The Illusion Of Success: Jesus, DSL, & The Democratic Soul
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 11/13/04
A few days after the recent Presidential election I had to bring my 2 cars into a local Kwik Lube to get oil changed and pass the annual auto inspection. Since it would take about a half hour I decided to walk around the neighborhood in this Texas suburb. As I did, with the sun barely peeking over the treetops, I was struck by several things. Being not far from my local subdivision it was uncanny how many poor people lived so close- or poor in comparison to the modest middle class homes in my subdivision. Walking by the unkempt lawns, with pickup trucks up on cinder blocks, I noticed about 50-60% of the ‘homes’ were trailers- no more than 1000 square feet, if that. I also noticed 2 other things- first was the percentage of trailer homes with cable tv and/or DSL lines and then the fact that those homes that lacked such lines invariably had one, and sometimes two satellite dishes attached to them- usually Dish Network or DirecTV.
What was startling was that in this far poorer neighborhood than mine was a far greater percentage of homes with the latest gadgetry. It reminded me of my next door neighbor growing up- a man who had to have the latest gadget that came out. It reminded me of a single mother I worked with a few years ago, one of many who worked in the AT&T office with me. She had 3 children by two men, neither of whom paid a dime to support his children, and worked much overtime to feed her trio. Often she would complain to me of her exes, as well as the difficulty of paying her bills. Yet, when I asked her specifics I was amazed at how she handled her finances- she was often behind on her rent, and utilities bills, but told me she never missed a payment on her cable tv bill. ‘I can’t live without my cable, Dan.’, she’d say. Cable tv was her escape from misery. I thought of the last couple years I lived in the Twin Cities and saw willfully poor artsy fartsy types who would live in hovels with roommates, yet travel to Internet cafés with state of the art laptops to make use of their free connections.
This got me thinking as to the quandary the Democratic Party finds itself in, after having lost to a manifestly terrible President- the seventh election loss in the last ten elections. Save for Bill Clinton, the Democrats would have one but a single election since President Johnson’s landslide win over Barry Goldwater in 1964- that being Jimmy Carter’s narrow victory over Gerald Ford, a man who was never elected President, and only became so after President Nixon’s disgrace. Even after eight years of war, scandal, and incredibly hard economic times, not to mention President Ford’s near-immolation in a televised debate, Carter still almost lost to the Republican.
In the days since this year’s lost election for the Democrats I’ve watched as online bloggers, tv pundits, and think tanks that dot C-Span scratch themselves over why Democrats are in such a state. I want to go over some of the major talking points I’ve heard, debunk or defuse their arguments, then proffer an alternative reason why George W. Bush, a man who most acknowledge is not the political equal of men like Richard Nixon, LBJ, Bill Clinton, nor even Ronald Reagan, got a second chance as President after not even legitimately winning his first term, and screwing that up so badly even historians have to think a few minutes before tossing out a handful of possibly worse Presidents.
First, let me summarize some of the reasons given for this defeat, and of necessity some of these points and arguments will overlap:
John Kerry- I said from the beginning, once he emerged from a field of four major candidates for the Democratic nod, he was the worst possible choice. Vermont governor Howard Dean was a social liberal but fiscal conservative, with passion aplenty, Senator John Edwards actually had ideas, passion, and a Clintonian appeal, minus the rough edges, and General Wesley Clark exuded that military panache that far blander men, like Ike, had merely by having been military leaders. His only problem was learning to communicate in politics vs. a military milieu. John Kerry was a gray lumpenmass of facts, figures, with charisma in the negative range.
I was proven correct about his flaws. The only positive I can state about Kerry is that he is a terrific debater- probably the best of the television era. But, he is wooden, aloof, and wholly unappealing on the stump. He has a terrible image- even putting aside the many lies that were aspersed about him. He lacked the ability, outside of the debates, to formulate soundbite messages. Like it or not, the public is stupid (as P.T. Barnum so correctly noted), and needs things broken down into Lowest Common Denominator chunks. They cannot see nuance, only black and white, good and evil. The public also has a fleeting attention span so you have to keep pounding them with the same old same old- true or not.
Look at how effective Bush was at dissembling that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Quaida, even though the 9/11 Commission wholly debunked it. Look at how effectively the Swift Boat ads distorted Kerry from a true war hero to a traitor, even though everything they said was shown as false. While they stayed on focus repeating their vile but effective message, Kerry did not even counter it for weeks. This was Kerry’s ‘Dukakis moment’- he should’ve come out and called the Swifties head John O’Neill a Nixonian creep and shill, and said he’d kick his lying ass back to the Mekong Delta. But, he didn’t. Why would an uninvolved person look favorably on a man who won’t defend himself? He looked like a wimp, even though he is a man who killed, and committed atrocities, in his nation’s name, and at its behest, while Bush partied and passed the bong in Alabama. Odd, how 30 years later the Vietnam vets are still being pilloried by those who did nothing- not fight, nor conscientiously oppose, the war: the infamous Chickenhawks, embodied by Bush and Cheney.
Yet, Bush ran a far better campaign- sharper, tougher, and quick to respond. Compare the Bush team’s response to CBS anchor Dan Rather’s Memogate fiasco. Whereas nothing said by the Swifties was true, the impression left was that there was something of truth because Kerry did not respond. Conversely, Bush went on the warpath to decry the fact that Rather had only photocopied records of Bush’s detractors claims, that there were no typewriters 30 years ago with suprascript (a debunked falsehood), and instead of anyone really digging into the allegations other media either chided Rather’s poor journalism or ignored it completely. In short, testosterone works, far more than truth!
Look at the ads the Kerry campaign ran vs. those of Bush. Kerry would never even come out and call the President a liar- constantly giving him an out with a term like ‘misled’. This is very much in concert with the Democratic technique over the last few decades- after all they’re the pro-choice party, not the pro-abortion party- as if the word, itself, is taboo. This subliminally suggests the Democrats are uncomfortable with the word, and procedure. In the debates Kerry missed key points to tattoo Bush on lies- when Bush said Kerry had the same intelligence he did, Kerry should have said, ‘Since when do Senators get PDBs, like the one on August 6th, 2001, Mr. President?’ When asked if he’d still support the war knowing what he knows now back in 2002, Kerry said yes, instead of logically saying, of course not, because he was scared of looking like he’d be a Saddam supporter, when all he had to do was say, ‘Mr. President, you lied about the WMDs, and the reasons to go to war. You led this war not to get rid of Saddam, but to get rid of WMDs. If this was purely a humanitarian war why didn’t your father get Saddam, why don’t we invade dozens of other countries with dictators? Isn’t the real reason we chose Iraq because of the oil? And do you mean to tell me that removing one dictator from power was worth 1100+ American lives?’
