It took the Republicans about three weeks to make the Democratic politicians in Washington look like confused polled cattle. The ease and frequency with which the Republicans are able to emasculate the Democrats is past all get out.
Once again, there are the D’s out in the pasture with no horns and no balls. They had it done to them two years ago, when they and their candidate, John Kerry, allowed themselves to be ruined by the Swift Boat Veterans nonsense. How in Sam Hill does a national political party which led the United States into four major wars in the last century get itself tabbed again and again by its opponents as the cut-and-run party, the party of woofters, poofters and wankers?
This has been going on since the Civil War, as the Democrats have been successfully and successively defined by the G.O.P. as the Copperhead pro-slavery party, the soft-on-communism party and now the soft-on-national-defense party. What makes Democrats so wussy?
The D’s are the party of snips and snails and puppy-dog tails, the party of leftovers. Historically, the Republicans have been the WASP party, the party with its evangelically tinged Protestant core always wedded, of course, to an expansionist business interest. Thus built from creation, the G.O.P. has been a stable entity since Lincoln’s day regardless of how it may have woven back and forth on topics like big government vs. small government.
The Democrats historically have been the party of what the Republicans couldn’t get or didn’t want. Prior to the 1970’s, for instance, the party did have a big lump of evangelicals, but they were Southerners who were politically marooned by the racial politics born of the Civil War. Once the Republicans traded their black evangelicals for the more numerous white ones in the South, that anomaly disappeared.
For many decades, Catholics stayed away from the Republican Party because it was so deeply and obviously Protestant. Not that many Republicans of an earlier era cared to hobnob with the Poles, Irish, Hungarians and the other beer-swilling, pickle-chomping, pirogi-consuming immigrant Catholic millions. The same for Jews.
Thus, for many decades the Democratic Party was made up of people politically unified by not being Republican. The white Democrats of the South hated high tariffs; the industrial workers of the North felt the same about free trade and so forth.
The party was more of a political confederation, not an organization held together by a common set of beliefs, and its platforms reflected the permanent internal divisions within this organization of perpetual outsiders. What else could one expect from a political body which included the Ku Klux Klan and the very people, Jews and Catholics, that the Klan wished to hang from any convenient tree?
Such a party was a perennial mishmash of compromises, a party whose national electoral victories were dependent on the Republicans screwing up and not on a coherent political program. All the Democratic Presidents since Lincoln owe their election in no small measure to something the Republicans did wrong.
Woodrow Wilson was elected when the G.O.P. split and ran two candidates (Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft). Franklin Roosevelt owed his elevation to the titanic business collapse during the term of Republican businessman Herbert Hoover. Harry Truman won in 1948 after the Republicans nominated an idiot who did victory laps instead of campaigning. John Kennedy won by a whisker because Richard Nixon refused to put pancake makeup over his whiskers and so looked like a thug in the nation’s first Presidential TV debate. Lyndon Johnson won in 1964 when the Republicans put up a man who gave the voters the erroneous impression that he would start nuclear war abroad and race war at home. Jimmy Carter won because of the Republican Watergate debacle, and Bill Clinton got in when the opposition divided its forces and ended up with two candidates, Bush I and Ross Perot.
Hence history has decreed that the Democrats, because of who they are and who they aren’t, have been deprived of a bundled center of belief or a fixed point to steer by. They are forever a congress or confederation of groups that must negotiate out a programmatic hodgepodge that each can live with. But what the mismatched parts which make up the party can live with and what appeals to the rest of the country can be two different things.
This time around, their backing and filling has left them open to getting tabbed as the cut-and-run, powder-puff party that’s never quite for or against the war and the war’s conduct. If the Democrats fail to capitalize on the war issue, it will be an impressive accomplishment.
By Election Day, it will have taken the Bush administration longer to fail to win in Iraq than it took the United States to defeat Adolf Hitler. An overused military is seeing more of its soldiers and marines put on trial for killing Iraqis than Iraqis and/or terrorists have been put on trial for killing Americans. Just lately, the home-front public is learning that some American deaths have come intentionally at the hands of the Iraqi soldiers whom we have armed and trained.
As for Iraq itself, there isn’t a street in the country that an American can walk down without courting death. Thousands of Iraqi professionals, university faculty, engineers, doctors and businessmen quit the country in fear of their lives. Even in Baghdad, the city captured with such trumpeting way back when, the Americans are no longer in control.
If the D’s can’t make political capital out of this, how realistic are their hopes for this November? As things are shaping up, while the Democrats writhe and wriggle trying to get out from under the cut-and-run label, the Republicans will be doing a sneak and run out of Iraq and calling it victory.
Big announcements of troop withdrawals are slated for September, nicely timed for the electoral campaign. The Republicans will soon be telling every voter who listens that the war is all but over and democracy reigns. Mission accomplished.
For those who wonder how such a thing is possible in the light of the facts in Iraq, the facts are always arriving too late. We’ve seen how easy it is to bamboozle when, thanks to how dangerous life is, the real news comes out so slowly and in such dribs and drabs that the White House and the Pentagon can continue to throw out happy-time fabrications and have them accepted.
You would never know that the killings, murders, tortures, bombings and general slaughters have continued as fast or faster and more furiously than ever. You would never know that a third of the country (Kurdistan) is already an independent state and that the bloodbath predicted, should the Americans leave, seems well under way.
With the wee, timorous Democrats being who they are, it is more than possible—even likely—that the Republicans will run on this record and win.