For Democrats Only 

RAARGH!--and more of it

I've just finished reading a remarkable analysis of the situation. It's so good, I can only wish I'd thought of it. It's in the January issue of a little mag out of, of all places, Salt Lake City, and I beg every Democrat in the country to find a way to read it for themselves. Seek out Catalyst: Resources for Creative Living, the January issue, and turn to the commentary "Deride and Conquer." (I stole my copy from the offices of Boise Weekly, but I don't recommend that course to anyone else. First of all, it was wrong, and secondly, it was the only copy. Instead, try www.catalystmagazine.net. It's there; I looked.)

The author, Mel Gilles (a woman), has been a longtime advocate for victims of domestic violence and as such, and she has identified familiar patterns in the behavior of both triumphant Republicans and defeated Democrats--patterns she is well acquainted with from her experiences with abusers and the abused. I can't put it any better, so here are her words:

"Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us he will only work with those that agree with him ... Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us ...

"And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See them cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic doesn't work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy."

Now, Democrats, tell me that doesn't leave a mark.

I bring up Ms. Gille's compelling argument because next month, leaders of the Idaho Democratic Party will meet with Democratic leaders from everywhere else to chose the person who will navigate this wounded opposition ship into the next election storm and beyond. I won't be there, but there's nothing stopping me from sending along my two cents' worth. And here it is: The best thing Democratic leaders could possibly do for the Democratic Party--and for the nation, incidentally--is chose the individual Republican leaders fear most.

And how do we tell who Republicans fear most? Easy. They fear most those Democrats they abuse, deride and ridicule the most. It's how they marginalize and diminish better people than themselves, thereby obscuring the better solutions those better people have to offer. Anyone who's ever spent time around cruel children, sadistic drunks or domineering husbands knows that.

And which Democrats do they abuse, deride and ridicule the most? Easy. In no particular order, Hillary Clinton, her husband Bill, Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean. And since only one member of that quartet is running for party chair, your choice should be obvious.

Yet there is talk, particularly among those Democrats most viscerally whipped by the Republican victory, that we need a moderate in charge. Translated: someone who won't further fan the flames. Someone mild. Someone careful. Someone who has already compromised himself half the way there, so it will be a simple reach to compromise himself all the way there. Someone who'll have dinner on the table when the man of the White House comes home from a long day on the golf course, and someone who won't slap back when he gets bitch slapped by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Reilly.

In other words, it seems many of us still think that to win back the hearts and minds of red-state Americans, we must not further excite their troubled hearts nor overly stimulate their fragile minds.

Exactly wrong. This isn't a battle for hearts and minds. We tried that, remember? We went for their hearts and found only blind fear, and we went for their minds, and discovered that door was closed.

Face it, winning back the Presidency (and Congress, too) is no longer about issues, insight, intelligence, and it's certainly not about who's the most compromising. If it were, we wouldn't be forced to bear such a shuffling incompetent as commander in chief. I'm sorry to say it's about cheap entertainment. Low theater. A staged cage match, battle of the bands, Super Bowl for the king of the hill peoples' choice ruler of the universe. I don't know when it got that way, or if it was truly ever any different, but it's that way now. And Republicans are better at it than us simply because their followers are so easily entertained.

So until the hopeful day when those red-state voters pull their hearts and minds out of their asses, this is a battle for the public eye. This is a battle for the flickering attentions of people with the most ephemeral of attention spans--a battle to impress folks who have no idea what "ephemeral" means.

And ultimately, it's a battle for backbone. If we ever needed a whooping, in-your-face, unignorable rebel to lead the charge, it's now. Someone who understands that if compromise only comes from one direction, then it's not a compromise--it's subservience. Someone not mild. Someone not careful. Someone passionate enough not to tremble at the thought of making a passionate statement, taking a passionate stand or even screaming a passionate scream. Someone who won't hesitate to tell the man of the White House to fix his own damn mess, and someone who, if battered by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Reilly, will make them seriously worry about what might happen when they fall asleep.

Democrats, by now you must realize they will never let us cooperate with them. There is no pleasing them, except by our total submissiveness. Like cruel children and domineering husbands, they want it all, and they want to keep it forever. If there is any true bipartisanship to be had, it will only happen after our side has taken back the government, and it will only happen after our side has offered it.

In Mel Gilles' words: "... we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, 'loose,' irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history."

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