Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Suburban Cowboy

Both NBC News and the Associated Press are calling the Senate race for Jim Webb (D) over George Allen (R). According to the AP, the official tally has Webb with a 7,236 vote lead. That is a recount-proof margin for all intents and purposes. This gives the Democrats a Senate win that I really considered beyond their reach. Unbelievable!

I feel a sense of optimism and renewed faith that is really quite exhilirating. It's been a while since I've experienced this level of political satisfaction (try 1992 probably, when Clinton won - 1996 was nice too, but I was expecting the Big Dog to trounce the irascible Dole).

There's also something poetic about the last race to be called - that George Felix Allen, an unreconciled racist with a shameful, unrepented past, would turn out to be the linchpin. In a way, the Allen race was microcosmic of the larger GOP meltdown. Allen was done in by his hubris, his arrogance and his inability to fully conceal what pathologies were lurking beneath. It was his Freudian slip, what Edgar Allen Poe might have called his Imp of the Perverse, that delivered those extra 7,000-plus votes to Jim Webb.

You see, racism just doesn't sell quite as well as it used to. Sure, it might have been used effectively against Ford in Tennessee, but that brand of hate can't quite deliver with the same consistency as it did in the days of Willie Horton and Philadelphia, Missisippi. Even the attempt to play up the nativist fear of immigrants sort of backfired when the GOP got a gander at the size of the counterprotests. The racist demographic is on the wane. Not only is it not guaranteed to work in the local race in question, but the rest of the nation gets to see, up close and personal, what your go-to pitch is. And it ain't pretty.

The same can be said for much of the rest of the agenda promoted by the Republican Party during the reign of George W. Bush - as he has operated under the tutelage of the infamous Svengali, Karl Rove. In both campaign rhetoric and policy implemented, they have resorted to proud gay-baiting, reactionary anti-science measures, debasement of the environment, a war on reproductive freedom that is losing its luster even in the bible belt, racist innuendo and a political strategy that rests on the notion that it actually makes sense to alienate just under half of the country's population (leaving you with no cushion for those political rainy days).

Bush succeeded in fooling the moderates and independendents with his "compassionate conservative" subterfuge in 2000 - all the while sending the proper nods, winks and verbal signals to the base. Even still, Gore won roughly half a million more votes.

Maintaining such a gambit becomes increasingly difficult when forced to actually go about putting the ulterior, less compassionate plan into practice. If it wasn't for the boost that the war on terror provided, Bush likely would not have been re-elected. Even with 9/11 and an active war, Rove had to pull out all the contemptible stops in 2004 to win the rematch.

Six years on, the curtain has been yanked back to reveal too much of the shadow. Katrina intruded, Schiavo interrupted, torture thrust itself into our livingrooms in technicolor, there was a persistent strip mining of the Bill of Rights - as well as the Appalachians - and the civil war in Iraq dispelled the last remnants of well-intentioned well-wishing. Yet, in an inverted sense, that tragic civil war seemed to lessen the degree of the less destructive domestic version stoked by Rove and his predecessors. Americans were united in their recognition of the disaster that neoconservative foreign policy has wrought.

Don't even get me started about the economy, the polarization of wealth and the fiscal robbery.

With such able - if accidental - instructors in the Bush GOP, I do believe that the American body politic is coming to realizations about what a free, liberal, diverse and productive society should look like, and how our country should comport itself on the world stage. It's not that the fight is over. Not by a long shot. There will be setbacks, regressions and constant resistance. There is also an incredible mess to clean up, structures to tear down and courses to right. And we still don't have the White House. It's just that now, I can really feel the wind at my back. Makes it a bit easier to go to work.

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