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Accountability, Strength, And The Meaning Of Victory


(Photo of Jon Tester on election night by Reuters/Brian McDermott.  This is such a great shot, and really captures the enthusiasm not just of Tester, but what I've been feeling in our comments for weeks about the work that everyone has done this election cycle.  Enjoy the grin and the win!)

I was on a conference call yesterday with Speaker-to-Be Nancy Pelosi (and how fun is it to type those words after such a great Democratic victory on Tuesday?), along with a number of other progressive bloggers including Howie and Pach.  We talked about particular issues of interest, including the need for reforms and accountability on a host of subjects from Iraq and war profiteering through to earmarks and election reforms.  I was doing this call from the Cleveland airport — giving the wingnutty older gentleman next to me the fits, as he peered at me over the latest O'Reilly "literature" when I started my comment with "congratulations, Madame Speaker…".  (You have to take your fun where you can, when you've gotten three hours sleep and are running on espresso fumes.)

After the call, I dropped into the comments here, and I wanted to be certain that what I said didn't get lost, because it is really important for all of you to understand just how important your work was in this election cycle — and how much the folks who sit in the power chairs really do understand that they owe those seats to all of you:

I just got off the phone with Speaker-elect Pelosi. She said to tell everyone thank you so much for everything….

Nancy Pelosi has been doing these calls on a semi-regular basis for a while. This isn’t something new. That she took time to do one today [Wednesday], however, with all of the media rush and work on her plate was both gracious and telling on how she truly does understand and value the contribution that all of you made in this election. And I wanted to be certain that you all knew about it this evening — because you guys earned it and then some.

These calls are nothing new. Nancy Pelosi has been doing leadership reach-out to bloggers over the last year, and I've been on calls with her and her staffers a lot over the past few months discussing the House leadership's strategies and issues that they felt were important.

I don't say this to brag about phone calls (gah, no!), but as an illustration that some folks in the Democratic leadership — be it Pelosi or Howard Dean or folks in Russ Feingold's office or any number of many, many others — truly understand that having a direct connection to bloggers, who have a direct connection to readers who are real people facing real issues on a daily basis…well, that is an awfully valuable perspective, and one that by-passes the whole KStreet "pay to play" mentality that has dominated the Republican-controlled Congress the last few years.  And it gives the politicians a chance to talk to folks who aren't just sucking up to them for power or some other personal gain purpose, but who are honest and "tell it like it is" (sometimes way more than they want to hear!) — which they need and want, frankly, given how much of a bubble they live in inside the Beltway.

There are a lot of issues on which all of us are hoping for accountability.  Individually, we probably rank them in differing order, but for me, re-establishing a firm grounding in the rule of law, the Constitution, and the separation of powers between the branches of government so that we are no longer operating as a parliamentary rubber stamp as the Republicans have done the last six years are at the top of my own list.

The Democratic leadership is not going to have an easy job of it.  Unlike the Republican caucus, leading the Democratic caucus has always been a whole lot like herding really cranky cats.  We run the gamut from the ultra-conservative Blue Dogs to the ultra liberal folks from all over. 

On the House side, first Pelosi has to get elected Speaker.  Although we all expect that to happen, she can't take it for granted.  Then, the Democrats have to get legislation passed — and they aren't always going to do it the way we want — but it will be a LOT more in line with our philosophy than what we've been seeing.

I think now is a good time to take a step back and a deep breath and give Pelosi a few days to get things set up the way they need to be done to lay the foundation for a number of things.  They have a LOT of things to tackle…but will only be able to do it one step at a time.  We need to give her and the rest of the Democratic leadership, including a whole lot of folks who are in line to be very effective committee chairs, a little space to actually govern, while holding them to the principles that we all hold to be important.  We don't set accountability aside because we won the election — but we also should not start eating our own right out of the gate.

(And yes, I know that sounds funny after my smack Rahm around article from yesterday, but damn — a backstabbing quote the day after the election was just wrong on his part.)

As for the Senate, things are still a bit up in the air as to how the leadership will or will not be able to really lead and, to be completely honest, I have no clue what any of us can expect from Joe Lieberman.  And I think that folks on both sides of the aisle are thinking the same thing.  Which is pretty much what Joe Lieberman wants, isn't it?

Honestly, though, this is a time for a little pause to let them regroup and consolidate — we push our favorite agenda issues, but we don't rip our side apart and make demands and have tantrums, because to do so weakens their ability to negotiate with the other side.  Whether we like it or not, governance is, in some measure for some things, about compromise.  Advocacy is about standing on principle.  We need to start being smarter about how we marry the two in order to get what we want — and to allow them to get what they want and need as well.  It's going to be an interesting dance the next few weeks.

Remember, the President has to sign off on legislation…or we have to have a veto-proof majority, and we don't have the numbers to pull that off on our own without…wait for it…more compromise and negotiation.  Interesting dance, indeed, but one that I am going to thoroughly enjoy watching as the Democrats are able to lead this tango instead of having to follow.

Let's all take a little time today to enjoy and savor the victory, though.  We earned this one — together. 

What I wish Rahm and some of the other media hounds had been saying all along is that the Democratic party is smart enough and strong enough to put their own individual philosophical differences aside to push toward the greater good for all of America. 

What we can all agree on — no matter our perspective or political persuasion — is that there needs to be more accountability for elected officials.  That sunshine is a good thing in goverment, and that the public has a right to know not only what their representatives are doing, but that they ought to also be told why it is being done.  That corruption is bad, and bribery and self-dealing and rampant cronyism will no longer be tolerated.

That what we all want, most of all, is for our elected officials to do their jobs — keeping in mind that they work for all of us, and that it is our benefit and our wishes, not those of their election financial backers, that ought to count for a whole lot.

And that this Democratic victory means that a majority of folks in America have had enough and that they want a whole lotta change for the better.  Never forget that we are going to be watching.  Our side doesn't get a pass any more than we've given one to the other side.  But at the same time, let's all take a deep breath and allow the Democratic leadership a chance to lead.

I have a very good feeling that we are all going to like where things are going, come January.

UPDATE:  Allen will be holding a presser at 3 pm ET — Webb to follow afterward. Looks like Allen is going to concede in VA. (Is Burns going to finally do the same in Montana?)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com