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Tue

09

Oct

2007

Explaining the Democrats’ Weakness in Spiritual Terms: Liberalism and the Spirit(s) of Our Times
Tuesday, 09 October 2007 22:10
by Andrew Bard Schmookler

An old saying in politics has it, ‘You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” When it comes to explaining the way the Democrats are still getting rolled by this lame-duck, unpopular administration, something similar obtains. But in this case, it’s at the spiritual level. And the problem is, “You can’t beat some spirit with no spirit.”

WEAK AND INEFFECTUAL

With this audience, I don’t need to spend much time and space proving that the Democrats have not done an impressive job in confronting the Bushite regime since taking over the Congress early this year. The recent FISA extension bill removed all ambiguity about how ineffectively the Democrats have stood up to the Bushite lies and manipulations and power-grabbing crimes. Other illustrations could readily be assembled.

(See just for illustrative purposes two pieces recently posted here: “The Democrats Could’ve Handled the MoveOn Vote Strategically: Eskow on Huffington Post,”and “How the Democrats Defeat Themselves by Showing That They Are Coming From Fear: An Extensive Passage from Drew Westen on Huffingtonpost”.)

But perhaps I should clarify a bit what my standards for success are. For, unlike some others, I do not particularly fault the Democrats for not being able to stop the war in Iraq, nor more generally for not being able to accomplish great things. Such expectations fail to take into account the real limits to their power: so long as the Republicans hold together, they can prevent anything from getting through the Senate; and so long as the Republicans hold together, what passes Congress cannot be resurrected after a presidential veto.

But the Democrats could be effective in other ways. (And if they were, the Republicans might be less able to hold togehter. But even so, the Democrats are not reasonably to expected – with a bare majority in the Senate, counting Lieberman as a Democrat – to GOVERN the country.)

Aside from the largely unrealistic goal of making decisions and passing legislations that are binding to the nation, the Democrats’ goals could also be:

— putting significant pressure on the Republicans in Congress, (and while the Republican Party may be imploding, it is hard to see how the Democrats can take much credit for that);

— rallying and satisfying their political base (instead, of course, they’ve alienated much of it);

— and especially, effecting a necessary change of consciousness in the American public generally, arousing their outrage at the unprecedented assault on the American system of government that this regime has been conducting;

— and to do these things by dramatizing effectively the TRUTH about the pervasive dishonesty and lawlessness of the Bushite regime.
What I fault the Democrats for is that in many of their battles, they’ve achieved NONE of these goals.

A LIMITING CASE IN POINT

A propos of this “dramatizing,” let me demonstrate what I mean by showing the shortcomings of one of the BEST of the Democrats in Congress – a kind of limiting case – Senator Patrick Leahy.

Leahy, in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been relatively tough in his pursuit of Bushite lawlessness. Relatively. Compared to a lot of other Democrats. But not so tough, not so dogged, compared with the urgency of the challenge.

The Bushites have repeatedly stiffed the Congress – with respect to subpoenas for witnesses and evidence, for example – and Leahy has not backed down. There has been this glacial movement toward a showdown in the courts, “contempt of Congress” and all that.

But between this small, incremental moves toward confrontation – what? Pretty much nothing. It seems that Senator Leahy is content to let things move quietly and slowly.

What alternative has he had?

Leahy has had the means, during these quiet intervals, to raise the hue and cry. Just because the legal or legislative processes take time, that doesn’t mean that Leahy has to allow all the momentum behind the dramatizing of Bushite lawlessness to dissipate. Leahy is prominent enough to capture the attention of the media, and he has already flushed out sufficient evidence that he could regularly take center stage to speak prophetically to the country about the assault on the rule of law and the unprecedented presidential usurpations.

The subpoenas ignored, the trip to John Ashcroft’s hospital room, the U.S. Attorney firings. This should be a top story all the time. Much bigger than sexual misconduct with a eager and predatory young intern. Worse Than Watergate, as John Dean said.

