Tuesday, April 12, 2005

If you can't take the heat . . .

If you've been close attention to politics recently, you may have noticed a whiff of nostalgia in the air for those heady, revolutionary days of 1994, when the Democrats lost 56 House seats and nine Senate seats, enough to lose both chambers. The President and Congress are both rapidly losing popularity. The ruling party is backing away from an ambitious plan to revamp our social safety net. Congressional leaders are being slammed for being drunk with power and abusing their majority status. There is a distinct, pungent aroma of corruption around powerful members of the House majority. This time, of course, Bill Clinton is Bush, Speaker Tom Foley and Sen. Maj. Leader George Mitchell are Dennis Hastert and Bill Frist, HillaryCare is private accounts, and DeLay is a million different corrupt, venal roles. Hell, as if the deja vu were insufficient as it is, Newt Gingrich seems to be running for President (to which we as a nation are collectively saying "Uh, what?")

So the inheritors of the 1994 revolution, the current GOP leaders, now struggle to keep the revolution from succumbing to its own excesses. What can they do? Do they push DeLay overboard, as Eric mentions below Rep. Shays has tried to start the movement toward? Do they bail on their attack on Social Security? The White House seems to be seriously flirting with both of these options. Whether those would be enough to patch up the holes in the ship remains to be seen.

But, of course, Tom DeLay isn't exactly down with being pushed out. The man holds on to power like a termite refusing to leave a house. Movement conservative leaders have recently started warning that any member who doesn't support DeLay will not enjoy the fullest right-wing support come 2006. So what's his plan for both staying caucus leader and making sure his caucus is the majority? Well, he's back to the old fallback of running against judges, of course (and the liberal media). He's more or less calling for the impeachment of ideologically unacceptable judges. Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is saying that terrorism against judges comes from their "activism." Right, John, because it's judicial philosophy that crazed killers care about. The basic question here is how long will the same strategy work? How much do people actually give a damn about "activist judges," and how much do they buy GOP arguments about them in the wake of the Schiavo fight? To mix two of Harry Truman's metaphors, the GOP strategy seems to be "If you can't take the heat, pass the buck." Will it work? What do you think?

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