Thursday, July 31, 2003

And the local Democrats had better take it seriously

Democrats here in Lancaster County are a fairly ineffectual bunch. It's not just that they are way outnumbered in terms of registration, it's that there often seems to be no real, concerted effort to increase their numbers, no plan. In a growing and increasingly "suburbanized" community, they could make inroads. They don't seem to know how they might do that.

If there's any real plan to start small and work your way up - a borough council seat here, a school board seat there, a gradual yet concerted plan to show the people in the suburbs that, look, we're not a bunch of extremists, we have jobs and families and take care of our homes like you do, you are one of us, I don't see it. My good friend Pastor Dan tells a sad tale of attending a Young Democrats meeting here. The main topic of discussion: Finding a better place to meet.

You gotta start small, I suppose. But still.

Anyway, as the minority party, the Democrats are, or at least have been, guaranteed one seat on our three-person county board of commissioners. Now, however, a guy named Jim Clymer, a local attorney who is so far out on the right wing that he's got the last feather, is running for a spot as county commissioner. Clymer just happens to be national chairman of the Constitution Party, headquartered here in Lancaster - which, the more I look at it, appears to be more and more the kind of "respectible" institution that was behind so many of those militia movements in the mid-1990s.

That's Lancaster County: Always a decade or so behind the curve.

Read the party platform on its site for a taste of what I'm talking about. Also follow the link to the Live Free or Die Campaign Supply page, where you can get all your party literature and bumper stickers. You can also buy all sorts of "politically incorrect" bumper stickers that demand God be put back into government, invite you to "visualize abortionists on trial," and, my favorite, the one that says, "Homophobia - No; Homonausea - Yes."

Constitution Party types might bristle at the connection I'm about to make. But realistically, how far is this line of thinking from that advocated by Eric Rudolph, or perhaps the Rev. Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps?

Clymer might disavow this. But in our morning newspaper this morning (sorry, no link), he's quoted as saying:

"Generally, I think the Democrats are out of step with the prevailing ideology in Lancaster County. And given the overwhelming registration edge for the Republicans, I think it comes down to a race for that minority seat."

Well, much as I dislike Clymer's politics, I have to admit he's right on the latter count. There are a lot of people here in Lancaster County who hate fags and would like to see abortion providers put on trial - if not outright snuffed out.

But the Democratic candidates for commissioner have thus far sort of pooh-poohed the idea of a Clymer candidacy. They don't appear particularly worried.

They damned well ought to be.

If they know what's good for them, they will start, right now, trying to shine a light on what the Constitution Party really is all about. They will start, right now, doing everything they can to make sure Democrats - and Republicans uneasy about the shift of their county government to the far right, we're talking the far right - get out and vote when the time comes.

They'll concede that there are a lot of people here who do want to see God put back into government. But they'll realize there are more who will be uncomfortable with Clymer's far-right politics, the numbers of which would grow dramatically were the Democrats to make a real effort to educate people as to exactly what those politics are.

Not that, as a county commissioner, such a right-wing type would have any real power - and in fact, fiscal conservatives such as myself might be pleased with the power they do exercise over budgetary matters.

But it would be a psychological blow to Democrats, and rather indicative of the Democratic situation nationwide, where there appear to be no concerted plan, no organized approach, a scattershot approach where we don't really worry about what might happen.

Until it's too late.

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