It's your Party and you'll cry if you want to
Via The Anchoress, I read Peggy Noonan's column from today's Wall Street Journal. Noonan thinks Bush's State of the Union speech was okay, but mainly a rehash of past positions. If you agree with Bush, you agreed with the speech; if not, you didn't. That's probably about right.
Noonan went on to observe:
It was the first State of the Union Mr. Bush has given in which Congress seemed utterly pre-9/11 in terms of battle lines drawn. Exactly half the chamber repeatedly leapt to its feet to applaud this banality or that. The other half remained resolutely glued to its widely cushioned seats. It seemed a metaphor for the Democratic Party: We don't know where to stand or what to stand for, and in fact we're not good at standing for anything anyway, but at least we know we can't stand Republicans...
The venom is bubbling on websites like Kos, where Tuesday afternoon, after the Alito vote, various leftists wrote in such comments as "F--- our democratic leaders," "Vichy Democrats" and "F--- Mary Landrieu, I hope she drowns." The old union lunch-pail Democrats are dead, the intellects of the Kennedy and Johnson era retired or gone, and this--I hope she drowns--seems, increasingly, to be the authentic voice of the Democratic base.
I, too, have noticed an increase in anger lately on the Democratic/liberal and/or leftist side, at least on the blogs. It includes an influx of commenters here. My once-proud party seems to be sinking ever faster into a sort of quicksand of peevishness and rage, like Rumpelstiltskin stomping himself into the ground.
My perception of so many Democrats in Congress as inane, negative, and immature crystallized when I saw their reaction to Bush's mention of the failure to pass his Social Security proposals: they stood and cheered. Whether or not Bush's call for bipartisan action was sincere, the Democrats certainly made themselves look bad in contrast.
The Anchoress received a letter on the subject from one of her readers who is a teacher:
My kids thought it was hysterical when the Demos stood up and applauded themselves for preventing any change to Social Security. They said they were like Wyle E. Coyote, blowing themselves up. Also, when they chose to sit rather than stand when Bush defended the NSA program by saying we won’t sit around waiting to be hit again. The Demos made a bad impression on kids who will be voting in ‘08 and even, some of them, in ‘06.
Teacher-blogger Betsy Newmark also pointed out that young people in her high school AP class didn't see this as the Democrats' shining hour. She adds:
Many of my students have no intention of voting Republican, but they're not seeing anything from the Democrats to make them enthusiastic. And these are kids who want to vote and are excited about turning old enough to do so. In that, they're probably anomalous among young people today. If there is no longer the hatred of Bush to drive young people to the polls, the Democrats might want to think about creating a positive reason for people to want to vote for them, rather than simply voting against Republicans.
It's not just kids. I, too, would be willing to vote for the right Democratic candidate. But at this point the party itself has reached the lowest and most extreme point that I can remember in my lifetime. The Republicans aren't looking so hot at the moment either (i.e. Abramoff), so this could be the moment for a Democratic renaissance. I wish the Democrats could find their center again (literally), for the sake of the two-party system in which I believe, if for nothing else. But on Tuesday night I saw absolutely no sign of it.
All Democrats who care about their party should please take note: it may feel good to "vent," but it doesn't bode well for the future of the party. The whole world may or may not be watching, but the kids--the future voters--are.