Tuesday, September 17, 2002[posted by jaed at 10:11 AM]
Lead, follow, or get the fuck out of the way
Jason Rylander is understandably annoyed by the Democratic Party's refusal to speak substantively on the question of war with Iraq. But I think the Democrats are in a cleft stick here. If they say, "We believe, in light of Democratic Party principles, that the president's overall Iraq policy is the right one," they run a serious risk of alienating their core of Demo activists and party faithful - which is somewhat anti-war and, maybe more to the point, almost pathologically anti-Bush and anti-Republican at the moment. On the other hand, if they say, "In light of Democratic Party principles we must oppose the idea of going to war with Iraq," they lose most of the general public. If either of those effects proved permanent or long-lasting, they'd risk losing their cohesiveness as a party - they can't survive as a major party either having lost their core or having become a decided minority through losing broad support.
So they anklebite; they complain that the timing is a campaign ploy, they mutter "Wag the Dog" out of one corner of their mouths and "We support the president...sorta" out of the other. In this way they retain visibility while not having to take a very risky stand. The trouble is, this strategy has its own risks if carried on too long or too blatantly, and we're now seeing them start to manifest themselves. When loyal Democrats start asking whether the Democratic Party has anything relevant to say about the most important political issue of the day, it's fair to say that the party has a problem.
And it's not one that's going to be dissipated by spin doctors goobering about "kitchen-table issues".