It was such a jaw-droppingly ironic sign of things to come that i had to reach for my camera. I mean, literally, there was this sign at the top of the escalator, directing traffic to the various meeting rooms on the second floor of the Wyndham Hotel Saturday Nov. 20th. It was the kind of thing that made people visibly and even audibly respond when it caught and held their eye. You want a symbol, a message from god on high, a sign? Well, here's your sign.
Almost everybody spotted it, almost everyone winced. Some laughed. Some cursed. Buddies pointed and interrupted each other to draw attention to it. Some shook their heads as if exhaling a fly. I took this picture.
Like many others, I had come, as a Democrat to downtown Phoenix on a sunny Saturday seeking to assemble with some other Democrats, wandering if we were still welcome in the capitol city. I felt lost. Literally we had lost, in a great-big, major way, in like, no, not like, actually all state wide races. It sucked, i wanted a new plan. I'd come to the Wyndham to find it. This hotel was supposed to play host to what was supposed to be the first post-election state-wide meeting of the party and there wasn't a donkey in sight.
I was there as myself of course, but also, as my wife's, Beth Weisser's, representative at the consolation-fest she would surely be in for as a recently defeated state senate candidate. It was a tough day of planning for us. The AEA had scheduled a training day the same day. We are both members of both and had to split forces to cover the bases, and sift through assorted cliches. Beth drew the short straw and i was off on an adventure.
As myself, i was there as an "elected precinct committeeman," which is, i guess, one tad better than being an "elected nowhere's nothing," but i was still a novice, a babe in the woods, despite being something like a 6 year semi-active member of the actual party. Not literally a card carrying member or anything, just saying, but as the husband of a recent candidate, i'm clearly in bed with them--as opposed to someone who simply votes Democrat based on the TV ads or some much. Being a fulltime non-profit disorganization on my own, working as a Democrat wasn't often a central part of my life, but come election time, and especially since my wife candidacy, i gleefully put up some signs, pass out some flyers. I drink a lot of coffee while a wide variety of people explain to me exactly what the problem is. You know, good times; it's a party.
But then i am also this annoying self-supposed would-be journalist-type, a purported jokester who skews Dems as freely as the GOP when desperate for easy targets. It is an odd role to play, being the kind of guy who would probably write a column like this, about a meeting like that with a sense of minor, but gleeful, mischief. Anyway, in any of those various roles that play the player, i was mostly there to ask, 'what the ____ just happened? '
"Shellacking." It is such an active verb, Mr. President.
As you may recall that was Obama's morning-after disaster descriptor of choice for the defeat dealt the Democrats in this just past election. To be properly "shellacked," one is not "merely" or even "summarily" defeated. No. One must be brought down (probably flailing), killed of course, and subsequently disemboweled, immersed in acids or some such taxidermy stuff, literally stuffed like a beaver, and THEN painted, varnished in fact with the shell secretions from lac beetles. That's right, doused in beetle juice. It's the same yummy flavor all candy lovers crave on the shells of their shiny M&Ms, though there known as "confectioner's glaze." It's the kind of term used to describe what you would do with a roughly worn relic that was looking a little worse for wear. As in:
("So, should we throw this here ol' stuffed iguana? It's lookin' a might bit scruffy about the elbows."
"Naw, just give it another shellacking."
See? That what it means to get a good "shellacking. I admit that term was a fairly apt description of the appearances of many of my Dem colleagues that morning at the Wyndham. Like so many Dems there that day, i was still a little sore from my own election-day shellacking and looking the restart button, hoping for some recantation-style postgame color done by a penitent Dem leadership sans the spin cycle; and, more importantly, some quick pointers on how the rest of us were going to save our state from the hillbilly Gestapo Fox News had just put in charge of us.
Further, I went with the attitude that the Blue Dog Dems brought this turn upon us all and had a lot of explaining to do. The success of the Tea Party emblem for the GOP showed that Dems needed to differentiate from not assimilate with the GOP leaning segment of the voters. If fifty years of being marketed to have taught me nothing i know you have to build your own brand, you can't steal their brand, you have to build your own. So yes, i am prepared to say it is the move to the right that has destroyed the Democrats, a move away from the public's, and the party's, best interests.
The public has every right to be wary. Twice in recent elections the Dems had first sold, then sold out the message they'd campaigned on, squandering American goodwill and momentum in their support. As Jon Stewart quipped to Barack Obama, "It's like they're campaigning on 'Come on, Baby, give me one more chance.'" In 2006, Dems claimed they were rising up against the "Bush regime" and rallied the country and then; upon being swept into office on national good will for their message, they just basically became members of the Bush power-structure for the last two years of his presidency. Though Dems "controlled" Congress, between bluster and signing statements, Bush still wrote or rewrote government to his liking, consistently got military funding, torturer approval, and legislative endorsements for his Wall Street bail-out schemes.
Then in the face of the Bush economic crisis, America hired the opposition, the Dems to the rescue, to sort it all out and make the mess right, right? And instead, banks continued to get billions in bail-outs, give themselves lavish bonuses, while millions are thrown out of their houses by these every same banks and left with no way to fight back, even after it is plainly shown that multitudes of these evictions are frauds. The fabled Stimulus package gets hollowed out to where it won't achieve much more than the inability to not be pinned with a GOP label as an excess spending talking point.
Then there's a whole other massive expense of energy and goodwill on a health care reform that in the end ran the same course, dribbling down from a mighty message of hope to mealy mouth gesture of an inside deal, selling out the same people it claimed it was helping. It even got them following tri-cornered hats waved around by a PR firm, all to keep powerful health and insurance interests entrenched and train a public to work against their own best interests, by fighting in the streets against universal healthcare.