Election after election, Democrats take a thumping. The latest debacle may have been the most humiliating. And the talking heads offer the same analysis: Democrats need to abandon their far-out liberal views and move to the center—i.e., become more like Republicans. The Democratic Leadership Council was formed with just that intent—to jerk the party to the right, making it more business-friendly and acceptable to corporate fat cats.
So what has that shift to the right done for the party? Let’s see…. It has lost the Presidency. It has lost control of the Senate. It has lost the House of Representatives. In practical terms, it has lost the Supreme Court. Most importantly, however, it has lost its voters. We now have a turnout of only about one-third of eligible voters. Republican participation is up; Democratic turnout is way down. What do the pundits suggest? Move even farther to the right. They’re like the friends who tell you to worm your cat with arsenic. “He’s still not looking too good,” you say. “In fact, he looks worse than he did before.” “You just need to increase the dose,” they say.
Where are the Democrats who care about the bottom 75% of the population? Who will fight for more spending on education and health care? Who will demand a higher minimum wage? Who will oppose tax cuts that benefit the rich and shift the burden to the middle class and poor? Who will strengthen the regulation of Wall Street, and enforce the tougher regulations? Who will oppose unilateral military adventures? Who will campaign for an intelligent peace rather than a stupid war? Who will support Constitutional rights? Who will support human rights rather than dictators? Who not only take those positions, but are passionate about them? Who have a little courage to go with their convictions?
Julian Bond said that “when the shameless compete against the spineless, the shameless always win.” “Always” is an exaggeration. A shameless panderer like Joe Lieberman lost his bid for Vice President, and may have cost Gore the Presidency, but he still has his Senate seat, as well as ambitions to be the 2004 Democratic nominee. Dick Gephardt helped Bush pass the Iraqi resolution in the House, thereby undermining the attempt by Senator Byrd and a few others to delay or limit the war authority it contained. For having thus hamstrung his party, and having led House Democrats to inglorious defeat in the midterm election, Gephardt sees himself as another potential President. Courage is such a rare commodity in the Democratic party that a few of its members have hoped John McCain could be talked into switching parties and running against George Bush.
“How’s your cat?”
“He’s free of worms. Unfortunately, he died.”
© Tony Russell, 2002