Lombardo: Democrats must tread carefully

Right now, Democrats need to take a deep breath and remember the cautionary phrase, "There but for the grace of God go I."

In this case, the "there" is the state of political irrelevance in which the Republican Party is trapped for the foreseeable future. While critics muse about the rocky road back to power for the GOP, they ought not ignore the daunting challenge the Democrats face to retain power.

It's not na've to question the longevity of this Democratic regime, even as Republicans line up in a circle for target practice, because politics is cyclical in nature. That's not to say the Democrats won't break this cycle of self-destruction, but there are already signs that they have failed to heed the lessons of their recent rise to power or their collapse in 1994.

For instance, a soothsayer might see dark tidings for the Democrats in the wake of their failure to stand by President Barack Obama in his attempt to limit farm subsidies. This restructuring would have ended payouts for corporate farms, and returned the focus of the program to the small farms that need the money, while saving almost $10 billion over a decade. Instead, the Democrats, led by Sen. Kent Conrad, gutted the provision in an attempt to cater to the farming industry at the expense of the national constituency.

This incident may seem inconsequential, but it could be indicative of an emerging trend that became the norm under the Bush administration, under which no special interest was left behind. This tactic produced bloated budgets and provoked a backlash from the voters, who were uneasy about skyrocketing deficits. Democrats need to avoid this particular allure of power, as it is corrupting and often fatal if allowed to become common practice.

Another trapping of majority rule the Democrats in the Senate should be wary of is "reconciliation." In the Senate this process allows the majority to undermine the minority's filibuster power by merging fiscal guidelines with policy proposals, so major policy initiatives are able to pass with just a majority vote.

While this had been a common tactic of Republicans, Democrats who are now defending this course of action would be wise to remember how they decried this ploy when they were the minority. It may be a legitimate method of legislating, but it creates the image of a petulant majority that would rather play political games than govern.

That's not to say the Democrats should pursue conciliatory policies, as they've been given a clear mandate from the voters. In some instances this means flexing their muscles, especially in terms of ending this practice of producing weak legislation to accommodate a 60-vote majority in the wake of Senate Republicans blustering about filibustering. Democrats should call their bluff, and see if these naysayers really want to hold the floor when they have nothing constructive to say.

The Democrats are at a watershed moment where they get to define their own identity and plot their future. If they opt for politicking as usual, their supremacy will be as lengthy as it is meaningful, in the sense that "not very" is the only proper descriptor.

If they follow the example of their president, who at this moment represents an evolutionary way of doing things, then both their reign and list of achievements could be limitless.

Dave Lombardo is a senior poli-sci major who sees dark tidings. Dark tidings indeed.