The Democratic Party’s Foul-Weather Friends

I’m a Democrat, but the persistence of intense Bush-hatred as a political force has always made me nervous.  Not just because there is something unnerving about “hate” being directed at the elected leader of our country regardless of party, but also because in my experience hatred ultimately becomes toxic to the hater. 

Hatred is like a drug; it’s a rush.  It becomes addictive.  But it wrecks the heart and soul and fogs the mind. Hatred leaves you with nothing to build on; just a spiritual hangover.

George W. Bush’s poll ratings are low right now, thus hopes are high among Democratic leaders that Bush-hatred is now so widespread, it will cost the Republicans control of Congress.  The defeat of “Bush love child” Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary is seen as the first tangible sign that the Bush-hatred has finally coalesced into a mass political movement, from which the Democrats will prosper.

And yet — there’s unease among some Democrats, expressed today in reliably liberal columnist E.J. Dionne’s op-ed:

The Democratic Party has a self-image problem.

Talk to Democrats at every level about the strong position the party is in for this fall’s elections and the conversation inevitably ends with a variation of: “Yeah, if we don’t blow it.” Karl Rove’s greatest victory is how much he has spooked Democrats about themselves.

It’s not a particularly brilliant column, actually.  Dionne is so reluctant to challenge his Democratic Party sources, he always seems to be stepping quietly around the elephants in their office suites. But this section was telling:

(Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm) Emanuel is especially frustrated with large donors such as billionaire George Soros, who donated heavily to such organizing efforts as America Coming Together (ACT) two years ago. “These guys — where are they?” a frustrated Emanuel asked in an interview. After John Kerry’s loss, Emanuel said, “they walked off the field.”

Steve Rosenthal, who was ACT’s chief executive officer in 2004, said his organization’s financial backers were “very candid that they weren’t in it for the long haul and never said they were.” Nonetheless, Rosenthal worries about what the missing money will mean this fall.

Here’s the connection Dionne is reluctant to make:  George Soros was the ultimate Bush-hater.  He was never very interested in the Democratic party except as a vehicle to demolish the Bush administration.  In 2004, the electoral process gave Soros his best chance to take Bush down. He tried.  He spent hundreds of millions.  But it didn’t work out, so he’s moved on.  Bush isn’t on the ballot in 2006, and he won’t be on the ballot in 2008, so Democratic success in those election cycles won’t give serious Bush-haters like Soros the fix they need. 

To be sure, there are plenty of Bush-haters who are very pumped up about 2006. With Democrats in charge of Congress, who knows what hell they can wreak on The Hated One?  Bush could be impeached.  Investigations will be launched.  We’ll finally find out who Cheney met with to write his energy policy.  We’ll learn the truth about the secret deals with Halliburton, Enron, the oil companies, and K Street lobbyists.  Maybe some of Bush’s other love children will end up in jail.

But I’m dubious about this strategy.  I’m guessing most Americans don’t want a political bloodbath in the next two years.  Some voters who tell pollsters they disapprove of Bush will be content to just wait out the final 30 months of his administration.  In other words, the low approval rating Bush-haters constantly cite doesn’t necessarily equate to widespread Bush-hatred.   For some voters, it’s more like: Bush-disappointment.  Bush-weariness.  Bush-frustration. Bush-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out.

The onus is still on the Democrats to do more than just tap into the range of negative feelings Bush inspires.  The Bush-haters might turn out, like Soros, to be foul-weather friends. The key is to develop a coherent set of policies that reflect the world as it is today, which embodies the basic values of the center-left.  Why do Democrat leaders act as if that’s too much to ask?  As John Lennon might say, “Imagine there’s no Bush/It’s easy if you try.”

5 thoughts on “The Democratic Party’s Foul-Weather Friends

  1. Maybe Soros was sort of the Ross Perot of 2004. I haven’t done enough reading about Perot, but I always figured there must’ve been something personal about his emnity for George the 41st that he’d want to take him down. Number 41 was not a good campaigner and seemed tired and uninterested in continuing, but nonetheless I think he would’ve beaten Clinton for a second term without Perot. George must’ve done Perot wrong in Texas, re CIA activities, something.

    Perot had a big ego, as does Soros…and who wouldn’t love the adulation of the Davos crowd, much less the entire Democratic Party and Theresa Heinz-Kerry and Springsteen and all that. But still, there must’ve been something personal about Soros’ hatred of Bush the 43rd. Some skeleton must exist in some closet somewhere.

    Except the result was the opposite: Maybe without Soros, Kerry would’ve beaten Bush in 04?

  2. I don’t want a bloodbath. I do want investigations of war profiteering and the answer to cui bono for all those sweetheart no-bid contracts that have been awarded to Halliburton, Bechtel and a whole bunch of other smaller outfits.

    And I really want a Congress which actually fulfills its duties and acts as a check and balance towards an executive branch which has been completely out of control (signing statements?) for six years. I also hope Congress can make its presence felt in such a way that the Cheneys and Rumsfelds won’t be able to convince Bush that he should follow the advice of some of the loonier right-wingers like Kristol, Ledeen, et. al. that the only way to contain Iran is to drop a nuke on it.

  3. I always thought the Halliburton/Bechtel contracts issue was a red herring, for this reason: Because of corporate consolidation among firms that do major engineering, large project management and construction, there were only a few firms qualified to do this work, no matter how open and above-board the bidding process would have been. Plus, these were often rush contracts where normal bidding is suspended, which government can and must do at times. I’m not suggesting there weren’t quite a few profiteers who benefited from the aftermath of the U.S. invastion, I’m just saying it’s unclear how this could have been avoided, except by not invading. Which is, of course, a different debate.

    A Congress that checks the administration — absolutely. Although, it’s fair to point out, Democrats voted for the war in large numbers, and I suspect would have done so even if they had the majority. 2002 seems like a long time ago, politically; things were different then.

    I’m rooting for the Democrats to take over at least one house of Congress. I tend to look at these issues as a handicapper, and all I’m trying to say is, despite all the hype, they don’t seem to be on a winning path right now — hence the unease Dionne writes about.

  4. But it’s not just the big firms; it’s the smaller ones like Blackwater, Custer Battles and all the other security firms as well. And the ones that have seriously overcharged for gas/oil transportation to the Army/Marines, like KBR. Sure, Halliburton is obvious because of Cheney’s past connection, but there are hundreds of small firms that have made out too.

  5. “except by not invading. Which is, of course, a different debate.”

    No. Same debate. If Cheney and company came into the White House with the idea of waging war against Iraq, and found rationales (phantom WMDs; the Nigerian connection) to do so that they could sell to the Village Idiot-in-Charge, who was already inclined to do so ’cause Saddam targeted Daddy, I’ll bet you all the oil under Iraq that they had a “rebuilding” plan in place that would funnel money to themselves and their cronies and their cronies’ subcontractors.

    Perhaps that was part of the energy company meeting that Cheney has been so successfully hiding.

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