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DEMOCRACY: Government & Politics | January 25, 2005


A Posting in "Comments From Left Field" by "The Scarecrow" *

Adapted from My Essay "The Democratic Revival"

My fellow Friends of Liberty,

As the Democratic Party, now severely but not mortally wounded, considers whom to select as its new Chair -- the face, voice, and conscience of the Party in the turbulent days, months, and years ahead -- your obedient, The Scarecrow, doth beg ye to remember...remember back to winter last...and the winter before that...

Verily, a year is a lifetime in politics.

Two years ago, in the winter of 2003, ye Democrats were reeling from your disastrous defeats in the fall of 2002. And what a fall it was. Despite categorical predictions and historical precedents, ye lost seats in the House to the party of a President mid-term. Most damning of all were polls in which a majority of Americans condemned your party and policies as "losers". "Losers"!

There was a wealth of reasons, and no dearth of scapegoats, for your fall from grace, as the party that had presided over eight long years of relative peace and unprecedented prosperity, to political pariahs, just two years later. The public had rallied behind the President who led ye through the horrors of the Eleventh of September, 2001. He framed the election as a referendum on security; and regardless of the ambivalence of the public towards his march to war in Iraq, whenever security is the issue the GOP wins. The Democratic leadership failed to voice a strong and clear message of its own, on practically any issue. Your party had been divided and conquered by the President's setting the agenda; on votes for his tax cuts or war powers, far too many lawmakers broke ranks with your party for dissent on either issue to serve as a rallying cry.

The GOP controlled all three branches of the federal government and the terms of the national debate.

Forgive your humble servant for speaking so bluntly, but your party was a "loser". And thus your nation, too.

Then, in the winter of your discontent, there arose a son, not of York, but of New England: As bright, hot, and unrelenting as the summer sun was former Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean MD.

The feisty physician shocked both Democratic and Republican establishments, by condemning the "complicity" of the parties, particularly in the "unprovoked war" on Iraq but also in everything from taxation to healthcare. Still "politically incorrect" to be branded "liberals", ye "progressives" had a champion!

Millions of Americans, particularly the youngest or the best educated, who had felt their intelligence insulted by the powers that be, now felt empowered by the things that might be. These true believers heeded the call of this secular evangelist and -- particularly through this fantastic new medium of the Internet -- poured tens of millions of dollars into his Presidential campaign, and turned out by the millions in small "meet-ups" nationwide.

The Democratic Party, all but dead, had arisen, fiery and formidable -- a phoenix in reverse.

The months went on. The deaths went on, even after a "Mission Accomplished". The jobs went overseas, even as a "recovery" continued. The credibility of the Administration (allegedly elected for its integrity) went out the window, as no weapons of mass destruction were found and hundreds of billions of your taxpayers' dollars were lost (in a quagmire overseas, tax cuts for the rich, and "reform" of the Medicare). As the party in power enjoyed less favor, the "mad doctor" from Vermont made more sense to more people...including some politicians within the establishment he continued to rail against.

By the end of 2003, there were more Democrats running for President than I wager most of ye voters can remember, their campaigns happily roasting the incumbent over the fires of discontent ignited by the firebrand from Vermont, their means often flattering by imitation (no candidate caught dead without "blog" or meet-up).

Then something extraordinary happened. The President delivered on a promise he made: Your troops pulled out the Ace in the hole.

History was rewritten -- removing the Butcher of Baghdad, not his boasted weapons of your mass destruction, became the justification a posteriori for war -- and the campaign of the doctor who had prescribed just peace was destined to become just history.

Often "over the top", his rhetoric had been excused if not esteemed as straightforward and bold, forgivable in excess for the righteousness of its cause. Most, however, now considered his outspokenness recklessness, a liability for achieving an even greater cause, now seemingly within reach: The winning of "the middle", once scorned but now courted, to wipe that damned smirk off the face of the "winner" who had made ye -- and your cherished beliefs -- such miserable "losers".

The candidates perceived or verily farthest to the Left and the Right failed first; those deemed most "electable" (most "Kennedyesque", in heroism, name, charisma, or hair) gained quickly the favor of record numbers of voters in primaries and caucuses nationwide.

As your obedient has noted, time and again, the ultimate results of the election would be subject to serious question; but there remains one fact beyond dispute: The Democratic Party was verily revived from its near-death experience by a doctor named Dean.

Something for ye to consider, if ye wish to put an end to these bitter winters of your discontent.

Your obedient servant,

The Scarecrow

* My alter-ego, after the classic 18th Century character created in the early 20th Century by Russell Thorndike in his Doctor Syn novels, adapted in various films. No endorsement of my commentaries by any other individual or company exists or is implied.

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