Sex, Lies And Cover-ups

Martha Burk
Sex, Lies And Cover-ups
Tue Oct 10, 2006 16:37

Sex, Lies And Cover-ups
Martha Burk
October 10, 2006

Martha Burk is a political psychologist and author of Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It .

Happy days are here again—or so it would seem—for Democratic candidates. While they are outwardly sober in declaring that sexual predator Mark Foley and his enablers like House Speaker Dennis Hastert must be punished, their inner selves are gleeful at this pre-election gift. At least until the Republicans find a way to blame the scandal on Bill Clinton, Democrats are hammering their colleagues across the aisle who took money from Foley as well as the Republican leadership that didn’t ask and didn’t tell when they were asked. Public opinion, which had been leaning against the Republicans in Congress because of discontent with President Bush’s handling of the war, is now on the full tilt of disgust at the perversion and its subsequent cover-up at the highest levels.

Maybe President Bush should be grateful. The Foley mess has pushed the Bob Woodward book exposing his lies on the war to the back pages, and the Rice-didn’t-listen-to-9/11 warnings story off the news cliff altogether. Bush is still out there gamely telling the American people they should vote Republican for national security, but most are more more worried about their personal security and that of their children. Sexual predators on Capitol Hill and shooters in the schools are far closer to home than al-Qaida in Iraq and bin Laden god-knows-where in a mountain hideout on the other side of the world. Bush may actually have to fire his beloved Rummy to change the course of public opinion.

Then again, maybe not. Democrats must be very careful not to celebrate too early. Before the latest round of scandals, they were lacking the vision thing, and voters will remember that as the disgraces fade before Election Day. Merely saying “they’re not doing it right” on the war without a plan was not moving people much before, Ned Lamont’s primary victory in Connecticut notwithstanding.

Yes, the GOP family-values base is sickened and angry about the sexual predators in their midst, but don’t count on them pulling the D-lever in retaliation. Right-wing pundits are already linking Foley’s behavior to “San Francisco values,” with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as poster girl. Most evangelicals are still inclined to go to the polls and support their team. And besides, the Republican Party has shown a remarkable ability to turn out their own votes and suppress Democratic ones. Rove and company are formidable opponents, and no one should underestimate the Republican powers behind block-the-polls efforts such as flawed voter-roll purging in Florida, or impossibly long lines due to a shortage of machines at Democratic strongholds in Ohio.

Now is the time for bold steps from the Democrats. Stand up and tell us what you can do for your country, not what the Republicans have done to you. Don’t just sit back and wait for the Republicans to self-destruct, because they won’t. They don’t need or care about mandates. They want just enough votes to control the country, prolong the war until the next administration and continue dismantling separation of powers as we know it. That means an all-out appeal to both their bases—social conservatives and deficit hawks.

Ellen Malcolm, founder of Emily’s list, urged Democrats, in Sunday’s New York Times, to energize their base as well. And that base is female. Polls show women leading the opposition to the war, and women are also most worried about fair pay and financial security, health care and their children’s safety. Yet the party has squandered the gender gap in the past two elections. Almost 40 percent of voters believe their family situation is getting worse, while only 15 percent say it is improving. Women—with higher registration and enough votes to control any election—want solid answers and plans for moving forward with a positive agenda. With the multiple scandals giving such a strong opening against the Republicans, Democrats must seize the moment to put forth a meaningful agenda for change, and talk about something besides administration sex, lies and cover-ups. “If not now, when?” is still a relevant question.



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