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Maybe that'sthe whole reason each new year sees these silly color inserts and tv specialsand magazine double issues with mendacious titles like "1998: The YearThat Changed Us All." Maybe they perform the public service of killingnews stories. Last year people across the country looked up from the seventhSunday newspaper feature they'd read called "El Nino: The Storms ThatChanged Us All In 1997" and said, "I'm never going to read anotherstory about El Nino as long as I live." The year before people clickedoff shows called "Newt: The Man Who Changed Us All In 1996," saying,"I'm going to throttle the next person who even mentions Newt Gingrich'sname." In like fashion, this New Year will be remembered as the momentwhen the Monica scandal dropped exhausted to the ground under the weight ofnational boredom.
Trent Lottseems to think it will. He's reading the polls, and knows that Monica isnot exactly a winning issue in the What-the-Hell-Are-The-Republicans-Doing Beltthat stretches across the Great Lakes into New England (an area known in lesspolitically correct times as "the civilized parts of the country").Lott also figures that three of his Midwestern senators (Abraham, Ashcroft andGrams) and two of his Northeastern ones (Jeffords and Santorum) will be vulnerableto a challenge in the fall unless he can quickly shift his party's focusaway from the First Groin. But that's easier said than done. Two weeksago, we discussed a problem the Senate would have in closing the Monica businessout. If the Senate treats its responsibility as merely judging the case on theevidence, then there's no two ways about it?Clinton is guilty, guilty,guilty. So Lott, relying on ample constitutional precedent that the Senate cancreate any rules it wants for an impeachment proceeding, is struggling to keepthe evidence at bay. The latest plan calls for a two-part procedure. Part One:a quick vote, after perfunctory opening arguments, on whether Clinton'smisbehavior should result in his ouster. Part Two: If yes, a trial with fullevidence-gathering and witness-calling.

Attentivestudents of Washington will realize that the procedure is a sham, with PartOne designed to make arriving at Part Two impossible. They should also be comingto realize that all this high-minded talk about how the Senate will reject aClinton trial because it is the more "deliberative" body is baloney.No?the Senate will reject a Clinton trial because (a) it is more susceptibleto such parliamentary legerdemain as the filibuster and the ad hoc rules change,and (b) it is a more elite group of legislators, with fewer Bible-wavingruralists in it.


And that'sthe way it's meant to be. We're supposed to have an Upper House. Thosein the GOP who are upset about this arrangement provide yet more evidence thatRepublicans are revolutionaries, are radicals?but not inthe way they claimed they were in 1994. And certainly not in the way Democratshave claimed they were every time they professed to "defend" us fromthem. Rather it's that Republicans are becoming the party of the lowerorders?and that's why, like the lower orders in all times and places,they think they have a stake in institutional wreckage. The arguments of theGOP are coming more and more to resemble those Howard Zinn used to make in the1960s: that you don't have "real democracy" unless you have rule by rabble.
Gore Techs Thecorollary is that Democrats are the party of the upper classes. Which in factthey are. The only thing that blinds us to this is that we've tended tolook at class issues through a racial lens. And despite real progress, urbanblacks remain on the lowest rung of the ladder. If we're the party of theupper class, Democrats ask, then how come blacks vote for us? This is an easyquestion posing as a hard question. The lesson of this century (and probablyof all centuries, once we remove Marxist misreadings from the picture) is thatthe class least worthy of being entrusted with the fortunes of the lowest-on-the-totem-poleis the second-lowest-on-the-totem-pole.
Here'sanother class giveaway. Let's do an experiment?like the ones watchdoggroups do when they send a man and a woman "identical in every respect"to apply for the same job at a big corporation. If you were to call up TheNation or The Progressive or In These Times or the AmericanProspect and tell them you're a right-winger of the Euro-royalist,elitist stripe (like, say, the editor of "Top Drawer") and that you'reinterested in writing for them, what would they say? They'd tell you that,while the offer was an unusual one, they were intrigued. But if you were tocall up the same magazine and tell them that you're a right-winger of theAmerican lower-middle-class variety (like, say, Grover Norquist or some otherGingrich adviser), they'd tell you to take a hike. Class solidarity trumpsideology.

This is,of course, all hypothetical. For real-life confirmation that Democrats are theparty of the fatcats and Republicans of the striving have-nots, we need to lookat the fledgling Gore 2000 campaign. The big news of last week was that, inthe very late hours of New Year's Eve, Al Gore filed papers with the FEC to declare his candidacy for presidency. The surprise is not that the declarationcame so early but that it came so late. According to a finance plan drawn upby Gore's Machiavellian adviser Peter Knight, the Wooden One is going tohave to raise $25 million, or $60,000 a day. He can do it; he did, after all,appear at 123 fundraisers last year. But he'll need help. That's whyhe hired Tina Flournoy as his finance director. What organization does she comefrom? The AFL-CIO? AFSCME? The NAACP? Ah, no? In fact, Flournoy workedfor years at Philip Morris.


Hey! Shewas probably working there when Al Gore's sister died of lung cancer! Surelyno one forgets the speech at the 1996 Democratic National Convention when Gorerecalled a solemn vow he made at his sister's deathbed: "Until I drawmy last breath, I will pour my heart and soul into protecting our young peoplefrom the dangers of smoking?" Part of this "protection"effort, apparently, consists of luring executives away from the big tobaccocompanies with lucrative campaign jobs. When, threeyears ago, reporters asked him why he had continued to take tobacco money longafter his sister's death, Gore said, "I felt the numbness that preventedme from integrating into all aspects of my life the implications of what thattragedy really meant." So he's not hypocritical?he's numb.


Gore'sbona fides as an on-the-ball, with-it Democrat come from his championing ofthe Internet, which he still calls, somewhat quaintly, the "informationsuperhighway." He's done all right thus far being "pro-Internet."But presidential politics isn't about whether you're "pro-"or "anti-" any given industry; it's about who gets what out ofthat industry. Now, one of the most popular measures in American politics isa "pro-family tax cut": giving parents $500 for every child as a meansof reducing the squeeze on families. Given that this measure would cost $30 billion a year, one way to pay for it might be to take it out of the walletsof those who've made so much money building the "informationsuperhighway." In fact, you could take it out of Bill Gates' pocketand still leave him tens of billions to spare. This won't happen, for variousreasons. But if whether or not to bleed Bill Gates to "help America'sworking families" is the issue that separates Al Gore Democrats from theChristian Republicans who are calling for Bill Clinton's head, who do youthink is going to come down on the side of capital and who on the side of labor?


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