November 15, 2002
week has passed since the Great Democratic Debacle of 2002,
and, predictably, recriminations, finger-pointing, and demands
for heads have dominated the post- election discourse. There
has also been a healthy dose of self-blame, as many within
the party have diagnosed the problem - postmortem, which is
easier - as a lack of: a) leadership; b) ideas; c) backbone;
or d) all of the above.
While some of what has been said and written is true, not
all of it is - and not much of it does anything to move us
Democrats need to stop crying, toughen up, and most of all
be crystal clear about a few things:
1. The GOP won because in many key races it ran the dirtiest
campaigns imaginable. And they did it with millions of
dollars donated by special interests and corporations with
political and economic agendas that will now be fulfilled,
regardless of the best interest of the country or the majority
of its citizens (no matter who they voted for).
2. GOP candidates and commentators lied and lied and lied
and lied in the campaigns. And then they lied some more.
On everything from the privatization of social security to
a woman's right to choose, Republican candidates from coast
to coast intentionally obscured their positions and deliberately
3. The vast majority of political analysts and commentators
in the media are completely - and I mean completely - chicken.
I'm not talking about overt Republican partisans like Brit
Hume and the rest of the Fox Brigade, or the subterranean
GOP sympathizers like Tim "I made up for failing to sink Hillary
last time by sinking McBride and O'Brien this time" Russert,
or the fantasy-league fascist Wolf Blitzer, or any other Kennebunkport-invitee
I'm talking about the non-GOP commentators and reporters
who have, purely and simply, been cowed into submission by
the right-wing media hit squad. The ones who are afraid of
Ari, of being "noted in the building", of being denied access,
or of being pilloried like comedian Bill Maher was, like Bill
Moyers always has been, and like the Washington Post's poor
Dana Milbank undoubtedly will be. Because they lack the guts
or the organization to stand up to the politicans who insult
them, and us, with a steady stream of lies - or to the editors
that won't allow them to do so - the country is largely unaware
that its riches, power, prestige and honor have been hijacked
by an elitest corps of professional crooks.
4. The Democratic commentators who did put up a fight
were simply outworked by their GOP counterparts. Time
and again they were under-prepared or under-informed, and
therefore unable to call Republican shills on their dissembling.
Meanwhile, the GOP punditocracy were, as in 2000, all on the
same page - and relentless. Reflecting the top-down nature
of Republicanism, they got their (well-crafted) marching orders,
and they marched - in time, every time.
Too often, Democratic commentators were left trying to spontaneuosly
generate counter-arguments that fell short. You simply can't
rely on your off-the-cuff wits to combat lies that have been
meticulously crafted by professional liars. You have to work
- you have to prepare.
Even now, in the aftermath of the election disaster, Republican
analysts are setting the terms of discussion for what went
wrong with the Democratic election effort, and what should
be done to fix it. And the campaign lies - far from being
exposed - are being etched into stone.
On a recent CNN "Crossfire" segment, GOP analyst Ron Kaufman
referred to newly-elected Massachusetts Governor (and pro-life
Republican) Mitt Romney as "a pretty straight forward pro-choice
candidate" and to defeated Democratic candidate Shannon O'Brien
- a woman whose poor pro-choice credentials were her greatest
liability in securing the Democratic nomination - as a "radical
Absolute bald-face lies - to which Democratic commentator
Dee Dee Myers said: nothing.
I don't mean to single out Myers - she's not alone. The sad
truth is that with a few notable exceptions - and we know
who they are - liberal political commentators and writers
just didn't get up early enough to beat the determined and
well-paid liars of the Republican misinformation machine.
5. The President and his CEO-wing of the Republican party
have not only defeated the Democrats, they've co-opted, betrayed,
and destroyed traditional Republican Party values as well.
They've taken the GOP from a party that honestly and overtly
advocated the reduction or elimination of government as a
matter of political principle to a party that cynically mouths
that mantra while using their positions in the government
to sell it piece by piece to the highest bidder. They've turned
the Federal government into a huge business-to-business service
provider, selling deregulation, tax breaks, and defense and
construction contracts to whoever ponies up sufficient campaign
donations - all while continuing to mislead rank and file
Republicans into believing that they still represent traditional
This isn't the party of Barry Goldwater, or Ike, or even
Ronald Reagan. It really is Enron Republicanism, the govermental
arm of what Paul Krugman and others have called "crony capitalism".
Far from wanting to eliminate government, this group feeds
If you need any proof of this, just witness the excommunication
of Kevin Phillips, the arch-typical principled Republican
and former Nixon advisor who wrote "The Emerging Republican
Majority" - and helped turn it into a reality as much as anyone.
His refusal to hide his horror at the blatant corporatization
of the GOP has put him on the outs with a party who's current
leaders move between the corner offices of the country's largest
companies and the corner offices of government power without
even pretending to change job descriptions.
Until Democrats are willing to embrace these truths, to believe
them, and to be willing to shout them to the highest heavens,
the party will remain demoralized. And until they're ready
to work hard day after day to report them to the voters -
diligently, tirelessly and convincingly - no leadership change,
no left-or-right movement, and no amount of money will help
them regain what's been lost.
Michael Barry is a singer/songwriter in Boston, MA