Some Democrats would rather be victims than losers, like those who wrote me angry emails after this recent piece. In it, I call Democrat leaders "perennial losers" who lack nerve and don't act tactically. Democrats don't lose, say my correspondents, they win - only to have the elections stolen from them by Diebold, a crooked Supreme Court, and other conspiracies. By calling Dems "losers," I'm just playing into the myth that the conspirators have created.
So, who's right? Are the Democrats inept and timorous losers, constantly blowing opportunities to act like leaders and retake the national stage, as my piece said? Or, are they victims of a broad and complex conspiracy that has kept them from assuming national leadership through foul and underhanded means? Here's something to consider: Both statements can be true.
Did John Kerry win in 2004, as my correspondents have said? The fact is that we don't know, but there's a lot of evidence to suggest that he did - at least in the electoral college. The curious (to say the least) results in Florida, and of course in Ohio, raise many serious questions and deserve intense scrutiny and investigation. So far, they haven't received nearly the attention that they should. Some conspiracies (like the Lincoln assassination) are real.
But what do we mean by "winning"? Did Kerry win a majority of the popular vote? As far as I know (and people will correct me if I'm overlooking something), nobody is suggesting that Kerry won a majority of the popular vote. I haven't heard any suggest that the 3,000,000-plus margin for Bush would have gone the other way under a "clean vote." That would mean that 4 or 5 million votes were stolen, which is a broad assertion.
Let's play out the scenario: Democrats object to the seemingly rigged votes in Ohio (and possibly Florida) - which I think they should have done. Investigations reveal e-voting fraud, and Kerry becomes President without a popular majority - and a Republican Senate and House. It would have been an untenable solution, fostered by Republican ruthlessness in obstructing Kerry's agenda, and by the fact that he became President after losing the popular vote.
After losing the popular vote - get it? And why did Kerry lose that popular vote, against a President who started an unpopular war and was an inept debater? Because he ran a lousy campaign. Because he, Edwards, Clinton, and the other Democratic Senators voted for the Iraq War Resolution out of cynicism and defeatism - and the vote made it impossible for the Party to articulate a clear position against that war. Because of a lack of nerve, political courage, vision, and tactics. Because, whether the election was stolen or not, he lost.
And why did the Democrats lose the Senate and the House? Is anyone suggesting electoral fraud widespread enough to have given both houses of Congress to the GOP?
Of all recent elections, the 2000 Presidential race was the most obviously "stolen," since it's well-documented that a politically rigged Supreme Court used the opportunity afforded by badly designed ballots to overthrow a Gore victory. (I still think the fact that Bush gave Scalia's son an important Justice Department post smacks of pure quid pro quo, given during some backroom horsetrading.)
Yet even there, we need to remember that Al Gore blew a major lead in order to put himself in a position where the Supremes could do what they did. Why? Because Bob Shrum and the other hacks advised him to put Shoeless Joe in as his VP candidate, and because he hadn't yet found his voice as a politician (which he seems to have done now.)
Is rampant electoral fraud the most important under-investigated political story of our time, as my correspondents have said? Yes, I believe it is. Is it the only one? No. Republican chicanery and Democrat weakness are also critically important. I'm going to keep hammering the Democrats for ineptitude and lack of guts, over and over, for as long as it takes - and that could be a long, long time.
We wuz robbed, some shout. OK, so what are you going to do about it? Many think the 1960 election was stolen from Richard Nixon. The Illinois vote, heavily "influenced" by Mayor Daley and Joe Kennedy, put JFK over the top. Did the Republicans sit around and whine, or did they get organized and wage a multi-year campaign for victory?
It's all too easy, especially for Democrats, to fall into the victim mentality. When "they cheated us" becomes the only acceptable narrative, victimhood becomes the party identity. Yes, we need to expose the vote-rigging conspiracy - a far more widespread and deep-rooted enterprise than the freeform Chicago improvisations of 1960, and one that threatens the very future of democracy. But the Democrats also need to get tough, disciplined - and politically courageous. No sign of that from Hillary Clinton or Rahm Emanuel.
So if it's a choice between two roles - "victim" or "loser" - I'll take "loser" any day. Why? Because losers have some control over their destiny. They can have a change of heart, and decide they'd rather be winners.
Democrats should 1) fight the e-voting issue tooth and nail, and publicly, 2) tighten up their message in a smart and disciplined way, and 3) most of all, have the guts to take a principled stand. Lives are at stake. The party's soul is in play. The future is at risk.
"Victims" never win - and this isn't a game for losers.