Dem Bones

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

Ever since Ronald Reagan's Teflon reign, it seems like nothing sticks to Republicans. Does anyone even remember, for example, when G.W. Bush's brother Neil admitted under oath in 2003 to banging different hookers every night for weeks, hookers that were sent to him by a Chinese firm owned by Red Army brass, a payoff, along with $2 million in stock, for his lobbying on their behalf to acquire sensitive computer technology? (Other Neil Bush services rendered: getting taxpayers to foot the $1 billion bill when he crashed a savings & loan in the '80s; and this year Katrina relief money was diverted to his new software firm.)

When a story like that—a trifecta of sex, national security and screwup siblings—couldn't get traction, what chance do stories about greed, deception and empire have?

Dick Cheney's Halliburton made huge, unearned profits off the suffering in Iraq and the Katrina states. The Republicans' chief benefactor, the oil industry, manipulated those disasters to justify the biggest profits in human history, while Republicans handed them billions more of our tax dollars.

Along with the administration enfeebling FEMA, leaking classified info, creating torture prisons and so very much other stuff, how about a top CIA official—Europe station chief Tyler Drumheller—stating unequivocally on 60 Minutes on April 23 that the Bush administration had been properly informed that Iraq had no WMDs and that it hadn't sought nuclear materials from Niger, well before Bush lied to the contrary to Congress and the American people, leading us into this damned war.

You might think that in a functioning democracy Drumheller's revelations—a capper to the Downing Street memos and other evidence—would hit the front page of every U.S. paper and remain there until Bush was impeached. At this writing, not one single word has appeared in the "liberal" Los Angeles Times. Let's just reiterate: a CIA official in a position to know says the president of the United States willfully lied to scare us into a war in which nearly 2,400 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis have died. Surely that should warrant at least a foreskin of the attention the Times gave to Bill Clinton's dick for a year and a half, don't you think?

Nothing sticks. But you know something about Teflon? One of its constituent ingredients is called perfluorooctanoic acid, and even though the Republicans helming the EPA have tried to squelch reports that PFOA is carcinogenic, it is anyway, big time. It's fitting that, inside its metaphoric Teflon, the Republican Party is rotting from its own tumorous hubris. Folks evidently don't even need to know the details of the GOP's perfidies to smell that something's rotten in there.

* * *

With the president's poll numbers riding lower than a Chapman undergrad's chinos, this might seem an opportune moment for the Democrats to step to the fore.

Who?

You know, the opposition party. The folks poised to lead our nation back to righteousness, if they'd please stop hiding under their desks.

Democrats do seem strangely missing from the national discourse. There are two reasons for this. One is that the media scarcely covers them, probably not so much due to right-wing bias as to an institutional terror of reporting anything complex. The other reason is that Democrats are hard to photograph under their desks like that.

You might hunker down too, if you'd been gerrymandered and swift-boated into near extinction. And maybe, since they get limited press, they're putting off showing any signs of life until nearer to the fall elections.

But, Jesus, is it ever unbecoming of congressional Democrats to hide when brave souls like John Murtha, John Conyers and Russ Feingold dare to speak up. Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter has more guts. As all of us should be, Specter's incensed that Bush's domestic spying program sidestepped the Constitution, and he recently proposed de-funding the NSA until it at least gives his committee the documents to which they're legally entitled. Hooray for him, and you should e-mail your congressperson, reminding her or him that every last one of them should be standing with Specter.

Just as the Democrats should have stood with Murtha and Feingold. And when Republicans forced Conyers to hold his Downing Street memo hearings in a basement, all his colleagues should have crammed in there, Keystone Cops-style, until the press woke up and took notice.

Is this boring you yet? It is me. Remember the early days of Lost in OC where all I did was joke about cat throw-up or swinging weights from my johnson? I wouldn't mind getting back to that, if we had a government that sort of worked again and hadn't become a bizarro world parody of its former greatness. Then we could relax our eternal vigilance a notch, so it wouldn't have to be so painfully priapic all the time.

In the meantime, we need to pay attention, speak up and make sure our representatives represent us. And I apologize to my Green pals, but that means investing some effort into the Democratic Party. Good friends think I'm deluded to not see that the Dems are only another head of the same monster. Even if that's the case, the party's been home to enough grand exceptions—Feingold, Dennis Kucinich and the late Paul Wellstone among them—that it's not hopeless. Many others in the party are an admixture of decency and cynical pragmatism, and a couple of those, notably Joe Biden, might even make good presidents.

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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