Mary Katharine Ham

I was in my hometown this weekend, a little deep-blue enclave in an otherwise healthily red state. Scattered throughout my neighborhood, nestled in well-groomed hydrangea bushes and under blooming crepe myrtles stand a handful of Kerry-Edwards campaign signs.

This weekend, they sweltered in the Carolina sun and dripped in a summer downpour, feebly whispering about a “stronger America” and “hope on the way” to many a passer-by who was more likely admiring the pink carpet the rain had shaken from the trees than the Kerry campaign’s two-year-old promises.

On a downtown corner, a handful of folks sweated under the dogwood trees, unable to escape the hot yellow glare of sun on white concrete. The tiny crowd of activists was anything but active, milling around with pale, worn poster boards, feebly proclaiming Israel’s “occupation” of various surrounding countries, America’s “occupation” of Iraq, and George Bush’s “occupation” of the White House, among other grievances.

A lot of folks are saying this could be the Democrats’ 1994, that Republicans could lose both the House and Senate. Some of the evidence is there, in low poll numbers for the president and tight races for Republican incumbents that should have been much looser.

But I can’t shake the thought that, in my hometown, in our little blue neighborhood, it looks a heck of a lot like 2004, minus the enthusiasm. The anti-Bush anger is still here, and it flares up occasionally, but it’s usually simmering in a sort of tepid resentment stew. The activists mill instead of march, and they’ve added no new calls to action to their Sharpie-penned repertoire.

Yes, poll numbers are down and races are tight, but the folks around here are offering nothing in the way of a call for reform. In order to be a fiery reform party, the Democrats must have both fire and some kind of form. They seem to have neither.

But maybe it’s just the liberals around here. Maybe they’re just emotionally exhausted after four years of thankless protest against the “selected” President. Maybe the national party will pick up the slack.

That’s what I was expecting when I read the re-cap of the Webb-Allen debate, which happened in Hot Springs, Virginia on Saturday. Republican Sen. George Allen is a cowboy-booted former Southern governor who is pro-tax cuts, pro-Iraq war, and pro-“Virginia values.”

James Webb is a former Navy secretary and Marine who bemoans the many differences between George Bush and his former boss, Ronald Reagan. Those differences caused the former Reagan Republican to become a Reagan Democrat not too long ago, so he could face Allen in this ’06 Senate race.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

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