New Democratic Congress failing

Sunday, July 29, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:35 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Columbia- To the Democratic leaders of Congress, I can only say: Heck of a job!

In less than six months, the top Democrats have squandered the outpouring of public support gained from last year’s congressional elections. On the war, on ethics and on challenging corporate power, American voters expressed faith that Democrats would change Congress and begin to serve the public interest.

But — poof! — that faith is gone. The latest polls show that only 27 percent of the people approve of the way Congress is doing its job.

Why the precipitous decline? Because the “new” Democrats are still burdened with too many don’t-rock-the-boat, money-soaked, corporate-backed old Democrats who sit in key leadership posts. They are so entrenched that they don’t feel the public’s anger about Iraq, so they have no sense of urgency about confronting this out-of-control president.

Even on congressional ethics reform, which should be a slam-dunk for Democrats, some of the old bulls have balked. They don’t want an independent ethics commission, they don’t want to limit their own possibilities of cashing in to become lobbyists, and they don’t want to stop using lobbyists as their campaign fundraisers.

Then, on their first chance to confront corporate power, some old-guard Democrats have weaseled. Rather than an honest, bold energy bill to stop the corporate causes of climate change, the Democrats’ House bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, would prevent states from doing so and would set fuel economy standards weaker even than Mr. Bush has proposed.

What this means is that our job of congressional cleanup is not complete. Voters made a good start last year, but we must continue next year, recruiting and electing more true reformers to replace the business-as-usual crowd that’s clogging up both parties.

Jim Hightower is a columnist for

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