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Terry Leach Headshot

The Democratic Penchant for Self-Sabotage

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I see a dismal future for the Democratic Party notwithstanding our victories
on November 7th. Why? Our penchant for marginalizing our truth-tellers
surely deserves an honorable mention. Winning "Miss Congeniality" in the
contest for self-sabotage is our practice of castigating those among us who
dare to set high expectations.

Exhibit One: On the heels of our successful Democratic incursion into
Red-State America, fast-talking Democratic strategist and former Clinton
spokesman James Carville is calling for heads to roll. And I‚m not talking
Republican heads, as one might expect. Carville has called for Howard Dean
to be replaced with Harold Ford of Tennessee, Ford being one of the few
unsuccessful Democratic challengers in the recent election, despite Ford‚s
high name recognition, what appeared to be a personal, and, let‚s be honest,
tiresome public relationship with God, and a bucketful of institutional
Democratic money.

Howard Dean is the former presidential candidate, turned DNC Chair, who took
on James Carville and other mainstream Democratic strategists two years ago
by insisting on a 50-state Democratic get-out-the-vote strategy so Democrats
could be competitive in red states that didn‚t yet know they were dying,
literally and sadly˜in Iraq--- to turn blue. Howard Dean was so successful
that even feisty Rahm Emanuel, the new chairman of the House Democratic
Caucus, who fought Dean continuously last year, admitted that he was wrong
and Dean was right.

But wait! The not-so-new Democratic strategy of crucifying their
truth-tellers isn't ending with Democratic victor Howard Dean. A poll that
looked suspiciously like a push poll on C-Span Friday, November 17th, asked
whether Nancy Pelosi's backing of conservative John Murtha, the decorated
Marine who is calling for redeployment of our troops, for majority leader,
was "bad for the Democratic Party." By midnight, over 15,000 respondents
voted 90% to 10% in support of Ms. Pelosi‚s support of John Murtha. This
result is revealing, considering the onslaught of mainstream criticism of
Ms. Pelosi for picking a fight she knew she couldn't win.

Consider Maureen Dowd, doyenne of the acerbic op-ed. On November 18, in the
New York Times, Dowd attempts to prove she's not one of the guys when she
castigates Republican pundits for speculating as to whether Speaker Pelosi
uses Botox, but then she goes on to pillary Pelosi herself. Dowd‚s
complaint? That Pelosi played like a "girl" by sticking by her friend John
Murtha in the fight for Majority Leader because of their friendship, the
implication being that Pelosi wasn't strategic by picking a fight she
couldn‚t win.

Perhaps Nancy Pelosi stuck by Murtha because she believed that Murtha was
more willing to set politics, and his own political future aside, and
work---as a matter of conscience˜to bring the troops home, a goal that she,
and, by the way, millions of American voters, share and made clear on
November 7th?

And since when is it considered "feminine" and therefore bad, to take on a
fight that you're not likely to win? Wasn't the fight to turn Congress
blue on November 7th supposed to be a long-shot? Wasn't it two years ago
that the Republicans referred to Democrats as a "permanent minority party?"

As one of the first female attorneys in a law firm in Sacramento twenty
years ago in which I was routinely propositioned by my married male
partners, was I wrong to want to practice law when so many studies
demonstrated that few female attorneys made it to partner and kept their
families intact? Should women like Nancy Pelosi have stayed home as well,
raising their children and grandchildren, because the odds were so
overwhelmingly against her becoming Speaker of the House?

I see the future and it frightens me. It says that Democrats are afraid of
falling short of high expectations and would therefore prefer to play the
politics of safety. Pleasing no one all the time. That isn‚t how the
Democratic Party enacted Social Security. That isn't how Medicare and
Medicaid came to cut the number of Americans living in poverty in half. And
that isn't how we're going to bring our young men and women home from Iraq
or figure out a way to ensure that high quality and affordable health care
is available to every American, putting the US in line with such
mega-powers as Costa Rica and every other industrialized nation.

The voters voted overwhelmingly on November 7th to exceed the low
expectations and even worse outcomes set and reached by the Republican Party
over the last six years. They clearly, after years of suffering through
hypocrisy and doublespeak from the likes of Donald Rumsfeld and Ted Haggard
don‚t want the Democrats to be the party that punishes their truth-tellers,
no matter how painful that truth might be.

It is time that Democratic consultants who've mostly made a living helping
their safe candidates lose their elections, attempt to set aside their own
considerable incomes and figure out how to work for American voters who want
more for this country.