Yes, Kerry was terrific in the debates, but he never went for the kill. He lacked that fury that a Michael Jordan, or any great athlete has, to go in for the kill. He never twisted the knife in Bush’s back by asking the Reaganesque question, ‘Are you better off now than you were four years ago?’ nor following up with, ‘Do you think you’ll be better off in four years with this President?’
Kerry ads were standard ‘This President stinks!’ ads when he needed an 1964 LBJ-Daisy type ad. I’d’ve told Kerry to have the Grim Reaper walking across a desert, then pointing and turning to the camera, with a voice asking, ‘Will your son/daughter be next to die in an unnecessary war?’ I’d’ve also had ads run with updated American death tolls and a National Deficit meter running, with a voice asking, ‘Unnecessary Death and Debt- can we really afford four more years of this?’
But he didn’t. Therefore, this poor candidate never got to voters like me, who really did not want another four years of Bush, but also didn’t want Kerry as President enough to care and do something about it. Most stayed home. I voted for Ralph Nader.
‘Moral’ Values- the Republicans have become masters of ‘distraction issues’ like abortion and gay marriage. I’m not trying to demean a woman’s right to corporeal sovereignty nor two people’s desire to share their love- or lust, but only about a million women a year have abortions, and only about 1-3% of the population is gay, and only a fraction of them want to marry, out of a population nearing 300 million. Compare that to the over 40 million officially unemployed, actually jobless, and underemployed people in the country, the 45 million or so medically uninsured people, the countless millions of middle and lower class people who barely squeeze by while a select few hundred thousand of the richest people have gotten tax relief. What Democrats cannot seem to do is make these substantive issues, that affect manifold more people than abortion or gay marriage, into hot button issues that are more than just abstractions.
First, Democrats need to speak of ethics- not morals, and distinguish the difference. I.e.- that ‘morals’ are basically religious precepts that are imposed from the outside upon individuals, while ‘ethics’ are that gut level feeling of right and wrong that we all have, that come from the individual. Democrats have never gotten America’s obsession with individualism, but the split between ethics and morals is an area to exploit. For example- on an ethical level we all know it’s wrong to murder a person. ‘Morals’- at least most of them- would assent. But, let’s now examine further filigrees of the term murder. Is it murder for the state to execute a convicted murderer? Most ethics, as reflected by public opinion polls (take them as you will these days), say no- that murder is the taking of an innocent life for no reason. Therefore a convicted murderer’s state-sanctioned death is not murder. Many Catholic opinions differ and call this murder.
Yet, the same Catholic ‘morals’ decree abortion murder, although all scientific opinion (save that of a few hidebound religion-tinged ‘rebels’) agrees that a fetus is no more a human being than a sperm cell (is masturbation mass murder or genocide?) or an acorn is an oak tree (the oldest, yet still most apt, analogy). Most people’s ethics agree that abortion is not murder, and the fact that anti-abortion laws were few and far between before the Victorian Era suggests that this has been the dominant view of the global ethos. Yet, there is alot of wiggle room amongst religious viewpoints- i.e.- morals are something that change with time and culture, while ethics- emanating from within- are more ‘hard-wired’, if you will. Of course, there will be aberrant ethics, such as those possessed by a Mao Zedong or John Wayne Gacy, but by and large ethics are far more reliable measures of the human state than morals.
Here is where Democrats can use the wedge of American individualism to fracture the ‘moral values’ arguments of the Republicans since clearly certain groups’ ‘morals’ interfere with others’ individual rights. But, let’s get a bit more pragmatic in looking at what these moral issues meant in this past election.
Clearly, ‘morals’ was code for abortion and gay rights, otherwise the Republicans would not have wisely put gay marriage bans up for a vote in eleven states. They knew that the reactionary ‘morals’ of many people would rise up against the idea, and also help Republican candidates in the short term. Where is the Machiavellian nature of Democrats in using wedge issues like this? Yet, Republicans also know time is running out on their opinions. Young people consistently favor abortion rights and gay rights. Patrick Guerriero, head of the Log Cabin Republicans, has said even in the GOP the Far Right Christians knew they had to get laws enacted fast so that it would take a few decades to reverse them. It also had the effect of neutering opposition for the measures for a few election cycles, thus negating possible Democratic inroads. Yet, the fact that even the Republican supported measures to ban gay marriage got on the ballots of eleven states shows how far this nation has come, even in a decade.
The Democrats should let the issue go for a decade or so, giving time for more open-minded young voters to swamp the pool and make the Far Right dinosaurs a clear minority, even in Republican circles- in effect appear to concede defeat, then Pearl Harbor them in 2016, by which time the senior rednecks can freely distribute their Kool-Aid as they pray for Divine Intervention. By that time the Millennial fervor, which has spurred both the Fundamentalist Christian movement in the US, and the Fundamentalist Islamic movement in the Middle East, will have crested and started to recede as Apocalyptic dates come and go.
Despite short term reversals both America and the world have gotten consistently more secular and ‘liberal’ if you look back in fifty year chunks. This means that Democrats have demographics on their side, but they also need to develop a real spine and project that image. They can do so by strongly supporting individual ethics and decrying the ‘morals’ of a church that is not their own. Do Methodists really want to pray to Catholic saints? Do Orthodox Jews really want to celebrate Christmas in public schools? These are the opposite side of the tactics that Republicans use, but Democrats don’t want to appear in ‘bad taste’, while Republicans revel in the swill and keep winning elections.
Democrats can seize back this cultural argument with an appeal to American individualism. A good place to start would be by embracing the Second Amendment. Democrats too often appear to be inconsistent re: civil rights. The Second Amendment clearly gives citizens the right to bear arms. Semantic arguments are just that- let the people have their damn guns! The rednecks who desire this are not the ones who are doing drivebys these days.
Also, along with distinguishing ethics from morals, Democrats have to cast arguments in terms of basic fairness. They should point out with relish the many ties that anti-abortion groups and activists have with White Supremacist movements- that the main reason these groups exist is because it’s become gauche to complain about Nigras these days, so let’s do something about the plot (usually by banker Jews) to eliminate the white race via abortion. Over the years, driving down highways, I’ve seen many anti-abortion signs, yet all of them feature white children, no blacks nor browns. Coincidence?
More importantly, why don’t Democrats point out these manifest things? Because one of the things that ‘Liberals’ (with a capital L) have mistakenly taken as gospel is the notion that human beings are fundamentally good. This ‘Noble Savage’ ideal sounds good in theory, but in practice has allowed Republicans and Right Wingers to sucker punch Liberals at will. Right Wingers fundamentally understand that there is a cathartic feeling to recognizing that America abounds with easily manipulable ignorance and self-interest. Listen to your typical male country music singer’s lyrics- dick-waving, original sin, and reckless violence are major themes. What’s really odd is that Hollywood gets this, but the Democratic Party it supports doesn’t. They are, as Arnold Schwarzenegger rightly called them- ‘girly-men’.
