It’s amazing how many things the liberal Democrats could assert into meaningful political momentum. There is a vastly unpopular war, a Republican leadership indicted for blatant graft and corruption, a presidential wiretapping program with highly dubious claims to legality, top vice-presidential brass under investigation for leaking classified information, bipartisan oppostition to the U.A.E. deal, Osama bin Laden still being loose, an economy with stagnant wages, souring diplomatic relationships with Iran, China, and allied nations and political fallout of botched relief for Hurricane Katrina still splattering across headlines. In the immortal words uttered by boxer Roberto Duran at the New Orleans Superdome, “No mas.”

What on earth is preventing any opposition from trouncing these incompetent incumbents? What public figure or household name is everyday articulating a consistent alternative philosophy to the drumbeat mantra of “The Republican Party defends the nation and defends the moral fiber?” Some might say Hillary Clinton, others might say Michael Moore.

Yet, my criterion was consistent and articulate. Clinton has been anything if not inconsistent on a whole host of issues – most importantly her wavering ‘me too’ stance on the war – and lefties like Moore are too oafish and slovenly in their presentation of fact and in their articulation of issues. Anyone who is easily trumped by the likes of morons like Sean Hannity in the court of public opinion just drives home the piteous situation in which the left-wing opposition finds itself.

When it comes to developing a clear platform of reform on issues of governmental corruption, energy policy, trade, health care or rebuilding the Gulf Coast, neither party is very clear. Yet, public consensus has been coalescing for years around positions that could favor Democrats. There are specific energy alternatives, better cooperation with allies and the world, a less bellicose foreign persona, protection for civil liberties, and policies more sensitive to the quality of lives of people earning less than $200,000 a year.

So far, no Democrat has come close to evincing any or all of these positions in a credible, forceful way – that is, with a firebrand style and a catchy jingle – and they remain forever trapped in an untenable culture war.

For example, from the previous election, instead of appealing to low-income and middle-class hunters for support on environmental issues by talking up clean air, clean water, the purity of the land and the quality of the food they supply their children, they write off the National Rifle Association vote as single-minded and employ Bill Clinton’s political triangulation campaigning style in ludicrous ways. The indelible image of this tactic to me is now forever how it was used in the hands of John Kerry – gripping a limp, broken gooseneck for cameras. There is this bizarre arrogance among liberal politicians that Americans just want a candidate to play dress-up on issues, like Bush and his cowboy hat. Instead of initially making campaign promises to their base they have no intent to keep, like politicians are supposed to, and like Bush did with the Christian right-wing and fiscal conservatives, Democrats are just toeing the line and talking softly for what they must think are soft-headed voters – and they will keep losing. Their constant, palpable condescension is evident to everyone. Americans of every political hue feel disconnected from their leadership, but any strategic triangulation that the Democrats will try in 2006 to consolidate the center will ultimately backfire.

It only worked with Bill Clinton because he gave the good impression of a man on the make, proposing half-baked solutions with his long, vapid speeches about hundreds of small federal programs, that after first blush reformed nothing, and whose presidency actually represented huge principled concessions to conservatives.

How is a blue-collar, ex-union manufacturing guy supposed to get excited about voting for a Democrat who makes no discernible economic promises to him? Who makes no effort to chime in about the coverage of illegal immigration? In absence of an economic issue liberals should be using to bludgeon fat cats like Cheney, I find it little wonder that traditional Catholic Democrats in Rust Belt states just started voting “values” instead.

There is no good explanation for the total evaporation of politicos discussing the national debt, or the Ford plant layoffs, let alone anyone stumping every day on these catastrophes.

Liberals rely too much on the media, failing to put forth a package and unwilling to express more than what amounts to a dime’s worth of difference. No, Democratic politicians would rather betray principles in deed, sprinkling scriptural statements about protection for the poor, than fight forcefully on these catastrophes. They have no leadership of their own and are too comfortable with the status quo. Republican congressmen hungering for office had no trouble pummeling Clinton publicly and calling for his impeachment in the ’90s, making the careers of many rich and influential men and launching whole new, unified political networks in the process.

Still, the real truth of the matter is that Democratic leadership isn’t exploiting Bush administration failures because they are complicit and culpable in each and every one of them. They are hamstrung from saying much. The deep chord Perot struck in this country back in 1992 is not dead, but sleeping, waiting to be awoken by a serious candidate who has the resources, and a running mate a little less farcical than a Looney Toon. I’m betting it’s John McCain – only he has been consistent in his support for the idea of the war. Prepare yourselves, unorganized liberal rabble, for another lay down.

Ellis can be reached

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