Man Without Qualities

Monday, November 08, 2004

La Peste

The Washington Post reports:

"We have to treat the disease, not the symptom," [James] Carville said. "The purpose of a political party is to win elections, and we're not doing that."

Uh ... Mr. Carville ... the purpose of a political party is supposed to be advancing and preserving certain moral principles chosen by its members. It is true that in a democracy winning elections is sometimes an important subsidiary component of party purpose. But many perfectly good political parties in this country know perfectly well that they will almost certainly never win an election. That doesn't deprive the Libertarians, Communists, Greens or Natural Law Parties, for example, of their purposes. Indeed, some of the most important political parties have existed and now exist in political systems in which there are no elections.

Having too many people in the Democratic Party - especially its higher levels - thinking that "the purpose of a political party is to win elections" is the disease. Indeed, the Democratic Party has become an example of a party that for too long has been able to win elections without having a purpose. Its "disease" is characterized by its ongoing dominance by technocratic functionaries without moral center and those having principles shared by an isolated minority.

The disease has long gestated. Mr. Carville is most associated with Bill Clinton, who once told Tony Blair that Mr. Clinton expected to be remembered mostly as someone who won elections. The shocked, newly-minted Prime Minister remarked that he (Blair) certainly hoped he would be remembered for something more substantial than merely winning elections. And now - thanks to his stalwart position in the international theater - he will be. That's one of the nice consequences of not contracting Mr. Carville's "disease."

Of course, Mr. Clinton may be mostly remembered for his sexual scandals and impeachment. But, then, irony is cheap in politics.

UPDATE: La Peste Carville progresses, inducing delusional fever:

"We can deny this crap, but I'm out of the denial. I'm about reality here," Mr. Carville told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "We are an opposition party, and as of right now, not a particularly effective one. You can't deny reality here."

He said the party is desperately in need of a compelling narrative to tell voters, rather than the "litany of issues" the party stands for now.

He said Mr. Bush and Republicans presented just such a story: "These guys had a narrative — we're going to protect you from the terrorists in Tikrit and from the homos in Hollywood. That's it," he said. "I think we could elect somebody from Beverly Hills if they had some compelling narrative to tell people about what the country is."

So in the newly found "reality" of James Carville, George Bush was re-elected and both houses of Congress became substantially more Republican because the Republicans supposedly told the American people "we're going to protect you from the terrorists in Tikrit and from the homos in Hollywood. That's it." That was what he thinks the Republicans' "compelling narrative" was that the Democrats have to match.

That's very interesting. Oddly, I have no recollection of Mr. Bush ever saying anything whatsoever about "homos in Hollywood" during the campaign. Perhaps it was one of those unusual "compelling narratives" that dare not speak its name? And while there was quite a bit of effort expended by the President's people to convince voters that Iraq was a critical component of the war on terrorism, the concern (at least as I heard it) was that the persistence of terrorist states and states that sponsor and foster terrorism (regardless of whether there was a direct connection to 9-11, the narrow focus of the Democratic alternative) has to be dealt with over there of we'll inevitably have to deal with the consequences right here in the USA. If Mr. Carville has found "reality," it must be of the alternate variety,because there doesn't seem to be much overlap between his reality and mine.

But there is one point we do have in common: I also think we could elect somebody from Beverly Hills if they had some compelling narrative to tell people about what the country is. In fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger is exactly such a person. His "compelling narrative" has something to do with self reliance, low taxes and things like that - in other words a narrative that also has little in common with Mr. Carville's alternate reality.

Too bad about that "native born American" clause. Mr. Schwarzenegger will just have to make do with Sacramento.

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