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Brontosaurus Democraticus

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As nearly every school child now knows the Brontosaurus never really existed.  That enormous array of bones and plaster that graced the main room in the Smithsonian all those years ago was a concoction of bones and paradigms and enthusiasm that should never have been assembled.  The worst part of the brontosaurus was the head.  It was the wrong head and the museum paleontologists should have known better.  But, Washington, D.C. has a strange effect on people, not just up on Capitol Hill, but throughout the city, the capital of the world, the new Rome and Jerusalem and Athens all in one!

Arianna Huffington has written an elegy to the D.C. Democrats, malformed and malpracticing, feckless, corrupt in ways that suspend credulity.  Arianna focuses on cowardice, and there certainly is the appearance of that.

Cowardice is, according to a piece in New Yorker this week caused by thinking too much. It is certainly possible to become a coward by over-estimating the enemy and dreaming up a thousand ways to fail.  But the appearance of cowardice may be different from the reality of it.  This is not to excuse Democrats of real cowardice, but only to suggest that there are reasons for Democrats to be concerned, not the least of which is that the Democratic coalition has too many unDemocratic bones!

Democrats still do not know how to behave.  The William J. Jefferson problem has Democrats "Losing Traction on Reform", despite the advantages of numbers they now have.  The Black Caucus got stirred up about pouncing on Jefferson, but has anyone asked why Blacks are painted as defending corruption?  The fact is that white Democrats just have not been caught yet, and the Black Democrats know it, and are saying that Reform must be colorblind.  Clean up the whole party! Don't just call this one Black man a crook and use him as a token clean-up.

Democrats like Pelosi need to redouble their efforts at reform.  Letting the Republicans off the hook as the Culture of Corruption, when it is so palpably, odiferously true, is not an option.  Democrats have to take and hold the high ground.  There is only one way to really do that: it means cleaning up one's own act.

But, brontosaurus democraticus suffers from an even more basic problem.  His head is wrong.  Brontosaurus democraticus is a concoction rather than an alliance or coalition.  The part making the noise, the mouth, is speaking DLC pablum and hoping for a clean shot at middle America, when the correct mouth and voice is progressive liberalism, a genuine program for saving the middle classes and the agricultural and industrial workers who give their lives into making value for our GDP.

The Democrats will not be a genuine species until every last one of them can say, as Jack Kennedy famously said,

"...if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people?their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties?if that is what they mean by a "liberal," then I am proud to be a liberal."

This includes, then, the feet, those ponderous supports under the body of the Democratic Party, the slow Blue Dogs of the Party.  They too must go to the hustings with Kennedy's fire and Kennedy's courage, Kennedy's compassion for the weak, aging individuals, the poor, the immigrants, the ill, the pregnant beyond their means!

There is some good news.  It comes from Virginia, the "mother of presidents," the purple state with all its radical internal differences.  The Virginia Republicans are taking what they imagine to be their high road.  They have abandoned the center and are battening down the hatches for a fight for real conservatism.

The Rahm Emanuels of the DLC variety will say this is then the time for Democrats to take the center, to quizle, to prevaricate, to disguise, to pander, pule, and prostitute our liberal ideals.  They are wrong!  If the Republicans are going back to basics of conservatism—and who could blame them with the Bush madness as their alternative legacy—then this gives the Democrats the room in which to declare liberal and progressive ideals as a counterforce.  There is no way to win the middle with pablum and mush.  Both are obvious and unappetizing and will not win votes.

In fact what Democrats must do is evolve.  The past is gone; a new structure of progressive politics must be assembled and the pieces coordinated to the purpose of healing this country of its irrationality and demogoguery.  Democrats can do this, but it will take courage.

JB Visit The American Liberalism Project today!

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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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