The Democratic Party has chosen Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (Tom Paine, where are you when we need you?) to respond to Bush's upcoming State of the Union address. Like Arianna Huffington and Michael Miller (at Informed Dissent), I wish they had chosen someone else, someone like John Murtha, for instance.
But the Democrats are in the habit of eating their own, especially when it comes to independent powerful voices willing to stand up and lead the Party and the American people. The entrenched Democratic Party leadership is unhinged and discomfitted by voices like Murtha's, preferring to campaign against the GOP with the same old tired, milquetoast acquiescience. So Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have chosen a safe voice for the Democrats.
Here's the voice the Democrats are putting up against Bush (all below comes from Kaine's campaign website):
-- Tim Kaine has what he calls "a faith-based opposition to abortion;"
-- at the top of his list of issues on his gubernatorial campaign website are the words, "faith and family;"
-- he's tax cutter, his campaign website emphasizes over and over how he will cut taxes, for just about everyone;
-- he is an unwavering supporter of the Second Amendment, opposing any infringment on the right of citizens to bear arms;
-- his environmental policy statement on his campaign website does not mention the words "global warming" anywhere and is a perfect example of a conservative's polite and accomodating approach to the corporate rape of our environment;
-- in his statement on the obscene oil prices of last year, he apes the fawning pleas of the Bush administration to the oil companies to play fair and be nice;
-- his position on health care is the very essence of Democratic spinelessness and innocuousness, proposing "a voluntary public-private small business insurance pool, tax cuts to help small businesses afford health insurance, and tools to help business owners and their workers become better health care consumers."
In Vermont, we would call him a conservative Republican.
Saying that, I know that the Kaine win in Virginia was a great boost to the Democrats in this past election. I know that he is better than whatever the Virginia GOP offered. But come on, is this really the best voice the Democrats can put up against Bush?
William Rivers Pitt has proposed that the Democrats stand up, en masse, during the State of the Union address, and silently walk out. He says this:
Understand this, congressional Democrats, and understand it well: you are not dealing merely with a body of political opponents in the GOP. You are dealing with a group of people that want you exterminated politically. The days of walking the halls of the Rayburn Building, sharing a bourbon with a colleague from the other side of the aisle, and hammering out a compromise are as dead as Julius Caesar. Collegiality is out. Mutual respect is out. They want you gone for good. Erased. Destroyed.
Those are pretty alarmist words. Some might say they are hysterical. Pitt says the Democrats have been too polite about all this, that:
The writing has been on the wall for a while now. Back in 1995, Republican Senator Phil Gramm said, "We're going to keep building the party until we're hunting Democrats with dogs." That was eleven years ago. If you listen close, you can hear the beasts baying in the distance, waiting to slip the leash. Your limp tactics in the face of the assault upon you, your vacillation, your strange hope that maybe the GOP will be nicer tomorrow, has left you all smelling like Alpo.
Pitt maintains that the Abramoff scandal will not carry the Democrats to victory in November 2006, that this issue will either sputter out or will be delayed (no pun intended). He offers a very specific strategy for the Democrats to follow in their walkout:
It takes a spine to stand up. Find yours. Get up and walk out of the State of the Union speech. Turn your backs on the blizzard of lies and empty promises that are sure to pour forth from that podium. Give it exactly what it deserves.
Walk outside to the steps of the Capitol Building and hold a Counter-State-of-the-Union. Lay out your plans for a better future. Explain how you will reform the system that spawned Mr. Abramoff. Demand answers and explanations about what is happening in Iraq, what is happening over at the National Security Agency, and why this administration believes itself to be completely above the law.
I can even offer a bit of text for your opening statement. "Three years ago during this very speech," your leading spokesperson can say from those steps, "Mr. Bush told us that Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al Qaeda connections, and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program. He said all this three years ago, during this all-important annual address, and all of it was a lie. The American people deserve an explanation."
This is an intriguing idea. It won't happen. It contains huge risks. I'd like to hear what Pitt thinks some of the risks are, but the obvious one is a negative reaction from the American people, fueled by a media and GOP backlash-- essentially a reaction that says the GOP is right, the Dems are obstructionist, petulant, and unpatriotic. The press would say, when the going gets tough, the Democrats get going. The Democrats would be tarred and feathered, but not kicked out of Washigton DC, yet. They would be forced to sit in their seats and endure national condemnation and, then, significant losses in November.
I do agree with Pitt's basic fundamental understanding of those who currently rule this country. I empathize with his frustration and understand his call to action. He is saying "Do something", "Do Anything!"
The American Right has worked for a long time to gain power and solidify the plutocracy. It will do anything to maintain it. Could it be that the Democratic leadership, the group that confronts these people on a daily basis, really doesn't understand this fundamental fact about them? If they don't, then we are in bigger trouble than we think.
When Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the top two Democrats in Congress, pick Tim Kaine to be the single voice of opposition to Bush's State of the Union address, I worry they don't get it.