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Like Herding Cats

(Huge h/t to reader Mutant Poodle for the link to this video.  Classic!)

Now this is how it is done:

Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid had a decision to make. President Bush was starting his second term with a brash challenge to a sacred Democratic program — Social Security — and the House and Senate Democratic leaders needed a coordinated response, and fast….

Top party leaders debated their response in a series of frantic meetings and conference calls early last year, according to aides who spoke on condition of anonymity. Then Pelosi brought up a piece of advice shared by several marketing specialists from the business world she had sought out: You can't build up your brand unless you first take down the competition's.

And so Pelosi and Reid put out the word: There would be no Democratic Social Security plan, and no negotiating with Bush as long as he insisted on privatization….

Last March, Reid persuaded more than 40 Democratic senators to oppose privatization, assuring Democrats of the number they'd need to sustain a filibuster. Pelosi had fewer procedural tools but no less commitment to the cause. One Pelosi aide recalls her giving the same curt response to several colleagues who asked when the party's Social Security plan would be released: "Never. Does never work for you?"  (emphasis mine)

Boo-yah!  I believe that is what we call balls of steel…erm…except in this case, perhaps it's ovaries of steel.  Whatever.  And taking out the Republican brand with a plan?  A thing of beauty.

I do not envy Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid their tasks of herding this many large egos and self-interested self-dealers (Joe Lieberman at the top of the Senate list of people ready to jump at a moment's notice), but in this instance, they played it absolutely right.  Why is that, you ask?  For this reason:

But in the end, Democrats' blocking efforts were so successful that Bush never even introduced a bill. By campaign season, only Democrats were bringing up Social Security private accounts — as a weapon to use against Republicans. The campaign-style apparatus that defeated Social Security reform was ready to go on behalf of Democratic candidates.

As challenges arose for Republicans — indictments of House members, the Terri Schiavo affair, Hurricane Katrina, the efforts of a Dubai-controlled company to take over US ports — Democratic unity left the party well positioned for political gain by keeping the focus on Republican missteps.

Gone were the days in which House Democratic leaders could be wooed into supporting bills, or where a few dozen conservative Democrats could be counted on to vote with Republicans to cut taxes or spending.

That meant every Republican vote was crucial, allowing Democrats to exploit areas of Republican discord and force moderate Republicans into politically difficult votes.

"Disunity had been a hallmark of the Democratic Party, but they disciplined the members, and all the factions within the party came together," said Zelizer, of Boston University.  (emphasis mine)

And I have it on good authority from a number of sources on the Hill that all of our efforts on behalf of Ned Lamont helped with that party discipline. Every time someone got out of line, someone in leadership could say "Look, remember what happened to Joe Lieberman…you'd hate to have to deal with that sort of primary in 2008/10, wouldn't you?"  (Of course, had the Senate leadership followed through with its promises to campaign for Ned, they would have had an even bigger carrot and stick.  Now they have a whiny Lieberman for Lieberman, who apparently said on this morning's MtP that he is not ruling out caucusing with the GOP, but that he hopes it doesn't get to that point.  Because, well, you know, nothing is ever Joe's fault — it's always something he finds a way to conveniently blame on someone else.  I'd feel badly for the Senate Democratic leadership, but they have earned every snivelling, self-dealing moment of this all on their own.  Will link up the transcript when I get one.)

In any case, having a plan to deal with George Bush and his rubber stamp Republican parliamentary minions?  Priceless.  Carrot, stick, and a whole lot of motivated leadership…and look where we are today.  More of that, please.

(H/T to RevDeb and Prof for the link to the Boston Globe article.)

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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