Saturday, September 13, 2008


I do not identify with the Democratic Party. I am not a registered Democrat, and have no plans to become one. I am not, today, committed to voting for Barack Obama. I desperately want John McCain to lose, and I am aware that would result in an Obama victory, but because I live where I live, my vote won't make that any more or less likely. Oregon's going for Obama by a wide margin, no matter what I do about it.

What infuriates me to the point of despair about the Democrats is how cowardly they are. Now, yesterday I wrote about Republicans' moral cowardice, which I think explains their argumentative tactics more than any genuine viciousness or belligerence: I think they've found something that works, and even though they probably find it troubling, they can't take the risk of pursuing a less certain strategy, even if the less certain strategy is the defensible one that would let them sleep easily at night. That's what I mean by moral cowardice.

The Democratic leadership's cowardice is of a different sort. They are completely bewildered by the concept of making opinion, and are petrified at the risks of so much as trying it. Instead, they have no choice but to follow it. There is not an ounce of granite anywhere in their spines, not an ounce of stubborn confidence that if they repeat the truth enough times and defy anyone to prove them wrong, that public opinion may come around.

The latest example of this is offshore drilling.

I've written about this before. The arguments for changing the law to let oil companies drill offshore are moronic. The additional oil absolutely cannot make a difference in the situation we currently face, because it can't get to the marketplace in any reasonable timespan. Nothing uncertain about that: it can't.

If being anti-drilling were a Republican position, they would put that simple fact into the echo chamber and flog it, publicly, with all their might. They would know that sooner or later, people's opinions would change. They would have the courage, the determination, the fortitude, to plough right into even a strong and fierce front of public opposition, and bend it back into opinion that supported them.

If I live to be two hundred years old, I doubt I'll ever see the Democrats pull off that kind of shaping.

They've already caved on offshore drilling, and are now trying to find the least bad, least damaging framework to open it up. Why? Because they read the poll numbers, and their cowardly little knees went to knocking. "Oh no! Those mysterious people out there who sometimes vote for us, but not very often, don't like our position on this issue! Persuade? What's that? Educate? What's that? Lead? I've never heard that word before. Our only choice is to make sure that whatever we tell them we're going to do is exactly what they want done at that specific moment!"

That, while we're on the subject, is precisely why every Democratic candidate for major office is in favor of the continued employment of capital punishment in this country. They see the numbers, and their backbones turn to water. And that is the chief deal-breaker that keeps me from voting Democrat anytime there's a Green Party candidate available. Cynthia McKinney is an exception, and one that's really complicating my decision of what to do with my vote for president -- I'm all but decided to write in Helen Prejean -- but further down the ticket, it's Green where available, case-by-case in all other circumstances.

I will say that this flaw is far more forgivable than the flaw I was chewing the scenery about yesterday evening. In some ways, it's almost encouraging. If the idea of a powerful and effective government is scary, and the idea of a rickety government that can't get its act together is somehow comforting, then everyone ought to vote Democrat every time. Not only are Democrats the party that eat their young, that run campaigns like circular firing squads, but they certainly can't take an agenda and marshal enough public support behind it to make any fundamental change.

Obama may defy that historical pattern on a few points. He may be able to talk people into seeing things differently. But I'm not encouraged by his performance on the two issues I've cited here: offshore drilling and capital punishment. He isn't putting much kick into swimming against the current. I'm afraid he's tainted by the all-pervading Democratic culture of followership. I'll need much more powerful evidence before I can muster up too much enthusiasm for the idea that he can make things different.

And to this day, I still don't think the guy's that good of a speaker. And I base my opinion on a deeper and more studied background of judging speaker effectiveness than about 99.999% of the population. Mostly, it's about the baseline expectations, and how far someone moves beyond that baseline. My baseline is, I think, different from others'.

I will be less disappointed if Obama wins than if McCain does, because I'm less opposed to an empty and repetitive charade than I am to rewarding vicious slander, thereby reinforcing it and guaranteeing its reuse in the next electoral cycle. But I still haven't caught the enthusiasm of either party, and I don't expect to.

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