It's not easy to be a Democrat these days. Here's George W. making a mock-heroic carrier landing on the Abraham Lincoln (never mind that the carrier was just a dozen miles off the California coast!), striding away from the plane in full fighter pilot regalia, just as lean and fit as any active-duty flyboy. And then he gives a grave, even inspirational speech to the ship's appropriately diverse crew.
Even if the Republican National Committee has to fork out $20 million for aircraft carrier rental, they got their money's worth. Imagine the campaign commercials -- and how are the Dems going to counterattack? Rerun that memorable footage of Michael Dukakis in a tank?
Yup, George rolled the dice on Iraq, and they came up sevens all the way. He got rid of an odious regime, scared the bejesus out of the Syrians and the Iranians, and made it clear to the rest of the world that America has the means to enforce its will anytime, anyplace.
Unfortunately for us, George W., although he's all for democracy in Iraq, doesn't much care for democracy in America; that is, if you believe that the actions of democratic governments reflect the expressed desires of a majority of their citizens. How else to explain certain of the administration's policies, which, if opinion polls and elections over the past 20 years are any guide, are vigorously opposed by most of us?
Which policies? Name 'em: tax, deficit, the environment, civil liberties, medical care, social security education, the federal judiciary, energy, foreign travel ... have I left anything out? And these aren't vague abstractions, amorphous national policies that won't have much effect upon our lives in Colorado Springs. We'll all be affected, and most of the consequences will be negative.
Take taxes. If your paycheck looks anything like mine, you'd sure like a little relief. Under Bush's plan, you're not gonna get any -- unless, of course, you make as much in a week as I make in a year, in which case you'll get plenty.
Foreign travel? If you think that living in the land of liberty entitles you, as a free citizen, to go wherever you damn well please, think again. The Bushies have decided that ordinary folk can no longer visit Cuba as members of "cultural" groups, a loophole in the embargo that more than 100,000 Americans took advantage of last year.
Energy? Aside from the oil companies and their flacks, few of us believe in more coalbed methane development, drilling in Alaska, worse gas mileage, more air pollution, and extensive oil and gas exploration/development in America's remaining wild lands.
Civil liberties? Thanks to the Orwellian PATRIOT Act, John Ashcroft and his pious minions can seize you on the street, detain you indefinitely in a secret location, forbid you to see a lawyer, and, if they feel like it, secretly try and convict you in a quasi-military court. Think it can't happen? It already has.
Of course, the Bushies aren't fools. They know that substantial majorities oppose all these policies, but they also know that, post 9/11, Americans are fearful and nervous. They like having a strong and determined leader, and they'll cut him a lot of slack. For the gang of know-it-all moralists who run the country these days, that gives 'em six years to change the country beyond repair. In that time, they hope to so institutionalize their own radical agenda that no Democrat or moderate Republican will be able to alter it.
So what does that mean for us, here in Colorado Springs? We may, as Cara DeGette pointed out last week, be an antic and fractious little city. But we are also powerfully united in some ways. For instance, we voted by a 2-to-1 margin to extend the TOPS tax for trails, open space and parks. Does that mean we support trashing the wild lands in our beautiful state? Probably not. And I'd guess that we supported the war by at least a 2-to-1 margin. But do the fiercely patriotic, and fiercely independent libertarians among us support the PATRIOT Act? No way!
In politics, locally or nationally, you can't force unpopular policies upon the electorate indefinitely. Eventually, they figure out your game. And when they do, you're toast.
If, in Colorado Springs, that most Republican of cities, many of the president's core policies appear to be opposed by substantial majorities, then there may be hope for the Donkeys in '04.
Unless, of course, they nominate the ghost of Michael Dukakis for president.