I wondered, when I read this claim, if the reader had actually been around and paying attention to politics back in 1994, when the Republicans under Newt Gingrich retook Congress. The Democratic Congress hadn't really been acting very liberal in the years prior to 1994. They had decided not to protect gays in the military, not to create any national health care system, and not to pursue any impeachment or even censure of Ronald Reagan, in spite of the evidence that Reagan was involved in a scheme to break the law by providing funding to a group of insurgents in Central America and sending high-tech missiles to the government of Iran in secret.
The Democratic Congress was by no means liberal. Politically, it played the middle of the road, passing some occasional progressive legislation but not really challenging the corporate, right wing Republican White House. The Democratic Congress back then was, however, very very corrupt. It was the corruption of that Congress, not any superaggressive political liberalism, that led to the loss of Democratic control in 1994.
The problem of the Democratic Party in 1994 was the problem of the Democratic Party now. Democratic politicians in Congress did not regard themselves as accountable to the actual Democratic grassroots voters. Instead, they were only held accountable to the Democratic Party machine, which then, as now, squelched party primaries whenever possible and worked to promote machine politicians with connections to "important" people in their districts. The result was that Congress was filled with Democrats who saw it as their duty to give these "important" supporters a return on their investment, rather than standing up for the good of the American people.
The Republicans in control of Congress now are behaving like the Democrats in Congress did before them. So, the Democrats are using corruption as an election issue this year, as the Republicans did in 1994, but as the scandal of William Jefferson from Louisiana reminds us, corruption is not really a partisan issue. Congress attracts people who are hungry for power, and is a tempting spot for those open to corruption. We need systematic changes in Congress to address this problem, not just a change in the party in control. Without better restraints, the new Democratic leadership will become just as corrupt as the Republicans are now.
I was glad to see that I'm not the only person who remembers what really happened back in 1994, that the problem with the Democrats was not liberal politics, but rather, that the congressional Democrats were not idealistic enough. Yesterday, another reader left the following rebuttal to the first reader's claims:
"The Democrats didn't go too far, they went too long. The voters tire of policies that don't work and politicians who don't serve.
The muddling middle isn't going to cure any problems or provide stability.
The real issue is self versus group. The conservatives represent self interest taken to an extreme. The liberals have not had power in many years but they represent group interest over self. Don't forget the United States is not your personal interest, it is our group interest.
Being in the muddled middle is not leadership, it's ducking responsibility. Paraphrasing Ted Turner, either lead, follow or get the hell out of the way and do it for all of us not just the few or yourself."
I'd like to point out that we have no specific reason to believe that Michael Arcuri or Ray Meier would personally become corrupt if elected to Congress. Maybe they would, and maybe they wouldn't. My point is not to accuse these politicians personally, but to point out that the political party machine systems in both the Republican Party and Democratic Party in New York's 24th congressional district are designed in such a way as to separate the candidates from the people they are supposed to serve, and to make them indebted to the very kind of big corporate donors who are most likely to come later asking for special favors in return for special rewards.
Whether we voters in the 24th District are Republicans, Democrats, or independents, we would be better served if we had a process in our district that was less behind the scenes, less dependent upon money, and more involved with the voters outside the political establishment. The lack of any special effort by Ray Meier and Mike Arcuri to reach out to the ordinary voters of our district is but a mild symptom of a deeper underlying problem that could, in the years to come, manifest itself in a much more profound and criminally corrupt form.