Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Democrats = Battered Wives?

Michael Moore got an interesting letter the other day from someone who works as an advocate for battered women, and sees some parallels between her daily life and the national mood:

Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the "new" language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"

And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.

They will tell you: Every single day.

It's an interesting analogy, though in some ways a problematic one: democrats, as a body, have far more agency and control than any battered person, ever. But the notion that we're responding to the election by asking what we could have done differently, rather than stepping back and looking at what's wrong with the situation, is a powerful one. The writer goes on to say:
First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back.
I think this is right, and it speaks to the flaw in many democrats' knee-jerk reaction that we have to move center, or try to speak more to the evangelical right, or the south, or whatever. Like George Lakoff says, we have to stop letting the GOP define the terms of debate. We have to figure out how to force them to play on our field, rather than the reverse. And we have to do that soon. The full text of the letter is here, and it's worth a read.