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In Search of An Effective Opposition

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It seems that my main preoccupation in recent months has been around the questions: How can we get the opposition party in America today to do what America needs from its opposition party at a time when the party in power has launched an assault on the values and institutions and legal structures that undergird our system of government? And what would be the best strategy for such an opposition party, facing such an opponent, heading into an election, and having to reach and sway and awaken the American people?

Here are some of my thoughts regarding those two questions.

A Big Question for the Democrats

With respect to the first question --what it would take to get the Dems to rise to this occasion-- I would like to ask them: Do you not get it, or do you just not know how to deal with it?

The "it" here is, of course, that the Bushites are not the usual kind of political actors in American history-- that this group is a darker and more dangerous gang than has ever exercized power at that high level in the more than two centuries since the nation was founded.

Some people say that it's neither a failure to recognize this reality nor an inability to conceive an effective response. They think that the Dems are in cahoots, that all this is fine with them. I simply do not give that interpretation any credence: no political party ever wants to be defeated and made irrelevant.

But I really do wonder how much the failure of the Dems to talk to the country about this fascist danger is that they don't grasp what's going on. That is also hard for me to believe, but not impossible. After all, I don't think the proportion of American citizens who have a reasonably clear perception of the depth of the perfidy of the Bushites is all that high.

(BTW, I would really like to know how high that proportion is. I would guess, without knowing, that maybe 20% would answer yes to some question like: Do you think that the Bush presidency is more evil than other presidencies in American history? Or that it is a threat to the American system of government?)

And then there's what I think is the more likely answer: the Dems just don't see how speaking to the American people about this absolutely crucial truth --that elephant in the room-- can play well for them politically.

The Fallacy of the Dems Being "Risk Averse"

I believe that the Dems fear that it would be risky for them to speak clearly and with moral conviction about the Bushite threat to the American Republic. They are probably right. It probably is risky. But there's a simple question I'd like to ask those Dems that may be opting for "playing it safe":

What's safe about playing it the way you have been doing? What good has the other way done, with the Dems having lost every chamber and branch of government?

In 2000, Gore probably did not see clearly the especially menacing nature of his opponent. And if he had seen it, there was little he could point to that would have been persuasive to the electorate.

In 2002, the Dems ran a normal campaign against a vicious and unscrupulous Republican Party, and they lost.

But by 2004, there was plenty of evidence. Yet John Kerry ran against GWB as if this president were a fine man, leading a normal administration, thus taking what should have been the main issue of the election off the table.

It was conceivable that Kerry might well win without having to talk to the American people about the elephant in the room. But here we are with four more years of this proto-fascist Bushite rule.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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