June 20, 2003

Over The Top

"This republic is at its greatest danger in its history because of this administration," says Democratic senator Robert Byrd.

"I think this is deliberate, intentional destruction of the United States of America," says liberal commentator Bill Moyers.

David Brooks suggests that "powerlessness corrupts" in his new article, Democrats Go Off The Cliff. He documents much of the loony recent Democrat rhetoric, and says that, while they are anything but insincere, they may be insulating themselves from what mainstream American citizens feel about Bush and the direction of the country. He asks the question that some of us have been asking ourselves: Have they "totally flipped their lids?" Here are a few excerpts, but you really need to read it all.

When conservatives look at the newspapers, they see liberal columnists who pick out every tiny piece of evidence or pseudo-evidence of Republican vileness, and then dwell on it and obsess over it until they have lost all perspective and succumbed to fevers of incoherent rage. They see Democratic primary voters who are so filled with hatred at George Bush and John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney that they are pulling their party far from the mainstream of American life. They see candidates who, instead of trying to quell the self-destructive fury, are playing to it. "I am furious at [Bush] and I am furious at the Republicans," says Dick Gephardt, trying to sound like John Kerry who is trying to sound like Howard Dean.

It's mystifying. Fury rarely wins elections. Rage rarely appeals to suburban moderates. And there is a mountain of evidence that the Democrats are now racing away from swing voters, who do not hate George Bush, and who, despite their qualms about the economy and certain policies, do not feel that the republic is being raped by vile and illegitimate marauders.....

Democratic strategists are trying to put a rational gloss on what is a visceral, unplanned, and emotional state of mind. Democrats may or may not be behaving intelligently, but they are behaving sincerely. Their statements are not the product of some Dick Morris-style strategic plan. This stuff wasn't focus-grouped. The Democrats are letting their inner selves out for a romp.

And if you probe into the Democratic mind at the current moment, you sense that the rage, the passion, the fighting spirit are all fueled not only by opposition to Bush policies, but also by powerlessness.

Republicans have controlled the White House before, but up until now Democrats still had some alternative power center. Reagan had the presidency, but Democrats had the House and, part of the time, the Senate. Bush the elder faced a Democratic Congress. But now Democrats have nothing.

Brooks compares the Democrats' feeling of powerlessness to that experienced by Europe since the Cold War, and suggests that their reactions of animosity, the air of superiority, and paranoia, are similar. He shows how Democrats have lost sight of how they themselves have acted, preferring instead a sanitized view of their own behavior:

In short, when many liberals look at national affairs, they see a world in which their leaders are nice, pure-souled, but defenseless, and they see Republicans who are organized, devious, and relentless. "It's probably a weakness that we're not real haters. We don't have a sense that it's a holy crusade," Democratic strategist Bob Shrum told Adam Clymer of the New York Times. "They play hardball, we play softball," Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile added. Once again, Republicans think this picture of reality is delusional. The Democrats are the party that for 40 years has labeled its opponents racists, fascists, religious nuts, and monsters who wanted to starve grannies and orphans. Republicans saw what Democrats did to Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and dozens of others. Yet Democrats are utterly sincere. Many on the left think they have been losing because their souls are too elevated.

When they look inward, impotence, weakness, high-mindedness, and geniality are all they see.

This is great stuff. Read it all. Really.

BTW, for more Brooks, try his book Bobos in Paradise . Also, his analysis of anti-Americanism among Europeans and Arabs, "Among the Bourgeoisophobes" is another of my favorites. No, I'm not his agent.

Posted by dan at June 20, 2003 11:54 PM