Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Difference Between Winning and Watching the Other Guy Lose

The Impossible Dream is fast replacing the American Dream. Which is why the country must invent a new political party to replace the aging and toothless Democrats. We can do better and vote for change are meaningless phrases by a party bankrupt of solutions.


We all know the sports metaphor for collapse; a major golf tournament’s third-round leader puts four in the water to let an unknown, six strokes back, win the tournament. A three run lead in the seventh game of baseball’s World Series dissolving into a five-error ninth inning loss. We’re about to witness the political metaphor. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll,

Approval of Congress has plunged to its lowest level in more than a decade (32 percent), and Americans, by a margin of 54 percent to 35 percent, say they trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the biggest problems the nation is confronting. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said congressional Democrats deserve to be reelected next month, but just 39 percent said Republicans deserve to return to office.

I find that incredibly disheartening and indicative of the fact that Democrats can no longer field a winning team. Able only to be there, when Republicans periodically fall so far out of favor that the country can no longer stand the stench. Once contenders, their pitching staff is non-existent. Democrats deserve not to win this series. Unfortunately, it’s enough to stand there, incompetent and drop-jawed, as Republicans suffer total collapse.

What the hell kind of party is that?

In the six years of the Bush administration, absolutely everything they touched has turned to garbage. Unless you’re

  • Rich and gained some tax breaks
  • Running a business and watching health and pension plans removed from the debit side of your balance sheet with Washington’s blessing
  • An oil company who slipped the noose of actually paying for offshore rights
  • A media conglomerate buying yet more access, freezing out the competition

Not that these are not worthy causes, but they are not the only causes in an increasingly disparate nation of 300 million.

Say you're not among these winners? You’re in a heap of trouble, bubba. The ordinary among us have watched as jobs got tighter, wages stagnated, employment benefits disappeared, health care edged toward becoming yet another cruel joke and college morphed into an impossible dream for our kids.

Those kids, our kids and, soon enough their kids and someday (if everyone lives long enough) their kid’s kids will be swamped as New Orleans after Katrina. Mired in debt. Not their own foolish credit-card debt, but Republican debt. “Helluva job, George.”

The Impossible Dream is fast replacing the American Dream. Which is why the country must invent a new political party to replace the aging and toothless Democrats. We can do better and vote for change are meaningless phrases by a party bankrupt of solutions.

Republicans are shrewd and well-organized, with a clear idea of what they want for the country and the young are on their team. This particular president, along with his small-minded cadre of cohorts has run clear off the edge of the historic Republican lesson-plan. Their party is (probably) going to pay for that at the polls in November.

But they know the territory and will be back. Next time, they’ll be smart enough to have shrugged off their poisonous and claustrophobic, single-issue imprisonment by the religious right. They’ll be hard to beat without that easy target. If they shuck the evangelical contingent, wriggle out of this war and regain their traditional middle-class business support, we’ll not see the Democrats until the next Republican disaster.

Maybe we shouldn’t. A two-party system in name isn’t the equal of a two-party system in philosophy and determination.

Democrats continue to prove that they’re no longer able to point in coherent directions. Certainly not consensus among themselves or even a unified platform from which they might broadcast a vision of logical governance. Because they have none. No plan, no promise, no hope and no compelling reason to be allowed to govern—except  to show up at periodic Republican train-wrecks.

It’s not enough. Seventy-five years ago, Will Rogers said

“Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.”

But it’s not enough, to hear the same joke told after 75 years and to have it still be true.

The oldest Senator and Representative are each of them Democrat, the youngest, Republican. In a country fascinated by and wrapped within an increasingly youth-oriented culture, Democrats are perceived as the old fogies of government. Dems are so shabbily worn thin of ideas that they consider Teddy Kennedy to be a leader. The WaPo-ABC poll is silent about Democrat ideals and shows no substantive voter enthusiasm for leadership issues among Democratic candidates.

No surprise.

It’s been fifty years since the Civil Rights movement and forty since Johnson’s Great Society. There has been no leadership or idealism forthcoming from Democrats in the intervening half-century. An entire and once forceful opposition party has been reduced to the senile and shaky finger of accusation. The poll (yet again) prepares us for Democrats ineptly scavenging the wreck, scurrying after the pieces strewn across our ethical landscape by Republicans.

We will probably have change after November.

Democrats will not usher in a period of good government, nor will they substantively address the mechanics of Congressional self-service that have so badly damaged our politics. The country will hold its collective breath for the remaining two years of the Bush administration. Donald Rumsfeld will no doubt be forced out and Dick Cheney may possibly come under indictment, but only possibly. High crimes and misdemeanors aplenty, but there is no energy even for that.

An already ineffective and demoralized president will spend increasing time at his Texas ranch. The war will wait, unless James Baker’s counsel finds an audience.

It will not be enough.

Tragically, there is a new and unrecognized Constitutional crisis loose in the halls of government. America’s republic depends upon an enlightened  and engaged electorate. Impoverished of statesmen, frozen in a culture of negative accusation, we no longer have a viable two-party system.

The illusion of choice is not choice.
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Additional media comment from scanty press attention;

  • None on this subject--maybe that means something.