During the Second World War, the British Broadcasting Corporation was perhaps the allies' most important propaganda weapon in occupied Europe. Although Britain was fighting for its life, the BBC's short-wave news broadcasts had a simple rule: tell the truth. Britain suffered a long series of setbacks and disasters during the first three years of the war, but the BBC never tried to peddle false optimism about the campaigns in Norway, Belgium, France, North Africa, Greece, and Crete. And therefore, when they had good news to report, their listeners believed it as well. Meanwhile, they could note the contrast between British news reporting and the Axis propaganda they had to deal with every day.
I was reminded of this, sadly, this morning, when I picked up my newspaper and discovered that Mark Sanford had defeated Elizabeth Busch in a special South Carolina Congressional election. Checking online, I found that the victory was a comfortable one: 54% to 46%. And that made me rather angry--not because of the result, which didn't surprise me, but because of the barrage of emails I had received from Democratic organizations begging for a contribution to Ms. Busch's campaign. In the last week, quite a few of them reported polls showing the race to be almost a dead heat, and I even received one of the morning of the election itself. The key poll came from a left-wing outfit called Public Policy Polling.
The Democratic and Republican parties are at war, just as surely as the British and the Germans were--albeit nonviolently. And even today, I would argue, truth could remain a weapon of some consequence. I have been thinking about blogging for some time about the steady stream of requests for donations to fight the Republicans on almost every major issue that reach me every week. In my youth the advantages of incumbency were generally enough for a President to hold his own in Congress; now it seems they are worth nothing. Charles Krauthammer, whom I despise, raised eyebrows a couple of weeks ago by suggesting that President Obama only cares about issues like gun control because they bring in money from his supporters. I think the President is sincere about that, but I have to conclude Krauthammer might be more broadly on to something.
In fact I was right not to give money, I think, because Busch evidently never had a chance. In Charleston, S. C., adultery can be forgiven (and I have argued here that I think it should not be a political issue), but running on the Democratic Party label can't be. And Ms. Busch, like so many other red state Democratic candidates, wasn't willing to support the President directly on most major issues anyway. The Democratic Party, like the Republican, is relying on its own base, which is held together by emotion. It is not too concerned, it seems, with appealing to the facts.
There is other bad news for the Democratic Party. A new study of the last election suggests that the black turnout won the contest for Barack Obama. Had black and white voters turned out in the same percentages as in 2004, Romney would have won the popular vote at least. The Democratic candidate in 2016 will not be black. Nor will the Democrats, I now think, be able to appeal to Hispanics on the basis of successful immigration reform. The Republicans will block it.
The United States will be in terrible trouble until at least one party has the courage to rely upon the truth.