"Alberto Gonzales's nomination as attorney general goes before the Senate at a time when the Republican majority is eager to provide newly elected President Bush with the cabinet of his choice, and the Democrats are leery of exposing their weakened status by taking fruitless stands against the inevitable."
I hope to God that the Times is dead wrong. There is no earthly reason for the Democrats to be "leery of exposing their weakened status." Everybody KNOWS that they have a weakened status. Are they under the illusions that it's some sort of secret? Voting with the Republicans and against your principles just because you don't want to lose the vote doesn't HIDE your weakened status; it demonstrates it.
The Democrats absolutely should vote their principles on every single vote, and LOUDLY, even if they lose, lose, lose. Because the purpose of voting, for a minority party, is not just to win votes. The purpose is to buikld a narrative. Send a message. Make a statement. And back your opponents into a corner. The Republicans understand this; it's about time the Democrats figured it out. Remember the flag-burning amendment? The Republicans didn't bring it up because they thought it stood a chance in hell of passing. They brought it up to make the Democrats vote against it.
You vote for your principles even if you lose to force your opponents to back unpopular decisions and to be on record as doing so. This requires that the Democrats stick together in order to force the Republicans into being the ONLY ones responsible for the decisions that they make, and the inevitable fallout from those decisions.
In other words: Alberto Gonzales is going to be a TERRIBLE Attorney General. When that happens, make sure that the Republicans, and only the Republicans are standing there holding the bag. When the next torture scandal breaks in the press, make sure that they OWN it. Because it is GUARANTEED that they will say, "Some Democrats voted for him, too!" if they possibly can.
And you vote your principles to create a narrative about what you believe in and what you stand for that penetrates through to the public.
Introduce Bills that guarantee the protection of Social Security. Make the Republicans vote against it. Be on record as the party that tries to protect Social Security. By voting, you are not merely trying to win or lose, you are stating who you are and what you stand for. By voting AGAINST their principles so they DON'T lose, the Democrats reinforce the perception that they don't stand for much of anything. And it is that perception, more than anything else, that has caused them to lose elections.
If the Democrats keep voting and supporting what they actually believe in, they will lose and lose. But in 2006, they will WIN.
And if they DON'T vote for their principle, the Republicans will win now AND two years from now.
As Harry Truman said, "Give people a choice between a Republican and a Republican, and they'll vote for a Republican every time."