David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Five Things Democrats Need to Shut Up About if They Intend to Run the Country Again

Make It Blue -- Democratic Donkey in ShadesThe Democrats will probably wrest control of one or both houses of Congress from the Republicans in a few weeks. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing. But it’s a good thing largely because the Republicans have been doing a bad job governing and they deserve the boot — not because the Democrats have presented much in the way of a viable alternative.

The Democratic Party worries me. They’ve been witless, hapless, senseless, and scrotumless where the Iraq war is concerned — and if anyone on the left has a better plan for the Middle East than Bush’s rather abysmal “stay the course,” I haven’t heard about it. “Let’s get the fuck out of there” isn’t half-bad as plans go, but unfortunately the country’s still going to be there after we leave, and it’d be nice to figure out some way to clean up a little bit of our mess first.

Nevertheless, the Democrats’ short term prospects for capturing the House and the Senate are looking good. Their long term prospects, however, still seem dismal to me. Unless some charismatic and substantive leader steps forward to carry the banner in 2008 — Hillary? Barack? Al Franken? — I’m afraid that any gains the party makes will be short-lived.

Why? Because the Democrats whine. And while they have plenty of legitimate gripes, they’re still holding on to a number of gripes that are silly, disingenuous, or just plain wrong. To wit:

1. The Republicans stole the presidential election in 2000. You don’t hear a lot of candidates actually saying this anymore — not since George W. Bush solidly trumped John Kerry in 2004 — but in the Democratic grass roots this idea still gets a lot of play. The fact of the matter is that someone had to lose the Florida vote, and with the numbers only separated by a fraction of a percentage point, it was pretty much guaranteed that nobody would be satisfied with the outcome. Yes, the recount process was a little too chaotic and too politicized, but according to nonpartisan studies conducted after the fact, the end result was the correct one.

2. George Bush lied to get us into Iraq. To say that the president and his advisers lied is to assert that they knew the truth and purposefully stated the opposite. But intelligence is always something of a guessing game, and the best guess of the intelligence community in early 2003 was that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. (Remember, George Tenet, “slam dunk”?) The Clinton administration had concluded the same thing. Wrong conclusion, as it turned out — but nothing I’ve heard or read has convinced me that the Bush administration actually believed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and yet led the public astray for their own nefarious purposes. They were incompetent, inefficient, and looked at the facts with blinders on — but that’s not quite the same as lying.

3. The Republicans have ruined the economy. Actually, the economy as a whole has been doing rather nicely. We have an enviable jobless rate of 4.6 percent, a Dow that’s just crossed 12,000 for the first time, and lots of companies posting record profits. Your 401k might no longer be doing somersaults and giving you neck rubs, but we knew that couldn’t last anyway. (That being said, what the Republicans are guilty of vis-a-vis the economy is giving the spoils to the rich through tax cuts and a stagnant minimum wage, among other things.)

4. George Bush has been lying about the progress of the Iraq war. I don’t think the Democrats should stop whining about this because it’s untrue. To the contrary, the Bush administration has been misleading the public about how bad it is out there. But during wartime, that’s part of the president’s job. Boosting morale, garnering enthusiasm, doing the rah-rah thing, sticking Jessica Lynch on a pedestal. Governments have to control the flow of information and continually present their case to the public in black-and-white terms during wartime. Lincoln did it, Roosevelt did it, Nixon did it. Otherwise the public will grow restless and demand the troops come home, regardless of the merits of the war. (Now, the fact that the Bushies are clumsy and vindictive in their propaganda — that’s another story.)

5. The only way Republicans win is by scaring the bejesus out of people on hot-button “values” issues (gay marriage, abortion, flag burning, etc.). It’s true that the GOP tends to trot out the same hoary old chestnuts every two years. “If you put Nancy Pelosi in power, she’s going to come to your house and personally give your 14-year-old daughter an abortion while dancing on a burning flag! And then she’s going to take away your guns!” But that’s the nature of politics, and television advertising in general. (Have you ever seen a subtle television commercial?) Until the Democrats stop rounding up senior citizens every two years and warning them that the Republicans want to take away their Social Security money, it’s really hypocritical for them to complain.

