PZ echoes my own sentiments about what the Democrats can and can’t do with his morning-after cynicism. I can’t speak for him, but I always find myself deeply cynical about politicians before elections, and then mysteriously rooting for them on election night. Before 2004/11/02, I thought there was little difference between Bush and Kerry. Since then, I’ve though there’s little difference. But while the votes were being counted, I was genuinely sad Kerry was losing.
It’s the same here. For all my whistling Celebration on the streets after discovering that Webb was about to overtake Allen, I know too well to expect massive change. The Democrats are the party of NAFTA, welfare reform, and authorization of the Patriot Act and Iraq war. The Homeland Security Bill was originally sponsored by Lieberman. More recently, the Democrats are the party that couldn’t get a minimum wage increase when 83% of the American people wanted it.
Amanda talks about the wave of anti-oppression vote: women voting Democratic because of Pelosi, Southern politicians finally losing votes over racist remarks, disenchantment with trickle-down economics, a victory for choice. But that vote won’t translate to action. For a start, politics centers around concrete issues. Abortion is such an issue, and a fairly good proxy for feminism at that; but issues of race and class have no similar high-profile issue. It’s easy to come up with proposals that would level the playing field, but political parties never invent their own issues.
As I said on Pandagon, in response to Amanda’s point that the Democrats’ greatest gains were in industrial states where economic recovery is illusory:
I wonder which policy planks the Democrats can get out of the attitudes in the rust belt. More workers’ comp, probably, and some additional funding to health care and education. But I don’t see the Democrats institute a single-payer health care scheme, even though most Americans would like one, and I’m pretty sure there’s no way to nationalize education funding to eliminate disparities in education.
Overall it’s still a good opportunity, but I think the Democrats will miss most of it just because they’re still too timid.
The good news is that the Democrats are still not actively courting religious fundamentalists. I follow Amanda in thinking Harold Ford was the Democrat most deserving to lose. Obama would be even more deserving of defeat, but he’s not running for anything this year. Ranting about how God wants you to win doesn’t make you look pious. It makes you look like a shallow baseball player who thinks an omnipotent being gives a damn about frivolous ball-batting.
So my book’s left-wing Dominionist, David Reynolds, is slightly further away from victory in 2020. In contrast, the right still has no heavyweight Dominionist; the 2008 campaign season’s heavyweights are Giuliani, who’s at odds with the religious right, and McCain, who isn’t but is still not quite up to Dobson’s standards.