That’s a question – implicit in our recent stories
about his administration’s failures – that has attracted skepticism from
some readers. Several have sent e-mails expressing strong doubts that
anything at all can be achieved through the electoral process, given the
cowardice of the Democratic Party and the complicity of the mainstream
There is much to be said for those arguments. A
sub-theme of my book,
Secrecy & Privilege, is that the massive conservative investment
in media, think tanks and attack groups over the past three decades has
led to a systemic change in U.S. politics, the creation of a right-wing
machine that can crush almost anyone who gets in the way.
While there have been some cracks in that machine –
with the bad news from Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, pocketbook issues like
gasoline prices and corruption probes of leading Republicans – the
conservatives retain a huge advantage when it comes to putting out and
repeating a message that will resonate with their followers and average
Liberals and the Left have been remarkably slow in
recognizing the danger from this media-driven conservative juggernaut.
Though progressive talk radio and Internet bloggers have begun to
challenge the Right’s media dominance, those efforts are still grossly
under-funded and lack anything like the reach of the conservative
In such an imbalanced media environment, most
national Democrats prefer to play it safe, staying close to the
political herd. That timidity, in turn, demoralizes the liberal base,
which is desperate for someone to emerge as a courageous leader.
A recurring theme in the e-mails responding to our
articles, such as “What
to Do About the Bush Problem” and “Frog-Marching
Bush to the Hague,” was that it’s naïve – or even delusional – to
envision the Democratic Party ever standing up to the Republicans.
Some e-mailers went on to conclude that either
there’s no political answer, period, or that the answer rests in some
long-range radical transformation of the system. In other words, there’s
no practical way of ousting Bush or imposing any accountability,
If recent history is any guide, one would have
trouble countering those e-mail arguments.
It is hard to envision the Democratic Party
charting a high-risk national strategy for Election 2006 with
accountability at the center. It’s difficult, too, to foresee wealthy
liberals finally recognizing the need to invest heavily in media outlets
and content. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The
Left’s Media Miscalculation.”]
More likely, the Democrats will want to cobble
together some hodge-podge of domestic proposals while tacking on a
critique of Bush’s Iraq War that faults him for not sending in more
troops and not “fighting to win.” New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and some
other presidential hopefuls already are staking out this “right-flank”
option on Iraq.
There is, however, another scenario that could make
accountability the key issue in Election 2006 and put rank-and-file
Americans in a position of leadership.
What if the voters acted independently to defeat as
many Republicans as possible, not just to put more Democrats in office,
but to send a message to both parties that the extremism, the trickery
and the corruption personified by the neoconservatives now in charge of
the Republican Party will no longer be tolerated?
What if the result of this popular uprising against
Bush is not just some marginal Democratic gains, but a landslide
repudiation of recent government policies?
Would a solid Democratic majority in both houses
represent a mandate for accountability, an imperative so strong that
even the timid Democratic leadership couldn’t ignore it?
Might the top Democrats calculate that shirking
their duty again represented more of a political risk than holding Bush
accountable through investigations and possible impeachment? Is it
possible that out of such a changed climate a worthy political leader –
and a reformed Republican Party – might arise?
Without doubt, these questions don’t fit within
today’s conventional wisdom. They don’t reflect the tendency toward
modern spectator-sport politics where citizens root for a candidate the
way fans cheer for a football team, albeit with a lot more passion for
the football team.
But for those readers who have e-mailed us with
suggestions about the need for deeper change in the American political
system, is it a fair question to ask: If a movement can’t organize to
repudiate a leader who has bungled so many policies
back-to-back-to-back, how can that movement expect to accomplish
While it may make little sense to cast a yes vote
for Democrats as they currently present themselves, is there a case to
be made for a no vote on Bush’s form of Republicanism?