BY FROMA HARROP
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Democrat Al Gore became captive of the right-wing noise machine. The activists and their media had gone honking nuts over President Clinton’s sexual indiscretion. Vice President Gore thought these people mattered and so distanced his campaign from a popular Democratic president.
Never mind that 23 million jobs were added under Clinton’s watch. Never mind that Clinton was leaving the budget in surplus. Never mind that in the post-scandal midterm, Democrats actually gained five seats in the House. Never mind that Clinton was leaving office with a huge 66% approval rating, 3% higher than Ronald Reagan’s.
Rush Limbaugh was enough to intimidate Al Gore. Not only did Gore keep Clinton off his campaign stages, but he took pot shots at him.
“I keep my commitments, to my wife and to my family and to my job,” Gore piously reminded audiences. [How interesting that Gore’s marriage is now breaking up, but Clinton’s goes on.] Gore lost an election he should have easily won.
Democrats are at it again. They have more to be depressed about this time, for sure. But their willingness to believe the right’s propaganda about leading unstoppable forces – while downplaying their own accomplishments – will make matters only worse.
Even in the most liberal parts of America, right-wing talk dominates the airwaves. The comments on newspaper Websites are weighted with anti-liberal bile. Come an actual election, the Democrat usually wins handily, and if a Republican prevails, it’s not one of the hotheads.
But Democrats are the glass-half-empty party. [The other half is Pepto-Bismol.] It’s getting late in the game to convince Democrats that the public’s angst about the economy and the American future isn’t all about them. They still have time to perk up.
Their health care reforms guarantee access to medical care, will slow spending that is bankrupting the nation and should reduce future deficits, to boot. The financial reforms offer some protection against another economic freefall. These shouldn’t be hard sells.
But you do have to sell them when the opposition is blasting these achievements 24/7. Sadly, few Democrats are blowing their horn, especially over health care, and some are actually running against that success. This is self-defeating behavior.
Back in March, when congressional Republicans denied Democrats an inch of cooperation on health care, their spokesmen inflated some public displeasure into surging waves of voter anger against Democrats. Fine, that’s their job.
But Democrats did not have to cower when all of 300 Tea Party people demonstrated in March against their reforms. And so what if some loudmouths made a racket at their Town Hall meetings. The rudeness probably offended many gentle folks at home.
Look at those polls tracking public support for health care reform. The lines closely follow the Democrats’ willingness to defend what they’ve done. After passage, approval for the reforms rose.
Of course, this support is now inching down. When Democratic candidates back away from their party’s legislation, people assume there’s something wrong with it.
Nov. 2 need not be as grim a day for Democrats as they think it will be. In special congressional elections in upstate New York and western Pennsylvania – two blue-collar districts expected to go Republican – Democrats won. These were real elections.
Democrats don’t need a more passionate base to win elections. They need more votes. A quiet vote counts as much as a strident one. No doubt the weird Christine O’Donnell will have more enthusiastic backers in the Delaware senatorial race than Democrat Chris Coons. And chances are she’ll lose.
Democrats, turn off Fox, turn off Rushbo and put something livelier in your glass. Your funk is your worst enemy.
– Froma Harrop’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer