Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"We Live For This Stuff" --Democrats

Jimmy is a pilot. When he was a little boy, he dreamed of flying. He built model airplanes, he went to air shows, and he knows the workings of every single part of an aircraft,

Linda is a veterinarian. She always loved animals. What began as looking after the family dog became a lifelong study of different species, and as a result, she has a thriving practice.

Mike is a Neo-Conservative. Ever since he was little, he dreamed of having piles of money.

For the past six years, whenever Democrats have run for office, they've ignored their strongest argument:

We’re obsessed with how government works.

Democrats grow up dreaming of running departments, cities, states, or even the country—addressing our needs, solving our problems, anticipating how to use government in a positive way.

They have posters, not just of FDR and Martin Luther King, but of Donna Shalala and Leon Panetta.

But Democrats never mention this, tacitly accepting the Neo-con premise: “Government is a negative force, so at least, hire people who hate it to run it.”

This instantly gives the Neo-conservatives the home field advantage. They put the Dems on the defensive: “Prove you won’t give in to terrorists.” “Prove you won’t raise our taxes.”

Democrats need to adopt that saying: “We live for this stuff.”

As in, we love tracking GNP and every other damned statistic in the known universe, fact finding missions that disturb the complacent, finding programs that dissuade youngsters from crime, finding was to seduce hostile foreign governments into backing down, or standing pat; acting as lifeguards or class monitors in some parts of American life.

Make the argument that most of our current problems happened on Bush’s watch, and without the government geeks running things.

The war in Iraq, 9/11 itself, the deficits, the crumbling of our infrastructure, the collapse of our emergency response capabilities, the harshness of our media, the corporate calamities that have decimated pension funds, skyrocketing health care costs—none of these events resulted from too much oversight.

Most of these crises are, at least in part, a result of ideologues ignoring the much maligned bureaucrats—the ones who said,
“the motives, and the numbers don’t add up in Iraq,”
“this flight school, combined with this message we intercepted from bin Laden looks urgently dangerous,”
“FEMA requires professional emergency personnel,”
“the FCC should play a hand in keeping our broadcasting civil and variegated,”
“greed helps drive our economy but you’ve gotta keep an eye on those big companies,”
“it’s ridiculous to give no-bid contracts to pharmaceutical companies,”
and so on.

The anti-government folks have been saying, like me watching “Dancing With the Stars,” “Oh come on! That’s not that hard. I could do that.”

When a Neo-con runs for office, the goal is to win. Once you win, the job is a pain in the neck—that’s why they leave town as soon as they can, for as long as they can. When a Democrat runs for office, the goal is to do the job.

That’s why they campaign differently. A neo-con is free to say, “My opponent is the head of the Osama-Soprano crime family. If you vote for my opponent, fire will rain down from the sky, and your children will explode.” Whatever sounds the scariest.

A Democrat doesn’t have that luxury, because she wants to do the job. That means, once she’s elected, she expects to represent everyone, including the people who voted for her opponent; if she loses, she wants her opponent to represent everyone, including the people who voted for her.

That’s not a concern to the Neo-con. If he wins, the important part is over; the job is torture, because now he has to be part of that awful thing called government. If he loses, he’s off to do something else—he’ll revert to thinking of the government as a big waste of resources.

Now the final point—Democrats say, “Yeah, right, but polls say people hate their government.” Of course they do. It’s inefficient; it’s improvised; it can’t sell off unsuccessful states, the way a corporation would do; it’s slow; and it’s clogged with paperwork filled with doubletalk.

THAT DOESN’T MATTER. People don’t like trash, but they bag it and barrel it, and hire the folks with the trucks and the uniforms and the gloves and hats to take care of it.

Democrats, here’s your argument: Let the people who live for this stuff do this stuff.

I don’t like air travel, but when I fly, I want Jimmy, who lives to fly, for my pilot, not George, who won Open Mike Night at “Giggles” with a bit about in-flight movies.