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Saturday, January 31, 2004 - Page updated at 12:51 A.M.
The Reader's View
By Max Albert
Good grief, what ails these people? Never mind all the ballot reviews proving Gore would've lost whatever the decision of the courts to which he went running. Surely, they can't believe they'll ever recapture either the White House or Congress (which fell in '94 without a black robe in sight), with the politics of resentment, demonization and paranoia, those mainstays of the lunatic fringe.
My theory is this: What's driving the party's strident wing is denial not that Gore lost, but that the pivotal reason he lost, Clinton fatigue, was their own damned chickens come home to roost. Why else can they not get over it?
Character does matter, eventually. Bill Clinton, "Nixon of the liberals," is a type that Max Nordau (1849-1923) termed "the highly-gifted degenerate." Such a person "will employ his brilliant facilities quite as well in service of some grand object as in the satisfaction of the basest propensities."
For Democrats, it's the mother of all hangovers. For years they excused Slick Willie's "peccadilloes," keeping two sets of ethical books. Suffering charges of hypocrisy and cynicism, they pawned their credibility in defense of a man whose associates and appointees were convicted of felonies in unprecedented numbers, who worshipped the most amoral expediency, lied under oath, abused and maligned women ("bimbos," "blackmailing tramps," "trailer-park trash"), and generally disgusted even those who opposed his impeachment.
They called it inexcusable then excused it. With the electorate closely divided, the loss of moral high ground was just enough. Bush squeaked in.
No wonder they'd rather blame the Supreme Court or Ralph Nader or anybody but themselves. If only they'd disowned the "big creep," if only the Senate had convicted him, making Gore the incumbent, it's unlikely their worst nightmare tax cuts, environmental policy reviews, partial-birth abortion bans, conservative court appointments and pre-emptive wars would be happening today. Now Bush appears headed for re-election. A lightweight, they said. No wonder they're still crying three years after it's all over.
And what can this raging negativity give the Dems to run on in 2004? The morally awkward position of opposing the liberation of Afghans from the medieval Taliban, or Iraqis from the Butcher of Baghdad. Disingenuous claims that tax cuts didn't really stimulate the economy. Kyoto environmentalism rejected by the Senate, 95-0.
Al Gore's loss was not the only damage done to the party by years spent accommodating Clintonian sleaze. More crippling is the resultant habit of hunkering down in "spider-hole(s) of denial," to lash out with character assassination and accusations of right-wing conspiracy. This is Clinton's last, most destructive legacy and the formula for perpetual minority status.
Max Albert lives in Lynnwood.
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