December 10, 2002
After a significant setback, a wise person and a well-managed
enterprise will pause to take stock before renewing their
activity. Otherwise, mistakes will be repeated and opportunities
lost, whereby the next downfall may prove to be fatal.
Following the debacle of the 2002 election, it would therefore
be wise and appropriate for liberals, progressives, and the
Democratic Party to soberly assess their assets, their liabilities,
and then ponder, in the light of this assessment, the remedies
and tactics that might be available to them as they face the
struggle ahead to restore justice, liberty and opportunity
to this once-blessed republic.
Here is one progressive's inventory of the assets, liabilities,
and effective responses of the Democratic Party a severely
flawed institution, which is nonetheless the only agency in
sight capable of effecting a recovery from the political catastrophe
that has befallen us.
We begin with this guiding observation: the Republican victory
was a feat of extraordinary tactical brilliance, for the GOP
managed to persuade a small majority of voters to vote against
their own interests, and to ignore shameless and conspicuous
mendacity, lawlessness and greed on the part of an unelected
regime. This effort of persuasion was combined with a successful
effort, through negative campaigning, to "turn off" potential
Democratic voters, thus encouraging them to stay at home.
" Rarely has so much political gain been accomplished with
so little political capital.
How on earth did they accomplish this? What weapons do we
have to mount a counterattack? And what methods might we best
adopt in our struggle to take back our government and our
We begin with an inventory of our assets:
For all their manifest success as campaigners, the Bush regime
and the GOP are promoting a political program that is immoral,
alien to our traditions, and factually false. If the Democrats
can get this message across to the public (no mean feat, given
the corporate control of the media), they may eventually prevail.
First: The GOP program is immoral. Bush and his friends on
the religious right never tire of telling us that "this is
a Christian nation." And, to be sure, our fellow citizens
are well aware of, and generally endorse, the basic tenets
of Christian morality. (Christian theology is another matter,
not at issue here). But in an important sense, "Christian
morality" is a misnomer, for these moral tenets are found
in all the world religions. These include such principles
as compassion, love, reciprocity ("the golden rule"), and
respect for human life. To these we would add the tenets of
political morality as enunciated in our founding documents:
equal liberty, equal opportunity, equal justice, respect for
the autonomy of each citizen ("the right to be left alone").
When stated thus abstractly, the endorsement of these principles
by the American public is virtually unanimous. Division of
opinion emerges as these principles are applied in our laws
and our politics.
Even a casual review of these moral principles alongside
the policies and practices of the Bush Administration, reveals
that this Administration is without a moral compass. Protestations
of "compassionate conservatism" merely add hypocrisy to the
bill of moral indictments against the Bush regime. "Compassion"
is not evident in a policy that allows 800,000 impoverished
citizens to lose their unemployment compensation three days
after Christmas, or which deprives forty million citizens
of health insurance. "Respect for human life" is not manifested
in casual threats of war or in policies that result in the
deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. The principle
of "equal justice under law" a principle carved in marble
above the entrance to the Supreme Court is openly violated
in the USA PATRIOT and Homeland Security Acts. The list of
moral transgressions including bribery, invasion of privacy,
lying, cruelty, violation of trust is too long to allow elaboration
here. No doubt, many readers are as prepared as I am to cite
further examples of immoral and illegal behavior by this regime,
which was conceived in deception, hypocrisy and illegality.
Attention of the public to this moral delinquency has been
successfully deflected by the public relations geniuses at
work in the Administration, within the ranks of its corporate
sponsors, and in its "Ministry of Truth," the captive corporate
media. Yet the fundamental immorality and hypocrisy of the
Bush regime is "out there," ready to be seen and appreciated,
if only that message can be conveyed to the public at large.
If and when that realization is accomplished, the Bush regime
will be history. Mass delusion followed by mass awakening
has significant political precedents: McCarthyism, Watergate,
the Viet-Nam War. It could happen again, albeit there are
no guarantees. This possibility, combined with the innate
moral sense of most of our fellow Americans, constitutes a
significant asset, and thus a challenge and an opportunity,
to The Opposition.
Second: The GOP program is contrary to our traditions. The
American republic was founded upon a declaration of the rights
to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." These rights
were further enumerated in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Almost all of these fundamental rights have been violated
or put in great jeopardy by the Bush Administration. We believe
in the rule of law, and yet five justices of our highest court
have installed a President, contrary to the will of the voters,
and through a judiciary edict, Bush v. Gore, that is riddled
with illogic, incoherence, and disregard of judicial precedence.
