I've been reading what you and others have
been writing in the wake of the election; and it's been, to
say the least, disturbing. And rightly so. It's Thanksgiving
time, so let's "talk turkey".
Although the Congress and the country are still
fairly evenly divided, it would be foolish to deny the fact that
the Republicans thrashed us Democrats pretty darn good in these
last elections, at least outside of California; worse yet
(whether we choose to "gloat" [as some have put it] or not
over our better fate in our home state), the polls show that a
solid majority of Americans now think of the Republicans as "winners" and us
-- and our ideas -- as
So how did we descend into this political hell?
And how do we redeem ourselves?
Briefly, as we've heard ad nauseam, the
GOP won big for two big reasons. One, they were united behind
the President, who -- despite being a simpleton or a conman (or
both) -- is enormously personally popular. Two, the Democratic
leadership couldn't get out their own agenda; and it's
questionable if they even had one (Granted, the political
environment in this country has been pretty conservative, even
by historical standards, ever since the Presidency of "The
Great Communicator", Ronald Reagan; but that didn't stop
President Clinton from articulating -- and successfully
promoting -- a generally progressive and effective agenda).
However, let's not flagellate ourselves;
let's trace these consequences back to some common origins.
Bush became so very popular only after leading
the country through the horrors of 9/11 -- events so traumatic
we don't even refer to them by name, only by number. "Thank
you", Mr. Bin Laden -- may you rot in Jahannam, you
murderous, blasphemous bastard.
But does anyone truly think that if Albert Gore
had been President on that day of infamy, the country would not
have rallied around him? The Russians even rallied around
Stalin when they were attacked by Hitler (and Big Al's a lot
more lovable than Poppa Joe ever was).
Even before but especially after 9/11, as a
disciple of Ronald Reagan (even more so than of his father), our
pugnacious President Bush (yet again Time magazine's "Man of the Year"?) has aggressively set the agenda
tax cuts (the debate not being "if" but "how much") to
war on Iraq (God protect our men and women in uniform and all
the innocent people to be caught in the crossfire in that most
dangerous region, of untamed political/religious passions) -- neither issue had ever been a top priority for the American
public until Mr. Bush and his oily company made it so.
And put on the spot, the Democrats have been
divided on these issues and conquered at the polls. How can our
Democratic officials put forth a compelling competing agenda of
their own when so many are on the record, for whatever reason,
as supporting the Republican agenda, in one form or another?
Does anyone believe that enormous tax cuts going
mostly to the rich or an unprovoked war on Iraq would be a
front-burner issue if Al Gore were President today?
Once again, the issue comes back to who became
President in 2000; more to the point, how?
Let's look past the debacle of the actual
election, if you can call it that (Incidentally, how did all the
talk of "election reform" get pared down to "new voting
technology", as important as that is, with no more debate on
the historical absurdity -- no, make that slap in the face to
the whole concept of democracy -- we call the Electoral
College?). After all, that election should have never been so
close -- during an era of relative peace and unprecedented
prosperity, the public had no obvious reason to change the party
of the Chief Executive...so why did they?
...Why did the public turn on Clinton and
company, even though they had to know it might cost us all
dearly in the end (how many billions or trillions so far)?
Whitewater? It didn't seem to matter in '96, and by 2000 it
was old news. Wako? Ruby Ridge? Area 51? Maybe big concerns for
a few conspiracy nuts -- many of whom were "scared
straight" by the vile actions and inglorious demise of Timothy
McVeigh -- but I doubt those were the burning issues for John
and Jane Q. Public.
No, according to virtually all the "swing
voters" I've ever spoken to, what turned them against
President Clinton, and consequently his Vice President, was...
You know, that thing that good ol' George
Dubya's supposed to have so much of and that "lying" Al
Gore and "Slick Willie" Clinton are supposed to have so
Even to this day, you should see all the "hilarious" jokes I'm e-mailed by even my
and "independent" family and friends...who sincerely felt
betrayed by Clinton's "affair" (or whatever you'd parse
it) and especially, as they saw it, his bald-faced lying to them
about it. Clint Eastwood won the Oscar® for Unforgiven;
George Bush, the Presidency.
And even the Democrats seemed to buy into it...
