- Nov 22, 2003
Get it? Either Dems win or it's 'stolen.' Truly, you do not need to vote, the outcome is preordained.Nervous excitement builds for Democrats
By Robert Kuttner | November 4, 2006
IF YOU'RE not a big admirer of George W. Bush, you are going into Election Day feeling more than a little schizophrenic. Red Sox fans know the queasy feeling, around mid-August.
On the one hand, it sure looks like This Could Be The Year. Even the Dems, with their propensity for raining on their own parade, seem to have a lock on taking back the House. That alone will give them an opportunity to investigate various Bush cover-ups, and to begin setting an affirmative agenda.
With a bit of a break, they could even win the Senate. And let's not overlook several likely State House pickups -- including not just Massachusetts, but New York, where the most progressive gubernatorial candidate in decades, Eliot Spitzer, is set to win a landslide that could top Deval Patrick's.
Like Red Sox fans, we're also primed for the worst. Why is Karl Rove smiling? How much better is the Republican turnout machine? How many votes will they hide, deter, or steal? The season of the October Surprise is over, but what late-breaking stunts might yet emerge? And what else might John Kerry blurt out?
Last week, in the spirit of Halloween, I wrote about all the ways that voting could be suppressed. This week, let me suggest some cause for optimism.
First, unless there are levels of theft and fraud that would truly mean the end of American democracy, a Democratic House seems as close to a sure thing as we ever get in American politics three days before an election.
Second, we are about to get something all too rare in Democratic politics lately -- some progressive leadership. The failed Iraq war has momentarily sidelined pocketbook issues, but the economy remains the great suppressed subject in public debate. With a little gumption on the Democratic side, the lopsided distribution of wealth, security, and opportunity in America could come roaring back. I guess he means that with a dem. win, they will change the economic news? Meaning? Higher unemployment? Higher taxes?
In New York, Spitzer, one of the few Democrats in America brave enough to take on the predations of Wall Street, is about to win going away. Democrats are warned not to practice class warfare, but class warfare is here, practiced by the very top against the bottom 90 percent. Bringing that reality into the open, and doing something for ordinary people, could make Democrats the majority party again.
Here in Massachusetts, uttering the curse "Tax-and-spend!" at a Democrat is thought to have the same power as brandishing a cross at a vampire. But Deval Patrick, often criticized as cautious and equivocal, did a brave and rare thing. Challenged by Kerry Healey to roll back income taxes ("It's their money"), Patrick replied, "It is their money, but it's also their broken road. And it's their over-crowded school. It's their broken neighborhood and broken neighbor." Amen.
Even in Congress there will be big opportunities. Leader Nancy Pelosi, demonized by Republicans as the personification of everything wrong with Democrats, pledges to expedite passing a minimum-wage hike, and a genuine Medicare prescription drug benefit, instead of the doughnut-hole plans offered by private insurers.
Go ahead and veto that, and make the Democrats' day. At a recent dinner event, I was seated next to an insurance executive. After a few drinks, he actually said, "If the Democrats win, we're screwed."
Over in the Senate, we're likely to get some full-throated economic populists, like Vermont's Bernie Sanders, and Ohio's Sherrod Brown, and perhaps Jon Testor from Montana. These are people who win the affections of Reagan Democrats by understanding pocketbook frustrations. CNN's Lou Dobbs has tapped into something very powerful -- the economic distress of ordinary people. Depending on whether progressive leadership rises to the occasion and delivers, that distress can turn ugly, or be the stuff of a new popular majority.
One other cause for optimism is the new chapter opening on race in America. The emerging African-American politicians are a source of great pride to their own communities, yet are post-civil-rights figures for most white voters. This is not affirmative action, it's Jackie Robinson, or Oprah Winfrey, or Tiger Woods. Black, unifying leaders like Deval Patrick and Barack Obama, stunningly, are the rock stars of progressive politics, the carriers of American hope. How about that?
Steele? Oreo? Hello?
November 2006 will be remembered either as the time American democracy was stolen again, maybe forever, or began a brighter day.