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Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2002 / 16 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Michael Long

Mike Long
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The Election Goes Republican

Election 2002 finds Democrats alienating nearly everyone | Out-of-power parties usually pick up 10-30 House seats in off-year elections. Yet this year, Democrats are hoping merely not to lose seats. This is the outcome of a new public image of the Democratic Party that will do far more damage to them down the road than their coming election losses.

Under the leadership of Bill Clinton's handpicked chairman Terry McAuliffe, the party has been transformed into what they long accused Republicans of being: a pile of squawking partisans who speak invective instead of ideas.

You don't have to look any further than the website of the Democratic National Committee to see the corrosion settling in. The party's page is a model of everything they themselves railed against in Republicans in the 1990s. Four days before the election, it was a piecemeal screed against the President under the headline, "Bush, GOP Economic Record Fails Families in Every State."

Only a humorless partisan could love such a rhetorical hemorrhoid.

Democrats warn of a nefarious plot by Republicans to suppress voting, a right-wing "special interest agenda," and plans to cut critical services for that ever-handy catch-all phrase, "working families."

But what's not on the page says the most: There's not a word on national defense, nothing on the threat of terrorism, no mention of Iraq, and no plan to do anything to implement Democratic ideas, whatever they are.

After decades in the desert, Republicans have learned what the Democrats now forget: people don't want complaints about the other guy, they want results.

By comparison, the Republican National Committee's website is a garden of political sweetness and light that makes Tony Robbins look like Eyore: detailed successes in the war on terror, facts on the resurgence of the economy, plans to reform the Social Security program, and an agenda for health-care.

Out in the heartland, the void at the center of the Democratic Party shows most embarrassingly with Democratic candidates scrambling away from the sour image that McAuliffe, Bill Clinton and Tom Daschle have backed their party into. In the South, Democratic candidates have resorted to running ads without identifying their party affiliation. They are desperate to avoid association with the party's return to its 1970s character, a duchy of tax-and-spend liberals and the anti-war Left. (Interestingly, the small and angry anti-war brigades now sound so much like the reflexively anti-USA movement in Europe and the Middle East that even leftist pillars such as Ron Rosenbaum and Christopher Hitchens have abandoned them.)

In some parts of the country, Democrats are resorting to such old stand-bys as appearing in camouflage and carrying shotguns in ads to look like gun-rights advocates. Other liberal candidates are running far and fast from the party because of iron-solid Democratic affiliation with abortion rights, which at the national level has morphed from a political position to a sacrament. (That movement lost the last of its last moral bearings in the 1990s with its bizarre enthusiasm for partial-birth abortion, and its tacit endorsement of bio-ethicist and infanticide proponent -- yes, really -- Princeton Professor Peter Singer.

Liberals use the courts to do what they can't achieve in the legislatures, and the 2000 election emboldened them to extend the strategy to elections. Fresh from their success in the law in New Jersey, expect Democrats to file an unprecedented number of post-election lawsuits in close races where their candidate finishes in second place. (And I personally guarantee not a peep from these same "voting rights" activists where Republicans lose a squeaker.)

Finally, Democrats sealed their fate with the ceremony / campaign rally for the late Senator Paul Wellstone. The admirers of Sen. Wellstone have the right to memorialize their friend any way they like. Yet turning a public service into a partisan rally -- complete with booing of Wellstone's Republican friends -- made for an embarrassing display of the growing Democratic attitude that "anyone who's not on our side is unworthy to be heard."

Self-proclaimed superiority has never sold well to the American public; it sells even more poorly on the eve of an election.

Meanwhile, a President who does a lot more "doing" than blaming retains historically high popularity, with pre-election approval numbers unmatched since Dwight Eisenhower, almost half a century ago.

For Democrats, it's too late. In the House, Republicans will pick up at least two seats. In the Senate, only one state, Arkansas, will go from Republican to Democrat control, while Missouri, Georgia and South Dakota will switch to the Republicans, as will Senate control, 51-48-1. Thus the Republicans will hold both houses of Congress and the White House, too -- even before Minnesota's myriad lawsuits are settled, and Democrat Mary Landrieu wins a tight run-off in Louisiana.

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JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.


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02/01/02: Ready, Aim, Cloud The Issue: An irresponsible report on "terrorism" from the Brady Center
01/28/02: Discretion and Art, Part 2
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07/03/01: It's a Wonderful Recount

© 2001, Michael Long