Posted by: Rick | Monday, March 8, 2010

Democrats At The Crossroads

For reasons of ideology and morality, the Republican Party cannot be allowed to regain power.  (Paul Krugman reminds us why here.)  This unfortunate state of affairs will obtain for many years to come.

Paradoxically, however, the fact that Democrats are justifiably terrified of plunging the country into another Republican nightmare makes it more likely that they’ll do so.  Democrats are so obsessed with winning  political battles that they never try to win the ideological war. 

That war was last waged in earnest in 1980.  The Republicans won, and they haven’t given up much ground since.  I’m in the minority who believe that Bill Clinton tried to push back against Reaganism.  (Times were different then.)  In 2000, Al Gore won the election but fell victim to George W. Bush’s loyal retainers on the Supreme Court.  John Kerry refused to defend himself in 2004 — and lost.  Reaganism continued apace.

George W. Bush came to the Democrats’ rescue by presiding over eight years of unblemished Republican failure.  Signs of life began to appear on the Democratic left.  But in the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama — everybody’s darling — made it clear he wanted to make love, not war.  That’s one reason why I didn’t support him.  I thought Hillary Clinton, with her battle scars, had the right stuff to defeat Republicans and to gain ground in the struggle for people’s hearts and minds.

Barack Obama’s strategy of bipartisan governance has proved to be a political disaster.  The voters’ perception of Democrats is blurrier than ever.  Republicans continue to spout their dangerous nonsense with impunity.  Worst of all, most of Obama’s legislation could have been expedited and improved had he taken advantage of his immense post-election popularity to give himself cover as he pivoted to a more confrontational and substantive approach than he had promised during the campaign.  Republicans would have called him a partisan flip-flopper, but so what?  The stench of Bush still clung to them.  (And do you remember Chris Matthews’ quivering pant leg from the campaign?  Well, it was still quivering last January.  Obama worship ruled the media.)

But after the inauguration, instead of Reaganesque leadership, we got presidential diffidence and the attempted mating dance of Max Baucus and Olympia Snowe.  Yuck.

Something needs to change.

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