I grew up in the age of Reagan, a period when Democrats sent monikers in search of governing philosophies. Many of my readers will not recognize “Atari Democrats.” If they know Gary Hart, it’s of an ugly older man finagling a younger woman on a boat. The Democratic Leadership Council is more familiar. So spooked were Democrats by Ronald Reagan that in the early eighties they decided to pursue Wall Street dough — a decision that looks more sinister in retrospect. Not a signal but a culmination, for even Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter had endorsed deregulation of airlines and banks; their younger acolytes believed Social Security needed “reform.” Exacerbating the problem was the Democrats’ vise on the House. A pair of two-year intervals aside, the Democrats controlled the House from 1930 to 1994, which mean that it considered every rotten accommodation with Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Bill Clinton, therefore, was another culmination. Buoyant and garrulous, he had the Reagan-esque optimism that pollsters dreamed of and policies to match. I’ve written enough about him. But when I matured politically Al Gore had chosen the Senate’s most concerted scold as his vice presidential running mate: the man who, in a tremulous voice as certain of its rectitude as a prison guard, condemned Clinton’s sexual appetites in the Senate. The Patriot Act and the authorization for use of military force against Iraq emitted the stale air of inevitability. If that’s what a Dem’s gotta do to get elected! Disgusted, I dropped my party affiliation in 2003.
Now I reach the point of my disquisiton. My friends endured with good cheer my public convulsions about whether to vote for John Kerry in 2004. Besotted with Paul Berman and Kenneth Pollack, I flirted with the liberal case for the Iraq War. I applauded my non-conformity. Vacillation is the sleazo’s trick — he thinks men and women will jump to convert him. But I didn’t vacillate. I voted for Kerry without a moment’s thought. John Kerry — the man who instead of pledging to exit Iraq wanted to fight a smarter war, as if war were preparing for a grammar test. Unmoved, I remained uncommitted through the GOP disasters of 2005 and 2006: Hurricane Katrina, Harriet Miers, Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson (yawn), the attorney firings (another yawn; I figured every president does it). The reports that House Majority Leader Tom Delay ran Congress as a front organization for lobbyists. The Supreme Court’s Hamdan ruling. I was relieved when the Dems retook Congress that November — relief, mind, not any sense of an affirmation of an agenda. Maybe Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid knew 2008 would be a Democratic year therefore held their fire, unlike their colleagues and descendants in the other party a decade later who think the winner, Barack Hussein Obama, is a bag of oats with a dry veto pen.
Obama’s inaugural legislative victories and subsequent executive orders reminding me that I was a liberal who had done little with my principles except act smug about them, I started to participate, tentatively, in the troublesome business of meeting people like me. In July 2016, I’m a liberal who endorsed Bernie Sanders despite being unable to vote for him in Florida’s closed primaries; I want the flawed and functional and scarred Hillary Rodham Clinton as president of the United States. It’s not even close.
A few notes:
— Now the Beltway press, embracing its conception of fairness that it confuses for objectivity, is ready to treat the Democratic National Convention as if it bore any resemblance to last week’s Nuremberg.
— The emails are no scandal. DNC chairs – all chairs – are political appointees (FDR toyed w/the notion of getting Jim Farley to run in 1940 before pulling a bait and switch). I wasn’t surprised. She still beat Sanders. As a former Sanders supporter I’m not that moved by it. I’m more chilled that the evidence points to Russian intelligence hacking the servers and leaking to Wikileaks.
— Al Franken was never funny.
— Politics has nought to do with moral choices.
— My cold’s gone. I’m out of bourbon.
— I hate “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” especially so when sung by a breathless and tuneless Paul Simon. As if we needed more reminders that, to quote hippie Neil Young, the hippie dream capsized in excess/If you know what I mean.
— Cory Booker, the sort of person who uses “pay it forward,” with sincerity, delivered the kind of speech meant for the admiring ears and eyes of columnists.
— “Every day I wake up in a house that was built by slaves.” Couple that line with her delivery and Michelle Obama scored the evening’s most palpable rhetorical hit.