Monday, March 27, 2006


Making Sense on Censure

Over the weekend Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times -- one of the smartest political commentators working today -- turned in a typically savvy analysis of the politics of censure, which provides a nice counterpoint to Peter Beinart's more positive take on Feingold's proposal I linked to a couple days ago.

Brownstein's primary argument is that the censure gambit has undercut the national Democratic strategy for the 2006 midterm elections, which is to de-emphasize ideology and stress competence, or the lack thereof on the part of Bush and the Republican Congress. By shifting the debate back to a big policy issue and away from corruption and governance matters, Feingold has hurt his party by helping the Republicans frame the election as a choice instead of a straight-up referendum, as Reid and Pelosi want.

That is a valid point -- assuming of course that Feingold's proposal is viewed primarily through an ideological prism. That may well be the case for most insiders and many voters on first gloss. But there is strong argument that censure in this instance is more about governance and accountability than ideology -- we are talking about lawbreaking here, not lawmaking -- and as such fits squarely within the competence construct.

I'm not sure I am ready to advocate a full-scale censure offensive by the party leadership -- I am more receptive at this point to the good-cop, bad-cop approach Beinart advocates. But I'd be curious to see how far swing voters would swing our way if we made a concerted effort to link the censure proposal to our larger indictment on corruption, secrecy, and mismanagement.

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