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Reviving an ‘impotent’ party

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, January 23, 2006

As President George W. Bush enters his sixth year in office, the time has come for a full-scale revitalization of the Democratic Party.

Sixth years have, after all, been the historic breaking point for many of the most successful two-term presidents of the last century. Former president Franklin Roosevelt, for instance, suffered a significant decline in public approval for his New Deal policies after attempting to pack the Supreme Court with supporters at a time when the Depression continued to ravage much of middle America. That year, the Democrats lost 71 seats in the House midterm elections. In former president Richard Nixon’s sixth year, the Watergate investigation resulted in the first ever presidential resignation and cost the Republican Party 48 seats in the ensuing House elections. Similarly, former president Ronald Reagan’s sixth-year involvement in the Iran-contra scandal and former president Bill Clinton’s sixth-year Monica Lewinsky impeachment woes carried on the tradition of unlucky number six at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Now, with the fallout from the Jack Abramoff scandal sending shockwaves throughout the GOP in Congress and Bush taking heat for his unwarranted authorization of domestic spying at the National Security Agency, this pattern of sixth-year setbacks shows no signs of slowing.

As a result, the Democrats owe it to their supporters to quit acting spineless and start standing up for the principles which form the backbone of the party. In the past week alone, Maureen Dowd, the infamous op-ed columnist for The New York Times, and syndicated columnist Molly Ivins both called out their own party to man up and fight for the future of this country. In Dowd’s incomparable words, “If the Democrats are like the dithering ‘Desperate Housewives,’ the Republicans have come across like the counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer on ’24’: fast with a gun, loose with the law, willing to torture in the name of protecting the nation … The Democrats’ chronic impotence led to the Republicans’ reign of incompetence.”

Sadly, Dowd may have been a little too generous in equating her party with the conniving, calculating, ruthless she-devils of ABC’s hit show. In reality, Democrats today are about as ruthless as “Dora the Explorer.”

Now, with Bush wallowing in the inevitable mire of his sixth year in office, the Democratic Party must turn to 2008 not in the hopes of finding a centrist presidential candidate who will appease the stubborn voters of the South, but to a nominee who will wake up the echoes of Democratic values and ideals. And that was not a reference to Hillary Clinton.

While the former First Lady did prove that she has the balls to take on the Republican leadership in Congress – even to go so far as to admit that the House of Representatives is “run like a plantation” – she will inevitably go the route of her husband and present herself as a centrist (and most likely the biggest foreign policy hawk on the ’08 primary ballot).

Similarly, the last thing that the Democrats need is a right-leaning, moderate candidate like Indiana Senator Evan Bayh (who seems to share the views of the GOP on issues like gay marriage and school prayer) or former Virginia Governor Mark Warner (whose views on gun control are on par with Charlton Heston’s). Sure, political analysts agree that a candidate with appeal to southern conservatives will have the most success in the general election, but what’s the point of having a two-party system if both parties cater to the same group of people? If Mark Warner squares off against a moderate like Rudy Giuliani in ’08, liberal Democrats might come to the realization that their views would be better represented in the White House under the leadership of the Republican candidate, and that’s when all hell will really break loose.

Although most pundits and experts would undoubtedly disagree, the real answer for the Democrats is to pull an Emeril in 2008 – throw a little spice into the simmering pot of Washington politics and kick things up a notch.

They could stand behind a true liberal like Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold (of campaign finance reform fame) who actually did vote against the Iraq War and who would put some effort into dismantling Bush’s irresponsible budget deficit. They could also back an African-American who has the desire to clean up the lobbying and campaign finance system, an anathema for the death penalty, and a demagogue’s ability to fire up an audience – Illinois Senator Barack Obama. (Not to mention his name is Swahili for “One who is blessed by God,” and divine endorsement seemed to do the trick for President Bush in 2004.)

If Dowd is correct in her evaluation that the Democratic Party is suffering from a case of “chronic impotence,” then either of these candidates would provide a much-needed dose of Viagra.

That could be just the trick to combat the Republican Party as President Bush tackles the mounting problems of his sixth year in office – a year when many of history’s greatest presidencies have gone limp.

Joey Falco is a junior American Studies major. His column appears every other Monday. He can be contacted at jfalco@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.