Friday, February 10, 2006

 

The Emperor Has No Clue

In case you missed it on Wednesday, the New York Times ran a front page article exploring the question that has been on the mind of many, many Democrats lately -- why is our party so uncontrollably lame?

Fittingly, the story did not show anything close to a consensus within our ranks, underscoring the disarray that is behind Democrats' discontent. It really just exhibited more of the whining and weakness that has done us wonders in the political marketplace.

Consider this especially revealing passage:

...Among more establishment Democrats, there is concern that many of the party's most visible leaders — among them, Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Senator John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential candidate; Mr. Kennedy; Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader; and Al Gore, who has assumed a higher profile as the party heads toward the 2008 presidential primaries — may be flawed messengers.

In this view, the most visible Democrats are vulnerable to Republican attacks portraying them as out of the mainstream on issues including security and budget-cutting. . .

. . .Mr. Kerry said the party's authority had been diluted because of the absence of one or two obvious leaders, though he expressed confidence that would change.

"We are fighting to find a voice under difficult circumstances, and I'm confident, over the next few months, you are going to see that happen," Mr. Kerry said in an interview. "Our megaphone is just not as large as their megaphone, and we have a harder time getting that message out, even when people are on the same page."


If you read between those lines, you can get a pretty good sense of precisely what is wrong with the Democratic Party right now.

What the subtext says is that; A) we have put in place chronically unpersuasive and ineffectual leaders to try to bring the party together, articulate a common vision and set a common strategy for realizing it; B) many of us have come to realize the error of these leadership choices; and C) yet despite this recognition, we sit on our collective hands, say nothing about the fact that the emperor(s) has no clue, and idly listen to them make excuses about why we can't gain the upper hand on a Republican President with approval numbers hovering in the low-to-mid 40's and a Republican Congress that is badly scarred by scandal.

Moreover, what it ultimately says is that we are simply not prepared to do what is necessary to win -- which is to get rid of leaders who have shown they are not capable of making us a majority party again.

Let me be clear: this is not about the people themselves. I consider Howard Dean, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry and the rest to be honorable public servants. This is about their performance. And by every relevant measure, they are failing -- to inspire public confidence, to address our party's glaring electoral deficiencies, to clearly and convincingly spell out an alternative agenda that shows we can govern better than the other side (N.B. I'll elaborate about this in my next post).

The fact is that if these folks were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, they would have been fired long ago. Or think about it in the bottom line terms of professional sports. If Ted Kennedy, whom I greatly admire, pitched for the Red Sox and had lost his fastball to the extent he demonstrated in the Alito hearings, the Boston management, no matter the nostalgia, would suck it up and let him go. Yet no one in the Senate Democratic caucus, and certainly not Harry Reid, had the temerity to move Kennedy aside and allow Chuck Schumer to take the lead (which is further proof of Reid's unfitness for the job).

Perhaps the most instructive comparison in this case is to our opponents. When the Republicans get saddled with leaders who are ineffective or become liabilities, they do not wring their hands about them -- they ruthlessly and efficiently defenstrate them. Trent Lott dredges up bad memories of the party's racist past? Gone. Tom Delay becomes a popular poster child for the culture of corruption? Gone. Heck, they even took out the guy who more than any other single figure in the party helped give them control of the House after 50 years, Newt Gingrich, after he appeared to get too big for his britches.

Thus, they will do anything to win, while we will do anything to avoid confrontation. Which is to say that Senator Kerry, with all due respect, is once again dead wrong -- we are losing not because they have a much bigger megaphone, but mostly because they have a much bigger set of cojones. Worst of all, the public knows it. They get that the Republicans understand how to wield power more effectively than the Democrats, and that I believe is one of the big reasons why in the post-9/11 era they continue to entrust power to a party they disagree with on many of the issues.

