Bereft Left

Times are biblically bad if you're a liberal.

IS GOD A REPUBLICAN? I've always suspected he was, and recent evidence was provided in the death last week of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone in a plane crash. I mean, there's one—count him, one—real liberal in the U.S. Senate, and the world's oldest living Confederate, Strom Thurmond, outlives him. It just ain't right.

While some liberals deal with the uneasy feeling that Wellstone's death was no accident, I think that it's more likely that the left is simply in its Job period. Every day, the media bring new messages of war, plague, and corruption—not to mention Bush poll numbers that are made of the same Teflon that coated Reagan's hairdo. Sixty-five percent of Americans still approve of the job this guy's doing, the most astonishing example of belief that resists all evidence since the Flat Earth Society.

So what's next for Democrats— incurable carbuncles?

It's gotten so bad that even some Naderites, like Michael Moore, are rallying to the Democrats' cause. Two years too late, thanks, but even midterm conversions are welcome. Oddly, the Naderites of 2000 maintained it would be the other way around: If Bush wins, they said, no problem. Things will be so bad, everyone will move leftward and see the justness of our cause. But the truth is that now everything is so bad, even Ralph Nader's followers are fleeing for the safety in numbers offered closer to the ideological middle. The fact is, if you want to stop the current misery, you're going to have to work with your friends instead of tromping all over them, as the Greens did to Al Gore. No difference between Bush and Gore? Anyone who still believes that lie from Nader's nadir is an unreconstructed imbecile, to use the politically correct clinical term.

SPEAKING OF JOB, Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Baghdad, was in the office last week for his interview with our editorial board. It gave us a chance to talk at length with the Paul Wellstone of the U.S. House of Representatives. Not only is McDermott still licking his wounds from daring to tell the truth on foreign soil, but he's rather glum about life in Congress. Though McDermott has always been on what passes for the lunatic fringe in D.C.—supporting wild-eyed notions such as health care reform—he insists that he's never been more frustrated in 30 years in politics, amazing when you realize that includes his Olympia days. It isn't just a matter of being ideologically marginalized. The congressional Republicans, he says, have thrown away the civics book and are running roughshod over the legislative agenda. Bills appear out of nowhere. Consultation is nearly nonexistent. The GOP leadership has shortened the congressional work week to about 48 hours to keep the opposition from airing their views at hearings or committee meetings, keeping Democrats effectively out of any bully pulpit. "They've made it almost impossible to fight back," McDermott says. No wonder Bush's ratings are high: He's the only one with a megaphone.

Gridlock is part of the GOP strategy. It started with the tax cut, McDermott says. First, give away the surplus to starve the government. Toss in massive spending for defense to soak up whatever black ink might be left. Mix in a recession, a couple of new wars, plans for yet more tax cuts, and bingo: a government too starved of cash and flexibility to do anything for its people. Oh yes, then blame the Senate for being obstructionist. Dismantle the Great Society and the New Deal? Reagan tried it, Bush II is doing it.

TO TOP IT OFF, the administration, McDermott says, "is extremely successful in its propaganda campaign." Not only do they keep the Democrats off the playing field, they put on a great halftime show.

More sinisterly, McDermott believes that Bush intends to keep the populace in a state of unease. Drawing on his professional experience as a psychiatrist, McDermott says the American public, rattled by 9/11, and D.C. lawmakers frightened by the one-two punch of the Pentagon attack and the D.C. sniper, are looking to Bush for comfort, just as a frightened child would turn to Daddy for protection. But Daddy is sending "schizophrenic messages," the doctor says. One minute, it's Code Red, the next it's shop as normal. The media are cooperating, of course, by glorifying and sensationalizing our traumas. McDermott quotes Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., as calling the anniversary of 9/11 "Pick the Scab Day."

McDermott says he's seeing some of the same symptoms in the American people that he saw when treating soldiers and sailors returning from the Vietnam War. People are agitated, unable to sleep, struggling with a punctured sense of security. "The president's agenda doesn't calm people," he says. "I think it is a strategic part of the propaganda." A frightened America is an America more ready to comply with orders from the Great Protector in the White House. Anything in the name of national security. Anything in the name of personal security. Isn't sleep deprivation part of brainwashing? Agitate the people, and before you know it, we'll all be sending our sons and daughters to die for Iraqi oil.

IN THE BIBLE, Job sat amid the ashes scratching himself with a potsherd, refusing to give up his faith despite all that Satan dished out to test him. As Democrats and liberals approach next week's elections, they, too, must scratch their sores and cling to the belief that this phase is merely a test. A great act of faith would be to stagger to the polls and vote God's party out of office.

kberger@seattleweekly.com

 
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