I've been having lots of conversations with people on Capitol Hill and have been reading a ton of commentary on what Democrats should do about Iraq. Let's start with two key truths about the situation:
1. As long as George W. Bush is President, he will aggressively and unilaterally do anything he wants to do in Iraq unilaterally, and he will do the wrong thing virtually every time.
2. Although there are a lot of Democrats, including many of our leaders, who want to get us out of Iraq, as an entire party, Dems don't have either the votes or the balls to force a constitutional confrontation with Bush to get us out of this war.
Bitching won't change those two truths, so what do anti-war forces do about it? Here are some thoughts:
• Urge our congressional leaders to bring up the Iraq war issue every single week that Congress is in session. At this point, I don't actually care a lot whether it's the Biden resolution or the Murtha bill or supplemental appropriations as amendments on the Senate floor. For the time being, all of these things will be either ignored, filibustered, or vetoed anyway, so the substance really doesn't matter much. Nonetheless, we should keep forcing the pro-war Senators and Congresspeople, of both parties, to keep taking one unpopular vote after another, week after week. And we should keep the issue front and center constantly. I guarantee this will take a toll, and the folks who are pro-war are going to start freaking out. It's one thing for a politician to have to take an unpopular vote once or twice, but to have to keep doing it week after week will eventually turn even the steeliest spine to mush. And it will make those Republican caucuses on the Hill, and those Republican conversations with Bush, Cheney and Rove, very uncomfortable.
• Organize like crazy in all these states and districts with pro-war Democratic Senators and Congresspeople. The progressive movement's greatest weakness is our lack of roots in the places where conservative Democrats come from. Every bit of home-grown heat we can generate for the Ben Nelsons and Mark Pryors of the world is a huge plus for us, and we should keep at them, because if we can build more urgency and unity through the Democratic caucuses in the House and Senate about this war, we will have helped ourselves enormously.
• Keep praising the Democrats who want to do the right thing. When all politicians get is negative feedback, from all sides, they tend to react by being very cautious. Let's keep banging on the pro-war Dems, but let's not forget to reward and work closely with the ones on our side. And let's stop saying that, like some folks tend to, that "Democrats" suck because they can't get anything done, when it's really that some Democrats suck while many are trying to accomplish the same thing we are.
These may not be perfect solutions, but there are none in this situation. Let's keep looking for strategies and pressure points that actually help us, rather than bitching about things we can't change. I'd love to know what you think.