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Madman at the Wheel

September 26th, 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday accused Democrats of being soft in the war on terrorism with a strategy of “resignation and defeatism” that would invite more attacks on America.Reuters

This is nothing new, but for the first time, it’s become so weak that it might not work any more. Many times, from the Bush administration, from right-wing pundits, and from conservative visitors to this blog, I’ve heard the same thing: recognizing the failure of the Bush administration is equal to wishing for failure for the United States.

Of course, it’s never been about that. It hasn’t been about that for Democrats, because we rarely if ever saw ourselves as being on board with Bush, Cheney, and their policies. And like us, now a majority of the nation does not see the Bush administration as being indistinguishable from the United States. Their failure is not our failure.

If you are in a car, you are entrusting your life to the driver, so in a very real way, you are ‘on board’ with them. But if the driver starts driving recklessly, if they hit guard rails, run into trees, and generally start driving like idiots, then you no longer feel like you are ‘on board’ with them–instead, you feel endangered by them. You and your desires and safety are now very distinguishable from the driver’s will.

But in this car, the driver is chained to the wheel, and you can’t get out of the car, either. So you’re trapped. That still doesn’t mean that their will is yours. Sure, they could drive you over a cliff, but just because you’re in the same car, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with it, and it sure as hell is not “your” failure if they drive the car into oblivion. Just because they’re in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean that going where they want is the best thing for everyone in the car.

So you do the only thing you can do: you start to yell at them. “Stop the car!” you shout.

“You want to cut and run?” they reply; “What, are you a coward?

“You ran over an old lady and a six-year-old girl back there!”

“Stop whining about the past. We have to look forward and be positive, or we’ll fail.”

“You’re going to kill us!”

“It’s you’re negativism that will lead to our failure. I will not respond to resignation and defeatism. We’re going to stay the course.”

[Car drives off cliff and explodes in flames]

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  1. Paul
    September 27th, 2006 at 08:30 | #1

    The problem for Democrats is that by being the way they (I’d say “we”, but in Washington we don’t register by party, and I’m not a party “member”- or at least nobody ever sent me a membership card) are, they invite and/or allow the Republicans to define them.

    Republicans are very good at “message discipline” (if they’re good at little else). They’ve been beating this drum of “cut and run” and “defeatest” and “soft on terror” for a long time, because they know that sooner or later that image will stick in people’s minds, even if it’s not true.

    I’ve written (hell, many have written) about how the image that pops into people’s minds about “Democrats” when you talk about, say, federal budgetary and fiscal policy is the image that the Dems are tax-and-spend hogs who’ll jack the budget into oblivion.

    It’s not true, of course; Clinton actually *balanced* the budget and had the government taking in a surplus to pay down the nation’s debt (OUR debt) while Republicans blow through money like a bunch of drunken sailors who have grandchildren with trust funds that they think will clean everything up.

    But in politics, to a great extent, it doesn’t matter what the truth is; what matters is the perception.

    Dems need to get out in front in the perception war. They need to pull their heads out of their collective butts and get a message for the Democratic Party when it comes to the very stripped-down basics of these issues. And one of the ways they’ve got to start doing this is to define the REPUBLICANS as much (or more) as they define themselves.

    “Republicans create more war.” “Republicans are failures at war, there’s more terrorism than before.” (That one even rhymes.) “Republicans have added trillions in debt and are leaving it for our grandchildren to pay off.”

    “Democrats won’t go to war based on lies.” (Something like this is neat and tidy because it also slags the Republicans at the same time.) “Iraq is all about oil.”

    You get the idea. There needs to be a consistent message, even if Dems can’t come to 100% consensus about what to do on things; they need to get their crap together.

    Seattle, WA

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