Commentary: Democrats should stop being afraid to call out GOP on issues

We know our international visitors are here for horses, not bull. But those who are interested in U.S. politics can get a pretty good idea just by looking at last week in the Senate:

■ Republicans advanced their vision of an America ruled by and for monied interests, while sealing the doors of equality and opportunity to others.

■ Democrats were too afraid and fractured to put up much of a fight.

At week's end, the Democratic majority announced it would wait until after the November mid-term election to bring up President Barack Obama's plan to extend tax cuts for the middle class while ending those for the 2 percent of households whose annual incomes exceed $250,000.

Republicans blame Obama for average Americans' economic anxiety. Yet Democrats passed up a chance to force Republicans to vote on helping average Americans.

By not pushing this debate, Democrats deprive themselves of a defining campaign issue. Also, voters will have to wait to see whether those howling about the national debt are willing to do anything to trim it.

Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of this year unless Congress renews them. The Democrats shouldn't miss this chance to see whether Republicans would let the middle-class tax cuts expire if they don't get a deal protecting the wealthiest as well.

(We're not talking about soaking the top 2 percent, just taxing them at the same rate as during the Clinton years when the economy boomed and the government ran a surplus.)

Meanwhile, Republicans, who hold 41 of the 100 seats in the Senate, were taking advantage of their clout under Senate rules last week. They used the grand ol' filibuster to preserve the repugnant ban on gays serving in the military and to defeat the DREAM Act, which would give immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a path to citizenship through education, good behavior and military service.

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