ELYRIA, Ohio -- In theory, Dan Imbrogno shouldn't be a voter George W. Bush has to worry about. Imbrogno, a lifelong Republican, Ohioan, and business executive, looks like central casting's idea of the model Bush voter.
Imbrogno is president and chief executive of Ohio Screw, a precision-parts manufacturer located in this working-class suburb of Cleveland. In newer and more upscale suburbs, office parks may dot the landscape, but in Elyria, small factories were plunked down in residential neighborhoods many decades ago, and, whether open or shuttered, there they remain.
It was one of those summer days in D.C. when people were ducking into steam baths to cool off. My feet were propped up on my desk, and just as I noticed that my shoes had started to sweat, the phone rang.
"How long has it been since you've heard a good 'My goodness'?" she asked in a voice that was all New York neo-con.
"Months," I answered. "What's it to you?"
"That's just it," she said. "Rumsfeld says 'My goodness' when he's good and steamed, or just every now and then. He's not said it in a while now. He's not really said anything. They've got to be shutting him up. Or worse," she added, and her voice started to tremble.
"Calm down," I told her. "Rummy was in the Rose Garden on Monday when Bush said he'd back an intelligence czar."
Yesterday, in the middle of the Democratic national convention, came the news that Carmine De Sapio -- the last boss of the old Tammany Hall machine, the organization of the Manhattan Democratic Party that dominated New York politics from the 1860s through the 1950s, more or less -- had died at 95.
De Sapio fell from power, and so did Tammany, when he lost his party district leader position in 1961 to a liberal attorney reformer named Ed Koch. De Sapio had represented the district around Little Italy, but Little Italy was nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village, and by the first year of John F. Kennedy's presidency, the number of new-guard lefties in Greenwich Village was sufficient to swamp the old-guard loyalists of the Tammany machine.
Ever since Ronald Reagan became president, the Democrats have had a challenge: They've needed to reinvent populism.
Under Reagan, and now far more so under George W. Bush, the official policy of the U.S. government has been to throw money at the rich. When Reagan ruled, this policy was justified by the doctrine of trickle-down economics: The rich would invest their tax cuts in job-creating American enterprises. The theory sounded a lot better than the actual process worked, but at least there was a theory. Under the latter Bush, there's not even that. When the rich invest today, their money flows to enterprises that span the globe. Trickle-down economics is gone; what we have today is trickle-out economics.
Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean may have fizzled, and Teresa Heinz Kerry cooed
cerebrally, but the star of Tuesday night and the Democratic future was
clearly Barack Obama.
Listening to the speech from the press risers, I was reminded of the
keynote address at the 1984 Democratic convention. Like Obama today, Mario
Cuomo was the rising star of the moment; and also like Obama, Cuomo was (and
most certainly viewed himself as) a breakthrough candidate for an ethnic group
-- in his case, obviously, Italian-Americans. No multi-culti stuff for Mario
and Barack, however; each depicted their moment as an expansion of a diverse
but indivisible American democracy.