Wow, what a difference a year makes. It was about one year ago when you began making plans to give the keynote address to the Republican Convention in New York City. And you were the best selling author of A National Party No More, a polemic against modern liberalism and the Democratic Party that had sponsored you throughout your life and political career. Railing against Democrats, liberals, and American citizens with opposing views of society, the right to dissent, and the war in Iraq, you stood on stage in New York and loudly and vicously condemned opponents of George W. Bush and the Republican Party as traitors. Later, when challenged for some your vitriolic rhetoric by Chris Matthews, you issued a threat to the anchor to an old time duel.
And although some in the media may have thought you had lost your mind, and your old party may have thought you had lost your soul as well, you were basking in the limelight conservative Republicans typically offer to new converts, giving interviews, traveling around the country giving anti-Kerry speeches, and popping up on Cable TV "news" to provide the role of dutiful and principled Democratic opposition to the Democratic Party and its candidate. Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Gibson, Oh'Really? and the rest of the Faux News bunch ate it up. They loved you.
But then as the new year came, you found yourself retired, voluntarily stepping down from your seat in the U.S. Senate. And with your retirement, and in particular, your now lack of bonified Democratic affiliation, your clout and usefulness to the conservative establishment diminished considerably.
Meanwhile, your old Party, vilified after the election for losing the "values" voters, and facing even greater odds in a more heavily Republican represented Congress, has moved on without you. And there are signs of life that it is gaining some backbone. Our new Senate minority leader Harry Reid--an anti-abortion guy, just like you--has taken hold of the Party's opposition to the Republicans in both name and in deed. He's been leading Party efforts to prevent the most extreme of Bush's judicial nominees from being appointed to lifetime tenure positions on the courts, and is provoking Republicans into breaking Senate rules to advance its agenda, which if opinion polls are any reflection, is causing an emergence of second thoughts among the populace about who they have put into power.
In the House, 30 some Blue Dog and New Democrats are whining about how their unqualified support for the Leave No Credit Card Company Behind "bankruptcy reform" bill has generated a bit of a backlash among actual members of the Democratic Party.
No, Zell, it's not the same old Democratic Party, either from your pro-segregation days in Georgia or from your time in the U.S. Senate. It may not be the "national" party you claim to desire. But it is beginning to learn what minority and opposition parties do, and it is beginning to reflect the impact of progressive activists, both online and off. That rowdy former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean is our chair. He's not your kind of accomodationist. But we like him just the same.
Now that the hooplah over the 2004 election is passed, you're wondering what's next for you. The conservatives felt sorry for you and invited you out to the last conservative conference where you were invited on stage by your old, short time friends, to give an "award" to the angry Swift Boat Vets for their disgraceful pilloring of Senator Kerry's honorable war service and record. But now what? Maybe do a few more of these stand up acts at the latest big money funded shindig?
Was it worth it, Zell? Think the conservatives will continue to remember you and include you in their next fatwah, now that you're less than the token Democrat they once needed but now can discard, the better to pave the way for the "religious" snake oil salesmen they can get to headline their acts?
Was it worth it, Zell, to gain the whole world of conservative admiration, and lose your soul? What will a man gain in exchange for his soul?
Zell, there's still time for a change of heart. You once aspired to more progressive aims. You championed Bill Clinton's candidacy and defended him in the face of criticism about his military record and womanizing. You appeared to embrace the progressive spirit of the Clinton-Gore revival. We remember that and appreciate it. We're not totally sure what has transpired since then. But unlike the other party, Democrats are forgiving. And tolerant. A soul is too valuable to lose.