Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

James Campion Headshot

Democrats Circle the Wagons

Posted: Updated:

Last Ditch Effort To Fire-Up, Insult & Beg Progressives to Stem GOP Tide

There were no U.S. military survivors at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but later reports from Native Americans, most notably the widely interviewed Joseph White Cow Bull, who'd taken part in slaughtering every last member of George Armstrong Custer's charge, believed they could hear the doomed general hollering at his troops. Witnesses to the enemy swore each desperate salvo from the man who'd dedicated the last years of his professional life to wiping out the "red hordes", changed course, almost manically, as if predicting the very modes of grief made famous in modern psychology: denial - rallying his outnumbered and ambushed troops; anger - questioning their manhood, allegiance and alleged superior genetic make-up to that of the savages; and finally a sad measure of bartering - to save a lost cause in its most dire moments.

Custer may have been eventually and ignominiously bludgeoned to death by a Northern Cheyenne woman named Buffalo Calf Road Woman, but his lessons survived a century and a half of political strategies - some with far better conclusions. The best and most recent example of this was just six short years ago when a weakened president with two fast-failing wars, a bloated deficit and plummeting approval numbers, rallied in a whiz-bang circle-the-wagons last-ditch attempt to rile up his party's base and take the attack to the enemy, which at the time seemed as pathetic as Custer in his last throes but returned the highest office in the land to George W. Bush.

Recently, Karl Rove, the architect of Bush's comeback of 2004, has been quite vocal about some of the wildly half-mad candidates mucking up this year's version of Republican insurgence. He knows better than most when you have the enemy on the run you do not play the long odds. In '04, when tapping into the increasingly dormant Religious Right vote with promises that if the president's opponent, the out-maneuvered and oddly silent John Kerry would take power then abortions would flow freely, gays would rule and the glorious war effort against the godless Muslims would be lost.

Rove's 2004 political mastery was a classic example of badgering, rallying and laying down the choice for the most fanatical among the GOP base; those who'd vote for a weakened Republican rather than face the consequences. The strategy to promise an anti-gay amendment and everlasting military protection neutered the questions about his candidate's immobilized state and made certain those who had the most to lose would not sit idly by.

This is what the White House has now unabashedly offered as a final stratagem for the battered and bloodied Democrats in congress, who not only face a demoralizing defeat next month, but in avoiding the onslaught have run scared from the president. Even the vice president, known far and wide for an uproariously inarticulate blabbermouth technique, has gone on network television to castigate progressives and liberals to "buck up" and "quit whining," despite the broken promises to closing Gitmo, a single-payer national health care option, a failure at Cap & Trade or Illegal Immigrant Emancipation orthodoxy, and most agonizingly, a sucking up to the "guilty" Wall St. set. This doesn't even factor in the ultra-left's hope that Obama was above politics and had more than a minor interest in ending nation building, adjusting existing marijuana laws, and maybe go to battle for gay rights in the military and on the stump.

Biden may soon will be replaced by Hillary Clinton to save Obama in 2012, but there may be nothing left to run on if 2010 is completely lost. Progressives, liberals, and even those in the center expecting some sort of epiphany have gone ballistic, and in so doing, have caused a serious shift in Democratic politics. Thus, as time runs out, and the numbers and impassioned anti-incumbent rage surges against them, the Democrats' only hope is to temper the blow, stop the political hemorrhaging and hang onto the House or at the very least the Senate.

Even taking the most fundamental approach to party politics, the base is the thing. In cases of an avalanche of mid-term angst and general inner-party malaise, it is the only thing.

Take for instance the president's recent appearance at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, streamed online to several campuses nationwide, using the social networking and youth movement his staff brilliantly tapped for his improbable 2008 rise and victory. The September 28 speech, symbolically recalling his most stirring oratory after the 2008 Wisconsin primary victory, began earnestly with a Ronald Reagan type "stay the course" routine, with promises of unfinished business, then a dollop of Jimmy Carter "want to go back to the last nightmare?" concluding with a firebrand call to arms for those who he most relied upon to stake his claim; first inside the party against the mighty Clinton Machine and then nationally across center-right tides, where the now all-but lost Independents reside.

It was a rallying cry echoed plenty since, which was piggybacked by left-shilling MSNBC - much as FOXNEWS has shamelessly trumpeted the fractious TEA Party movement - when the week after Obama's Wisconsin plea, the network hosted a Education Nation week, wherein the focus was on teacher unions and the growing dumbing-down of Americans over the past decades. The hint there is the elitist, and in many cases honest, approach that the radical right voices count on the electorate's ignorance with emotional alternatives to critically tangible solutions.

Although the battles are disparate and motivated by local concerns, they have lasting national consequences to the future of Nation Health Care, the Bush Tax Cuts, continued troop surges in Afghanistan, and the effectiveness of President Barack Obama's last two years in office.

Whether Republican or Democrat, the strategy in such a "crisis" has always been and is now exceedingly employed; rally the troops and circle the wagons with hefty Custer-like denials, harangues and a healthy does of old-world beseeching.

Either way it's cut, the Buffalo Calf Road Woman is raising her club.