I watched a Frontline TV show last night called, "The Architect," devoted entirely to Karl Rove's activities and orchestration of Bush's electoral victories and the rightward shift of the Republican Party which has lately led to its dominance in Washington and in many states. (Rove declined to be interviewed for the show, which was co-produced by The Washington Post).
There wasn't anything new in the presentation for those who follow politics and certainly not for those who've read Bush's Brain. However, I came away with a sense that the Democrats, at least many of those in power, haven't yet gotten the fundamental message that the show demonstrated: The way to achieve political strength is by perseverance, organization and adherence to a resonant message.
Rove's drive as a youth stemmed from Goldwater's loss in 1964, a nadir for the Republicans--and for the conservative message. From that bottom there was nowhere to go but up, and within four years Nixon was in the White House, followed by Ford and, with but a brief interruption, twelve more years of conservative rule, during which time Rove rose in the ranks and plied his trade by carving out a rightist agenda of low taxes and capitalist hegemony over the economy. Now, in the wake of the damaged image of the Democrats caused by the Clinton presidency he's aligned the Republicans with the religious right, armed them with the "war on terror" and is firmly in control of the national pulse, with his candidate cutting taxes, cutting federal programs, opting out of treaties, gaining control over strategic resources and calling out religious slogans to invigorate the faithful to support his causes and his candidate.
Well, the Democrats have bottomed out now, too. True, the 2004 presidential race was no landslide, like those Goldwater, Dukakis and McGovern suffered. But the Republicans hold sway in all three branches of the federal government and in most states. They have the resonant messages, too: The "Ownership society and "culture of life" being the latest.
I've been watching the Democrats in Congress lately, during the confirmation hearings of Gonzales, Rice, Negroponte, and, most recently the brute, John Bolton. With the exception of a few members of Congress, including Barbara Boxer, from my state, the Democrats' responses are pitiful. Where's the outrage that Bush should appoint and retain those who failed America during his first term? Where's the message that we've lost thousands of lives and limbs in a war that wasn't necessary? Where's the demand that these appointees be held accountable?
The Democrats must adopt an affirmative message and a consistent means of its delivery. It has always been the party of the working class, it has always protected minorities, the environment, the freedoms of press and religion--causes that are now being trampled by the Republicans. The Democrats must now, as any twelve-stepper knows, acknowledge the problem and, one day at a time, take steps--forward and upward--to correct it, starting at the bottom.