The End of Republican Rule

Righteous populism holds the key to vanquishing Bush forever

Talking heads flap their mouths: about whether and how the Clintons will "overshadow" the nominee; about how (in the absurd, astonishing words of New Republic editor Peter Beinart) "liberalism is on tap virtually every night," stuffing up an activist-run party's "self-congratulatory echo chamber." About how many sentences of his speech John Kerry wrote himself.

This is the audience the convention planners seem to play to. They respond predictably to words like "safer" and "first responder" and "daughter"; a keyword search reveals the phrases showing up 30, eight, and 23 times. Not so much to words having to do with official government malfeasance—which is why, strangely, John Kerry's single greatest achievement as senator, forcing Congress to face up to the Reagan administration's crimes negotiating with Iranian hostage-takers and sending the proceeds to death squads in Central America, was not mentioned at all.

No, this convention was supposed to make us feel good, be relentlessly positive. The theme was unity: national unity, party unity.

Niceness is nice. It makes a body feel good about himself. But it's no strategy with which to win a presidential election. Adlai Stevenson was nice; he lost two presidential elections for the Democrats. Michael Dukakis, Jimmy Carter: They were nice. And look what happened to them.

These days, talking about things like the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us is judged not very nice. Fixing it might require breaking some eggs. The pundits would call it "class warfare." So whenever a concession is demanded in the interests of unity, it will be demanded of the party's left wing, never of the corporate types.

Like the time, Tuesday night, one party liberal—this one—returned to find his seat occupied by one of those blue-suited thirtysomethings. I asked him to give it up. He refused. "We gave lots of money to the Democratic Party," he said, and demanded I sit in the aisle. "It would be shameful if I couldn't get a seat."

It was on behalf of all those poor single women who don't vote and who really hold the explosive power for beating George Bush on November 2, 2004, that I refused to give up my seat.

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