Commentary: GOP frames the debate terms once again

There’s a familiar shot early on in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” a few frames before the slab from space helps the man-apes get hip to tools, weapons and warthog tartare. It’s night, and the simians are cowering and whimpering in a cave while a leopard roars outside.

Critics and film buffs have spent whole careers, forests of paper and gigabytes galore trying to decipher Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi mysticism, but at least I’ve figured out that one scene:

The apes cowering in the cave are evolutionary ancestors of the contemporary Democratic Party.

(And the leopard? Think real hard.)

One of the easiest predictions anybody could have made before the current election cycle was that Republicans, regardless of the office they sought, would be running against Barack Obama and Democrats would be running away. Across the country, GOP candidates for town councils and school boards and county commissions, and probably student body presidencies, are fulminating against “the liberal agenda of Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank,” etc.

And the political right has, as usual, defined the terms of the debate by default.

Roy Barnes, the once and would-be future governor of Georgia, said he really doesn’t think of himself as a Democrat all that much anymore, that he wishes there were a viable third party, that he’s against Obamacare, and so on. Sanford Bishop wants to extend the Bush tax cuts, as if they had nothing to do with the deficits for which his own party is slinking away and letting Barack Obama be handed sole accountability.

I pick on those two just because they’re close to home. They’re far from the worst of the lot.

Versions of the same act are going on all across the country. Democrats seem to think the way to win when the leopards are roaring is not to roar back, but to cower in the cave and send word along that what they really are is GOP Lite: They’re against the health care plan, they’re for renewing fiscally irresponsible tax breaks that never should have been born in the first place and desperately need to die now, and — oh yeah, they also are against the Ground Zero mosque that isn’t a mosque and isn’t at Ground Zero.

Did we leave anything out? Any gays or immigrants or welfare cheats we can Talk Tough about?

So there’s our choice: The Party of No and the Party of Not Really.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.ledger-enquirer.com.