We believe in the sanctity of the vote, and yet tens of thousands
of Florida voters were arbitrarily disenfranchised, through
an obvious and a successful conspiracy to "fix" a presidential
election. We have in this country a tradition of equal opportunity
and fair play, and yet Bush's economic and tax policies are
clearly designed to increase the flow of national wealth from
the many who produce the wealth, to the very few who own and
control that wealth. We believe that all citizens are equally
accountable under the law, all the while corporate friends
of the Administration (such as "Kenny Boy" Lay of Enron) remain
unpunished for their embezzlement of billions of shareholder
dollars, and the consequent collapse of the retirement accounts
of thousands of our citizens. And George Bush himself is somehow
regarded as exempt from securities laws, drug laws, and the
Uniform Code of Military Justice, and his Administration from
the Freedom of Information Act and the Presidential Records
None of these violations of our political traditions -- ironically
by individuals and a party that adopt the label of "conservative"
-- are unknown or unknowable by the public at large. These
outrages are dismissed or lathered over by the submissive
media which, at the same time, denies a page, a microphone
or a camera to those who would protest and expose these abuses
of our traditions. Nonetheless, these outrages are "out there"
to be seen by those with eyes to see and minds to appreciate.
Perhaps, with sufficient energy, dedication, support and ingenuity
on the part of the opposition, all this could be seen and
appreciated by a decisive portion of the population. It happened,
eventually, with the Viet-Nam war.
Third: The GOP program is at odds with the facts. The Bush
Administration's ongoing war with science and scholarship
is a national embarrassment. (See my "The
President of Fantasyland"). Still worse, it puts us all
in peril. "You can fool some of the people all of the time,
and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool
Mother Nature." Nature will not yield to our wishes and our
dogmas. If, through some extraordinary program of "re-education"
every last American were convinced that global warming is
a myth, the laws of atmospheric chemistry and physics would
remain what they are, and consequently global warming would
remain a fact. The three pillars of Bushonomics "supply side,"
"trickle down" and "free market absolutism" are unfounded
dogmas, refuted by the consequences of their application in
the Reagan and Bush I Administration, and by the beneficial
consequences of their abandonment in the Clinton Administration.
(See my "In
Deep Voodoo"). Bush's preference for intuition and dogma
over informed intelligence and confirmed facts is bound to
lead to a collision with nature and economic reality. Perhaps
that day of reckoning can be put off by almost two years,
in which case Bush might win re-election. But that day will
come, sooner or later. And if later, the greater will be the
The opposition presents critical intelligence and science,
which is to say, nature, arrayed against ignorance, arrogance,
and dogma. If this intellect and expertise are mobilized and
generously supported, the opposition might gain a formidable
advantage. Somehow, it hasn't yet and therein lies both a
mystery, and a challenge.
Fourth: The opposition has the potential support of "the
silent elites" and "the bewildered victims." The "silent elites"
include the intelligencia and professionals who are, apparently,
stunned into silence and impotence by the avalanche of political
and moral atrocities that appear almost daily from the White
House and from the Republican Congress. Scientists, journalists,
lawyers, historians, and more, all have a super-abundance
of grievances and are fully aware of the assault by the GOP
upon reason and upon our cherished political institutions
and principles. And yet, where is the outrage? Where are the
teach-ins, the protests, the strikes, the marches? Where is
the Gandhi or M. L. King for our time, now that we so desperately
Not, to be sure, among the "establishment Democrats" the
"Republican-Lites." In fact, a more significant opposition
appears to be forming among a few admirable and disaffected
libertarians and Republicans notably, David Brock, Scott Ritter,
Arianna Huffington, John Dean, and Kevin Phillips.
Much more is required to constitute an effective opposition.
But where is this opposition, and why hasn't it been conspicuous
enough to goad the Democratic politicians into an effective
response to the Bush juggernaut? After all, the Bush regime
has openly, even flagrantly and triumphantly, proclaimed policies
that should be offensive to a vast majority of the population
to environmentalists, to scientists, to educators, to liberal
and moderate religious communities, to labor unions, to women
(the majority!), and to ordinary taxpayers (the vast majority).
