I have to say I was happy when the Democrats took over the House and Senate in November. But now I'm not so sure, especially given Speaker Pelosi's plan to steamroll the House Republicans the same way they steamrolled the Dems over the course of the past twelve years.
Sure, the steamrolling is for things I agree with, such as a higher minimum wage, renegotiating Medicare prescription drug prices, and lobbying ethics reform (though Pelosi's package, in my mind, doesn't go far enough). But this leads to that age-old question: do the ends justify the means? I don't think they do. Especially not because part of the reason the Democrats got this windfall is because people were sick of the partisan steamrolling that went on in Washington in lieu of reasoned cross-aisle debate. So we should say shame on you, Pelosi, for falling victim to the desire for revenge... right?
But really, when you're a true believer like so many representatives are, how could you justify not steamrolling the other side? If you're certain that the ideas you're pushing are good and right and just... well, it's not like you're killing or stealing to get what you want. You're just using the rules to your advantage. It's underhanded, but it's not immoral or even unethical. Is it?
Perhaps, then, congressional Democrats (and Republicans for that matter) should be chastised for their moral certitude - a failing that we generally associate with the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. This, again, is a tale as old as time - those who oppose with the most fervor are in the gravest danger of becoming that which they oppose.
But how can we blame Democrats for having moral certitude when that's apparently what the people want? Elections nowadays are won by those who play the part of true believer. Look at the 2004 Presidential election - John Kerry approached issues thoughtfully and carefully and was pilloried as a "flip-flopper" for his troubles. The criticism most often leveled against Democrats (until '06) is that they don't have "ideals" and that they were "unprincipled" - which basically just means that they were a party that was open to discussion and debate of many viewpoints. Time after time, this openness got them taken to the woodshed. People say they're sick of partisanship, yet they still gobble up voraciously the old lie that the pragmatists, the compromisers, and the debaters are "unprincipled."
My point is this - I'm done saying someone is "unprincipled" or a sellout or whatever because they choose to compromise. I have ideals and I'll fight for them - we all do. But at the end of the day, we need someone who is willing to cut a deal and move forward. The Battle of Evermore needs not occur beneath the Capitol dome. So the shame is really on us - note the first-person pronoun here - for our combative words, our good-versus-evil outlook on too many issues, and our unwillingness to accept compromise that encourages the apocalypolitics that we witness today.
(Matt Novak, if you're out there and reading this, I'd like your opinion as to how a politics of debate and compromise can catch on when moral certitude is so damn appealing.)