In a follow up segment to their furious debate yesterday, Lawrence O’Donnell and Glenn Greenwald finished off their argument over the lessons to be learned from the Democrats midterm losses. O’Donnell was extremely gracious in his handling of Greenwald and apologized for cutting him off the day before. Both men lowered the tone and engaged in a very civilized and highly intelligent debate discussing the short comings of the Democratic party and whether it needs to swing to the Left or Right in order to stay relevant.
Again, I’m going to side with Greenwald here as I think his points are supported by the evidence. The Democrat’s acquiescence to special interests and the GOP have hurt them enormously in the past and people simply cannot differentiate them from Republicans. The debacle over health care and the economy were classic examples of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party wielding its power and pissing off the electorate who rightly believed the bailout and health care bills were giveaways to the Banks and insurance industry. While people might self identify as Republicans or conservatives, the majority of Americans want strict regulations on Wall St and an at least partly government run health care plan. When they see Democrats caving into special interests they assume that they are just as corrupt and useless as the even more unpopular Republicans. Voters didn’t vote for Republicans, they simply couldn’t be bothered to vote for Democrats.
Obama has done his best to navigate the murky waters of the Democratic party and patched differences where he could, fought his corner when necessary, and forged coalitions despite bitter infighting. However, he had a historic opportunity to ram through some very progressive legislation and instead allowed himself to be bullied by the corporatists. He is new to the game and the fact that he got some pretty substantial legislation passed is definitely commendable, but I think he’ll have a much harder time trying to deal with the Republican controlled House and he’ll have to fight tooth and nail to get the smallest of victories.
The Democrats should be under no illusion though – meeting the current incarnation of the Republicans half way is a disaster waiting to happen. The country fell apart because of Republican policies, and allowing them to dictate the confines of debate will only lead to more failed legislation. Failed legislation leads to unhappy voters and unhappy voters will simply elect the other side.
Unless the Democrats can pass serious legislation that has a direct and significant impact on their lives, they will continue to put the opposition in power. It’s a vicious cycle that only the Democrats can stop – and it doesn’t involve acting like Republicans.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.