Why, during the Presidential Campaign, Al would
hardly be seen in public with Bill or even utter his name out
loud; and Democratic politicians from coast to coast followed
suit, shunning Al Gore like he was Al Capone.
Pardon my doubling the entendre, but Monica blew
Nothing new under the sun -- like a Classical
Greek hero, President Clinton served his country well, only to
be done in by a personal "tragic flaw" -- but that opened
the door for our rabid political enemies, who must share the
blame for the avoidable dire consequences ever since then:
Things have never been the same since the Republicans insisted
upon impeaching William Jefferson Clinton. The fact of the
matter is, the economy started going downhill and Osama Bin
Laden started plotting 9/11 during that period of crippled
The impeachment was more than a newsworthy
event; it was a historical turning point -- we ignore at our
peril the fact that the only other such event was a consequence
of the greatest upheaval in American history, the War Between
The bitter disagreements within the deeply
divided Supreme Court in the 2000 Presidential Election and even
the passionate controversies surrounding this Administration's
conduct in the War on Terrorism take on additional meaning
within that larger, historical context.
Ironically, it is the traditional "states
rights crowd" that is centralizing powers into the hands of
the federal government -- from the Congressional investigations
into the most personal details of the life of Mr. Clinton, to
the assertion of federal judicial powers over the Constitutional
rights of a state court in a Presidential election, or the
denial of due process and other civil rights of individuals in
investigations by the Justice and Defense Departments.
We are witnesses to history; moreover, we are
participants in it.
History teaches us two things: First, we can't
change the past; second, we can't help but change the future,
so we had best learn from the past.
With that in mind, where do we go from here? How
have bodies politic redeemed themselves throughout history?
Answer: Usually by recognizing that they have
been conquered by being divided, a strategy pre-dating even the
most ruthless of Caesars.
Now, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for
the gander: The Republicans, too, are vulnerable to division,
primarily into the economic conservatives and the religious
conservatives. It is worth noting that in his first election,
Bill Clinton captured about half the vote of the Born Again
Christians, primarily because they felt that the previous Bush
Administration was too beholden to business interests and not
doing enough for the poor -- on Judgment Day, the King will
say, "Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers, that you
did unto me".
More important than attacking our political
enemies, though, is setting our own political house in order.
Therefore, each one of us should ask our self --
not the pollsters, not the press, not our political
leadership -- why, of all things, am I a Democrat?
The answers we will give will characteristically
revolve around balancing fairness (our "liberal" tendencies)
with practicality (our "moderate" aspects) -- as in the
economy, civil rights, the environment, etc.
Although we must prioritize our efforts,
particularly since we are in effect, if not numbers, the
minority party (as evidenced by the GOP having massively
outspent us in this last election, as they will probably do for
the foreseeable future), individually and collectively we should
politely but unapologetically support and defend as many of
these issues of "fairness" and "practicality" as our
conscience will allow, whenever and wherever we can, regardless
of how outnumbered we might be. Heroes are made, not born.
It is only natural, and completely American and
Democratic, for our membership and even our leadership to
occasionally agree to disagree; but if we are to succeed in any
of our specific goals, we must stay united around our common
themes -- as of "fairness" and "practicality" -- and
not let ourselves be permanently divided, along whatever lines
our near-sighted or self-serving political enemies might try to
It is also only natural to get caught up in the
day-to-day particulars of political ins-and-outs; nevertheless,
we have to recognize that there is a greater good involved: We
must take stock from time to time and realize that we are
working or fighting, or however we choose to put it, not just
for some selfish advantage of power but rather for what we truly
believe in. We must never forget that the Democratic Party is a
uniquely valuable institution -- that our dear country could
suffer irreparable harm if left to the foolhardy or devious
devices of the Republicans...or any other rival party, let alone
the apathy or cynicism that embitters so many of our fellow
citizens, to the point that they even disenfranchise themselves.
We are Democrats because we love America and we
believe -- we know -- that no one else can serve her as we
Now that's a concept that should swing some
voters. And if it doesn't, to heck with them (another concept
that should swing some voters, and if it doesn't...).
Thankful this Thanksgiving, and always, to be
your fellow American and Democrat,