So as my fellow Democrats continue to grumble about the party's continued lameness, I would bluntly suggest that if we are seriously looking for the source of the problem, we all should look in the mirror. We may not be the ones who chose our leaders at the DNC and in the House and Senate, but it is our ambivalence and passivity that is keeping them there.

Want to change the party's direction? Change the people leading it.

Comments:
When I saw the Kerry quote, I almost vomited. It essentially said: "Just wait a little longer and we'll get something out there." The moment Kerry didn't respond like a wounded badger to the swift boat garbage in 2004 was the moment he lost. The problem is the party is rife with gilded establishment. They need an injection of good old fashioned populism.
 
There is nothing to suggest that the present Democrat leadership does not represent the will and views of the majority of Democrats. Kennedy, for example, seems perfect for the NEA, NOW, SISU, Sierra Club, Hollywood and such. I don’t seeing these organs fading from influence in the future. I am sure Kennedy, Kerry and others know this, and know that this is what is done to win a Democrat office. The circle seems pretty clear, smooth and predictable. Everyone seems pretty happy with each other. It is, of course, just that this dynamic isn’t going to win the Presidency. The House looks even worse with Blue state flight, and up coming Congressional seat losses to Red states. Throw in some tipping point defections of marginal Democrat office holders, and well, it is grim.

Years ago the Democrats lost/chased out the Scoop Jackson Democrats, Tip O’Neil talked about losing the lunch pail Democrats, you had the book out recently, “What’s the Matter With Kansas.” So, losing white, working class voters is a long trend.
I would say you have worked hard for this to happen. Democrats never missed a chance to chase out the working class. Black Democrat leadership seems literally elderly. I suspect younger black democrats are voting more and more Republican. Not a lot, but enough. Yeah, Democrats have Obama, but Republicans have Powell, Rice and will be getting Swann. I do not think the introduction of illegals nor felons voting is going to happen, and even if so, it would not make a difference.

So, maybe Kennedy, Kerry and such are on to something. Democrats are not going to regain power, and they are just making sure they go home with those that brought them. They are just being realist and head counting.

Many people did not like Kennedy and company, true. They became Republicans. So, the Democrat party is becoming clearer. Basically you have government union employees wanting to make sure no matter what that the money comes to them, and if anything they get thrown to the sharks last. And ideological progressives milling around wondering what happened to the ‘60s.

So, to me a very conservative America, the Democrat party as it now stands, seems fairly normal and seems to do a good job in representing it’s voting clients. Which is good for liberty, and America. I think the inter party complaints of the Democrats are a bit unfair to yourselves. You do not have the votes. It seems, over time, you will have less. The wisdom of crowds has been back and forth between the two auto dealers of American politics and have chosen Republican vehicles for themselves. I won’t go so far in my auto analogy to call the Republicans the Toyota of the future, but I will say that the Democrats are the GM of the past. Lots of baggage they have to carry and bad future trend lines.

I suppose Progressive Democrats could all retire to a state like modern day Mormons or the libertarian ‘Free State’ experiment in New Hampshire and build a progressive utopia. It would no doubt be fun, exciting and even for me a conservative, interesting. But guess what? For almost a hundred years the left has worked to centralized power at the federal level, and you aren’t running the show. Odd, for years the old-line conservative right fought centralization, but I think that it is apparent that we like the taste of power too. I suppose I should thank you. You could try to leap frog rightist Washington and go the one world bit, but that seems a little like betting dear old dad’s gold Rolex on 30 at a Vegas roulette table after four straight days of gambling. Maybe leftist progressive have just had their time on the American stage. Maybe some day people will go to ‘Progressiveville’ like they do to museums of old Quaker communities.
 
Daniel H.!

I'm glad to see you are alive and well! I thought of you today when I blogged a book by Philip Roth on Wordaholism. (I stunned you once by referencing one of his works to you.)

I miss DC. Do you?

Best,
Esbee

PS: If you can't figure out who this is, email me. My best email address's on the front of Wordaholism. :)
 
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