Thursday, October 13, 2005

What It All Means, And Where Do We Go From Here?

The time has come to take a long, hard look at two things of vital imprtance, but that we often overllok. Classic case of thh merely urgent (Delay indictment, e.g.) crowding out the important (say, healthcare for all Americans). So without further ado, here is 1) What It All Means, and 2)Where Do We Go From Here.

What It All Means.
I recently posted a top ten list of current bits of schaudefreude (Delay indictment, Plame-gate, Miers' nomination backlash, the failure of the Iraqi war as US policy, the failure of trickle-down economics (again!), and so on. All delicious tidbits for those of us who feel the Republicans long ago lost any claim on our sympathy.

But these items are powerful for two reasons, one often talked about and the other not. We often talk about the "drumbeat" effect: the idea that a series of negative things are occurring in quick (quickening?) succession for the Republicans. The code words you see in the media are things like, "mounting troubles," and "fresh allegations." (Look too for words like "beset" and "embattled." All code for drumbeat effect.)

The other we don't talk about is that these events confirm our pre-existing thoughts and concerns. Rumors that the President has recently returned to the bottle are unsettling because of concerns that his sobriety wasn't solid. The consternation over Miers plays into fears that the President has often picked people who are underqualified (calling Brownie, calling Bolton!). The Delay indictments give credence to a vague perception that the Republicans (and, sad to say, some Dems) are in an unholy alliance with business interests. And the doom and gloom from Iraq serves as a near-daily reminder that we all had doubts about going into Iraq, so much so that the President and his team had to pretend that we were only 45 minutes away from destruction if we failed to act.

So What This All Means is that conditions in the body politic are generally facorable to Democrats right now. The Katrina aftermath showed Americans that their concerns that starving the government of needed funding could have catatrophic consequences. Were we to experience a terrible financial crisis (a la Clusterfuck Nation), which I personally find a likely scenario, the nation would think, "ah, yes, there were many respected voices who said something like this would happen if we continued our profligate ways." Many of us on the left have been preaching for years the way of truth and light, and the reality-based world is now stepping up to show our positions for what they are: true and right.

Where Do We Go From Here
So if the country is finally headed in our direction, what do we do now? We have for so long been principally engaged in tearing down the edifices of deception and hatred erected by the other side. I often see in the comments here and elsewhere a sort of weariness with the fight and a concern about what we'll do when we don't have Tom Delay and George Bush to kick around any more. And therein lies the most Important Thing.

No one is going to vote for us just becuase we aren't George Bush. Sure, we might win an election or two, as Republicans did by not being Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter. But to re-build a sustainable majority of voters who will support our policies over the long-haul, we need to focus on our constructive vision of a better future. (As an aside, this is again re-inforcing pre-existing perceptions: Democrats are supposed to be good at governing and good at proposing and implementing improvements in our lives through government. Our failure to do just that has been a key part of why voters think of us as weak and useless. The flip side of that coin is that Republicans are supposed to be in charge of criticizing us and tearing down proposals for change. When they act in accordance with those expectations, for example by constantly sneering at big government tax-and-spend liberals, they are acting within those pre-existing expectations. This is also why IOKIYAR exists: people hold the Dems to higher standards because they're supposed to be the good guys. Republicans cheating on their wives is simply par for the course.)

So Where We Go From Here is pretty clear. While some of us will forever be engaged in batting down the evilness of at least some on the right (a special detail will always have to be vigilant to gaurd against future Swift Boat Vets), the bulk of our guys need to go over to offense. That's why Pelosi's "contract with America" is being rushed out early. We need to coalesce around two or three basic, big ideas. And we all know what they are already: healthcare for all, education for all, a fair tax system, and a government allied with the needs of the voters, not the donors. The slogan I prefer is "Community, Opportunity and Responsibility." And there are a 1,000 ways we will show the voters exactly what we mean. We will embrace science. Our administration will be transparent. We will work with our allies overseas. We will invest in new industries to create new jobs. We will protect the dignity of even the poorest Americans.

The only thing missing from the equation is, alas, something that is absolutely necessary, a visionary, charismatic leader. There would have been no New Deal without FDR, no conservative takeover without Reagan. Our national nominee for President defines us as a brand. Mcovern, Dukakis, Mondale, Gore and Kerry all served us poorly in that regard. They were analytical, reserved, low-emotion and nealy charisma-free. Reagan, Clinton, much the other way: intuitive, charismatic, empathetic, etc. The lesson to be drawn is quite clear. No more Bidens, Clarks, Hillarys or, God forbid, Kerrys. What we need to find, and find yesterday, is someone more like Edwards (at least as he seems to be on occasion): someone who is empathetic, emotive, can speak plainly, is free of condescension, and in this televsion age, looks handsome. If someone has a better choice, I'm all ears. Carville said some time back that this mysterious person probably isn't even in politics at the moment, and that may be true. But wherever this person is (and wouldn't it be wonderful if it was a woman), we need him/her if we're going to get back to the promised land.

And now you know What To Think.

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