Democrats have to get bad again- even as they are delineating fairness, individualism, and ethics. Big Business (Dick Cheney) and Big Religion (George Bush) long ago made a tontine to divide America by exploiting racism, class division, and economic fairness, but don’t give a damn! And they’re respected for at least declaiming it. Yes, history shows that such movements eventually implode- be it King Andy Jackson’s Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, or McCarthyism, but they have to ask themselves is it ethical to the powerless to not stand up against such? Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.’ and P.T. Barnum said, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute.’ In between these two statements lie the wholly uneducable moralists, and the malleable ethicists. Neither can be won over with just reason, so passion comes into play. Was Bobby Kennedy really the last National Stature Democrat with such?
Mobilization- by all accounts Democrats did a terrific job in increasing new voter turnout, but the Republicans nearly matched them in raw numbers. What they did better than Democrats was turn out their more rabid voting base. For all the vaunted efforts of the Democrats to mobilize young voters they still only contributed the same 17% of the vote they did in 2000. While the increase of 10 million voters this time means 1.7 million more young people votes, their 11 % preference for Kerry was not nearly enough.
Why didn’t more 18-29 year olds vote- it gets back to John Kerry’s weakness, and the Democrats’ lack of a message. I would venture a guess that Bush’s increased support (35-44%) of Hispanics was also more due to Kerry’s lack, than ‘moral issues’.
Yet, some Democratic revisionists are predicting that this election augurs a coming Democratic majority since Democrats have only once gotten over 50% of the electorate since 1968- Jimmy Carter in 1976, and Kerry’s 48% and turnout are the best performance since then, with a weak candidate. Yet, this only points out the limits that mere mobilizing can do. If Kerry and the Democrats had a real message I suspect they’d have swamped the Republican effort. In short, the Democrats registered more new voters, but they were apathetic or anti-Bush, while the Republicans registered less people, but far more committed voters.
Unions, unfortunately, continued their slide to irrelevancy. They were outgunned by church networks, and not too enthused by Kerry and his free trade stances. While union members did not support Bush in numbers equal to Reagan, more went for him this time than last. Why? Again, message, message, message. Which leads us back to-
Vision- President Bush, Senior was famously derided for lacking vision, but the same can be said of not only John Kerry, but the national Democratic Party of the last few decades. They have contented themselves to merely being the party that sometimes opposes the most extreme Republican Right Wingers, but mostly being Republicans Lite. John Kerry did not propose a bold, sweeping healthcare reform, nor did he even talk about an exit strategy in Iraq, much less give specifics. Nor did he embrace the future of science, save for stem cell research- which got bogged down in the abortion debate. In fifty years the War on Terror and the Iraq War will be as relevant as William McKinley’s War In The Philippines (see- you’ve not a clue, do you?).
The single most important news story of this year (in terms of human history) was the winning of the X Prize for the first private commercial space flight, yet neither candidate could lift their sight beyond the myopic present. While Bush did not need to do so, John Kerry should have done so. It was boldness that set the Democrats apart from the Republicans for the first two thirds of the last century- Wilson’s League Of Nations, Roosevelt’s Alphabet Soup programs, New Deal, and Lend/Lease, Truman’s Marshall Plan, Berlin Airlift, and the United Nations, JFK’s Peace Corps, wisdom during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Mercury and Apollo Space Programs, and LBJ’s Great Society.
In contrast, Jimmy Carter was known for lusting in his heart and stagflation, Walter Mondale for picking an unqualified woman to run for Vice President, Michael Dukakis for riding around in a tank, Bill Clinton for triangulation and semen stains, Al Gore for a Social Security lockbox, CD censorship, and condescension, and John Kerry for abstruseness and incoherence.
Republicans, as divisive and poor as their plans are, at least have and iterate them. Instead, Democrats parrot the old Groucho Marx line, ‘Whatever they’re for I’m against it.’ They become the nagging, annoying ‘significant other’, content to decry the top dog’s everything, yet offer no alternatives. Instead of being for economic fairness they are against tax cuts for the wealthy. Instead of being for Internationalism Democrats are merely against unilateralism. Instead of being for clean air Democrats are against jobs for woodsmen and oil workers. Democrats are reactive, and cast as spoilsports on issues like this where, when forced to cogitate, the majority of Americans agree with Democrats, some overwhelmingly so. This Bartleby strategy is more than just lacking a vision, it’s suicidal. Recall the Scrivener’s fate?
Think back to the mid-20th Century. Republicans were a party that was pro-Big Business. Period. They got nowhere. Their lone success story was Dwight Eisenhower, a moderate who railed against Big Business, and governed as a centrist. But, he won as a war hero, and the Democrats wooed him, too. Then came Barry Goldwater, who had ideas- many of them bad ideas, but he stood for something. It took another 16 years for a slick puppet to make hay with Goldwaterism. In a sense, Bill Clinton’s 1990s were a Democratic version of Ike’s ‘Golden Age’. But there are no Democratic Goldwaters on the horizon to even spark a rebirth of their cause.
Right now, Republicans dominate the national scene for the convergence of two movements- Goldwater’s political conservatism, born in 1964, and the social conservatism of Fundamentalist Christians twenty years later. Democrats had a similar double flowering that led to their dominance mid-century- FDR’s noblesse oblige populism in the 1930s, and JFK’s Democratic Vision (including LBJ’s Great Society) in 1960. Since then, it’s been barren. Since the late 1980s Democrats have not even had JFK’s remanence to cling to- they have become the reactionaries and the Republicans the visionaries, no matter how ill that vision is. History suggests that by 2008 or 2012, with total power, Republicans will be exhausted of new ideas.
Yet, Democrats seem to be rudderless. Clinton’s New Democrat was intellectually barren- borne of triangulation and beating Republicans at their own game. It was leaderless, as Clinton showed. Despite his enormous popularity (does anyone, even Conservatives, really doubt that Clinton would’ve cleaned W’s clock had he been the Democratic nominee?) Clinton was a cipher as a leader, a man contented with small ideas for his small times. Unlike Teddy Roosevelt, he did not bristle with his historic relegation. He put his faith in polls and the will of the people. That is not leadership. A leader puts forth big ideas and convinces the majority of people to follow. Democrats must break the Clintonian habit of overanalyzing data, for they’ll always be an election cycle behind. Republicans get this, so toss out all sorts of ideas, many bad, but some that should be tried. Democrats, instead, cling to failed programs and policies, as ‘principled stands’. But, if a program is a failure, no matter how noble, is that a principle worth standing for? Then, when Republican programs like faith-based initiatives, fail they can say, ‘Well, you tried. But like our failures, this is one for the dung heap.’
