Signs of Life


In politics, a well-organized minority will defeat a disorganized majority. One need look no further than the recent rise of the radical right to see this truism borne out. What a victorious minority does with its spoils is another matter entirely. An interesting development threatens to disrupt the establishment of the Rove-Republican dynasty. The party with the best claim to the mainstream appears to be waking from its slumber, shaking off its lethargy, and organizing with a vengeance.

The 500-strong crowd of boisterous partisans who packed the senate gallery to greet the return of the 10 Democratic senators was a case in point. The period of redistricting exile did more than just twice land the Texas Legislature on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Their defiance energized many of the senators’ constituents and engendered a new activism.

In his speech to the cheering crowd, Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) gave credit where it was due. “I want to thank Tom DeLay and Karl Rove for doing something that we couldn’t do ourselves— that is to unite this party,” he said to initial boos that became sustained applause.

It’s not just in Texas. The passion the Clinton administration wrung out of the Democratic Party seems to be returning. It comes from a growing realization that America cannot afford the revolution underway. “The reason why we fight this—and I don’t want to sound naive—but it’s because we have to,” says Wes Boyd.

Boyd is president and co-founder of MoveOn.org. The website began around the time of the Clinton administration. Its first online petition called for Republicans to simply censure Clinton and move on. There was a huge response, and it hasn’t stopped. “People do want to participate,” believes Boyd. “It is hard to get people excited about process, but Americans get it: They understand the checks and balances.”

He says the media has dumbed down politics so much they’ve convinced themselves that they are talking to idiots. Leaders see their constituents as brain dead. “There are a lot of intelligent people out there,” says Boyd.

When MoveOn.org seized on Texas congressional redistricting, it raised a million dollars in five days for an advertising campaign to connect the dots. Enough examples exist so that everyone can see the picture. The Republican leadership has shown itself more than willing to “game the system” to win power. “The new ethic seems to be whatever you can get away with,” says Boyd

It began with the Clinton impeachment. Then there was the small matter of the Florida recount. After Bush and the cabal took power, the instances multiplied. Republicans pushed through a minor congressional redistricting in Colorado. They toyed with it in Ohio. In the U.S. Senate, Republicans threatened to change filibuster rules to force the appointment of radical judges. In Texas, in addition to congressional redistricting, there is the TAB election scandal—potentially breaking the rules on campaign finance—and Prop 12—changing the constitutional separation of powers.

And of course, how can we forget the California recall. “The California recall has been on the books for 100 years but nobody has ever done it,” observes Boyd, who lives in the state. He believes dethroning the governor has failed as an option because circumventing elections appears anti-democratic.

The Bushies aren’t afraid of appearing undemocratic. Their arrogance makes any course-correction seem unlikely. Yet to a growing multitude, the radical agenda Republicans pursue with urgency is starting to smell like the acts of revolutionaries who know the counter-revolution is on the way. -JB