Sunday, May 14, 2006

Democratic Politics 101

This might be too advanced for a 100-level college course, actually, but let's try anyway. The lesson is this: It's a bad thing to win in politics, because by losing you really win. You can still be the one who criticizes and then next time around you will win for sure. Of course the same analysis might then be applied to explain why winning is never a good thing.

I'm not making this up:

DEMOCRATS are all but breaking out the Champagne. Republicans are divided and disheartened; President Bush's poll numbers seem to be in free fall. Many Democrats are talking not only about victory in November but about what they will do once Congress is in their hands.

Such talk may well be premature. Election Day is six months away, and the party has lost many a winning hand. But here is a slightly heretical question, being asked only partly in jest right now: Is it really in the best interest of the Democratic Party to win control of the House and Senate in November? Might the party's long-term fortunes actually be helped by falling short?

As strange as it might seem, there are moments when losing is winning in politics. Even as Democrats are doing everything they can to win, and believe that victory is critical for future battles over real issues, some of the party's leading figures are also speculating that November could represent one of those moments.

From this perspective, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world politically to watch the Republicans struggle through the last two years of the Bush presidency. There's the prospect of continued conflict in Iraq, high gas prices, corruption investigations, Republican infighting and a gridlocked Congress. Democrats would have a better chance of winning the presidency in 2008, by this reasoning, and for the future they enhance their stature at a time when Republicans are faltering.

Welcome to the parallel reality, the one in which nothing matters but the well-being of our elected political representatives, the one in which the numbers of people dying or suffering because of a particular policy are nothing but ciphers on the scorecards.

Though to be fair to the Democratic politicians mentioned in the article, they appear to be largely former politicians, and even so some of them (like Bill Clinton) disagree with the premise. Could this article be one of those where a story begged to be written and the writer then went in search of arguments for the story?