Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers.
August 28, 2007
In “generic polls,” the Democratic Party enjoys a commanding lead over
Small wonder. After six years of uncritically repeating the Bushevik
lies, the mainstream news media is losing its credibility, as it is
losing its audience. At last, Bushenomics is beginning to weigh heavily
upon the 95-plus percent of the population that are its victims. The
median family income is in its fifth year of retreat, millions of homes
are being foreclosed, forty million of our citizens are without health
care, and millions more are one serious family illness away from
financial ruin. Meanwhile, the GOP Congress, (with the shameful support
of many Democrats), has removed personal bankruptcy protection.
The public is awakening to the fact that the Iraq war is a catastrophe,
launched and sustained by Bush’s and Cheney’s lies. That same public, a
majority of which once bought the Bushevik lies that Saddam was involved
in the 9/11 attacks and had huge stocks of WMD’s, is now solidly opposed
to the Iraq war.
The conspiracy of silence regarding the theft of the last two
presidential elections – a conspiracy sustained by the mainstream media,
law enforcement, and even the victimized Democratic Party – is beginning
And so, among the Democrats and their supporters, and even in the media,
there is less talk of “if” the Democrats win the next election, and more
talk of “when” they win. Confidence is breaking out among the
progressives, followed by its bastard child, complacency, as a
Democratic sweep in 2008 appears to be inevitable.
And it would be, if the usual twentieth century rules applied: honest
and verifiable elections, a diverse and vigilant media, constitutional
guarantees intact, and each contending party willing and prepared to
concede defeat in the national election.
Under those conditions, my rough and intuitive guess would be that the
Democrats would have a 90% chance of retaking the White House and
gaining formidable majorities in both houses of Congress.
But twentieth century conditions do not apply. Because they don’t, and
because the Democrats refuse to recognize and adapt to this fact,
choosing instead to play by the old, non-operative rules, the next
President will likely be a Republican. If the Democrats persist in their
folly, I’d set the odds of another Republican in the White House at
about four-to-one. As for the Congress, it could go either way, but
whichever party wins, the majorities will be close. And, as the current
Democratic Congress is making all too clear today, if the Democrats
maintain control of Congress, this should be of little consequence to
the succeeding GOP “unitary executive.” Acts of Congress deemed
inconvenient to the President will either be vetoed, or, failing that,
nullified by “signing statements,” and laws that the President cannot
persuade the Congress to pass will be issued as Executive Orders.
Just as they are today.
For if the Democratic Congress refuses now to act to reclaim its
Constitutionally separate powers, what reason is there to believe that
it will do so if the next President is a Republican?
The Republican advantages are well-known. The GOP will
draw upon a bottomless well of corporate financial support that will
fund a well-oiled and proven propaganda machine, aided by a compliant
corporate media. The campaign will, as before, be carried out without
any scruple whatever regarding truth or fairness. Witness the successful
smears of Al Gore (“inventing the internet” and “serial liar”) and John
Kerry (“Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”).
The nationwide GOP disenfranchisement campaign continues, despite its
recent under-reported disclosure in the media, and the obstructed
attempts of the Congressional committees to investigate. Absent
determined counter-measures, millions of Democratic voters – blacks,
Hispanics, and poor whites – will lose their voting rights in the 2008
election. Who or what it to prevent this? The US Department of Justice?
Fagetaboutit! The DOJ, we have learned, is not the
protector of citizen voting rights; it is an accomplice to their denial.
Despite the accumulating evidence of GOP election fraud in the preceding
four national elections, and the determined resistance of a few state
officials such as California's Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, most of
the paperless, non-verifiable touch-screen voting machines (manufactured
and secretly coded by Republican companies) will be in place in the
voting precincts throughout the nation in November, 2008.
The Democratic opportunities are obvious, and neglected.
As noted at the outset, a war gone wrong and an economy turning sour are
improving the prospects of the Democrats. And hard truths are finally
outlasting the recorded and remembered Bushevik lies, to the advantage
of the Democrats – “a reality-based community.” Amazingly, despite a
relentless, two decade media barrage, and a lurch to the right by the
Democratic Party, the American public remains progressive.
