Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Democrats - Win or Lose?


"What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant." Robert F. Kennedy

We dodged a bullet. The Great Filibuster Shootout has been averted. For now.

We've got heroes to thank on both sides of the aisle: McCain, Byrd, Lieberman, DeWine, Reid. They and others hustled for a workable compromise -- damn hard to accomplish when you're dealing with the intolerable, intolerant Right. But they persevered.

From all sides we hear cautious optimism. And equally cautious concern. Nobody loves this settlement but everybody's trying to put a positive spin on it.

Well, almost everybody.

The predictable villains, most notably Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who started this mess, don't know the meaning of compromise. Frist and his Radical Posse haven't a clue how to concede graciously because they're Always Right. So when Frist saw the wind shift against him in the 11th hour, he stepped aside to let Senator McCain take the fallout from conservative right wing-nuts still opposed to any agreement.

And to placate his power base further, he resorted to threats like a nasty, prissy schoolmarm, warning that if he sees any "bad faith and bad behavior" he'll go for the nuclear option. Translation: if a spot opens up on the Supreme Count, all bets are off. Compromise be damned, he's going to fight to the death for the most ultraconservative right wing Justice he can find.

Frist is a dangerous man. Very, very dangerous.

A compromise was reached, but the blood feud continues.


"I've always said that in politics, your enemies can't hurt you, but your friends will kill you." Ann Richards, former Governor of Texas

I have a few questions for the power brokers in the Democratic Party (you know who you are).

1. Do you enjoy losing?

2. Are you formulating a realistic plan to win back the White House in 2008?

3. Have you initiated a coherent strategy to take control of Congress in any election before 2008?

4. In anointing Howard Dean head of the Democratic National Committee: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??

It's entirely possible I'll burn in hell for saying this, but-for ONE time only-I agree with a Tom DeLay supporter. Commenting on Dean's Meet the Press appearance Sunday, a DeLay spokesman said, "Leading a party with no idea, no solutions and no agenda, Howard Dean's latest antics, which previously earned him a rebuke from his own party, shows the sad state the Democrats have sunk to."

Dangling participles and all, he's articulating a far too widely held perception. Take me now, Satan.

Dr. Dean/Governor Dean/Candidate Dean became a national punch line in the 2004 presidential election. Yes, I know, he was just trying to be heard over a raucous crowd ... and Edmund Muskie didn't mean to cry and Michael Dukakis shouldn't have gotten in that tank. It doesn't matter. Sadly, wrongly, what matters most in political gamesmanship is image.

And what really counts in political leadership is Gravitas. Clout. Credibility. Democrats desperately need a national party leader with Authority. Influence. Power. Someone who can juggle PAC's, Unions, special interest groups, party pols from local precinct captains to Governors, Congressmen and Senators -- and most important, Big Money Moguls.

Does any of that describe Howard Dean? All together now: NO.

Contemporary politics is all about Marketing. Branding. Positioning. To win, you have to sell candidates, ideas and agendas to the voting public. But first, you have to muster support among your own top guns. Even today, "back room" politics remains a critical part of the process, a blueprint for success. If you haven't got what it takes, you won't win. Period.

John Kerry should have, could have, won the presidency in 2004. He and his handlers blew it. The reasons are many, and for another discussion. The outcome is what matters now. What did the party bigwigs learn from it? What are they doing differently to assure a better outcome in the future for Democrats, for all of us?

With Howard Dean in charge, the answer to both questions is the same: Not nearly enough.

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