Battered Democrat Syndrome

Friday, June 02, 2006

Newsweek's Michael Hirsh speculates this week on a Democratic Party so paralyzed by fear that it appears the entire party needs therapy.

They resemble nothing so much as ill-adjusted adolescents, afraid of their own shadows, much less the presidency. What are they afraid of? Themselves, essentially: their past, their own left, the populist rhetoric of their leaders (Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, Al Gore), the left-wing loony stigma represented by “Fahrenheit 9/11” filmmaker Michael Moore (every Dem’s favorite bugaboo). Above all they fear seeming and looking soft. They are all afflicted with varying degrees of megalophobia, a fear of assuming power. Even Dr. Melfi of “The Sopranos” wouldn’t take this case.

This is not a new notion. Where Hirsh gets a little lost in the minutiae of political losses and labels that have rendered a Democratic establishment inexplicably cowed by a Republican Party in total disarray, a very good diagnosis came from one Mel Gilles over a year ago. The Democratic Party suffers from "battered woman syndrome."

Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the new language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"

And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

They will tell you, every single day.

What Hirsh misses is that the ostensible reasons that Democrats have been whipped into submission don't matter.

The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.

As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.

I have known some battered women. The shattering blows to the ego are often more crippling than the physical damage, and only serve to make the victims more dependent on their abusers. The parallels to our current political landscape are actually hard to miss. We now have an opposition party incapable of resisting a Republican Party which has demonstrated proficiency in only one thing: reckless assault on everything and everyone, foreign and domestic. And we have a Democratic Party that perceives itself as weak and therefore looks and acts weak.

Hirsh, much like Mollly Ivins did months ago, exhorts the Democrats to acknowledge and state the bleedin' obvious to a public long past ready to hear it.

No one looks like a wimp when he or she tells the truth. And the public is crying, pleading for someone to tell the truth.