The last thing we needed was a dispute about Florida balloting. How quickly they forget and how shortsighted at the very moment when this critical state is in play thanks the growing disaffection of its large Hispanic community with Republicans. Leaving aside my recently expressed position that the primary process is far too long, I am solidly with Florida on this one. Their, and some other states, decision to move up primaries is not an expression of revolt, but raises an appropriate question as to whether the Iowa/New Hampshire axis still makes sense in the 21st Century. Looking at the reaction of the DCC, one would think that the order of primaries was written into the Constitution, which of course it is not. Perhaps the idea of giving small states a fair chance at influencing legislation embodied in the creation of the Senate makes sense, but the idea that these small states should play an inordinately disproportional role in selecting party nominees in the digital age is anachronistic at best. We’re inexplicably stuck on the old road. If you really want to level the playing field, abolish the Electoral College and make the votes of individual citizens truly equal, regardless of where they live. One person, one equal vote.
Of course, I don’t understand why the Florida thing is even an issue worth discussing. We have already been informed that the November ’08 will be the equivalent of a subway series – Mr. 9/11 vs. Ms. Dynasty. This seems to have particular allure to the girls and boys on the press bus and on talk shows. Has anyone noticed what happened to the Mets in the run-up to the off-season or what seems to be happening to the Yankees at this writing? The former seemed so certain to be winners this year and the latter are assumed champions by Divine right. Really? While you’d never know it from much of the coverage, the Presidential election is not a ball game, or a game at all. What unnerves me about the prospect of a Rudy-Hillary match-up is that it so totally out of sync with the notion that the country is desperate for change, most especially when it comes to Iraq. The Republican (who justifies Judith’s curious cell phone calls as a necessary post-9/11 “keeping in touch”) was, is, and will be a hawk. The Democrat was, claims she isn’t now but remains, I would suggest, hawkish to the core. Her recent vote to declare Iran’s army a terrorist organization, an unprecedented and highly provocative move, only speaks to that proposition. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Rudy and Hillary are one and the same or that, given such a choice, I wouldn’t pull the lever for the Senator in a heartbeat. It’s just that the end result may more or less keep us stuck on the old road when we can least afford it.
In the midst of the silly Florida debacle and talk of inevitable nominees, John Murtha and two Congressional colleagues floated a provocative and sensible idea for funding the War. It was an effectual calling of the cards in the Poker game being played by a fiddling Washington in the face of a world on fire. What they proposed was a defined and temporary tax levy, a pay as you go plan of fiscal responsibility. They were, of course, immediately branded “tax and spend” Democrats in what Republicans saw as a great public relations coup. It was an old and predictable song, but not nearly as painful as the spineless reaction of the Democratic leadership that immediately distanced itself, dismissing it out-of-hand as a legitimate idea for discussion. What a pity and what a loss of opportunity to have a mature discussion in a city that seems mired in it childish ways. Consider for a moment what might have been if the vote authorizing this disastrous and unnecessary war would have mandated accompanying enabling taxes? States with balanced budget requirements face exactly that prospect when authorizing extraordinary expenditures. But we’re not discussing the Murtha proposal because we’re stuck on the old road.
It is equally disturbing and frustrating that Democrats remain so inept at responding to such Republican charges and the misleading slogans that accompany them. The question that should have been asked in retort is, what is so bad about “tax and spend”? Is it not an appropriate and prudent way to approach fiscal matters? Is it not vastly better and more responsible than the Republican way that can only be described as “borrow and spend”. Their way now, and during the hallowed Reagan years, has led to historically high huge deficits. What’s even worse this time around is that it has made us beholden to, of all things, China, as our ultimate banker? I guess that beats “the Red menace” but doesn’t it also suggest (the relationship not borrowing) the importance of not remaining stuck on old roads? The Republican idea is to cut taxes and then to spend like drunken sailors while shamelessly promoting the myth that the Democrats are the irresponsible lot. The Democrats idea is to sit back and let themselves be defined, even by the big lie. Guess who wins that round; guess whose stuck on the old road?
This may well be the election year that even we can’t screw it up. But wining is not enough. It has to be the year that leads to substantive and measurable change. Some will suggest that we’re stuck in Iraq no matter who wins. I don’t discount that extricating ourselves may take longer than Governor Richardson glibly suggests, but leave we must, sooner rather than later. In that regard the candidates' records and their underlying intent become critical. We need someone who tells us how we can move ahead, not why we’re stuck on the old road. The next President will be confronted by a reputation deficit that pales the economic one in comparison. A real change in policy and attitude is our only hope to recoup some of our losses, hopefully a substantial portion of them. History moves on, all the more rapidly so in this nanosecond world. We’re unlikely to find ourselves in an exclusive "club of one" ever again and this may well not end up as our century. That doesn’t mean we’re without options or opportunities. The good old days, such as they were, are gone. But it seems to me that something better than what we have now may still be in our reach. Only tomorrow’s leadership in the drivers seat can accomplish that. Conventional wisdom suggests, to the contrary, that experience is required, but I fear it will too easily rely on the tried and no longer true. We dare not simply retrace the old roads that essentially lead to some dead end. Our kids deserve and demand much more than that.