James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Democrats could win, if they quit cowering

Democrats in Washington – party officials and what's left of the office holders – continue to shake their fingers at liberals and preach that we must be “moderate,” which means, as far as I can tell, that we should accept Republican policies but modify them a mite once we've gained control of Congress. Like that's ever going to happen if things go on as they are.

Unfortunately, the fear of liberalism extends to many local activists all over the country, including some whose personal proclivities are genuinely liberal.

The population generally is conservative, the argument goes, and we have play to that if we want to win elections. Any hint of “radicalism” will drive the voters into the arms of the Republicans. We need to embrace ultra conservatives like Joe Lieberman and unprincipled opportunists such as Hillary Clinton because they can win, we are told.

That is – to be more polite than I am naturally inclined to be – absolute and irredeemable hogwash.

You need only look at nationwide election results over the past couple of decades to see the foolishness of such hunker-down advice. Does anyone actually believe that “this time it will be different” if the Democrats run Clinton or some other phony who has no moral center?

We've been hearing the same thing from the same people for at least 20 years and look where we are:

The presidency and Congress are controlled by right wing extremists. Our electoral system has been so perverted that it is only realistic to expect that in any Congressional election year some major elections will be stolen by those with the most money. Billionaire corporate executives are giving the orders in dismantling the social contract and the Constitution, and people are dying by the thousands in an illegal and stupid war that cannot be “won.” We are “fighting terror” by pursuing policies that have fostered a huge growth in terrorism around the world. The earth and its atmosphere are being destroyed at a terrifying rate. And we have a so-called mainstream news media that is essentially a propaganda machine for the people who already have all the power.

Every so often in various therapeutic communities such as Alcoholics Anonymous, someone with an exceptional memory rattles off this string of letters: IYADWYAD, YAGWYAG.

That means: If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got.

The people who are telling us to set aside liberalism and vote – again, and yet again – for people who have no guts, who stand up for no principles and who have nothing real to say to the American public, need to read that sentence over a dozen times or a hundred times or a thousand times, until they understand it.

Having cost us election after election, they want us to go on doing what we've been doing, and that guarantees that the extreme right will strengthen its grip on the country.

Read and listen to what's being said, and the truth of the situation is fairly easy to grasp.

A majority of national-level Democratic politicians, especially the long-time office holders and party hacks, are so frightened that they can neither think nor function. They grew up in a system that worked for them for many years, and it is the only way they know how to operate: You cozy up to the people with money, and you give them most of what they want in exchange for campaign funds. Sometimes you can do some things for your constituents if those things don't stomp too hard on the toes of the people who paid for your campaigns.

The mantra, repeated endlessly and with increasing desperation by such people these days, is “Politics is first about winning elections.”

On its face, the statement is true, but it is being used in an untruthful way, to mask the fact that the pols are petrified by fear and confusion.

In their panic, many Democrat office holders and their hangers on cannot face the simple fact that the big-money folks no longer have any use for them. The billionaires bought the presidency and a right-wing Congress and they don't need weak-kneed Democrats any more.

Those Democratic politicians and a lot of grass roots liberals also have been conned into believing that a liberal message will not sell to the masses. This is a conservative country, says the myth, and you have to cater to those who believe George Bush makes us safe; you have to placate those who think abortion and gay marriage are the key issues of the day. Concerns as torture of prisoners, illegal imprisonment, personal privacy and rule of law are of little or no interest to most of the public says the myth.

Again, to use the most polite word I can muster, hogwash. Big time.

People who believe that recitation of supposed woes aren't paying attention to what the people of this country are saying to each other. They're listening only to the distortions of the commentators, who are even more out of touch than the politicians, and to the phony formulations of an incompetent press.

Get out in the street, people, and into the bars and coffee shops and stores. Look at the comic pages, not just the editorial pages, of your local newspaper.

