, in the words of Trent Lott, the nuclear option to ram their initiatives through. I suspect that it is this state of affairs, coupled with a thoroughly negative atmosphere, to which Ignatius refers when he mentions Rove.
But in such an age, I would argue that it is not bad for the country in the long term for Democrats to wait and allow the GOP to self destruct. What is the alternative? To present ideas, be attacked and criticized violently, and lessen the chances of an electoral victory in November? Why would that help? Instead, the Democrats are doing the right thing: allowing the country to experience what we asked for. Popular majorities elected Bush, and the Republican majorities in both houses, and now they are living with the consequences. The consequences are dire, and the Democrats have ideas that can help, but the GOP is not interested. Thus we must bide our time, and let the people vote in November on whether they like what they’ve gotten, or they’d prefer something new.