By the way, Bob, are you free in 2008? You've got my vote.
Where's the Beef?
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times
"You can't think and hit at the same time." — Yogi Berra
"One must be something, in order to do something."
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Enough already with the analyses ad nauseam of the strategies and tactics and philosophies that the Democratic Party should pursue to regain power in upcoming elections.
We've been listening to this armchair chatter for years: The Democrats need new ideas. They need big ideas. They need to move to the center. They need to wave the flag. They need to go to church. They need the soccer moms and the Nascar dads. They need to run from the blacks. They need to run from the gays.
I have no more patience with this perennially pathetic patient, this terminally timid Democrat who continues to lie cowering and trembling on the analyst's couch, wondering why the Demolition Derby Republicans control virtually all of the levers of power in the United States.
The Democrats are thinking too much and doing too little. This is a party in need of a moxie transplant. It's time for the patient to climb off the couch, walk outside and mix it up with the gang that has made a complete and utter mess of the country that was entrusted to it.
The polls tell us that the G.O.P. is ready to be routed. President Bush's approval ratings are at the lowest levels of his presidency. The war with Iraq is now widely — and properly — viewed as a disaster. Respondents to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll said they believed the Democrats would do a better job on nearly all of the major issues facing the country.
Now would be an excellent time for Democrats to pounce, to show genuine leadership. This is not the time for yet another round of thumb-sucking, for more mind-numbing nonsense about narratives and framing, for more abstract talk about how to define the party. The public needs to know what you plan to do about the war. What's your energy policy? How should we deal with Iran?
What the Democrats need more than anything, with midterms coming up in the fall and a presidential election two years later, are personable candidates of strong character who have at least some measure of political courage and are willing to stand up for what they truly believe. This is the stuff that leaders are made of.
In 1948, when Harry Truman had already been dismissed by the political geniuses as a certain loser, he got on a train and took his case to the American people. Truman told his sister: "It will be the greatest campaign any president ever made. Win, lose or draw, people will know where I stand and a record will be made for future action by the Democratic Party."
There are no Trumans in sight in this Democratic Party. Democratic candidates and potential candidates are still agonizing with their analysts over exactly what to say about this issue or that. (They're trying to figure out ways to talk about the war, for example, that will offend neither hawks nor doves.) What's almost funny is that the patient has been doing this for years, and keeps losing election after election.
Why not try something new and liberating, like the truth? Forget the theorizing and strategizing. Tell the truth about what's happening now. Let the electorate know how much the Iraq war is really costing — in human treasure, loss of influence around the world, increases in gasoline prices and cold, hard cash. Tell the truth about the monstrous buildup of state power by the Bush crowd, which has undermined the freedom and privacy of innocent people here at home, and angered many conservatives.
Talk straight about the unconscionable assault on working people in the United States.
I remember all the chatter about moral values after the last presidential election, and how the Democrats would have to pump their values up if they were ever to win again. I never bought it. The Democrats didn't lose the last time around because they lacked virtue. They lost because John Kerry was a lousy candidate.
If the Democrats don't know what they believe in yet — if they're still figuring that out — they don't deserve to win. Politicians are supposed to lead, and the U.S. has seldom been in more desperate need of leadership than now.
It's time to climb off the couch, Democrats, present yourselves to the public, and take a stand. If you're personable, and possessed of just a little bit of courage, you're halfway home.
Photo credit: Bob Herbert (The New York Times)