The Political Werewolf
If you know me, then you know I'm a big political nut. So, I've decided to add my own personal flavor to the realm of political discussion. We'll be talking about various issues - some of them having to do with current events, others perhaps more on a philosophical level. But in any case, you're free to respond to whatever you read here, either by E-mail or on the message board.
All righty, here we go.
With a capial T, and rhymes with D and that stands for Democrats
If I were a Democrat right now, I'd be really worried about my party's prospects within the next few years.
The 2002 midterm election was quite the turning point for the political climate in this country. History sided with the Dems - for almost 100 years the party out of the White House made gains in the offyear races. This was a golden opportunity for the Democrats to gain ground in the House and retake the Senate outright in a legitimate fashion (instead of coaxing a member of the Republican party to jump ship like what happened with Jim Jeffords). Republicans had to win 20 of the 34 Senatorial races just to break even. The left, reportedly sizzling with anger over how Bush "stole" the election in 2000, were supposed to make their presence known and browbeat the President into recapitulation.
But despite all of these elements working in their favor, the Democratic party completely botched it. Nearly every close race in the Senate swung to the right. States where Bill Clinton helped campaign saw their candidates face double-digit losses. The Republican Party made historic gains, and for the first time in decades, the GOP had the Triple Crown: White House, House of Representatives, and Senate. To say that the Dems got their asses kicked would not just be a horrific pun - it would be an understatement.
Oddly enough, they still had one last opportunity to right the ship in the wake of the results. They could've taken a good, hard look at themselves, realized why they lost and made corrections. But once again, they dropped the ball. The one man who did the best job of trying to save the party's skin - Dick Gephardt - got the boot from his House Minority Leader position, and the two people who were primarily responsible for the party's submarining - Tom Daschle and Terry McAuliffe - inexplicably hung on to their leadership positions. They decided that they didn't get their message across, when in truth it was coming in loud and clear. Rather than check their radical agendas at the door and begin to cooperate with the party now in power, they got more shrill and extreme.
I predicted that if the Republicans were able to hold their ground in '02, the Democratic party would begin to implode. Little did I know just how true this prediction would become.
There are a few things you need to realize when you're dealing with the Democrats now. First of all, the numbers are stacked against them for at least the next four years. Like I said above, last year's midterm saw the GOP need to win 60% of its Senate races just to keep pace. The next two elections, the Democrats will be the ones with more incumbents in jeopardy. In 2004, the Democrats will be defending 18 out of 33 seats up for grabs, and in '06 they have another 18 (counting Jeffords) out of 34. Meanwhile, the presidental hopefuls - all nine of them - trail way behind Bush in every poll out there. In fact, the supposed frontrunner of the Dems, John F. Kerry, trails Bush by 6 points - in his own state.
Of course, you could come back and argue that Bush 41 was sitting just as pretty as Bush 43 is right now this far away from their respective elections and he wound up getting knocked off, but there are some differences between '92 and now. For one thing, 41 tried to coast on his victory in Iraq, letting the economy slide into recession. 43 is now doing his best to bolster the economy with a $350B tax cut. 41 was up against a charismatic candidate who had a knack for appearing moderate. With the possible exception of Al Sharpton - who doesn't have a snowball's chance in Tempe of winning anyway - the other eight Democratic wannabes have no semblance of centrism and the personality of a hockey puck. And most importantly, 41 had Ross Perot sucking up the angry conservative vote. The Republican party is quite unified right now, and no third-party candidate is going to absorb a significant portion of 43's base.
Now we're done explaining why the odds are so steep for the Democrats; it's time to look at why they've gotten themselves in this mess in the first place. The answer is threefold: first, the Democratic party hasn't had an original idea in over 20 years. Every time you hear them, they threaten the same things: the GOP is going to destroy the economy, bankrupt Social Security, make paper dolls out of the Constitution, ruin the environment, and bring western civilization to its collapse. After a while, these threats start to lose their potency, particularly when you've had essentially a Republican government for the last 6 to 9 months and none of these nightmares are coming true. People begin to notice that Republicans aren't the evil demons they're made out to be, and start to distrust the naysayers.
Secondly - and this is important because this was their main mistake after the '02 midterms - the Democrats have voluntarily painted themselves as the anti-Republican party, even though all conventional wisdom suggests they ride some coattails and try to pick up some of the credit for the things that are getting done. When Gephardt was replaced by Nancy Pelosi, the party went even further to the left than they already were. They thought somehow that they didn't get their message out, but in actuality they got it out all too well, and the people didn't like what they were saying. The American public saw the shenanigans in New Jersey - reminiscent of the Florida debacle where liberal judges threw out laws that were already in the books - and the political rally masquerading for a memorial in Minnesota, and while it may or may not have affected the results in their pertinent areas, it certainly raised a lot of eyebrows across the country, nudging many voters who may have been on the fence over to the Republican side. Given the success of the war in Iraq and the acceptance of Bush's tax cuts, they might not come back for a long while.
But the most important flaw in the Democrats' strategy is that they've essentially become an anti-American party. Now, I can just see the Dems reading this going into seizures, but hear me out. In the war on terror, they've positioned themselves where they constantly bash the president for not seeking out Al Qaeda, rather than praising him for the progress he's made thus far. They predicted the war in Iraq to be a collosal failure, believing we'd sustain massive casualties if we went in. They continually warned that the tax cuts would obliterate the economy and throw the federal budget into a deficit, even though history has shown that the opposite is true in both cases. In all of these situations, the only way the Democrats can make political gains is if they're right and these premonitions come true. But if they do come true, the country would be a lot worse off. Essentially, the only way the Democrats can gain any ground is if there's another terrorist attack on our soil or the economy slides downhill again. If we continue to succeed against terror and the tax cuts work, they're in even worse shape than they started. I don't care which party you belong to - rooting for things to get worse is not the way to make any headway.
I think it's safe to say that the Republican party is here to stay for at least another six years. And if Hillary runs for president, you can make it eight.
Previous columns:5/26/03: Where's the Harm?
5/12/03: The Ten Questions a Liberal Will Never Answer
5/5/03: Let The Fun Begin
4/21/03: It's My Money, Not TheIRS
4/14/03: Bush Won - Get Over It
4/7/03: Conservative Business 101
3/31/03: I'm a Celebrity - No War in Iraq!
3/24/03: Patriotism vs. Nationalism