Politeía Digest

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Requiem for the Pelosi Democrats

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Veteran Democratic Rep. Brian Baird says that job creation should have been priority ‘number one, two and three.’

By John Fund

It took Democrats in the House of Representatives 40 years to become out-of-touch enough to get thrown out of office in 1994. It took 12 years for the Republicans who replaced them to abandon their principles and be repudiated in 2006. Now it appears that the current Democratic majority has lost voter confidence in only four years.

How did this happen? And what does the increasing speed of voter backlash mean for Republicans who will likely take control next Tuesday?

For answers, I decided to chat up Rep. Brian Baird, a six-term Democrat from Washington state. Even though he’s never won re-election with less than 56% of the vote, Mr. Baird is retiring because the brutal congressional commute makes it impossible for him to see his twin five-year-old boys grow up. He’s not sticking around, like so many former members of Congress, to lobby inside the Beltway. That allows him to be candid about Congress and his party.

“It’s been an authoritarian, closed leadership. That style plus a general groupthink mentality didn’t work when Tom DeLay called the shots,” Mr. Baird says. “We’ve made some of the same damn mistakes, and we were supposed to be better. That’s the heartbreak.”

Mr. Baird, 54, is a loyal Democrat who voted for all of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislative priorities, including the stimulus bill, cap and trade and ObamaCare. But he admits all three have serious flaws.

Mr. Baird recalls that he was “very excited” when his party took control of Congress in 2006, but he saw ominous signs early on. Before the 2006 election, he says, Mrs. Pelosi had 30 members working on a rules package to make the House more ethical and deliberative. “We abandoned all that work after the election, and leaders told us we should trust them to clean things up. I don’t know a single member of the Democratic caucus who saw the final rules package before they voted on it.”

Democrats also watered down efforts to practice fiscal responsibility. “We initially had numbers a bit more honest than the Republicans—we at least included war costs in the budget,” he says. “Now we’re authorizing programs for three years instead of five in an attempt to pretend we’re saving money.”

When President Obama was elected in 2008, Mr. Baird was again optimistic that Democrats could bring real reform. But fierce Republican partisanship and the White House decision not to focus on job creation as its “number one, two and three” priority dashed that hope.

“Obama decided we weren’t going to have a highway transportation bill because it might have required a gas tax increase,” he recalls. After passing a misdirected stimulus bill, Mr. Obama made the fatal error of pushing forward with other priorities: cap and trade, financial services reform, ObamaCare. Each became compromised quickly.

“You don’t get real reform by pandering to every special interest. With cap and trade we wound up with a bill that didn’t accomplish much, was enormously complicated and expensive.” Mr. Baird is especially upset that “good solid members will lose this fall because they took a tough vote for a cap-and-trade bill that never made it through the Senate.” He has told environmental groups that they lost sight of the goal of reducing carbon emissions by focusing on the minutia of regulation to achieve it.

For some of the shortcomings of financial regulatory reform, Mr. Baird blames the disillusioning battle over ObamaCare. “When the House had to pass the Senate version of health care unchanged, some members asked why should they invest the mental effort in mastering the details” of financial reform. Mr. Baird found parts of the bill mind-numbing. Read more in The Wall Street Journal

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Written by Theophyle

October 31, 2010 at 11:50 am

2 Responses

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  1. Requiem for the Pelosi Democrats « Politeía Digest…

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

    World Spinner

    October 31, 2010 at 12:25 pm

  2. Time For A Good Chuckle…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

    Brees List

    October 31, 2010 at 3:31 pm


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