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Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 2002 / 3 kislev, 5763

Michael Long

Mike Long
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Coming Soon: 1972

What's Next for The Dems | DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe's embarrassing spin on the Democrats' Tuesday night Waterloo was something akin to hearing Mrs. Lincoln say, "At least the play was good." It is one thing to look on the bright side; quite another to stand in a rainstorm and swear it's a sunshiny day.

Nothing changed about the Democratic Party itself between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. What happened was somebody pulled the thermometer out of the turkey and found out this particular bird wasn't ready for company. Now that the voters have delivered their diagnosis in the form wresting Democratic control of and influence upon the last of the three elected elements of government, change will begin.

There is a new direction and image coming for Democrats -- but what will it be?

The first certainty behind that new image is that Democrats can't be naysayers unless they mix policy proposals into their perpetual chorus of "Bush is wrong." This cost them most last Tuesday on the biggest issue for Americans, the war on terror. Their go-slow chant came off as belligerence of the worst kind. Democrats couldn't get behind a popular and reasonable foreign policy after the tragedy of 9/11, so voters decided that Democrats were unwilling to cooperate with opponents, even on a matter of life and death.

Cases in point: slow-walking Bush war requests in the Democratic Senate, stalling the Homeland Security bill in favor of wrangling on behalf of big-donor union constituencies, holding hostage the (admittedly useless) airport security legislation unless new unionized workers were promised, and providing political shelter for the offensive "blame America first" fringe of the far left.

As long as people support the war, the Democrats are going to have to live with this political handicap. The best they can do is neutralize its effect by getting behind the President far more enthusiastically than they have. As it stands, Democrats seem to oppose elements of the war not because of policy differences (though the policies that are becoming their image are pretty unpopular), but because they don't like George W. Bush.

Some Democrats seem to be saying just now that simply having an alternative to the Bush agenda will carry them through. Once they get past the frustration of the election, they'll remember the simple truth that people still have to like your ideas.

Again in terms of foreign policy, the range of Democratic positions are non-starters, from "go slow" voiced by moderates to "do some apologizing to Europe and the Middle East" from the small but vocal radical left. If party members really believe that the prosecution of the war on terror -- including the coming war on Iraq -- is being mishandled, then Democrats are starting a long march to marginalize themselves beyond their nightmares.

The Democrats have a couple of tough years coming up. It will be pretty hard to explain why the high-profile Homeland Security Agency couldn't exist until Democrats were tossed out of power. It will be just as hard to have been milquetoast supporters (at best) of the war on Iraq. By 2004, the thing will have been fought and won, and will have become the foundation for beginning to stabilize the Middle East. How will Democrats explain that?

As long as the economy doesn't go into the toilet-really into the toilet, 1970s style, and not just suffering through the relative head cold of the 2000s-Republican power will be based on well-publicized success in preserving national security. That advantage will remain until the anti-terror war is at least close to settled.

Therefore, the question is what direction the Democrats will turn, left or mainstream-right. My prediction - and I predicted the Senate races accurately on this theory last week -- is that hard-left Democrats are the only ones with the enthusiasm for a fight for the heart of their party. Democratic conservatives are as rare as Republican liberals, and these quasi-right-wingers are few in number, have little ideology and, therefore, have little hope of winning. The left wing will triumph, start to shape the identity of the party by their own positions, and preach rhetoric even more bitter than what we've heard so far.

Democrats seem headed down a road that leads to control by anti-war extremists and would-be Greens -- the party members with the most fire in the belly and ideological self-righteousness. If you are unfamiliar with George McGovern's march to Democratic ignomy, you're about to see Al Gore re-enact it for you: win the party, lose the election. (His anti-war, anti-Bush speeches earlier this year are looking cleverer -- or luckier -- than they seemed.) 2004 is already looking like 1972 all over again.

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


10/31/02:The Election Goes Republican: Election 2002 finds Democrats alienating nearly everyone
10/22/02: What if we never catch the terrorist-sniper?
10/04/02: A Few Thoughts On The News
09/27/02: Goodbye To All That: The terrible, wide war that must be fought
09/20/02: The Florida Lesson: We need better voters, not better machines
09/13/02: A few thoughts on the news
09/06/02: Give Them What They Want
08/13/02: The Dangerous Lull on Iraq ... And how today's delay proves why 9/11 had to happen
07/26/02: Where's Honest Debate on Judge Owen?: NOW members should demand better of President Kim Gandy
07/19/02: A Secret No One Can Keep: Why Osama bin Laden is still alive
07/09/02: Don't forget why Bush was elected
06/28/02: The bravest pop culture icon in the war on terror
06/14/02: Five Thoughts On Father's Day: Personal Stuff
06/06/02: Stay Awake, Grads, I'm Almost Done Talking: Life, and How to Live It
05/31/02: See This Movie: "The Sum of All Fears" is a wake-up call
05/24/02: Richard Simmons for President? What really motivates the fat-taxers
05/13/02: The Carnival at the FAIR: "Unbiased" acquires a new definition
04/22/02: Bottled And Sold: Economic Confidence Under a Screw-top
04/12/02: McGovern's Respectful Dissent
04/02/02: The Right to Do Wrong: The Creator, A Clockwork Orange, and war
03/26/02: The Big Story No One Talks About: Why isn't Washington serious about airport security?
03/18/02: Worlds Away: A snapshot of anti-Semitism in the Moslem world
03/08/02: The safest place in the world --- for now
03/05/02: Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others
02/22/02: And Then What?: Fear and Loathing Around the Corner
02/15/02: Al Gore and the real root cause of terrorism
02/08/02: A few thoughts on the news
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
01/16/02: Discretion and Art
01/08/02: Desperate Dems
12/18/01: Politics and Holidays
12/07/01: A war bigger than we know: Changing the future, slowly and surely
11/28/01: A Mid-Winter Night's Dream: A play in one fun act
11/20/01: A Lot of War Left To Fight
11/13/01: Guess who Clinton's apologizing for now: I'll bet you guessed right
11/02/01: Rules for Wartime: Rule Number One: Remember what's true
10/26/01: The Moral Case For Torture: Dirty hands don't always mean dirty souls
10/19/01: Questions for the Anti-War Crowd, Part II: What if someone took them seriously?
10/16/01: Questions for the anti-war crowd: If they question you, ask these back
10/12/01: The Jason Problem: Sometimes they only look dead
10/08/01: A little hindsight: A letter for readers in the future
09/28/01: Calling Bono: A plea to the pop culture elite to speak out
09/20/01: Encouragement from the Heartland, by mail
09/13/01: Bleeding time
09/07/01: The trailer-park taste of the public radio catalog
09/04/01: BRAVE NEW FREUD: Internet-based psychiatry may mean relief for those who have shunned treatment
08/17/01: First Amendment: Chickens home to roost
07/27/01: Dispatch From The Front: The Gun Control War
07/20/01: Summer song
07/03/01: It's a Wonderful Recount

© 2001, Michael Long