Democrats’ Dementia 

The people’s party have met the enemy — themselves

Thursday, Nov 4 2004

Whatever slim hope that Democrats might have of extracting something positive from this week’s resounding defeat depends entirely on how much authentic introspection they are willing to inflict on themselves. To the degree that they look outward — instead of inward — to identify the causes of the 2004 debacle, the more certainly they are doomed.

The more we hear in the coming days and weeks about counting and re-counting in Ohio, about supposed voter intimidation and suppression, about fixed machines, about crooked and partisan secretaries of state, about unfair advertising, or Karl Rove’s dirty tricks, then the more anyone with something other than tapioca for brains should abandon any hope of rejuvenating or rebuilding this hollowed-out excuse for a party.

The Democrats lost this election fair and square and have absolutely no one to blame for it other than themselves. They don’t even have pathetic Ralph Nader to scapegoat as they did four years ago. Sorry if I rush to hang the crepe. But the 4-million-vote margin racked up by Bush — the first absolute majority since 1988 in a presidential election — is an undeniable and clear victory that robs any other solution — as unlikely as that might be — of any moral legitimacy. At least it should after Florida’s Hurricane Chad, in whose aftermath the Democrats screeched that Bush was an illegitimate president because he had lost the popular vote and was appointed, in effect, by the Supremes. Surely the Democrats would want to eschew any similar stigma, wouldn’t they?

Related Stories

  • Jay Leno's Favorite Target Was ... Bill Clinton

    For all the talk about the "liberal media" (both news and entertainment) favoring Democratic candidates, you'd think a West Coast comedian like Jay Leno would practically be an honorary party chairman. But he embraced former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, his friend, and always gave a warm, respectful platform to presidents...
  • Fighting for the Right to Lose to Gov. Brown 50

    Like most people, Bill Bloomfield does not think Neel Kashkari will be the next governor of California. Jerry Brown, he says, is "clearly going to be re-elected." Nevertheless, Bloomfield has decided to dip into his family's wealth — he made a pile on coin-op laundry machines — to pay for...
  • How to Vote 8

    You know the incumbents. So our June 3 voter guide is about the other stuff - like a comedic race for judge featuring candidates so bad the bar association finds both "Not Qualified." One is Charles Calderon, who L.A. Weekly previously reported as one of the worst legislators in California. There's...
  • Immigrant Prison 13

    After nearly a decade of hard-line enforcement on illegal immigration under both the Bush and Obama administrations, one of the results is that Latinos now comprise about half of all new federally sentenced offenders. And drug and immigration crimes taken together now account for nearly two-thirds of all federal convictions,...
  • George W. Bush Secretly Visiting USC

    Liberals, start working on your shoe-throwing technique: Former President George W. Bush is coming to town. According to an email forwarded to L.A. Weekly by a friendly tipster, the world leader who brought us such wars as "Afghanistan" and "Iraq, The Sequel" is quietly arriving at the University of Southern

In locating the roots of this defeat, you are free to dig as deeply or as superficially as you care to. We could start this particular narrative, I suppose, in 1993, when a newly elected Bill Clinton gambled all of his political capital to bully and ultimately divide his own party, forcing passage of the pet project of Bush 41 — the job-shredding NAFTA. Or perhaps you’d prefer to begin this story three years later, when the same Democratic president signed the Republican abolition of federal welfare, thereby putting on the table the simple question of why we should even bother to continue having a Democratic Party. Or maybe in ’98, when Democrats reassured America that all presidents lie, and why pick on you-know-who?

Yet, to unravel this latest tragedy, there’s really no need to rehearse the ancient history of the Clinton ’90s, now enshrined in official Democratic mythology as, perhaps, the peak moment of Western civilization. Going back to the fall of 2002 will suffice. I refer to the moment when Senator John Kerry joined with Trent Lott and Tom DeLay, among many, many others, in voting the same Florida-tainted George W. Bush full authorization to move toward a patently and brazenly unnecessary war with Iraq.

Not that Kerry really meant it, of course. He had opposed what was a significantly more justifiable war with Saddam a decade earlier. But, then again, Kerry wasn’t contemplating a presidential run back in ’91.

Or we could zero in on that frosty evening back in January when about 30,000 rosy-cheeked and gray-haired Iowa farmers and their neighbors decided that, among Democrats, only John Kerry was “electable” and millions of Democrats coast-to-coast immediately rubber-stamped that now rather discredited notion.