If Democrats come out and propose slashing outmoded and Byzantine social programs they’d have more credibility in defending eminent successes like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. I’d suggest they start with utterly superfluous things like the National Endowment for the Arts. Real artists detest its cronyism and waste, and it’s a bone of good faith to toss cultural conservatives.
Democrats should embrace change and renewal- VISION. They should state that change and ‘liberalism’ are part of the Constitution’s DNA, the forefathers knew that later generations would have far more knowledge, and encounter situations inconceivable to 18th century minds and concerns. This is why they left the language of that document so ambiguous- for maximum flexibility, and why ‘strict constructionists’ are so absurd in their rationales. A good place for Democrats and Kerry to have started would have been to have embraced the X Prize, encouraged private investment in outer space technologies, and advocate granting maximum flexibility in the fledgling industry for a decade or so, before necessarily coming up with industry standards and regulations. I’m sure that there would have been a small, but important, segment of people who voted Republican, who would have changed their vote had such vision been shown.
Iraq/Terror- demographic eggheads have countered the populist claim that ‘moral values’ were what Bush won on, stating that the real reason Bush won was because he was trusted more in the twin wars. I will avoid that statistical cesspool and, for purposes of this section, assume this is correct. Let me now address the weaknesses and strengths of the Democrats here.
The truth is that neither Kerry nor the Democrats had any strength here. They all fell into lockstep after 9/11, paralyzed with fear of being called unpatriotic. Worse, after the many lies and distortions that got us into this war came out, Kerry- a Vietnam veteran- refused to offer an exit strategy. Why was it so inconceivable for him to have said, ‘We’ve been down this road before, where a President made a wrong choice. I will get us out of this war.’ Neither Democrat nor Republican has said a peep about the Kurds, nor stood up for their right to a homeland- even as the death of Yasser Arafat has thrust the Palestinians’ claims back into the limelight. It was JFK who went on about bearing any burden to support freedom, yet no one spoke for the Kurds, the people on whom Saddam’s greatest atrocities were perpetrated. Kerry did not say what he would have done as President- say, funding an insurgency to topple Saddam without American troops. Kerry did not once utter the fact that, like the Communist threat of yore, many ‘Islamists’ are fighting us not because they hate us, or freedom, but because our corporations have exploited them for decades. Their leaders may hate America and its ‘decadence’, but their followers merely hate that freedom which let corporations run roughshod over them. No Democrats pointed out the failures of past Presidencies to wean us off oil after the 1973 Arab Oil Crisis. Kerry was in a perfect position to note this for he knows that Ho Chi Minh’s followers could have been allies had we pursued smarter and fairer policies.
Instead, Bush easily cast the Iraq War as a Holy War, plunging recklessly into it while Afghanistan flailed before completion of that war. Bush sees, in however skewed a way, that this is a war between McWorld and Islam. While highly simplified, this resonates and connects. Yet, there is a sizable fracture in Republican circles that Democrats could have but failed to exploit- that is the difference between Cultural Conservatives and Political Conservatives. CC’s like Bill ‘The Gambler’ Bennett, and more strident Fundamentalist elements, have the same antipathy for American pop culture that Osama bin Laden and Islamic Fundamentalists have, yet they try to separate themselves from these kindred views by tossing the simplistic, ‘They hate our freedom.’ rap. Ironically, with measures like the Patriot Act, anti-abortion judge stacking, and anti-gay rights measures, the CC’s show that they hate our freedom as well.
The only difference between American CC’s and the Osama gang is degree, for both believe America is degenerate and hypocritical, and its siren song of Hollywood hedonism is a destroyer of culture. Both fear a future where rap music, free love, and drug use run rampant. Yet, it’s the very unfettered Fundamentalist Capitalism the CC’s support which promotes the culture that is antipathetic and antithetical to their Fundamentalist Religious beliefs. Baywatch goes hand in hand with McWorld, yet this vast contradiction, ripe for electoral plundering, hasn’t even been whiffed at.
9/11 was the final paroxysm of Fundamentalism in its endgame with McWorld. Look at young Iranians and the future of the Islamic world is clear. Another less obvious division Democrats could exploit would be to characterize the Middle East in familiar terms. There are historical precedents in our past that can illuminate the present and future. No politician has been able to cut through the clutter that conflates all Arab/Moslem bad guys with each other. There was no connection between the secular/Fascist leaning Baathists of Saddam’s Iraq and the Fundy terrorists of Al Quaida and its ilk, yet Republicans successfully melded the two. Kerry should have pointed to America’s criminal past and declared Saddam as the Arab Al Capone and Osama as the Arab John Dillinger. The former was a tyrant that ruled a fiefdom and the latter was a free agent criminal with no allegiances save to the ideal of his own scheming. While both men knew people in common, neither man ever intersected the other. Capone derided Dillinger as an egomaniac, while Dillinger scoffed at Capone as a man without style or vision.
By defining the two in these terms Americans would have better understood the situation in the Middle East, and why the Iraq War was a diversion and waste, as well as why deposing Saddam would lead to, essentially, Mob wars for control of the country, while Osama/Dillinger chuckled over Bush/Hoover’s folly, and wasted resources. Another fundamental question unasked was, ‘Is Western Democracy the only viable societal structure for mankind, or is that just our cultural bias?’ Is Moslem tribalism really bad? If it is, why do so few choose to abandon it? And, if we can succeed in imposing Western Democracy on the Moslem world, should we, and are we really ready to teach and expend resources and time to do so? Questions as this open up the discussion to more sophisticated tactics- less belligerence, more stealth, and an International RICOH sort of approach to Arab/Moslem violence.
This would also work in far more smoothly with efforts to isolate Iran and getting China to apply pressure on North Korea, which really is not as big a problem as the Middle East, despite predictable and baseless Democratic charges in the other direction, which smack simply of more Groucho Marx posturing, because North Korea is ruled by dynasts, not true believers.
Putting aside these reasons for defeat there have been many proposals for what the Democrats need to do. My initial suggestion was to nominate better candidates, irrespective of their position. Online, and in other media, there have been a blizzard of suggestions. The top two are these:
Democrats should move to the Left- be real Democrats. The problem with this is that I am a real Democrat, yet have been alienated by my former party. And I say that not as one of those Right Wing Zell Miller Rednecks that looks back longingly at ‘real’ Democrats like George Wallace. I say this as a working class man who has seen the Democratic Party become increasingly corporatized, refusing to stand up for working class people, refusing to stand up against Republican attempts to bring a new Gilded Age to America. Most Democrats are Libertarian (true Libertarians- not like the phony party that acts as shills for corporate America), desiring to be left alone by the Radical Right and PC Left. They want limited, responsible government, but when limited and responsible come into clash they want responsible to be dominant.
