How the Left was Pwned

January 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Things are looking grim for the Democrats in Washington. By which I mean, the Democrats in Washington have decided that things are looking grim for the Democrats in Washington:

“It’s like they [freshman Democrats] walked in and got hit upside the head with a big jackhammer.” –Allen Boyd, D-Fla.

“It’s like in Roman times, they’d be trotted out to the coliseum and the lions would be brought out. I mean, they’re wanting blood and they’re not getting it so they want to protest, and, you know, you can’t blame them.” –Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.

That’s right, folks: the loss of one Senate seat, in a special election, with a particularly uninspired Democratic candidate, is equivalent to those early Christians being thrown to the lion’s den! For the sick pleasure of the rabid masses hungering for blood! If this continues, soon Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will be thrown naked into a mud pit filled with piranhas with only a ball of string and a shiv – and only one majority leader will make it out alive!

The threat of martyrdom and/or a naked Harry Reid has Democrats abandoning ship in droves. On Monday morning Beau Biden respectfully declined to run for the Senate seat primed for him since his dad took office.  By Monday evening Obama was informing Diane Sawyer that he’d “rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” (What happened to all that hope?) Meanwhile Rep. Marion Berry (D-Ark), announcing his decision not to run for re-election, informed his hometown paper: “I just began to have flashbacks to 1993 and ’94.”

Ah yes. Because the best decision when you realize you may face a tougher re-election battle than expected is to, you know, throw in the towel before the race even begins.

What’s remarkable about this collective rush for the “exit” sign is the way that the Democrats are quite literally creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: the loss of one Senate seat is an unfortunate setback that can be managed with some good PR; the loss of one Senate seat followed by a wave of resignations is a PR nightmare. And with every new retirement, the Democrats open up one more race for potential flipping (Berry was actually a pretty sure shot for re-election), thus increasing the nervousness and pessimism of the party, and leading other Democratic congress members to consider bowing out of the midterm elections (which in turn starts the cycle all over again). This is the definition of defeatism. It is irrational hysteria.

Or maybe not. Kennedy’s statement about the bloodthirsty hordes is revealing as to how this formerly populist party views the masses as a whole: as irrational, barbaric brutes thrilling for blood. This is another case of a self-fulfilling prophecy, of creating an electorate in your own image: to treat the public as hostile to your policy goals (and your very life) is to admit defeat from, if not before, the very start.
A perfect example of this mentality is shown in the party’s reaction to the election as if it were a referendum on the health care bill. Thus rep Barney Frank (D-Mass):

“I feel strongly that the Democratic majority in congress must respect the process and make no effort to bypass the electoral results.[…] our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened.”

The notion that the “decididng” vote of 100,000 people in Massachusetts (a state that already has near-universal health care) should be read as a referendum on nationwide reform, or that this tiny sliver of the electorate (proportionally and geographically) should determine the status of the 40 million Americans without healthcare nationwide, is the very opposite of “respect for democratic procedures.”  It grants to a tiny minority the final verdict over a decision affecting the republic as a whole. And yet this patently absurd notion is so palatable to (some) Democrats  precisely because it effectively relieves them of responsibility. “The people have spoken!” they can cry, as they put away their attempts at “reform” with a relieved sigh.

Because the one thing that Kennedy’s quote got (inadvertently) right is how American politics are at base a giant spectacle. But the difference between the gladiator’s coliseum and the modern political arena is that now the fight is staged – the blood isn’t real. Like in a WWE wrestling tournament, millions of Americans tune in and suspend disbelief – but the ease, the gracious smile with which the Democratic figureheads raise their hands and concede defeat reveals just how much the “battle” over healthcare wasn’t real.

Call me cynical, but I believe that, if the Democrats aren’t in fact already “staging” their coming electoral defeat, they are at least looking forward to it with something less than total dismay. A mid-term defeat sets the stage for a newly urgent exhortion to vote for the party, without holding them accountable for serious reform (to things like, say, health care) until the day they (again) possess a majority in both houses of congress and a sitting president in the Oval Office. “The day will come,” the Democrats promise, but that day recedes into an ever-distant future, perpetually contingent on some magical super-super-majority that never seems to materialize. In the meantime, we have to suspend our hopes, to be “realistic.”  That at least is the message with which the Dems will appease mid-term voters. The remarkable thing is, it will work.


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Odds & Ends An Oasis of Horror in a Desert of Boredom

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Bennett Carpenter
Leiden, Netherlands

Random musings about literature, art, politics and (occasionally) my life as a graduate student in sunny Holland. Click on the pic for more about me.


January 2010
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