John Kerry’s rush back from Davos to try and orchestrate a filibuster, that he knew had no chance, against Sam Alito, is a symptom. Hillary Clinton’s relentlessly middle-of-the-road and don’t-ruffle-any-feathers stance on almost any issue, is another.
The Democratic Party is rudderless and ineffective when the nation needs it most. The Dems have been persuaded into middle-ground and the Republicans already own that real estate. They fear John McCain, but don’t in the least understand or learn from him. McCain is not uncomfortable with taking positions, sometimes quite bold and against the grain of his own party. Americans love that and McCain will probably be our next president because of it.
There hasn’t been a time of such clear need for ideological definition in decades, perhaps in my lifetime and the opposition is in disarray, churning in circles, unable to chart a direction. There’s not a Democratic candidate in sight who can win, with the exception of Barack Obama and this time around will not be his turn.
Famously, Casey Stengel said, “Two hundred million Americans, and there ain’t two good catchers among ’em.” That lament fits politics as well as baseball. Another piece of Stengelese that works, "Can’t anybody here play this game?"
In a time when
- We have been misled into war and the people who got us in can’t seem to get us out
- The ‘conservative’ deficit grows at $77 million an hour, 24 hours a day
- Republican engineered tax cuts guarantee that number will grow exponentially
- Republicans have made lobbyists a private industry, beyond bipartisan control
- Health care is beyond the reach of 42 million Americans
- Industry after industry defaults on its health and pension obligations
- The two-party system has deconstructed into alternatively savaging one another instead of legislating through bi-partisan negotiation
- Interest on the mounting debt threatens to swamp government by choice
- Our image throughout the world is less admiration-based and more fear-based
and all Kerry can muster is a foolish flight home on a hopeless mission.
Successfully engineering the past two elections, Karl Rove understood that Republicans did not own an electable majority and so he set out to manufacture one. Admirably, he marshaled a conservative religious power-base that was, essentially, the old philosophical south (and if you see that as another word for racist, you are correct). It was, as are most religious groups, fear-based and it worked so well, he took the fear-base into administrative governing.
Rove’s manipulation of ‘presidential powers’ after 9-11, his allowing the continued DeLay discipline of K-Street, his creation of a terrorist focused ‘war rhetoric,’ endless color-coded alerts of imminent attack, decision-making behind closed doors and unilateral American foreign policy are all textbook examples of government-by-fear.
And it has worked, effectively if not constitutionally. We are fearful of our government, each other, dying from bird-flu, global warming, gas prices, hurricanes, the world beyond our doors, our jobs and the very future of the Norman Rockwell life we once knew. Apple pie? Whatever has happened to apple pie?
The same conundrum exists today for Democrats that faced Republicans six, and again two years ago; a country evenly divided (more viciously now than before) and a razor-thin sliver of voters who will determine elections to come. They can’t be polled, their numbers are less than the percentage of error the polls accomodate. Thus Kerry and Hillary are misinformed, misled and doomed to failure, as are all who would try to make their stand based on polling the center.
So, Democrats can’t use the Rove fear techniques. He’s already been there and done that. But there is another electable majority ripe to be ‘manufactured.’ The voting bloc that is not so razor-thin is among those who are fed-up with government generally and party-promises specifically. They don’t want to hear and do not believe Democrats will ‘clean up’ or ‘bring back’ anything. Certainly, in their minds, Democrats don’t hold the moral keys to honesty or integrity.
They do want to hear specifically how coalition government can be made to work, what logical controls can be clamped on lobbyists, how we plan to exit Iraq, regain control over deficits, deal with health and pension issues and stop being so afraid. They don’t want a candidate who’s too timid to be wrong and they won’t tolerate one with no sense of humor or sense of him (or her) self.
Party-base will take care of itself. Any Republican and any Democrat will get his base numbers, but who legitimately appeals to the ‘fed-up’ among the presumed faithful of either party, will win the next election.
John McCain seems poised to sweep those numbers into his camp.