"Minor Details"

Are the Democrats Really Dead or Just Playing Dead?

By Bob Minor

(November 1, 2005) They came so close to winning the last two presidential elections – and probably actually won them both but didn’t fight for them as if it mattered.

They’ve shown what they can do to stop the corporate-controlled government takeover of the country when they stood strong, united, and on message against social security privatization.

They have a DNC chairman who can speak a clear message that gains the attention of Americans who long for plain speaking again.

They have a solid progressive base of grassroots support with which polls say the national leadership is out of touch.

They have the opportunity to oppose a President whose public approval rating is hovering around an incredibly low 35%.

Yet the Democrats aren’t seizing the day. They look as if they’re just hoping the Republican’s “culture of corruption,” as House Minority Leader leader Nancy Polosi labels it, will bring Republicans down on its own. They seem to be doing little to aid it or to craft an alternative. It’s as if they’re hiding.

So, why do Democratic leaders look as if they’re playing dead on issue after issue and presidential appointment after appointment? Are they really dead inside, just holding on like a dieing person on life-support, every so often letting out some sound and then falling back unconscious?

The right-wing program continues to regressively change everything we’ve traditionally valued. Out of touch with the rest of the world, it amounts to a reverse Robin Hood economic agenda in fundamentalist Christian guise.

Bush’s two Supreme Court nominees are evidence of both the cynical right-wing attitude toward the American people and the Rove White House’s well-honed ability to marginalize Democratic effectiveness.

Observing how the Democrats caved in, backed off, tried to excuse their cow-towing, and voted for the Roberts appointment, they are convinced that the second appointment could be an old White House crony who claimed Bush was the “most brilliant man she’s every met.” They were confident they could weather any temporary fuss the Democrats would raise.

They knew that the Democrats would be disorganized with milk-toast leaders, and would eventually cave in. They could easily portray whatever objections the Democrats temporarily made as merely a tempest in a teapot.

It was the right-wing that objected to Miers’ nomination. Unlike the Democrats, the radical right-wing doesn’t compromise, settle, or play dead. They value their position and those who support them enough to even take on their own President.

For them, it’s not enough that Miers is conservative, another stealth far right candidate. They want an outspoken Scalia-type fighter, someone who’ll aggressively promote and defend their agenda.

In contrast, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid couldn’t wait an hour to endorse Miers and even announce that he’d recommended her. Other Democratic leaders seemed already to concede rather than shaping the debate to come.

Where was a response like: “We don’t know much about Miers except that she’s another friend of the President. The American people expect us to make sure she’s not the Supreme Court equivalent of FEMA’s Michael Brown.”

While the Democratic leadership said what the White House wanted to hear, the right-wing spoke clearly. William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, in an October 4th column called Miers’ appointment a “combination of cronyism and capitulation.”

What’s wrong with Democratic leadership that they won’t wake up and take back the debate? I’ve been puzzled about their timidity, but frankly I think it’s a combination of the following.

1) They’re safely above the consequences of the right-wing’s agenda. They’re rich with as much investment in the corporations that benefit from that agenda as the Republicans. They personally benefit from the right-wing tax cuts that many of them supported.

They’re not the people who were up to their necks in sewerage in New Orleans, whose votes weren’t counted in Florida and Ohio, or who are losing the safety net that compassionate government provided and Bill Clinton helped dismantle by signing such acts as the Republican “Welfare Reform” bill.

2) They can speak from a position of upper-class, mostly white, privilege. They can discuss how to deal with the rest of us without feeling the consequences of the “compromises” they support. They can complain about the “horrors” of what the Bush administration is doing but go home every night to expensive suburban homes and fine dining.

3) As a part of this privilege, they position themselves like ladies and gentlemen. They need to look nice. They don’t want to look like those right-wingers who speak candidly, even with meanness.

So, they don’t speak consistently as if something matters to them, as if something will affect them. They’re objectively above the fray, civilized, and thus out of touch.

4) They’re afraid to be demonized by people who already don’t like them. They want to be loved. Bill Clinton is certainly a prime example. I suppose it’s no more than most of us want, but they do it at the expense of the country.

5) They’re full of liberal guilt. Knowing how badly the poor and minorities have been treated in the past, they don’t want to offend anyone at all, not even those right-wingers who offend the poor and minorities.

6) They want to stay in office, increase their congressional pensions, and maintain the prestigious adoration of the offices they do hold.

7) They value being in office more than anything else. They think that just holding their place is important.

This all suits the right-wing just fine. Why should the right-wing care if Democrats keep their political positions as long as they continue not to be an effective roadblock to the right-wing’s agenda?

And then we don’t demand any better. We think it’s the best we can do.

© The Fairness Project, November 1, 2005.
May be reprinted in full with full credit and notification of The Fairness Project.

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