Monday, September 20, 2010

Yellow dogs, blue dogs and beaten dogs

I'm almost a yellow-dog Democrat. That's a term that has almost disappeared from the political lexicon; it referred to someone who would vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket. Now we have blue-dog Democrats, on the party's right, who all too often undercut the leadership and act like a GOP fifth column. A reader of Talkingpointsmemo suggested that Democrats exhibit a beaten-dog syndrome, "to describe a generation's worth of Democratic electeds and operatives who have so internalized GOP attacks that the mere suggestion that they are coming cause these people to involuntarily cower."

Apart from the split infinitive, that's right on the mark. Sad as it is to say, since at least 1980 the Republicans have so dominated debate in this country that Democrats have largely lost the ability to define themselves, their party or--most important--their values. True, the Obama campaign reversed that in 2008, but the effort was centered on electing a President, not raising the position of the party. And once in office, Obama seemed unable or unwilling to espouse a strong, consistent, principled line of policy and program that would build up the party.

In 2008, with a substantial majority in the House and--for a short time--a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, it seemed as if a vital change in our politics had come. Six weeks before the mid-terms, things look very different. I'll have something to say about why that is so in another post.

Democratic weakness has not only meant losses for the party, it has been a tragedy for the nation. Even if you do not support the Democratic platform, a healthy democracy needs differing views. Although the Democratic Party itself all too often displays such a divergence, the dominance of Republican theory has held back the nation's development. (Think action on global warming and green jobs.) Democratic fecklessness has led to what may fairly be called American decline. Democratic weakness, their failure to offer a contest to Republican ideas, has left the Right dominant by default. And Democrats must share some of the blame.


Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper said...

I'm glad you said "almost". But your analysis is correct of course.
Obama campaigned as a leader, but in office he's been just another politician.

He should make the speech Krugman outlined in the Times yesterday. He won't because it would be political suicide, but if he did he could take his place in the pantheon of leaders,
and back up his claim that he'd prefer to be a good one term president than a bad two term one. (My paraphrase).

In retrospect the GOPhers have come out on top by not being in power after the Bush financially disastrous eight years. They should have had to deal with the mess they made.

The Old New Englander said...

I suspect you don't really mean that McCain should have won in 2008.

And I think you are being a little harsh on Obama. Right now, I wish the congressional Dems were showing his spine.