As Eric Alterman reports, “the majority of Americans have actually
moved slightly leftward – leaving the center of gravity of the political
system [i.e., the major parties] well to the right of the public on
issue after issue.”
While vote suppression efforts of the GOP are unlikely to be curtailed
by George Bush's Department of Justice, the administration of elections
is primarily a state and local responsibility, and thus there is hope
for remedy and even prosecution at these levels of government. With the
public and local law enforcement alerted, the GOP might be somewhat less
inclined to finagle the election returns.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Democratic
campaign strategy of the past few elections could scarcely have been
more damaging if Karl Rove himself had designed it to assure Republican
success. There is little evidence so far that the party intends to
depart from this proven path of failure. For example:
The Congressional Democrats, even in the majority, are portraying
themselves as undisciplined, uncoordinated, intimidated wimps. They are
defensive, groggy, and seem to have no identifiably independent policy
agenda. Elected with a mandate to end the war in Iraq, they have voted
to fund it; elected with a mandate to defend the Constitution, as
stipulated by their oaths of office, they have failed in seven months
even to restore habeas corpus. Small wonder that public approval
of the Congress is well below that of the woefully unpopular President.
Meanwhile, the announced Democratic candidates campaign and
debate as if they are more concerned about offending the GOP base and
corporate contributors than they are about energizing the majority of
voters eager for a radical change in foreign and economic policy, and
for a restoration of the United States Constitution.
Strategy as if winning mattered. The Democrats have the
resources to win in 2008, and to win big. But only if they scrupulously
obey The First Rule of Holes: "If you find yourself in a hole,
So here is this disillusioned Democrat’s plea to his wayward party:
Up! Take Stock! Find new campaign managers and fire or retire
the proven losers. Learn from past mistakes and vow not to repeat them.
Learn from the successes of the opposition, and adapt them, not
slavishly, but creatively. Apply “political judo:” identify the
strengths of the opposition, and use them to advantage. Find and employ
some political geniuses, with the imagination and aggressiveness of Karl
Rove, but without his ruthlessness. Take the offensive, and never yield
“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to
the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and
we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must
think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we
shall save our country.” (Abraham Lincoln)
Invest in the media. The GOP and its corporate supporters
appreciate full-well the importance of the media, and thus their
promotion of right-wing talk and “faux news” has produced lavish
dividends. In contrast, Air America Radio, rescued at the last minute by
the Green brothers, is still on life support. The McClatchy Newspapers
(and its predecessor Knight-Ridder), the only nation-wide print news
media to reliably publish accurate and critical reporting prior to and
following the Iraq war and occupation, still has no media presence in
Washington or New York. Why is this? Small independent progressive
magazines such as The Nation, The American Prospect, and The
Progressive, have been hit hard by the newly increased and
discriminatory postal rates. And the progressive internet websites,
Samizdat,” are starving for financial support. What must it take to
get the Democratic Party establishment to appreciate that without
messengers, there is no message?
Answer the GOP lies immediately and decisively.
This, I believe,
was James Carville’s advice in 1992, disastrously ignored by John Kerry
in 2004. Kerry and his managers seemed to assume that the swift-boat
smear was just too dastardly to dignify with a reply, and that by
ignoring it, the smear would “just go away.” They overlooked a
fundamental rule of campaigning: “an accusation unanswered, is an
accusation confirmed.” John Kerry had the witnesses and the documents of
the Navy Department to decisively refute the smears. Had his campaign
responded immediately and massively, the “swift boat veterans” would
have been blown out of the water.
Redouble registration efforts – with an army of lawyers at the ready.
The Democrats begin the 2008 campaign at a huge disadvantage: millions
of votes intended for their candidates may not be counted due to the
disenfranchisement campaign designed by Karl Rove and implemented by the
departing Alberto Gonzales and his obedient US attorneys. Patrick Leahy
and the Senate Judiciary Committee must pursue their investigations
relentlessly and thoroughly. Meanwhile, registration campaigns must be
carried out nationwide at the state and local level. Prosecution of
illegal “cagings” must be carried out.
Pay attention to the marginalized experts.
