Thursday, January 20, 2005

A Political Identity Crisis
I'm at work today, trying to avoid the gushing foppery masquerading as news and trying to keep my chin and spirits up on a day that strikes me as an apt occasion for mourning--certainly not a $40 million celebration in which the losers (the people of DC) are forced to pick up part of the tab.

The reality of another four years of this utterly vile government--its blend of malice and ineptitude, its astonishing arrogance, its inabilty to do anything well except, I guess, self-perpetuate through election victories--brings back all the despair I felt in those first few days after November 2. Worse, we've now seen more indications of Democratic surrender: the disgusting performances of "our" Senators in the Gonzales and Rice hearings, the baffling support of many inside the party estabishment for status-quo insiders in the race for DNC Chair. Our elder statespeople--the Bidens, the Feinsteins--in recent days have looked as spineless and unprincipled as their radical critics have long alleged. I never wanted to believe those charges; now I don't see how anyone can feel otherwise.

We're pissed off, we're sad, and we're not sure what to do next. This Daily Kos diary expressed very well the raw anger I feel whenever I get any communication from the DNC (and whenever I see or hear anything of the bumbling and bombastic Terry McAuliffe) and their one-note message: more money for us to misuse. The responses were cheering in the sense that they echoed my own feelings, but disquieting in that they show just how alienated many of us have become from what remains our best institutional mechanism for organized political resistence.

Read into the responses and it gets worse: some predict we'll lose even more seats in the 2006 midterms. Even if we get more votes, some point out, rigged election systems will deny us victories.

The despair and alienation brings up an interesting and potentially momentous question: At what point do we stop identifying ourselves as Democrats? And--if the party moves in the reform/insurgent direction many of us, from all points on the Democratic ideological map, want it to follow, and we still lose in 2006, 2008 and beyond--at one point do we stop identifying ourselves as Americans?

My own belief is that after two more years of Bush's spoils-based domestic redistribution policies, 2006 will see a deepening of the partisan geographical/philosophical divide: here in New York, the Democrats will take back the governorship and probably knock out some Congressional Republicans. The gaps seen between presidential voting and statewide office voting, in states like NY and PA and MA, will shrink or disappear; Senators Santorum and Chafee, both nominal Republicans, are already in deep trouble according to early polling. In Congress, I think the Democrats will gain seats, but not enough to retake either house. And the Republicans in power will continue to enact policies in the spirit of James A. Baker 3d's quote, which I'm paraphrasing here: "Fuck the blue states; they don't vote for us anyway."

Our political system has always been self-correcting: a bad cycle or two brings electoral consequences. But between gerrymandering, the K Street Project, and (as we all know) the simply superior political tacticians on the side of the Theoligarchy Party, that might no longer hold true. I guess we'll see, because if the last four years presented a compelling case for throwing the right-wing bums out, the next four should present an overwhelming argument to do the same.

Today I'm in mourning for what has happened to my country. If another right-wing Republican goon is sworn in, four years from today, I'm not sure I'll even still regard the country as mine. What happens then, I'm not sure. But it might be self-evident, so to speak.

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