Virtually all Americans are victims of the Bush Administration
policies, whereas the beneficiaries (e.g., the 2% that received
more than half of the Bush tax cuts) are a minuscule minority.
And yet the corporate campaign money-machine combined with
the media-PR propaganda machine has (as one wit put it) managed
to convince the chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders. Once
again, perceptions are working against us, while the hard
facts are in our favor. And once again, the challenge before
us is somehow to get these facts "out there" to the public.
In addition, we are challenged to create a "community of
the oppressed" a realization among those who have been cheated
by the Bush gang (i.e., almost all of us) that we have company,
that we are united in a common cause, and by a common loyalty
to the political and moral principles so flagrantly violated
by the usurper regime. Today, we have a mass of citizens who
take their instructions, and who define themselves, according
to the opiate served to them by the media the obsequious punditry,
the alleged "high approval" polls, the distractions of "entertainment"
and trivia (OJ, Chandra/Condit, Jon Benet) all of this bereft
of voices of dissent and opposition. And yet, all around these
individual "audiences" are fellow victims, similarly detached
from each other, and unaware that their concerns, interests
and values are shared by a multitude of others. A "Lonely
Crowd," as David Reisman called it. But let them look about,
and let the murmur arise among them: "Hey! We've got company!
We're in this together!" Then, like the prisoners in Plato's
Cave, they will turn their eyes away from the shadows on the
wall, and will emerge together from their cave. If that happens
(and again, there are no guarantees), there is no force on
Earth that will secure the Bush gang in their ill-gotten offices.
Fifth Asset: George W. Bush. Seriously, Bush himself is a
potential asset to the counter-revolution against his regime.
First of all, there is his petulance and pettiness, characterized
by his treatment of the Germans following Schroeder's victory
and the "Hitler comparison" by the German Justice minister.
Also the silly Canadian "moron" flap. Clearly, Bush can be
goaded into self-destructive behavior. In addition, if he
can be drawn away from his handlers and his TelePrompter,
his fundamental and incurable incompetence, combined with
his arrogance and shallowness, will become manifest. Indeed,
all this was clearly displayed by his behavior on September
11, 2001, when he continued to read to the children while
the World Trade Center collapsed, following which he rode
around the country looking for a hole to hide in. Appalling!
The world abroad saw it all, and responded with appropriate
contempt. At home, his loyal media came to his rescue once
again. But how long can this keep up? Is it not possible that
eventually, bit by bit, the feet of the idol will turn to
Sixth: Lieberman's rule: "To live like a Republican, vote
like a Democrat." It's a historical fact: The stock market
performs better when the President is a Democrat, and still
better when both the White House and the Congress are controlled
by the Democrats. (Mark Hulbert, CBS
Market Watch). The reason is clear. The economy flourishes
when the nation is well- integrated, and all segments perceive
correctly that they have a stake in the nation and its economy.
The economy stalls when it becomes exploitative, and "class
warfare" emerges. To the Democrats, prosperity is a feast,
to be shared. To the "conservative" Republicans, the economy
is a cash-cow, to be milked for personal advantage. "Greed
is good!" Put simply: Democrats feed the golden goose, while
Republicans cook it. A few enlightened capitalists appreciate
this intuitively sensible and historically validated truth,
and they tend to support the Democratic Party. Still others,
like George Soros, having prospered in the American capitalist
economy, believe that they should give something back something
like "The Open Society Foundation" dedicated to preserving
our freedom at its time of great peril.
So here is one more compelling fact which can, and should,
be used to advantage: The privileged and wealthy few who support
the Republican Party are betting on the wrong horse. These
individuals, who are so clearly motivated by self-interest,
should realize that their self-interest is best served by
supporting the Democrat's agenda which, in turn, will foster
contentment and productivity among those who produce the wealth,
will educate the public and thus supply the workers, innovators
and managers that sustain the economy, will regulate economic
activity so that fair competition is preserved, will assure
that all pay their fair share of taxes so that the essential
services are provided and the Federal Government does not
go further into debt. None of these social and political desiderata
are conspicuous under Republican Administrations, and all
stand a far better chance of realization under the Democrats.
That's not political rhetoric it's plain historical fact.
Why the supporters of the right-wing Republicans fail to appreciate
this fact is one of the great mysteries indeed the great tragedy
of American politics.
First, and overwhelmingly foremost, the mainstream media.
