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  The Last Relevant Liberal
by Brian S. Wise
8 November 2002

Although the Democrats may have been soundly defeated in the election, with liberals like Gephardt and Gore cast aside, there still remains one liberal who may save the Democratic Party - future House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.


Election night provided one of the year’s great visuals: at some point during NBC’s coverage, James Carville placed a trashcan on his head. Having seen only the final result, I can simply guess this was the most mature response Carville could manage to the results, but the move did greatly improve Carville’s appearance and brought to fruition a long held conservative fantasy, even if individual members of the movement had always hoped to be the one placing the trashcan there in the first place. It just goes to show, close does count in something other than horseshoes and hand grenades.

Now, were we truly a movement made up of “compassionate conservatives,” we’d have found ourselves feeling bad for those liberals within the media forced to report the Republican victories; of course we didn’t, and we aren’t, which is as it should be. Personally, I was happiest to see the soaring comeback of Tim Russert’s little eraser board (and wonder if this will be his tactic forevermore, or just when Republicans do well), but Dan Rather looked like someone ran over his dog. More than usual. I half expected to flip over to CBS and see nothing more than Dan’s shoes swaying gently back and forth, but in frame, because Dan’s a professional.

Rather’s suicide wouldn’t have been as awkward as, say, Michael Barone repeatedly butchering Chris Chocola’s name during his segments for Fox News Channel … oh, wait. (Dear Michael: Cha-cola, not Chock-ula; he’s a candidate for the House, not a breakfast cereal. And lest I forget – Dear Reader: Don’t bother to write in and defend Barone. Anyone who can take the time to figure out Blagojevich can take three seconds and figure out how to correctly pronounce Chocola.)

But for all the “Isn’t today a wonderful day!” electronic mails received Wednesday, I hasten to remind my fellow conservatives: we haven’t won anything. No matter how nice it is to consider the possibilities of a Republican administration left to its devices, the proof as to its worth remains to be seen. Whether or not the Right inherently benefits from the gains can only be directly gauged by whatever good is done for the country as a whole, e.g. whether or not taxes go lower and stay lower, judicial nominees with some sense in their heads are allowed to the federal bench, our borders are forcefully defended, et cetera, ad infinitum.

That said, Democratism has suffered quite a blow. The Left hasn’t seen ideological freefall like this since Clinton’s “I am still relevant” speech, and for that sacrificial lambs had to be offered, Gephardt immediately filling the bill with Daschle and McAuliffe being readied. (“But Gephardt stepped aside.” Right, so did Harvey Pitt.) It seems clear that if Al Gore has ever proven anything (let the debate again), it was that the Left cannot do well when it sits complicity and, for lack of a better term, follows the opposition. Insofar as the old leadership fiddled while the party burned, they should be done away with, if only to stand to the side and smile while new leadership takes its place.

So what does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that not only should Gephardt, Daschle and McAuliffe be cast aside, but so should the remainder of the symbolically important Left, Al Gore included. So long as Gore remains the Left’s viable alternative to President Bush in 2004, Democratism is a losing proposition. Al Gore cannot beat George W. Bush, neither can Dick Gephardt, neither can John Kerry, neither can Joe Lieberman. For that matter, no one from what could logically be called Democratism’s old school can win in 2004.

Consider now Nancy Pelosi, future House minority leader, and the last relevant liberal in American politics. The Right would be remiss in shortchanging Pelosi’s potential influence; she is the only new voice coming into the fold, she is comparatively young, she is a bulldog Leftist, and she will vehemently oppose every Rightward turn attempted by the House. In the strictest sense, Pelosi’s actions will decide for the remainder of the Left its 2004 strategy, in that whatever works will be implemented in every important race, including that for the presidency, and whatever is beaten back by the administration will be forgotten as a tactical matter.

The temptation is to look past Nancy Pelosi in the same way we looked past Gephardt, which is a mistake. Pelosi should have above average attention paid to her, and be fought just as she intends to fight, because she is not merely a replacement, but an experiment, as well.

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