After last week's drubbing in the midterm elections, the Abortion Party (formerly known as the Democratic Party) is looking for direction. Happily, both the party brass and base are coalescing around the idea that the Democrats were not adequately insane.
Thus, for example, discussing the Democrats' bloodbath on National Pubic Radio, Robert Kuttner said the Democrats had "blurred their differences with President Bush on key issues like whether to have a tax cut ... whether to have a social outlay that benefits ordinary people. They tried to blur their differences with the president on the war ..."
I can only say: Get that man a microphone! I wholeheartedly agree. What this last election proves, as the New York Times has clearly explained, is that the people want expensive '60s-style government programs, a mammoth tax increase, a depleted, anemic military and an enormous welfare state. (Duh.)
Hauling poor old Walter Mondale out of retirement to defend Jimmy Carter's record was definitely a step in the right direction. (New slogan idea – "The Democratic Party: The Gift That Keeps On Giving!") But it's not enough. In the interest of good sportsmanship, I have some other suggestions to help the Democrats clarify their differences with the Republicans.
First, the Democratic Party needs to have a lot more anti-war rallies in which Jesse Jackson embraces Ramsey Clark and liberals go around calling one another "comrade." The public cries out for the opinions of doddering old Stalinists in berets. Do not fall for the canard about left-wing kooks undermining the work of liberals who look normal.
That's what Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., thought, and look what happened to him. Of the three Democrats arguably responsible for the election fiasco – Terry McAuliffe, Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt – surely the least culpable was Gephardt, the original phony "NASCAR Democrat." But picking up on the Clinton strategy of blame the innocent and promote the guilty, only Gephardt resigned.
Second, the Democrats definitely need to speak out more forcefully against the Boy Scouts. So far, their hatred of the Boy Scouts has been frankly weak-kneed. Two years ago, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., introduced a bill to revoke the Boy Scouts' 84-year-old federal charter because they discriminate against gays. Despite the votes of several Democrats, the bill was narrowly rejected in a 362-12 vote.
It's a hopeful sign that Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is on track to succeed Gephardt as House minority leader. She supported revoking the Boy Scouts' charter. But to really uncompact the Democrats' message, they need to take a two-fisted approach toward this wholesome, all-American organization. This is no time for subtlety: The Democrats need to present a clear alternative. Demand that the Boy Scouts be outlawed. Go after the Boy Scouts like you're going after the Klan!
Third, there is still plenty of room to curry more favor with the teachers' unions. Democrats should start demanding really, REALLY small class sizes. Right now the critical ratio is supposed to be 20 students to 1 teacher. Hundreds of studies have failed to produce any correlation between class size and student achievement. In fact, the United States has far smaller class sizes than Japan and far worse test scores.
But don't let that slow you down! A clear message for the Democratic Party is at stake. Democrats need to start demanding one teacher, one teacher's assistant, one backup teacher's assistant and one auxiliary backup teacher's assistant for every student. Instead of a ratio of 20 students to 1 teacher, they should insist on .03 students for every teacher.
Fourth, it's time to roll out Hillary's national health-care plan again. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But this time, it should not be limited to American citizens. Let the Republicans oppose extending a prescription-drug program to the citizens of all nations!
Fifth, it's not enough to oppose a missile-defense system because it "won't work." Everyone knows Democrats haven't the first idea how a squirt gun operates, much less complicated missile technology. It's time to oppose Star Wars on the grounds that – even if it works – it will protect only the top 1 percent of earners.
Sixth, the Muslim snipers terrorizing Maryland and Virginia present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to promote voter registration for felons. Now is the time to rush Jesse Jackson to their holding cells with voter-registration cards. Also, the lead gunman was 17 years old. Refer to him as a "child" while hysterically denouncing the death penalty for "juveniles." Perhaps the French could even make the younger sniper an honorary citizen, like Mumia. I only regret that Leonard Bernstein isn't around to throw a cocktail party for them.
Finally, as Hillary Kessler-Godin (New York!) wrote in a letter to the New York Times last Thursday: "The party needs to bring out the two best weapons in its arsenal, Bill and Hillary Clinton." No question about it. In fact, it ought to be part of the Democratic Party platform that Bill Clinton is required to campaign with every Democratic candidate running for any office in the land. Also, Ms. Kessler-Godin has to start attending the anti-war rallies.