In the space of the past year Tom DeLay has faced disgrace, indictment and resigned his seat. Now a Texas court has ruled that resignation or no, DeLay’s name must remain on the ballot.
Steve Benen says it for me:
It’s the best of all possible scenarios. I was pleased to see DeLay resign in April, but I was disappointed about one thing: I wanted to see him lose, not quit. Now, it may work out well after all.
I would go one step further. The major organizing principle of the upcoming election ought to be corruption. Yes the GOP can’t govern their way out of a paper bag, but that does not mean that they are incompetent in general. In fact the majority of them are very good at what they do. They suck at governing because for today’s GOP the question of crafting realistic policy ranks a distant third or fourth on the priority list. Let’s illustrate with the shining exemplar of Republican governance, Medicare part D.
Priority one: craft a bill to shore up the Senior demographic. You could argue that the bill was actually designed with seniors’ best interests in mind, if you wanted to lose a very short argument. Reference the infamous “donut hole,” which will cut off numerous seniors from needed medications in a weak game of accounting sleight-of-hand. Sure the donut hole and Part D chaos in general will hurt the GOP in ’06, but the bill delivered a potent issue in ’04 just like it was designed to do.
Priority two: back-scratching for Big Pharma. Why can’t the government negotiate lower prices for seniors? Affordable drugs sure would come in handy when the “donut hole” hits. Think real hard.
The Part D story just gets uglier the deeper you look into it. See, for example, this rundown from the known rabble-rousers at the New England (cough) Journal of Medicine. And this was a major, keynote piece of policy. By current standards Part D was relatively clean. Most sleaze happens at the margins, in pork allocations and minor bills that nobody pays attention to except for the lobbyists. Things that we mostly don’t notice, like “fixing” military procurements and passing on inside information and federal favors in exchange for assorted bakshish, are why Duke Cunningham and David Safavian have already gone to jail and why major aides and associates of Cunningham, Tom DeLay and Bob Ney have already plead guilty. Jerry Lewis (R – CA) hasn’t faced a major plead-out yet but at this point it seems only a matter of time.
For a while the indomitable House Majority Leader from Sugarland, Texas stood out as the national poster boy for GOP sleaze. But when his major aides and associates plead out DeLay, reading the writing on the wall, resigned his seat and denied the Democrats a potent living symbol. You can make only so much hay out of Duke Cunningham or Jerry Lewis and other folks who barely register with most Americans. Now DeLay has two choices, assuming that the inevitable 5th Circuit appeal fails: make a contest of it and give Democrats their symbol back, or admit that he’s running as a placeholder and hope that Nick Lampson gets hit by a meteor.
POSTSCRIPT: I should clarify a point about DeLay and the gradations of sleaze
GOP sleaze often serves venal, personal interests not unlike what drove William Jefferson (D – LA). More important but often less visible is the sleaze that specifically builds the party, consolidates power and denies influence to any other source of power, whether it is the Democrats or the media. The latter type of sleaze poses much more of a threat to the basic functions of democracy because unlike the former type of sleaze perverting democracy is more or less the point. And right in the center of that operation you find the money-influence nexus of Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist and Tom DeLay. Modern Republicanism really is DeLayism as much as it resembles any principled worldview either liberal or conservative. If the Democrats plan to run against DeLayism then it seems fitting that they should run against DeLay.