During an election campaign, political operatives are fond of seeking to induce in their opponent a negative "defining moment." That is to say a highly publicized moment when their opponent portrays everything that is wrong with him. In 2004, John Kerry provided that moment when he said he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it.
Surely, at the State of the Union address the Democratic Party provided such a moment when, as has already been well commented on by others, they wildly applauded President Bush's statement that Congress failed to pass Social Security reform last year.
As the party of reactionary inertia -- as the party that not only doesn't have any solutions to today's dangers and problems but denies that such problems exist -- the Democrats on the floor of the House Tuesday night demonstrated a flawless, intuitive sense of its new, disfunctional self.
The Democrats' wild applause on behalf of doing nothing was more than a merely tactical political blunder. It displayed a deeper truth about them.
If one recalls, last year, the official position of the Democratic Party was not only that they opposed President Bush's Social Security reform, they argued there was no crisis -- no major problem that required rectification.
(In fact, Social Security has $4 trillion of unfunded liability, and if major changes are not made quickly, we will only be able to pay the retired baby boomers about 70 cents for each dollar of promised benefits.)
Social Security is the single most iconic Democratic Party issue of the past hundred years -- the Democrats created Social Security in 1935, and have won countless elections since then by beating up Republicans for allegedly not supporting it. It was the Democratic Party's sacred virgin. They would lie for it, die for it, steal for it, demagogue for it -- but never cheer its demise or harm, even sarcastically.
Their collective decision to cheer the failure of the body politic to provide for sufficient revenues to pay the benefits was an act of historic shame for the Democratic Party.
Worse than that for the Democrats, it shows how severely degraded their political instincts have become. Tip O'Neil's Democratic Party of 20 years ago would never have cheered the failure of Social Security -- even to try to make a small political point. To be sure, they would demagogue the issue ruthlessly, but never be seen to be walking away from the sacred program.
Until George Bush became president, the Democrats, for better and for worse, were a liberal party. Deformed by hatred of the current president, the Democrats have become a nihilist party.
It is one thing to oppose one's opponent's policies. After all, Benjamin Disraeli, the founder of the modern British Tory Party, once famously observed that the job of an opposition party is to oppose. But he also said they should oppose but not obstruct. And while in the minority he carefully proposed policies he would implement when his party came into power.
But today's Democrats largely refuse to even admit that the problems President Bush is trying to solve even exist. They offer nothing. And this mentality was also on display Tuesday night in Congress. On most of the president's major pronouncements regarding our war against radical Islam, the Democrats sat on their hands.
Or, in the case of Hillary Clinton when a non-response was politically impossible, she would, with an icy look that could freeze a furnace, applaud in a slow, robotic, menacing manner. Woe betide the object of that frigid esteem. On Iraq, on Iran, on intercepting terrorist communications, they have no positive proposals for success.
President Bush caught the essence of today's Democratic Party in a rather elegant double epigram: "Hindsight alone is not wisdom, And second-guessing is not a strategy."
I wouldn't be surprised to see that thought become the strategic negative communication theme for the Republican Party this campaign season. That is the trouble with being a rotten tomato-throwing member of the bleacher crowd. One may develop a small following amongst one's fellow complainers, but no large group of people are going to ask you to come out and lead the team.
But not satisfied to be a head in the sand, reflexively negative opposition party, an increasing number of Democrats and their supporters in the leftish fever swamps have started calling for President Bush's impeachment.
While I haven't seen any polls yet on the subject, I would guess that something less than 10 percent of the American voting public would look forward to seeing the last two years of the Bush presidency consumed with a Democratic Party-controlled Congress trying to impeach the president during a time of war.
Somehow the Democratic Party -- for 180 years the most electorally successful political party on the planet -- has now almost completely mutated into a party too loathsome to be seen in public, and too nihilistic to be trusted with control of even a single branch of government.