Dem Bones

Web Exclusive! Let's Help the Democrats Find Their Spines

But even if Dick Cheney's caught hunting human babies for their meat, the Republicans might prevail in the fall elections, because Democrats are so very good at losing.

As long as you're e-mailing your congresspersons, please send them this article, as I've some hints on reinventing the party and reclaiming our democracy.

Let's start by getting this out of the way:

John Kerry = loser.

Hillary Rodham Clinton = loser in a pantsuit.

Kerry's stentorian dithering blew the last election, while Clinton's already maneuvering to be the Frampton Comes Alive of candidates, thinking she can win by being so mainstream and meaningless that folks won't vote against her, which won't be enough to make anyone vote for her. I know this. I ran a record store.

Whoever they're running for any office has to come across as human, someone who talks to people, not down to them. Any presidential candidate has to be at least as off-the-cuff and immediate as John McCain, since the GOP might be canny or desperate enough to run him.

With a history of losing elections, you'd think Democrats would at least want the satisfaction of being right when they lose. It's time they tackled previously unassailable issues, like the military budget. If we cut it in half, we'd still have by far the world's most expensive military; we could use the money to start fixing problems at home, and we might be less inclined to go to war. When your only tool's a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If we invested more in diplomacy and the common good, war might be able to stay in the toolbox.

It's patriotic to say so, and to decry the grip of lobbyists on government, and to call for the impeachment of criminals in office. If Democrats can't distinguish themselves from Republicans on such issues, then why not just vote for Republicans, who at least do their train wrecks full speed ahead?

It looks like meaningful campaign reform won't come from Congress, so Democrats should adopt their own. How's this: don't accept corporate money or lobbyists' money.

That fits well with a new campaign strategy: don't spend a damn penny on ads. Kerry's campaign cost well over $1 billion. Since he lost, it might as well have been poured down a hole, which is what I recommend doing with it. Use the party's money to fix potholes, buy meals for the elderly or do other public works. Run a shadow government that's so effective people will want to see what Democrats can do with a real government again.

The money's wasted on ads because the Democrats will never, ever beat the Republicans on their home field. You can't sell reason in a 30-second commercial, but you sure can sell fear, and Republicans do a tiptop job of that. But if people watching TV have nothing but that coming at them, they might just get hungry for an alternative and check out the Dems' message on the web, or call their TV networks demanding more real news.

There's a pig's chance in a Hormel plant of the Democrats ever doing anything so dramatic, you say? Maybe, but one local candidate, Larry Caballero, is doing exactly that in his run for the 35th District state senate seat. Keep an eye on him—vote for him, even, and maybe other Democrats will catch on, and someday I'll be able to write about cat barf again.

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