Healthcare is a prime example of this. There are anywhere from 140-160 million working people in this nation, and a single payer/group pool that large makes eminent sense. The arguments about need for tort reform are just more posturing by corporations that want immunity from the effects of their greed-based decisions. Few doctors, percentage-wise, ever get to court. They either settle out of court to avoid staining their reputations in public, or their lawyers scare their patients into silence with threats of multi-year life savings-draining appeals. The reason for the spiraling medical costs are greedy drug companies, whose record of price-gouging is long and available, and insurance companies/HMOs that have no controls placed on them- to the point that many cannot be sued for their decisions denying treatments to individuals.
This is because they are not liable to account for their increases, nor open their books. In many large cities public utilities are required to seek city, county, or state approval before raising costs. HMOs should be under the same strictures, and forced to open their books. Also, if the government did go to a single payer system then HMOs would have an incentive to lower prices and be efficient- so they could win government contracts like defense and munitions companies. Nowadays HMOs raise their prices like coffee companies do. Whenever there’s a bad crop or some form of scare, which won’t hit market for six months, the coffee industry raises prices the next day, on coffee that was delivered under good conditions, specifically to gouge consumers. Democrats could have had a field day with this issue, going back to my ethics argument, but they didn’t because they are as beholden to that industry as their Republican counterparts.
Here is where Democrats could play the part of Teddy Roosevelt against
the monopolists of a century ago- arguing against the unfairness, an un-Americanness
of capping jury awards, and not capping drug company profits while people die
because of their decisions. Democrats could assert a macho, testicular
Liberalism, but they are cowards, and lack big ideas. They should take back the
‘elitism’ charges Republicans hurl at Hollywood and Academia, and rightfully
toss it back in the laps of Corporate America, but do it couched in
ethical/fairness terms that don’t overreach and alienate because, deep down,
every poor person dreams of becoming a rich elitist bastard. Healthcare is
another issue Democrats passed on because the Democratic Party is filled with
cowards. They would not even suggest such a sensible system lest fear being
called Communists. But, why expect courage from a party that, again, won’t
even use the word abortion- ceding the debate to anti-abortionists. I am
pro-abortion, not the wimpy pro-choice. Democrats are a party larded with
cowards and complainers. A day or so after the election I saw congressman Nancy
Pelosi- the House Minority Leader- crying about how ‘ruthless’ Republicans
were in this election. I almost vomited, screaming at the tv, ‘Listen, you
twat, when the fuck are you and the Democrats gonna get ruthless?’ If going
Left means slipping into Nancy Pelosi’s pantyhose the Democrats are doomed.
Conversely, others argue-
Democrats should move to the Right- become even more Republican Lite. Yet, there are several problems with this idea, other than becoming even more soulless than the Democrats are now. The first is that given a choice between real things and imitations the real things almost always are preferable. Dick Cheney may be evil, but he’s unvarnished evil. The second is that there seems to be no end to this chess game. Republicans will just move farther to the Right, and still call Democrats Liberals by comparison. Democrats of today are further Rightward than Republicans of the Nixon era. Recall the old saying that ‘Johnson created the Great Society, but Nixon funded it.’? Any Democrat who voted for the Patriot Act should be targeted for defeat by true Democrats, or at least be forced into public mea culpas. Going Rightward has been tried, and has failed.
Also, while it’s true the next few election cycles seem to point to several Red States becoming Blue- such as Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Virginia- it’s also true that several Blue states are trending Red- Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even New York and California are growing increasingly conservative. Passivity not only is rarely rewarded, it should not be rewarded. Stagnation is bad for the mind, a party, and a nation.
Waiting for demographics to shift is only slightly less advisable than Waiting For Godot.
The left, right, center trichotomy is a false one, and a false choice. Right and wrong is the axis any meaningful debate must turn on. This is the axis upon which abortion rights has won on time after time, not on the scientific accuracy of its claims. It’s also the axis upon which Barack Obama rose to prominence as the most successful Democrat in this year’s election- just read his keynote speech from the Democratic convention and you see the formula upon which a new Democratic majority can rise.
A right-wrong ethics-based party stance could also be to the Democrats’ advantage on things like taxes. They need to get away from the high-low tax argument (and whether it’s fair or not for the rich to pay a lower percentage of their income than the working class) and get to an argument upon the efficacy of taxes. I.e.- is it fair that taxes are wasted on inefficient things? It’s never been the rate of taxation that causes most people to bitch, but what they get in return for their taxes. If they only pay 5-10% of their income in taxes then they should not expect much in return, but if they pay 75% in taxes then womb-tomb coverage in most areas should be seen as a right.
On a right-wrong ethic the gay marriage issue becomes not if you or your religion approves of it, but how is your life or marriage threatened by two consenting adults pleasing each other? And isn’t it cowardly to act out of fear and ignorance? Make unethical stances like that against gay marriage an issue of courage and manliness, and that visceral appeal stick. Ask a Red Stater, ‘Are you such a wuss that you feel threatened by a couple of rumpriders?’
On a right-wrong ethic you can ask much of the Red South and Midwest is it right to rail against Big Government when your whole economy is based upon government farm subsidies and demand for lower gas prices for your pickups and SUVs? Why do you want government to serve only your interests, and not others? Why do you want all the benefits, but none of the responsibilities, of citizenship? Questions of fairness have nary been raised by Democrats.
Instead, they are gulled into reactionary venom against the Right, unable to couch their arguments in subtler terms, like the Right. They fall into stereotypes that hearken back to the Left’s darkest days- their unwavering support for Communism. Democrats have gotten so inept at conveying their message that many of their top bloggers have names designed to alienate all but the most Left-minded youth. Daily Kos (love that K, as in Amerika, and Kause) and Democratic Underground (can the term ‘Underground’ really be taken seriously anymore?) play into the worst Cold War stereotypes of effete Beatniks. In short, image means something, and the Democrats have yet to learn this.
Another thing they have yet to learn is that while the US has liberal impulses it has conservative tendencies. Let me explain- there is a give and tug throughout America’s history, that liberal causes race out ahead of the majority, then slowly haul the inert logy of the masses behind them. In the end, Liberalism always wins. Conservatism, by its nature, can only have a shrinking domain. As said, Liberalism’s built into the Constitution and a logical outgrowth of that document, but it takes time for Liberalism to win. Think of any issue and the Liberal side has won- slavery, child labor, women’s rights, etc. Go back in 25 year increments and the reversion to conservatism is manifest. This is why, in 25 or so years it will be conservatives who are the staunchest defenders of gay marriage against a newer abomination- say, polygamy. Furthermore, they’ll always claim they were for it, just as the white hoods mumble now they never had a problem with mixed marriages.
In this way American politics resembles scientific revolutions, in that, as physicist Max Planck said, ‘A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.’
