The Party of special-interests

The Wall Street Journal on the motivations of the Democratic Party:

Instead, the Democrats of the past several years have shown themselves to be less a party of ideas than a vessel for special interests. Exhibit A: the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Privately, Congressional Democrats know this deal is in the nation’s interests. Colombia is a primary ally in a rough neighborhood, and the agreement is a win for both sides. Colombia’s goods can already enter the U.S. duty free because of the Andean trade preferences act. The AFL-CIO, however, has commanded that no vote can occur on Colombia, and so Democrats have obeyed and the trade deal languishes, frustrating and perhaps embittering a foreign friend of the U.S.

The fight over offshore drilling is playing to the same script. Despite solid public majorities showing a sharp turn in favor of exploiting the nation’s oil reserves, a Democratic Congress chained to carbon-phobic environmental groups has refused to allow even a vote on drilling. This fiasco has given House Democrats a black eye. No matter. The party’s special interests have the last word. The first word from these interests — Big Labor, the teachers unions, environmentalists or the trial lawyers — is: Do our bidding or we will make you pay at the polls.

This is the crowd that will be dancing in Denver. The Congressional Democrats have moved left on taxes and left on trade; they propose a significant federalization of health insurance and propose to resurrect the regulatory state that Jimmy Carter helped bury. On foreign policy, they are to the left of where Bill Clinton was on Kosovo and Bosnia.

The difficulty with interest-group politics, as we saw with the “dinosaurs” of Mexico’s PRI party until they were finally run out of power, is that it can become incapable of thinking about national interests. The lockdown on the Colombia deal shows that.

Do the Democrats really believe that the American pubic is ready for this kind of narrow governance? So it appears. Nancy Pelosi has outlined a path to Democratic dominance for a generation. The party builds its majority this year, she argues, wins more seats through redistricting after the 2010 census, and then achieves long-term dominance in 2012.

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