February 1, 2006
Man Without A Party
I got nothing more and nothing less than I expected from George W. Bush's State of the Union last night. It was George being 110% George – which still left him about 105% short of what a president oughta be.
Nevertheless I girded my loins, poured a double brandy and listened through to the end just to see what the Democrats would serve up as a rebuttal.
What they served up was Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine. In all America Democrats succeeded in finding a speaker more boring than Al Gore and blander than John Kerry. It was like watching Michael Dukakis playing scrabble on three Valium.
Ah but there was a triangulated method to the Democrats madness. They picked Kaine to give the State of the Union response “because he is comfortable talking about his faith.” Which he did by starting right out letting listeners know he began his adult life as a missionary.
So there you have it. Democrats have joined the “faith and values” camp. If you believe in stuff that contradicts not just commonsense, but science as well, Democrats want you back and are willing to pretend they too see that six-foot tall white rabbit you say goes everywhere with you. Because faith is a powerful thing, and faith must be not just protected, but nurtured – nurtured into votes.
Republicans were first to figure out that there were millions of voters out there who would vote for anyone who pandered to their belief in the metaphysical. It was sure easier than coming up with real solutions and policies too. All GOP candidates needed to do was throw a few “God bless America's” into their speeches, say they too believed a fertilized egg is a person and that public schools would be better off if kids prayed there. That was all there was to it. Those voters were theirs for the taking.
Democrats resisted pandering to the biblically lobotomized. Instead Democrats clung to the quaint notion that a nation cobbled together from an international inventory of races, cultures and religions, would fly apart in sectarian strife unless the government remained secular in all matters held in common.
But the Republicans got it right. When your fortunes are tied to sheep, become shepherds. Make no quick moves or loud noises. Sheep spook easily. What they need most is reassurance. And you can't lead sheep, you herd them. If you try to lead sheep they will just stand there confused, munching their cud as you march bravely off, alone.
So Democrats, tired of seeing Republican shepherds rustle the flocks, decided to become shepherds too. Shepherds of the faithful. Herding, rather than leading, them to the polls.
Of course this will all end badly. But in the short term it will work. Faith-based Democrats will peel off voters from faith-based Republicans. Who knows, faith-based Democrats may even regain control of Congress, even the White House.
But by then it will make little difference. Republican or Democrat, they will soon find themselves tangled in a sectarian brier patch which, once started, spreads like wildfire. Ask the folks in what used to be Yugoslavia – at least those who are still alive to tell about it. Ask the Tutsi, the Ugandans, the Sudanese, and Ethiopians. Ask the folks of Northern Ireland, or Iraq. They will tell you what happens when politicians become faith-based shepherds.
So, what's my bottom line after last night's speechifying? I had written off Republicans long ago. Now I am done with Democrats as well. I am now officially a man without a party -- and increasingly, without hope.
If there is to be hope again – at least for lost lambs like me – it will have to come in the form of a new party – call it the American Unity Party.
But third parties are always losers. Almost from the day they are announced they attract political and social wingnuts like Rush Limbaugh to pain killers. For such a party to avoid the same fate, it be infused from its inception with leaders who are known, proven and respected.
And the only way to get leaders like that is if they defect from the Democrat and Republican parties.
Here's a cheery day dream. Imagine waking up one morning and tuning in CNN to find a group of familiar men and women holding a press conference announcing they are leaving their party to form the American Unity Party. Among them, Russ Fiengold, Barack Obama, John McCain, Byron Dorgan, James Jeffords, Pat Leahy and Barney Frank. No where in sight is Hillary, John Kerry, Tom DeLay or Lieberman.
The platform for the AUP: (Pronounced “up” by the way.)
* Restate the secular traditions our enlightened founders set as the corner stone of what they knew would become the world's most successful and enduring secular democracy.
* End the tax-free status of any religious institutions or organizations that become involved in partisan political activities.
* Set forth a fair, simple and progressive tax system.
* Bury once and for all the cynical, disingenuous and failed “trickle down,” economics and replace it with “trickle up” economics -- a system that puts money in the pockets of working Americans who then spend it on products and services thereby enriching those who produce and provide them.
* Acknowledge the reality of global warming and the imminent danger it poses to all mankind. Set forth a 10-year plan to deal with it.
* Return domestic issues to the top of the political agenda.
* Wind down our failed forced-democratization military adventures in the Middle East.
* Propose implementation of a national, single-payer health care insurance system.
* Propose a constitutional amendment mandating public financing of campaigns for federal office, including President.
Now, wouldn't that be a nice way to start your day? A new party, but filled with names and faces who have fought these battles before, and there for know where the land mines are buried. A party headed by folks who decided to throw away safe political careers to return America to what it was before the Neo-con revolution perverted and converted it into a modern-day Sparta.
But unless something as unlikely as that occures, I see no hope on the horizon. Hillary Clinton? Rudolf Guiliani? John Kerry – again? Democrats without coherent domestic or foreign policies or Republicans with bad ones. Your choice.
But not mine. I'll sit on my hands during the next election if those are my only choices. And I suspect many like me will do the same. Democrats hoping that by pandering to “people of faith,” combined with the accumulated messes caused by Bush policies will give them a win next November.
Maybe so. But so what? And isn't that precisely the point?