I wondered here why the Democrats pursued a “withdraw the troops” strategy they knew was doomed to failure with a President who was bound to veto every bill they sent with no hope of override. This particular post-mortem on the Democrats’ “cave,” written by David Corn (a liberal himself), offers an explanation: he says they can’t count.
He writes that the Democrats tried to have it both ways—end the war and support the troops, withdraw and be perceived as not caving, a high-wire balancing act of oxymorons—and that it can’t be done, at least not with the “strategy” they mapped out.
True. But since I believe the Democrats actually can count (and of course Corn was being facetious–wasn’t he?), what really was behind this seeming obtuseness, which has left them looking weak and divided?
Well, as Corn writes, it’s the fact that they are divided. They never had the Republican votes needed to override the veto, but they never even had the Democratic ones, either. In the end, many of their ranks defected in order to avoid being perceived as weak on defense. And the Democratic leadership should have known in the first place that this was going to happen.
Of course, it might be that not only did those Democrats voting for troop funding not want to be perceived as weak on defense, they really wanted to not be weak on defense. I still believe that some members of Congress operate more on principle than on politics, although those who do risk becoming endangered species, for obvious reasons.
What’s behind the Democratic miscalculation, if not a literal inability to do the math? I have come to the conclusion that their leaders aren’t very good at understanding the limits of their own power in their own party.
Why they have this lack I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem to be a mathematical problem. Perhaps it’s the result of the hubris and pride that often comes to the powerful of all persuasions and all parties. It takes a certain skill to lead a group of legislators and keep them on board, and part of that skill is knowing how far you can take them before they will bolt. That’s more than a matter of arithmetic, it’s one of psychology, and I think Reid and Pelosi may be a bit tone-deaf in that department. They may be able to count heads, but I don’t think they can account for minds.