Yet the liberal blogosphere is agog at the way the Democrats let Judge Alito off the hook. And they're stupefied as to why the Senate Democrats are signaling that they won't risk triggering a nuclear confrontation with a filibuster. Postings on Daily Kos were typical. First, this comment from Georgia10: "Don't tell me a filibuster isn't warranted when 56% of this nation says Alito SHOULD be blocked if he'll overturn Roe. . . . I keep hearing . . . [t]hat we need 'angry' Dems, we need Dems with courage. We need Dems with courage. Well guess what -- we HAVE angry Dems, we HAVE courageous Dems. Look in the damn mirror, people. WE are the party. WE are the Democrats. We're angry, we spit fire, and our time has come."
Then there was this response from one DHinMI: "Alito is a judicial radical and far from the national mainstream on numerous issues. . . And with his anemic numbers, [Bush] wouldn't be able to count on much support from the country in ramming through the nomination."
Now, Gerstein correctly points out that Democrats failed to properly convey these views of Alito during the hearing process. Of course, though, it isn't enough to call the Democrats out on their performance; instead, Gerstein uses the hearings as an opportunity to insult the Democratic base as being out of the mainstream:
[T]hat's the heart of the problem with our party and its angry activist base. It's not so much that we're living in a parallel universe, but that we have dueling conceptions of what's mainstream, especially on abortion and other values-based issues, and our side is losing. We think that if we simply call someone conservative, anti-choice and anti-civil rights, that's enough to scare people to our side. But that tired dogma won't hunt in today's electorate, which is far more independent-thinking and complex in its views on values than our side presumes.
First, I like how Gerstein and the rest of the DLCers throw out the term "angry activist base" as if its a derogatory epithet, as if we really have nothing to be angry about but rather are seething just for shits and giggles. The base is rightly angry precisely because the party is being pulled away from the mainstream and towards a GOP-lite by the likes of Gerstein and the other consultants.
While his article laments our inability to connect with "values" voters, he does not refute the fact that 56% of Americans--Democrats and Republicans alike--want Alito blocked if he'll overturn Roe. Is 56% of America out of the "mainstream"? Is a view "mainstream" simply because its held by Republicans, or by those in power? Because that seems to be Gerstein's point. America, he points out, twice elected a pro-life President and Congress.
Gerstein apparently chases the theory that we must emulate those in power, because they must've done something right by voters to get into the positions of power in the first place. But the fatal flaw in this argument is that the administration--especially this administration--does not represent the mainstream. If that were true, then violating the Constitution would be a "mainstream" value. Destroying the environment would be a "mainstream" value. Waging an unnecessary war would be a "mainstream" value. Yet poll after poll has consistently proven that the ideology of this administration is outside of the mainstream.
More on the flip...
Gerstein chastises us though for pointing out that the administration does not represent the interests of the American people:
This episode shows we don't have any leader in power who will tell our base that we're not going to become a majority party again by telling the majority they're out of the mainstream.
So how do we become the majority party? By courting white, female, Christian voters, of course! At least that's his suggestion. As for pointing out to America that Republicans are radical and don't hold true American values? Shhhh...shut up! Play nice with the other party. Don't be "angry", don't label them anti-choice or anti-civil rights. To Gerstein, that's a "tired dogma."
But it gets better. Because it's not enough that Gerstein claims the base is out of the mainstream, but he also faults us for being blinded by "our anger at George Bush." Cue the strawman:
Many Democrats just don't want to acknowledge that he's president and is going to pick conservative justices -- let alone that the two we got, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, are about as good as we could hope for.
Nobody has argued for Bush to appoint a liberal to the court. Of course we expect Bush to appoint a conservative--but what we don't expect is for him to appoint a judge who employs such an ultra-conservative view of the executive branch as to render the remaining branches impotent against the
King's President's power. But this strawman fits so nicely into Gerstein's political fresco which paints us as fringe, radical, and irrational.
Gerstein's ideal party would be filled with row after row of tight-lipped Liebermans, each strung up like Marionettes to a central ideal of "mainstream" which is formed not by actual poll numbers, not by true American life, but by the power-hungry party which happens--by sheer trickery and deceit--to ascend to the highest echelons of our government.
"Mainstream" isn't represented the millions of Democrats online, the students, the teachers, the blue-collar workers. "Mainstream" isn't reflected in box office sales, or TV shows, or popular culture. No, "mainstream" becomes a term of capitulation, an excuse to sacrifice our true liberal identity at the feet of pundits and political consultants.
Party leaders espousing Gerstein's view of the "mainstream" better enjoy their minority status--because they'll likely be there for quite a while.
Update [2006-1-21 1:56:49 by georgia10]:: PsiFighter37 also takes on the Gerstein article here.