Why It’s OK if the Democrats Lose (Which, for the Record, I Think They Will)

ilikeike.jpgSo. Election Day. Finally. I won’t get into the whole voting machine fray and disenfranchisement of voters mess. Others have done a much more exhaustive job on that topic and I think the summary of both topics is the same: as the world’s self-proclaimed poster-child for democracy, we are an embarrassment. We can’t get it together to run an election that meets our own international standards for clean and tamper-proof voting and, as a result, we are, intentionally and unintentionally, screwing a lot of people out of their vote. As a white, middle-class San Franciscan living in an affluent neighborhood, I’m not worried about my personal situation, but I will say that that my local 125-year-old pollworkers did a lot better with the Rube Goldberg curtains, slots, punch cards and pull levers we used to have than they do with the new electronic voting machines. When was the last time you called your grandmother to help you fix your iPod? That’s all I’m saying.

There’s an avalanche of press on how the Democrats might miraculously and accidentally carry the election and how voters haven’t been this upset since Watergate. What I’m reading a lot less about is whether it’s a good idea for them to carry the election. There are two arguments the Democrats make for why they should win. First, the country is a mess. Iraq, the environment, healthcare and education are all a mess. Even the economy, which is being flogged for good news, doesn’t reflect how poorly the working poor are doing. Second, Bush needs a beating the likes of which we’ve never seen because he’s the no-good, ignorant, stubborn son-of-a-bitch that brought all this bad news to town. His Republican Congress hasn’t called him or his posse onto the carpet for any of his reality-rejecting shenanigans. The thought is that a Democratic Congress will correct that mistake by impeaching his ass and running him out of town on a rail.

Don’t get me wrong: I would be in the front row (or, more likely, I’d watch the highlights on CNN.com and cackle) if there were Congressional hearings to impeach Bush, but I’m not loitering on C-SPAN hoping it’s going to happen ’cause it ain’t. Impeachment takes forever. Look how long it took Kenneth Starr to finally get something on Clinton (and that ‘something’ was pretty debatable). We just don’t have that kind of time. Bush only has two more years in office. Do you really think Democrats, with their demonstrated level of incompetence at identifying the big issues, calling them by their right name and organizing around them, are going to be able to get the job done? Not likely. They’ll still be adjusting their cuffs and setting up their huffy press conferences by the time 2008 rolls around.

Besides, let’s face it: by the time you’ve lied, cheated and stolen your way into the White House, you’ve pretty well learned how to cover your tracks. This administration has mastered the improbable art of coming right out and admitting what they did all along, using the defense that they’re entitled to do it in the first place, so no crime was committed and no mistake made. That brazenness has worked well for them. It certainly had the element of surprise, at least early on in their tenure. And it creates a much more complicated road to judgment because now we’re talking about Constitutional separation of powers instead of just half-assed decisions, rigged contracts, misallocation of funds, hiring of unqualified cronies, misguided warmaking, criminally negligent emergency management and ludicrously selective information management. These guys may be arrogant, but they’re nothing if not cagey. You can bet they’ve covered themselves legally every step of the way. I imagine Cheney carrying around a burn bag like the rest of us carry a cell phone.

Since a Democratic Congress won’t be able to get the retribution job done quickly enough, why win and put ourselves in the line of fire? Democrats don’t frame things well, they have no rapid response machine and they don’t have the right people for the job. So why not take one for the team, hunker down and think long-term? It worked for the Republicans. They spent decades putting together the “successes” of the last twenty-five years. The Democrats need to start thinking along those lines. Gather resources, groom candidates, build and oil your machinery and watch the Republicans implode. Does it really make sense for the long-term Democratic agenda – which, right now, consists of only making sure Republicans don’t completely destroy this country, other countries and the planet – to win the mid-term elections? If you really want the most bang for your buck, save your team for the big game.

Of course, this presumes that we’ll get a team together in the next couple of years, but it’s a better bet than spending the next two years failing (or making only moderate progress, which is the same as failing in political time) to correct the cataclysmic mistakes it took the Bush administration six years to cobble together. It’s a lot easier to get rock to roll downhill than it is to roll it back up again and that rock is almost at the bottom of the gulch. A Democratic win would only slow it down and maybe, if we’re lucky, get Rumsfeld fired. That’s best case. Worst case is the Democrats get pinned under the rock when it finally stops and, if the last six years have showed us anything, it’s that the Democrats can figure out a way to tie their own shoelaces together even when they’re wearing loafers.

I’m not saying Democrats shouldn’t try. I’m saying maybe they should try at something else. Let the Republicans keep screwing themselves for a couple more years. Leave ’em to it. The Democrats will be over here putting together an actual plan and focusing on a sweep in 2008.

Categories: News, Nuisance, Miscellany


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