We live in sad times, lifeless, listless times, Johnny Appleseed New York Times times. Republicans swept Tuesday’s elections as if by default, more successful than the other guys in getting their zombie base to the polls, probably because only they could afford the requisite prescription drugs to get a move on. (Plus they had an inspiring leader in Trent Lott, who imaginatively, if belatedly, cried out, “Let’s roll! — this after denying he’d left the Wellstone memorial in protest, but simply because he had a plane to catch. Oh, Trent, it’s so good to have you back!)
Drawing on his deep reserves of dignity when accepting defeat, Al Gore confided to Barbara Walters that it’s time his Democratic Party underwent a “major regrouping.” That could be shorthand for sticking to the status quo. In Al’s understanding, regrouping would begin with having him run for a second presidential term in 2004. He is proud of his record and wants to extend it: two straight presidential wins without a night spent in the White House during either term. He relishes paradox and won’t mind remaining the people’s choice of a people that can’t stand him.
The worry, though, is that Al wasn’t entirely straight with us. How can he call on Democrats to undergo major regrouping when they’ve been in the midst of one for many months now? We saw it in New Jersey, where Bob Torricelli got regrouped in favor of an even earlier regroupie, Frank Lautenberg. We saw it in Minnesota, where Walter Mondale regrouped in time to get a jump on Gary Hart for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. We especially saw it in Native American Dakota, where voters were regrouped, and regrouped, and regrouped until there were enough of them to secure a well-earned Democratic landslide. Only Bill Clinton demonstrated characteristic independence — his first choice is to regrope select voters.
To avoid future misunderstandings, Democrats might need to repackage their old new strategy as a major reinterpretation. Again it’s been in the works for months, but what gives it teeth is that it involves the law. Or more precisely, evasion of the law. New Jersey or South Dakota were like fixing a parking ticket compared to what needs to be done next. Democrats have one guaranteed winner for 2004. The minor complication is that Michigan’s next governor, the sensational Jennifer Granholm, is Canadian born and as such constitutionally unqualified to serve as a United States President. There are many ways to get around this vestige of dead white male patriarchy and slave-owning genocidal oppression. The most logical approach would be to argue that the significance of Canadian-born depends on what the meaning of Canada is. Since most scholars, in Canada above all, have long argued that Canada lacks any meaning whatsoever, it could be safe to say that Granholm was born in [blank]. Fill in the blank with, say, “America,” and presto — she’s American born and on her way to becoming our first woman president.
Naturally there could be fallout. Is the Federalist Society prepared to accept neo-strict constuctionist Hillary Rodham Clinton’s application for membership? Come 2004 there could be a Democratic catfight, or whatever PETA says you can call it. And if it’s a real regrouping, what’s to keep Geraldine Ferraro from joining in? Not to mention the distraught Judy Woodruff. With four you’ve got a bridge club.
Returning to less exciting male matters, our minds drift to Dick Morris, the Ralphie of the Soprano world of pundits. Many predicted the reverse of what happened last Tuesday, but no one so recklessly or with such malice as Dick. Roger Ross, Enemy Central’s agent in Tomahawk, Wisconsin country, still can’t understand why Morris seemed so determined to throw “a wet blanket on what was happening.” Maybe wet blankets and Morris don’t mix.
Of graver concern is the fate of wide-eyed Winona Ryder, who instead of stealing hearts was convicted of stealing clothes. She could be in a sadder condition than the entire Democratic apparatus. Imagine having to be defended by Susan McDougal’s lawyer. But even more outrageous is that Ms. Ryder’s ambulance chaser never raised the Ashcroft defense. Who else could have given Sax Fifth Avenue the go-ahead to install surveillance cameras? Winona some, lose some.
Which leaves us with the toughest Nancy in Washington since Mrs. Reagan. Already she’s routed a mild-mannered Texan. Now she can set her sights on even more distinguished Longhorn. Where Stalin asked how many divisions the pope has, about Nancy they ask how many PACs she has. So she has more than the law allows. But who needs law (see above) when Democrats need PACs? As the Washington Post put it in its best New York Times voice, “Members typically see aggressive fund-raising as laudable.” And they’re going to be seeing a lot of Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ next House leader, which automatically elevates her to Enemy of the Week standing. True, they might be seeing a lot of her in Baghdad, the only spot in which Democrats these days feel secure in mounting serious opposition to the Bush juggernaut.