|By A.D. Freudenheim||
8 February 2005
Listening to President George W. Bush gives me an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach, and has, ever since he began his life on the national stage as a candidate against then-Vice President Al Gore. Yet the nausea I feel has, in truth, very little to do with Mr. Bush himself. After all, President Bush speaks in simplistic platitudes and poorly-enunciated phrases, accompanied by facial expressions that often counter the message of his words while repeating, over and over again, those same words and phrases. It is as if he wants to make sure that Americans as dumb as he is dont miss the tremendous import of whatever he is saying. The Howdy Doody President is only part of the problem.
Instead, what makes me nauseous literally sick to my stomach is the pathetic nature of the political opposition to Mr. Bush. Despite the landslide victory that was Senator John Kerrys loss (Kerry lost having nonetheless received more votes than any losing candidate in American history), the Democratic party is weak, wrongly-principled, and all too scared of public opinion. While the State of the Union speech is only the tip of the political iceberg that awaits the Democrats, it is indicative of the problem: even with a mere 10 minutes of watching the State of the Union speech, an alien from Mars would get the impression that all assembled in that august chamber agree with and support the President. Opposition what opposition?
Congressional and other professional Democrats are a turn-off. They make party politics look rote both because they are so uninspired as the Loyal Opposition, and because they are so weak when it comes to considering or proposing new ideas. President Bushs ideas for reforming or fixing Social Security are a case in point: Democrats are right when they say that the changes Mr. Bush has proposed would be risky to the average American worker and unsophisticated investor; would cut benefits to retirees; and would cost so much money to implement that they may not actually save the system at all.
However, the Republicans are equally right when they say that the Democrats answer to the problems of Social Security involves the party sticking their collective heads in the sand and pretending it will all go away or that it can be solved through bolstering the existing system instead of addressing fundamental financial imbalances. For all the downsides to his proposals for change, and there are many, at least Mr. Bush is proposing something.
The situation with President Bush reminds me of the era of President Reagan, when few (if any) Democrats were able to call his bluff, when the word liberal got dragged out and dragged through the mud, not only twisting its meaning but with virtually no reply from those Democrats who stood accused of being an l-word. America, this is our mess, a mess of the left and the right, and we need to live with it. Democrats who voted for the Bush tax cuts must now face the political realities those tax cuts created: higher deficits combined with cuts to social service programs programs once supported by Democrats. Democrats who voted in favor of the Iraq war, or at least in favor of allowing President Bush to wage war in Iraq, thought that this would show them as tough and willing to use force when needed. But this was an unnecessary war, created by lies rather than proof, and it did not make the Democrats look tough but rather toadying.
In a recent article in The Economist about Senator Barbara Boxer, the magazine wrote Mrs Boxer, who was re-elected in November by 2m votes in deep blue California, has at least six years to express the inexpressible frustration of her peers. Inexpressible indeed. American politics is now akin to the story of the emperors new clothes. President Bush is succeeding less because Karl Rove is the (evil) genius behind him than because the American left has not been able to reveal how naked this emperor really is; these are not new clothes, these are exactly no clothes. Instead of revealing the truth to the American public about the Bush administration and its policies instead of finding a tailor, and having some functional clothes made the Democrats seem just as worried that someone might discover that they are naked, too.
| Verve and the Democrats: The Boxer rebellion, The Economist, 27 January 2005||
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