Aller gegen alle
Those of you who remember the Three Stooges will recall the scenes in which the middle Stooge bops the other two when they aren't looking, causing them to turn on each other while he watches in glee. If you think the Three Stooges are infantile, just wait until you see the Democratic Party. James Wolcott writing in Vanity Fair is almost on the verge of saying this, but hangs back at the edge simply because he has to pretend that politics is serious.
But events are so bizarre that Wolcott, in spite of himself, has to people his drama with characters from epic Hollywood movies. Obama as Ben Hur. Hillary as Messala heading for the climactic crash in the arena. Andrew Sullivan as the manic depressive giggling wailer. Duels to the death between left-wing blogs and within blogs.
The trouble began at the starting line, when the Democratic candidates, after consulting the mirror, decided they had whiter teeth and better heads of hair than the Republicans, and were therefore fated to win. Wolcott writes:
Even the second tier of Democratic contenders, from happy warrior Joe Biden to Dennis Kucinich, with his red-tressed, tongue-pierced, statuesque wife, seemed like a Happy Meal compared with furrowed Republican also-rans such as Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo. One by one the camera fodder dropped out of the race as the winnowing process culled the weak, the fanged, and the superfluous, the Republican field reduced until John McCain became the winner by default, the last bowling pin standing.
By the time it became evident that the Democratic campaign was falling apart the search for the reason had been effaced by the herds stampeding all over the liberal battlefield. With charges and countercharges flying everywhere, everyone was guilty of something. "Inspector Clay is dead, murdered. And someone is reponsible." But who? Markos Moulitsas for example, puzzled over not only why the Democratic campaign fell apart, but why his site had erupted into civil war.
One regular diarist, who went by the handle of Goldberry, exited the Daily Kos and set up her own blog, the Confluence, rolling out a welcome mat for fellow “Kossacks in Exile.” Toward Markos himself, she bore no ill will: “I totally respect Markos. He’s created a beautiful thing.” But the beautiful thing he created has been overrun by ruffians, leaving refugees like herself to hole up in the hills “until the ravagers run out of fuel to burn.” In an open letter to the liberal blogosphere, a fed-up Daily Kos regular named Alegre urged a writers’ strike.
But nobody noticed the Black Swan flapping its wings in the back of the room. The Swan wore a sandwich board proclaiming that the liberal struggle wasn't about politics (as defined by principles) at all so much as a scramble for power. The Rainbow Coalition was glued together only by an agreement to share in the spoils. And the Republican weakness of 2008 unleashed all the Monsters of the Id within the Democratic camp. In their desire to rush into the White House and inaugurate a liberal millenia, the contenders had inextricably jammmed themselves into the door. Maybe Wolcott was wrong about his choice of movie metaphor. Ben Hur wasn't showing. What was playing was a double-feature: Forbidden Planet and a Simple Plan. The Democratic candidates look as good as ever, but it's the good looks of actors in a bad movie. Wolcott almost brings himself to acknowledge the sheer imbecility of things before he pulls back and blames the Democratic disarray on -- who else? -- George W. Bush.
Such fratricidal skirmishing may sound silly and minor-league, like a feud between high-school cliques where the two sides sit on opposite ends of the bleachers, texting each other inappropriate messages full of misspellings and nonperforming grammar. But there is a deeper frustration at work, a more unappeasable, unaddressed anger. And that is the failure of Democrats and activists to bring the Bush-Cheney administration to account for any of its destructive and disastrous misdeeds over the last seven years (even raising the possibility of impeachment was treated as poor etiquette by the queasy Democratic leadership), the impotent fury over the knowledge that the masters of disaster will leave the White House unscathed, unaccountable, their smirks intact. There will be no day of reckoning, nothing to stop their clean getaway.
Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.
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