This is a dispatch from purgatory--the purgatory to which we've all been condemned until this business about the identity of our next president is cleared up. I'd never realized until quite late on election night just how nervous purgatory can make a person. This particular purgatory is finite, endless though it may seem; you know that something either better or worse awaits on January 20. Unless you voted for Ralph Nader, however, exactly what awaits is a matter of some moment. (If you voted for Nader, the fate of mere people and nations--indeed, the effect of your vote on mere people and nations--is as naught next to the eternal verities that Nader proclaimed and that won 2.6 percent of voters' support on election day.)
Alan Cranston was always an organizer--one of the best of the post-World War II generation. Soon after the war ended, he founded and built the United World Federalists, an expression of postwar one-worldism that valiantly battled the Cold War zeitgeist. After he left the U.S. Senate eight years ago, he founded and built the Global Security Institute, a group dedicated to the abolition of nuclear weapons, in which cause he enlisted such notables as Jimmy Carter and, improbably enough, onetime cold warrior Paul Nitze. When Cranston died on the final day of last year, he'd been planning an initiative campaign for nuclear abolition.
From where I was sitting at a recent dinner honoring Warren Beatty, hosted by Americans for Demo cratic Action in southern California, I couldn't see Courtney Love, who was certainly among the youngest of the several dozen celebrities who turned out for the first pronouncement of Beatty's not-quite-yet-if-ever-it-will-be presidential campaign. But around Beatty's fourth reference to Walter Reuther, I couldn't help wondering if Hole's lead chanteuse had any idea what the hell he was talking about. For a generation that routinely turns out for benefits to save the rain forest or the Dali Lama, Beatty's fin de siècle social democracy must have seemed the cutting edge in exotica.
Thinking about how Democrats should treat the new Bush administration, let's consider what Bob Dole would do if he were in our shoes.
A scant eight years ago, after all, Bob Dole was in our shoes. As the Senate minority leader, he headed the opposition to a newly elected president. Bill Clinton chugged into Washington having dispatched a sitting president by a 7 percent margin--with hefty Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress--and claimed a mandate for universal health insurance and welfare reform.