Loyalty vs. Loyal Opposition

When an official in the White House says, “It’s “stunning that he would ignore the wishes not just of his president, but of his constituents and the country,” you know someone has fundamentally confused the distinction between loyalty and loyal opposition.

Glenn Greenwald states the obvious while discussing this somewhat perverse and anti-democratic quote from an anonymous administration official regarding Lloyd Doggett’s views on the Waxman-Markey energy bill: “The duty of Congress is not to obey the wishes of the President.”

Congress has their own priorities as a co-equal branch of government. Individual members have a constitutionally-mandated responsibility to stand up for those priorities. How a Congressman chooses to do so may vary based on what they think their constituents want or what is best for the country, but there is zero obligation that a legislator do something  because of the wishes of the President. It just doesn’t work that way.

Of course, both Greenwald and Jane Hamsher point out that this sort of loyalty oath is only being applied to progressives in the House, not Blue Dogs. Likewise it is only being applied to progressives when the White House is trying to push through more moderate legislation. The tactic doesn’t seem to be applicable when the opposition to the President is regarding progressive legislation and coming from conservative Democrats.

The fundamental problem with the protestations of this anonymous White House official isn’t so much that this person seems to think that we are living in some sort of autocracy, with an egotistical but hypersensitive dictator running things – someone who is so fundamentally demanding of loyalty that even publicly debating taking a position other than his own causes him fits. What’s more troubling is that this attitude is being specifically targeted at the progressive wing of the Democratic party that first created the situation that enabled strong majorities of Democratic and now represents the place where the majority of Americans stand on most policy issues. It’s an attitude that is used to marginalize the real voices for change and replacing them with more of the same. The civics are wrong. The politics are wrong. And it has to stop.

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