Maybe it’s unfair, however, to isolate any single catalytic moment. A cool-headed assessment of the entire Democratic response to the Bush presidency would herald the doom of Tuesday night — regardless of the candidate. From the onset of his administration, the Democrats have combined a freakish accommodation to Bush with a shrill, sometimes paranoiac exaggeration of his evil. One moment they are part of his War Cabinet. The next they are demonizing him as an individual and warning that we are on the doorstep of fascism. And then we blame the voters for being confused.

But once so many Democrats had worked themselves into a frenzy with the mantra of stolen elections and Supreme Court electoral coups, the die was cast. If Bush was, in fact, the most dangerous, evil and demented president ever, as Democrats tirelessly reminded themselves (and apparently only themselves), then Anybody but Bush would do just fine and . . . well . . . the rest is now history.

Mr. Anybody turned out to be quite the loser that voters suspected he was before his miracle resurrection in the snows of Iowa. No one can, with a straight face, repeat just what was the precise message of his just-past and wretched campaign. Is there a reader out there who would like to write in reminding us of one memorable line to be extracted and preserved from the logorrhea that overflowed his campaign?

Could there possibly have been an incumbent easier to knock off than George W. Bush? A real-life opposition party would have been insulted to be matched with such an unworthy and frail rival. The Democrats, by contrast, got their lights punched out.

Think for a moment, if you can bear, just how fraudulent the party has become as a tribune for everyday, working Americans. John Edwards, it should be said, did a fine job of evoking the rude inequalities of the Two Americas. And it’s a pity that someone like Edwards couldn’t emerge as the Democrats’ national rabble-rouser. For a brief historical moment, the unlikely Howard Dean flashed in that role and then was even more quickly extinguished. But when you ask yourself who are the great Democratic mass icons of our times, the two or three individuals who put a face and some heart on the core populist values, damned if we don’t come up with literal clowns like Al Franken and Michael Moore. They may or may not be just dandy entertainers. But doesn’t this say something rather startling about the state of the Democrats?

Once the whining over Ohio dies out, what will laughably be called the war for the “soul” of the once-again-defeated Democratic Party will commence — a struggle so drearily predictable that the whole exercise can be easily scripted in advance. On the one side, the corporate shills of the Democratic Leadership Council, who will argue that the outcome demands a repositioning of the party to the right. On the other, the “progressives,” who will re-float their own formula that success resides in simply moving the Democrats leftward (as evidenced by what? The 2 percent primary draw of Dennis Kucinich). Both notions are simplistic and insufficient. The Democrats have not won the sort of absolute national majority pocketed by Bush in more than a quarter of a century. The party doesn’t need to be reformed or repositioned. It needs to be rethought and reborn.

The re-election of George W. Bush is a tragedy for which we will all pay dearly — some much more than others. And the only succor I cling to is the notion that the president’s punishment for being re-elected is that he will now have to manage the myriad catastrophes he has conjured. Good luck to him — and to us.

In the meantime, I shed no tears for the humiliation of this Democratic Party — only for those who suffer for having invested their hopes in it. But the Democrats richly deserve to go down — no question. My deepest regret is only that the Republicans don’t go down right alongside them.

Related Content

Now Trending

  • EDC Vegas Raver Montgomery Tsang Died From an Ecstasy Overdose

    A young man who collapsed outside Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas died from an ecstasy overdose, the Clark County Coroner's office announced today. Following the results from toxicology tests, coroner's investigators determined that 24-year-old Montgomery Tsang of San Leandro, California died from "acute methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) toxicity," a coroner's official told...
  • Here Are L.A.'s Top 5 Promiscuous Neighborhoods

    Which neighborhoods see the most hook-ups in Los Angeles? The app Spreadsheets, which helps singles track sexual performance, record their bedroom "achievements," log the duration of intercourse, and parse other data crucial to users in 133 countries across the globe, crunched its local user data just for L.A. Weekly. And so,...
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases Are on the Rise in California

    Some of you have been naughty. Others not so nice. And we're about half way to Christmas. The California Department of Public Health this week announced that rates for key sexually transmitted diseases went way up in 2013. Young women have some of the highest rates of STDs in the Golden...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Scenes from the O.J. Simpson Circus
    In the months after O.J. Simpson's arrest for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in the summer of 1994, the drama inside the courthouse riveted the masses. But almost as much mayhem was happening right outside the building, as well as near Simpson's Brentwood home. Dissenters and supporters alike showed up to showcase art inspired by the case, sell merchandise, and either rally for, or against, the accused football star. Here is a gallery of the madness, captured by a photojournalist who saw it all. All photos by Ted Soqui.