As the elections draw closer, it becomes increasingly obvious that – within the general “enthusiasm gap” that is so widely discussed – there is one specific kind of intensity and passion that is painfully missing in the Democratic community.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, for me that missing ingredient came dramatically into focus. The celebrations brought back memories of family gatherings many years ago, listening to the stories told by veterans of WWII, most of whom had fought in the Italian theater of operations.
They were tough, no-nonsense men, hardened by both a lifetime of hard work and the experience of war and who spoke with deep cynicism about aspect after aspect of their wartime experience.
The equipment -“The first thing we did when we hit the beach was bury most of it. It was too God-damn heavy and it got you killed. You buried it the minute you hit the beach, and then dug it up for inspection”.
The officers – “They were all a bunch of rich boys who had never worked a day on an assembly line or climbed on high steel. They were as tough as rubber nails and a dumb as a newborn baby”
The Bazooka – “a real piece of s**T. If you got real close to a panzer tank, the best you could do was give the German tanker an earache when the shell bounced off the hull”.
The U.S. Sherman Tank – “The armor was so thin, if you had to sneeze you could pull off one of the f***ing armor plates and blow your nose in it”
The strategy – “The Brass did everything by the book. The trouble was that the Germans had all read exactly the same god-damn f*** ing book and were ready for us every time.”
The campaign – “If the country had been any narrower we would’ve had to walk sideways. The Germans didn’t even have to aim their God-damn guns, they could just point anywhere south and fire.”
And so it went for hours at a time. Surprisingly, they had little hatred for the ordinary Italian and German soldiers that they had fought. The enemy soldiers were just “dupes” who had been “suckered” by the “big lie” propaganda. Far more time was devoted to criticizing every single aspect of the how the “Brass” had conducted the war.
But at the end of every one of these sessions, they would always suddenly pause and say with a sharp, chilling intensity to the young people who were listening – “but, don’t ever get me wrong. It was worth it and I’d do it all over again In a minute– because those bastards had to be stopped”
That’s the spirit that’s painfully missing In the Democratic discussion today. That crystal clear, hard, fierce and ferocious sense of determination. That cold burning anger. That elemental sense of total commitment and passion. What’s missing today is a clear understanding that – whatever opinion one may have of Obama, or his strategy, or the candidates, or the campaigns, or the issues, or the way things have gone, or how they could have gone better, or why things were done wrong or a thousand other matters – there remains one transcendent, overarching reality.
What the Republicans have done in the last year and a half goes beyond politics and beyond partisanship. They have embraced a politics of extremism that goes far beyond anything in the Republican tradition -including not only the era of Ronald Reagan but even of the Buckley and Goldwater right. They have chosen a cynical submission to an extremist ideology that is not only wrong but dangerous, venomous and vile.
Democrats can complain and second guess and criticize as much as they want this year but the hard reality is that we do not have the luxury of indifference or discouragement.
For Democrats, there is no choice.
This Republican assault cannot be ignored, minimized or accommodated.
They have to be stopped.