What is the Real Fight in the Mukasey Confirmation?

November 4, 2007 at 4:29 pm

The past week featured a Senate flap around the confirmation of Michael Mukasey. I say flap because it’s not really a fight as his confirmation seems all but inevitable given his past support from Senator Chuck Schumer.

Glenn Greenwald wrote that Democratic Senators seem to lack conviction in many of their fights and pick their battles only when they are politically expedient.

I think he is revealing a fundamental flaw in the Democratic strategy. Democrats tend to disagree on policy and cede the territory of vision and moral standing to Republicans. What I would argue is that if we cede this fight, progressives lose.

The reason Democrats have such a hard time is that they have accepted the “war on terror” and have not offered a better vision for our country. Once you accept that we are at “war,” it makes sense to many people to do anything possible to win this war. Over and over again we’ve seen Republicans hammer Democrats from this simple foundation.

The logic goes somewhat as follows. If we’re at war, shouldn’t we be trying to win the war? Shouldn’t we do anything possible to win? Keep in mind, I’m not saying that any of the Bush tactics are right, what I’m saying is that once we accept the war vision, an “ends justifies the means” reasoning comes into play.

If we want to change this, I strongly believe that the Democrats need to come up with a better vision and take back the territory of ideas.

Perhaps, for example, the vision could be “A Safer America”. In a Safer America vision, many of Bush’s tactics don’t make as much sense. In a Safer America, diplomacy makes more sense. In a Safer America, does it make as much sense to authorize torture? Does it make sense to invade other countries?

This is just an example, but I think what Mr. Greenwald is getting at in his article is that the real opposition needs to be at a much more fundamental and visionary level. This has been my biggest disappointment with the Democrats. Democrats talk policy while allowing the Neo-con vision to stay in place.

The Mukasey argument sounds weak because it sounds like Democrats are merely against a specific tactic, but they are still for the war on terror. The argument gains strength if you state that you are for a Safer America and that torturing people leads to a lack of credibility in the world and potential retaliation against American troops. (NOTE: I’m sure there’s people out there better than I who can come up with a better vision, but this serves to make the point.

Ask yourself, what is the vision of the Democratic party? If you can’t answer in 3 simple sentences then it is not clear.)

As many polls indicate, people are ready for a change. But until someone comes along who can offer a better vision (and keep it short – 5 bullet points or less), the fight is going to be held at a lower procedural level as in the Mukasey opposition.

Democrats should be using their opposition to Mukasey as a chance to explain their broader vision for the country.