Things seem fairly bleak for the Republicans. House Majority Leader Tom Delay has been hobbled, at least temporarily, by an indictment. Karl Rove may soon be indicted. The Senate Majority leader faces an investigation of his stock sales. George W. Bush isn't getting any credit for the successes in Iraq, and his nomination of a certain Supreme Court nominee has been troubled from the get-go. Rank-and-file Republicans and movement conservatives are bickering as never before.
Fittingly, many righties are moping like the kids in those old commercials who are rescued from the doldrums by yelling, "Hey Kool Aid!"
One of the painful truths of growing up is that, alas, the Kool Aid Man isn't coming through that brick wall, no matter how parched we are or how plaintively we call him.
The Merlot Man, however, is another story. You may know him as Howard Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee. Whenever Republicans get depressed and start fingering their pearl-handled revolvers, they can count on Merlot Man to come metaphorically bursting in with a "Yeaaaaggghhh!" to cheer us up.
Why "Merlot Man"? Well, funny story. According to the Washington Post, as Dean has traveled around the country recently giving pep talks to members of his party, he has taken to describing its most loyal base as "Merlot Democrats."
This is a little odd, given that for decades now, Democrats have complained that Republicans unfairly call them names, making them sound more liberal, sissified and elitist than they really are. Years of GOP attacks on "limousine liberals," "ACLU liberals," "San Francisco Democrats" and so forth have finally paid off. That's why you always hear prominent Democrats, when asked if they're liberals, respond, "I don't believe in labels." If pressed, they might boldly say, "If it's liberal to like ice cream, than I am a liberal!"
When Howard Dean took over the Democratic Party, he embraced the work of a guy named George Lakoff, who describes himself as a "metaphor analyst."
Lakoff's first brush with publicity came in 2001 from his ill-considered analysis of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
"Towers are symbols of phallic power," he wrote, "and their collapse reinforces the idea of loss of power." Then Lakoff's metaphor-analysis machine surely started to smoke. "The planes," he continued "penetrating the towers with a plume of heat, and the Pentagon, a vaginal image from the air, penetrated by the plane as missile."