Democrats seem to have suddenly realized that they are the majority party. The 99-pound weakling party of the past year and a half suddenly grew into muscular, beefy adulthood yesterday, and they're not going to take it anymore.
That's the message emanating out across the country from Washington. When the Senate sent the initial health reform bill to the House, the bill that was just signed into law by President Obama, it contained elements unacceptable to many House Democrats. But they voted for it anyway, in order to avoid the avowed Republican strategy of playing the bill like a ping pong ball back and forth between the House and Senate. (The same bill must be passed by both Houses in order to get to President Obama's desk, where it can be signed into law.) So House Democrats agreed to vote for the bill, warts and all, on the condition that a second measure, a "fix it bill," would be passed to address the unacceptable elements of the main health reform bill. And that second bill was passed by the House, and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Republicans in the Senate fiendishly planned to knock back the weakling Democrats' fix it bill by sending it back from the Senate yesterday with changes. That would have required the House to vote, yet again, on the new bill, at which point the slim Democratic majority would show its many cracks and fall apart, creating political chaos among the Democrats.
That didn't happen.
Instead, a giant Democratic Party appeared and knocked the Republicans into kingdom come. The Senate Republicans in fact did manage to get some changes into the health reform bill, and sent it triumphantly back to the House to die amidst contentious debate. It didn't die, but instead was passed immediately by the House and went straight to President Obama's desk for signature. Republican bullies muttered threats of electoral doom and physical intimidation, but Democrats, unlike their scaredy-cat past, just ignored them.
The Democrats have found their mojo. That's great for our country, which finds itself, finally, after wandering for so many years in the health care desert, in the promised land. And that's good for the gays.
With a newly revitalized ENDA ready backstage, set to be marked up when Congress returns from the Easter break in two weeks, the Democrats are going to need that mojo. There are enough votes in the House, and maybe enough votes in the Senate, but the real question is whether Republicans are going to be able to threaten and bully conservative Democrats into submission. Also on deck are DADT reform and the domestic partnership benefits for federal workers bill.
There are two ways this can go.
First, and I hope more likely, Republicans will make their usual blustering, bullying, howling approach. They will invoke God and the Devil, fire and brimstone, and threaten Armageddon. But instead of flinching, backing down and apologizing, Democrats will step up to the plate, steely eyed and ready for anything, confident in the knowledge that success breeds success, and everybody likes a winner. ENDA will pass the House. Triumphal music will swell in the background. The Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Reid, who has a majority of Senators in favor of ENDA, will bring another 5 into line, or will attach the bill to another major "must-pass" bill, as he did with the hate crimes bill. ENDA will pass the Senate and proceed to President Obama's desk. The same will happen with DADT repeal and the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations bill.
But another possibility, and I hope less likely, is that Republicans will make their usual blustering, bullying, howling approach. They will invoke God and the Devil, fire and brimstone, and threaten Armageddon. Democrats will forget that they are the 800 pound gorilla. (Q: What does the 800-pound gorilla get? A: Whatever it wants.) They will flinch, back down and apologize for being Democrats. They will step off the plate with their heads down, knowing that they are losers, and nobody likes a loser. ENDA will fail in the House. Sad music will swell in the background. The Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Reid, who has a majority of Senators in favor of ENDA, will ignore the bill, letting it die a lingering death. The Democrats will be too ashamed to even bring up the subject of DADT repeal or the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations bill.
I remember a similar situation when I was in high school. I was kind of skinny and seemed a bit fey. John MacDonald was one of the schoolyard bullies. He went out of his way to insult me whenever he could, and to threaten me. He hinted that he would beat me up. I was scared. But I wasn't that little. At that point, I was already about 5'10" and 170 pounds. But I wasn't a fighter. I imagined what his fists might do when they hit my face, and what I might be able to do in return. I didn't relish the thought.
One day, he stopped me in a crowded hallway with hundreds of students rushing past us to their next class. We might as well have been alone in the hallway, as no one was going to interfere with John MacDonald. He blocked my passage, and I stood their with a load of books in my arm, and my crooked glasses staring at him. "Are you going to let me pass?" I said. "No," he declaimed. "What are you going to do about it, pussy?" he sneered. He balled his fist and brought back his arm to hit me.
I recognized that I was at a decision point. I could back down, and try to avoid getting hit, and we would both then know that I would always be vulnerable to him. I would then be forced to forever avoid his eyes, to go down back corridors to avoid his presence, and even so to have him seek me out as a convenient target for his crazy rage. And not just him, but other bullies would hear of this day and come to seek out the weakling.
I dropped my books, threw my glasses to the ground, not wanting to get glass in my eye, and socked him once, twice, three times. I didn't stop until they separated us. He wasn't seriously hurt, but that was one bully that lost his taste for threats, with me at least.
The next day his mommy called my house, asking my parents why their son got beat up and demanding apologies and reparations. My mother told her he deserved it and hung up. I never had a problem at school again.
I do not advocate violence, but I do advocate self-worth and self-defense. I hope the Democrats take heed when they get back from Easter break.