King Lear, dethroned by court intrigues, responds to his faithful daughter when threatened with imprisonment:
“No, no, no, no! Come on, let's go to prison. The two of us together will sing like birds in a cage. We will be good to each other. When you ask for my blessing, I'll get down on my knees and ask you to forgive me. That's how we'll live—we'll pray, we'll sing, we'll tell old stories, we'll laugh at pretentious courtiers, we'll listen to nasty court gossip, we'll find out who's losing and who's winning, who's in and who's out. We'll think about the mysteries of the universe as if we were God's spies. In prison we'll outlast hordes of rulers that will come and go as their fortunes change.”
Winning is not always a blessing; losing is not always a curse. And Lady Fortune is sometimes a strumpet.
Prior to the final tally this year, there was gossip galore. Bill Curry, who now writes a political column for the Hartford Courant, thought the mid-term elections would be portentous. Curry, who seemingly has run for every office in Connecticut but dog catcher, was certain that the next half century would belong to Democrats -- if only they were bold enough to reach out to Bush exiles, independents and some Republicans who have been put off by Bush’s reckless spending and his inattention to economic justice.
When Curry lost to Governor John Rowland, he was hired by the Clinton White House as an advisor, and even now, years after he was detached, the umbilical cord still shows. Here is a prediction Curry can take to the bank: There will in the future be no love lost between Leadership Council Democrats – Bill Clinton was one; Curry is another – and the sans-culottes who this year wanted to take Sen. Joe Lieberman, another DLC’er, to the gallows.
Buried in the muddy mirth of a Colin McEnroe column on the eve of the election was a golden perception. Although Gov. Jodi Rell was the proud owner of an obscenely large approval rating, her coattails would be correspondingly small, McEnroe predicted. Former Governor Rowland’s coattails also had been small, even though in pre-scandal days he had been popular enough to defeat by a significant margin McEnroe’s bosom buddy Curry, and this year voters awarded Democrats a veto-proof margin in the state legislature.
So long as Republican governors are forced by circumstances to gussy themselves up as Democrats in order to hang on to the office by their bloody fingernails, there will be no coattails – and no state Republican Party. The Republican Party in Connecticut has no agenda; it is committed to no coherent body of ideas; it has no warm adherents in the state’s overwhelmingly liberal media; it has no courage, no fortitude and no prospects for the future. But it has a governor, which is not enough to qualify it as a party; just ask Alan Schlesinger, whom liberals were hoping might draw just enough votes from Lieberman to make the ideologically charged Lamont the state’s new U.S. Senator.
It did not quite work out that way.
The most conspicuous and tread upon pro-Bush Democrat, the much despised Lieberman, retained his seat in the U.S. Senate by about a 10 point margin, though an avalanche of anti-Bush sentiment was put in his path by anti-war Democrats and their proponents in the media. On the other hand, moderate U.S. Rep. Republican Nancy Johnson, whose campaign was not as closely tied to the Iraq war, lost her position to Chris Murphy by an equal margin,while Chris Shays, also tied to the Iraq war as a supporter of Bush, won.
Whatever can this mean? Nobody knows for certain. Any analysis smashes upon an ominous and obvious outcropping: Lieberman is there, while Johnson is gone.
This is not to say the war in Iraq is not what Democrats supposed it to be -- a gold plated campaign albatross hung around the necks of moderate Democrats (if there are there any left in the nation) and conservative-to-moderate Republicans.
By Vietnamizing the war, anti-war opponents have all but assured that the war effort at home, such as it was, would be fatally weakened. Democrats have now claimed a divided House at a time of war. But it remains true in our day, as it was in Lincoln’s, that in matters of war a house divided against itself cannot stand, and we are more than a century away from Ulysses Grant’s then non-controversial notion that when the United States draws its sword, all tongues should fall silent.
The nature of the struggle, the jihad with Islamic fundamentalists, will not change. Fanatical Islam is a form of slavery. Yielding to it would make the post-Enlightenment West a slave in chains in its own house. Bush’s failure to successfully prosecute the war returns us to the status quo anti on the day after 9/11. But the question artfully left unanswered by much of Europe and anti-war Democrats is no less pressing now than it was then: What’s to be done?