Lakoff has wisely warned against accepting the conceptual “frames”
of the Republicans. Yet the Democrats still fall into the GOP traps by
using such terms as “tax relief,” and “war on terror.” Newt Gingrich and
Frank Luntz have openly and brazenly enlisted the English language as a
Geoffrey Nunberg has skillfully exposed these shenanigans and
proposed a counter attack. Have the Democratic Party poobahs paid any
attention? Not that I have noticed. And Emory University psychologist,
Drew Weston counsels the Democrats to deal with the voters’ “gut”
feelings and to display more passion. While his book, The political
brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation has
drawn some attention among party bigwigs, it remains to be seen if it
will have a lasting result. These are some of the many politically
provocative ideas proposed by the Democrats’ intelligencia. They
should be studied and implemented. If they are not, and if Bob Shrum is
re-appointed as a senior campaign advisor, it might be a good idea to
check out some property in Belize.
The old maps do not apply.
Worse still, these false maps are
supplied by the GOP. Old labels have lost their meaning. Self-described
“conservatives” aren’t. Trashing the Constitution and throwing
out proven institutions is not “conservative,” it is regressive –
and should be referred to as such. The American public, by and large,
endorses the liberal agenda, and yet, due to the relentless attacks by
the regressive screech-merchants, the public rejects the word “liberal.”
No matter. Drop the word “liberal” like a soiled garment, and label the
agenda “progressive.” The public, remember, endorses that agenda,
whatever the label. Similarly, “right” and “left” have been so abused
that they have lost all meaning. As has the term, “political center,”
which leads to our final point.
Reject the Myth of the Essential Center. One of the fundamental
dogmas of the “GOP-lite” Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is that the
election must be won by appealing to the political “center” – the
presumed mass of independent voters “between” the Republican-Right and
the Democratic-Left. The Progressives, they further argue, can be taken
for granted, since they “have nowhere else to go.”
For much of the twentieth century, this dogma was generally true. It was
arguably the key to Bill Clinton’s success in 1992. (But this was an
atypical contest, due to the independent candidacy of Ross Perot,
without whom Clinton might well have lost).
However, the dogma of “the essential center”
is no longer true. The Democratic and Republican party have moved so
close together and to the “right” that few “center” voters remain to be
won. In fact, the major parties have moved so far to the right, that the
vast majority of “essential” independents are to the “left” of both
parties. For example: while two-thirds of the public wants the US to
leave Iraq, the congressional Democrats vote funds to continue the war.
And while over half of the public wants Cheney impeached, and almost
half wants Bush impeached, the House Democrats refuse to put impeachment
“on the table.” The dismal polling numbers for the Democratic Congress
are the result not of a failure of the Democrats to please the alleged
“center,” but for their failure to respond to the mandates of the
progressive majorities that elected them in 2006.
If the DLC and Beltway Democrats persist in their pursuit of the
“centrist” votes, the voters on “the left” who sent the Democrats to
Congress may decide that voting Democratic is futile and either stay at
home in 2008 or defect to a minor party.
And who can blame them?
“Hail to the (Republican) Chief!”
Because the “essential voters” are the progressives, the Democrats must
immediately abandon their “me too, but smarter” appeal to (non-existent)
“moderate” Republicans and centrist independents. Instead, they must
boldly proclaim their differences with the discredited Republicans, and
present an unashamed progressive program: tax reform and economic
justice, job creation, campaign finance reform, balanced federal
budgets, environmental protection, universal health care, enhanced
support of public education, renewed investment in scientific research
and technological development, a global effort to develop clean energy
and to combat global climate change, abandonment of imperialism and a
restoration of international law and cooperation, and a restoration of
Constitutional rights and liberties.
And more... I am, most assuredly, not one of those
“political geniuses” in short supply and urgently needed by the
Democrats. If such geniuses are located, enlisted and put to work by the
Democrats, they will surely come up with more and better ideas.
But above all, this much is certain: the current road leads to a
probable defeat. It is therefore essential that the Democrats pause,
take stock, throw away the old maps, and then proceed in a new
Copyright 2007 by Ernest Partridge