Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Democrats in Congress: A Walk in Their Shoes

If you want to understand someone, the advice goes, walk a mile in their shoes.

There isn't much chance that I'll ever plant my feet in whatever footwear is today's fashion in the halls of Congress, but I'm willing to do the thought experiment, if not for a mile, at least for a few yards. Here goes:
I'm a Democrat legislator, which is to say that my skill set is heavily centered in the smooth-talking, looking good, negotiation, and power-grabbing areas. I'm good at making promises that are appealing to folks and at getting people to like and trust me enough to vote for me, despite my shortcomings, which I'm pretty good at either covering up or popularizing. I have unimaginably large amounts of "government" money at my disposal to encourage people "like" and "support" me, and I, in turn, define their "like" and "support" in terms of the financial and other benefits they provide to me.

In short, I've devoted my life to making a sow's ear look like a silk purse, and I'm pretty good at it. I may have learned these skills from the cradle, under the counsel of parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents all expert at the game of politics. If I need to find a legal needle in the legislative haystack to pass a bill taxing everyone in the country except Congress (and our good buddies), I can do that pretty much in my sleep. I've had to do that many times, in good political times and bad.

The strictures imposed on me by my political party are pretty narrow, in that I have to vote and speak along party lines that I may have had little part in creating.

In other ways though, I enjoy enormous freedoms unavailable to most mortals who hold positions of responsibility. For example, I don't have to tell the truth, ever. Increasingly, I don't even have to look like I'm telling the truth. There are travel perks, too: my staff will round up a free (to me) luxury stay in Copenhagen or wherever for my family and friends at a moment's notice.

Now I--someone who has made a fat living from staying alive in the competitive game of "who's going to dole out the money and hold the reigns of power"--must wake up every morning to find that the Obama administration has completely squandered the political dream of dreams: a supermajority in Congress, and they managed to do it in only 10 months. Ten months.

Every day, I get to indulge in imagining what I could have done with a supermajority in Congress, a flattering photo of myself on every magazine cover with an even more flattering article inside, enough money to pave a road to the moon (or is it Jupiter?) and back, and crowds of people cheering and fainting at my feet. 

And then I get to look at what the current administration has done with that wealth of possibility. 

Really, it's enough to make a halfway competent politician sick.
I'm glad I performed that little thought experiment.

Now it seems easier to predict what's likely to happen inside the Democrat Party.

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