Monday, May 26, 2003

As you were reading Adam Clymer’s front-page story in yesterday’s New York Times on the GOP’s push for political dominance, did you get the feeling that Clymer doesn’t quite realize that the GOP already has political dominance in this country, at least on the national level, and has had it for a long time?

Let’s review, class: In all but two of the twenty-two-plus years since Reagan’s inaugural, the GOP has controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, or both. In six of those years it controlled the White House and the Senate. GOP nominees have controlled the Supreme Court without interruption since the early 1970s. The GOP seems kinda dominant to me. But I guess Clymer’s point is that voter identification with the GOP still isn’t truly high and the GOP still doesn’t have big majorities in Congress and state legislatures. Yet at the national level, at least, it’s hard to imagine how much more the GOP could accomplish with a big majority. The complete elimination of taxes? Internment camps for Democrats?

Clymer’s follow-up on the Democrats in today’s Times is dispiriting, but I don’t think he’s too far off the mark. He acknowledges a long period of GOP dominance -- duh -- and runs through the list of Democratic problems many of us complain about: too little money, no structure of think tanks, no coherent foreign-policy message. He does quote one idiot, though, whose message he seems to agree with:

A veteran Democratic consultant looked at the 2004 presidential field and found it symptomatic of a basic party problem: "Sometimes we're so respectful of our diversity that we take completely preposterous people seriously. We always run the risk of the follies of the absurd when people want seriousness."

In particular, he said Representative Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York and former Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois were not real potential nominees but "products of the silly season."

Excuse me -- the presidential campaigns of ideological fringe-dwellers such as Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer, and Alan Keyes don’t seem to have done much harm to the GOP, so why should we accept that these Democrats are hurting their party? Maybe the real problem here isn’t the candidates. Maybe it’s that Democrats like this idiot are so willing to speak ill of fellow Democrats into a reporter’s open mike.

Oh, and Pat Moynihan, the spiritual father of all self-hating Democrats, is quoted here: One month before his death, apparently determined not to let the approach of the grave interrupt his long history of fragging, Moynihan bashed Democratic presidential candidates for agreeing to oppose the partial-birth abortion ban. Now, doesn’t the GOP platform call for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions, including for victims of rape and incest? Does this ever seem to hurt Republicans? Think that lack of political fallout might be partly attributable to the GOP tradition of not stabbing fellow party members ion the back?

Bob Shrum, the Democratic consultant, gets it right in Clymer’s second article:

"It's probably a weakness that we're not real haters. We don't have a sense that it's a holy crusade. We don't have a sense that it's Armageddon."

Line that up with what Clymer says about the Republicans’ comeback after Watergate:

Mr. Reagan's nomination in 1980 (after his near-miss in 1976) was the biggest step on the road back. His success convinced suspicious conservatives that the political deck was not stacked against them, and they enlisted in the Republican Party and ultimately took it over.

Nancy Sinnott Dwight, a Midwestern moderate who ran the Congressional campaign committee, said, "For us to prevail, the party was going to have to be hospitable to people far to our right."

Democrats appealing to their base: bad. Republicans appealing to their base: a blueprint for dominance. Got it?


The Republican college students on the cover of the magazine in yesterday’s Times dream of GOP dominance, but it’s odd -- they’re not like earlier generations of hectoring young right-wingers. They reject racism. They don’t oppose immigration. They advocate the free-speech rights of Eminem. One young conservative woman rejects marriage and family; one young conservative man advocates gay marriage. Is it me, or are these people liberals?

Ah, but no: They despise taxes, they love guns, and they want a strong and aggressive foreign policy. But didn’t our elected officials in D.C. just lower taxes, reject renewal of the assault weapons ban, and give us two snazzy wars? If these kids loathe liberalism, which they see everywhere around them on campus, why don’t they just get the hell off campus? Why don’t they get jobs and join the rest of us in the real America, where George Bush is considered a war hero and Max Cleland is considered a traitor?

I sometimes wish a few of our better colleges would go solidly right-wing. Then these conservative kids could matriculate where they feel wanted -- and they wouldn’t have to annoy us for the rest of their lives with their permanent sense of grievance at having had to live for four years in the same geographic space with regular performances of The Vagina Monologues.


Six New York City firehouses were closed on Sunday. Remember New York City firefighters? America’s heroes? Remember Bush with a bullhorn telling them, “I can hear you”? Yup, those guys. Six of their firehouses were closed on the orders of Republican mayor Mike Bloomberg, The Republican president’s economy is hurting the city; he and the Republican Congress aren’t offering much serious help to “first responders,” even in New York City, and the Republican governor of New York isn’t much help either. You think maybe Democratic presidential candidates should be talking about this, or even showing up at the firehouses to meet with protesters? This is from a New York Times story:

At Engine Company 212 in Williamsburg, there were about 100 protesters by 8 a.m., chanting in English, Polish and Spanish and setting up sidewalk barbecues to grill hamburgers. Two conga drummers arrived and began beating out rhythms.

Suddenly, Paul Veneski, 38, of Williamsburg, an unemployed truck driver, slipped into the firehouse through an open cellar door and opened the garage's large red door. Other protesters — among them Bronislawa Hupalo, a rail-thin 80-year-old — charged in and struggled to jam it open with discarded lumber. .

Mr. Veneski then chained himself to the fire truck. His 12-year-old daughter, Jennifer, cheered him on. Later in the three-hour standoff, she offered her father hamburgers through a small space in the door.

Apparently, trying to save firehouses runs in the Veneski family. Mr. Veneski's father, Adam Veneski, a local grocer, stormed this very firehouse when it was threatened with closing in 1975, the family said.

These aren't Hollywood liberals. These are ordinary Americans. But not even local boy Al Sharpton showed up, much less Kerry or Kucinich or Dean. Too bad.

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