29 October 2002
Donkeys and jackasses
Someone once cornered Will Rogers and demanded to know his political affiliation. "I'm not a member of any organized political party," he said. "I am a Democrat."
And I have a feeling he'd be less than thrilled with what's happened to the party since then. For all its vaunted populism, today's Democratic Party values individual voters the way Scrooge McDuck values individual dollars: they're useful only to the extent that they make the numbers look impressive. Groups wield the power, the party believes, and they want to be the power behind the groups.
Unfortunately, the United States of America isn't constituted as a collection of groups. Apart from "We The People," the Constitution recognizes scarcely any groups at all. This hasn't stopped the Democrats from trying to organize existing groups, or when that fails, creating new groups, with the intent of giving them special status under the law in exchange for blocs of votes. Sometimes I think that if I were, oh, a transgendered African-American who writes antiwar tracts for The Nation and runs an abortion clinic on the side, I could probably get DNC chair Terry McAuliffe to drive me to work every day.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, people seem less likely to identify themselves first as group members these days, and that's one of the reasons why they're going to lose, and lose big, in the 2002 elections. Groupthink is, well, oldthink; today's voter wants to know, first and foremost, "What's in it for me?" And who can blame her? The Democrats don't think we're capable of managing our own retirement funds, or of defending ourselves against marauding thugs, or of making any sort of decisions below the federal level. The Democrats worry that if in one state, a sixteen-year-old girl can't have her uterus vacuumed out as easily as she can have an ankle bracelet fitted, the streets will be flooded with coat hangers in all states. And an awful lot of Democrats apparently believe that anything, anything at all, is better than taking a shot at someone who is sworn to kill us.
Odds are, the Democratic organization, such as it is, will spend December licking its wounds and complaining about the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Maybe, just maybe, they'll devote some small fraction of that time trying to figure out just how it is that they veered to the left at the same time the rest of the country started listening to the right. Or they won't, and by 2004 they may be every bit as dead as Will Rogers. And without the amusing anecdotes, either.