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David B.

Livingstone

 

 

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November 30, 2005
Striking a Blow for Buyer's Remorse
 

Under normal circumstances, odd-year elections tend to generate roughly the same level of popular excitement as an accountant�s convention. Not that many people typically get worked up about candidates for Commissioner of Sewers, obscure bond proposals and the like; the reasons, of course, are easy to understand. After a long day at work, would you rather stand in line, waiting to punch a card to vote on issues you only dimly comprehend, or grab some drive-through and head home for an evening of reality TV? Under normal circumstances, America votes with its feet, and the winners by a landslide are Mickey D's and the remote.

 

Not this year. Not quite. A combination of factors�variously guessed to include the Iraqi quagmire, Plamegate, the Federal non-response to Katrina, corporate downsizing, and the transit of Mercury through Scorpio�have led to a relatively energized off-year electorate. Energized to the tune of a half-dead Duracell, maybe, but energized nonetheless. To do what? Evidently, to send George W. Bush a message: We Don't Like You Anymore.

 

A single year past his one-percent "mandate," George Bush finds himself the proud recipient of approval ratings in the mid-thirties, with one senior aide under indictment and another only a hair's breadth behind, and with a large segment of the populace barely restraining themselves from baying for his blood. It's a sorry and humbling state of affairs for Mr. Mission Accomplished, who only a few short years ago seemed able to elevate the masses to dizzying heights of exultation by simply delivering a plastic turkey to Baghdad, or showing up for a photo-op in a flightsuit.

 

Neo-conservatism's golden age now seems as distant a memory as a first-run episode of I Love Lucy. The worm has turned, and with a vengeance: America's noticed that its lost its job, its co-pay has gone up, and that the kids down the street are coming home in boxes, and it isn't happy. At all.

 

Only such convulsive angst could explain the across-the-board Democratic Party gains in places like New Jersey, Virginia, and Arizona. With the exception of the re-election of Republican-lite Mike Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, the 2005 elections were nearly a Democratic sweep; Democrats landed John Corzine the Governorship of New Jersey and Tim Kaine that of Virginia. Odd, really, considering that Garden State residents have long been fed up with state Democratic corruption and nepotism, and that Kaine's candidacy was marred by some fairly sleazy tactics (which, it must be said, his opponent matched note for note). Democrats didn't win on the strength of their virtues; they won by default.

 

That is, they won on the strength of being not-Bush. By being The Other Guy. Had "none of the above" entered the fray, Corzine and Kaine would be working on their resumes rather than calling moving vans.

 

Over the coming days, Democratic stalwarts will crow over this November's repudiation of all things Republican and happily fantasize about their chances for retaking the House and Senate in 2006. And truth be told, they have good reason to do so: They'll still be not-Bush a year from now, and there is little likelihood that Karl Rove's presidential handpuppet will see any dramatic upturn in his popular loveability between now and then. In all likelihood, Bushian neoconservatism is finished.

 

More's the pity, then, that the Democrats aren't offering anything substantial to replace it. No clear, coherent Democratic agenda has yet emerged from the bloated, formless mass molded by Clinton and McAuliffe. There's no guiding vision, no governing principle, no overarching theme apart from simply not being associated with a certain semiliterate, boorish incompetent from Crawford, Texas whose cabal currently runs the most powerful nation in the world.

 

A bit of spine and a dollop of principle would be nice things to bring to the fray. If the Democratic party had a few more Conyers, Reids, or Pelosis, they might even succeed in generating some actual popular enthusiasm, a commodity that's been in short supply for them lately. Thus far, though, the party as a whole remains as gelatinous as ever, a party of appeasing platitudes rather than guiding principles. Being bland, formless goo might be enough to win elections, so long as your opponents' leader is actively loathed. But it's scarcely sufficient to effectively govern.

 

2005 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.

 

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