Will Rogers once responded to a reporter’s query about his political affiliation by emphatically stating, “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
Rogers’ remark, made in the lean democratic decade of the 1920s, still summarizes the party’s current predicament.
One need only look at this week’s newspapers, both locally and nationally, to see my point. On the cover of Monday’s Yale Daily News was the headline, “In zany convention, Healey gets Ward 1 nod.” Headlines about “Pardongate” splashed the front page of that day’s New York Times, which featured articles on Democratic fund raising woes and troubles the Congressional leadership had in mounting a credible opposition to the Bush tax agenda. Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report recently declared that the party’s hopes of taking back Congress in 2002 are already fading under the heavy strain of the Clinton imbroglios.
Whether near to home or far, the Democrats just can’t seem to get their acts together.
Now, some not so astute political observers such as Cook seem to see this current state of disorganization within the party ranks as a harbinger of ill tidings and perhaps electoral demise. Nothing could be further from the truth. If the political pundits ever took the time to open a history textbook, they’d know the Democrats have been in worse fixes before. Democrats have read their political obituaries too many times to believe this time will be any different than all the others.
First, let me address the current national scene.
The Clintons, the couple that simply won’t go away — Bob Dole once said it would take a SWAT team to get them out of the White House — are dominating the press once again as stories of the obscene and egregious transgressions of their final White House days come to light.
Truth be told, I have never really liked the Clintons and still remain little more than a reluctant supporter. That does not mean I don’t think Big Bill was a fantastic leader of the American economy and a masterful politician. He was the right man for the right time in American history. Nevertheless, as a person, he has never particularly impressed me, nor has his wife for that matter. An opportunistic streak runs through the Clinton veins, and the pardon controversy seems to bear out that point quite well.
But this is what must be remembered by the pundits: Just because Clinton soiled his reputation in his final day in the Oval Office does not necessarily mean the entire Democratic Party is on the brink of annihilation.
Last I checked, El Presidente Bush still hadn’t convinced a majority of the American public that his wonderful tax cut plan was good for them. And don’t expect him to have any easier a time with his foolhardy attempts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve for oil exploration.
But switching gears for a second and turning closer to home, on Monday morning I read with great amusement the story of the utterly ridiculous Ward 1 nominating convention.
As I read with mirth of the petty jockeying and bizarre machinations of the various candidates, I couldn’t help but form a mental picture in my mind of the infamous chicken running around with its head cut off. The convention gave new meaning to the expression, “The blind leading the blind.”
I was not a member of the Ward 1 nominating committee — bizarre because I always thought I was the most bitterly partisan Democrat on campus — and I did not attend the event partly because I am not a registered voter in New Haven and partly because I prefer circuses of the three ring variety.
Nevertheless, all my prior opinions about the lameness of campus Democratic politics were confirmed for me in the pages of the News.
But taking these stories together, the national tale of democratic woe and the local display of democratic ineptitude, here is my main argument for the Democratic Party: Although we may not be pretty to look at, the party will always be a constant. And so long as we remain in the great theater of American politics, expect us to be the less polished, but no less effective of the two political options offered the voters.
My point is simply that Democrats will always be Democrats: disorganized but impassioned, disordered but fervid. No matter what our current predicaments — be they greed and corruption at the pinnacles of power or wild sophomoric antics at the local level — the Democrats always rise to see another day. And although much of this may be due in part to the fact that the Republican alternative, although highly organized, remains clueless to the concerns of the common man, I’d like to think the voters see a little bit of their own family in the petty skirmishes and spats of the larger Democratic one.
I urge my fellow Democrats to keep doing what they’re doing. Be your lovable, roguish, zany selves. No matter how much we might screw up through our collective disorganization, our opponents will inevitably make decisions that will ensure our majority status for the next 50 years.
And as I wait for the Democratic resurgence, I will ponder the exciting possibilities of a Healey-Paulson presidential ticket in 2020. But it’s sure gonna be hard convincing Lex to take that number two slot.
Jim DiTullio is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. His columns appear on alternate Wednesdays.