July 30, 2003

Inside Baseball

With that headline, you might think I would be inclined to talk about the history that was made last night at the expense of, who else, the Texas Rangers pitching staff. Yes, campers, you heard right. Some spare number eight hitter for the BoSox smacked two grand slams off of the Texas bullpen last night, one from each side of the plate (he's a switch-hitter, so he hit one batting right-handed and one batting left-handed). Never before in baseball history.

But no, I talk about a much more troubling subject, and that is what the hell is going to happen to the Democratic party. You see, back in the mid-80's, a lot of senior party members got together and decided to form the DLC (Democratic Leadership Committee). The DLC is essentially the conservative wing of the Democratic party, and they thought that by taking some of the centrist issues away from Republicans, they could make Democrats more electable. That's how Clinton won, by promising to be business-friendly, and so he got lots of campaign contributions.

But things have changed. Gore was essentially the same candidate as Clinton, only without the ethical baggage and seedy background. But the media has evolved a lot, and so have Republicans. They responded to Democrats like Gore moving to the center by themselves moving further to the right. And so no matter how many steps the party or a candidate like Gore takes in a conservative direction, they will always always always be labeled a hopeless far left, out of touch, wacko liberal. The media cooperated, and went on to make up all kinds of stories about Gore's credibility, etc. Gore won the election, but even that didn't matter. You know the rest.

So what does the Democratic party do now? Do they continue down the road paved by the DLC and become more and more conservative? If they do, they risk alienating the important base of voters that they need to get elected. If Democratic voters aren't enthusiastic, they won't show up at the polls, and it is likely voters whose opinion matters, not just ordinary Americans. The supposed positive they get by going down the DLC road is that they are trying to earn the mantle of centrists or moderates by bridging the gap between the true liberals in the Democratic party and the moderate wing of the Republican party.

But how will the media portray a Gore-like candidate, say a Lieberman or a Daschle or a Kerry? How will they portray a Democratic candidate who has gone way beyond the pale in squashing out any "daylight" between his position on hot-button issues and Bush's position (i.e. Iraq)? I'll tell you how: at the first sign of any differences on any issues, the media will pounce and affix the derogatory "liberal" label on 'em. The whole right-wing network will join in, and they'll have no problem getting their base motivated and to the polls.

So the alternative is for the Democrats to say screw the DLC and nominate a more traditional Democrat. Someone who doesn't think labor unions are completely useless, who thinks environmental concerns just maybe sometime in some rare situations just maybe might be a tiny oh so little more important than the next Halliburton subsidiary's stock price which might fall 5% if they don't get that clear-cutting contract. Someone who still thinks affirmative action might be necessary because although I know this must come as a huge shock to conservatives, it still pretty much sucks to be a minority in America. You know, the sorts of positions Democrats used to stand up and fight for. Common-sense stuff.

Anyway, more and more it looks like the only likely Democrat who could take on that more traditional mantle is Howard Dean. I have no idea if nominating him will be any more effective than nominating someone like Bob Graham or John Kerry or whomever, but I say let's give it a try. Over at Hullaballoo, Digby has more along these lines:

...The political landscape has completely changed since 1985 when the DLC was created and 1992 when it reached its zenith of power. In 2004 it is losing its relevance to many Democrats, not because of a difference in policy but because it has failed to recognize that while they have not changed, the Republican Party has undergone a complete metamorphosis. They do not seem to understand that when the competition completely changes strategy, you must be prepared to change strategy as well.

The Republican Party of George W. Bush is fundamentally different than the Party of George H.W. Bush. They are playing a form of political hardball that is completely unresponsive to the cooperative, consensus style politics that characterizes the DLC. They will not budge on policy and when it comes to tactics they are knife wielding thugs.

Deanís early success isnít about liberal spending programs and ìfar leftî hatred for Junior. Itís about opening your eyes and seeing what is right in front of your face --- a dangerously radical Republican party that simply will not compromise or deal fairly. ... And they lost all compunction about tarring the opposition with outright lies and character assassination.

The fact is that it does not matter if our candidate actually supported the war in Iraq or not. If John Kerry is the nominee rather than Howard Dean, do they actually believe that the Republicans will not find a way to portray him as soft on national security? Please.

It. Does. Not. Matter. What. We. Actually. Do.

We could sign on to a 0% tax rate for millionaires, repeal of Social Security, prison terms for homosexuality and oil rigs in the middle of San Francisco Bay and they would still say we are liberal, tax and spend, tree hugging, treasonous pacifists because it is in their interest to do so. ... The way to change the Republican propaganda-created perception that the Democratic Party is a bunch of namby pamby, liberal, pacifist big spenders is to FIGHT BACK.

