Why is My Party So Spineless?

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What is wrong with this picture: when Republicans controlled the presidency and both Houses of Congress they pushed through whatever legislation they wanted. Now that Democrats control Washington, Republicans still seem to be calling the shots. WTF?

A look at the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Wednesday shows that I'm not the only Democrat who's extremely frustrated and disappointed with the overall performance of President Barack Obama and the Democrats who seem to control government in name only. Obama's approval rating has dipped from 60% to 47%, and only 40% believe he has the right goals; 61% of voters believe the country's in decline; while 55% see the nation headed on the wrong track. It's just under one year since Obama's taken office and already everyone from Republicans, Democrats, Independents, the media and political consultants are discussing the possibility of a "1994-like landslide" in next year's mid-term elections. Have Democrats so thoroughly and so quickly blown their unprecedented seat at the controls? Has Obama failed so miserably to deliver on his promise of change? Have Republicans demonstrated once again that in the political equivalent of a street fight they know how to kick the crap out of liberals? Yes, yes, and yes.

I'm not gonna pull any punches here, the Democrats have become a bunch of spineless pussies. Sadly, this is the way it's always been, which is why my party has held power for about 15 minutes over the last 15 years. Democrats now own the White House, 60 Senate seats, and have an 81 seat lead in the House. Yet the party seems so utterly neutered and unable to accomplish anything unless it waters down every measure to the point of being worthless.

Take health-care reform, for example. The bill, which now appears to be on the verge of collapse, if passed will resemble nothing that either Obama, Democrats or voters initially intended. No public option, no medicare expansion, no provisions for abortion, no meaningful cost-containment measures, no competition. It's little more than a gift of 30-million taxpayer-subsidized new-customers to insurance companies. Just a few months ago about 65% of Americans supported reform, but that number has free-fallen to 32% as the economy continues to struggle, joblessness remains, and Obama's priorities seem oddly misplaced. Throw in Congressional Democrats' spinelessness in caving on all the original key benefits of the measure and it's no surprise why voters have seemingly given up on health-care reform, Obama and the party. Count me in that highly disenchanted group.

The fear over next year's election is well-founded. Obama is losing the faith of his most loyal supporters, and that's a terrible omen for the party. During the 2008 campaign my pal Nathan Dean had been one of Obama's most ardent defenders. While I consistently argued with him, and here on this blog, that Hillary Clinton would be a stronger, tougher fighter against the GOP Nathan, and millions like him, stood firm and preached the Obama kool-aid. There was no moving Nathan, a loyal Obamacon who accused the rest of us of failing to see the magic in this futuristic agent of change. But consider what Nathan wrote to me this week regarding the president's impotence over health-care reform:

..."Seeing how he operates, with the incredible, once in a lifetime opportunity he had to make a difference, he has absolutely blown it.... Again, he let Republicans get the upper hand, seize the argument, scare people and Democratic Senators off. He tried to compromise with them despite knowing that their plan is to vote no on every piece of legislation he presents....Instead of stepping up and being a President that wants to make real change, and being as nasty politically as he needs to for the good of the country, meaning reconciliation, he's going to let Lieberman go down in history as the guy that killed health-care."

Can you hear the anger and frustration in Nathan's voice? Well, he's not alone. Liberals, progressives and independents are abandoning ship because they believe Obama has failed to deliver on his promise of change. From gay marriage to Iraq to Afghanistan to Wall Street reform to a public option for health-care, the president has waivered and/or flip-flopped on some of the most important issues on which he campaigned. He's so quickly morphed from politics' Boy Wonder, the Messiah, the once-in-a-lifetime-candidate, to the standard-model broken-down tired old politician with no fight left in him. While Americans obsess over their next paycheck and the security of their jobs, Obama's disproportionately expended so much political capital on health-care. Why health care? And why now, as the country fights for its economic survival? To many, Obama seems to care more about his own personal legacy than putting Americans back to work. No small wonder then that voters see his goals and theirs on totally opposite ends.

On health-care reform, there is an answer. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) needs to push through the measure under the parliamentary tactic known as reconciliation, which would require he get just 51 votes instead of 60, which he doesn't have now that Sen. Joe Lieberman has joined with Republicans to filibuster the bill. But here again the Democrats are spineless, refusing to do whatever it takes to get the job done, unlike their Republican counterparts, who did everything including play dirty to push through their agenda.

Debating former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews Wednesday night, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu (La) said of the former DNC head, who believes the party is wimping out by not using reconciliation: "He is wrong, we are tough enough, and you are right, Chris, about the process of reconciliation. It is not to be used to create broad additional new federal programs." please stop me from smashing my head into a wall. Did former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) give a shit what anyone thought when he deviously used redistricting as his own personal tool to ensure greater GOP victories? He cared about one thing and one thing only: getting the job done. Imagine if Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the same balls. Yet here we are watching Democrats again self-righteously over-intellectualize everything as the Republican enemy rams its you-know-what you-know-where. When will Democrats learn who they're battling? When will they finally wise up and fight to the death for what it believes in? Jeez, if the party can't push through its agenda now, when the hell will it?