Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The Shipwreck of the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Right

American liberalism, in its majority incarnation of the Democratic Party, may very well have gotten its head handed to it yesterday in election after election for seats in Congress as well as in several governor’s mansions. The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Right (aka the Democratic Party) seemed to have virtually no burning issues to run on, and in several key states ran lackluster and wholly negative campaigns for the U. S. Senate based on outdated ideas. The Senate race in one state --Minnesota, a long-time Democrat stronghold— ended up taking on some rather symbolic significance:

Immediately upon Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone’s untimely death a couple weeks before Election Day, the Democrats had so few eligible and appealing candidates to run in Wellstone’s place that the Minnesota chapter of the Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Right brought 75-year-old Senator and former Vice President Walter Mondale out of retirement to run against Republican go-getter Norm Coleman, who is twenty-some years Mondale’s junior. The middle-aged Coleman so successfully capitalized on that difference in terms of each generation’s approach to issues and problem-solving that Mondale, an icon of outmoded and largely discredited Great Society thinking, was quickly sent back into retirement.

Similar results for the Democrats took place in other long-time predominantly Democrat states, especially Maryland, where a well-known member of the Kennedy clan, liberal Democrat incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend (RFK’s daughter) was defeated by a comparative unknown, moderate Republican Robert Erlich. It seems that Kennedy-Townsend may have shot herself in the foot on at least three counts:

First, she ran such a nasty and incompetent campaign that even fellow Democrats, including several pundits, predicted that if she won it would be by a very narrow margin despite Maryland’s heavily Democrat voter demographics.

Second, during her tenure in Annapolis, neither she nor her boss, Governor Parris Glendening, lifted a finger to solve Maryland’s rapidly worsening commuting problems, such as beginning construction of the badly needed Inter-County Connector, which had been an integral but untouched part of Maryland’s transportation plans for well nigh unto 40 years, ironically enough the same amount of time since Maryland had its last Republican governor.

And, last but not least, while Erlich had selected a highly respected moderate African-American running mate, Maryland GOP chief Michael Steele, Kennedy-Townsend, who had the cream of the crop of highly eligible African-American Democrats in Maryland politics to choose from for her running mate (including Montgomery County Council member Ike Leggett and Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry), instead selected a white conservative life-long Republican and retired Admiral, Charles R. Larson.

But why would Kennedy-Townsend do such a thing? A few days before the election, liberal Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King, himself an African-American and a Democrat, offered a stinging explanation: Kennedy-Townsend’s campaign staff thought having an African-American running mate would reduce her chances of being elected. Besides, King said they “reasoned,” African-Americans in Maryland would never vote to put a Republican in the Governor’s mansion so Kennedy-Townsend would get the African-American vote no matter who she ran with. In other words, noted King, Kennedy-Townsend –like most liberal Democrats, who preach one thing while they practice another-- felt free to think and act like a hypocrite because she thought she “owned” the African-American vote --a vote she had to have in order to win the Governor's mansion.

Apparently, like so many of her fellow Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Right, Kennedy-Townsend miscalculated her course and ended up shipwrecking her own campaign --if not her career and the chances of the Democratic Party in Maryland in the near future: For example, guess who will be running for Governor once Erlich's term is up? You got it: African-American Lieutenant Governor-elect Steele, a Republican. The Boss Pirates in Annapolis and Baltimore can kiss the African-American vote "good-bye" for the rest of this decade.

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