Next week: Five Things Republicans Need to Shut Up About if They Intend to Run the Country Again at Some Point.

Following that: Five Things Neither Democrats or Republicans Are Talking About, But Damn It, They Should.

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  1. Jason M. Robertson on October 20, 2006 at 11:02 am  Chain link

    I’m going to have to challenge you on your absolution of the ‘lying to get us into Iraq’ charge. While it is clear the major players all believed in WMD in Iraq, it is also clear they lied in numerous specific instances to create a more dramatic threat. In particular the nuclear claims were known to be bunk throughout. Beyond that, many of the secondary enabling arguments are clear lies. The institutional gaze of our planning mechanisms was averted from the war aftermath to enable expectations of an easy recovery. The inspections regime was rocky, but appeared to be on course for reimplementation. Repeated claims that force was a last resort, administration insistence that use-of-force authorization was first a tool about credibility, these are all things that don’t admit of reconciliation with what we’ve learned of the intent of the actors involved. The general WMD question is interesting for being an exception to the full complex of public statements made to set the course to war.

  2. tommyspoon on October 20, 2006 at 4:14 pm  Chain link

    Until the Democrats stop rounding up senior citizens every two years and warning them that the Republicans want to take away their Social Security money, it’s really hypocritical for them to complain.

    Not for the past four years, my friend. That’s exactly what the GOP wanted to do by “privatizing” Social Security.


  3. David Louis Edelman on October 22, 2006 at 4:44 pm  Chain link

    Jason: I think this becomes a semantic question at some point. Is it a “lie” that the administration put forth evidence that they had doubts about without fully disclosing all of those doubts? I’m not sure. What about when you’ve got dozens of people who make a consensus decision about something even though some members of the group don’t buy it?

    Did people in the entire military industrial complex lie during the march to war? Sure. But I think if you look at the question as a whole — did the Bush administration intentionally deceive the nation into a false war knowing the facts didn’t support their argument? — it seems to me that the answer is no. I think they really believed that the war was warranted based on the evidence they had.

    Tommy: Touché. Good point. (Although Democrats conveniently forgot to mention that Bush’s lame privatization proposals would not have affected current senior citizens’ Social Security…)

  4. tommyspoon on October 23, 2006 at 10:32 am  Chain link

    Any proposed changes to Social Security only affect people who have not begun to receive benefits. I believe that’s the law, but I could be wrong about that.

    You really ought to read “The One Percent Doctrine”. It really lays out the case that this administration lied their way into this war.


  5. David Louis Edelman on October 23, 2006 at 1:24 pm  Chain link

    Don’t get me wrong, Tom… I too want to ITMFA. I just want to do it for the right reasons. :-)

  6. tommyspoon on October 23, 2006 at 2:24 pm  Chain link

    So lying to the American people to enter a war of choice isn’t a good enough reason for impeachment? If not, then could you pray tell me what reason is good enough? I want the Dems to get control of Congress so they can exercise some oversight, not just to impeach BushCo. If impeachment is a byproduct of that oversight, great.

  7. Jose on October 30, 2006 at 8:55 am  Chain link

    The planting of the “curveball” story with Plame and the administrations response to it was a clear cut case of deciet.

    Any good salesman “believes” what he’s telling you even if in the back of his head he probably knows its a lie on some level. He chooses to believe the pitch because it’s in his best interest to do so not because he’s interested in the truth. This is a decietful act even if the salesman has disassembled to the point where he doesn’t feel like he’s lying.

  8. […] It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the Republicans are going to lose at least one house of Congress in next week’s mid-term elections. Or at least, it would be a foregone conclusion if they were running against anybody but the Democrats. (See my recent blog entry Five Things Democrats Need to Shut Up About if They Intend to Run the Country Again.) […]

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