Searching for the Next GOP Villain

The most important political task facing the out-of-power party–the Democrats for now–is creating a villain to run against. It’s certainly easier than developing some grand new ideas or policies on which to campaign. So they need someone to demonize, someone who embodies the “evils” of the Right, someone whose very name can shake cash out of terrified donors. They succeeded with Newt Gingrich a few years back. Regardless of who might have been in the White House, Democrats insisted GOP stood for “Gingrich’s Own Party”. While the demonization part of the plan went well and fund raising was aided, the Republicans ultimately triumphed by gaining and maintaining control of the House. In 2004, Dems went straight to the top, attempting to paint George W. Bush alternately as an incredibly naïve puppet or a shrewd, conniving manipulator. In any event, while many disagreed with some of his policies, most people didn’t buy the caricatures, and the President was reelected. Since then, they’ve tried to find other villains. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was a tempting target, but things started going too well in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz was a favorite candidate of the Left when he was nominated to be World Bank head, but it’s too difficult to get voters energized about that organization. They’re squawking about John Bolton as United Nations ambassador, but it’s an uphill battle to convince most Americans that anything having to do with the UN is very important to the United States. What Democrats really needed was a political or personal scandal. Sexual scandals are especially effective against Republicans who can then also be accused of hypocrisy inasmuch as they’re always spouting off about morality and junk like that. Of course, some personal issues such as former Klan membership or leaving the scene of a fatal accident are off limits for obvious reasons. Then along came Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader. Some questions of ethics have arisen, and the Democrats have gone into Full Villain Mode. Everyone from Nancy Pelosi to the Air America crew have their talking points, and they’re off to the races. Tom DeLay is well on his way to becoming the evil face of the Republican Party. The New York Times (once a credible newspaper) reportedly solicited former Republican House member Bob Livingston to write a “Step down, Tom” essay. Livingston–who resigned from Congress himself rather than face withering attacks over a sexual affair–indicated anything he wrote would be pro-Delay. No thanks, said the self-proclaimed “newspaper of record”. Will this one stick with voters? It’s still too early to tell, but the Left and the major media outlets will give it every chance. Look for Tom Delay all day, every day, for a while. Barring any serious evidence of illegalities, however, Republicans should hold firm, because they are wrong if they think throwing one “villain” to the wolves will be enough. The search for another will begin immediately.