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Five Truths
November 15, 2002
Michael Barry

A 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 forward.

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 misled voters.

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 hopefuls.

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 pro-abortionist".

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 Republican principles.

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 on it.

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

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