We should attack the other side with righteous indignation and illuminate for the American people the fact that George W. Bushís GOP is radical and out of touch with Americaís values. (This also has the virtue of being true.) In the hands of a skilled politician this can be done without sounding ìshrillî or ìhystericalî, but rather strong, reassuring and commonsensical.

Many Americans have a feeling that something is going badly wrong. The media is confusing and sensational. Itís difficult to cut through the muddy and garbled ever-changing story to get a clear sense of what exactly is causing this discomfort. The Republicans are very effective at offering a comforting narrative of strength and tradition.

But, it is the job of the Democrats to rightly identify the source of this existential unease as emanating directly from the White House and the man whom everybody knows, deep in their heart, was not qualified for the job. The Dems need to be unequivocal in their opposition to this presidency, because there is not even one small identifiable aspect of it that is in keeping with traditional Democratic values (despite Evan Bayhís evident nostalgia for the ever so successful foreign policy of Lyndon Johnson). The working, taxpaying, regular folk of the ìfar left,î notwithstanding, if the Democrat can articulate this case with passion and authority, he might be able to show a few of the mushy middle that the real crazies these days are on the right --- which is the truth.

Most importantly, they need to articulate the difference between the parties, not the similarities. By attacking the Bush administrationís radical and mendacious agenda, while promoting the Democratic policies of engaged multilateralism and support for international institutions, as well as common sense tax and social spending policies and respect for civil liberties, I think itís entirely possible that many Americans will see things our way.

Politicians, after all, are not only supposed to figure out what the people want and give it to them. They are supposed to convince the people that they want what the politicians have to give.

The Republicans have managed to persuade large numbers of middle class people that the rich not only have no obligation to ensure the continuation of the stable, decent society that enables their wealth, but that the average working stiff does. If they can do that, then surely we Democrats can educate Americans to the fact that allowing Bush and his ivory tower, think-tank radicals to turn this country into an Imperial banana republic is likely to result in a reduction in their standard of living.

The DLC has losttouch with the zeitgeist. They are as irrelevant today as the SDS.

Watching things continue in Texas, I am forced to agree with this assessment. The Republican party is pretty much done with all this compromising nonsense, and they are now pushing every single thing they can as hard as they can. It is happening at all levels, and it is a national effort, managed down to the state and county level in most places. It seems that they figure no matter what they do, the media will report it as a "he said, she said" kind of thing. The old, "Republicans passed a law today proclaming that 2+2=5, but some liberal scientists have continued to promote the idea, now thousands of years old, that 2+2=4." way of reporting.

Posted by Observer at July 30, 2003 10:40 AM

Comments on entries can only be made in pop-up windows while those entries are still on the main index page. Sorry for the inconvenience this causes, but this blocks about 99.99% of the spam the blog receives.

Be careful. Very careful.

I remember the US Senate campaign in Texas in ... 1982? 1984? one of those. There was a Democratic candidate who was the most liberal of the bunch to pass through the campaign fires by the name of Lloyd Doggett. He ran against a Republican who was, by everyone's admission (even his own supporters), very far right and obnoxious. We had hopes that reason would win.

We were wrong, of course. Texas vomited forth Senator Phil Gramm onto the national scene.

Never make the mistake of saying it can't get any worse. It always can get worse. And it usually does.

Posted by: Feff on July 30, 2003 04:11 PM

At least Doggett is still a congressman. That is, until the Republicans manage to split his district 4 ways. (yes, he is that well-respected by his loyal constituency that they must draw and quarter his district, literally.) And there is no disguising the fact that this little ploy for redistricting is a grab orchestrated by Tom DeLay and his DC and Texas cronies.

Yesterday, lieutenant governor Dewhurst said something along the lines of "the runaway Democrats are not doing the job they were elected to do by the people they represent." An astute observer on a local call in radio show (conservative, of course) said, "I didn't vote for my Republican representative because he promised me redistricting. They aren't doing their job, either. They need to just get over it already and stop deficit spending on special sessions." And the response from the conservative call-in hosts? Nothing. Moved right on to the next caller.

In your quote Digby said: "Politicians, after all, are not only supposed to figure out what the people want and give it to them. They are supposed to convince the people that they want what the politicians have to give."

That's exactly what Bush tried to do in his State of the Union address. He threw in two liberal causes (AIDS drugs to Africa, and federal research dollars for cars that run on alternative fuels), and then he pitched the "nukular" argument for war, among the already-known reasons. Many fence-leaning folks (like myself) were duped. I feel truly stupid for even half-believing him. But being burned once is all it takes.

Dean is a good candidate. I figure the opposition will be working very hard to find his skeletons soon.

Posted by: Perkusi on July 30, 2003 05:39 PM