Molly Ivins

Use It Or Lose It
by Published on

I’d like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation, and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It’s about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief. If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, “Look, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.” Bobby Kennedy—rough, tough Bobby Kennedy—didn’t do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry.

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy’s sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush’s tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) want to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) think we should do “whatever it takes” to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) think big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That’s the center, fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

I listen to people like Rahm Emanuel explaining elementary politics to us clueless naifs outside the Beltway (“First, you have to win elections”). Can’t you even read the damn polls?

Here’s a prize example by someone named Barry Casselman, who writes, “There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008.”

This supposedly pits Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, emboldened by “a string of bad news from the Middle East … into calling for premature retreat from Iraq,” versus those pragmatic folk like Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Joe Lieberman.

Get a grip on the concept of leadership. Look at this war—from the lies that led us into it, to the lies they continue to dump on us daily.

You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine that you have no idea what people are thinking. I’m telling you right now, Tom DeLay is going to lose in his district. If Democrats in Washington haven’t got enough sense to OWN the issue of political reform, I give up on them entirely.

Go for public campaign financing for Congress. That’s the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone who’s ever studied this. Do all the goo-goo stuff everybody makes fun of: Embrace redistricting reform, electoral reform, House rules changes, the whole package. Put up, or shut up. Own this issue, or let Jack Abramoff-politics continue to run your town.

Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them. War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were “German dogs.” They did not, however, go around kicking German Shepherds. The MINUTE someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means. That, or you could just piss on them elegantly, as Rep. John Murtha did. Or eviscerate them with wit (look up Mark Twain on the war in the Philippines). Or point out the latest in the endless “string of bad news.” So, don’t sit there cowering and pretending the only way to win is as Republican-lite. If the Washington-based party can’t get up and fight, we’ll find someone who can.

Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her most recent book with Lou Dubose is Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America (Random House).