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We’ve Seen This Before

Norman Ornstein tries to warn the Democrats: it’s 1994 all over again. He observes:

The populist anger is back, and not just in the United States–the reaction in Britain to parliamentary expense abuses is directly reminiscent of the reaction to the House Bank. So far, it has not been directed at Congress, in part because the 111th Congress has been so remarkably productive, in part because of the popularity of President Barack Obama, in part because of the ineptitude of the minority party leadership. But one can see the train wreck coming. . .  The leadership needs to avoid any sense that it is protecting Members because of their personal ties to them. And Congress needs to enact further reforms to make the earmarking and contracting process work better.

The list is long and embarrassingly familiar — Chris Dodd, Blago, Charlie Rangel, the PMA Group scandal suspects, and William Jefferson. His concern is this string of scandals. But isn’t there something more to the populist disgust?

The administration and Congress are doing lots of things voters don’t like — taking over car companies, spending and borrowing with no end in sight, and setting up a gargantuan stimulus plan that’s a bust. There is a substantive element to the populist ire bubbling up beneath the president’s lofty personal approval ratings. And this, after all, is how electoral shifts happen — when ethics and policy flubs combine in a perfect storm. Think 2006.

As Ornstein points out, it’s not too late for members of both parties to get their act together. But alas they show not the slightest inclination to do so. They will take their chances that no one is really all that upset.



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