Let me now turn to some issues where I think the position I advocate is one that the Democrats can a) win on, and b) show some innovation necessary to get voters excited that this party is not full of dinosaurs. It was said during this past election, by both sides, that this is the most important election of our lifetime. NONSENSE! You only hear such rhetoric during small times. Fundy Islamic terrorists are not nearly the long-term threat to the world that the Nazis nor Communists were. In fact, recently, liberal Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, admitted this when he warned the re-elected Bush not to try to polarize the Supreme Court nominating anti-abortion nutjobs, by bemoaning the lack of intellectual stature on the Rehnquist Court. As true as this is it leaves open the possibility for big ideas and big leaders to fill the vacuum, and make a splash.
Here are a few places that any Democrat who wants to win the White House in 2008 should start:
Campaign Finance Reform- people on both sides of the aisle knew McCain-Feingold was a waste of time. The 527s that darkened the political ads this year were inevitable. The truth is that money will always be involved in American politics, but its impact can be limited in two major ways.
First, remove any and all limits on monetary contributions. On a libertarian level it’s just wrong to disallow a Bill Gates from spending $2 or 3 billion on some candidate if he believes in the cause. But, make it a law that on the top of every home page of a political candidate, party, or organization, the first thing a websurfer will see is a complete list of monetary contributors to that candidate. Also, that these lists should be easily sortable by name, contribution amount, and dates of all contributions. Also, require that all political ads on tv and radio must be at least a minute long and that the first thirty seconds of each ad requires a listing or reading of the top ten-twenty donors, by dollar amount, to each campaign. In this way most voters will know who the true puppetmasters of the candidates are, and can decide if they prefer the Citigroup shill over the Wal-Mart huckster.
The second way to limit the impact of money is to legally limit the election season. Most European governments limit their election seasons to a few months, and Democrats should do this unilaterally, if needed. The Presidential election cycle should not begin before the 4th of July. The challengers for the party nomination will be at a fundraising disadvantage to an incumbent President but that’s always been true. But, a bevy of candidates from the challenging party can raise money just as they have before, only they should be forced to pledge their funds to the eventual nominee at the convention. Which leads into another innovative idea the Democrats can endorse.
Political Convention Reform- by going back to the future, and eliminating the primary season. People who decry that it’s undemocratic don’t realize that often the eventual nominee is determined by a handful of voters in small states that don’t represent their party well- Iowa, and New Hampshire, or is so well-funded by Elites (ala W. vs. McCain in 2000) that the will of the people does not matter. Thus you get bad candidates like a John Kerry, or incompetent leaders like Bush. Also, what tends to happen is that the party faithful often end up nominating extremist candidates, or candidates like Al Gore, Bob Dole, and Walter Mondale- who get the nominations because they have hung around the longest, not because they were the best and brightest of their party. There was something to be said for the old smoke-filled rooms. They produced great politicians and leaders like Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. Compare them to the era of primaries, and candidates like George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, Michael Dukakis, Dole, and Gore. In 2000, a smoke-filled room might have benefited John McCain and Bill Bradley, and given voters a real clear difference in the general election. They would also kybosh the fringe elements and poor candidates, leaving the electorate common sense moderates who necessarily lean towards cooperative government.
Economic, Tax, And Social Security Reform- The long term economic outlook for the nation looks disastrous- with a long war ahead of us, a President and Congress addicted to spending fraud and waste that extends far beyond Halliburton. The Democrats reseized the ‘fiscal responsibility’ mantle from the Republicans by just letting the Reagan and Bush Presidencies kybosh themselves, but a Democratic President, in 2008, will have a mess of monumental proportions to clean up. Unless we want to make debt slaves of out grandchildren serious reform will be needed. The Democrats must become the ‘adult’ party and advocate both massive reductions in spending- domestic, foreign, and military- while raising taxes. As for the cuts- there are many pork projects the military could do without, as well as remanent Star Wars programs that have sat around since Reagan, foreign aid should be cut to the bone- save for disaster relief and human rights issues. As for social programs- fraud and waste should be attacked vigorously in Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, but these are pillars of the social contract between US citizen and government. There are many programs that deserve to be cut- from things like the National Endowment for the Arts to literally hundreds of minor social programs that show little or no benefit. That said, there should be revival of programs from the nation’s past that worked well. Two were CETA- the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act- of the 1970s, which enabled poor youth to get a foot in the labor market, and the CCC- Civilian Conservation Corps- of the Great Depression, which allowed poor youth (like my dad) the opportunity to travel and gain life experience while serving their country in a non-military capacity.
A visionary Democrat would resurrect these sorts of pragmatic programs and tie them to college scholarships by announcing that all children between the ages of 10 and 17 could serve during summer months in any number of public works programs- be it logging in Idaho, inner city outreach programs, Senior Citizen Centers, job training on Public Works Projects. The teens could earn minimum wage (75% of which would be sent home to their families), get free room and board, job training, work during summer months instead of getting intro trouble, live in a supervised military-like atmosphere (to learn discipline and responsibility), and those who served for 8 full summers would be at the top of the list for receiving Federal college scholarships, with those serving 7 summers second in the list, etc. Too often government programs are like the parable of giving fish to the hungry. Programs like this would teach the hungry to fish.
As for taxes, trickle down does not work. The rich never invest enough to get economies humming. The greatest extended period of economic prosperity was from 1945-1980, when the top tax rate on the rich could reach 90% for income over a certain amount. Why? Because it forced capital to flow downward, like a convection current. Without high taxation on the richest folk the capital evaporates from the pellicle of the tax base and never returns. For those who cry income redistribution I would caution you can only have income redistribution after income distribution- which in a world of corporate monopolies and oligopolies, is hardly a product of the free market.
Capitalism works best when small and decentralized, when competition spurs constant innovation. Monopolies kill innovation and hurt the consumer. Teddy Roosevelt knew this and the Democrats of the early 21st Century should become Bull Mooses, and use the ethics/fairness argument against such innovation and competition killers like Microsoft, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot.
For this same reason tax reform need not mean the death of progressivity. Simplification is not a synonym for regressivity. Flat taxes and national sales taxes will kill the lower classes, and further strengthen the New Gilded Age Robber Barons. A loophole that is easily closed off is allowing corporations to write off profits by giving bonuses to executives. Today, Corporation A may have made a $10 million profit in a year, but then, giving its twelve board of directors each a $1 million bonus, turn around and claim it lost $2 million in the year, and write off the loss. A simple formula for writing off management compensation would be this- allow CEOs to write off total compensation for either 10 times their lowest salaried employee’s wage, or 6 times the median worker’s. Thus if the lowest paid worker makes $20k/year and the median worker $35k/year the CEO would be allowed to write off either $200,000 of his salary or $210,000, whichever figure is higher, with similar formulae for lower management. This would actively encourage CEOs to raise salaries in their companies, and also mean that Company A could still give its board their bonuses, but would still owe the government on the original $10 million profit. Do you think corporate accounting would change? Of course, privately owned companies would be unaffected, but they tend to be smaller than corporations, and is where innovation occurs. In short, reward the Thomas Edisons, not the Bill Gateses.
