Okay, here’s American political reality in a nutshell: Republicans are in power for two reasons. One, they cheat. If there’s a fight, they point over your shoulder and say, “Hey, who’s that?” and when you look, they kick you in the balls. End of fight. You lose. Unfortunately, Democrats fall for it every time. For a variety of dark reasons—ends justify the means, it’s okay ‘cause God’s on my side, losing is for suckers, I’m white with a one-syllable name— conservatives are more than willing to cheat and lie to win.
That’s difficult enough for an opposing party that 1) keeps wanting to play by the rules of common civility, and 2) are too cowardly to stand up for themselves, let alone for what’s right, but Republicans have a second and more powerful weapon: the money continuum.
The money continuum is very simple yet highly effective. Money is the key to power in the United States. You need lots of money to win elections. Who has lots of money? Very rich people and very large corporations. So for you to get money from them, you need to be on their side and stand up for their interests. Hence, the modern Republican Party.
Large tax breaks for the wealthy result in large campaign donations from these same people. Bending over backwards to help the Halliburtons and the GEs and the Cargills increase their profits means lots of open checkbooks at election time.
It’s all about the money. The great mystery that has been discussed by “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” author Thomas Frank and others is this: Why don’t common, every day Joes and Janes see the blatant disregard Republicans have for average working-class folks? Mom and Pop are getting screwed and asking for more. It is one of the astounding feats of political slight-of-hand to watch Republicans hand John Doe five bucks in a tax break and then take five hundred bucks from his pension, health care, property taxes, energy expenses, etc., all to benefit large donors to the Republican Party.
The Rovian approach is simple, sinister and successful. What can we do about it? My solution is neither novel nor clever. Democrats simply need to stand up bravely for their convictions. Like the perennial weakling getting sand kicked in his face, it’s time to stand up and say “No more.” Stop calibrating. Stop triangulating. Stop equivocating. Start using the power of the truth. Say it loud and say it proud. It’s simple but by no means easy to do, which is why too many Democrats run scared from it. The time to stop running is right now.
Democratic candidates for office, please keep in mind one thing this year. It’s not about winning an election; it’s about rescuing democracy. Start believing it.