The International Writers Magazine: US Election Debrief by
Dan Schnieder Nov 3rd
people of America have spoken- and in a de facto landslide. President
Bush seems to have been re-elected, winning Florida comfortably,
and Ohio, as well.
are pondering why?
Putting aside the fact that polls now seem absolutely meaningless,
and more people in this country want Bush, Democrats must recognize
that more people than not care about distraction issues like Partial
Birth Abortion- valuing the lives of perhaps a few dozen
fetuses over the next few years and not the probable thousands of
already living military servicemen. Why? More people care about
working at and buying from Wal-Mart than retaining good jobs in
this nation- even in Ohio where 250,000 people have been screwed.
More people are willing to cede their civil liberties to blatantly
unconstitutional laws like the Patriot Act. Why?
Two reasons jump
out- the first is that, yet again, Democrats have failed to frame issues
in terms of ethics- i.e.- the vaunted morals that exit polls
indicate Americans deem more important than a needless war, three years
of economic disarray, and increasing corporatization. Democrats just
never seem to be able to grasp that voters do not vote their heads,
but their hearts. This first reason is the lesser one- Bush, for whatever
reasons, seems to energize simpleminded folk, who identify with him.
John Kerry is a mummy, who could never break down arguments into the
Yet, Kerry is only the latest in a 40 year string of bad and weak Democratic
candidates for President. Since LBJs 1964 landslide the Democrats
have only had one strong candidate- Bill Clinton, so oleaginous he may
as well have been a Republican. Hubert Humphrey was larded down by LBJ,
Robert Kennedys murder, and the abandonment of liberals to Eugene
McCarthy. Richard Nixon was already a presidential election loser, but
Humphrey could never clearly state what he was for- an augur of things
In 1972 George McGovern, a decorated War hero- ala Kerry- was decimated
by Nixon, but more so by George Wallaces defection from the party.
Nixon was very beatable, paranoid, and had betrayed his promise to get
out of Vietnam. Yet, McGovern was wiped out. Four years later the wooden
and passionless Jimmy Carter barely eked out victory over the man who
shamelessly pardoned Nixons crimes. Gerald Ford, a decent but
overwhelmed man, constantly fudged speeches, showed no conviction in
running the nation, yet Carter could barely distance himself from the
eight year Republican disaster. Four years later he lost to Ronald Reagan,
the man who solidified the style over substance paradigm that has dominated
the last quarter century. Despite his personal travails Ted Kennedy
may have been a better match against Reagan.
In 1984, with the superficial success of his economic policies, the
Democrats offered up Carters Vice President Walter Mondale as
the lamb- a man who won on the Ive been here so long I deserve
the nomination trope. Although he may not have won, Colorados
Senator Gary Hart would have done far better nationally than Mondale
- who kyboshed himself with the token nomination of callow congressman
Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman VP nominee. He did worse than McGovern.
In 1988, Hart immolated hiomself with a sex scandal and the two top
Democratic nominees were the wooden and passionless Senator Al Gore,
and the even less compelling Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis.
I recently watched one of the debates from 1988 on C-Span and was amazed
at how low key both Bush, Sr. and Dukakis were. Yet, the utter lack
of passion was palpable on Dukakiss part. If a man is not gonna
fight for himself, nor get outraged if his wife is raped (as a result
of the infamous question from Bernard Shaw), how can he lead?
In 1992 and 1996 came the anomalous Clinton. But, Clinton was a one
man phenomenon, not representative of the Democratic Party. Perhaps
only Reagan in 1984 could have defeated Clinton head-to-head. By 2000
the Democrats seemed to believe that the tide had turned. the Republicans
nominated a weak candidate in Bush, spurning a far superior candidate
in Senator John McCain. Democrats decided to counter with one-downsmanship
by spurning Senator Bill Bradley for the morose Vice President Al Gore.
While Gore won the popular vote nationally, and in Florida, the Democrats
folded their sails.
Yet, with four years of terrible economics, 9/11s horror, a needless
war in Iraq founded on lies, what did the Democrats do? They nominated
John Kerry over eventual VP nominee John Edwards- an attractive young
Senator, General Wesley Clark - whose reputation was burnished from
the 1990s Balkans Wars, and passionate liberal Howard Dean. Kerry, by
contrast, was as wooden as Al Gore- less condescending, but even more
abstruse. Democrats have to realize that America does not care any longer
for substance! Let me repeat that, Democrats: AMERICA DOES NOT CARE
That said, as someone who voted for Ralph Nader a third straight time,
the Democrats really did not offer great difference. Yet, again, they
were Republicans Lite. Kerry had no plan for Iraqi egress, no coherent
health plan, and no fundamental plan to address corporatization, outsourcing,
and reversing the decades-long assault against the working class. Democrats
have been grinning as a replay of the Gilded Age has seeped in.
Yet, how could I legitimately vote for such a candidate or party? Democrats
lack not only passion, but ideals. They stand not FOR things but AGAINST
minor points Republicans are for. In order to reverse these things,
and win back my vote, they need to see this election as a liberating
force. Do not ape Republicans, frame issues in basic fairness/ethics
terms and they can win. Social issues are on the Democratic side and
in polls, but are not strong enough to trump other issues that crop
up. Gay marriage and abortion are supported more and more each election
but Democrats do not reap the rewards. This loss means the Republicans
bear full responsibility for the Supreme Court, the economy, terrorism,
and the war. My sense is that this is about 1965 or 1966 in Vietnam
terms related to Iraq. That bodes well for the Democrats. Second terms
tend to be disasters for Presidents. Nixon gave the nation Watergate,
Reagan Iran-Contra and the 1987 Stock Market crash. Bush has shown no
ability to make good decisions, no ability to compromise, and now needs
not. Even his chief Democratic opponent- Senator Tom Daschle- lost his
South Dakota seat.
Democrats should just stay quiet and let Bush self-destruct.
If Iraq does turn into Vietnam 2 - with the body count going too high
to hide any longer, the Democrats have to do a Pontius Pilate and ask
the American people who prefer condemning abortion and gay marriage,
Isnt this what you wanted? The Vietnam War caused
the Democratic Party to lose its soul, and the Iraq war is a chance
for it to reclaim it and the heart of the American people. If they dont
care to do so I state that I, and many others, will let them twist in
the wind, as theyve done to us.
As for the future? In 2008 the Democrats must avoid the Hillary seduction,
look to a Clark and Dean axis (poor John Edwards is probably too tarred
by Kerry), and perhaps turn to the man they spurned in 2000- Bill Bradley.
Even though it may be too early, and 2012 might be the year for him,
Senator-Elect Barack Obama is the future of the party. If Bushs
second term is as bad as Reagans and Nixons Obama might
be a legitimate contender in four years. Until then, Democrats should
just sit back, and when more pink slips and body bags seep into the
psyche, remind voters that this is what they chose. They must acknowledge
that this is their 1964, act accordingly, but avoid their own Nixon.
Image matters- the Democrats need one.
© Dan Schneider, Nov 3rd
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