Another major point is that, as said, tax rates do not matter as much as tax efficacy, which plays into the whole ‘reform’ model Democrats should adopt. President Clinton declared ‘the era of big government is over.’ But Democrats lacked the vision to see a leaner, meaner government as an opportunity for innovation and success.
I will devote a later essay to specifics of Social Security reform, but Bush’s privatization is a disaster that will dwarf the S&L bailout of the 1980s by a hundredfold. The stock market is basically a gamble, yet the government wants to ask most people who cannot even do the simple arithmetic to balance their checkbooks to gamble their future away. The argument is that over any 30 or 40 year period the stock market outperforms bank accounts and even Treasury Bills. Unfortunately, that does not take into account peaks and valleys between that can wipe someone out, as well as scam artists eager to lead the blind. What will happen when 15, 20, or 50 million Americans lose their whole ‘Social Security’- sometimes perhaps 15-20+ years of investment- to a Stock Market dip, or scam? Who do you think will be asked to bail them out? The middle class? Who do you think will profit? Wall Street. While there are changes that need to be made, be wary of the ‘dire’ predictions, for they’ve always not panned out. This is a classic class warfare argument the rich use to scare the poor and middle classes into trusting them with their economic future.
Separation of State and Church- instead of arguing that the current mushy system is serving the nation well, Democrats have two real options that would let them neatly sidestep the minefield that plagued them this year. They can either remove that separation or argue vigorously for it.
If they seek to remove it they can co-opt the ethics aspect of what churches say, but demand that churches start paying their fair share in taxes. Where does the Catholic Church get off telling its members to not vote for pro-abortion Catholic candidates if it contributes nothing to the coffers of its larger society? Not to mention the utter hypocrisy of the largest fraternal organization of male homosexuals seeking to deny non-church homosexuals civil rights, as well ignoring its own carcinogenic pedophilia? By arguing it’s only fair that churches pay taxes it shows that Democrats are welcoming their voices, but the Church has to shoulder its civic load. Then, if the churches balk at paying taxes the Democrats can put them on the run as slackers, phonies who want all the benefits of a free and democratic society, but none of the responsibilities.
On the flip side, Democrats can cut the church’s power bases right out from under them by stating that it was wrong to grant the state the power of bestowing marital rights on people. That is primarily a church function, and while states will still recognize church marriages as legal it will set up a wholly separate civil contract that can be entered into by any individuals- male/female, male/male, female/female, or even by more than two individuals. In this way the state will acknowledge the uniqueness of individuals’ religious beliefs, yet allow the state to negate any civic interference on church’s part as a violation of trust. After all, we acknowledge your right to do as your religion teaches, but you must respect the rights of non-believers. This would be part of a larger trend acknowledging that the state, and its political nature, have no real reason to get involved in private matters like marriage or- by extension- abortion. By severing all government connections with religion the weaned churches will likely fall prey even more swiftly to apathy, or Homer Simpsonism. In effect, give churches more of a sense of self-empowerment, and they will wither off the vine without political issues by which to leach off of.
Both methods are a way to wholly undercut the religious movements that have preyed off the poor, ignorant, and malleable, while relegating themselves from a place supposedly above and beyond such a base activity as politics to mere PACs. Born Agains and the Baptist Churches are big on the First Amendment, and have used it as a battering ram. This is a simple and eloquent way to shove the ram’s horn the other direction, and also depoliticize gay marriage, since governments would be out of the ‘marriage’ business. With an increasingly secularized society it’s likely by mid-century religious marriage would constitute anywhere from 10-25% of all such unions. Uncouple state and religion and religion will wither- it needs politics much more than politics needs it.
Unfortunately, I’ve never heard anyone discuss these sorts of reforms, not on C-Span, nor on blogs, nor in think tanks. But I’d bet they’d have much appeal on the Left and Right, for both humanitarian and Libertarian reasons.
As stated, Democrats should
emulate Teddy Roosevelt, and be Bull Moose Democrats, be active, not reactive,
be aggressive and progressive. Or, as TR himself said, in a speech at the
Sorbonne, an April 23rd, 1910: ‘It is not the
critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or
where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man
who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,
who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because
there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great
enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at
the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the
worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place
shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor
defeat.’ For too long the Democrats have been spectators. They must get in
They must have Vision!
Aside from some of the larger proposals put forth, there are ancillary benefits that will come from the success of such initiatives. First, by being bold, failures become tolerable, especially if acknowledged. President Bush, as example, could have wholly defused most Left criticism had he simply admitted he erred on WMDs and the war in Iraq. Most of the Left’s hatred of him stems from his Messianic delusions of infallibility. Democrats in power can defuse Right Wing claims of same by finally heaving many failed social programs, then with success from an ethical targeting of monopolists like Microsoft and Wal-Mart, it can go after smaller things- like repealing the Taft-Hartley Act limiting organized labor’s ability to organize, arguing that workers should be as free as businesses are to form trade associations- it’s only fair and ethical. At the same time they should demand and, via Federal fiat, implement a fundamental housecleaning on many corrupt unions- nationally and locally.
Another benefit of an ethics/reform approach is that Democrats will be able to wean themselves from corporations, even if they still take money, because the transparency of monetary disclosure will allow them to say, ‘Sorry, but since you’re such a prominent contributor it will be obvious that we supported your position for that reason alone, and it could cost us votes.’ Instead of dropping their drawers and passing a Cialis to contributors, such methods will allow Democrats (and hopefully Republicans) to pull up their pants, or at least pass condoms. If corporations and organizations feel their money will be best spent elsewhere, other than politics, so be it.
This will also wean Democrats from risk-aversion, the Clintonian triangulation trap, from being the enablers to disastrous Republican policies (the Iraq war, the coming Social Security ‘reform’, etc.). Republicans, love’em or not, don’t care about public opinion because they know that most of those who participate in such polls won’t vote for them anyway! Thus, they can foam against abortion, for needless wars, against sodomy, for record deficits, against ‘liberal’ judges (who have far more in common with Thomas Jefferson), for prayer in school (as long as it’s from the Bible).
On the other end, though, Democrats need to, in the next four years, only object vigorously when needed, not ceaselessly filibuster judicial and cabinet appointments unless a Robert Bork sort resurfaces. In short, let the Republicans own their own mess. Because it’s such ‘independence’ which resonates with the impoverished, Jesus-loving, DSL/Cable tv crowd. Democrats simply do not understand these folk, but need to. Some online blogs have started labeling the Red states ‘Jesusland’, and look at them as slightly less off the wall than people who claim to have been abducted and raped by little gray aliens in UFOs. Of course, not all Bush supporters, nor a majority, were Jesuslanders, but enough were that had the Democrats gotten a mere quarter of their vote they’d have won the Presidency, and both houses of Congress in a landslide. They didn’t because Democrats don’t ‘get’ folk.
