It looks like the Democrats are frantically trying to mitigate the policy effects of their devestating electoral losses by obstructing Republicans at every step, even contesting bills that are popular with Congressional Democrats.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) was asked at a CATO conference in Washington yesterday whether he had persuaded any Democrats to back his plan to rescue Social Security from its financial troubles. ...

"We were in planning stages [with friendly Democrats]," said Ryan. But each essentially told him: "I like what you're doing. I like this bill. I think it's the right way to go. But my party leadership will break my back. The retribution that they are promising us is as great as I have ever seen. We can't do it."

The difficulty Democrats are facing is that they have two battles to fight. The first battle is to increase their share of Congressional seats by winning elections (or at least losing fewer); the second battle is to prevent Republicans from wielding their majority. Unfortunately for the Democrats, these two battles are orthogonal in many ways, and success in one may mean defeat in the other.

Why? It's clear that Republican positions are more popular than Democratic positions, so the Democrats can't continually obstruct them and still expect to get votes from people who like the positions. On the other hand, they can't agree with Republican positions either, because if they do, then why should anyone vote for a Democrat? May as well vote for the GOP.

This conundrum is a perfect illustration of how President Bush and his people have continually out-smarted and out-manuvered the Democrats. The Republicans have aligned their party with popular positions and forced the Democrats into a political corner. Despite the noises from the DNC, the Dems don't just need new tactics to "get their message out", they need a whole new message -- a new message that's more popular than what the Republicans are already offering.

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