Politics & Policy

Dealing with the D-Word

The party of dysfunction.

Two days after the 1988 Democratic National Convention, President Reagan tagged the GOP’s opponents with the “L-word” — the unutterable, to the Democrats, name “liberal” — and more or less ended Michael Dukakis’s race for the presidency as it began. This year the Democrats are on their way to attaching to themselves a new fatal letter label: the D-word, dysfunctional.

Their biggest problem, of course, is what they’ve done to their nominating process. While both parties have tinkered with procedures over the years, the Republicans have never violated a simple fundamental rule: Process must produce a decision — and do so, if possible, in a way that encourages coalescing behind the victor. This year, their state and congressional district winner-take-all primaries produced clear winners and losers and encouraged coalition building in a party highly inclined to splinter.

The Democrats have walked a different path. With shades of the Florida 2000 recount, their process has been swallowed up in . . . process. Whose idea was it to exclude all delegates from two of the largest states in the nation just because their legislatures defied the party apparatchiks over primary dates? Only someone who had totally lost sight of the process’ actual purpose.

More damaging, the 60s-style participatory-democracy model imbedded in their system of proportional representation ensures that in as close a primary as this year’s, they’ll face building rancor and have their decision ultimately fall to the party bosses, er, sorry, super-delegates.

But dysfunction goes well beyond the way in which Democrats select their delegates. They have talked a great deal this year about their need to win so-called working-class whites, particularly Catholics, those once referred to as Reagan Democrats. These are highly patriotic people with a long and disproportionate record of military service. Yet both Senators Clinton and Obama have made clear their determination to walk away from the sacrifices in Iraq of these people’s sons and daughters, no matter what the consequences, with the absoluteness of their position becoming clearer with each debate. They talk as if they can buy off this group with veterans’ benefits. It may be more than bitterness over party infighting that has an apparently growing number of Democratic voters telling pollsters that they may cast their ballots for McCain in November.

Even more dysfunctional has been the Obama-Clinton approach to the economy. In 1969, in his landmark book, The Fiscal Revolution in America, Herbert Stein wrote that the example of Herbert Hoover raising taxes in a downturn had proven so disastrous that it would never be repeated. Never say never again. Both Democrats want to raise taxes and trade barriers and address the mortgage crisis with interventions that would almost certainly shrink even more drastically the volume of lending, and hence the money supply. This is exactly the witch’s stew of policies that produced the Great Depression of the 1930s. And why would they do this? To address the fallout of a housing bubble that is global, not national, in scope. The politically amazing thing is that both candidates hope to draw from the higher income, higher education groups that are most likely to understand how poisonous this policy package would be.

Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign manager, Bob Beckel, has said that in 2008 all the stars are aligning for a Democratic White House. But in seven months, after the voting, we may well conclude that the stars gathered over a different place. Increasingly the D-word describes everything about the Democrats — their nominating rules, their surprisingly misstepping candidates, their excessive positions. So if “dysfunctional” is today’s D-word, after November’s elections we may have a new D-word, “divided,” as in divided government, with new President McCain saying hello to reelected Speaker Pelosi.

– Clark S. Judge is managing director of the White House Writers Group, Inc.

Most Popular

If You Like Your Police, You Can Keep Your Police

The most amusing thing about the Obama v. the Squad kerfuffle is that there is not actually an inch of substantive daylight between the supposed combatants. Former President Obama does not disagree with the sentiments or objectives of Ilhan Omar et al. He disagrees with their tactic of pursuing it through a ... Read More

If You Like Your Police, You Can Keep Your Police

The most amusing thing about the Obama v. the Squad kerfuffle is that there is not actually an inch of substantive daylight between the supposed combatants. Former President Obama does not disagree with the sentiments or objectives of Ilhan Omar et al. He disagrees with their tactic of pursuing it through a ... Read More

America Waits Out the Biden Era

Now that the post-electoral haze is clearing a little, and we see that the Democrats so skillfully arranged for massive ballot-harvesting electoral fraud in several swing states that their likely theft of the election may, in yet another demonstration of the atrophied condition of the American legal system, be ... Read More

America Waits Out the Biden Era

Now that the post-electoral haze is clearing a little, and we see that the Democrats so skillfully arranged for massive ballot-harvesting electoral fraud in several swing states that their likely theft of the election may, in yet another demonstration of the atrophied condition of the American legal system, be ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Biden’s Unhelpful Mask Stance

On the menu today: Joe Biden brings his own problems to the national stage, declaring that he wants Americans to wear masks until the end of his first 100 days in office -- well after the 100 million most vulnerable Americans will be vaccinated! -- and warns that the nation’s death toll from the pandemic will ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Biden’s Unhelpful Mask Stance

On the menu today: Joe Biden brings his own problems to the national stage, declaring that he wants Americans to wear masks until the end of his first 100 days in office -- well after the 100 million most vulnerable Americans will be vaccinated! -- and warns that the nation’s death toll from the pandemic will ... Read More
Business

The Climate Warriors are Eyeing Your Plate

The war on red meat, spearheaded by vegetarians (and then vegans) has been going on for years. More recently, the climate warriors have joined in. A decade or so ago, the idea that climate change might have been used as a justification for either banishing meat from the table — or repricing it so that it was ... Read More
Business

The Climate Warriors are Eyeing Your Plate

The war on red meat, spearheaded by vegetarians (and then vegans) has been going on for years. More recently, the climate warriors have joined in. A decade or so ago, the idea that climate change might have been used as a justification for either banishing meat from the table — or repricing it so that it was ... Read More
Film & TV

Wonder Drug Cures All Problems

I’ve just discovered a film that has changed my life. Give it a chance, and it’ll change yours, too. The film is Another Round, by the sly Dane Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), and it heralds the discovery of a miraculous substance by four friends, all of them high-school teachers in Denmark, on the ... Read More
Film & TV

Wonder Drug Cures All Problems

I’ve just discovered a film that has changed my life. Give it a chance, and it’ll change yours, too. The film is Another Round, by the sly Dane Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), and it heralds the discovery of a miraculous substance by four friends, all of them high-school teachers in Denmark, on the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Silent Victims of This Pandemic

We all know this pandemic has taken many lives, and we are well-versed in all its impacts on our health. We also know about the victims who died of COVID, as they are reported daily. But today I would like to take a moment to make a list of the other victims of this pandemic. This incomplete list doesn’t take ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Silent Victims of This Pandemic

We all know this pandemic has taken many lives, and we are well-versed in all its impacts on our health. We also know about the victims who died of COVID, as they are reported daily. But today I would like to take a moment to make a list of the other victims of this pandemic. This incomplete list doesn’t take ... Read More