Prior Months

Complacency: The Real Spoiler in the Democratic Quest to the White House
By Terry Leach, President, LDC

October 2007

During a recent lecture delivered near my hometown by former Nixon Counsel John Dean, Democrats were cautioned about complacency even as polls appear to predict a Democratic victory in 2008. Dean warned the half-full audience of mostly senior citizens, that Republicans are used to marching in lock-step, and that they will turn out, whereas Democrats don’t have the requisite passion and discipline to ensure that a Democrat sits in the White House in 2009.

No stranger to mischief in the White House, Dean warned that a Republican winning in 2008 would be devastating to all who love our Constitution. In particular, he highlighted the last seat sought by fundamentalists on the Supreme Court in order to constitute a clear 5-4 majority.

Though there are surely many other reasons why everyday Democrats aren’t working hard to create a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate Majority and a win in the White House, I am focusing on Dean’s thesis of complacency. Sitting in the audience awaiting Dean’s remarks, I, too, was musing about complacency. For instance, I was wondering why my 84-year-old mother, who has Stage 4 lung cancer and can only leave her home with her portable oxygen and a walker, was determined to go to this lecture, when clearly so many of our neighbors, all of them more able-bodied, stayed home. Then I got to thinking about the number of seniors I’d accompanied to area peace marches and rallies, while I was unable to get many of my younger friends and neighbors, and our young adult children, many of draft age, to come along.

Complacency is defined in the Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary as a form of self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.

At first blush, this line of thinking doesn’t add up. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Bush wrote the book on deficiency in government. Indeed, I understand that increasing numbers of historians are not waiting until they have gained more perspective to claim that Bush is the worst president ever.

Really now: Is there anyone, not living in a cave for the last 7 years, Democrat or Republican, who isn’t concerned about the prospect of our being mired in Iraq? Or having our bridges, mines, and other accouterments of modern infrastructure, woefully neglected? Just mention the word, “Katrina,â€? and, in an instant, all Americans know that you’re not sharing tales about a woman, but are talking about our late great teenager of a city, New Orleans, mostly left to rot and ruin as Bush continued his Texas vacation and left the hard stuff to his unqualified crony, ‘Heck of a Guy, Brownie.’ I would cross ‘unawareness of actual danger or deficiencies’ off our why-Democrats-don’t-vote list. Bush’s poll numbers confirm what we all feel in our gut: Our president is not only incompetent, but he’s downright dangerous to our health and to the future of our country.

So where does self-satisfaction fit in? This nugget is more complex, deserving our attention. Consider this: Though the wealth gap dividing the rich from the poor is now replicating the experience of the Gilded Age, increasing numbers of people believe that they are wealthier than they actually are. Equity ownership in corporate America through such vehicles as a company’s 401(k) program, IRAs and mutual funds, have enabled everyday Americans to be deceived into thinking that they are participating in the build-up of wealth touted in our wealth-equals-celebrity culture, when in fact the average American’s savings amount to much less than $100,000. And consider that one third of American households have no assets whatsoever. The real truth is that the richest 15% of Americans control nearly all of this country’s financial assets. Moreover, 90% of what the government spends on asset-building incentives goes to families making over $50,000. In other words, if you are poor and are trying to build a nest egg for a rainy day, tax policy is skewed against your having the means to do so. Increasingly, if you are middle class and working, and trying to increase your savings for a rainy day or a hurricane, increased costs associated with transportation, college educations, health care, and housing will rob you of the ability to stay even.

The vast majority of individuals who believe that they have the wealth, say, needed to weather a lay-off, quit a job to care for a sick family-member, rebuild a home devastated by a natural disaster and/or deal with the vagaries of living in these United States where oil may very well hit $100 a barrel, are likely living in denial. More realistically, too many of these folks will be living out of their cars, or under bridges, joining many of their formerly middle-class neighbors, as the results of the foreign and domestic policies accelerated under the Bush ‘Misadministration,’ come home to roost.

But most people don’t respond well to fear and the raising of alarms. Perhaps, these folks sense a niggling fear…and that’s where Prozac, American Idol and Sunday football on Monday night and ESPN all-day-all-the-time comes in.

And a lot more people don’t really understand that what happens in Sacramento and in Washington has a direct effect on their bottom line and ability to care for their family. And because they don’t see the connection, they don’t get involved.

So how do those of us who have committed ourselves to voting in lawmakers who share our values and implementing policies we believe to be fundamental to the raising of healthy families, encourage our family, friends and neighbors to get off the couch?

Think about it and write down some ideas that you’ve come up with to get a friend, family member, co-worker, or neighbor involved in the fight to put a Democrat in the White House in 2008 and create a Democratic super-majority both in Sacramento and in Congress. E-mail me at and put “Complacency-Ideaâ€? in the subject heading and I’ll compile a list and share your ideas at our next meeting on October 19th. Let’s learn from one another and have a conversation in front of two leading lawmakers who’ve come to share their agendas with us.

And then let’s get to work.