Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Still working my way through the 50-hour audiobook of David McCullough's Truman. I've got about ten hours to go. I'm at the part where he fired McArthur. Bastard had it coming.

The story of Truman's election in 1948 is classic American history. It should be required reading for all Democrats who have so much as a pinky in the national fight.

McCullough's depiction of Dewey reminded me quite a bit of Kerry and Gore and the Democrats' national image in general -- aloof, elitist, intellectually snobby. They aren't carbon copies of the man everyone expected to win, but whom nobody seemed to like. Not by any stretch. They're not the kind of folks, for example, who would hurumph and leave the shades closed on the train windows when told that a crowd of supporters had gathered outside (though I have a feeling Hillary might). But the arrogant ghost of Dewey seems to haunt their images, despite the gap across generations and party lines.

Meantime, I couldn't help but think of Bush when I heard the account of Truman's plainspeak, his every-man ethos. Of course, Bush's schtick is a sham. He's the ultimate born-on-third-base senator's grandson. He would never take a whistlestop tour across the U.S., allowing any and all to come and cheer or boo. He's the anti-Truman in so many, many respects.

But still, he manages to seem normal, and that gave him the edge against the wonky smarty-pants (well, one of them anyway; he needed the Supreme Court for the other).

I recently heard a pundit on C-SPAN say the Democrats need to channel the spirit of Truman, to come up with speeches like his "Turnip Day" classic in '48, when he called the Republicans' bluff with a special summer session of Congress, daring them to act on their campaign promises before Election Day. That pundit was on point, I think.

I hate to say it, but the Democrats need to dumb down a bit.

Or wise up.

Same thing.

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