Time for Democrats to Get Mean

“All of us feel it. There is a sickness in the American political system, a withering of the public faith in government that is so essential to our democracy. This has always been a country of rough political rhetoric. But the personal viciousness, the haste, the ideological shrillness are worse now than for many years.”
—Anthony Lewis, New York Times, 1-29-96

Anthony Lewis obviously lives in a different world from the rest of us. Where I live, the main problem with the two-party system is a general absence of personal viciousness. Forget posturing on trivial matters like the budget impasse. On issues that really affect Americans on a day-to-day basis, Democrats and Republicans are in complete agreement.

Both parties agree that at least 6 percent of American workers should be kept systematically unemployed in order to keep inflation down. The parties of Jackson and Lincoln both favor tax cuts for the rich, a less-progressive tax structure and unregulated free trade.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans favor restoring the college direct-grant system. Neither favors improving mass transit. Neither really accepts the existence of global warming, much less feels the need to do anything about it .

This evil spirit of bipartisanship poorly serves citizens who disagree with the Uniparty’s mad rush to an illusive center.

Citizens of European-style parliamentary democracies have dozens of distinct political party platforms to choose from, ranging from extreme left to extreme right. In France or Italy, for example, Socialists don’t do lunch with Christian Democrats. They don’t sleep together either, à la Matlin and Carville. Ideology is serious business there, and voters are better represented.

Accepting for the moment that our wretched nation is limited to two parties, we have the right to at least expect two distinct stances on most issues.

The wimp-owned and -operated Democrats are particularly responsible for the current one-party system. As demonstrated by Clinton’s pathetic groveling for common ground with the Republicans in his State of the Union address, Democrats parrot pro-business Republicans on virtually every issue. Perhaps most unforgivably in a country that worships macho posturists, they never fight back when the GOP slanders them. All of the most outrageous televised attack ads of recent decades have been Republican ones–Nixon comparing McGovern’s national health care plan to socialism and Bush’s overtly racist Willie Horton ad come to mind first.

Even if the Democrats aren’t interested in rescuing themselves from their string of one-term presidencies, they owe the country some seriously aggressive ideological shrillness. In the interest of public service, here’s what I’m talking about:

ATTACK AD 1: “They Hate You” (30 seconds)

Show cameras sweeping across sea of white faces at Republican National Convention, interspersed with Ku Klux Klan rallies, Nazis goose-stepping, blacks being attacked by dogs in the South, cross-burnings, piles of bodies at Auschwitz, and then panning across Republicans in Congress, especially Jesse Helms.

VOICE-OVER: America’s Republican Party. They’ve come a long way since Lincoln, haven’t they?”

TEXT: Anti-welfare. No funding for AIDS research. Anti-affirmative action. Against raising the minimum wage.

VOICE-OVER: “Republicans hate ordinary people. They hate blacks. They hate gays. They hate women. They hate people who work for a living. The odds are, they hate you. And why shouldn’t they? You’re not like them. They’re rich. Powerful. Mean.”

Show George Bush golfing and Bob Dole at a black-tie dinner. Cut to exclusive estates in wealthy suburb.

VOICE-OVER: “If you don’t live like them, don’t vote like them. This message sponsored by the Democratic National Committee.”

ATTACK AD 2: “Domestic Violence” (30 seconds)

Show shots of O.J. Simpson being tried for murder, photos of Nicole Simpson with bruises on her face. Cut to shots of Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole. Then show all four men’s faces together, “Brady Bunch”-style.

VOICE-OVER: “What do these four men have in common? They treat women like crap.”

First, zero in on Reagan.

VOICE-OVER: “Ronald Reagan was accused of showing up drunk at a young starlet’s home back in the 1950s and raping her. Later, when he got married, he abandoned his first wife, Jane Wyman, and let his son Ron, Jr. live on food stamps rather than help him through college.”

Next, show Gingrich.

VOICE-OVER: “Newt Gingrich served his faithful first wife with divorce papers in the hospital while she was recovering from a cancer operation. Why? Because she wasn’t flashy enough for him to be seen with in Washington after he became a big-shot. Then she had to take him to court to force him to pay child support.”

Then show Dole.

VOICE-OVER: “Bob Dole? He dumped his first wife too. So the next time some Republican starts talking about family values, remember what kind of family values he’s talking about. America’s Republicans: Anti-woman. Anti-child. Anti-family. Paid for by Democrats to Re-elect President Clinton.”

Now there’s some ideological shrillness to make American politics exciting again.

(Ted Rall, author of Waking Up In America (St. Martin’s Press, 1992) and All The Rules Have Changed (Rip Off Press, 1995), is a syndicated editorial cartoonist and freelance writer.)

© 1996 Ted Rall All Rights Reserved