Us Begin Anew
November 11, 2002
By Bob Volpitto
let me confess that back in August I wrote a piece, never
filed for posting on the Internet, explaining why the party
of Jefferson, Jackson, Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy,
Johnson, Carter and Clinton would fail on November 5, 2002.
In retrospect, I wish I had posted that warning, a red flag
that might have served to awaken those who held our fate in
their hands. Alas, the day has come and past and we who knew
the foreboding events leading toward future defeat best be
Thus began a series of errors I now regret.
Unlike professional Democratic Party leaders, I and many
others railed against George W. Bush, his administration,
Congressional Republicans, the Supreme Court and giant corporations
that bought them. Like many amateur politicians, I figured
that damning with not even the slightest praise would suffice.
This alone would awaken the American electorate to the vile
opposition we faced and their selfish motives — I, nay, all
of us, were gravely in error.
The strategy of the Democratic leadership was analogous to
a football game where one coach says to the other, "We'll
give you the ball for the full 60 minutes of play, making
you the offensive team. In turn, we will be the defensive
team. Our objective is to keep you from scoring. That way
we'll win." Make sense? Hardly.
There are other ways to explain our party's blunders. I recently
read that if you sleep with dogs you're bound to get fleas.
Another remark I read is if you try to walk down the middle
of the road you are bound to get run over. These are hard
learned lessons. My personal analysis is less kind and more
direct. Too many Democrats in Congress waited until Bush dropped
his pants and fell all over each other to be first in line
to kiss his butt. Get the picture?
Looking back, we now understand it is a far better tactic
to be more positive and less negative. We failed to understand
that the phrase "loyal opposition" is two words. Yes, we must
oppose policies we deem harmful to the people but remain loyal
to the country we love and the people we want to serve by
offering counter proposals that show true compassion to those
who look to us to guide this nation toward greatness. We must
be certain that the government serves the people who support
it not the special interests that try to buy it.
The "Aginner" factor.
The best ten years of my life were spent in West Virginia
where my wife and I owned and published a weekly newspaper.
There we learned to speak "Hillbillyease." One descriptive
statement in that colorful language is, "He's an aginner."
That means he is against everything and everybody.
The "Aginner" factor played only a minor role in national
politics until recent elections. Voters were "agin" Lyndon
Johnson and subsequently Hubert Humphrey in 1968. Thus Richard
Nixon became president. In 1976's Carter-Ford contest, the
electorate voted "agin" Nixon and Ford, electing Carter who
saw the process reverse itself four years later. At one time
George Bush the Elder was 35 percentage points behind Michael
Dukakis but a ruthless negative campaign by Bush turned the
voter "agin" the former Massachusetts governor. To some extent,
the 2000 presidential election hinged on the "Aginner" factor
when citizens cast their ballots not for Bush the Lessor but
against Clinton's successor, Al Gore.
The off year Congressional election came along and the Democratic
leadership counted on the "Aginner" factor to sink Bush and
his hand-picked candidates, but it didn't work — big time.
A hard driven Republican campaign financed with obscene amounts
of money and a single message repeated over and over and over
obliterated the "Aginner" factor. Bush and the Republicans
won regardless of how many despised them and what they stood
for. An unfocused, no-message Democratic campaign lead by
a fragmented disorganized leadership crippled by under-funding
not only drowned out the "Aginner" factor; it turned off the
As it so happened, and we failed to notice, the electorate
of 2002 pleaded silently with Democrats to give them something
to vote for, they already knew what they wanted to vote against.
With no positive agenda given them, Democratic voters either
stayed home or crossed party lines and cast their lot with
the GOP simply because Republicans gave them something to
vote for. Voters saw an end the gridlock in Washington which
was all another two years of divided government offered, Bush
convinced them. Their sorrow will come later.
Let us begin ...
As the Democratic Party struggles to reinvent itself in 2002
I am reminded of the Republican debacle of 1964. That year
Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey soundly defeated the candidacy
of Barry Goldwater and Bill Miller. The word, at least in
West Virginia, was that the GOP as a national party was devastated
beyond revival. No longer, we said, would there be a threat
from Republicans strong enough to capture the Congress or
regain the White House. What a revelation it was four short
years later when once-whipped Richard Nixon was elected president
and we even got a Republican governor in Arch Moore.
So let us begin anew. California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
has been chosen House Minority Leader. At this writing, Tom
Daschle's job as the Senate's leading Democrat is in question.
New leadership will surely replace Terry McAuliffe. To the
winners belong the spoils, to the losers belong the right
of upheaval. Change must come. Let us begin and let us begin
even before the wounds have healed..
Bob Volpitto is a retired newspaper owner/publisher who
lives in the Southwest. Furthermore, he is a liberal Democrat
and damn proud of it.