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My Wife Just Figured It Out

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Like the idea that the earth moves around the sun, that DNA is a double-helix, and that Preznit Bush recites facts in a condescending sing-song, as though to an idiot, because that's how they were explained to him, some of the most important truths are shatteringly obvious once you see them.

So here's today's, discovered by my wife in one of those magical Eureka moments--the cry of sudden perception, not the vacuum cleaner--that give one hope that one's brain (hers, if not mine) can still cut the mustard and fry it up in a pan. Read it and weep, or stand up and cheer, or just copy it onto an email for worldwide distribution:

The reason Americans think the Democratic Party is "weak on terror" or "weak on security" is because Democrats don't stand up to Republicans.

Could anything be more (retrospectively) obvious? (I'm not saying no one else here has realized this. But I hadn't, and I haven't read anyone, anywhere, making as big a deal about it as should be made. So indulge my enthusiasm.) This picks up on everyone's ecstasy over Bill Clinton's sharp and, really, pretty unrelenting retort to the odious Chris Wallace recently. Arianna correctly chided him on coming late to the partisan game and hoping he'll do it some more.

If the people in the sloshy political center know anything, it's that Republicans diss Democrats and are their mortal enemy--even if everyone deplores it. The combat that plays out every day in the news is not between "us" and "the terrorists." It's between the administration, its enablers in Congress, and the saloon loudmouths on talk radio, and the Democrats. And who's winning?

It's true that there are Dems in the House and Senate who issue thundering denunciations and outraged indictments of their adversaries across the aisle. But who hears it? Who reads it? Ans.: the secretary of the chamber and the proofreader of the Congressional Record.

Those responses, delivered often to echoingly empty rooms where the interns or pages outnumber the members in attendance, are like CSPAN footage of the tree that falls in the forest. It doesn't matter if it makes a sound or not. What matters is, no one hears it.

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard or read someone sigh (or seethe), "If we only had an actual opposition party..." I'd have many more dollars than I currently have, I can assure you. Now, maybe we don't have a real opposition party because no one in Washington wants one. Maybe, as some cynics have said, the two parties are the equally corrupted, compromised halves of a seamless, if seamy, whole.

I say "cynics" but you can tell I don't mean it. I don't think they're cynics, even if sometimes they're wrong. Still, let's pretend we think there's hope. Let's pretend the Democrats really do want to win in November, not because they'll be able to replace Republican corruption and malfeasance with Democratic corruption and etc., but because some of them really do want to undo the cataclysmic obscenity that has been the Bush years.

If so, they will need votes. And to get those votes they will need to face, counter, and obliterate the Republican charge--implicit, explicit, and however mendacious--that the Grand Orc Party is "better on security."

I'm sorry--what? "The facts" are with the Democrats?

Please. It didn't matter in 2004 and it won't matter now. "The facts" are footnotes in Swahili when people's heads and hearts are filled, as Karl Rove intends to fill them, with fear. How grotesque a percentage of what we laughingly call the electorate still believes Saddam was behind 9-11? How many people still listen to Rush Limbaugh with a straight face and without experiencing significant sensations of nausea?

No, "the facts" are very cute, and objectively true, and everything, but remember whom you're trying to convince when you cite them: People who still think maybe Republicans aren't so bad.

What kind of person still thinks that? What kind of person, at this late date, is even tempted to re-elect a Republican? Aside from the religious nuts and the career right-wing loons, the authority-worshippers, the Strong-Daddy idolators, and the sincerely ignorant?

The answer is, the fearful, the freaked-out, the perfectly nice but anxious people who simply can't believe that their president is the callous, narrow, desperately insecure liar we know him to be. These are the people who, if given the proper "space" in which to judge, will indeed vote Dem. They saw Katrina. They hear "torture." They see, or try not to see, the daily slaughter in Iraq. Many of them, mirabile dictu, probably "believe in" global warming and evolution. They remember Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney and Tom Delay, or they will once they're reminded.

But you have to win them with emotion. What is a good political speech, if not a display (by the speaker) and an evocation (in the audience) of emotion? It's certainly not a recitation of "the facts." When addressing this audience, you have to address their feeling of fear--and you do that with a stronger feeling, or at least a different, replacement feeling. At such a moment, they're not in the market for "the facts." If they cared about the facts, to paraphrase Trent Lott, we wouldn't be in this mess.

Now, unfortunately, Democrats can't show they're strong on security by literally fighting the terrorists, because they're not in power. Every military action that's taken and every step "to make us more secure here at home" (to the extent that there are any) will by default seem the accomplishment of the GOP. All the Dems can do to be good-on-terror, in that context, is vote me-too and get lost in the background of the signing photo. That's the bad news.

The good news is, Dems can show they've got spine, and guts, and stones, and spunk, and even moxie, by doing what they probably secretly want to do anyway (unless they're really, really pussies): fight the Republicans.

Not in the Senate and the House--or, rather, not only there--but in press conferences, in interviews, on talk shows, and of course on the campaign trail. You do this, not by regretfully taking exception to the latest crime against truth, law, or morality as perpetrated by Rumsfeld or Frist or Cheney; you do it by denouncing them and the horse on which they rode in. You do it by being combative, by showing them the contempt they so richly deserve. You treat them a) the way you'd treat an enemy who wants you dead, which they are (read Grover Norquist) and b) the way they treat you.

You treat them as proxies of the terrorists and you fucking eviscerate them.

Is it "not nice"? Is it not "civil"? Alas, no, it isn't. Does it "coarsen our political discourse"? A little--but, then, no one will notice, since it's already been coarsened by six years of endless, shameless, criminal administration lying. Besides, without vigorous opposition, it isn't political discourse. It's empty debate society namby-pambism.

You do this, Democrats, not because it's satisfying (although it will be); not because those of us writing for the left and liberal blogs insist on it or we'll go completely insane and require lifelong psychiatric care at the expense of the state (although we will).

You do it because it's the right thing to do to neutralize the lies and smears already under way (ask Jack Murtha) and sure to get worse. By fighting back, by spitting in the eye of your "good friend" on "the other side," you're showing the fearful, the nervous, and the uncertain outside the Beltway that you've got what it takes to protect them from the other bad guys--the ones who aren't Republicans.

But what if that means that you can't wave collegially at Dennis Hastert at the Capital Grille, or enjoy a bipartisan laff with Sam Brownback at the next Correspondents' Dinner? Shut up. Don't even ask me such things.

Just, as the saying goes, do it. Because, if you don't, there's no reason for the people whose votes you want, to think you'd have the nerve and resolve to do any serious damage to terrorists.

Because, really. If you can't slap down a bunch of clowns in suits, how can you protect us from the suiciders?