Sure you'll hear some nasty right-wing comments, and shots about “communists” aimed at everybody to the left of Karl Rove. But far more often you'll hear the angry little jokes about the crooks in the White House, and the torturers, and the stupidity of the guy with the title of president, and the paranoia of the Vice President, and the bungling of the hurricane recovery and on and on. And you'll hear a lot of snorts of bitter laughter.

Traditionally non-political standup comics, the authors of hitherto entirely non-political newspaper comic strips, all sorts of people are daily taking angry little shots at the Bush crowd and the nasties who rule Congress, and their auditors increasingly agree with those impromptu criticisms. Listen to the applause.

Yeah, the Democrats are taking knocks, too, but for weakness, not liberalism. People are angry at the Democrats these days largely for their failure to take firm positions and articulate what a majority of Americans already know. And those who don't know exactly what's wrong are terribly aware that the country is sagging; they're waiting for someone to tell them the truth and suggest some workable solutions.

The public, you see, is once again way ahead of the politicians and many others whose lives are so immersed in politics that they can't see the real world.

The public knows now that the Bush crowd is incompetent in virtually everything it does or tries to do. A majority knows that the Iraq war is a disaster and that thousands are dying and being maimed for no good reason – that even the claim of providing Iraq with security and democracy is a horrible joke. It knows that torture and illegal imprisonment are not right. It knows that the upper echelons of the Republican leadership is arrogantly crooked. It knows that its schools are being gutted, that college is increasingly out of reach of its youth, that health care is quickly becoming a service available only to the affluent, that the very rich are getting every richer and more powerful while the livelihoods of people who work for a living are increasingly inadequate and endangered. The public knows that secure retirement is rapidly disappearing and who is responsible for that fact. A great many know that the scientists are right and that to continue our present abuse of the environment will bring disaster upon us.

Americans understand a great many things that Democratic office holders and party stalwarts are not giving them credit for knowing.

America's news media talk daily about “the extremist wings” of both parties.

That came about for two reasons: The powerful Republican propaganda machine pushed and still pushes the myth of the “extreme left of the Democrats” very hard. Lordy, they're even calling Hillary an “extreme leftist.”

And the ill-trained, badly educated staffs of today's press are suckers for “balance,” even and sometimes especially where it does not exist. If they correctly identify some nutter such as James Dobson or Paul Wolfowitz as being on the extreme right, then they feel the must, for the sake of that fictional balance, name somebody as being on the extreme left. Any liberal will do. The Jack Abramoff scandal is a Republican scandal all the way, but many reporters and columnists try to present it as a scandal involving both major parties.

My wanderings, the listening and questioning, have led me to the certainty that the general public isn't buying that crap.

Oh, some are, but not most.

For one thing, the right has gone too far in playing the “lefty” name-calling game. When they charge that Pennsylvania's John Murtha, a war hero, is a coward and a leftist for turning against the Iraq war, they have lost credibility that they aren't going to get back.

Here's the other side of reality, however:

The Republicans are going to win anyway unless the Democrats make some major changes.

That's because the American public generally will vote for a known crook, no matter how stupid, arrogant and rotten, rather than elect someone with no spine. We don't like wimps, and we prefer scoundrels to cowards.

One thing that the press has gotten right over the past several years: The Democrats, or at least most of the Democratic leadership, doesn't stand for a damned thing.

Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and all the rest of the spineless figures who obviously will take whatever stance they think will win an election will not sell to the American public. There are pockets where they can get a majority, but the wider public isn't that particular brand of stupid.

Find articulate candidates with the simple fortitude to call the liars liars and name the crooks as crooks and liberals can win. Find candidates who will speak the truths that the public already knows -- about education, health care, retirement plans, giveaways to the rich, the theft of the public's money by the president's cronies -- and you will win handily.

But we have to have the boldness to get rid of the gutless dodgers at the top of the Democratic Party. We have to have the nerve to dump office holders who don't fight hard for what is right.

One more compaign in which the Democrats offer jelly fish to oppose the sharks of the right, and the game will be permanently lost.