Columns » Ranger Rich

Dems: Same as they've always been


This week, as you know, the nation's most ardent Democrats have gathered in all of their glory in Denver, tens of thousands of people basking in the dream of Barack Obama and forging a bond rooted in this one powerful and indivisible theme: that none of them slips and mentions former Sen. John "Lots of Filthy, Sneaky Sex and Still Not a Hair Out of Place" Edwards.

With the rest of the nation or at least the parts of it that can read and did not vote for President George W. Bush they have waited anxiously for Obama's nomination acceptance speech at Invesco Field. In Denver, this excitement's been reflected in the faces of the 400 million police officers who gleefully patrol the streets, looking to spread their giddiness to others one Taser jolt at a time.

With so much goodwill in the air, it seems a fitting time to reflect on the proud heritage of the Democratic Party, a dance through history that begins in the 1790s with Thomas Jefferson.

It was Jefferson, our third president (1801-09, after serving as vice president to John Adams) who planted the Democrats' seeds. Those seeds should not be confused with other seeds historians say Jefferson ("The Real Father of Our Country") planted, seeds that will not in any way be discussed in this space except to say they were apparently planted in the kitchen. Late at night. When Mrs. Jefferson was upstairs, asleep. And then Thomas would slip outside and use the raging fire of democracy to light a cigarette.

The Democratic movement continued in the early and middle 1800s on the back of Andrew Jackson, who, according to even more historians, didn't mind being called Andy. That's all I know about him.

Now, the electricity of today reminds very old people whose names will not be mentioned here (John McCain) of 1912. That was the year swashbuckling hero and statesman Theodore Roosevelt created the Bull Moose Party to nominate Bullwinkle for president and, for vice president, Rocky the Flying Squirrel.

That was just a joke, of course. Bullwinkle's running mate that year was first-year Sen. Joe Biden.

Seriously, Roosevelt was our 26th president, serving from 1901 to 1909. In 1905, he established the U.S. Forest Service and gave it a single task that has remained unchanged over 103 years: to hand out permits, in an orderly fashion, to people who want to cut down their own Christmas tree.

But Roosevelt failed in the 1912 comeback bid with his Bull Moose Party, in part because of Woodrow Wilson's popularity but also, according to historians, because of the way Roosevelt would charge into groups of camera-toting tourists, swinging his antlers violently back and forth and trampling many of them beneath his sharp hooves.

The stock market crash in 1929 and the resultant Great Depression set the stage for the Democratic government of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He won an overwhelming victory in 1932 on a platform of "relief, recovery and reform" or the New Deal. (His opponent, incumbent Herbert Hoover, had promised every American a brand-new vacuum cleaner.)

Under FDR, who served into his fourth term before his death, Democrats began to champion the cause of social welfare, labor unions and civil rights. (Footnote: It was during the FDR presidency that Democrats' opponents began calling themselves "conservatives" or "old bastards.")

When John Kennedy came along in the '60s, the priorities grew to include finding out who this Marilyn Monroe person was, who was frequently staggering down the White House hallways, usually dressed as Lyndon Johnson.

Decades later came the presidency of Democrat Bill Clinton, who served for eight years, not counting the two additional years it took the cleaning crew to hose down the Oval Office and spray everything with Lysol.

All of which makes it seem like the Democrats' main theme since the Jeffersonian era has been illicit sex exactly what Republicans want everyone to think.

Oh, by the way, the Republican convention begins Sept. 1 in Minnesota, although officials say there might be construction delays. Seems that workers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport still have several thousand men's room stall dividers to remove before the arrival of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig.

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