I received a direct-mail solicitation from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi the other day that seems to exemplify the morass into which the Democratic Party has sunk. The letter gets the tone all wrong from the very first sentence. "Do not despair," it says, taking for granted that the political left in this country is no better than a ragtag army in full retreat. Sadly, it seems that the pervasive feeling among liberals in the wake of Bush's reelection is one of desperation and wounded arrogance.
I guess that means there's nothing to lose so we may as well gear up for a fight, right? That is essentially what Pelosi is proposing as she calls for Democrats to "block [Bush and Cheney's] radical, mean-spirited agenda."
"In fact," she writes, "we can do no less."
As it turns out, the Democrats can do a whole lot less. After lacking the political guts to block the vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' nomination, six Democrats (including moralistic scold Joe Lieberman) actually cast votes in favor of this utterly unqualified candidate. Talk about backbone! 30 Democrats voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice. And these moral cowards have the gall to pretend to be protecting the virtue of liberty against the rapaciousness of the Bush White House.
The occasion for the letter (apart from, of course, soliciting donations for House Democrats) is the 2005 State of the Union Survey, a short questionnaire on the hot-button issues of today. Pelosi promises that "responses will help us formulate an action agenda and shape the Democratic message for President Bush's second term."
It is sad but not necessarily shocking that Democrats don't already have a message or an agenda. The Democratic Party lost points in the 2004 elections due to a widespread feeling that they were rudderless, lacking both vision and a workable plan for the next four years. Pelosi's missive all but confirms this view. It also begs this question: Is the Democratic Party the political manifestation of a genuine progressive movement in this country, or is it merely a clearinghouse for a motley assortment of special-interest groups whose pulse is not organic, but can only be gauged via Business Reply Mail?
Is this party driven by conviction or consensus? Perhaps Pelosi can send out a survey on that question, too.