07/26/04 08:05 - ID#27635
The ABB Democrats
July 26, 2004; Page A14
Democrats gather in Boston this week with a spring in their step but not quite a song in their heart. They have good reason to believe they can win back the White House this November. But their anticipation is based less on their confidence in their agenda than on the intensity of their anger at President Bush. They are the Anybody -- Anything -- But Bush Democrats.
We aren't disputing the power of this passion. Anger has won more than one election in U.S. history, and -- especially in this age of polarization -- intensity and turnout matter. This fear and loathing of Mr. Bush has helped John Kerry unite his party far more easily than any Democratic nominee in memory. The party's famously clamorous interest groups (trial lawyers, gay moms for lower speed limits) are muting their demands until after Mr. Kerry wins.
Many liberals profess to see in this unity of negative purpose the revival of their party as a governing majority. In this telling, Howard Dean in the primaries was the liberal Goldwater, and now Mr. Kerry can be the Democratic Reagan, riding a wave of newly mobilized, often first-time, voters to a 1980-style landslide. Not only will they retake the White House, but Nancy Pelosi might take the House of Representatives the way Newt Gingrich did.
It's foolish to dismiss this possibility, since political tsunami are often missed until they hit the shore on Election Day. This time too, in addition to their usual troops, the Democrats can call upon a nearly unanimous and fully mobilized elite culture. Leave aside "Fahrenheit 9/11," this year Hollywood is sprinkling anti-Republican messages into its television scripts. The mainstream media is also more anti-Bush this year than it was even anti-Nixon in 1972. Evan Thomas of Newsweek recently said this "bias" for the Democrats would "be worth maybe 15 points," and he could be right.
Yet for a party that believes it is the vanguard of history, Democrats seem awfully cautious about their ideas. To the extent that they're hawking any agenda at all this year, it is watered-down Clintonism. And late Clintonism at that, after welfare reform had passed and impeachment had reunited Bill Clinton with his party's liberals. Mr. Kerry has surrounded himself with familiar (and often capable) Clinton Administration faces, and his political calculus seems to be to campaign as someone who'd bring back the 1990s without the you-know-what.
Democrats remain the party of government, with more spending for every perceived problem but a claim to "fiscal conservatism" because they would raise taxes to reduce the deficit. They are still the party of income redistribution, through taxing high-income wage earners, and increasingly through the promotion of lawsuits. Al Gore's 2000 theme of the "people versus the powerful" has returned in the guise of John Edwards's "two Americas." The party has become somewhat more protectionist on trade since the 1990s, and it remains firmly liberal on the culture.
If any new Big Idea lurks, it is probably national health care, though even this dares not speak its name. Mr. Kerry's proposal amounts to a huge new taxpayer obligation ($653 billion over 10 years, by the Kerry camp's own reckoning), but it is disguised in large part as a federal subsidy for business in return for covering all employees.
Where this back
o-the-Clinton-future strategy is most open to challenge is on national security. After 9/11 it is impossible to return to the holiday from world history that was the 1990s. Yet the Democrats are remarkably mute on how they would confront the largest threat to American national security since the Cold War. Their most notable hawk -- Joe Lieberman -- was routed in the primaries.
To his credit, Mr. Kerry has said he won't cut and run from Iraq, but he says precious little else other than that he'd somehow persuade the U.N. and France to help. Good luck with that. As a political matter, the betting seems to be that Democrats can get away with saying little because voters will simply blame Mr. Bush for any new terror attack or more trouble in Iraq. Look for Democrats to repeat the words "strong" or "strength" a few thousand times this week, a mantra in lieu of policy.
All of which shows that Mr. Kerry and his party aren't running on ideology. They have been running mainly on character and the Senator's biography as the anti-Bush. He won three purple hearts in Vietnam while Mr. Bush stayed home in the National Guard. He's smart and sees the nuances of issues that the uncurious and witless Mr. Bush doesn't. He'd get the Europeans to love Americans again, while Mr. Bush the cowboy cannot.
Perhaps U.S. voters will find this reason enough to return Democrats to power. But we wonder. Successful challengers to incumbent Presidents are usually associated with some cause larger than themselves. Bill Clinton ran on the economy and health care in 1992, while Reaganism was the confluence of a generation of conservative ideas on economics, foreign policy and the culture. Is there a single idea, even one, that any voter could yet associate with a Kerry Presidency? This would be the week to let the U.S. in on one.
