Thursday, December 15

New Ideas. Please.

One of the worst features of our current political mess is that it takes all of your efforts just to answer the latest Republican talking points and there's precious little energy left to pummel the arguments of deserving DLC types. That's ameliorated somewhat by the fact that the two are often indistinguishable, so one stone easily serves two birds. Unfortunately, most DLC talking points usually surface only when it's time for them to sink the potential Democratic opposition to the latest crackpot maneuver by the administration or the House, so your voice doesn't count for anything.

In years of talking politics while sitting in my underwear I've rarely encountered Democrats to my right * who act anything like the Beltway daisy-chain-gang of the DLC. Even Amy Sullivan. Yes, from time to time certain positions gain in popularity despite their playing right into the hands of the GOP, but for the most part moderate arguments are sound.

I was casting around this evening for news of the Froomkin Flummery and I checked in with Slate. There I managed to meet up with Bruce Reed, former Clinton staffer and the byline behind "The Has Been", which would be a pretty good title for a column by a Democrat insider if it were meant ironically. The link, and the headline, promised to address Why Democrats Don't Have To Be the Party of the History Channel.

I don't read Slate much, but I should know by now that you're burned by their links as often as not--a couple of times I've found myself clicking something that sounds good and finding Mickey Kraus instead--and this was no exception. I expected something along the lines of "The History Channel, when it's not turning over entire evening blocks to UFOs or Jesus or Jesus on a UFO, tends to present political history as a comfortable script." I was wrong. What Reed meant, apparently, was "FDR is History, and so are Democrats unless they turn right." Here's a bit of that good ol' DLC "which party do you work for, again?" rhetoric:
In the run-up to 2004, some of us naively hoped that the fight for the nomination could be a battle of ideas. Instead, it turned into a spirited debate over whether to hate Bush for being a liar, a scumbag, or just a "miserable failure." (Dick Gephardt, who coined that last phrase and even created a Web site around it, had to drop out after finishing a poor fourth.)

In 2008, Democrats won't have Bush-Cheney to kick around anymore. Saying goodbye to your favorite bogeymen isn't as easy as you might think. The last time Democrats contested an open seat, when Reagan was departing in 1988, his name still echoed through the primaries. Democrats sounded like John Birchers who had failed to notice the end of the Cold War.

Sheesh, but Republicans are Birchers who failed to notice the end of the Cold War, except insofar as it allows them to behave with even less restraint. Were those words were intended to leave a mark, instead of a rut? By the next paragraph he name-checks The Seven Dwarfs. What party do you work for, again?

Lemme just remind you: the "Seven Dwarfs" were Bruce Babbitt, Joe Biden, Michael Dukakis, Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, and Paul Simon. If you don't find at least a couple of names to be reasonably proud about there I don't know why you label yourself a Democrat. Arrayed against them were these titans of statecraft: George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, Pete DuPont, Al Haig, Jack Kemp, and Pat Robertson. That is, in order, the guy with one of the finest resumés in American political life who accomplished nothing whatever beyond enriching himself; the long-time Senator from Archer-Daniels-Midland; nobody in particular; Al Haig; the unholy love child of Newt Gingrich and Bill Bennett, minus the charisma; and God's Own Bullhorn.

Please. I know you guys of a certain age seem unable to understand that history actually began before you learned to read, and if I ever discover how the Reagan Kool-aid managed to replicate itself so successfully I'll expect a Nobel in chemistry. Democrats "recited their tired anti-Reagan talking points"? Like that Republican bunch was chock-a-block with dynamic policy proposals? "Let's stop taxing the rich" is a startling new insight?

Sure, when it comes to campaigns, 1988 is the dregs of the modern era. Would that our fucked-up campaign process could be tied to something as simple as idea-bereft Dems. The biggest problem with the '88 campaign is that there wasn't enough anti-Reagan rhetoric, because Democrats were too afraid it wouldn't play. And that's due in no small part to the fact that the media, and the "Reagan Democrats"--the forerunners of the DLC and its Big Ideas--were so busy genuflecting every time his name was mentioned and whining about any perceived slight from "anti-Reagan rhetoric". As a result, the greatest swindle in the history of the world, at least until we get a full accounting of Iraq in twenty-five years, never became a campaign issue, despite the fact that it was St. Ronnie's administration which had let go the reins on S&Ls in the first place. Taxpayers picked up that bill. $1.4 Trillion dollars. $1,400,000,000,000. We're still paying it, though it's hard to find under the mountain of debt from the next Bush we idiotically put in office. That figure includes $1.6 billion to bail out Neil Bush's Silverado Savings & Loan, and $4 million to make up the difference between the defaulted amount and the actual value of the suspiciously-appraised collateral on a loan from Broward Federal Savings to Jeb Bush. I guess we can agree on one thing: Dwarfs rarely get the opportunity to reach that high.

Y'know, as you age you're supposed to gain some sort of perspective. That's really the only good reason to do it. So it's interesting to hear Democrats lectured about remaining in the past when it comes from someone who's still running against Reagan in the hopes of electing a Reagan with a D after his name. This was the corker:
Post-Bush Syndrome could easily turn the 2008 contest into a debate about "What did you do in the Iraq War, Daddy?" As Tom Friedman points out, Democrats are still debating the 1993 vote on NAFTA vote. That means some in the party may still be arguing about the 2002 Iraq vote during the primaries in 2016.

Okay, saying "as Tom Friedman points out" is now grounds for commitment in six states, but beyond that, What party do you work for, again? Republicans are still arguing about Brown. They're still finding Commies under every bed. They're peddling theological nonsense that was rejected in the 19th Century, and they're holding up Cornelius Vanderbilt as a paragon of capitalist virtue. 2002 looks like the future from there. And changing your lies about your real values every few years does not qualify as coming up with new ideas. Now if you'll excuse me, the History of Concrete is on.

* Again, I'm not a Democrat. It's just my default setting.


Anonymous said...

I dunno why the rest of us dick around with political analysis, Riley. You've got it covered more than ably.

eRobin said...

I'm with you, d. This just made me want to pack up the keyboard:

I guess we can agree on one thing: Dwarfs rarely get the opportunity to reach that high.