This is the dragon at the gate, which must be dispatched.
Unless we somehow bypass this obstacle, perhaps through the
internet and with the assistance of the foreign press, or
unless we break through and somehow gain some access to the
public airwaves, the struggle will likely be lost.
Surely no myth in modern memory is more obviously refuted
by common experie Copyright 2002 by Ernest Partridge nce and
common sense, than the myth of "the liberal media." Yet, sadly,
that myth validates Goebbel's rule: Tell a lie often enough
and loudly enough and, however outrageous, it will eventually
be believed to be true. And yet, how anyone could have followed
the 2000 election campaign and still believed that the media
had a "liberal bias" surpasses my understanding. (See "Post
Modern Politics" and "The
And it continues today. When, for example, "the loyal opposition"
in the person of Al Gore gives a speech, the media do not
carry it. However, they publish and broadcast an abundance
of articles, columns and commentaries denouncing it. Which
means, they will tell us how to think, while they deny us
the opportunity to hear and to decide for ourselves. Just
today (as I write) I saw on CNN about three minutes of a "live
coverage" of a speech by Bill Clinton. (MSNBC and FOX News
did not broadcast it ). Yet CNN seems to cover every Bush
helicopter landing at the White House, along with full coverage
of his campaign speeches. The watchdog organization FAIR once
calculated that the proportion of Republican to Democratic
"guests" on the cable news channels is four to one. And on
Crossfire, Paul Begala reported the following results from
a Lexus-Nexus search:
There were exactly 704 stories in the campaign about this
flap of Gore inventing the Internet. There were only 13 stories
about Bush failing to show up for his National Guard duty
for a year. There were well over 1,000 stories -- Nexus stopped
at 1,000 -- about Gore and the Buddhist temple. Only 12 about
Bush being accused of insider trading at Harken Energy. There
were 347 about Al Gore wearing earth tones, but only 10 about
the fact that Dick Cheney did business with Iran and Iraq
If you still believe in "The "Liberal Media Bias," I have
some Enron stock that I'd love to sell you.
Second, the GOP has a formidable advantage in fund-raising
especially so since, as the hidden contents of the Homeland
Security Bill indicate, the corporations, in effect, purchase
legislation and Congressional "perks" with their campaign
funds. Democrats have, in the past, prevailed with smaller
campaign budgets. But the funding imbalance is increasing,
and campaign finance reform remains a remote aspiration.
Third, The Vince Lombardi School of Campaigning. Beginning
with the Eisenhower campaigns, the GOP has adopted a style
of campaigning. which has nothing to do with justice, fair-play
or truth, and everything to do with winning. This campaign
strategy is drawn, not from political debate, but from market
psychology (polling, focus groups, etc.) and advertising techniques.
The Democrats, cultivated ladies, gentlemen and scholars that
they are, persist in flattering the public by assuming that
the typical voter is moved by logic and weight of evidence.
If the GOP is to be effectively engaged, the Democrats must
carefully study the Republican tactics, perhaps (alas) to
imitate them, but far better to find honorable ways to defeat
them. They might begin by choosing more advantageous arenas
of combat, like debates, and avoiding (still better, legislating
against) the areas of "marketing" advantage, such as ten second
negative TV spot ads.
In addition, the Democratic strategusts use language as a
tool as a vehicle to express ideas. Their GOP counterparts,
on the other hand, use language as a weapon, to distort and
obscure meanings and to slander the opposition. Consider the
decline and fall of the once-honorable word, "liberal" and
the inappropriate adoption of the word "conservative." (See
Lives"). This is yet another application of "the Lombardi
Rule:" "winning is everything" the end justifies the means.
To sum up: The Bush regime is at war, not only with the Democrats,
but also with their own proclaimed Christian morality, with
the traditions of the American Republic, and with demonstrable
scientific fact. Were this otherwise, the corporate media
propaganda arrayed in behalf of the GOP would be invincible.
However, given the estrangement of the Bush agenda from morality,
tradition and fact, if the public is made aware of this estrangement,
the Bush team is vulnerable. The challenge, then, is to find
the means to educate and arouse the public. Given the state
of the media, it is a daunting challenge. Daunting, but not
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer
in the fields of Environmental Ethics and Moral philosophy.
He publishes the website, "The
Online Gadfly" and co-edits the progressive website "The