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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Democratic Party needs new governing strategy

In the wake of their electoral walloping, Democrats need to ask themselves this question: “”What went wrong?””

The Democratic Party needs a new governing strategy if it plans on forwarding a legislative agenda between now and the 2012 presidential election.

If the last two years have taught Democrats anything, it is that gesturing from the left and governing from the middle is politically disadvantageous. The Democratic Party’s increasing unpopularity is a testament to this.

It is abundantly clear that the party’s open tent approach, one which encourages a broad variety of ideologies and political viewpoints, has created highly ineffectual Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

Wayward conservative Democrats, along with a Republican Party intent on stonewalling every Democratic legislative initiative, have led to two years of partisan bickering and legislative gridlock.

Diversity of opinion within the party should always be welcomed, but not when it’s at the expense of effective governance. A handful of reactionary Democrats, abetted by an obstructionist Republican minority, should not be able to bring the legislative process to a standstill.

The Republican Party has deliberately driven moderates from it ranks, causing the party to lurch precipitously to the right. Ari Berman, in his book “”Herding Donkeys”” as well as in his New York Times op-ed, “”Boot the Blue Dogs,”” has argued that Democrats should employ a similar strategy.

But what the Democratic Party needs now is not ideological purity.

A political party’s most radical elements crawl out of the woodwork when moderate voices are silenced in an attempt to achieve ideological uniformity. In the case of the Republican Party, it has led to the emergence of the Tea Party movement and right-wing extremists like Christine O’Donnell, who among other things, believes homosexuality can be cured and masturbation should be outlawed.

Conservative Democrats should not be “”booted”” from the party. Instead, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership should establish firm boundaries of dissent, particularly on issues regarding civil rights, social welfare and taxation, three areas in which Democrats have established longstanding positions.

Deviation from the majority agenda on certain issues should be permitted, but willful legislative obstructionism on core Democratic Party principles like single-payer healthcare and progressive taxation should not be tolerated.

Invoking party discipline by withholding financial support and committee assignments are a few ways to achieve a more ideologically cohesive party. But purging moderate members is not the right way to go about it.

Ari Berman has also counterintuitively suggested that a smaller majority or even a sizable minority may benefit the Democrats.

The Bush Administration was able to ensure the passage of highly controversial pieces of legislation, like the Patriot Act, with a relatively small and ideologically uniform Republican majority. The Republican minorities of the Clinton and Obama administrations were enormously effective in influencing policy as well.

A smaller Democratic caucus could also lead to cleaner and more robust Democratic legislation, less intraparty feuding and would force Democrats to confront the Republican Party’s use of the filibuster to extend debate endlessly.

It takes no more than 41 Senators to invoke a filibuster and 60 to invoke cloture (end a filibuster). More than 400 bills have cleared the House but have sat dormant in the Senate as a result. A Democratic majority of 52 rather than 59, for example, would force the Senate to address the problem of the filibuster, which has stunted the legislative process for the past two years.

While the Republican Party revels in its electoral comeback, Democrats need to sit down, take a hard look at the mistakes made since 2008 and form a new governing strategy that will ensure the party’s viability in the future.

— Nyles Kendall is a political science junior. He can be reached at

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