Volume 75, Number 42 | March 8 -14 2006

Talking Point

Forget Bush and Belafonte; let’s win back Congress

By Ed Gold

The political philosopher Jon Stewart said recently that the Democrats won 49 percent of the vote in the last election, which gave them about 3 percent of the power in the country.

And he’s probably on target, since the five-year nightmare we’ve lived through has given the Republicans complete control of the executive branch of government, a virtual lock on both houses of Congress, and with the two recent appointments to the Supreme Court, a likely 5-to-4 majority support for business over workers’ interests, favoring states’ rights that swing the country to the right, sympathy for a president who wants no check on his authority, and opposition to affirmative action, a woman’s control over her own body and an individual’s decision on sexual preference.

So Democrats, as well as those further left, facing an important November election, need to get focused on how to win back one or both houses of Congress.

If liberals and anti-Bush independents hope to win, they had better use James Carville as a guide, rather than Don Quixote: Don’t get drawn into irrelevant or preposterous issues that won’t fly and will leave the Democrats holding onto their 3 percent.

Here are a few examples of losing efforts:

1. The campaign to impeach the president, buying full pages in The New York Times to tell us how bad Bush is, and talking seriously about tossing him out of office before ’08. And wouldn’t you know it — the campaign’s leading light seems to be Ramsey Clark, who spends a good deal of time these days defending Saddam Hussein.

In a recent ad, the “impeach” campaign claimed more than 600,000 supporters, who are no doubt sending in money for more “impeach Bush” ads in a campaign that has as much chance of success as Pat Robertson running on a Democratic ticket.

W may well be the worst president in my lifetime — no, I haven’t forgotten Nixon — but there is no chance of him being scuttled before his term is up. In the real world, this campaign is a waste of money and energy.

Can’t the anti-Bush forces agree on a pragmatic approach by concentrating on relieving Congress of G.O.P. control?

2 .Cindy Sheehan made many of us cheer when she parked outside Bush’s Texas ranch, demanding that he listen to her opposition to the war in Iraq where her son had been killed.

But, sadly, she has lost her way. She finally did see a president, Chavez of Venezuela, who told her how bad her country was.

Her conspicuously anti-Israel position has been embarrassing to many of her early supporters. “My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel,” she has said. And she characterizes the neo-cons who urged us into war as “the same old Zionist swindle.”

She has also told us that Hillary Clinton’s position on Iraq makes her unfit to sit in the Senate. And she raises the possibility of running a primary race in California against Senator Diane Feinstein, also because of her position on Iraq.

3. The brouhaha over Harry Belafonte’s vitriolic attack on Bush — and Ed Koch’s tizzy, insisting Democrats must reprimand the great entertainer.

Belafonte has some pretension as a political leader and he made valid contributions during the big civil-rights struggles in the last century. He, like many of us, has had it up to here with the Bush crowd. So if he used strong language, why should Koch pick a fight with a potential ally and get so exercised over an emotional outburst?

Here’s what Koch and Belafonte should do. They should both go to Pennsylvania and campaign for Bob Casey against Rick Santorum for Senate. Santorum is the third-ranking Republican in the Senate and a conspicuous example of a lowlife.

Oh, so you know Casey is “pro-life” — I believe, by the way, pro-choice people are at least as pro-life. Ed Rendell, the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, who is definitely pro-choice, says Casey is the strongest candidate against Santorum, “and will support Democratic positions on 18 of the 20 issues most important to our party.”

Santorum will be remembered for using the Senate floor to tell homosexuals they are all sinful and should change their ways.

There are other Senate races that can be won, and the Democrats will need practically all of them to take back the upper house.

In Ohio, a red state, Mike DeWine, a moderate right-winger, is almost asking “who’s Bush?” as the president’s rating sinks to 40 percent in his state. Recent polling in Ohio shows the Democrat, Congressmember Sherrod Brown, running slightly ahead.

In Montana, Senator Conrad Burns is in trouble over linkage to Jack Abramoff. In Tennessee, there’s an open seat with Bill Frist retiring. And the Democrats are running the son of a famous Tennessean, Congressmember Harold Ford Jr.

The Democrats have good prospects in Arizona against Jon Kyl, who has been conspicuously identified as one of the best friends of lobbyists. And George Allen in Virginia is damaged goods as friend of Pat Robertson, and he seems ready to leave the Senate and try for the presidency. He’s already been to New Hampshire.

In Missouri, Jim Talent has irked voters with his opposition to stem-cell research in what could be a very close election.

At the moment, 13 House races find Democrats threatening G.O.P. seats for a variety of reasons: some are open seats, several Republicans have been touched by scandal and the Democrats have brought in several war veterans whom they feel can take away Republican seats.

The point is fairly simple. Money and legwork should go to those organizations and individuals who have the potential of weakening the G.O.P. grip on power. Don’t look for perfect candidates. The goal this year is to get Democrats back into committee leadership roles. A victory on that front can lay the basis for reoccupying the White House in 2008.

Begin with the Democratic Senate and Congressional Campaign Committees. Check out MoveOn and Americans for Democratic Action for their endorsements. Stick to the races that have a chance of making a difference.

Maybe we can hasten the day when the nightmare will end and we can begin feeling good again.

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