BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
Lofty Ideals are Only as Meaningful as the Backbone that Supports Them
Is it just me, or is anyone else curious about how the GOP managed to suspend the United States Constitution, thrust us headlong into a costly and unjustified war, ravage the global economy, and destroy America's moral credibility throughout the world, while the Democrats, even after being handed the White House and a huge majority in both houses of congress, can't even manage to pass a healthcare bill that would benefit every family in America?
If like me, you've been curious about this issue, scratch your head no more. The answer is screaming at us right before our eyes, but like the angry medicare recipient boisterously demonstrating against socialism, we simply refused to believe our lying eyes.
The fact is, while it is clear that the Democratic party desperately needs to get its act together, there are two issues in particular that need to be addressed immediately. The first is that there are too many Republicans-in-drag on the Democratic side of the isle. These people have been playing both ends against the middle for years, and their unconscionable treachery is destroying the party. They keep a constant tog-of-war going that makes Democrats seem indecisive, and cause the American people to doubt the resolve of the Democratic party for its own initiatives.
But the debate on universal healthcare could be a blessing in disguise in that regard. It's a debate that so clearly separates what's in the best interest of America from the greed of private interests that it's forcing the hypocrisy of these self-interested politicians to the forefront.
America's healthcare is one of those seminal issues - like civil rights, social security, and the G.I. Bill - that clearly delineates the difference between the Democratic and Republican agendas. Thus, it can, and should be used to separate the wheat from the chaff, and flush out those so-called Democrats who pay lip service to progressive principles while working subtly in the background to maintain and protect the status quo.
Healthcare provides the Democratic party with an excellent opportunity to reveal, and then openly rid itself of its dead weight - and it is essential that the party do just that, just as Democrats had to weed out the Dixiecrats during the civil rights movement. So instead of begging, whimpering, and compromising for the vote of politicians who have already been bought and paid for by the insurance companies, Democrats should stand firm and force these turncoats into the open.
These Bluedog and conservative Democrats serve no useful purpose other than helping their Republican conspirators to dilute the Democratic agenda. They're also disillusioning the Democratic base. As a result, they're having a weakening effect on the party that far exceed their numbers. So the DNC needs to take a page from the Republican playbook and use the primary system to replace these neo-crats with Democratic candidates who are loyal to the party and Democratic principles.
While the GOP is atrocious when it comes to governing, there are none better when it comes to keeping their troops in line. That's why even though the Republican base has dwindled to it lowest numbers in years, recent polls clearly demonstrate that they're still destructively effective. The reason for that is quite simple - they stick together. And they stick together because they all know that any member who falls out of line will be targeted for removal in the very next election.
As progressives, most Democrats are wedded to independent thought, so they tend not to want to adopt the Republican tactic of forcing members to toe the party line. But the GOP is using the Democratic party's idealism against them, so if the Democratic Party wants to survive in this cut-throat political environment, they're going to have to get use to adding practical political tactics to their lofty ideals.
As distasteful as this jingoistic practice is, tactically, there's a lot to be said for it. After all, in spite of the fact that the GOP has dwindled down to a regional party, its diminutive wingnut base has managed to remain in firm control of the nation's political dialogue. In fact, the Democratic party seems to be more concerned about them than it is its own, and much larger, Democratic base.
It's time to start playing hardball. If the DNC fails to take immediate action against these thinly veiled Republicans, and start running loyal Democrats against them, it's not only going to perpetuate the neo-crats' rebellious behavior, but these so-called "Bluedogs" and conservative Democrats are going to bring the entire Democratic party to its knees. After all, there's a lot of money to be had in being a rebellious Democrat in a Democratically control congress.
Which brings me to the second issue that needs to be addressed - backbone.
For the most part, President Obama was elected based on his rousing oratory, his ability to lift the American spirit, and his inspirational ideals. But if we look back through history we'll find that while the American people will eagerly embrace these characteristics initially, what they respect most is strength. We're a scrappy bunch - we always have been, and we always will be. So while rousing oratory will often bring a tear to the eye, in the final analysis, here in America lofty ideals are only as sturdy as the backbone that holds them up, and President Obama needs to learn that lesson in a hurry.
Being from Chicago one would think that he would have already learned that, but obviously he hit the windy city a little too late in life. But Michelle grew up there, so I sure she's telling him nightly that while patting your enemy on the back has its place, kicking them in the ass is also appropriate on occasion. That's what the American people want to see in a leader, and we only need glance at history to see their attitude in that regard.
History will one day look back upon Jimmy Carter as a president who was ahead of his time. Actually, he was a very good president. He came very close to establishing peace in the Middle East, he was one of the smartest presidents we've ever had, and he was genuinely a nice guy. It was the latter that brought him down, however. He was too nice, and the American people saw that as a weakness.
The issues the GOP use to bring down Jimmy Carter had no more to do with him than the fall of the Soviet Union had to do with Ronald Reagan. Yet, while Ronald Reagan was clearly incompetent, and should have been both impeached and jailed on several issues, many remembered him as a great president. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter served with competence, honor and distinction, yet he's remembered by many as weak.
It was all about image. Ninety-nine percent of the American mystique involves image over substance, and the Ronald Reagan mystique is based on pure fluff. Reagan is remembered fondly for one reason, and one reason only - he reminded the American people of John Wayne. That was his function, and that was all he was required to do - remind America of a silver screen fantasy that bore no relationship to reality. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter is remembered as weak because he was a nice guy, he tried to do what was morally correct, and he represented reality - something that America is determined to escape at any cost.
The American people don't want reality - they want to live in a fantasy. They don't want to hear about the bestial brutality of what it took to wipe out close to an entire population of Native Americans; they want to hear about the Manifest Destiny, and how God wanted them to take this land. And they don't want to hear about the gross immorality of slavery; they want to talk about American exceptionalism as that shining light on the hill that serves as a beacon to all of humanity.
So if I could relay just one message to President Obama it would be the following:
Ok, Mr. President. You've shown me that you can be a nice guy. Now let me see you grab the GOP by the scruff of the neck and throw 'em out the saloon. That's what the American people are waiting to see. Sucking up to the Republican party is not helping your image at all. Have you ever seen Randolph Scott sucking up to the bad guys? America wants a gunslinger.
I know, Mr. President. Your ears are gonna look kinda funny in a Stetson. But that's all right, the American people will overlook that. Just hit your spot, get your lines right, and do what you got to do when the clock strikes High Noon.