To many Democrats, of all stripes, these peoples’ lives are not to be envied. To many of these Jesuslanders their lives are not only good, but ‘phat’! Yes, they may be narcotized by their cheap consumer goodies (far more so than religion- most rednecks are devout followers of Homer Simpson), but arguing with an addict while high is a no-win proposition.
From their point of view life has never been better. So, their homes may be crap, but they have 500 channels via cable or satellite, downloadable DVD and CD-burning capacity, cheap computers with quick connections, many teenagers (black and white) have cell phones, DVD players- many portable, pagers, and palm pilots, and can now get online via wireless, or at cafés. Those over 30 can easily recall when rich folk they knew couldn’t even dream of such. In 1980 the limits of technology allowed the rich, at most, to own a ‘hi fi’ stereo player and a large color tv in a heavy wooden box. Videotapes were just getting started, and CDs were a few years away. How can most poor not think their lives are much better? And how dare Big City Liberals tell them they should be pitied!
They realize that the rich have more, but they’ve got enough, and if you rile them, make fun of them, they’ll turn on you with the only tangible exercise of power they know of- their vote, which they value far more than Democrat-leaning inner city poor, who are ‘coddled and catered to’, not scorned, by ‘the system’. Instead of empathizing with their plight, Democrats have scorned them, even though they’ve far more in common with Democratic ideals. My guess why the Democrats treat the white, rural, Jesuslanders this way is the same reason that Serbs and Croats, Irish and English, and Pakistanis and Indians loathe each other- because they are so similar. While ‘the other’ has often suffered brutally in the clash between two intermural cultures at different stages of advancement- see Native Americans, Maoris, Aborigines, and the Middle Passage, it can be argued with some strong assertion that ‘the other half’ in clashes between intramural subcultures is even more bloody- see the Holocaust, pogroms, Stalinist Gulags, Mao’s Great Leap Forward, the Killing Fields, Latin America, etc.
The Jesuslanders are ‘the other half’ of Democratic leaders’ worldview. No matter what, the white leadership of the party will never be a single black mother, nor a Chicano migrant worker, but they could be unemployed, white, and poor, and there is a hate turned against what they fear. Now, I think this is not as powerful, vile, nor insidious, as the race-baiting, homophobia, and secular-bashing the Right engages in, but, it still exists, and- from a Machiavellian standpoint, Democrats should hope that the Right takes a long time before weaning itself of its hate. And are the Jesuslanders racist? Not to the degree Democrats think- a gander at any Jerry Springer show will tell you that miscegenation is rampant in Jesusland. Democrats, however, need to extinguish what they criticize in others.
After all, the Jesuslanders are happy, and care little of unemployment, as long as they have cable. Republicans understand this, believe it’s divine order that the poor be poor- give’em their goodies and they’ll not squawk. I’ve been jobless a year, even though my wife has gotten a good job, yet we won’t get satellite or DSL until I gain steady employment. By contrast, my next door neighbors built a larger house than ours, drive two SUVs, have two satellite dishes, 3 children, pets, and work as a carpet salesman/taxi driver and Wal-Mart clerk. They are Jesuslanders, mortgaged and charged to the hilt, and without a care, while penurious, Depression Era-minded me, scrimps until better days arrive.
It is not religion, nor East Coast Elitist Conservatism that drives these folks (sorry Bill Buckley), but McWorld consumerism (oh yeah- my neighbors are non-white immigrants from a Moslem country!). Depressions or recessions mean little to people wallowing in remote control heaven for their illusions of prosperity are real to them- something that the truths of the Gilded Age Depressions, the Great Depression, and Reaganomics could not hide behind.
Getting these people on board is not as hard as cracking the Rosetta Stone, and getting people like me- former Democrats, who still lean that way- is still easier. But, Democrats will have to be bold, pro-active, and show vision, lest lose intelligent voters like me to Third Parties that actually discourse civilly, and substantively. I wanted Bush to lose badly, but really wasn’t thrilled with a Kerry win. Most voters are more like me than party loyalists. I voted for Clinton in’92 because Bush, Sr. was a disaster, and Ross Perot an evil dwarf- but, at least he put his money where his mouth was. By ’96 I was tired of Clinton’s ineffectiveness and stealth Republicanism. Perot was not an option, Dole was a fossil, so Nader was the only real choice. As he was in the last 2 General Elections, although I would’ve voted Green had they been on the ballot in Texas. I also supported the war in Iraq after 9/11. The Afghan War was just, although flubbed, and I believed WMDs had to be there given Saddam’s belligerence, and the fact the Reagan Administration sold them to him. Shockingly, the UN Inspections Teams worked. Right then, Bush should have made swift withdrawal plans, but his lack of cojones did not allow him to be man enough to admit error. Not that I would have voted for him in the election given his views on other issues, but he could have earned my respect as a decent man who just made an error. Instead, hundreds of dead young Americans are the cost. Yet, Kerry offered no exit plan either.
It’s like some bizarre Twilight Zone episode- I’m 3 or 4 years old, watching my dad scream at the tv over Vietnam- Johnson, then Nixon- and the waste, the lies, and the stolid supporters of this war who’ve not had the decency nor intellect to admit that they, like Bush, were wrong, so instead compound their error like LBJ and Tricky Dick, and now W. And Democrats who voted for the war are just as guilty as Bush. I’ve advocated ideas the Democratic Party can seize, ideals to follow (Bull Moosism), and now is the time for the ideators to arise in the Party, escape the dungeon of political expedience, and take back a once great party that has been left to the pre-menstrual vagaries of Nancy Pelosi and her ilk. Free the Iron Mask Democrats! Let people who know how to communicate in the increasingly Balkanized blogosphere of niche markets, Red and Blue States, urban, suburban, and rural areas, and the fragmented narrowcasted ideal of American Individualism ad absurdum, do so; as well as seize back the political patois from Right Wingers who neologize lies- Partial Birth Abortion (a scientifically invalid term that is neither partial, nor occurs at birth)- and sully noble ideas like the Estate Tax (supported and promoted by Thomas Jefferson as a way to democratize society and avoid permanent fiscally elite classes) by misleadingly calling it a Death Tax, all so the very richest (generally the top 2% of people are rich enough to have to pay this), who’ve spent their lives avoiding their fair share of taxes, continue to avoid giving back to the system they profited from.Unless most of these suggestions take root in the Democratic mindset it will be a long time in the wilderness for them and the American Center. And I ain’t sharin’ my satellite dish- once I get one!
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