Foley's Follies

Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean has got to be licking his chops at the sex and corruption twist in the wind of disgraced ex-Florida Rep. Mark Foley and the GOP House Leadership. A recent MSNBC poll showed that Democratic candidates have a real shot at bagging most, if not all, of the 10 swing state Senate seats up for grabs in November, and if more Republican dirt turns up to snatch the White House in 2008. The layer thick sleaze that oozes through every pore of the Republican House Leadership along with Bush’s failed, flawed war policies, has stoked rage and disgust among big chunks of American voters, many of whom hand-clapped Bush’s reelection.

The poll certainly found voters more ready than ever to punish GOP candidates for the appalling corruption, arrogance and ineptitude of the Republican leadership. But the Dems make a colossal mistake if they think that Foley and the GOP’s follies alone will put them over the top. The same polls also show that the Democrats don’t have a cakewalk to victory in any of the states. They are tied, have a slight lead, and even where they have a commanding lead over Republican incumbents, the election is still weeks away, and that’s an eternity in politics.

But even if Foley hadn’t sent his sex laced emails to underage house pages, and House Republicans weren’t deeply implicated in the cover-up, millions of eligible voters have long since thrown up their hands in disgust and rage at a system they see as suffocated by special interest groups. While the Republicans get most of the blame for alienating scores of eligible voters with their scandals and Bush’s failed policies, the Democrats hands aren’t clean. Their penchant to cut deals, schmooze with big money corporate and labor special interest groups, and more often than not cheer lead Bush’s Iraq war bumbles, have been a giant turn off for millions. Those millions have stayed away from the polls in droves.

The big majority of estranged potential voters are minorities, lower-income workers, and immigrants. The Democrats can only get their attention if they launch a sustained, freewheeling, no-holds barred assault on Bush's policies and fuel public fury at the greed, corruption, and the GOP cover-up of the
misdeeds of their crime tinged members. But that's just a start.

Democratic challengers must also convince millions of black, Asian and Latino voters that Bush's much ballyhooed diversity outreach to blacks and Latinos is smoke-and-mirrors puffery. Then they'll have to convince them that they'll wage relentless war in Congress and state legislatures for an increased minimum wage, expanded health care for the uninsured, protection of pensions, non-punitive immigration reform, and increased funding for education and job creation programs.

The Democrats in the past have hammered Bush for his economic failures, job losses, tax cut giveaways and budget deficits. But the economy hasn’t collapsed, and this gives Bush and the GOP a tenuous edge to brag that market driven economic policies have paid dividends for Americans. The Democrats will have to fight through the administration's inflated claims of prosperity for mid-income workers and convince them that they can do a better job with the economy than the Republicans.

The standard GOP smear of Democrats as tax-and-spend, liberal big- government proponents has struck a chord with many Americans. They’ll have to scrub that off and convince voters that fighting against privatizing social security, for a universal, comprehensive health care plan, spending on failing urban
public schools, and strengthening environmental and workplace safety protections is a better deal for poor and working Americans than tax cuts for the wealthy, big corporations, and spending billions to bloat the defense industry.

Even that won’t be enough to clean the GOP’s clock in November. Republicans have Mt. Everest size stacks of campaign cash, and can tap the spigots of their big money donors whenever they please. They can spin and massage morals and social messages on gay marriage, abortion, crime, and welfare that prick an emotional nerve among millions. GOP morals guru Jerry Falwell gave a hint at that at a recent gathering of his conservative Christian evangelical flock when he branded Hillary Clinton with the Demon image and commanded them to storm the barricades to make sure that the Republicans keep their iron grip on Congress.

That means that the Democrats should brace themselves for a tidal wave of hardball attacks, bashing, and name calling to make sure that happens. Republicans have repeatedly shown that they have mastered the art of grab at the gut politics to get their people to the polls in bigger numbers than the Democrats, especially in close races.

Foley and the GOP’s other fallen big guns have reconfirmed that House Republican leaders have fostered a culture of corruption, hypocrisy and cover up. But the Dems can’t rely on that to put them over the top. They’ll have to convince millions of Americans that they deserve to be there.

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