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Gary Younge
What's the point of 'symbolic opposition'?

The Democratic leadership it seems has started as it means to go on. Not by using its democratic mandate to thwart the most egregious elements of the Bush agenda but by using their legislative majority to provide the appearance of opposition without actually doing anything concrete.

And so it is that in response to President Bush's decision to escalate troop levels in Iraq they have decided to voice "symbolic" opposition.

"If you really want to change the situation on the ground, demonstrate to the president he's on his own," said Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. "That will spark real change." Go get 'em Jo. Show them how unhappy you are. The truth is the American people already know that the President is alone. The reason they elected Democrats is so they would do something about it.

Following the president's speech they have the option of refusing to fund the escalation. But if they don't set that train in motion soon, then the troops will be on their way and they will be accused of refusing to equip troops in the field. Quite what they think a non-binding resolution will achieve is difficult to fathom.

Thankfully it does seem the Democratic party's base has mobilized significant resources and efforts to remind the party why they were elected and what is at stake if they disappoint the voters. Presidential hopefuls should take note. By November next year this occupation will be an even bloodier mess than it is now and the electorate will want to know what prospective candidates will do about it. The deaths aren't symbolic; the civil war is not symbolic; the violation of human rights are not symbolic. Why should the opposition be?

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