On the Friday before Labor Day weekend I posted a blog in which I thought I stated the obvious: Between the unofficial Labor Day start of the campaign season and Election Day, Democrats should not criticize other Democrats. Control of one or both houses of Congress is at stake. A majority Democratic House and/or Senate would allow Democrats to control Committees, hold hearings on Bush Administration misdeeds and Democratic policy proposals, and get Democratic-sponsored legislation a vote on the Congressional floor. I went on to say that for the next 60 days, progressive Democrats should support and work for red state "centrist" Democrats like Ben Nelson and "centrist" Democrats should support and work for Ned Lamont.
I was surprised to find that most of the comments from Huffpo readers disagreed. A majority seemed to feel that during the election against Republican opponents, progressive Democrats should only support progressive candidates and should shun, or even oppose, "centrist" candidates. Some commentators even seemed to feel that we would be just as well off with a Republican-controlled Congress than we would with a Democratic-controlled Congress made up partly of "centrist" Democrats.
Have we progressives learned nothing? Do we still thank that voting for Ralph Nader in 2000 was a good idea since there would have been no difference between a Bush presidency and a Gore presidency? Do we now think that a Republican Congress-- which abandons all oversight of the executive, that does nothing about constitutional violations of our basic liberties by the Bush administration, that passes Energy legislation which shovels billions of dollars of taxpayer money to Oil companies, that cuts taxes to the wealthy while paying for it with our children's economic future--is no better than a Democratic-controlled Congress?
If Democrats control a majority of Congress, John Conyers would chair the House Judiciary Committee and run extensive hearings on Bush's constitutional violations; Charles Rangel would chair the House Ways and Means Committee where all tax legislation originates; Patrick Leahy would chair the Senate Judiciary Committee through which all judicial nominations must proceed; and Ted Kennedy would chair the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions which among other things, controls health care legislation.
Moreover, Democrats will be able to get Democratic sponsored bills to the floor of Congress for a vote. Right now, Republicans in the House will not even allow a vote on bills supported by a majority of the House (including Democrats) but only those supported by a majority of Republicans (the so-called "majority of the majority".) Even if Bush vetoes Democratic-sponsored bills, it would allow Democrats to contrast their values with those of the Republicans, creating momentum for a Democratic Presidential victory in 2008. Finally, it would restore optimism to the Democratic base which now remains traumatized that it can never defeat the Republican slime machine.
As I said in my previous blog, I agree that there is a long-term struggle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party between progressives and corporate "centrists". (If you check my old Huffpo blogs, you'll see that I've written my share of posts blasting Democrats who are too scared to stand up to Republicans.) This is a long-term struggle and will not be won in a single election cycle. It will be a lot easier to carry out this struggle if Democrats have control over some parts of the government, can get votes on their legislation, and attract media attention for Democratic proposals.
So come on people. In our fractious Democratic family, at least during the election campaign, it's me against my brothers and sisters, and me and my brothers and sisters against the Republicans. Get out there and work your assess off for all Democrats.