Color me pessimistic. Call me a chicken little. Tell me I'm a naysayer. Say I'm a buzzkill. But do hear me out.
We're going to be in trouble: Markos can sense it. I can sense it. Joe Klein can sense it (but for all the wrong reasons). Nearly every prominent Democrat is extremely wary right now that, while the polls may look good now, we will be horribly disappointed come this November.We're going to be in trouble because--to this day--WE REFUSE TO TAKE A STAND. We're fighting back alright--finally--but we're not taking a stand.
And what do I mean by taking a stand? I'll tell you...
Even here on the blogosphere, we do not take a stand. Not really. Not most of the time.
Oh, yes, don't get me wrong: we scream about the evils of Iraq War until our lungs give out; we decry the Imperial Presidency and the shredding of our beloved Constitution; we lambaste the incompetence born of heartless indifference that created the Katrina disaster; we vent over the mind-numbing corruption and salacious scandals; we fume at the depradations of the Christianist right; and we weep at the evils done in the name of America--in our name.
But that's NOT called taking a stand. It's called fighting back. It's what a schoolkid does when he's finally had enough of the neighborhood bully--and it's good when it happens--but it's not remotely enough to win over the country. And if we don't do what it takes to really win over the country, we're going to lose. Again. We won't lose to Bush, but we'll still lose.
We're going to lose because PERSONAL TAINT IS EPHEMERAL in politics. Basic corruption and incompetence are bad, but not insurmountable. And personal dislike of a single, or even multiple politicians, may spell doom for them personally--but not for the ideology that put them there in the first place. Attempting to ride personal taint and corruption to victory at the ballot box is stupid, myopic and shortsighted--even if it works in the short-term.
For all the brouhaha and cheering celebrations here in the liberal blogosphere about Bush's eternally sinking poll numbers, we seem to have forgotten something of extraordinary importance: Bush once had approval ratings of over 50%--even before 9/11. And the public voted overwhelmingly for Republican congressmen and congresswomen in 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004. And that is important--it is a lesson forgotten at our peril.
For a lesson in contrast, one has only to look to Bill Clinton. Despite his personal foibles, Bill Clinton was and remained an extremely popular president--personally. But that personal admiration on the part of voters did not translate to an admiration of Democratic politics, and we lost seats. In the same way, voters can hate and reject Bush personally--and even many congressional Republicans--but they will not reject REPUBLICANISM.
And what IS Republicanism? Any average voter can tell you: smaller government, stronger military, and "moral values."
The fact that Republicans have failed entirely to shrink the government; the fact that they have wrecked our military; the fact that they have failed to foster anything but amorality; these things are irrelevant. The only thing that IS relevant is that the GOP machine has sold the idea of Republicanism to the average voter.
And the corollary of that premise is that, if a Republican fails to deliver on the promises of Republicanism, it can only be for one reason: he/she wasn't Republican enough.
Or, to put it another way: When you look at Bush's 32% approval rating, have you ever asked yourself how many of those people hate him because he's not far enough to the right? I know I have--and the answer scares me.
Right now, the public is disgusted with their elected leaders. But as campaign season rolls around again, the sheeple will be inclined to forigve the actual practitioners of the greed and corruption, so long as they stay on message: the message of Republicanism. The message of smaller government, stronger military, and "moral values."
And all the screaming in the world won't change that.
And what--pray tell--do WE stand for? What reason on earth does the public have to vote for a Democrat?
If you asked Joe Sixpack on the street how he thinks his life would change if Democrats controlled the House and Senate, do you think he would have a coherent answer?
If you asked Joe Sixpack on the street what the Democrats' equivalent of Republicanism is, do you think he would have a coherent answer?
I certainly don't see an answer. But I know what I DO see.
I see one wing of the party kowtowing to Republicans and playing at being Republican-lite: the DLC, Harman, Joe Lieberman wing.
And I see the other wing screaming bloody murder at the various depradations of this administration and its cronies--by sending message bills, threatening impeachment, and demanding investigations: this is the Conyers/Boxer wing. And of the two, this is FAR preferable.
But I see NO ONE actually taking a stand. I see NO ONE standing up for DEMOCRATISM.
And what would that even look like? I can tell what I think it would look like.
For starters, it would mean shaping our policies around Liberal Rhetoric again. In my diary A Memorial For What We Have Lost, I tried to remind people of the REAL values that American stands for--that are ingraved and tattooed onto its very being:
The Common Good.
The Right to Privacy.
It would mean standing up for single-payer healthcare.
It would mean standing up for a SERIOUS increase in the minimum wage.
It would mean standing up for SERIOUSLY higher taxes on corporations and the extremely wealthy, in order to actually SHRINK the income gap in this country.
It would mean standing up for re-regulating all the corrupt, vampirous industries that were deregulated by Reagan and Bush.
It would mean standing up strongly for the separation of church and state, and heaping scorn on those who would tear it down, rather than running in fear of them.
It would mean standing up for SERIOUSLY higher pensions and funding for our military personnel, and for our veterans.
It would mean doing all these things and much more--AND MAKING SURE THAT JOE SIXPACK KNEW WE MEANT IT.
We can talk impeachments until we're blue in the face. We can call for investigations until our hearts give out. And we can seek indictments unto our political graves. And these are things we MUST DO.
But until we actually make a stand--until we stand up for Democratism--we will ALWAYS be playing second fiddle to Republicans--even if they do end up hanging themselves with their own rope here and there.
Because, when push comes to shove, the disgusted voters may throw out individual Republicans from time to time--but they will eternally vote for Republicanism. Until and unless, that is, they are given a serious alternative. An alternative that grasps their imaginations and the better angels of their natures, rather than simply tapping into their frustration and disgust.
It's time to do more than just fight back, folks. It's time to take a stand--because I'm tired of losing.