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Saturday, September 08, 2007


By Michael Linn Jones

Ever heard of Al Smith? He was once governor of New York, and the first Roman Catholic in a major party to run for the presidency. This was in 1928, and he was nominated by Franklin Roosevelt. That year Roosevelt won election as governor of New York himself.

Smith lost the election to Herbert Hoover. Some might say the nation lost the election, too, considering what followed. In 1932 Smith was one of Roosevelt's rivals for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. In the years that followed Smith was a strong opponent of Roosevelt's New Deal. For all of his progressive attitudes of that time, Smith was a firm believer in government action needing the close cooperation of business.

FDR was born rich. Al Smith was a classic rags-to-riches story. One of the problems with rags-to-riches is that many forget all about the rags as soon as they see the riches. Al Smith was far from being a bad man; in fact, a good one really but not in step with the realities facing the nation at that time. As President of the Empire State Building, Smith found himself in the circle of the wealthy. And, according to historian William Manchester, he liked it. (THE GLORY & THE DREAM, VOL.1)

Brevity requires an injustice to the memory of Governor Smith, but certain aspects of his career remind me of the current Democratic leadership in the House and Senate. It can be very difficult to articulate some thoughts; to put them into words that capture both the meaning and emotion. Here is my best shot:

The election results of 2006 was a message of sorts. A lot of people were fed up. Yes, Iraq was a big topic but not the only one. Voters weren't exactly on the war path yet were also beyond patience. After six years of a presidency that was somewhat short of competence and honesty, along with a Republican Congress that was more cooperative than Hitler's Reichstag, people wanted a strong gulp of Jack Daniels.

What they've gotten is near-beer. The highly-touted Democratic victory in 2006 is a Roman Candle that is sputtering. And with very few sparks. House Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid have a big problem. The majority of the people who allowed them to gain the positions they now hold are not represented. That is, the voters.

No, there will be no talk of impeachment; no talk of de-funding the Iraq War (which is the ONLY recourse of Congress, really) nor anything else that might rock the boat. For that boat floats upon the invisible sea of campaign cash. In order for their nets to continue to haul in a harvest, that boat must be stable. The rules of life in America (which they write) must remain essentially the same.

When something needs to be done, there is something worse than doing nothing. And that is to APPEAR to be doing something when in fact doing little more than nothing. And THAT is the story of the Lilliputian Legistature in 2007. The boat remains steady, the nets keep hauling in the silent harvest, and a holding pattern is established that awaits the self-destruction of the Republicans.

In times past, there were convergence points; economic and social forces removed the status quo from the stage. It usually is unpleasant but somehow inevitable. In Europe, 1848 was such a time, not to mention the French Revolution.

Here, there is the Civil War, the Great Depression, and 1968. That particular year is relevant because that is when the Democratic Party started to dissolve from being a voice of millions to a thousand voices of narrow-minded interest groups. The glue that held the party together was diluted on purpose.

The years the Democrats spent out of power were not so much because of the effectiveness of the Republicans (which was considerable nonetheless) so much as their own slide to irrelevancy. What mattered to the party didn't matter to the people. Or vice versa.

Despite all the political science and election specialists, there are forces that build, much like along a geological fault line. They can be ignored (and usually are) for a very long time. But sooner or later those in power discover that their usual remedies no longer work. When the balance is lost no one knows what will happen.

But like Al Smith, Pelosi and Reid and all those they truly represent (and they are NOT "little people") have climbed to the heights and find they like it there. The rarified air of power not only corrupts, but blinds.

In the end, misused power has no power at all. It just creates a vacuum that will be filled by radical change. That does not always equate with wisdom or good.


Cross posted at Michael Linn & The Van Der Galien Gazette

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Blogger pwax said...

Well maybe that is the sad truth: it must wait for the next, hopefully Democratic, president. Then congress can continue failing to "lead" and begin to "follow" in a better direction.

3:00 PM  

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