May 24, 2007 - May 17, 2007
There's a nice little article in The Hill today about Rahm
Emanuel, the upcoming congressional election campaign, and Howard
Dean's strategy for the party as a whole. Despite some differing views,
both Emanuel and Dean sound optimistic:
Dean makes some interesting word choices here. All that talk about
feathers. Four mentions by my count. Maybe I shouldn't be reminded of this, but I am. And
shouldn't he be a little careful about discussing sclerosis when some of the party's
draft horses are Teddy Kennedy, 74, Robert Byrd, 89, Harry Reid, 67,
and John Murtha, 74? Right now, it's Murtha who's carrying the banner
for the whole party on opposing Bush's policy in Iraq. Everybody else
is diddling around with phantom dates for future withdrawal, while
Murtha is proposing real changes, as he did last week on Meet the Press:
Lots of right-wing bloggers have been criticizing Murtha for these
remarks, but I have to admit I think they're kind of brilliant. Change
of direction is precisely what the Democrats are about, what they are
counting on to sweep the country in the fall. And I think Howard Dean
had better reconsider his desire for "younger members," because
he really needs the older
members to lead the preferred change of direction, which is headlong
into the past.
In every possible policy area, the unifying principle of the Democrats is nostalgia. Not nostalgia for any one time, mind you, but for a whole range of eras when Democrats were in charge and had ideas of some kind about what to do. Murtha's MTP transcript suggests he's nostalgic for the good old days of post-Vietnam, post-Cold War foreign policy, when any sort of military setback could be immediately solved by unconditional surrender in the field. If only we could go back to the halcyon Clinton years when it was possible to ignore a half dozen terror attacks on the U.S. and its people, assets, and possessions....
Many pundits have oversimplified this kind of Democrat yearning, associating it only with a desire to return to September 10, 2001, but that's not really an adequate explanation. Al Gore, for example, is presently trying to revive his corpse of a political career because he wants to go back to November 2000, when for a few heady weeks he thought the ruthless Clinton political machine could steal an electoral victory for him in Florida. Hillary is looking even farther back. She wants to go back to the national mindset of her husband's first 100 days in office in 1993, when there was an honest-to-goodness chance of selling the American people on a socialized healthcare approach that hadn't worked anywhere in the world, but she dropped the ball then and is desperate for another chance at it because she thinks she knows just how to do it now.
Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, John Dingel, and dozens of other Democrat senators and congressmen want to turn the clock even farther back, to 1974, when the party that controlled both houses of Congress and all the mainstream media managed to drive a Republican president out of office in disgrace. They know they could do it again now if they could just stamp out talk radio and the blogosphere -- and muster a few more votes the old-fashioned way, by writing their own corrupt gerrymanders.
John Kerry has never really left the year 1971, the one moment in his life when he was able to convince himself that he was somehow acting on principle in smearing his fellow combat veterans and hastening the military defeat of his nation in the Vietnam War. If he could go back and just make a few small changes in his conduct then, he's sure that he could have gone on to the presidency.
Teddy Kennedy wants it to be the early sixties again, when his brother was admired like a movie star and the government was gathering up the resources and momentum that empowered Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, MediCare, MedicAid, and hundreds of other ineffective progams that would make it permanently impossible to control the federal budget.
The Congressional Black Caucus wants to go all the way back to the mid-1960s, when their complaints about racism and discrimination evinced real moral authority, not disgraceful whining about racial inequities that are now more their fault than anybody else's.
Pick your Democrat. The future is a closed book to them. They're all aimed squarely at different points in the past. The broken records who can't stop recounting votes from 2000 and 2004, refighting the debates that led to the Iraq War, or resenting their own shameful role in defending the presidency of an amoral lout who lost them control of Congress. The apologists for Stalin, Hiss, and the Rosenbergs who believe, regardless of all the evidence, that Karl Marx was onto something with his hatred of God and capitalism. The New Deal dinosaurs who still think the education crisis can be fixed by pouring more billions down the rathole of the public school system, who still wish FDR had gotten away with packing the Supreme Court so that the traditional foundations of the Constitution could have been done away with in one fell swoop, and who still believe government legislation could cure every ill if only they could raise taxes high enough.
Nostalgia can be fun, and more than that, it can be comforting in times of turmoil, change, and confrontation. Maybe the American people are ready to jump on the Democrat bandwagon this fall. That's their choice. Dean and company certainly hope so. But I hope they understand the real direction they would be choosing -- and recognize just who it is that's really the reactionary force in contemporary American politics.