In early 2007, The Nation published an extraordinary speech by Bill Moyers. In “A New Story for America,” America’s media conscience wrote of how “voters have provided a a respite from a right-wing radicalism predicated on the philosophy that extremism in the pursuit of virtue is no vice.” Newt Gingrich, architect of the hit job on America–better known as “The Contract With America” –was a key figure of right wing extremism. Or as Moyers called Gingrich and his hearty band –“Ravenous predators…masquerading as a political party of small government, fiscal restraint and moral piety…”
In a much-publicized May 6th post at Human Events magazine, “My Plea to Republicans: It’s Time for Real Change to Avoid Real Disaster,” Gingrich seems to echo Moyers, who continued in that 2006 Nation article to argue that “the conservative movement stands intellectually and morally bankrupt….”
The long night of the junta is not yet over. We have more than 200 days until Bush and Cheney depart the White House, But the Republican loss in the special election for Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District last Saturday should be –and even Gingrich warns of this –a sharp wake up call for Republicans.
And it’s not just that special election that augurs bad times for a GOP –a once fat and smug party led by subrpime leaders who would drown government in a bathtub. Democrats look to pick up as many as six Senate seats in November. And according to the National Committee for an Effective Congress’s most recent polls, Democrats already have Senate seats locked up in New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virgina and hold a small lead in Colorado. Al Franken is poised to win Minnesota’s seat–displacing Norm Coleman. In Maine, the decent Tom Allen has a chance to defeat Chafee look-alike Susan Collins. Even Alaska, with all three members of its Congressional delegation in either a felonious or pre-felonious state, could have a Democratic Senator come November.
Either Congressional Republicans chart a bold course of real change, Gingrich argues–though God (or, rather, James Dobson) knows what the hell that means these days – or the GOP faces a landslide defeat and disaster in November.
It’s hard to agree with Gingrich–he’s a predator who proffered Americans a raw deal which, to this day, afflicts our politics. But I think he’s right. These are potentially tectonic- shifting times. For all the primary season’s obsession with the white working class in rust belt states–and any progressive coalition worth its salt and grain does need to speak to speak to the white working class, bring them into a strong multiracial coalition–the US is changing rapidly across all racial, generational and ethnic lines.In fact, the US is on track to become a majority-minority nation in the next few decades. And with all its imperfections, the Democratic party looks more like America–diverse, multicultural, younger–than a retrograde, smug, corrupt, mendacious Republican party which doesn’t have a single African-American in its entire Congressional delegation.
For those reasons–and more–I believe we are on the edge of a progressive moment comparable to that of more than 40 years ago when Lyndon Johnson occupied the White House. A moment when with a real majority in the Senate –displacing Joe (“I do not leave John McCain’s side”) Lieberman as the swing vote, and ending “Dr. No” Minority leader Mitch McConnell filibuster of everything to death, we could see sweeping progressive legislative victories.
The parallels remain sobering, however. We still have too many Dems who, as Moyers wrote for The Nation,” talk about a ‘new direction’ without convincing us they know the difference between a weather vane and a compass.” We have a war without end which could undermine possibilities at home and abroad.
It will demand a movement politics of sanity and savvy to push this new Congress beyond its comfort zone –and launch a campaign to rebuild our country and take back this country from those like Gingrich who have plundered its promise.