Location: Tonawanda, NY
07/22/04 10:34 - ID#27634
On another note, I am recently gone through an uncomfortable series of moods swings. It's been a rough couple days and I think that right now I am coming out on top. I had a very nice talk with Teres that made me feel better (although I am not sure how...are you Teres?). Also, I have realized that it's really important to be your own cheerleader. I know this sounds like self-help crap, and maybe it is, but I really think that it's important. I think that relying on other people to make you feel better all the time is a bad route to take. I know that you can't always take care of yourself or do everything alone, but it's important to at least give yourself credit for what you are doing.
This summer has been/will be rough. I can think of at least 10 things already that I probably didn't do as well as I should have. Even worse than that, I feel constant pressure to do things better and get everything right. However, I have done my best. That's honestly true. Sometimes when your best isn't good enough you just have to say 'tough shit'.
Location: Tonawanda, NY
07/11/04 06:33 - ID#27633
On Friday night we went to East Aurora to see one of Andrewâ€™s friends, D.J. from Sig Phi and swimming. Since I didnâ€™t know a single person (and Andrew only knew D.J.) the party was something I was totally dreading. However, when we got there it was really nice. D.J. is really funny and cool and all of his friends were great. There was a lot of drinking and playing Beirut but they also had a bonfire which made the night super fun. We didnâ€™t get home until 3:45am and I was uber tired the next day but in the end I was so glad I went. I feel like Andrew and I can have a good time anywhere and it was really cool that I got to know someone else from Union who lives in B-lo. D.J. said he would call me to come over and hang out again but I donâ€™t know if I would do it without Andrew. Weâ€™ll see I guess. (I would put up pics from out escapades but I know how to make them small enough to fit the limit)
So anyway, Andrew just left and my life is back to usual. I feel bored and a little cranky already. It could be because I havenâ€™t studied for the GREs in a couple days and now I know I am in for it or just that I feel lonely again. Either way, I guess I better get used to it.
Location: Tonawanda, NY
07/07/04 03:49 - ID#27632
First of all, I am sure almost all of us (ok minus Jesse) could stand to keep up with current affairs a little bit better. However, that is definitely not the only way to be interesting. You have tons of interests that most people would be really excited to hear about. I have always thought of you as one of my most unique friends. Your openness to ideas makes you very interesting.
Second, you are very smart. I am not sure how to convince you of how smart you are but I hope that you will just take my word on this one. I know you say that you don't feel like you can catch up now because you are behind on what's going on but I don't think that's true. Sure you may feel like you don't know a lot about politics or maybe even history, but you have never been someone who was afraid of working or who lacked motivation. There are just differences in the priorities you give to learning about things that don't directly affect you and things that do. If you really want to know more of what is going on I am sure you are not too lazy to go to cnn.com and read a couple articles. But if that isn't your first priority most of the time then that is okay too.
Finally, I think you are really observant. Sometimes you tell me things that I said to you when we were in sixth grade. You have a great memory and you notice a lot about people. Just because your observations are on a micro level doesn't mean you are out of it.
I guess I just hope you know that you are a really interesting and fun person. You are really smart and most importantly an awesome friend (oh and don't forget a total hottie). I know that you might think that I am just flattering you but really I don't flatter people unless they deserve it. We could all improve things about ourselves but the best way to do that, I think, is to find our strengths and build off of them. And when it comes to strengths you have a ton Teres :D
Location: Tonawanda, NY
07/05/04 04:15 - ID#27631
The sad part is I really need to do well on this test. It's so important to my future and I am not sure that I will pull through okay. I also need to take the GREs in psychology. Although I have done really well in all my psych classes in college I fear that I will find out the same unpleasant news in this test as I did in the other one. Honestly shouldn't my drive and passion mean as much as a standardized test score? I guess one might argue that if I have all this drive and passion I should be able to study my butt off for the test and do well in the end no matter where I start off. But I am not convinced that the world is fair in that way. Either way, I am spending a solid chunk of time every day studying. Hopefully it will make a difference.
The last component to my summer is the research I am doing with a professor from school. It's a continuation of a project we started last year dealing with heterosexual marriages in which the male partner comes out to being bisexual. It's pretty interesting and I am excited to get that work rolling now that I have met with my advisor. I definitely need something besides studying and being stressed though. Hopefully something fun will present itself this summer. I am bored way too much and way more anxious than is healthy. We'll see...
Location: Tonawanda, NY
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