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Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Coming Political Civil War in the Democratic Party

On some level, they totally deserve it. After all, they have engaged in a purely political process over the serious issue of national security. So, it is pure karma, that the whole thing will wind up blowing up in their faces. So, get ready for a political civil war inside the Democratic party over how to proceed with the investigations into alleged torture by the Bush administration.

There are some simple political rules. One of the most simple is that the party that presents the more united front is the one that wins most political issues. Here, the Republicans win. The Republicans have circled the proverbial wagons. Even those that are against waterboarding and any other enhanced interrogations believe that any investigation now is not only wrong but compares to a "banana republic". Meanwhile, the Democratic party is struggling for a common narrative. Struggling most is the president himself.

There are at least three narratives coming from the Democratic party now. The most extreme is the so called "truth commission" championed by Pat Leahy. Then, there are those like Dianne Fienstein who want the Senate to continue its investigation. The president has endorsed the Department of Justice to investigate any potential crimes. Then, there are those that want 9/11 type bi partisan investigative body. Then, there is Joe Liberman who agrees with the Republicans. (there may be more like Liberman but they aren't talking yet)

So, what we have is all sorts of powerful Democrats all with their own agenda, and each of these agendas is playing out in the media. More than that, no one knows how far this will need to go. So far, the designated sacrificial lamb of the day of all Democrats is Judge Jay Bybee. Currently, he sits on the 9th circuit but he worked in the Office of Legal Counsel when this issue came up. He wrote several of the now published memos giving legal opinion for the legalization of waterboarding. While everyone agrees that Bybee must go, there is likely to be little agreement over just how far it will go. Those like Leahy and John Conyers who would like to take this all the way to the top. Once again, the opinions within the party will vary and their varying opinions will be displayed in all the media.

This was the sort of thing that happened to the Republican party on immigration. The Senate, lead by John McCain, favored comprehensive reform while the House favored more hardline enforcement first. This all played out in a bitter summer of 2006 debate that did no one in the party any favors in the next election. Now, the Democrats find themselves in a similar position.

What will play out over the next weeks or even months is high profile disagreements over the nature and scope of investigations of the Bush administration. The reason that such a disagreement is so corrosive is because it means the party won't have a coherent message. With this becoming a front page story, the party will be off message on a major story. The only redeeming part for the Democrats is that all of this is happening early in the election cycle. That can turn into a negative if all of this is still going on next November. Either way, we can all sit back, enjoy some popcorn, and get ready to watch the political civil war in the Democratic party.


Anonymous said...

I don't see it happening. The Democrats are arguing about what to do about President Bush's detainee treatment policies, but they all agree that something needs to be done.

The Republicans, on the other hand, present a united front, but the thing that they're united on is that they are the ones who have to play defense.

Once again, the only thing that will really matter is what the American people think should be done. The Democrats, to varying degrees, say something should be done, but they're at least all saying it should be *something* (not including Lieberman, although he's not really a Democrat).

So the choice is going to be either something or nothing. And once again, the only real way we'll know is at the ballot box in 2010. I doubt opinion polling is going to convince anybody about anything other than media bias.

mike volpe said...

Nice pseudo analysis. So, when Republicans demand the release of all memos including those that they say would show the effectiveness of the program, that is playing defense. When they demand the release of minutes that show Reps and Dems being briefed on this program, that is playing defense. When Porter Goss calls Pelosi a liar, that is playing defense.

I don't believe that all the Dems want some investigation. I just think that those that don't are keeping silent.

Furthermore, all polling says the public doesn't want an investigation.

Anonymous said...

I can find Gallup Polling showing a plurality of Americans support prosecution, and that a majority support either prosecution or a hearing. So yeah I'm not really going to be convinced one way or the other until 2010.

In any case, whatever the Republicans are going to be doing between now and 2010, I doubt its going to involve sitting back with a bowl of popcorn while the Democratic party implodes. Between Megan McCain pushing for the GOP to be more inclusive of homosexuals to Specter v. Toomey II, to the tea parties trying to move the Republicans rightward, you can make the case that the Republicans are more fractured than the Democrats.

mike volpe said...

Show me this gallup poll. I saw both Pew and Rasmussen and both favored overwhelmingly moving on. More than that, once the surreal experience of prosecuting them starts, then the country will really turn against it.

Anonymous said...


Where is the analysis of the state of the Republican party unity?

mike volpe said...

Since interrogation investigations are in the news, that is what this piece is about. If you want a great article discussing that issue, here is one from Rasmussen.