Monday, October 29, 2007

Are the Dems Listening?

Reading Frank Rich’s October 28 Sunday New York Times column brought to mind those bumper stickers from the 1980s proclaiming, “The Moral Majority is Neither!” reflecting a largely unsuccessful attempt by some on the left to redirect Washington politics. This wasn’t just empty sloganeering at the time: Yesterday’s evangelicals were just as hypocritical as today’s, and many of the numbers for the so-called movement were Potemkin villages constructed to preoccupy the media, which continues to want to be hoodwinked, as Rich points out in an astute accounting for the surprising strength of the Giuliani campaign. Rich argues that “the most obvious explanation” for Giuliani’s success

is the one that Washington resists because it contradicts the city’s long-running story line. Namely, that the political clout ritualistically ascribed to Mr. Perkins, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Gary Bauer of American Values and their ilk is a sham.

These self-promoting values hacks don’t speak for the American mainstream. They don’t speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves.

The kicker is that Rich cites a poll showing that “Like most other Americans, [evangelicals] are more interested in hearing from presidential candidates about the war in Iraq and health care than about any other issues.]

In the meantime the Democratic frontrunners have been tripping over themselves to proclaim the importance of their religious values. Why, one wonders, aren’t they listening?

Perhaps we need to face the fact that, for the most part, our Democratic Party leadership is like the ship’s captain who needs only to hear a bump against the hull to claim he’s struck an iceberg and that emergency measures are needed to save the ship. We (and I mean myself, too!) have got to ask ourselves why we spend so much time trying to keep our guys from throwing our precious goods, and so many of our fellow crewmembers, overboard, with the justification that some sacrifices will have to be made if we’re going to bring this ship into harbor.

Have we ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe they’ve got no intention of going where we want to go anyway? What if we look at all the things they’re saying and doing now not just as the things they have to say in order to get elected but as things they really want to do? They want religion to play a role in public life. They want to protect corporate profits. They want to chip away at Great Society Reforms rather than build on them. To take one example, Grover Norquist and the Republicans have admitted publicly many a time that their assault on Social Security has nothing to do with the alleged impending insolvency of the system and everything to do with ideology. Norquist believes that without Social Security people “are more likely to be available to the Republican Party." Thankfully, both Obama and Clinton oppose privatization, but both acquiesce in the Far Right fiction that the problem somehow lies within the Social Security system in the first place.

I’m going to assume that the Presidential candidate whose views track most closely to most people reading this blog is Dennis Kucinich. I’m also going to assume that like me, everyone reading this blog knows that Kucinich has got as much chance of winning a primary as the Kyoto Protocols had of becoming national policy in the Bush Administration. So most of us are going to vote for a Hillary and Obama or an Edwards, all of whom are going to spend a lot of time on the stump distancing themselves from, say, single-payer, not-for-profit universal healthcare. Nonetheless, we’ll vote for one of them knowing that Kucinich can’t win because people think he’s a low-charisma dweeb, and we'll lament that if only an Obama or a Hillary would embrace slightly more progressive policies, we might be able to get something through. But at the end of the day this turns out to be a dodge that prevents us ever from putting single-payer healthcare or universal higher education into play for serious discussion because our candidates will have won precisely by disparaging the very things that will make all of the difference.

So am I saying we should vote for Kucinich, at least as a way to try to get the attention of the frontrunners? Well, alas, no, because they aren’t listening anyway. What I am saying is that we’ve got to talk seriously about how to change the game so that we don’t have to ante up by giving up our central issues. Hey, if the Republicans were able to put up the beady-eyed moron currently occupying the White House, our problem is not candidate electability but something more fundamental.


red rabbit said...

Somehow, the electability rules that applied (or didn't apply) to president Codpiece just don't hold true for the Dems, who don't have the same reach into, or power over, the mainstream media.

And Kucinich has always been questionable to me. His reproductive rights voting record is troubling. He got a 95-percent position rating from the National Right to Life Committee and 10-percent from Planned Parenthood.

The key would be to hash out changing the game between elections, not when the nominees are set and our choice is between evil and less evil. I still think there is too much at stake to be noble in the voting booth. The last 7 years have illustrated that.

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten about Kucinich's reproductive rights voting record, which is troubling. But let's face it, Kucinich is not running a hopeless campaign because his record on reproductive rights is suspect. He's losing because, as you say, we're pretty sure our side can't sell such an uncharismatic candidate. And as much as I want to agree that that in theory changing the game between the elections and not when the nominees are set is the best strategy, in practice it hasn't worked that way. Look back at what happened after the last electoral loss/theft: no real acknowledgment that our compromise-guy Kerry wasn't what we really wanted but a lot of ink wasted on why we didn't win with our "lesser evil" guy, which has turned into a discussion of how we might win next year with another lesser evil. By the way Daily Kos,
Gays, social security, and the loss of a real choice this primary is singing in harmony on this.