Sunday, November 26, 2006

Emanuel Pushes Congressional Reform

Bob Novak always has stuff worth reading.

This weekend he notes that Rahm Emanuel is encouraging his Democratic colleagues to take congressional reform seriously. He apparently calls it 'the key to future electoral success:'

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, newly elected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has sent colleagues a one-page memo emphasizing ''real lobbying and ethics reform'' as the key to his party's future electoral success.

Emanuel, architect of taking over the House as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, in the memo cited eight extra seats won by Democrats in Republican districts because of scandals. That included the defeat of Representatives John Sweeney (N.Y.); Richard Pombo (Calif.); Curt Weldon (Pa.); Don Sherwood (Pa.), and Charles Taylor (N.C.), plus Republicans in seats formerly held by Representatives Tom DeLay (Texas); Mark Foley (Fla.), and Bob Ney (Ohio). A ninth scandal-blemished Republican targeted by Emanuel, Rep. John Doolittle of California, escaped with a four-point victory.

Emanuel intends to push reforms restricting earmarks, gifts and travel. ''Failure to deliver on this promise,'' said his memo, ''would be devastating to our standing with the public and certainly jeopardize some of our marginal seats.''

I would argue that real reform is no guarantor of electoral success for the Democrats. Rather, I suspect it's closer to being 'necessary, but not sufficient.'

Voters discount past achievements relatively quickly. If Democrats deliver on the reforms that Emanuel calls for, it will be a feather in their collective cap and it will make a nice talking point in 2008. But their success or failure will be judged more by whether they achieve anything, and whether they curb their left-wing tendencies. Insulting the military, reinstating the draft, and raising taxes are a formula for abject humiliation - regardless of congressional reform.

But on the other hand, voters don't expect a whole lot of the Democrats in these next two years. With an opposition President, legislative victories are likely to be minor. If all they can point to is a minimum wage increase, and they are attacked by Republicans for ineffectiveness and failure to deliver on reform, they may find themselves in the same position as the GOP a few months ago: wishing they had taken the reform issue seriously.

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