Why would one not raise the hue and cry in the face of an attacking enemy – just as was done when the fascist enemy was abroad, in Germany and Japan? This Bushite enemy came from within, but we’re still fighting to protect the same things we love about this country—things like the rule of law, like having “fairness” and “right” play at least a meaningful role in determining how the various interests and groups deal with each other, like at least a reasonable degree of honesty instead of the Big Lie ruling our discourse. All these are again under threat from a fascist spirit, and America for the most part is sleeping while the fire threatens.

But Leahy evidently does not have the fire in the belly to raise such an alarm to the nation. It’s as though the house were on fire, and he’s content to pour a bit of water on it during working hours but leave it to burn on its own between shifts.

In this, I believe, Leahy reflects the general situation of the Democrats. Their hearts are basically in the right place. But they just don’t have enough heart to stand up forcefully to the challenge they face.

A MATTER OF SPIRIT

There are different opinions regarding why the Democrats have not stood up better to the Bushites. Some believe them to be actually on the Bushites’ side, and only pretending to oppose them. This I simply do not buy. Some believe them to be afraid of alienating the big money interests. Perhaps there’s some truth to this, but I don’t believe that even in the realm of Big Money there’s all that much support for Bushite fascism. Some, including me, believe the Democrats are afraid of losing politically if they confront the Bushite evil more energetically. There’s room for that explanation, but I do not believe it goes deep enough.

Ultimately, I suggest, it is at the deeper, spiritual level that the battle against the Bushite forces and for the destiny and soul of America is ultimately being conducted. (In human affairs, generally, it is from the spiritual level – for good or for evil – that the real power comes.)

These Democrats could deal with the usual straight, superficial politics. But they shown – again and again – cannot deal with evil. For evil, though dark, is plugged into a source of power. The Democrats are plugged into nothing so fundamental. And this is why – from Gore in 2000 to Kerry in 2004 to the Congress here in 2007 – the Democrats have shown themselves so clueless, weak, cowardly, and ineffectual.

You can’t beat something with nothing. And in the realm of the spirit, evil is something.

Hitler tapped into great power. But his opponents in the West – Roosevelt and Churchill – were themselves both connected beneath the mundane, prosaic level, and they had the energetic resources to lead their peoples against the dark powers confronting them.

But today’s Democratic Party – and much of today’s liberal America – is cut off from such spiritual juice. (I have written before about this spiritual deficiency at the heart of American liberalism: see “A Spiritual Void in Contemporary Liberalism Helped Open the Door to a Spiritual Con Job from the Right.”

So the Bushites, who are made powerful by their being so fully the expression of this ruthless spirit whose lust for power and destruction propels them into ceaseless usurpations and bullying and deception – these Bushites who are, unlike the Democrats, truly plugged into the spiritual realm, though it is the realm of evil spirits—manage to steamroller them in confrontation after confrontation. The Democrats fall back into a position of weakness every time—not because they do not have the MEANS to be strong, but because they do not have the strength and courage to wield their potential strength.

Again, their battle against the Bushites at this point is not a matter of who wins the battles at the level of pure power. For the most part, the equation of political power would not enable the Democrats to prevail simply through the correlation of forces. But the Democrats could win, in a meaningful sense, even in the course of such political defeat.

A creative spirit, inspired and fueled from the realm of the spirit, could surf along the forces of goodness in ways that dramatize to the American people just what this struggle is about: Good against evil. American vs. un-American. Honest vs. lying. Compassionate vs. indifferent or even sadistic. Peace-loving vs. war-loving.

Even as the Bushites might prevail in this fillibuster or that veto, the Democrats – with inspired and courageous strategies – could make each confrontation a means to further destroy the regime.

As the weakness of the Democrats is manifestations of a lack of spiritual connection, the defeat of this evil that has arisen from the right requires a renewal – of the Democratic Party, and of those other components of America that lean toward the good – at the level of the spirit. It is not just the Democratic Party, but liberal America generally, that tends to ignores this spiritual level. But we need that deep connection in order to tap into the energies so urgently needed to deal with the sickness in America, including that grotesque symptom of that sickness, the fascist Bushite regime.

And it is in hopes of such a renewal that here on NSB, I’m trying this “Spirit(s) of the Times” exploration.
 
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