The senate has UNANIMOUSLY passed a bill that adds 82 billion in funding for the Iraq war. Wrapped up in this bill was the "real ID act" giving states 3 years to implement a federally-regulated drivers license.
The argument is that a federal license is basically a national ID card. I'm not sure I fully buy the arguments that a national ID card is inherently a violation of privacy and civil liberties. However, I certainly feel that it is a violation of state rights. Furthermore, why is a homeland security/immigration measure getting stuck to a bill for national security/war funding? Because the republicans put it there knowing that there were no democratic senators with the balls to vote no to "money for our troops". If they would have voted no, they would face the same commercials during their reelection campaigns that John Kerry had to deal with because of a similar add-on to a previous troop-funding measure.
But the democrats continue to come off as platformless cowards on this one. Many democrats gave speeches about how wrong this bill was before voting YES to it out of fear. There are 2 major problems here and yet another failed opportunity to strategically capitalize on republican actions.
1. Should we be giving more money to troops in Iraq? Well, let's sidestep this debate and basically agree that public sentiment is that you must give money to the troops IF they are there already UNTIL they come back - any other action would be politically devastating. I can buy that, even if I don't buy why such a large amount of U.S troops are still in Iraq. Therefore, I can excuse democrats for voting YES to funding, at least until they come up with a CLEAR exit scenario (something which Kerry failed to do in the last election).
2. Here is the important error by the democrats - a party that constantly misses ways to market themselves and seize on errors by republicans. Instead of democratic senators giving speeches detailing why they WANTED to vote NO on the bill because of RealID being added on by the republicans, the senators should have given a speech detailing why they WANTED to vote YES on the bill but couldn't because the Republicans stuck a totally unrelated, poorly thought out, measure on an importnat national security vote. If a strong majority of democrats would have done this, what would have happened? The Republicans would obviously be forced to take the stupid RealID measure off of the table. Clearly if the democrats strategize a little bit, they still retain SOME power in the senate (john bolten confirmation?).
During the 2004 presidential elections - and Florida Senate election for that matter - there were numerous times that the democratic party failed to market themselves properly or capitalize on republican missteps. I am convinced that a strong PR firm, branding agency would do wonders for their platform and create tangible changes at the polling booth.
You can listen to this story on NPR at the following link
Or read about it at the ACLU site